At one point or another, the majority of hikers have thought about the possibility of wearing hiking sandals, but most don’t really know where to start. How do you know which sandals will protect your feet and which will leave your poor feet defenseless against the elements?
As hikers, at some point or another we all experience painful feet for one reason or another, it can be crippling. Going out in just a normal pair of sandals will undoubtedly end with sore feet and a grumpy hike. But you don’t have to worry, we have found the best hiking sandals that are currently on the market for you, and your feet.
Hiking sandals are useful, and a lot of hikers will swear by them. They’re commonplace in the wardrobes of thru-hikers, for one simple reason. They’re light.
Imagine that you’re walking for weeks, or even months with a few pounds worth of walking boots on your feet. It’s going to be painful after a while, and it could prove to be the end of your hike. Now imagine that you’re walking for weeks, and you can barely feel the weight of the shoes that are on your feet. That’s the real benefit of hiking sandals.
Gone is the weight that your feet will experience with hiking boots, and in its place are sandals that feel almost weightless. Socks are completely optional of course but be prepared, if you do wear socks and encounter the fashion police somewhere on a hike – they might have a thing or two to say about your footwear options. However, with the best outdoor sandals on your feet, you don’t have to worry about their opinions on your sock choices.
Why are good hiking sandals important?
Good hiking sandals are important for one simple reason; your feet are important. They take you on every hike you want to go on, and they never complain. Not even when they face the perils of blisters and chaffing, although they might really hurt, and you might complain about them.
By choosing simple sandals, you put your feet at risk. Actual hiking sandals are structurally designed to be completely different to the sandals that you would wear down to the beach.
When you wear hiking sandals, your ankle isn’t protected. The idea of keeping your ankle protected is usually only necessary on mountainous hikes, where you could quite easily go over on your own ankle. You shouldn’t wear sandals if you’re going on a giant mountain trek, but they are perfectly suitable for almost any other type of hike.
To make up for the lack of protection around your ankle, your hiking sandal has to be designed in a very specific way. One of the main visible things that you can see is that hiking sandals literally have to fit to your foot, almost as if they have been moulded around it.
You can see this by looking at the contoured foot beds that most hiking sandals feature, these have been designed specifically to make your foot stick into the shoe, without slipping around. You don’t want to feel like you have an ice rink in your shoes while you’re trying to hike.
The sole of a hiking sandal is just as important as the contoured foot bed. When you look at the vast majority of normal sandals, they usually have soles that are incredibly thin and made of a flexible material. What would happen if you stood on a sharp rock while wearing those? It would hurt.
The soles of hiking sandals are different, as they have been designed to work with a variety of terrains. Most hiking sandals feature soles that are both thick and sturdy, while usually being made of a tough type of rubber. This gives your feet an added level of security.
What features should I look for in hiking sandals?
There are a number of beneficial features that hiking sandals both can, and do offer to hikers. These beneficial features can usually be summed up by using three separate phrases, although we will go into it in more detail. The three phrases are very ventilated, very versatile, and very light. Each of these phrases is equally as important as the rest, and you will see why.
Your hiking sandals have to be well-ventilated simply so that your feet don’t start to overheat. This is especially common if you’re hiking in a hot climate, with dry or humid conditions.
In hiking boots, it is easy to feel your feet getting warm and wet as your body starts to heat up more, resulting in friction between your feet and your boots. This is usually caused by trapped moisture, and it can result in painful blisters. By being well-ventilated hiking sandals reduce the risk of trapped moisture and blisters, leaving your feet pain free.
They also have to be very versatile. No one wants to go out and buy a pair of hiking sandals that are only suitable for a hike on completely flat terrain, or a hike that doesn’t involve any rocks. It would be a waste of money. So instead hiking sandals are specifically designed with numerous technical features.
These features mean that they’re suitable for the vast majority of hikes, and they can make hikes trouble free. The only hikes they shouldn’t be worn on are extreme mountain hikes, where the terrain can be tough on your ankles and ankle support may be necessary.
Having very light hiking sandals is something that will benefit any hiker, and it proves to be the ideal option for most. We’ve all hit the point before where we are out of energy, and our hiking boots start to feel like rocks that we’ve strapped onto our feet.
By wearing light products on your feet you can save yourself from that pain, and while it won’t save you from the weight of your pack (a high energy bar might), it will help your legs to feel like they haven’t been attached to anchors.
Some other features to look out for are:
Hiking sandals are usually made out of either synthetics or leather, and both are good options for different reasons. Leather sandals are best suited for hot, dry weather, while synthetic sandals are best suited for mixed or slightly wetter weather.
Synthetic sandals have the ability to dry out a lot quicker than leather sandals do, and you will find that due to this the majority of hiking sandals are lined with a synthetic material. This helps to wick away any excess moisture that your feet might be carrying, helping to stop friction between your foot and the sandal – the best blister defence.
The sole of your hiking sandals is certainly something that shouldn’t be overlooked too quickly, it needs to have the perfect balance. It needs to be lightweight, but it also needs to protect your feet from the terrain underneath you. You need it to be rigid enough that you don’t feel the impact of sharp rocks, or uneven pieces of trail. Usually soles are made of a tough, but lightweight rubber.
In most shoes you can wiggle your feet around just a little bit, and that’s exactly what hiking sandals aim to avoid. The best way to keep your feet safe is to keep them sturdy and secure.
To make sure that this is the case almost all of the foot beds found on the sandals that you will be looking at are contoured, shaping the sandal around your foot so that your foot can’t move around. The ideal foot bed will also be either padded or cushioned, this helps to keep your foot protected from impacts or shocks that you may feel while you’re out hiking.
Straps, simple enough, right? On hiking sandals, the straps and closures can vary dramatically. Just like with the foot bed, the aim is to keep your feet as secure as they possibly can be. Most hiking sandals that you find will feature a padded heel strap, this is to offer extra protection to the back of your foot.
It also helps to stop your foot from rubbing against the heel strap. You will also find that the straps on hiking sandals feature more closures than other sandals you can purchase on the market for the same reason. You can ensure that your foot fits snugly in the sandal without issue.
The Best Hiking Sandals on the Market
We understand that it can be almost impossible to spot a good pair of hiking sandals if you aren’t entirely sure what it is that you are looking for. So that you don’t have to worry, we have gathered a list of eight different types of hiking sandal for you, all of which are perfect for the vast majority of hikers.
KEEN Men’s Arroyo II Sandal
Dimensions/Shoe Size: 12 x 9 x 7 inches, they are available in sizes 7 – 17 US.
Features: Made of leather, with a thick rubber sole. Hydrophobic mesh lining, and a metatomical dual-density EVA foot bed.
Best use: These sandals are best for hikes that involve water crossings, as they are water resistant.
KEEN are one of the leading manufacturers of hiking sandals on the market today, and this is a fantastic example of one of their great all-rounders. Whether you’re looking for a pair of sandals that you can hike up a mountain in, or a pair that you can run across a meadow in, these are perfect for you.
A lot of people who already own KEEN Men’s Arroyo II Sandal have put them to the test in numerous different ways. But, be aware, they are water-resistant, not water-proof. You don’t want to attempt to go swimming in them just yet!
The hydrophobic mesh lining means that they are good for simple water sports, such as kayaking or canoeing, but getting them too wet would simply mean wet feet. They have also been designed with safety in mind. They feature a metatomical dual-density foot bed that will keep your foot stable and secure. While also offering you a good level of both arch and heel support.
Teva Men’s Omnium Closed-Toe Sandal
Dimensions/Shoe Size: 12 x 9 x 7 inches, they are available in sizes 7 – 16 US.
Features: Made of a synthetic material, with a thick rubber sole. They also feature an encapsulated shock-absorbing heel pad, and a bungee lacing system that has a quick release buckle.
Best use: Simple hikes (nothing too mountainous), or water activities such as kayaking.
Teva are another brand that currently stand out on the market, mostly for their excellent customer service and their trustworthy product designs. Most of the customers who have bought the Teva Men’s Omnium Closed-Toe Sandal use it for either hiking, biking, or a variety of water sports (swimming not being one of them).
You can hike for hours in this sandal, as they’ve been designed with a special encapsulated shock-absorbing heel pad, as well as having a great arch support system. A few customers have found that the soles of these sandals do wear away over time, and Teva will replace the sandals of any customers who experience this.
Related: Teva also offers a sandal for women, the Teva Original Universal W’s, suitable for various athletic activities.
KEEN Men’s Newport H2 Sandal
Dimensions/Shoe Size: 11.9 x 8.7 x 7.9 inches, they are available in sizes 7 – 17 US.
Features: Made of a synthetic material, with a tough synthetic sole. They also have a cushioned foot bed that is contoured for added security.
Best use: These sandals are perfect for all-round hiking, including hikes that involve water crossings.
Men’s Newport H2 Sandal are another fine example of the ingenuity that KEEN have to offer to the market. They are experts at designing sandals that can be used in a variety of different situations, but these shine as being perfect for hikes that involve water crossings.
This is partly because of their synthetic make-up, the synthetic material that the sandal is made of will dry quickly. Be aware that they do also come in a leather version, which are good for dry hikes, but they would take forever to dry on a hike that involves water crossings.
The sole itself has also been designed with a water crossing thought in mind, it has extra levels of grip. This will help to stop you slipping on any stray rocks that may be hidden under the water.
Related: KEEN do also offer a version of this shoe for children, the KEEN Unisex Kids’ Newport H2 Hiking Sandals.
Chaco Men’s Z/2 Unaweep Sandal
Dimensions/Shoe Size: 12 x 8 x 4 inches, they are available in sizes 8 – 15 US.
Features: Made of a synthetic material, with a thick synthetic sole. They have a contoured foot bed, with a number of adjustable straps for added security.
Best use: These sandals have been designed with versatility in mind, whether you want to go hiking up mountains, or running down trails, you can.
At first glance, Chaco Men’s Z/2 Unaweep Sandals look simple. Yet they feature one of the best things a hiker could require, they have a BioCentric foot bed that has been approved by the American Podiatric Medical Association. You have the medical reassurance that your feet will be comfortable in these sandals, as they offer excellent support for every area of the foot.
They also feature Vibram soles, some of the toughest soles that you can get. Gone are the days of sharp rocks stabbing you through the soles of your sandals.
These are also simple to put on, with straps that are both quick and easy to fit. As well as an added layer of security offered by a simple, small toe strap. This helps to stop your feet from moving around while they’re nestled in the bed of the sandal.
Teva Men’s Terra Sandal
Dimensions/Shoe Size: 12 x 8 x 4 inches, they are available in sizes 7 – 16 US.
Features: Made of a synthetic material, with a flexible rubber sole. They feature adjustable hook-and-loop straps, and a soft Shoc Pad comfort heel.
Best use: All terrain hiking, as well as general outdoor activities.
One thing that really makes Teva Men’s Terra Sandal stand out is the padding system, there isn’t an area of this sandal that rests against your foot that isn’t padded. This means that you can hike in them for hours without the uncomfortable rubbing that you can experience in poorly padded sandals.
The sole is flexible, making these easier for walking in. But, it also means that the sole can break down over time, and Teva will replace these sandals on a case-by-case basis.
For long-distance, all terrain hiking you also need a comfortable heel that is capable of absorbing shocks that would otherwise be absorbed by you, and this sandal offers just that. It features a soft Shoc Pad comfort heel, perfect for keeping your feet safe so that you can hike for longer without any pain.
Merrell Women’s All Blaze Sieve Water Shoe
Dimensions/Shoe Size: 13 x 8 x 6 inches, they are available in sizes 5 – 11 US.
Features: Made of a synthetic material, with a synthetic sole. They have been designed with an Omni-fit lacing system that promotes a glove-like fit. They also feature a moulded TPU external counter heel.
Best uses: These sandals are perfect for day hikes, or hikes that last just a couple of days. They’re also good for all weather hiking.
If you’re looking to go hiking when it could rain, sandals might not look like the best of options. But the Merrell Women’s All Blaze Sieve Water Shoes are perfect for all weather hiking, as the synthetic material that they are made out of dries out quickly.
The Vibram sole that it features also has a good tread, meaning that you’re less likely to slip if the weather does suddenly turn on you (don’t forget your waterproofs, your feet might dry quickly in these sandals but the rest of you won’t).
Some customers have found that these shoes run narrow, so in some cases it might be advisable to size up, especially if you have wider feet. But, they are extremely comfortable, with added neoprene pockets that stop your feet from rubbing against the sandal.
KEEN Women’s Whisper Sandal
Dimensions/Shoe Size: 12 x 8 x 5 inches, they are available in sizes 5 – 11 US.
Features: Made of a synthetic material, with a rubber sole. They also feature hydrophobic mesh lining, a bungee lace capture system, and a metatomical foot bed design.
Best use: General hiking.
When it comes to buying new hiking sandals, we all usually dread that period of ‘breaking-in’ the shoe. You know what it’s like, the shoe rubs, you end up with blisters, it’s not fun for anybody.
If you are looking to avoid that ‘break-in’ period, then KEEN Women’s Whisper Sandal might just be the right sandal for you. Its additional neoprene pockets extend right around your ankle, where sandals would normally rub initially, this results in a blister free experience.
Even people with arthritis have found that these sandals offer them all of the support and comfort that they require, with a metatomical foot bed design that offers a mixture of both security and comfort. While the hydrophobic mesh lining means that they are also suitable for water crossings while hiking. One factor that really makes the KEEN Women’s Whisper Sandal stand out among the crowd is the color options that it is available in, with 33 different choices available.
Related: Another option for women from KEEN would be the KEEN Clearwater CnX Open Toe Sandals, which don’t feature any buckles or straps.
Men’s Ahnu Kovar Sport Sandals
Dimensions/Shoe Size: 12 x 8 x 4 inches, they are available in a size 9 – 13 US.
Features: Made of a synthetic material, with a sole that is both synthetic and rubber. They also feature a midsole that has been designed to absorb shock, and easy to adjust straps.
Best use: These sandals are perfect for hikes on uneven terrains.
Ahnu Kovar Sport Sandals feature something that really makes them stand out among other sandals, an EVA foam midsole. This midsole is a great example of the technicalities that go into designing sandals for hiking, as it consists of semi-rigid composite elements that absorb shock that would otherwise be absorbed through your feet. While doing this they also add an additional layer of support to the heel of your foot, allowing you to hike for longer periods of time.
They are known for being incredibly comfortable, and yet rigid enough to be suitable for uneven and rugged terrains. They are a favourite for thru-hikers, due to their durability, and their grip through the elements.
There You Have It
So, whether you’re looking for the ultimate sandal to hike in, or something to go kayaking in there is a sandal on the market that is perfect for you. Remember the three keys that every sandal should have and you’re already on your way to finding the perfect sandal for your needs. Always look for that contoured foot bed, and make sure that if you are doing water sports, the sandal has some type of hydrophobic lining.
Gone are the days of the heavy walking boot, and here are the days of the lightweight, shock absorbing sandals.
So, do you think you will be able to leave the walking boots in the cupboard for your own pair of hiking sandals? If you can, you might be pleasantly surprised by the results. Or, have you already purchased your own hiking sandals? If you have, then let us know what you think about them in the comments below!