By Rena Behar
July 02, 2019
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Summer means sandal time, even on the trails. Swap out your hiking boots for a pair of sturdy hiking sandals to allow for significantly more breathability than closed shoes and faster drying times when you’re fording a stream or getting splashed by rapids. Bonus: If you find a pair you think is cute enough, they might be the only pair of shoes you need to pack.

“I always look for multipurpose products to avoid checking in luggage. That's why I only carry two types of shoes with me: sneakers or mountain boots, and sandals,” said travel blogger Inma Gregorio of A World to Travel. “The latter need to be of sufficient quality to last months on the road, comfortable and with a grip sole to hike with them, water-resistant, black or discreet enough to match my traveling wardrobe, and chic enough to wear on a casual occasion with a dress, without looking too bulky. Also, if they are light and timeless, even better!”

Look for a pair that not only matches your aesthetic but also offers sufficient sole traction and arch support — and keeps your foot comfortably inside.

“A main question that women often have about hiking sandals is whether or not they should get a hiking sandal that has a toe strap,” notes Cassandra Brooklyn, who runs the travel service EscapingNY and prepares women for hiking trips around the world. “Personally, I like the toe ring strap on my Chacos, though my favorite hiking sandals (Tevas) don't have a strap. I've found that women with more narrow feet often find the toe strap helpful to give them grip, particularly if they're doing any hiking through water or using them for water sports. Women with wider feet (and especially those with wide toes) may find the toe strap uncomfortable.”

Check out this handy EMS guide for a more in-depth explanation of hiking sandal considerations. As with any shoe, you should be sure to try it on in person and walk around in it before taking it out on the trails. Read on to discover the travel blogger and gear reviewer favorites in every hiking sandal category.

Most Comfortable Hiking Sandals: Chaco Z/Cloud

Courtesy of Zappos.com

Chacos are resoundingly popular among travelers, hikers, and gear nerds, so you really can’t go wrong with any of their sandals. The Z/Cloud scored the highest of any Chaco sandals in Outdoor Gear Lab’s tests and received special mention in The Strategist’s hiking sandal roundup for their extra soft footbed, which is a nice bonus when you’re racking up mileage.

To buy: zappos.com, $110

Best Hiking Sandals With Arch Support: Chaco Z/2 Classic

Courtesy of Zappos.com

The Z/2 is another extremely popular Chaco, and includes an extra toe strap loop to help keep you locked in. “For me arch support is key and these fit the bill. I've been wearing them for light hiking since 2007 and never travel without them,” said travel blogger Emily Hines. “The single strap webbing they use is ideal because once you fit the strap to your foot, you'll never have to readjust it again. The outsole of the sandal is beefy enough for most hiking trails, especially if water is involved. If they get wet, the sandals still feel sturdy on your feet and will dry relatively quickly. The first time I wore them was the Pipiwai Trail waterfall hike in Maui and have been hooked ever since.”

To buy: zappos.com, $105

Best Water-friendly Hiking Sandals: Keen Newport H2

Courtesy of Zappos.com

An Outdoor Gear Labs top pick for closed sandals and top-rated on Zappos, the Newport H2 has a solid toe guard to stop stones from sneaking into your sandals and improve their performance as a multi-use shoe.

To buy: zappos.com, $100

Best Closed-toe Hiking Sandals: Keen Whisper

Courtesy of Zappos.com

Mar Naibi, co-owner of trip-planning company Pure Adventures, votes for its cousin, the Keen Whisper. “They have great toe coverage, which is really important for a hiking sandal. Nothing worse than a stubbed toe,” she said. “They are open/ventilated enough that they aren't hot and the sole has excellent support with good durability — again, super important. It's always good to have a shoe that you can do many things in — hike, raft, SUP, cruiser bike ride, or even wear into town for the farmer's market with a sundress.”

To buy: zappos.com, $90

Best Cute Hiking Sandals: Teva Original Universal

Courtesy of Zappos.com

This old-school model from Teva is a classic for a reason. “I’ve had a pair for over 20 years. I hike in them, walk the city in them, traverse a river in them, I’ll do anything in them except hang out around horses!” said Kelly Beasley, creator and co-founder of Camp Addict. “I don’t even need closed-toe shoes to hike. The sole is so stiff that my toes are protected from rocks or from my own clumsiness. They have never rubbed my feet, and incredibly, they have never failed in the stitching or anywhere else. They eventually molded somewhat to my footprint, making them even more comfortable. I love how easy they are to get on and off, compared to Chacos, which take a little work. I feel safe in these sandals, and couldn’t recommend them any more than I do!"

To buy: zappos.com, $50

Best Leather Hiking Sandals: Teva Terra Fi Lite

Courtesy of Amazon

If you’re looking to upgrade to leather, consider the Terra Fi Lite. “It’s the perfect mix of form and function, since the tan colour suits most outfits and it’s not overly strappy or thick-soled, which means it can be worn with casual clothing as well as hiking gear,” said Lee Nelson, full-time traveler and blogger at The Travel Scribes, who swears by this leather Teva option. “I have a broader foot and the front straps provide enough support without causing cramping, and the back straps wrap nicely around the ankle, as well as being adjustable and have extra padding. The insoles are a leather-suede mix but really never get dirty and, if they do, easily wipe down. I’ve also never suffered from odour since somehow they have a microbial treatment which helps smells stay away. They have fantastic grip on land and in water, meaning I use them as water shoes when swimming in lakes or crossing rivers.”

To buy: amazon.com, from $68

Best Hiking Flip-flops: Bedrock 3D Cairn Pro

Courtesy of REI.com

Bedrock’s Cairn Adventure men’s sandals won Outdoor Gear Lab’s editor’s choice for their versatile minimalist design, traction, and resilience. The women’s Pro version takes the Adventure and adds an even-grippier sole for extra slippery conditions.

To buy: rei.com, $120

Best Lightweight Hiking Sandals: Xero Z-Trail

Courtesy of REI.com

These were the Outdoor Gear Labs pick for ultralight backpacking, so you can imagine how light they must be. Their bendy soles help make them both lightweight and extra packable, but do also mean they don’t have as much support as some other options.

To buy: rei.com, $80

Best Full-coverage Hiking Sandals: Merrell All Out Blaze Sieve

Courtesy of Zappos.com

If you want just a little extra breathing room but aren’t ready to commit to the full sandal life yet, try the Merrell Sieve. It will keep you almost entirely covered, but still leaves room for water to escape.

To buy: zappos.com, $100

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