Hiking sandals are more than just a combination of hiking boot and sandal. In fact, hiking sandals offer some distinct advantages to hiking boots. They’re lightweight, dry faster, and allow the hiker’s foot to breath. That said, not all hiking sandals are the same. Some are best for wet conditions, some for dry. Some are just fine on more difficult hikes while others are best used for simple walks by the river or at the campground. When trying to figure out what hiking sandals are best for you, there are a few things to consider. But the most important thing to decide before you begin looking is where you want to take them. Or, rather, where you want them to take you.
Top Hiking Sandals Comparison Chart
Hiking Sandals Buying Guide
You might be wondering if hiking sandals are a better alternative to hiking boots or shoes. And the answer is, it depends on what you’re looking for. It’s true that there are a lot of reasons why hiking sandals might be a better choice. First, they’re breathable, which is great on hot days because it will help keep the feet from sweating. A lot of hiking sandal styles are waterproof so when a hiker wears them to walk through a stream or shallow river, the shoes won’t absorb any water and remain lightweight. Even hiking sandals that aren’t waterproof will dry and be ready to go again long before a wet pair of boots would be. Hiking sandals also create fewer pressure points on the foot and heel since a large part of the shoe is open to air. This means fewer blisters, rubbing, and skin breakdown.
Before we look at the eight best hiking sandals for this year, it’s important to know what features the perfect hiking sandal should have.
Materials for Upper Part of the Sandal
There are a few different choices when it comes to choosing a material for your hiking sandals. The things you’ll want to keep in mind are how often you plan to use them in or around water.
The upper part of a hiking sandal is typically made of leather or a synthetic material. Each has its perks.
Leather sandals need a little more care than the alternative, but they’re often more flexible and conform to the foot of the user after they’re broken in. Leather in general should be kept away from water so it doesn’t dry out and crack. Leather should be avoided by people who are planning to hike in areas where there are streams of a lot of rain as water can damage it. If you have to have leather, make sure you treat it and care for it regularly.
Hiking sandals are more commonly made of a synthetic material, polyester or nylon. They’re exceptionally durable plus they will dry quickly, so they’re a great choice when a hike involves a stream, river, or lake. They’re also really easy to keep clean – just dip them in the water or squirt them off with a hose.
Most hiking sandals will have a rubber sole, but they can vary a lot. Some will be thick and seem indestructible while others will be more flexible. Heavy duty soles are great for anyone going out on long hike regularly while thinner, more flexible soles are great for using in and around water.
Tread and grip vary, too. Some will look almost like tires and have deep, impressive tread. Others will have hundreds of small nubs on the sole to get better grip on rocks or wet areas. If you’re going to be going on long hikes through rugged terrain, a wider tread would be best, but if you prefer to hike along streams and rivers and need a little more grip, a finer tread might be better.
Hiking sandals need to have more support than regular sandals for obvious reasons. Regular sandals might be enough for walking on a paved path or sidewalk, but anything more rugged will require the special support of a hiking sandal.
Most hiking sandals have special cushioning to help the hiker handle rocky, uneven trails. Pressure is dispersed so the heel and tendons don’t get sore and a thick midsole and arch support help alleviate joint and back pain. The thick sole also protects the bottom of the foot from sharp rocks, branches, or anything else sticking out of the ground. The soles also offer strong arch support and deep heels to keep the foot aligned and to avoid any tendon injury.
Open vs Closed Designs
Whether or not you choose an open or a closed design greatly depends on what you’re going to do in your hiking sandals.
If you’re planning on taking some more intense hikes through densely wooded areas, you’ll want a closed design. Closed designs have rubber toe guards to protect you from injury and to keep rocks, twigs, dirt, and debris out from between your toes. They’re a little more shoe than sandal.
Open designs are more like traditional sandals with straps and an open toe, though they generally offer a lot more support than a traditional sandal would. These are great for water, camping, or short, uncomplicated hikes or walks. They’re really lightweight and dry very quickly, though by nature of the design, the foot is more exposed and therefore more prone to injury.
Straps and Laces
Straps are important for hiking sandals to make sure the shoes are secure and the hiker’s foot won’t slip out. Make sure the straps are comfortable when trying them on. Straps can rub during a hike and cause a lot of discomfort or blisters so it’s important to prevent this by choosing the most comfortable straps from the beginning. Adjustable straps are ideal because they can be adjusted as needed. If you choose open toed hiking sandals, the straps will be the only thing holding most of them onto your foot. They have to be comfortable, durable, and effective.
For closed toed sandals, the upper part of the shoe and heel will have a combination of straps and laces. Often, the lace are stretchy like a bungee cord and can easily be tightened when out on the trail if need be. Make sure laces are fully and easily adjustable.
The kind of hiking sandals that will be the best choice for you will solely depend on how you’re planning to use them. If you’re going to use them to go on long hikes over varying terrain, you’ll want a closed-toed pair that can handle some water. Open toed sandals with a good grip are ideal for hiking along rivers or wading in streams. But no one pair of hiking sandals would be ideal for both of those situations.
The first thing to do it figure out what you’ll be doing in your hiking sandals. And it should be noted, they’re great for things other than hiking. Some of the styles are perfect for boating, kayaking, fishing, or just walking along the beach.
Best Hiking Sandals Reviews
Now that we know a little more about the features that hiking sandals have to offers, let’s take a look at the eight best hiking sandals of 2017.
Keen’s Newport sandal was the first one designed by the brand, which has since become a leader in the field. The Newport is exceptionally comfortable from the second you put it on and generally doesn’t require a breaking in period. The sandal’s upper part is lined with soft neoprene which spreads out the pressure to make the shoe exceptionally comfortable plus the softness helps keep your foot locked in place. The footbed won’t hold onto a lot of water if you use them to cross a stream or wade in the rivers. This hiking sandal dries pretty fast. It also does a better job at controlling odor than most of its competitors.
Although some small rocks and twigs can still get in through the open sides, the closed toe protection keeps anything from getting in and poking directly into your toes. This is true of almost any hiking sandal. There’s also a supportive arch and a heel cup to keep the foot well supported and stable so that you can go the distance.
The sole is firm with a really solid tread that keeps the foot stable on all kinds of terrain. The footbed has good flexible shock absorption without giving up any support. When it comes the stability, the upper laces are effective but. honestly, a bit unstable. The laces make it easy to get the shoes off and on but they flex a lot and can slip a bit on steeper climbs. The upper portion of the shoes is made of a light, durable, quick-drying fabric, though, which is a plus.
This is a really good choice for anyone looking for a sandal that will perform well all around, including in the water. The materials that it’s made of won’t soak up much and therefore won’t get too heavy when wet. It also dries really fast.
- Dries quickly
- Great tread and grip
- One of the best shoes for water use
- Closed Toe
- Lacing system a little unstable and gets loose
The Keen Arroyo II is the most shoe like of all the hiking sandals on this list. Though technically it’s a sandal and has a lot of openings throughout the upper part of the shoe, it’s sturdy and durable and looks a bit less like something you should only wear outdoors. It’s a great shoe for some of the most rugged trails.
The Arroyo is comfortable right out of the box. Most hiking sandals are a hybrid of a hiking boot and a sandal, but the Arroyo is a mix of a shoe and a sandal. As such, it has amazing arch support and a soft, cloth-like sole that makes this sandal extremely comfortable.
It has a firm, rubber sole with a good grip that makes it acceptable for light water use. It’s not a waterproof sandal, but it can tolerate a bit of wetness as long as you have time to let it thoroughly dry. Some sandals on this list dry very quickly just because of the material they’re made of and they style of shoe. The Arroyo is not one of those shoes. The soft liner that makes it so comfortable to walk in also has a tendency to hold water.
As long as they’re dry, the Arroyo is a great hiking sandal. The soft liner and leather uppers are smooth and accommodating. The lacing system is a bit lacking as it stretches when put under stress so the shoe tends to slide a little, but the general structure is pretty solid and you can adjust it somewhat with the toggle.
Traction is pretty good, but not the best of the options listed here. This isn’t the best shoe for deep woods hikes with streams to cross, rocks to climb over, or slopes to climb up. But for an everyday walk in the woods or even just as an everyday summer shoe, the Arroyo is a perfect fit.
- Build more like a shoe so it has good ankle and arch support
- Great for light trails
- Closed toe
- Takes a long time to dry when it gets wet
- Not ideal for more intense hikes
The Teva Terra-Fi Lite is an open toe sandal that is extremely comfortable. It has a bit of a cushioned feel but still offers a lot of support. The three adjustable straps are also padded and sit nicely on the top of the foot. Over time, the sandal conforms to your foot, which making it even more supportive.
This is a pretty simple, basic hiking sandal that’s perfect for less intense treks. It might seem like it won’t provide a lot of support, but as the sole adapts to your foot, it will actually get more stable and secure as it changes to provide your foot support in all the places it needs it.
The straps aren’t particularly beefy but they are sturdy and will get the job done. You’ll have to play with them a little bit in order to find the right configuration for you foot, but if you do it right, you’ll get a solid, supportive fit. Remember when adjusting the straps that the sole will conform to your foot as time goes on, so eventually the position of the straps will be set by the way the sole adjusts because that’s where your foot will naturally fall in the shoe.
The soles of these sandals have a lot of small, diamond-shaped grips rather than large tread or a chunky sole. This makes it really easy for them to grip and hold on for stable footing. While these are not the best shoes for long hikes in dense areas because they’re pretty open, they’re perfect for trails, crossing streams, or even swimming.
- Insole adjusts to conform to your foot over time
- Great grip
- Open toe
The Owyhee is another closed toe option from SK Studio that’s ready to go right out of the box. There’s no break in period needed for the Owyhee, you can put them on and have a great, comfortable hike right away. Having said that, any shoe made of leather will only get better with time given leather’s tendency to mold to your foot with repeated use.
This is an ideal blend of hiking boot and sandal. It has thick, chunky non-marking soles. The rubber toe cap will help grip and anything wet or dry. The sole is designed with a multi directional tread that is exceptionally grippy and holds tight whether you’re wading through a rocky stream of climbing a wooded trail. It has an enclosed heel for extra stability. These shoes are great, multi-purpose shoes that are perfect for most any outdoor activity, from hiking to biking to taking a walk on the beach.
The Owyhee is made entirely of leather (from a cow). Leather used to be the ultimate shoe material for decades, but over the past few years, synthetics have been gaining the upper hand in many ways. Still, there are a lot of inferior synthetics on the market and you could do a lot worse than scoring a pair of full leather hiking sandals. They feature an open strapping system for outstanding ventilation and a washable nubuck upper leather with a microbe shield lining to reduce odors.
As far as fit, the insole offers some arch support, which makes it good for people who have any problems with their feet. The laces are strong and hold well. They’re exceptionally strong and durable. They should last for a few years with proper care.
- A perfect combination of sandal and hiking boot
- Closed toe and heel make it really versatile
- All leather
- Sizing is a little tricky
- Some may find comfort to be a little elusive
While more hiking sandals combine the best parts of a hiking book and a sandal, the Burke II sandal from Northside is a hybrid of a sandal and an athletic shoe. It’s made of synthetic materials, so it’s water friendly and will dry relatively quickly. The uppers are comfortable, strong, and water resistant while the thick, high grip rubber sole will make sure you can cross streams and climb wooded hills without a second thought. The hold well on wet surfaces and are a good option for long, unpredictable heights even when there’s a good chance of rain. Oh, another good thing about these shoes – they’re exceptionally affordable.
The adjustable bungee cord laces have a toggle to keep them nice and snug on the foot even if they stretch during your journey. The inside of the sandal is slightly padded with a soft, fabric lining to help then stay comfortable even on longer hikes. They’re really lightweight, which is great for maneuvering through water and for covering a lot ground. Multiple cut outs on the upper shoe let water run out and air flow through for faster drying.
These are not a full blown water shoe, but they are durable enough to tackle occasional streams or riverbeds during a hike or as your kayaking shoes. The grip is great and will definitely hold on wet rocks. Just allow them to dry thoroughly after they get wet and they should last you a long time.
- Closed toe
- Great grip
- Solid lacing
- Good price
- Not waterproof
The Hurricane XLT is another open toe option from Teva. This one is a little different, though. While it’s great for light hikes or wooded trails, this shoe is not the best choice to take on a rugged excursion as a main shoe; however, the Hurricane XLT is super light and great in the water, so it’s not a bad pair to carry around in your pack if you know you’ll be coming across rivers or streams on your journey and the primary pair you’re using aren’t so great with water.
The Hurricane XLT has a nice, soft insole that keeps your foot comfortable from the very first time you put it on. Like some other open toe Tevas, Hurricane XLTs conform to your feet as you wear them, making it more comfortable and supportive over time. This is another really affordable option on our list, so if you’re looking for a secondary water shoe or just something to wear every day, this is one you should check out.
This is generally a strong sandal. If used in the appropriate environments, it will last for years. The sole is grippy despite being a little thin. This is a great shoe for anything close to water, from kayaking to hiking into waterfalls. It’s also one of the most affordable choices on our list.
- Great grip
- Really lightweight
- Open toed
- Thin sole
If you’re looking for an insanely durable hiking sandal with a dense sole, the Chaco Z1 Unaweep is one to try. This shoe is practically indestructible.
When you first wear them, they might be a little uncomfortable. They have a diamond like pattern on the sole of the shoe, so your foot rubs up against it and, initially, it’s pretty uncomfortable. With use and strap adjustment, you’ll grow accustomed to the design, which is mean to help your foot grip the inside of the shoe even when it’s dirty, mud covered, or wet.
This isn’t necessarily a good shoe for long hikes over rugged terrain, but if you prefer paved trails, easy trails, sidewalks, or beaches, these sandals are perfect. Just remember that they will not feel like they’re amazing at first. But once your foot adjusts, these shoes can go on for what feels like forever. A lot of people who own them use the same pair for as many as five years without any problems.
The sole of this shoe is really durable and supportive. The placement of the straps keeps the foot perfectly secure and the arch support and heel cup provide outstanding support perfectly designed for the foot’s anatomy. It’s even sometimes recommended by podiatrists for people with food problems.
The Unaweep doesn’t have the best grip on wet surfaces so isn’t a great shoe for wet hikes. They’re great for lighter, dry hikes and as an everyday shoe. They’re a little pricey, but they are practically indestructible so you’ll have them for a long time.
- Exceptionally durable
- Will last a really long time
- Not good for anything around water
- Open toe
The Keen Clearwater CNX Sandal is perfect for hiking along a river or stream. It comes with washable polyester upper webbing which is comfortable and dries quickly. They’ve eliminated the layered construction of the uppers for a tighter, more secure fit. The bungee lacing system can be adjusted to your perfect specifications and the microbial treated lining helps to fight odor.
These are a closed toe sandal with toe ridge for more grip. The grooves on the tread help provide enhanced grip even on wet, slippery surfaces. They’re exceptionally lightweight without losing any of the qualities you look for in a hiking sandal.
The Keen Clearwater is a little less bulky than its counterparts but is also lighter and moves through water more easily. Not only are they great for hiking in wet terrains, but they’d also make a great fishing shoe.
- Sizing can be off
Final Thoughts & Recommendations
The Keen Newport is a great example of an exceptional, all around great performing shoe. It’s suitable for wet weather thanks to it’s exceptional grip and ability to dry quickly. It’s a secure, firm shoe that will keep your feel comfy for a long time.
The Keen Arroyo is a closed toe shoe that is great for hiking, but it’s not really designed to perform in wet conditions. This is a great choice for shorter, less intense hiking.
If you’re looking for an open toed alternative, try the Teva Terra-Fi lite. It’s an extremely comfortable shoe that will conform to your foot over time. It provides a surprising amount of support for being open toed and extremely lightweight.
The Owyhee Sandal perfectly blends a hiking boot with a sandal for hikes over all kinds of terrain. It’s made of synthetic materials, dries quickly, and has strong laces and great arch support. This is a great choice for anyone who has ongoing foot problems.
For a mixture of a sandal and an athletic shoe, try the Northside Burke II Sandal. It’s a strong, solid shoe that’s water friendly (although not waterproof) with a grippy sole and snug bungee cord lacing.
The Teva Hurricane XLT sandal is another open toed offering that is strong and durable for the right environments. It’s ideal for anything close to the water – kayaking, fishing, wading – but a little too open and lightweight for more intense hikes.
If you want an open-toed sandal that is practically indestructible, go with the Chaco 1 Unaweep. This is a great pick for an everyday shoe or a light, dry hike or walk.
For a closed toe sandal that’s meant for the water, try the Keen Clearwater CNX. It’s secure, comfortable, and supportive and can be used safely on most terrains.
Hiking sandals vary from model to model as far as what they should be used for, but they all offer a rugged combination that includes the best parts of hiking boots or athletic shoes with a sandal. Once you know what you’re going to use them for, you can figure out what features you need to make sure you find the pair that is just right for you.