If you love to go outdoors and explore, then you know that having the proper footwear is crucial if you want to enjoy the experience, rather than come home with blisters and cuts all over your feet. While hiking boots are necessary for long-distance traveling or overnight stays, many people prefer to wear sandals instead.
The reason that sandals are more desirable than boots is that you can get them wet and you don’t have to worry about socks. If you like to go canoeing or swimming, having a durable set of sandals is much better overall. Plus, some people prefer the feeling in general.
So, with that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the best hiking sandals available today. We’ll also show you what to look for in these shoes so that you can make sure that you get the best option.
Table of Contents
When talking about hiking sandals, you can find pairs that have a few straps or ones that resemble a regular shoe. Not only do you have to pay attention to the number of straps but the material of them as well.
For the most part, sandals come with fabric or mesh straps which are water-resistant or waterproof. As far as tightening them, most of the time they use Velcro to adjust them to your foot. If you want your foot mostly exposed, then this is a great option for you.
If, however, you want something that is a bit more rugged and will keep your feet relatively protected, then a hybrid sandal is the way to go. Instead of having a few straps to hold to your feet, you get thick sides that have air holes for ventilation (and to allow water to drain out). The benefit of hybrid sandals is that they cover your whole foot and operate much like a boot, but with the advantages of a sandal.
As far as fastening, most hybrid models use elastic laces to adjust the tightness and fit. While these can be really useful, they can stretch out over time and get loose.
For most sandals, the top is made of fabric, and the bottom is made of rubber. While that can work for some models, you may need an extra layer of comfort if you plan on doing any hiking or long-distance walking in these shoes. For that, you can get a pair that comes with an EVA foam insert.
The foam conforms to your foot and provides extra padding so that you aren’t walking on such a rigid surface all day long. Best of all, the foam is inside the sole, meaning that they are still waterproof.
The other thing that you have to pay attention to with the insole is whether or not your feet will slip. Some models have a textured design on the inside to prevent that, even if your feet are wet. If you don’t have a non-slip surface, then you could cause chafing as the straps rub against your feet while you walk.
The final piece of the sandal puzzle is the outsole. What you have to pay attention to most is the design of the lugs to make sure that you will have sufficient traction. For most hiking sandals, they use a multi-directional pattern which allows the shoes to have a better grip on wet or dry surfaces. Some of them have uni-directional lugs, which can work well but aren’t ideal for some types of terrain.
The other thing that you should pay attention to with the outsole is the thickness. If you have a thicker rubber sole, then it will be harder on your feet. The benefit of that, however, is that you can walk on rocks and other uneven surfaces without poking you. If you aren’t planning on hiking on terrain like that, however, then you may want a thinner outsole, so it doesn’t feel like you’re walking on a thick rubber slab.
What we like about KEEN Sandals is that they are made with the best materials. The sides are made with leather and waterproof synthetics, and the laces are all elastic to provide easier adjustment for your feet.
As far as comfort goes, a thick heel and a contoured insole make walking a breeze. The outsole is designed to give you the best traction, and it will work well in water or on land. Finally, the Newport H2 comes in twenty-four different colors, meaning that you can easily find one that fits your style and personality.
Our next sandal is again from Teva. However, unlike the other one’s that we’ve seen thus far, the Omnium is a hybrid design, rather than the standard three-strap that most Teva models have.
The materials of this unit are polyester mesh and synthetic rubber, making it ideal for most terrain, including under water.
Like all other Teva Sandals, the Omnium comes with the standard ShocPad insert, which helps absorb impact and keep your feet from getting sore on the trail. As far as the outsole is concerned, it has the spider lug design to give you the best traction, whether you’re on wet or dry land. It also won’t leave any scuff marks on your floor.
Finally, the Omnium has five different color options from which you can choose, and it comes with a quick-release buckle system so that you can take them off quickly and easily.
While the Terra Fi Lite is a great all-around sandal, the Hurricane XLT from Teva is a step above (pun intended). What makes this option more ideal for hiking is that it comes with a thicker heel and is completely waterproof.
That means that you can go in and out of the water without worrying about any damage to the straps or the sandal itself.
With the Hurricane, you still get the standard three-strap design, but in this case, there are five colors from which to choose. Velcro is again the method for fastening, and it will hold up in almost any condition. Finally, this sandal comes with Teva’s one-year limited warranty against defects.
Our next model from KEEN is the Arroyo II. This is an upgrade of the original Arroyo model, so if you liked that version, then you should appreciate this one, too.
What sets the Arroyo apart from the Newport above is the insole. This model has a dual-density EVA foam insert, which is also removable for cleaning purposes.
The other great thing about this insert is that it has an Aegis microbe coating to prevent odors from forming.
Inside the shoe you get a sleek hydrophobic mesh lining, meaning that these sandals are ideal for any water excursions. Also, the sides have openings that are a bit bigger than the Newport to allow for better drainage.
Bookending this list is another Teva sandal. We started off looking at the Terra Fi Lite, and now we have come to the Terra 4 model.
When comparing the two together, you will notice that this version has a thicker sole and is a bit more rugged, both in strength and traction. Thus, if you want a slightly more adept version of the Terra Fi Lite, this is your best option.
As far as comfort goes, the Terra 4 has a sleek molded rubber sole that hugs your foot and provides a better feel overall. Using Teva’s proprietary ShocPad technology, you get ideal impact absorption, meaning that it feels comfortable on most surfaces.
The outsole on this model is designed to avoid leaving scuff marks, and it has a multi-directional lug pattern to provide ideal traction both in and out of the water. All material is water-resistant or waterproof so that you can take these sandals anywhere.
So far, we’ve mostly seen men’s or unisex sandals, but finally here is one for the ladies. You’ll notice that the Whisper has thinner straps on the sides so that you get better airflow for your feet.
Also, the front toe is a little thinner so that it doesn’t pinch or tighten your foot. Finally, because ladies love to accessorize (according to Keen, apparently), the Whisper comes in thirty-three different colors.
As far as performance goes, this sandal is top-notch. Because it’s a hybrid, you get more coverage to protect your foot, and you get more comfort in the sole for long-distance treks. In addition to the rubber sole, the top section is made from high-quality leather and fabric. On the inside, you get a hydrophobic mesh which makes these sandals fully waterproof.
To provide extra comfort, the Whisper also comes with a molded EVA foam insert. The insole is also contoured to match your foot so that you don’t slip and slide as you walk. Finally, to prevent any odors from collecting, the inside is coated with an Aegis microbe shield.
The other thing that we like about the Whisper is that it is machine washable.
Another brand that stands out for being high-quality is Chaco. However, there is something to be said for this company, as it has both fiercely loyal fans and ardent detractors.
It seems that if you like the design of Chaco Sandals, then you will love them. Otherwise, you may find them uncomfortable or annoying.
What sets Chaco apart from the crowd is that the sandals have a thicker sole and a proprietary strap design. The front straps are embedded into the sole, meaning that you can’t adjust them. They do have a little give, but you have to make sure that you get the right size. Finally, Chaco uses a front strap for your big toe. Some people like that feeling, others don’t. If you’re not used to it, then you may not appreciate it.
As far as the Z1 model is concerned, you get a more ergonomic design and a slip-resistant foot bed. That means that it should be comfortable as you won’t move around while walking.
The outsole is made with Vibram TC-1 Rubber, which is more rigid than other materials and won’t scuff any floors. The lug design on the outside is also made to provide ideal traction on most surfaces.
As far as outdoor sandals go, no company is as synonymous with quality and reliability as Teva. This brand has made a lot of high-quality sandals over the years, and the Terra Fi Lite is one of them.
While this particular model is not ideal for hiking on rocky or uneven surfaces, they do well both in and out of the water.
Also, as a side note, even though the name of the shoe says “men’s,” they could be considered unisex.
As far as straps go, the Terra Fi Lite comes with Teva’s signature three-strap design. You get one on top for the toes, one at the ankle, and then another to tighten around the heel. Velcro style fasteners keep your feet locked in, even when wet. Best of all, Teva provides six exciting colors from which to choose, so you can find a style that fits your personality.
When talking about comfort, this sandal has EVA lightweight cushioning in the insole, meaning that it is better than most other models. Also, it has Teva’s proprietary ShocPad technology, which is designed to give you more support and comfort as it will absorb impact much better than other brands.
Finally, this unit has a spider lug design on the outsole to provide ideal traction on most surfaces.
Next, we have the Z/2 Yampa from Chaco. The name of this sandal refers to the design of the outsole, which means that the Yampa is ideal for wet and dry terrain. Also, if you plan on hiking on rocky or uneven surfaces, Yampa is better suited for that, too.
Otherwise, this unit has all of the standard features that you will find on Chaco products. First, you get embedded straps for your foot and your big toe.
Second, the sole on this sandal is thicker and more rigid than other models, meaning that your foot is better protected from the ground. It’s made from Vibram rubber, which is ultra durable. However, some users may think that it’s too stiff and doesn’t have enough of flexibility.
Finally, the insole comes with a diamond pattern to keep your foot from slipping while you walk. On this model, the insole is also curved to fit your foot better.
While this brand is not as high-profile as the others that we’ve seen, the Ahnu Kovar Sports Sandal does have a lot of features that make it hold its own against some of the higher-end units on this list.
This is another hybrid design, meaning that you get the added protection of a shoe, but still have the airflow and comfort of a sandal.
When talking about comfort, this model comes with a molded EVA foam insert. The insole is also contoured to fit your foot better so that you can go long distances without hurting. Best of all, a waterproof mesh lines the inside, meaning that you can take these sandals in and out of the water with no problems.
Choosing the best hiking sandal is tough. When trying to compare the different sandals on this list, it’s hard to pinpoint any particular model that stands out from the rest. So, we believe that it will come down to brand loyalty in the end, as most of these sandals come from high-end companies.
With that in mind, we highly recommend both Keen and Teva, as they have the best reviews and highest customer satisfaction. That doesn’t mean, however, that the other brands we’ve listed are bad. No matter which option you choose, each of these sandals is sure to be more than satisfactory.
A passionate blogger! Editor at Chooserly, and a regular author at HuffingtonPost, LifeHacker & Forbes!