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Modern hiking sandals offer support, breathability and protection, and many hikers and backpackers today prefer sandals over hiking boots. Sandals are my go-to footwear for day hikes in the summer and warm climates, and I know plenty of folks who prefer them for more serious endeavors, too. A friend of mine backpacked the entire Pinhoti Trail (335 miles) alone, entirely in Bedrock sandals. A few years later, when we climbed one of Colorado’s hardest 14,000-foot peaks, North Maroon (14,014 feet), he wore the same sandals.
A good pair of hiking sandals is a stellar footwear choice for traveling abroad, too, due to their compact, portable nature that makes them easy to hang from a backpack or stow in a duffel. They’re also excellent as camp shoes, easy to slip on and off and eschew the need for socks. In addition, they make great footwear options when hiking in wet climates, while fishing or on trips where river crossings may be common.
“The versatility of a sandal makes them a great pair of backup footwear from the mountains to the jungle and everywhere in between,” says famed Argentinian mountaineer, outdoor guide and adventure filmmaker Damian Benegas, of Benegas Brothers Adventures and Benegas Brothers Productions. “They’re perfect for traveling. A good pair of sturdy sandals, like a Chaco, is like having a Swiss Army Knife — one pair does everything.”
Is it safe to wear sandals when hiking?
This is the most common question asked about hiking sandals. The simple answer is yes, depending on who you are and where you’re hiking.
Sandals will never offer the same level of protection as a closed-toe shoe, so you’re going to be more prone to injury. Hiking up a rocky scree slope in sandals, for example, is less safe than doing so in closed-toe shoes. Sandals are almost always more lightweight and breathable than closed-toe shoes, however. It’s a trade-off.
“For me, support and toe protection are the biggest factors when choosing a hiking sandal, especially toe protection,” says footwear specialist Kevin Stegen, an avid trail runner and team leader at Fleet Feet. “We all get weary; we all kick rocks or roots at some point on a long hike, and if you don’t have that toe covered, you could end up with a broken toe, which is a game-ender.”
When thinking about the viability of hiking in sandals, your foot type should also factor into play. Wide-footed individuals will benefit from the open nature of hiking sandals, which offer much more space, but folks with high arches or who suffer from plantar fasciitis are going to find few comfortable sandals with arch support. That’s because more often than not, hiking sandals (similar to many cute summer sandals) offer little to no cushion under the arch. If you’re flat-footed, however, then even the most minimalist sandals may work well. “For pretty much every foot shape and type, there’s a brand that’s willing to design a sandal that can work,” Stegen says, “but in general, people with flatter, wider feet will probably be more comfortable hiking in sandals.”
And since recovery is also an important factor to consider when embarking on a hike, coupling sandals with therapy tools is a great idea. Devices like the Roll Recovery R8 Plus and R3 Orthopedic foot roller pay massive dividends if you’re hiking long distances in sandals, offsetting any lack of support with therapeutic massage and preventing injury. The compact, lightweight nature of the R3 foot roller, in particular, makes it a stellar choice for multi-day trips wearing sandals. It’s easy to stow this foot roller in your pack and work out your plantar fascia every day, both pre- and post-hike.
What to look for in the best hiking sandals
The five main factors you’ll need to consider to choose the best hiking sandals are weight, support, durability, traction and comfort.
The two main benefits of sandals compared to hiking boots and shoes are their natural breathability and minimal weight. So if a sandal isn’t lightweight, it’s not all that useful as a hiking sandal. Like all hiking footwear, hiking sandals should also be supportive enough to prevent injury during long days on the trail. Since the failure of any single strap will likely compromise the entire piece of footwear, these need to be durable and hold up to abrasion. The sole should also provide strong traction, since if you do lose your footing while hiking, you’re much more prone to injury when wearing a sandal. Finally, sandals need to remain comfortable, with features like moisture-wicking straps and anti-odor footbeds.
Now, let’s dive into the 12 best hiking sandals for men and women in 2022 — a majority of which I’ve personally tested. And as for the rest? They’re recommended by our experts and have tons of positive customer reviews.
Chaco Z/Cloud Hiking Sandals
Best All-Around Hiking Sandals
“We’ve seen a huge resurgence in Chacos,” said Stegen, who mentions they’re excellent all-around shoes because of their unique footbed. Benegas agrees. “They have something of a form fit arch bed, certified by the American Podiatric Medical Association, so they’ll fit basically every foot shape, which is impressive, as far as sandals go,” he says. “Also, the durability of the sole is out of this world.”
Chaco’s Z/Cloud sandals sport a rugged midsole with a five-millimeter polyurethane cushion on top and 3.5-millimeter lugs for traction.
Weighing 23 ounces, these are far from lightweight, but they’re among the lightest in Chaco’s lineup — which is known for its relatively heavy sandals.
Teva Original Universal Hiking Sandals
Most Stylish Hiking Sandals
When it comes to aesthetic appeal, you simply can’t beat the OG Teva. The Teva Original is back to honor its 30-year heritage, with the original webbing design now made from recycled materials and durable rubber outsoles. The comfortable lateral straps are padded underneath to minimize pressure, and the zinc-based antimicrobial footbed minimizes odor.
Although these are quite trendy, Tevas are known worldwide as one of the most iconic, reliable hiking sandals. Case in point: Benegas told a story about how in the 1990s, during a two-week approach to the North Face of Kumbhakarna/Jannu (25,295 feet), he developed acute tendonitis and couldn’t wear his boots, so was forced to hike the entire approach in a pair of Tevas. “The only big issue was the leeches,” he said, laughing.
Keen Newport H2 Hiking Sandals
Best Closed-Toe Hiking Sandals
Protection is one of the major drawbacks of hiking in sandals, but the close-toed Keen Newport H2s offset some of that, with a burly, all-encompassing build. This makes them a great hiking sandal for new hikers who may not have tons of experience navigating rocks and roots while they hike. These make for great water shoes for lake days or fishing trips, and the single-pull lace closure makes them easy to put on and off for whatever the day brings. In short, they’re an excellent choice for a do-it-all summer sandal.
Vionic Women’s Amber Hiking Sandals
Best Hiking Sandals for Women
Almost every sandal on this list is either unisex or comes in both men’s and women’s models, but Vionic’s Amber is an excellent female-specific choice. It offers an impressive amount of arch support and has earned the American Podiatric Medical Association’s seal of approval (which is unsurprising, as Vionic does make some of the best orthopedic shoes for women). Four points of adjustability allow for fine-tuned comfort, and the cork upper gives these sandals major style points, too. It’s a bit more style than function-focused, but particularly as a hiking sandal for a woman with high arches, the Vionic Amber is a surefire pick.
Bedrock Cairn Adventure Hiking Sandals
Best Travel Sandals
Bedrocks are my personal hiking sandal of choice, though their lack of support means they won’t work for everyone. The toe loop prevents your foot from slipping forward on steep terrain or if the footbed becomes wet, and the minimalist strap design makes these sandals a 10/10 for breathability. The Vibram soles offer stellar traction, but the shoe remains fairly lightweight at 16 ounces, so this is an excellent sandal to clip to your pack on backpacking trips or stow in your luggage for international expeditions. Bedrocks are also extremely durable. My pair has survived everything from jaunts through South American jungles to several gnaw sessions courtesy of my German shepherd puppy.
As mentioned above, the main problem I have with Bedrock sandals is that there is no arch support, so for long days or multi-day hiking trips (particularly for people with high arches like me), these shoes often won’t cut it.
Ecco Yucatan Hiking Sandals
Best Hiking Sandals for High Arches
Ecco’s Yucatan sandals won’t win many style points, with a build and look reminiscent of the dad sandals of the 1990s and early 2000s, but they’re among the most supportive hiking sandals on the market. The thick, comfy layer of midsole foam and EVA footbed offer more cushion than most hiking sandals. Meanwhile the nubuck leather upper boasts three-point adjustability and features a neoprene lining for a fine-tuned, comfort-focused fit.
Hoka One One Hopara Hiking Sandals
Best Long-Distance Sandals
The Hoka Hopara is perhaps the burliest hiking sandal in existence, with a cage-style upper and close-toed design that offers more protection than 99% of hiking sandals, while still sporting a lightweight (12-ounce) build. It has a flexible neoprene collar and rubberized EVA midsole for comfort, with 4-millimeter multidirectional lugs on the outer providing strong traction.
“The Hopara is a Keen on steroids,” Stegen says. “It takes the best qualities of a Keen midsole and outsole, pairing it with a lightweight, breathable upper and critical toe protection, too.”
Xero Z-Trail EV Hiking Sandals
Most Comfortable Minimalist Sandals
These buoyant, lightweight Xero Z-Trail hiking sandals are a step up from the Xero Genesis in comfort but still offer a featherlight build. The Z-Trails feature a three-layer 10-millimeter FeelLite sole, which provides the perfect blend between barefoot-style ground contact and moderate support. Thanks to a 5,000-mile warranty, these are sandals you can be sure will hold up for the long haul, and they’re made from 70% recycled plastics, so you can feel good about your purchase, too.
Vibram Five Finger V-Alpha Barefoot Shoes
Most Grippy Sandals
Everyone knows Five Fingers, and they’re simply not a sandal that appeals to many folks due to the glove-fit design. At 4.8 ounces per shoe, the Five Finger V-Alpha barefoot shoes are extraordinarily lightweight, but it’s their grip properties that really make them shine. The Vibram Megagrip outsole and the glove-fit build work together to offer just about the best grip on the market outside from that offered in technical climbing shoes.
EarthRunners Alpha Adventure Hiking Sandals
Best Eco-Friendly Trail Sandals
The 5.2-ounce unisex Alpha Adventure shoes are as minimalist as they come, but with a 12-millimeter sole, they’re still the thickest model offered by EarthRunners (who also has adventure sandals that are a mere eight millimeters thick). Meaning, they’re a great intro to the minimalist sandal style.
“I ran a 75-mile race with a guy who wore EarthRunners’s Alpha Adventure sandals,” Stegen says. “They’re basically a piece of rubber on the bottom of your foot. They aren’t going to work for everyone, but I know a ton of runners who love them.” EarthRunners are unique in that their Earth Grip footbed and grounded conductive lacing system help you better feel the earth beneath your feet, so, as the brand states, you can stay in touch with the earth’s magnetic frequency. You can learn more about grounding here.
Xero Genesis Hiking Sandals
Most Lightweight Sandals
At a mere 4.6 ounces, the Genesis from Xero is even lighter than the Alpha Adventures. These puppies are so lightweight, in fact, you’ll literally forget they’re on your foot. The shoes are easy to adjust with a one-strap fit system and have a 5 millimeter sole that keeps you grounded but provides adequate traction for mellow scrambles. You can also adjust the size of the footbed with scissors, so it’s extremely easy to fine-tune your fit. Whether used as a lightweight backup on camping trips, for crossing rivers or as an ultra-minimalist do-it-all sandal, the Xero Genesis holds its own.
Shamma Cruzers Hiking Sandals
Best Budget Pick
Shamma’s unisex Cruzers are quite similar to Bedrocks in style and design but are a more affordable option priced at under $50. This is a solid minimalist flatbed shoe, but its main draw is the brand’s new buckle feature, which locks in adjustments so your strap won’t tighten or loosen while hiking. Meanwhile, the Powersleeve heel ensures the heel strap doesn’t shift out of position, which is a common complaint with minimalist single-strap sandals like these. All told, the Cruzers are a standout budget-friendly sandal.