An Expert Guide to the Best Hiking Sandals
If you are looking for some new footwear to accompany you on all your hiking adventures this summer, you're in the right place! Check out these top hiking sandals!
Everyone has a preferred hiking shoe. From good ol’ fashion hiking boots to light and quick trail runners to hiking sandals—making the right choice for your feet is extremely personal. That choice may differ depending on the length of your trip, terrain, and of course weather. (I do not recommend wearing sandals in winter even if you pair them with some wool socks). Here are my favorite hiking sandals and the best conditions to wear them in.
When to Wear Hiking Sandals
Although I tend to lean towards my Hoka trail runners for most hiking trips, there are occasions when my Chaco Z Sandals are preferred.
The most obvious reason to wear hiking sandals is when there are a lot of water crossings throughout the trail. Depending on the sandal, they will dry quickly, protect your foot from any sharp rocks or other objects in the water, and will be more comfortable to continue hiking in versus wet shoes.
On extremely hot days I also may wear sandals instead of sneakers. Remember to put a hefty layer of sunscreen on your feet to avoid sunburns and keep an eye out for interesting tan lines you may get along the way!
Before choosing sandals for a hike, make note of the weather forecast as well as the terrain. Is it muddy or dry and rocky? Will there be slippier moments where you may need more support?
Always test out your shoe of choice on shorter hikes or walks around the block to break them in and get a better understanding of how they will perform when you are further into the backcountry.
How to Choose the Sandal for You
There are a few features that make hiking sandals different from your everyday sandals: the lacing system, outsole, and midsole/support system. It is important to try on different kinds to get a better understanding of what works for you, your lifestyle, and most importantly your feet. Having achy or tired feet on the trail can ruin a trip or hike attempt so it is best to test out different shoes before committing.
Most sandals do not have the traditional laces that shoes have—although there are exceptions on the market. If you have very narrow feet or wide feet, laces may be best for you to get a better custom fit for your foot size. Shoes with traditional laces will most likely have uppers (the part of the shoe that covers your toes, heels, and sides of your foot) and thus add more security, better for use on a longer hiking trip. Other hiking sandals without laces will have some sort of webbing or straps to secure the shoe to your foot.
The outsole is what makes contact with the ground. Some hiking sandals will have a stickier outsole (or just sole) that will add more traction and grip when it makes contact with different types of terrain and for general overall stability. If you know you are heading out across many different kinds of terrains and environments, a sandal with a sole that has deeper grooves will be best while a sole with fewer grooves should be considered an approach sandal—a sole that is a cross between a hiking and a climbing shoe.
The midsole is what is between the outsole and the insole, which is the part of the shoe that makes contact with your foot. Some people prefer a squishier foam-like midsole while others like a firmer midsole. Keep in mind that a foam-like material is made from ethylene-vinyl acetate (EVA) and will not be as durable as a polyurethane (PU) midsole that is firmer and made to last.
Keep these three features in mind when choosing a hiking sandal.
Top Hiking Sandals
There is a variety of hiking sandals on the market today with an overwhelming amount of information. To help make the choice easier, here are my top hiking sandal options—tried and tested by yours truly.
Chaco Z Sandals
The Chaco Z Sandals are my go-to hiking sandals. They dry quickly, have an enormous amount of arch support, and are great with wool socks when it starts to cool down at camp or to run for groceries on cooler days. There are two versions, the original and the cloud, which has an added layer of soft cushion for even more comfort on the trail. They also offer an additional toe loop that some find useful. However, the toe loop makes slipping these on and off harder and makes wearing socks frustrating and awkward (to say the least).
There is an entirely customizable fit with the adjustable straps, a bunch of different colors and patterns, and they are easy to clean. The new ReChaco program allows you to repair your shoes without buying a new pair which saves you money and helps to protect the environment from excess waste.
Teva Hurricane XLT2
The Teva Hurricane XLT2 is the new Teva Sport Sandal that won’t leave you wanting more. Although the original Teva sandals offer close to zero arch support, the Hurricane XLT2 easily makes up for it. These sport sandals are vegan, made with recycled materials, and can be easily recycled when they eventually wear out. The velcro straps come with extra padding to avoid blisters and hot spots, and the entire shoe is made with quick-drying fabrics for those summer dips in the alpine lakes and water crossings. The EVA midsole is made with comfort in mind but also implies that these shoes are better for lighter hiking trips and will not be as durable as a PU midsole. Keep in mind that if you have narrow feet, as I do, these may not keep your feet as secure as the Chacos will.
Xero Shoes Z-Trail EV Sandals
For ultralight, lightweight, and minimal hikers, check out the Xero Shoes Z-Trail EV Sandals. Wearing Xero shoes has been an ongoing trend for the past couple of years, and a lot of hard work goes into it. For many that are not used to wearing these kinds of shoes, you need to train and strengthen your feet (like any other muscle) to adjust to being used differently. Many believe that wearing shoes has weakened our ankle mobility and the tiny muscles in our feet and has actually made us prone to more injuries despite the intention of shoes being quite the opposite. Some benefits of wearing Xero shoes include strengthening feet and legs muscles, carrying less weight, and thus being able to move quicker, as well as feeling more of the terrain underneath you. These shoes are water-resistant, float, and will protect your skin from sharp sticks or hot surfaces while avoiding bulk.
Keen Newport H2 Sandals
For those who want a lot of support like a sneaker but want an airy feel, go for the Keen Newport H2 Sandals. The Keen sole is like no other and features deep grooves to add extra traction against slippery surfaces. These sandals are great for those who want to easily transition from water sports such as kayaking or kayak camping to hiking. The laces help create an adjustable fit while the heel strap adds more support. These shoes highlight a 10-point fit, meaning there are 10 points of contact for extra security). Their durable reliability explains why this shoe has become the official shoe of Japan’s Fuji Rock Festival! A closed-toe and durable toe protection is something you will not easily find on another hiking sandal and it means you won’t need to worry about any stubbed toes with these as you would with open-toe sandals. Wear these on the beach at the tide pools, on a hike crossing some streams, or out and about with some wool socks when it gets colder. They will not disappoint!
So whether you are running for groceries or hitting the trail on your next adventure, these sandals will keep your fancy feet safe and are a great piece of gear to add to your wish list. The versatility of a hiking sandal continues to surprise me and makes them worth the money spent. Do you have any experience with these hiking sandals or did I miss your favorite? What is your favorite footwear for hiking? Hit up a Camping and Hiking Expert on Curated and let’s talk about all things outdoors.