At a Glance
‣ Hiking sandals work well for summer hikes when cold weather isn’t a possibility.
‣ They are also great for a second pair of footwear to bring on backpacking trips for camp shoes and river crossings.
‣ Hiking sandals come in a wide range of designs, from fully supportive and protective, to ultra-minimalist barefoot style.
‣ Most 'sandal hikers' end up loving their sandals once they find the ones that work well for them.
Hiking sandals can be used as primary hiking footwear, instead of hiking shoes. In fact, I thru-hiked the Washington section of the Pacific Crest Trail in Bedrock sandals.
They can also be used as a secondary pair of hiking shoes for river crossing and when hotspots and blisters start creeping in. And, because they're lightweight, comfortable, and breathable, sandals are also great to wear around camp after a long day of hiking.
In this post, we'll review the 11 best pairs of hiking sandals on the market today and help you navigate the different specs out there, from heel drop to sole material, and attachment systems.
Read until the end for tips on how to avoid common mistakes first-time sandal hikers make (and regret).
|Brand/ Model||Weight (Pair)||Price|
|Chaco Z/Cloud 2||23 oz||$100|
|Bedrock Cairn 3D II Adventure||18 oz||$115|
|Keen Clearwater CNX||18 oz||$110|
|Keen Newport H2||28 oz||$110|
|Keen Whisper||18 oz||$100|
|Xero Shoes Z-Trail||10.8 oz||$80|
|Teva Tirra||19 oz||$80|
|Teva Hurricane XLT2||15.5 oz||$70|
|Merrell Choprock||19 oz||$104|
|Ecco Yucatan||30 oz||$135|
|Hoka Hopara||24 oz||$120|
Why Hiking Sandals
“My favorite thing about hiking in sandals, to be honest, is the connection to the earth that you feel when your feet are free.” - Elliot “Ballflap” Schaefer
Sandals are much more breathable than shoes. Your feet won’t overheat when you’re hiking in sandals. So, they’re great for summer hiking. When the weather is hot, shoes and socks can get sweaty and sticky. Hikers will often take their shoes off when they take a break for this reason. With sandals, you won’t ever need to them off when you’re on break because your feet can breathe.
How do you get the lightest footwear possible for your next hike? You wear something with less material, of course. Sandals often come with all the benefits of a fully supportive, long-lasting hiking shoe. And, they do this without all that extra material in the upper to weigh them down. When you’re picking up your feet repeatedly all day weight on your feet is important. Though certain sandals are quite heavy, imagine how much heavier they’d be if they had the extra material to make them a shoe.
“I’m obsessed with hiking in my Chacos...My biggest regret was not bringing them to Antarctica.“ - Rose McAdoo
Sandals are much more versatile than shoes, too. If your feet get cold you can wear them with socks. You can even wear two pairs of socks if it’s really cold. On the other hand, shoes are often too tight to fit a second pair of socks. And, you definitely can’t go without socks in most shoes.
“Hiking sandals also transition so easily from the trail to the water. There's nothing like a long hike followed by a dip in a nearby body of water, all while keeping my feet protected.” - Cam Vigliotta
With sandals, you no longer have to worry about getting your feet wet at river crossings, either. Instead of stopping to put on your water crossing shoes, you can just start walking through the river with sandals. When you’re across, shake your feet out and keep on hiking.
Your sandals are designed to be worn in the water. They’ll dry quickly after you’ve crossed a river. And while they’re wet you’ll be comfortable hiking in them.
For this reason, sandals work well for rainy weather. It sucks having wet, soggy socks inside a heavy, wet shoe. Wet feet are one of the worst parts of hiking in the rain all day. But with sandals, all those problems don’t exist. The worst thing about wet weather hiking in sandals is that your feet get muddy. But, even while they’re getting muddy they’re also getting cleaned off by the rain.
Some sandals are cheaper than hiking shoes, too. Even if the sandals you buy aren’t cheaper than your favorite hiking shoes, they will probably last longer. This means they’ll be cheaper in the long run. Some sandals even can be re-soled, which is much cheaper than buying a new pair.
On a backpacking trip, you don’t have to carry an extra pair of shoes for camp if you’re wearing sandals, either. There are likely no better shoes for wearing at camp than the sandals you just hiked all day in. So, kick back and relax.
Best Hiking Sandals
Chaco Z/2 Cloud
Weight: 23 oz
The Chaco Z/2 Cloud is Chaco’s most secure strap system paired with their softest, most cushioned footbed.
Chaco’s have cult-like popularity among those who wear them. It is quite common to see Chaco’s out on the trail in the summertime. And, Chaco wearers can make it far from the trailhead in their ultra-supportive sandals.
Plenty of hikers have hiked 1000’s of miles in Chaco’s.
The thickness of the Chaco sole is legendary and provides plenty of cushion for walking over rocks and uneven terrain. However, all that thickness means that Chaco’s are very heavy for a sandal. And, they have a substantial amount of heel-to-toe drop. If you’re looking for a zero drop sandal, look elsewhere.
With all Chaco Z models, you have the option to get a toe strap. The Z/1 models do not have a toe strap. The Z/2 models come with a toe strap.
Chaco’s strap system is just one strap. This strap wraps through the midsole and under the foot to make an infinitely adjustable to fit system. With Z/2, the strap is a little bit longer and wraps around the toe.
Whether you want the toe strap or not will mostly come down to personal preference. But, the toe loop is designed to prevent your foot from sliding forwards and back while you’re walking. Some love the added foot stability of the toe loop. But, others prefer a Chaco without a toe loop. If you want to wear socks with your sandals, you’ll either have to wear toe socks or wear a Chaco Z/1 model.
The Chaco Cloud footbed is a more recent innovation in the Chaco line. This technology features a 5mm softer density polyurethane footbed on the top of the midsole. So, the area that your foot rests on is softer, making every step a little more cushioned.
The Chaco Classic footbed has the same midsole and outsole as the Cloud models. But, it doesn’t have as soft of a footbed. If you prefer a firmer, more supportive footbed, get a Chaco sandal with their Classic footbed.
So, you have lots of different Chaco’s to choose from. And, every style of Chaco’s certainly has a strong following. But, we think the Z/2 Cloud is the best model to choose for a hiking sandal.Available at REI
Bedrock Cairn 3D II Adventure
Weight: 18 oz
Bedrock Sandals are another favorite among sandal-wearing hikers. They’re lightweight and have a very grippy Vibram sole. The soles of Bedrock sandals are very similar to a rock-climbing approach shoe. They feel great on a slick rock to sandstone, and of course, also do very well on dirt. Bedrocks are zero drop, too. Your feet will move naturally with maximum stability in these.
Bedrock sandals have a clever strap system that feels very secure on your feet. They look like a thong sandal. But, the thong portion of the sandal attaches to a Y-shaped webbing strap that wraps around the heel and top of the foot. This strap attaches to the sole on either side of the ankle for a very secure fit.
These sandal’s strap is adjustable in three places. On the heel and the inside of the foot, there are webbing and g-hook systems used to dial in foot placement. And, on the outside of the foot, there is a webbing cinch strap to tighten or loosen the straps as conditions change.
All Cairn 3D models have an anatomically molded footbed to give just enough toe and arch support. The footbed is also textured, which helps keep your foot in place. This also lets a little bit of air between your foot and the sandal to keep your feet from getting too sweaty.
The Cairn 3D II Adventure model has a custom Regolith Bedrock x Vibram mega grip sole. And, all Bedrocks have a burly sole with deep enough lugs to grip in muddy conditions. This is great for those hikers who plan on doing a lot of walking over wet, muddy, rocks and other slippery conditions.
Check out the Cairn Pro II Adventure model if you don’t want an anatomically molded footbed. This model uses the same outsole with a more neutral-shaped footbed. Or, check out the standard Cairn 3D Adventure Sandals, which have Bedrock’s slightly less grippy but longer-lasting Vibram XS Trek Regolith outsole.
Bedrock will also Re-sole any of their sandals that you’ve managed to wear out, too. So, after you go and hike the Appalachian Trail in these you can keep your soft, worn-in straps, but have fresh rubber under your feet.Available at REI
Keen Clearwater CNX
Weight: 18 oz
The Clearwater CNX is Keen’s lightweight sandal offering. The soles are the least substantial of all Keen sandals and are ideal for water activities and smoother trails. If you’re walking over especially rocky terrain you might feel the rocks through these soles. Unlike most Keen’s that have a significant heel-to-toe drop, these sandals have 4mm of drop. And, they have a contoured arch for midfoot support.
Keen uses a closed-toe design for their hiking sandals. At first glance, these sandals could be confused with a shoe. But, they are much more breathable than shoes are. These sandals provide a lot more toe protection than open-toe sandals as well.
The upper of these sandals make a web of polyester that cradles your foot. And, there is an elastic cinch lacing system on top. This allows you to tighten the sandals as much as you need to get a secure fit.
However, many find these sandals to be too narrow for their feet. For whatever reason, Keen designed these shoes to be less wide than their other offerings. So, if you have a wide foot, these might not work for you.
These sandals are a great option for hikes with a lot of water crossings. They would also be great for a float trip that includes a longer hike in or out.Available at Amazon
Keen Newport H2
Weight: 28 oz
These are Keen’s offering for fully supportive hiking and water sandal. They are not at all lightweight but don’t try to be. If you took one of Keen’s hiking boots and replaced the upper with polyester webbing this is what you would get.
These sandals sport Keen’s classic burly toe lug to protect you when you accidentally kick a rock. And, they have a multi-directional lugged sole with razor siping for increased traction in wet, muddy conditions. Like all Keen sandals, they use an elastic cinch cord for adjusting the fit.
These sandals use Keen’s “Metatomical Footbed Design,” which provides arch support while you walk. And, since the footbed is shaped to fit the bottom of a foot, it will cradle your foot and keep it from sliding around. These sandals have a high amount of heel-to-toe drop, though. So, if you’re looking for a zero-drop sandal, these aren’t the ones.
All Keens can be worn with socks, too. In fact, some people never wear their Keen sandals without socks when they’re hiking to get some extra comfort and protection. This prevents the sandals from rubbing directly on the skin. And, Keens can have a tendency to do this when hiking long distances.
These are a great option for hikers who prefer the stability of a boot but want a more breathable option. If you need something to wear when the weather gets too hot for your boots, grab a pair of Keens.Available at REI
Weight: 18 oz
This women’s specific Keen sandal uses an open webbing design. This design has less material in the upper, so it will keep your feet even cooler than the Newports do.
These sandals also have a burly toe cap to keep your feet protected from rocks. They use Keen’s “Metatomical Footbed Design” to provide lots of arch support, too.
Since they provide so much foot support and have a substantial toe cap, they are a great choice for a hiking sandal in almost all conditions. They come in a variety of fun colors, too.Available at REI
Xero Shoes Z-Trail EV
Weight: 10.8 oz
These are ultralight, minimalist sandals to the fullest extent. Xero calls these “barefoot sandals” because they allow your foot to move naturally. They use a z-strap system to hold the sandal in place. This system works well. And the lightweight materials used on the sandal also help to keep them from moving around as you move.
They have a 10mm thick sole, which is just enough traction to not feel every rock. They are zero drop, like all Xero footwear. And, the sole is very flexible. You can roll this sandal up lengthwise quite easily.
These sandals would do very well on day hikes, especially if you’re accustomed to walking in minimalist footwear. These would not be a great candidate for backpacking since they are almost like going barefoot, though. That is unless you’re very used to hiking in minimalist footwear and have a very light pack. In that case, you’d probably love these sandals for backpacking.
Because these sandals are so light, they are a great candidate for a backpacking camp shoe that is also used for water crossings.
Xero sandals also come with a 5,000 miles sole warranty. So, if you wear out the soles of these soles sooner than that, they’ll replace them at a nominal cost.Available at REI
Weight: 19 oz
These women’s specific sandals have three hook and loop closures to adjust the fit of the straps. The straps are very strong, dry quickly, and will last a long time. And, these straps are made of recycled plastic bottles.
These sandals have a pretty substantial sole with plenty of cushions. They feature a contoured midsole for arch support. And, there is extra cushioning in the heel, Teva’s “Shoc Pad” technology. The “Rugged Spider Rubber” outsole is designed to provide traction in wet conditions, too.
However, these sandals don’t always keep your foot from sliding forward and back while you walk. If you tighten the straps on these an uncomfortable amount your feet won’t slide. Otherwise, the will, though. This is especially true when your foot is wet.
These are a good option for light hiking, a day out on the river or the town, or a combination of these things.
All Teva Sandals are recyclable with Teva’s TevaForever recycling program, too.Available at REI
Teva Hurricane XLT2
Weight: 15.5 oz
These Teva sandals use Teva’s classic design that they’ve been using since they started. They use three velcro closures to adjust the fit. With this system, you can adjust the straps on the heel, top of the foot, and near your toes. Like the Tirra’s, these are also made of recycled plastic webbing. And, these have a burly Teva sole as well.
They have a basic rubber outsole for traction. And, the EVA footbed has subtle arch support. These sandals have a moderate heel-to-toe drop as well. These sandals also may slide around on your foot when things get wet.
These are good for all-around use when you don’t know what the day will bring. They look good and will move with you on the trail if you find yourself on a light hike. They’re not the best choice for longer hikes, though.Available at REI
Weight: 19 oz
These sandals look very much like hiking shoes. And, in many ways, they are shoes. However, they are a shoe designed to be worn without socks. So technically, maybe they are sandals.
Whatever you want to call them, though, the Choprocks have an ultra-breathable mesh and webbing upper. And, they have laces that attach to loops on the end of each piece of webbing to dial in the fit. This will create an upper that hugs the contours of your foot if you lace them tight.
The Choprocks have a removable insole with a water-friendly top cover. So, these really blur the line between a shoe and a sandal. Under the removable insole, there are channels to port water out from under your feet when things get wet, too.
The footbed on these sandals has some arch support, as does the insole. And, they do have a significant heel-to-toe drop, as well. These have a Vibram Megagrip outsole for traction in wet, muddy conditions. And, the outsole features 5 mm lugs to grab the ground beneath you.
If you’re new to sandals and want something with the protection of a shoe but all the water-friendly features of a sandal, then these are a good option.Available at Amazon
Weight: 30 oz
These sandals are probably the least techy-looking sandals on this list. They have a leather upper for that classic casual style, too. Though they’re just as at home at a coffee shop as they are on a trail, they’ll hold their own when you find yourself on a spontaneous hike.
They have a neoprene-lined upper to keep your feet comfortable. And the straps have three velcro adjustment points: on the heel, top of the foot, and near the toes. The thick soles provide a lot of cushion for your feet. And, the lightweight molded EVA footbed with a microfibre cover to make your feet feel comfortable. And, they’ll support your arches.
With a durable rubber outsole, you’ll get good traction on a variety of different terrains. The foam they use in the soles is so light that these sandals float, too. So, you won’t lose your sandal if it falls in the water.
These sandals are very durable, so they will last a long time. These are best suited for light hiking, but if they fit your foot well you could probably take them farther.Available at Amazon
Weight: 24 oz
This is another hiking sandal that blurs the line between sandal and shoe. Hoka describes this piece of footwear as both a shoe and a sandal, and they aren’t wrong in either case.
They feature a synthetic and neoprene upper with large open sections to be comfortable and breathable when wet or dry. And, they have a quick-lace system to tighten as you need to. This sandal has a rubberized toe cap to protect your feet from rocks and roots, too.
The footbed is EVA molded and rubberize to support your foot. This footbed will also do well when wet, like everything on this sandal. With 5mm of drop, you’ll get plenty of stability out of this sandal, too.
The outsole has 4 mm deep lugs. And, it is made of sticky rubber to grip in all conditions. The Hopara has a lot of cushions to keep you comfortable walking all day, too. While not as cushioned as some Hoka shoes, this selection is one of the more cushioned options in this list.
These shoes would work well for someone who wants a sandal for fast and light adventures, in and out of the water.Available at REI
You’ll want to consider what you want to use your sandals for before you buy some. Different aspects of each sandal will be important depending on what you plan to use them for.
COMFORT: EVA VS PU MIDSOLES
Do you want to hike big miles in your sandals? Look for sandals with some midsole cushioning and arch support. But if you’re looking for sandals to walk to the river for a float trip, arch support and midsole cushioning won’t be as important.
Note the material used in the midsoles. Most hiking sandals either use ethylene vinyl acetate (EVA) or polyurethane (PU). EVA midsoles are commonly found in running shoes. Sandals with an EVA midsole will be lighter and feel more cushioned. PU midsoles are commonly found in hiking boots and other similar shoes. They will be heavier, more protective, and last longer.
FIT: SIZING AND ADJUSTABILITY
Look at how wide the sandals you’re considering are. You wouldn’t want your feet to hang off the sides. Sizing is important with sandals. If they’re too big, your foot will slide around in them, which might be worse than your foot hanging off the side. If you’re going to be moving a lot in your sandals, get some that are very adjustable.
Sandals are usually secured to your feet using some combination of straps, webbing, velcro, or bungee lacing. Usually, the more points of adjustment, the better. You want to be able to tighten your sandals down to keep them from sliding.
GRIP: LUG SHAPE AND DEPTH
If you’re going to be doing a lot of walking on wet rocks or in rivers, get sandals with a grippy rubber outsole. Many sandals will advertise the type of rubber they use in their outsole if it’s a good one, so pay attention to that.
Just like shoes, hiking sandals can have an aggressive lug pattern reminiscent of burly hiking boots. On the contrary, some sandals have a relatively flat outsole. If you plan on mostly hiking in dry conditions, you probably don’t need deep lugs on your sandals. However, if you do a lot of hiking in muddy conditions, look for sandals with longer, pointed lugs to keep you from sliding.
Photo: Sam Schild
TOE COVERAGE: FOR EXTRA PROTECTION
Do you often accidentally kick rocks while hiking? Get sandals with some toe coverage. These types of sandals look more like a shoe but will protect your feet much more than a more traditional open sandal design. If you want maximum airflow for your feet, get sandals without toe coverage.
WEIGHT: KEEP IT UNDER 20 OZ PER PAIR
The weight of your footwear is important. You’ll be lifting that weight every time you take a step. And that’s 1000’s of times every hike. Also, if your sandals are heavy they are more likely to slide around when wet. So, making sure your hiking sandals are lightweight is important.
As a general rule, try to keep the weight of your sandals under 20 ounces. But, as you’ll see in the reviews, there can be exceptions.
HEEL DROP: A PERSONAL PREFERENCE
Heel drop refers to how high the heel of your shoe is in relation to the forefoot. And, heel drop generally correlates with how natural your foot will sit in a given piece of footwear.
If a shoe or sandal has “zero drop,” that means the heel isn’t any higher than the front of the shoe. This is how your foot would be if you were barefoot. However, if a sandal has 10 millimeters of drop, your heel will sit a whole centimeter higher than the ball of your foot. This puts you in a position that is thought to make you faster, leaning forward on your toes. But, leaning forward on your toes can also make you less stable.
WARRANTY: RE-SOLING AND MILEAGE GUARANTEE
A lot of sandals come with some type of warranty, just like shoes. Sometimes, those warranties are even better with sandals, though. Certain sandals come with an option to re-sole them when you’ve worn out the old soles. This way, you can keep your old broken-in sandal straps. Other sandals come with a mileage guarantee, too.
\Photo: Sam Schild
Tips for First-Time Sandal Hikers
Is this your first rodeo hiking in sandals? Here are a few basic to understand before you hit the trail.
1. ADJUSTING THE SANDALS
Before you go out on your hike, you’ll want to adjust your sandals to nail the fit. Start by loosening all the straps and placing your foot where it should sit on the footbed. You should be able to feel the right spot, where any arch support aligns with the arch of your foot. Now, adjust the heel strap so it will keep your foot from sliding back out of that position. Then, adjust the top straps so your foot won’t slide forward off that spot. Finally, tighten any other straps to secure the sandal to your foot.
Adjusting some sandals is more complicated than others. Chaco has this nifty guide for adjusting their sandals. Bedrock also has their own adjustment guide, too.
If you get a good fit on your sandals, you shouldn’t have any issues with blisters. But, with a new pair of sandals, you might need to break them in. If a part of the sandal is rubbing against your skin you might eventually get a blister. Pay attention to how your feet feel when wearing new sandals.
When you’re hiking, be aware of any spots where your foot moves against something on the sandal. If you notice this is happening, stop. Try to adjust the fit to prevent it. Sometimes you just need to tighten a strap to avoid this. If adjusting the fit doesn’t work and you’re out on a hike, put a sock on that foot. Or, put a piece of leukotape over your skin on the spot that is rubbing. Both of these will put a barrier between your skin and the part of the sandal that’s rubbing.
When your feet get cold or you want a little extra foot protection, you can wear socks with your hiking sandals. Socks will give your feet a little extra cushion. So, if the bottoms of your feet are hurting, try wearing a pair of socks for a while. Some sandals will allow you to wear a standard pair of socks with them. If that is the case, you can just wear your favorite hiking socks with your sandals. Sandals with straps that go between your toes will require toe socks to wear socks with your sandals, though.
Remember there isn’t anything protecting your feet from the sun when you’re wearing sandals, too. So, when you’re applying sunscreen, don’t forget to put a dab on any exposed areas of your feet. Avoid putting so much on that it leaves your feet oily, though. You don’t want your feet to be slipping around under your sandal straps.
📸 Some photos in this post were taken by Jonathan Davis (@meowhikes).