We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: footwear is probably the most important bit of gear to get right before a hike. If you are on the trail or just on a long walk, the wrong shoes can leave you unprotected or more uncomfortable than you would be without any shoes at all. Not all hikes need a hiking boot, however, or indeed a lightweight hiking shoe. Hiking sandals are a great solution when you want some support but need the flexibility to go without socks to keep cool.
Summary of the best hiking sandals in 2021
Here’s our top pick for 2021 with more details on each hiking sandal further down.
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|Product||Features||Open or closed toe||Cost|
|KEEN Women's Clearwater CNX||Good grip in wet||Closed||$$|
|Teva Men's Omnium Sandal||Coverage and support||Closed||$$$|
|Keen Arroyo II||Heel support||Closed||$$$|
|Bedrock Sandals Cairn Adventure Sandals||Minimalist, lightweight||Open||$$$|
|Merrell Women's Terran Lattice II||Customisable comfort||Open||$$|
|ECCO Men's Cheja Athletic||Thick soles and shock absorption||Open||$$$|
|Skechers Women's Reggae Buckle Clip||Good value and secure||Open||$|
|Chaco Women's ZX3 Classic Sport||Customisable comfort||Open||$$$|
|Chaco Men's Z/2 Unaweep||Watersports||Open||$$$|
|Teva Original Universal||Lightweight||Open||$|
What to look for in a great pair of hiking sandals
The best walking sandals have a no-slip sole that helps you grip the trail and some sort of strap system to keep them in place during intense activity. When it comes to picking the best hiking sandal for you, consider the following questions:
- What kind of foot coverage do you need?
- Will you be in the water?
- Do you have any special needs like an orthotic sole or extra arch support?
- Let’s take a look at each point to figure out what kind of shoe is best for you.
- What kind of foot coverage do you need?
What kind of foot coverage do you need?
One of the main reasons you might choose a hiking sandal over a boot is so less of your foot is covered. Some people prefer the feel of air on their feet, especially in the summer. If you are looking for a sandal with as little material as possible, look at something like the Merrell’s Terran Lattice II or Teva Original Universal. If you want something closer to a traditional shoe, Teva’s Men’s Omnium Closed-Toe sandal has extra coverage on the toe and around the foot. Because toe coverage can be required at some recreational facilities and job sites, our list is separated into open- and closed-toe styles for easy reference.
Will you be in the water?
Any of the sandals on our list can handle getting wet, but weight and security are even more important if you plan to wear your sandals during water sports or hiking through streams. Chaco Men’s Z/2 Unaweep is one of the best on our list for kayaking or rafting thanks to a solid sole and secure toe strap. Of the closed-toe varieties, Arroyo II from KEEN is our number one pick for regular amphibious use.
Do you have any special needs like an orthotic sole or extra arch support?
It goes without saying that each sandal will fit differently, but you may already know about a particular feature you need. If your feet are wider than most, KEEN and Teva are good brands for you. ECCOs and Chacos tend to run on the narrow side, although trying a pair on is the best way to know what brand will fit your foot. If you need to wear orthotic soles while you hike, the foot bed in KEEN’s Arroyo II is completely removable. Chaco’s ZX3 Classic Sport sandals are designed specifically for hikers with high arches, while Merrell’s Terran Lattice II are too tight across the top for some. Because hiking sandals are designed to fit snugly on the foot, shopping for the best fit is crucial.
The 10 best hiking and walking sandals in 2021
Once you have an idea of your hiking sandal must-haves, here is our list of the ten best hiking and walking sandals on the market:
Closed-toe sandals for hiking and walking
KEEN’s Clearwater CNX hiking sandals are perfect for hiking on uneven or slick terrain thanks to a lightweight sole that lets you feel and grip the trail. You needn’t worry about getting wet walking through water either; the body material is water resistant and designed to dry quickly. KEEN sandals have some of the best arch support on the market, but the sizing can vary from style to style. Bungee cord lacing pulls in at the heel and tongue to fit the sandal to your foot height. The women’s style comes in five color options, while the men’s Clearwater CNX comes in seven different colors.
- Lightweight, non-slip soles
- Wide choice of colors
- Both men’s and women’s styles available
- Minimal padding
Another option for a hiking sandal with extra coverage is Teva’s Men’s Omnium Closed-Toe. Openings over the top and along the sides of the sandals encourage air flow, while the thick heel strap provides more ankle and heel support than many other hiking sandals. A combination of bungee lacing and Velcro straps lets you customize the fit without the hassle of laces. When it comes to selecting the perfect size, Teva offers the Omnium in both regular and wide.
- Comes in regular and wide
- Available in men’s and women’s styles
- Lightweight with superior coverage
- Low profile can be too tight for very high arches
- Sizing can run small
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Of all the closed-toe hiking sandals on our list, the Arroyo II from KEEN offers the most heel support and toe protection thanks to a two-inch heel and rubber toecap. Because the footbed is removable, these are also the best hiking sandals on our list if you need to wear an orthotic insert. Leather uppers are sturdy and waterproof, while the mesh lining keeps your feet cool and prevents chafing or blisters. Long-time KEEN fans will know this sandal by its previous name: Taos.
- Breathable mesh
- Suitable for water
- Laces on some pairs break easily
- Comes in both men’s and women’s sizes
Open-toe sandals for hiking and walking
Designed and tested by the environmentally-conscious company, Bedrock Sandals, the Cairn Adventure Sandals are an all-round hiking sandal with a minimalist footbed. Despite its simple appearance, these sandals have all the features you need for a day on rugged trails. Durable webbing with three adjustment points, including a strap which hugs the heel in place. This, coupled with a plastic-free toe post ensures a secure fit. Meanwhile, the reliable Vibram sole provides aggressive traction on all terrains. These sandals are also extremely lightweight, just one pound, and highly flexible. They’re certainly a wise choice for thru-hikers and travellers as well as warm weather hikers.
- Available in men’s and woman’s specific fit
- Adjustable – will fit most feet
- Extremely durable
- Lightweight and packable
- The minimalist style offers very little foot support
- Open toe design doesn’t protect from trail debris
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Soft, thin straps adjustable in three different places make Merrell’s Terran Lattice II a fully customizable option with a slightly dressier look. Nine different color combinations are available, ranging from subtle black and gray to teal and lime. Although these sandals are designed for hiking and walking, you can wear them around town without a second thought thanks to the slim and subtle design. It is not all about looks, however; they also offer extra heel cushion and full arch support.
- Nine color combinations
- Cloth-wrapped straps for extra comfort
- Fully adjustable
- Can be tight on very high insteps
- No half sizes
If you prefer the look and feel of a classic leather walking sandal, take a look at the Cheja Athletic from ECCO, which feature a camel leather upper and rugged rubber sole. Although the thicker sole will reduce how well you can feel the trail, the extra shock absorption and heel support is a major selling point for many hikers—especially those with any foot or heel injuries. ECCO brand shoes are sold with European sizing, so be sure to learn your European shoe size if you cannot try the sandals on in person before purchasing.
- Velcro straps are fully adjustable
- Flexible nubuck leather uppers
- Thick, shock-absorbent soles
- Only one color available
- Heavier than synthetic sandals
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Skechers’ Women’s Reggae Buckle Clip hiking sandals offer maximum comfort at the lowest price on our list. In addition to a memory foam sole, these sandals are guaranteed to stay in place on the even the roughest terrain thanks to dedicated big toe loops, no-slip soles, and elastic straps hold designed to hold the sandals nice and snug on your foot. With over 25 colour options and two strap designs (one larger strap or two thin straps), there is sure to be at least one combination just right for your style and taste.
- Lots of color choices (25)
- Great value
- Toe loops and elastic straps keep the sandals secure
- No half sizes
- The straps are only adjustable at the buckle
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With fully customizable triple straps and an adjustable heel strap, Chaco’s ZX3 Classic Sport offer a custom fit that you can loosen or tighten to suit your needs. For anyone that occasionally wears an ankle brace or switches between hiking with and without socks, the ability to adjust the fit is crucial. Learning to adjust these sandals can be a challenge, however, if you are accustomed to slipping on your shoes and heading out the door. A podiatrist-approved foot bed is specially designed to support high arches. Depending on your needs, that may be a selling point or a reason to choose another option.
- Completely adjustable
- Toe strap for stability
- Great for high arches
- Potentially time-consuming to adjust
- Uncomfortable with flat feet
- Narrow heel
Chaco’s Z/2 Unaweep are perfect for watersports or amphibious trailblazing. The solid base does not absorb water, so each sandal stays lightweight when wet and dries very quickly. No-slip soles give you the traction you need on slippery rocks and mossy trails. Chaco’s sandal sizing is sometimes different than your regular shoe size, so a professional fitting is recommended for your first pair. When you do get ready to order a pair of Z/2s, you will find nine color and pattern combinations to choose from.
- Nine color options
- Good traction when wet
- Dry quickly
- Sizing can be difficult
- Narrow foot bed
Another great option for amphibious footwear is the Original Universal style from Teva. EVA foam in the sole makes for a more cushioned step than many of the waterproof sandals on our list without absorbing water and weight when wet. Teva’s universal strapping system adjusts in three different places for a secure fit – you will never have to worry about your sandal floating down the river without you again! Tevas are especially well suited to wide feet. Definitely give these a closer look if the heel or foot bed of other sandals is too narrow for your foot.
- Stay in place when wet
- Do not absorb water
- No toe strap
- Can run large
- Some strap styles are prone to fraying
You do not need long pants, wool socks, and hiking boots for every trail. When you want something lightweight that you can wear without socks – and without earning any new blisters – a hiking or walking sandal will give you what you need. Whether you want a full-coverage sandal or as little shoe as possible, one of the styles on our list is sure to fit your feet.