Our definitive guide to the best hiking sandals available provides information on the nine top hiking sandals and offers tips on what to consider before buying a pair. In it, we break down each sandal's key features, covering elements such as comfort, strap design, support, materials, weight and more.
More Great Hiking Sandals
- Keen Newport Hydro ($110)
- Teva Terra Fi 5 Universal ($100)
- ECCO Sport Yucatan ($135)
- Xero Shoes Z-Trail EV ($80)
- Freewaters Trifecta ($65)
- Chaco Odyssey Sanal ($100)
A lot is implied by the word sandal. Upon hearing it, one might conjure up an image of footwear made of leather and cork loosely affixed to a pair of worn feet stemming from a guitar-toting, shower-averse long-haired hippy. That picture would stereotype both man and shoe, though.
Sandals have their place outside of cultural generalizations — in rafts, for one. Teva, one of the most highly-regarded makers of outdoor sandals, got its start in 1984 when Mark Thatcher, a river guide in the Grand Canyon, used two Velcro watch straps to modify a pair of flip-flops so they wouldn’t come off his feet.
The outdoor sandals available today are more robust than that — in fact, they’re about as beefy as can be without losing the light and open qualities that make them great in the first place. Sticky rubber soles with heavy lugs, platforms molded for arch support and anti-blister constructions are just some of the traits that make the best outdoor sandals suitable for use beyond boats and water. Hike in them, bike in them, climb in them — these sandals are built to go everywhere.
Chaco Z/Volv 2
Chaco’s most iconic sandal is also one of the most polarizing, largely due to the unique loop that helps secure the big toe. People either hate it or love it; we find that it provides the extra bit of leverage that’s useful when scrambling up trails and over rocks. The Z/Volv 2 is similar in that way, though Chaco shaved off 20 percent of its weight by using a different rubber compound. It's a welcome change given that the original can often feel clunky and especially because the super-supportive footbed is still in place.
If you already love Chacos, you'll like the Z/Volv even better. If you're new to Chacos, note that the strap adjustment process is a bit tricky (again, some hate it), but plenty supportive. Another thing to note is that the strap is too long if you have small feet and need to crank it down, but you can always cut it back and burn the end if it's annoying. And if you hate the thought of that big toe loop, the Z/Volv comes in a version without it.
Bedrock Cairn 3D Adventure Sandals
Bedrock felt that even traditional sandals were too constraining, so it reworked the strap layout into a design that’s something of a hybrid between a flip-flop and Tevas. The paracord thong uses an aluminum insert for durability (this is usually the first thing to go on normal flip-flops), and an adjustable heel cuff provides rear foot stability. In this updated version, Bedrock added a hook adjustment to the heel for even greater support than the original, which helps this sandal feel a lot beefier than it is (it weighs 10.5 ounces per sandal).
The Cairn 3D features a contoured footbed for additional comfort and a Vibram outsole for the best possible grip. If it looks too minimal for long adventures, know that it isn’t — the company’s chief experience officer, Naresh Kumar, hiked New Zealand’s 3,000-kilometer Te Araroa trail in a pair.
Teva Hurricane XLT 2
Teva's classic Velcro sandal is still the gold standard adventure sandal when you don't want to spend a bundle. For a little extra cash though, you can get the Hurricane XLT2, which is just an all-terrain version of the simpler one you might've worn as a kid. It still has downsides — mainly its triangular plastic strap connectors, which can be uncomfortable —but the primary upgrades are a thicker, contoured sole and a grippy outsole that make walking on dirt, gravel, riverbeds, etc. a lot more manageable.
Keen Newport Hydro
Many of Keen’s sandals walk a fine line between sandal and shoe, and the Newport Hydro does it expertly. It’s open everywhere except the toe, which makes it perfect for wear during aquatic activities when underwater rocks can become especially hazardous to toes. Its washable webbing exterior is backed with a comfy PFC-free, quick-drying lining. The sole has tread enough for hiking on dry land, too, and is supported by a light shank for additional support.
Teva Terra Fi 5 Universal
If you like Tevas but want a more rugged model than our budget pick, check out the Terra Fi 5 Universal, which sports a few crucial upgrades that make it great for heavier all-around outdoor use. For one, it features a thick, molded PU midsole that provides support on uneven ground and protection from jagged terrain as well as a sticky rubber outsole with lugs for traction. The Terra Fi 5 Universal also has additional padding at points of high abrasion where the straps meet the sole and where plastic parts are, which helps avoid blisters.
ECCO Sport Yucatan
ECCO packed so much support and comfort into the Yucatan, it wears more like a shoe with oversized vents than a sandal. The entire strap structure is lined with neoprene to make this sandal super comfortable and eliminate chafing in places you'd expect to find it on other models. The midsole is thick and supportive, and has a lining that makes it a lot softer than other sandals in the category too (again, it's kind of like a shoe in this way). Made with leather, the Yucatan is a chunkier sandal and doesn't have that traditional outdoorsy look, and it's also more expensive than our other picks.
Xero Shoes Z-Trail EV
Weighing in at a scant 5.4 ounces, the Z-Trail EV is as light as a hiking sandal gets. It eschews thick straps, extra padding and oversized buckles but it drops most of its weight by using a super-thin 10-millimeter sole. Nevertheless, the sole still comes with the hallmarks of a hiking sandal, including a foam footbed and lugged outsole. Keep in mind that there's little between your foot and the ground though, so expect to feel rocks even if they can't pierce through these layers. The Z-Trail EV is best for shorter hikes and water activities, or people who want a protected barefoot walking feel.
Flip-flops are great for casual wear but, for all their wonderful qualities, are not great adventure sandals; they’re too minimal and often quite breakable. But leaving the heel free to breath is nice (and prevents abrasion to one of the foot’s most blister-prone areas). Freewaters approached the zero-sum situation by axing the heel piece and leaving a Velcro strap over the top of the foot. It also included a soft foam platform and a supportive arch. We've found that it's not as ideal for hiking as others on this list, but is perfect for short-range adventures and everyday use that you'd typically choose a flip-flop for.
Chaco Odyssey Sandal
One of Chaco’s more recent releases, the Odyssey is part sandal, part hiking shoe, part Nike Flyknit. It's a water shoe that's ideal for rafting and wading, but its rugged sole can handle hiking trails, too — one Gear Patrol contributor experienced just how well it handles both during a packrafting trip in Alaska's Kennicott Wilderness. Plus, the extra coverage provided by the mesh upper and toe overlays adds protection without sacrificing one of the best things about wearing sandals: breathability. The only con with this sandal is that the extra material that protects the toe and brings added support can become a trap for debris, though it's easy enough to shake that stuff out.