If you are after optimum footwear comfort, it’s hard to look beyond supportive sandals.
Designed to mimic the freedom of walking barefoot with the protection of a sole, walking sandals are the shoe of choice for the warmer months.
The past decade has seen an increase in individuals, friends, and families embracing their outdoor spirit, and heading off the beaten track in search of adventure.
As many of these ones prefer the ultralight or ‘glamping’ style of hiking, walking sandals have firmly cemented themselves as a must-have for trekkers.
As many have also cottoned on the orthopedic benefits of walking, sandals are now a popular alternative to flip flops and other day-to-day footwear also.
With so many on the market, how does one know how to ensure they are not purchasing a dud? Before rushing out to the stores, make sure you know how you can get the best walking sandals that will not only look great but support you through the summer months and many more in the future.
Explaining the types of walking sandals
The first thing to consider when purchasing a pair of walking sandals is whether to go for an open or closed design. Much of this is a personal preference, however, you should take note of the differences between the two:
Open style sandals
Open-toed sandals no longer need to be reserved merely for hiking day trips or the annual family holiday. Many have found that wearing specialized open-toe walking sandals have helped immensely with posture and orthopedic ailments.
Unlike fashion sandals, the majority of walking sandals come with arch support, which makes them the perfect summer choice for people who complain of Plantar Fasciitis, calf stiffness, back strain from periods of prolonged walking, and bad knees.
However, there are a handful of stylish walking sandals that give both the allure of cool while also providing hours of walking protection.
Brands such as Teva, who have been the front runners in sports sandal footwear for decades, design the best walking sandals for travel and everyday use that contour to the shape of your feet. In the last few years, they have been collaborating with top designers and sports physiologists to create good walking sandals that not only provide podiatric benefits and enhanced performance but also match the current fashion trends.
If though, you are planning to tough out some serious terrain, you will definitely need a walking or hiking sandal with support. Many open sandal designs now incorporate a 50/50 design, where there are some straps by the toe to prevent foot slippage, but still with open slits so the feet can breathe. This helps keep the foot in place, but will not protect the toes from falling debris which could cut, bruise or break delicate toe bones. If planning a small journey on rocky terrain, it is wise to consider covered sport sandals.
Open designs are great for people who want a fast slip-on outdoor sandal that can easily be thrown into a backpack or tote. Walking flip flops, the most affordable of open design sandals, are well suited for beach outings as they dry almost instantly. However, some don’t provide support for the heel and often wearers receive blisters from the two straps running over the top of the foot. However, Teva and Keen have made some very impressive water sandals that will give you long-lasting comfort without ruining the materials or causing blisters.
Closed style sandal
If you are walking in a rocky or unsteady track, a closed toe version will be the best walking sandal option. It prevents your foot from moving too far forward as you walk and also provides protection from any falling debris that you may encounter. These outdoor sandals for men or women are generally made out of a more solid material than open toed shoes, and therefore do not have the same flexibility as their open-toed counterparts.
Such rigid material, especially the soles, are beneficial on longer hikes and they will not wear as quickly as softer, more pliable materials.
Acting as an intermediary between a sandal and a full blown hiking boot, closed toe sandals are good for water based activities such as fly fishing, where the terrain beneath the water’s surface can be varied, which is why a reputable pair is often referred to as water sandals. Closed toe sandals can take a considerable length of time to dry out however, so are not as useful for the beach or activities that involve wading and/or swimming. Closed toe sport sandals are also ideal for walking long distances or when you are on your feet all day.
Our picks for the top 5 best walking and trail sandals
With many great sandal options in the marketplace, it can become overwhelming to know which ones to avoid and go directly to the sandals that are going to give you the most comfort and best bang for your buck. Fortunately through extensive research, we’ve been able to narrow the choices down to five. We present the top 5 best walking sandals:
Keen Newport H2 Walking Sandals
Designed with the outdoors-man in mind, these Newport H2 Walking Sandals from KEEN are the perfect pair for a man who wants to walk through either wet or dry trails. Even from the first look, you can tell that these walking sandals were designed to work like stripped-down boots; from their vented design to their bungee laces and even to the patented KEEN toe guard, these sandals blur the line between a hiking shoe and a sandal to give you both solid traction and foot protection combined with incredible breathability.
The Newports also work incredibly well as water shoes, perfect for water sports or just walking through cool mountain streams on the trail. Their vented design, combined with their anti-microbial treatment means that, whether you choose to wear socks or not with these sandals, odor is never going to be a problem.
Even if it does, these sandals, like all of KEEN’s water sandals, can be washed in your washing machine. If you’re looking for a pair of walking sandals that can take you across town or across a stream with equal ease, you could do a lot worse than the KEEN Newport H2 walking sandals. They’re considered to be the best sandals for walking hands down.
Teva Men’s Hurricane XLT Walking Sandals
There’s a good reason that Teva is synonymous with active sandals, and not just because they were one of the first companies to try; equal parts style and substance, their Hurricane XLT is a great example of exactly what Teva can do for your feet. Even though it looks simple enough, it’s the little details that make this sandal worth your while.
The outsole is Durabrasion rubber, which gives you just enough grip on the ground without sticking you to it, while the heel is compacted EVA foam that’s been treated with antimicrobial zinc and padded with Shoc Pad technology to cut down on fatigue on your joints. Heck, even the shank that holds the strapping system together is made of nylon, so it won’t cut holes in the tops of your feet after a long day on the trail.
As for style, Teva’s Hurricane XLT is the current style for both men and women on college campuses all throughout the South, so whether you’re getting them for yourself or as a gift, you’ll be using these just as much for feeling good as looking good. These are probably the best walking sandals for Disney World 🙂
Teva Women’s Tirra Athletic Sandals
For when you want to be both feminine and tough out on the trail, the Tirra athletic sandal from Teva has you taken care of. Designed with a woman’s foot in mind, the Tirra is an incredibly solid choice for sailing, rafting, or simply as a pair of backup shoes around the campsite.
In addition to the lug pattern designed to keep water out and a neoprene lining designed to dry quickly, these sandals have Teva’s super tough gripping Spider rubber outsole, so even in the wettest conditions, you’ll always be able to grip the ground and keep your footing.
Combine this with the Shoc Pad in the heel, the compressed EVA foam midsole, and the multiple points of adjustment for your straps, and you’ve got an athletic sandal that not only stays on your foot through the toughest conditions but one that actually feels good to wear. It’s one of our favorite Tirra models. It’s probably the best women’s walking sandals.
KEEN Women’s Whisper Walking Sandals
From the ground up, the women’s Whisper sandal from KEEN is designed to work with whatever you find on the trail. These sandals slide on easily and stay on snug with the bungee cord lace-up system, drain water, mud, and sand easily through their designed drain channels and hydrophobic mesh, and feel good on your feet with a compression-molded EVA foam midsole designed for a woman’s foot.
And when we say “designed for a woman’s foot”, the Whisper sandals pulled out the stops; they’ve got KEEN’s metatomical design to work with your foot’s natural arch. Whether you’re a young woman looking to trail run in something light and breathable without risking smashed toes, or an older woman just looking for a comfortable pair of sandals to walk around town, the Whisper from KEEN has you covered every step of the way. This shoe qualifies as one of our favorite women Keen models. You can read the full review of the Keen Whisper.
Teva Women’s Zirra Walking Sandals
Perfect for the woman who just wants to slip into sandals and forget about them, the Teva Zirra is designed to be a minimalist’s best friend. With its minimal strap setup, it’s easy to set these sandals to your feet comfortably and easily.
Of course, just because these sandals are featherweights doesn’t mean that they’re delicate; these sandals have Teva’s Shoc Pad in the insole and the outsole is their super-sticky Spider rubber compound, so you can grip anything you put your foot on and feel comfortable doing it. A great choice for a woman who wants a comfortable pair of sandals they can stow in their purse when they’re sick of formal heels or shoes that don’t breathe.
Purchase considerations to find the best sandals for walking
There is much more to consider when purchasing a pair of walking sandals than whether you will be exposing your toes or not. Before pulling out your wallet, it’s important to take the following into consideration:
Support and Cushioning
Your foot should not be fighting the walking sandal, instead, it should be flexible to roll with every step you take. Too loose of a walking flip flop and you’ll be sliding around with discomfort. Too rigid of a sole will become an annoyance with every forward step. The best sandals are ones that flex in the forefoot, so make sure to avoid cheap walking sandals at all costs. There are many walking sandals that offer the proper amount of flexibility and support that come with many cross training shoes.
When purchasing a new pair of sandals, consider the kind of terrain you will be wearing these shoes in. Walking sandals are recommended for light terrain or shorter walks and as an alternative to hiking boots when you arrive at rest points.
Sandal wearers will eventually become used to the sandals and are able to walk with them for 10 miles. Walking sandals also are good for beach and river walks. As most sandals for walking are designed to dry out a lot faster than closed in shoes, they are particularly good for people who are predisposed to getting tinea and other fungal infections.
Most sandals only have contact with a small portion of the foot. These areas tend to be put under greater pressure than they would with covered shoes. Such pressure and rubbing can lead to blisters. To minimize such occurrences, look for outdoor sandals with wider straps. Buying sandals with leather straps can also help, as the leather softens over time. For people with highly sensitive feet, ‘breaking in’ your sandals, by wearing them at home with socks on can help soften the straps before venturing on outdoor excursions.
If you are purchasing the men’s or women’s sandals as an alternative to your hiking boots on long journeys, how much room and weight will they take up in your pack? A covered sandal may provide more stability than an open-toed sandal, but at double the weight, you need to consider if a closed-toe sandal is really necessary.
For best protection from possible fungal infections, your sandals should be waterproof. Sandals that are constructed from rubber and synthetics are your best bet for dealing with water. A rubber closed-toe water sandal is recommended for activities in creeks, the closed-toe protects the foot, while the rubber dries off almost instantly during the walk back to your car or campsite.
Allow for swelling
Feet swell throughout the day and it’s important to remember this when purchasing a pair of walking sandals. The best time to try on sandals is late in the afternoon when your feet have expanded after being on them all day. When purchasing a pair of open-toed sandals for walking, aim to have at least a thumb width of space between the top of the toes and the end of the sandal. This helps to keep any dust or small stones that may fling up on to the sandal away from the toes.
For truly long-distance walking that can often lead to higher elevations or rock and gravel, trail sandals are a good choice because of their natural ability to handle advanced terrain. They contain toe guards to avoid pressure on the toes or accumulating too much dirt on the path.
The sole of an outdoor trail sandal is built durable but can cause discomfort if the expectation is to walk long distances. Rugged options among Teva, Keen, and Merrell are very good options.
Concluding thoughts on acquiring the right sandals
The most important consideration in selecting the best sandals for walking or traveling is to choose what feels right for you. You are the best judge of what is right for your feet. Trying several different varieties of walking sandals before making a decision on what works for you. By following the guidelines above, you will be ready to make an informed decision of what walking or sport sandal will work best for you, and by doing so can ensure the purchase of a quality piece of footwear that will last many outdoor excursions.