A solid pair of hiking boots is necessary for all serious hikers, but sandals are the way to go when temperatures climb and your feet start to sweat in the summer months. Plus, on hot days there’s nothing better than a dip in a cold creek, and a pair of quick-drying sandals offer protection and traction on slippery rocks.
The real trick with sandals is finding a pair that are well-made and durable enough to hold up against hikes and watersports. In the past, I’ve gone through six pairs of flip-flops in a summer — this is not the way. A few years ago I invested in a pair of proper “dad sandals” and I’ve been a believer ever since. The sandals I’ve rounded up on this list are tough enough to handle a hike and give you the support you need while carrying a fully-loaded backcountry pack.
Even around camp, it is nice to have a pair of sandals you can throw on in a hurry. Think about how annoying it is to lace up your hiking boots in the middle of the night when nature's calling. With a pair of sandals, you can just strap, go, and head right back to your cozy sleeping bag.
Things to consider
First, it's important to find sandals that are comfortable and provide good support. Hiking can be tough on the feet, so sandals that rub or don't offer enough arch support can quickly become painful.
Second, look for sandals with good traction. They should have a sturdy sole with deep treads to help prevent slipping on wet and slick surfaces. Finally, consider how easy the sandals are to put on and take off. When you're out on the trail, the last thing you want is to waste time fumbling with sandals that are difficult to put on or adjust.
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My pair of Teva Hurricane XLT2s have never failed me. With these sandals, you can traverse a creek or zig-zag your way through twisting trails in comfort and style. EVA foam midsoles and a neoprene cushioned heel provide support for your feet, while the Durabrasion Rubber outsole acts as a rugged base that offers traction both in the water and out. Three adjustable straps make it easy to find the perfect fit and keep your feet from slipping, plus the straps are made from a quick-drying polyester and nylon blend. Teva offers these sandals in multiple colors and designs, and for less than $100 they are an absolute steal.
A pair of Bedrock Sandals Cairn Adventures have the minimalist v-strap design of a flip-flop, but offer something much more robust. These lightweight sandals will surprise you with just how much they can handle. The durable Vibram XS Trek outsole offers support and protection, while the Bedrock-exclusive strap system holds your feet in place. Because they are so compact and lightweight they can easily slide into a loaded hiking pack — super convenient for longer backpacking trips.
Chaco’s Z/Clouds are some of the most comfortable sandals I’ve worn. As the name suggests, these sandals feel like walking on a cloud, and I particularly enjoyed the extra arch support. The contoured arch and cushioned footbed are responsible for all-day comfort, and three quick-drying webbed straps make for an easily adjustable fit. The outsole is made from a stiff and heavy ChacoGrip rubber, while the softer midsole conforms to your foot. Z/Clouds come in multiple sleek styles and you can pull them off in the city if you need to.
Keen’s Newport H2 sandals are built for backpackers that can’t keep themselves out of the water. My Keen Newports were my go-to footwear for kayaking and beach camping for many years, but be warned — these sandals are functional, not fashionable. The closed-toe design and 10-point straps protect your feet from sharp rocks, roots, and thorns, but sacrifice all the style points. The sandals are made from a polyester material that dries quickly when wet, and bungee laces make it easy to slide the sandals on and off. Be careful with the fit on these, because they do run half a size smaller than others!
Teva’s Terra Fi 5 sandals were built with hiking in mind and their features prove it. The velcro straps can be easily adjusted for a snug fit, and are made with Repreve polyester which uses recycled plastic from water bottles. The straps are also lined with a softer fabric on the inside to prevent rubbing and painful blisters. The molded poly-urethane midsole is comfortable and features a small notch at the back to keep your heel in place, while the grippy outsole is made of a heavy-duty rubber that will protect you from punctures and sharp objects.
The Yucatan Sandal from ECCO is a pricier option, but the comfortable microfiber-lined EVA footbed and high-quality materials make up for it. These sandals serve up all-day comfort and remain sturdy and stable on the trails. The rubber outsole features a deep tread pattern that offers all the traction you need to get through a hike, and the rubber is firm and durable enough to take a beating. The best part about these sandals is that the lined footbed doesn’t get slippery when wet — ideal for creek crossings and summer adventures.
KEEN Targhee III Open-Toed Sandals are built with the same durable construction that the Targhee III hiking boots are known for, making them excellent for the trails. Comfortable but sturdy, these sandals are made of a lightweight leather upper and KEEN All-Terrain non-marking rubber outsole. The textured insole may irritate your feet at first, but it provides terrific support and stops your feet from sliding when wet. The three-point velcro straps are easy to adjust, and the foam midsole is light but still supportive. KEEN is known for long-lasting footwear, and hundreds of online reviews suggest these sandals will stand the test of time. A word of caution — these are the definition of “dad sandals” and they might give you the sudden urge to crack a cold one and host a BBQ.
Hoka’s Hopara Sandal is sporty, versatile, and performs well on the beach and the trail. The synthetic upper with drainage cutouts ensure that your feet stay dry, while the neoprene collar provides flexibility and comfort. The rubberized EVA midsole offers support and cushioning, and the 4mm lugs on the outsole provide great traction. The sporty design takes inspiration from Hoka's running shoes, which are known for their comfort, and the firm sole with large toe box prevents rubbing and blisters. Although it is a pricey option, the Hoka Hopara Sandal is well worth the investment.
The Strata Universal features a thicker sole and simpler design than the Terra Fi 5 or Hurricane XLT2. Teva is the undeniable behemoth in the sandal world, and this list would not be complete without this sandal. The Vibram Megagrip outsole is built with micro-traction lugs that have amazing traction and stability. The supportive midsole is made from the same lightweight EVA foam found on the Terra Fi 5, and the straps are lined to minimize the chance of blisters. These sandals unfortunately come in fewer designs than the XLT2 or Terra Fi 5, but are ideal for trekkers looking for a functional and comfortable sandal.
Xero’s Z-Trail EV sandals are some of the lightest hiking sandals on the market, weighing in at just 5.4 ounces. The ultra-thin 10mm sole manages to provide cushioning and protection from rocks and other debris thanks to a foam footbed and lugged outsole. One downside of the Z-Trail EV's minimalist design is that there isn't much between your foot and the ground, so you may feel rocks and other objects even if they can't penetrate the sole. Additionally, the lack of padding and straps can make it less comfortable for longer hikes. These are best for short jaunts or wearing around camp.