If you think that your choices for hiking footwear are limited to traditional shoes and boots, think again. There’s another option that you might not have considered, (but you should!) and that option is the hiking sandal. Hiking sandals began their rise to popularity back in the1980s when a Colorado river guide decided that the world needed a good sport sandal. He attached a watchstrap to a pair of flip-flops and the first Teva was born. Sport sandals have come a long way since their humble beginnings and today they offer all of the things that the outdoorsy set looks for in a great pair of adventure shoes.
- 1 Features to Consider
- 2 Best Hiking Sandals for Men – our picks
If you’re wondering whether hiking shoes are right for you and what features you should consider when choosing a pair, you’ve come to the right place.
Features to Consider
I’ve heard of hiking boots but … hiking sandals?
Yes, hiking sandals are a thing and they are a thing that you should seriously consider, especially if your adventures take you to hot and soggy places. Hiking sandals are great because they dry fast, are super breathable, don’t weight a whole lot, and they tend to not cause blisters. A well-made pair of hiking sandals can also offer traction that is every bit as good as what you can get from a hiking boot.
Ok, but what are the downsides?
Despite all their pluses, there are a few minuses you should consider before you take the plunge on a pair of hiking sandals. One of the biggest things that traditional hiking footwear has over hiking sandals is that shoes and boots tend to offer your feet more protection from the elements. While things like toe bumpers and straps on your hiking sandals may help prevent your feet from coming in contact with some trail debris, they won’t keep everything out. Another potential downside of hiking sandals is that, while they can offer plenty of support for your foot, they don’t offer the lateral ankle support that hiking boots do. But don’t let these things dissuade you! Hiking sandals are lightweight, super grippy, and downright awesome for short to mid distance trail adventures, especially when the going gets wet – just be sure to watch your step!
So what things should I look for when picking a sandal?
Now that you’ve decided to give hiking sandals a go, you’ll want to make sure that you select the right pair to fit your needs. While there are many great options for hiking sandals (making it pretty hard to go wrong!) there are small differences that might make your life just a little bit easier.
How enclosed do you want your feet to be?
Some hiking sandals offer more protection than others in the form of more robust straps and sturdy mesh uppers. These features will help deflect the blow of many (but not all) things trying to make their way into you shoes. The downside of sandals with more substantial uppers is that they will be a little more difficult to get debris out of once it makes its way in and they may take longer to dry once they get wet. Pick your poison!
Toe bumpers and other protection
If you are concerned about your feet being stabbed by sticks or inadvertently ramming your toe into a boulder, you may want to look for sandals that provide your feet extra protection around your toes and heels. Typically this is done with the addition of stiff rubber that comes up over the front and back of the shoe. Keen is famous for their substantial toe bumpers but they are certainly not the only company to make use of this design feature!
With hiking sandals, as with all hiking footwear, you have choices for how stiff you want your shoes to be. People have wide and varying preferences on shoe stiffness and there is no right answer that fits every person and every situation but there are a few things to consider. A stiffer sole will help keep your feet from feeling the wear and tear caused by walking long distances on jagged rocks while also providing more support for your feet and arches. A more flexible shoe may very well feel better on your feet right out of the box and may be slightly more grippy when walking on uneven and rugged terrain.
If you find yourself thinking that picking the perfect pair of hiking sandals sounds like a daunting task, rest assured! Finding a great pair of hiking sandals is actually really easy thanks to all the great products on the market. But not all sandals are created equal! Here are some of our favorites:
Best Hiking Sandals for Men – our picks
Keen Newport H2
The Newport H2 by Keen just might be the best do it all hiking sandal around. These things are extra comfortable, super grippy, and rugged enough to do just about anything you ask them to do. The uppers, made from neoprene lined polyester webbing, are exceptionally sturdy while also being soft on your feet and the bungee lacing system provides a secure fit. The rubber soles give you more than enough traction on all types of terrain and the enormous rubber toe bumper will help protect against accidental stubs. These shoes were truly made to do it all. You won’t think twice about wearing the Newport H2s on your hike up to the lake, while you splash around in the water, and then out to the brewery to celebrate your adventure. These are Keen’s trademark shoes and they do not disappoint.
Chaco Z/2 Unaweep Sandal
There’s a reason that Chacos have earned a spot in the gear closet of just about every adventure loving mountain dweller: these things are just awesome. Their super stiff soles and rigid arch support may sound uncomfortable while you’re reading this from your couch at home but out on the trail it will feel amazing even after many miles of hiking. These shoes are outfitted with Vibram’s grippy Unaweep sole, which provides great traction on all types of terrain. These sandals’ open design keeps your feet dry and cool when the trail is warm and wet. While some people don’t like having straps between their toes, we love the way that the Z/2’s toe strap helps provide additional security and control when hiking on rough terrain. If you really hate having anything between your toes, check out the toe-strap free version of this shoe, the Z/1.
Teva Dozer III
The Dozer III by Teva might provide the best all around foot protection of all the sandals on our list. The Dozer III’s uppers are similar to those of regular shoes … but better. The uppers, made from breathable synthetic material, mostly enclose your foot while the cutouts allow for loads of airflow and tons of drying power. The bungee laces make securing these shoes on your feet a snap and the well-cushioned heel pad absorbs plenty of shock from the trail. The folks at Teva pioneered the hiking sandal genre several decades ago and their years of experience definitely show in the exceptionally comfortable, sturdy, and rugged Dozer III’s.
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Skechers Journeyman Safaris
It takes a bold company to compete with the excellent sport sandal offerings made by Chaco, Keen, and Teva, but Skechers isn’t one to shy away from a little friendly competition and their Journeyman Safaris are a worthy opponent. These sandals have many of the same features as their more famous cousins but at a much more affordable price. With plenty of ventilation and uppers made from leather and mesh, these shoes dry extremely fast. The soles of these sandals are made from super sticky, multi-directional rubber to help keep your feet from sliding out on the trail and the rubber toe cap will protect those digits from any unintended impact. If you are looking for a great hiking sandal that won’t break the bank, look no further than the Journeyman Safaris, by Skechers.
Yup, we are putting another pair of Keens on the list because we just love them that much. Keen’s Kanyon sandals offer many of the same features as the super popular Newport H2s but with a few key differences. Compared to the Newport H2s, the Kanyon’s uppers are more open offering increased breathability and drying power but less protection from the elements. These shoes also offer a slightly lower heel, making them feel more like sandals than the Newport H2s, which more closely resemble traditional hiking shoes. Like all Keens, these shoes offer excellent traction, durable construction, and burly toe protection. Which pair of Keens you prefer is totally up to you, and you really can’t go wrong with either! These shoes tend to run about a half size smaller than the Newport H2s, so if you decide to go with the Kanyons you may want to consider sizing up a bit!
We hope that this guide has helped you pick the perfect pair of hiking sandals for all of your off the beaten path adventures! Happy trails!