While hiking and trail running shoes are the most common choices for hiking footwear, they’re not your only options! Sport sandals have long been popular for bumming around town in the summer but they can make excellent hiking shoes as well! Hiking sandals are lightweight, quick drying, and obviously very well ventilated. In soggy, boggy conditions they may be your best options for preventing blisters and keeping your feet comfortable over the course of your hike! Because water won’t build up in your shoes or soak your socks, you’ll never experience that squishy wet foot feeling. Sports sandals are also great for trips to the zoo, the farmer’s market, or anywhere that you want to keep your feet cool, comfortable, and dry.
- 1 What’s so great about hiking sandals?
- 2 That sounds awesome. So what are the downsides?
- 3 Factors to look for when selecting a hiking sandals
- 4 Best Hiking Sandals for Women – our picks
But even though we love hiking sandals so much (and we really do love them so, so much!) there are some things you should consider before taking the plunge. In this article we’re going to talk about both the pros and cons of hiking sandals, and some features to look for when picking the perfect pair. And once we’ve got you convinced that hiking sandals are the best choice for your outdoor adventures, we’ll tell you about some of our favorites!
What’s so great about hiking sandals?
Hiking or sport sandals come in a variety of styles to suit every need. From hikers covering many miles in dense jungles to kayakers and rafters looking for fast dry sandals to use on the shore, there is a hiking sandal to fit almost every purpose. Because these shoes don’t hold water or heat, they are likely to keep your feet very comfortable in hot and wet conditions. Just like traditional hiking shoes, a good pair of hiking sandals can offer great traction and firm support for your feet and arches. While these shoes can handle everything but cold and snow, they really shine when conditions are perpetually damp and mucky. You won’t think twice about stomping through that puddle in the trail when you’re wearing a good pair of hiking sandals.
That sounds awesome. So what are the downsides?
Sport sandals don’t offer nearly the amount of protection to your feet and ankles that traditional hiking shoes and boots do. This may seem pretty obvious when you’re talking about lateral ankle stability but there are other dangers here too. Without the protection of mesh, leather, or other fabric completely enclosing your feet, it’s pretty easy for sticks and rocks to poke at that tender skin. Another thing to consider is that if there is any chance that your travels will have you crossing snow, your feet are likely to get very, very cold so make sure that your climate will be staying somewhat stable before you set out.
So with all that in mind what things should you look for in a pair of hiking sandals?
Factors to look for when selecting a hiking sandals
How enclosed do you want your foot to be?
While hiking sandals are by definition sandals, the amount of foot that is exposed to the world varies by model. Sandals with more enclosed uppers will give your feet some additional protection from the things that might try to stab them while also helping to keep gravel and other annoying debris from getting in. The downside of having fewer openings in your hiking sandals is that once something does get in (and it will) it’s a lot harder to get out than if you had more open shoes on. Just how “sandaly” you want your sandals to be is a matter of personal preference.
How quickly will your sandals dry?
One of the best things about hiking sandals is how quickly they dry compared to more traditional boots but some materials do dry more quickly than others. Materials like cloth webbing tend to hang onto moisture more than rubber and neoprene so if quick drying is extra important to you, you may want to look for sandals that feature less cloth.
What about socks?
Yes, we know that wearing socks with sandals is a major fashion faux pas but when you’re out in the backcountry the ability to throw on a pair of socks can in fact come in really handy. If you suspect that your feet may get raw spots from hiking in your sandals or that you’d maybe like to throw a pair of socks on with them while sitting around the campfire, be sure to choose a pair that does not have straps between the toes. If you don’t ever see yourself wearing socks with your sandals, toe straps can be beneficial in helping to keep your sandals secure.
So, with all that in mind, which sandals do we like the best?
Best Hiking Sandals for Women – our picks
Chaco ZX/2 Unaweep
Visit any mountain town in the summer and you are bound to see a pair of Chacos on the feet of many of its residents. Chacos are popular with everyone from hikers to river guides to folks just bumming around town. Chaco’s strapping system is fully adjustable so that you can dial in the perfect fit for your foot. These shoes are fairly stiff and offer loads of arch support which makes them really comfortable for many hour long hikes and wandering around town. With their open, strappy design these shoes dry fast, stay cool, and look great. These may not be the cheapest shoe on our list but we can attest to the fact that they last for many years. If you do decide that your Chacos could use a little extra TLC, you can always send them back to the company to be resoled or restrapped for a small charge. If you don’t like the feeling of straps between your toes or you would like to be able to wear these with socks, check out this version which does not have the toe strap.
Keen Whisper Sandal
Keen burst onto the scene a decade or so ago with a line of rugged sports sandals designed to keep your feet comfortable and protected when out on the trail. They offer many different styles, and all are great, but the Whisper is one of our favorites. This shoe feature’s Keen’s trademark toe bumper for protection, an antimicrobial footbed, and lots of EVA for a cushioned and comfortable fit. The Whisper’s elastic bungy style closure system will keep these sandals secure on your foot and the aggressive tread pattern will keep your feet secure on the trail. The only thing you’ll find difficult about buying a pair of these shoes is choosing between the many color options!
Ahnu Tilden IV
Ahnu puts a lot of focus on designing shoes that promote proper biomechanics and the Tilden IV is no exception. This shoe features Ahnu’s Numentum technology, which is designed to encourage your foot’s natural position. What this means in layman’s terms is that if you tend to struggle with things like sore knees or ankles, the Tilden IV might be the perfect hiking sandal for you. Ahnu outfitted the Tilden IV with a dual-density EVA footbed and midsole for comfort and support and quick-drying mesh for a secure and comfortable fit! The ample uppers made from strapping and mesh will help protect your feet from all the pokey things that the trail can throw your way. While you won’t want to wear these (or any other hiking sandal) on your big trek up Mt Kiliminjaro, they will help you take to your local trails in comfort and style.
Teva was the first company whose hiking sandals really gained a foothold in North America and they have been going strong ever since. The Ewaso strikes the perfect balance between being an open style shoe and providing enough protection for your feet. These shoes have a secure strapping system and lots of mesh to keep your feet cool, dry and comfortable over the long haul. Hikers love that these shoes are very lightweight while still offering lots of cushioning. And while you probably won’t be wearing these on the runway, they are fashionable enough to take you from the trail to dinner and back in comfort and style. These shoes also have the added benefit of coming in at a great price!
Northside Burke II
The Burke II by Northside is a great hiking sandal option for women who want all the benefits of a good hiking sandal without having to take out a second mortgage to get them. These closed toed sport sandals offer grippy traction, a secure bungy lacing system, and super breathable construction. The burly front bumper will protect your toes from getting stubbed on rocks and roots and the substantial synthetic uppers will help keep trail debris on the trail where it belongs! The two loop system makes these shoes easy to put on so, getting you on the trail that much faster! These shoes may not last as long as the more expensive options but for $25, it’s hard to get to riled up about that!
So there you have it, the wonderful world of hiking sandals! We hope this article has inspired you to give this non-traditional trail footwear a go for your next adventure! You’ll almost certainly be glad you did.