Contrary to first appearances, hiking sandals can be a great bet for your quiver of hiking footwear. In fact, the category is on the rise with brands like KEEN and Teva offering multiple models. Of course, the glaring question still stands: Why hike in sandals?
First of all, sandals weigh significantly less than standard hiking shoes which makes them a popular choice with thru-hikers looking to shave weight wherever possible. Secondly, they are tough to beat on wet trails with multiple stream crossings. Because they drain easily (duh) and dry quickly, there is nothing better for a water-logged trek (assuming the terrain is tame and the weather warm enough). Finally, sandals are easy. Most backpackers carry an extra pair of comfy shoes to have around camp but sandals pull double duty: hike during the day and let your toes splay while lounging at the campfire at night. Win.
If you know that you’ll be hiking on slick and wet terrain, look no further than the Cairn 3D Pro Adventure sandal. Thanks to a Vibram Megagrip outsole, these babies stick to everything from slickrock to slick mud. An anatomically-molded foot bed makes these uber comfortable on long hauls with high mileage. Bonus: Bedrock donates 1% of each purchase to environmental nonprofits.
Chaco is a go-to option in the hiking sandal space and the Z Cloud is one of the perennial favorites. Using a single buckle, the Z Cloud features the classic customizable strap design used in Chaco’s early (popular) models, but they up the comfort game by adding a layer of PU in the midsole for extra cushion and support. Chaco’s proprietary ChacoGrip rubber outsole and 3.5-millimeter lugs create legit traction on the burliest of descents.
Alongside Chaco, Teva is the other main player in the hiking sandal world. If you prefer hook-and-loop closures (fancy lingo for generic Velcro), the Hurrican XLT2s are worth looking at. An EVA midsole (the cushiest type of material) adds comfort while a nylon shank creates support and stability on uneven terrain. New in this version is the cushioned heel strap to help prevent blisters and hot spots. Added win: These are a whopping 10 ounces less per pair than the Chacos (albeit it with less support).
These women-specific shoes receive rave reviews for durability and comfort thanks to solid arch support and an EVA (the cushiest type of material) midsole. A rubber outsole with multidirectional lugs holds fast to a variety of terrain, but the secret is in its reach: The outsole extends up and over the forefoot, creating a toe bumper that protects your tootsies from bangs, bumps, and bruises. The elastic cord runs throughout so ladies can cinch down their kicks to ensure a snug fit on the trail.
The name may sound funny, but it’s appropriate. What do you get when you cross a shoe with a sandal? A shandal, of course. An integrated rubber toe bumper protects the digits (similar to the KEEN sandals) and compression-molded EVA in the midsole add some pep in the step. Similar to the Bedrock sandals, the Choprocks use Vibram Megagrip on the outsole, but they double down with 5-millimeter-deep lugs that are reminiscent of hiking boots instead of sandals. They almost weigh as much as the Z Clouds (two ounces short) meaning they compete for the heaviest sandals in this review, but the burly-as-all-get-out traction may be a welcome tradeoff depending on the terrain.