The 10 best hiking sandals of 2021
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For years, I found myself in love with hiking boots. Underneath the sturdy exterior, I found support, waterproof fabrics and a comfortable space for my soles. I dragged myself arrogantly through the puddles and climbed the rocks carefree. But somewhere along the way, my feet had had enough.
The cozy interior I cherished was getting warm and cramped. Waterproof fabrics offered little assistance when crossing rivers. And I found myself putting on and taking off my boots every time I saw a body of water that was worth swimming. It was then that I discovered some of the best hiking sandals that have allowed me to free my feet for good.
I have since tested hiking sandals and found that the best models provide comfort, freedom of movement and versatility for miles to come. My favorites feature a notched sole, durable materials, and classic styling for every summer outing. I prefer minimal and light sandals to provide a barefoot experience. But since I know many hikers prefer a heavy sole and a lot of protection, I included those as well.
Below are the ten best hiking sandals.
Our choice: Chaco Z / 1 Classic
The Chaco Z / 1 Classic is an undeniably popular hiking sandal, and for good reason. Hikers who promote the Z / 1 describe it as comfortable, supportive, and stylish for a variety of activities. The sole features a high arch and the stiffest material in the Chaco range, making it ideal for long days on the trails. The straps are worn with a buckle closure for the perfect fit, and Chaco replaces your worn bracelets after years of use. While some hikers prefer the Chaco Z / Volv 2 (more on that later), I find its toe strap confining and unnecessary. For those with flat feet (myself included), high arch can be painful, so test them in person before committing to a pair.
Best minimal hiking sandal: Bedrock Cairn Adventure
Bedrock sandals have only been around for a decade, but you wouldn’t know from their widespread popularity. The Missoula-based brand designs a limited selection of minimal sandals, each featuring vibrant colors and a durable Vibram sole. The Cairn Adventure is my favorite model (that’s what I wear) thanks to its comfortable strap configuration and modest design. Its insole is thin, like that of a flip-flop, and three adjustable straps provide a secure fit like a trail shoe. Bedrock also re-soles old sandals and replaces worn or damaged straps, so there is no need to buy a new pair every two years. Go to Cairn 3D Adventure for a contoured footbed that adds a little more support.
Best Budget Hiking Sandal: Teva Hurricane XLT2
When you don’t want to spend a ton on athletic sandals, Teva’s Original universal is the preferred option. That said, I recommend losing a few extra bucks to upgrade to Hurricane XLT2. It’s still budget-friendly at $ 70, but the all-terrain sole pairs with an EVA midsole to improve traction and comfort. The design works effortlessly in humid environments, and it performs just as well on land. Three Velcro straps create a custom fit, although some hikers will notice the triangular plastic strap connectors. Consider them if you’re willing to try hiking sandals without breaking the bank.
Best Closed Toe Hiking Sandal: Keen Newport H2
Hiking sandals have countless benefits, but the steep, rocky, and unpredictable terrain is a terror to your toes. When you want the freedom of a hiking sandal but prefer never to suffer from an injured finger, the Newport H2 Sandal from Keen is here for you. With a sturdy rubber toe cap and defensive upper, the Newport draws a fine line between sandal and shoe. I’m almost ready to use this sandal as my favorite water sandal, but we’ll save this title for another Keen. Because this one is a bit heavier and bulkier, it performs better on the trail than in the water. Hook it up to give your toes full protection.
Best Ultralight Hiking Sandal: Xero Z-Trail EV
As the name suggests, the Xero sandals are incredibly lightweight and as close to barefoot hiking as you’ll get (without really going barefoot). But their ultralight status doesn’t mean they skimp on comfort or performance. The Velcro adjustment system is made from soft polyester to reduce hot spots, and the 10-millimeter rubber soles are surprisingly sturdy despite their thinness. I recommend them for barefoot enthusiasts or to change your shoes when you finally set up camp. If your main concern is space in your bag, fear not – these hiking sandals roll up like a burrito to take up less space.
Best travel support: Ecco Yucatan
I still can’t fathom the growing interest in chunky daddy sandals, but the Ecco Yucatan can’t wait to silence enemies with plenty of support and plush comfort. Its spandex and nylon lining wicks away moisture to prevent wrinkled feet, not to mention that it also eliminates unwanted friction. Whether you’re on the trails or on the street, a soft sockliner absorbs shock to keep your feet happy for miles. While she doesn’t wear the traditional outdoor look that’s popular among other sandals, the all-day comfort is too convincing to pass up. Consider them ideal for casual wear and travel.
Best water hiking sandals: Keen Clearwater CNX
Each of these sandals is capable of navigating wild waters, but the Clearwater sandal is perfect for river floats, beach bounces, and lake dives. The closed toe prevents sharp rocks from interfering with your tootsies, and the lace-up system tightens the sandal confidently around your foot when playing in the rapids. While the Clearwater looks like the Newport in many ways, Keen shaved off every ounce of weight possible, reducing unnecessary bulk. At nine ounces per sandal, you’ll barely notice all the protection around your foot. Pick them up if your summer adventures involve recurring bodies of water.
Best Light Chaco: Chaco Z / Volv 2
Unlike the stiff and sturdy Z / Classic, the Z / Volv 2 is 20% lighter with sufficient traction and adjustment. The pull-on strap system can be tedious to adjust, but it improves stability once you’ve dialed it in. This model also features a controversial toe loop that wraps around your big toe – a feature some hikers avoid by tightening the strap against the sole, although it is useful for climbing rocks and trails. If you like the idea of Chacos but fancy something lighter underfoot, these will definitely satisfy your soles. And if you hate the idea of the toe curl, the Z / Volv comes in. a version without it.
Best open heel hiking sandals: Freewaters Trifecta
Flip-flops are great for backyard barbecues, but, for all of their wonderful features, they’re not ideal beyond casual business. That said, I do understand the allure of minimal blister-inducing heel-less shoes. Freewaters compromises by dropping the heel and attaching a Velcro strap to the top of the foot to improve the fit. It also includes a contoured footbed and a soft foam platform to provide more support. While not ideal for hiking, you’ll have an easier time navigating between the parking lot and the beach. And your feet will look better than they do in your cheap strappy sandals.
Best hiking sandal you didn’t see coming: Crocs Swiftwater Expedition
You probably didn’t expect to see a pair of Crocs on this list, but the year is 2021 and you should know by now that nothing is what it seems. Despite all the jokes people make the hard way, Crocs are more popular than ever and it’s time you embraced them. The Swiftwater Expedition Sandal is Crocs’ version of a hiking sandal, featuring adjustable straps and padded platforms for adventures near and far from the water. While you probably shouldn’t hike the Appalachian Trail with these modern day reptiles, they are comfortable enough and provide sufficient support for daily activities.
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