Footloose: The 8 Best Hiking Sandals

Climbing a mountain isn’t just for those draped in flannel, slathered in beard oil, and wearing cumbersome boots. During warm weather, when taking on some of the gentle trails that wend their way up the passes and peaks of the world, sometimes a more breathable piece of footwear is required. On these expeditions, you should be allowed to let your feet taste the sweet air in a pair of hiking sandals. In addition to being able to handle heat, a good pair also gives you a strong sense of the trail and just the right amount of protection.

When selecting your sandals, just any old pair of flip-flops isn’t going hack it. You’re begging for blisters or crippling pain, if not permanent injury, should you grab whatever breathable footwear is around. You need a sandal that is full-utility: a real mandal that can boulder like an approach shoe without wearing you down. Comfort, movement, tread, thickness, durability, stability, and style all factor in for your trip along the trail. They’ll need to cope with moisture, both inside and out, without coming apart, literally at the seams. For an airy climb, it’s time for the 8 best hiking sandals.

Keen Newport H2

Keen Newport H2

Pro: Almost no break-in time
Con: Colors can fade and bleed

Best for Any Budget: Don’t be fooled by the low entry price point. These are easily one of the best hiking sandals you can get no matter how deep your pockets. Compressed, molded EVA midsoles reduce break-in time to almost zero and feel like gel on your feet, mile after hard mile. Using a razor siped outsole they grip onto loose terrain with nary a slip or stumble. Protection is paramount thanks to the heavy, insulated toe-cap meant for more treacherous climbs that could mangle exposed toes. Hydrophobic material allows them to dry quickly and stick to wet surfaces with ease. [Purchase: $40+]

Keen Arroyo 2

Keen Arroyo 2

Pro: Support and protection on all sides
Con: Warm

Helpful Hybrid: Here you’re going to get as much of a hybrid is possible when trying to combine a hiking boot with a shoe with a hiking sandal. Practicality and support are the watchwords here. The comfortable interior with its leather and mesh upper runs a little large with the intent that hiking socks be worn along with the Arroyo 2 for year round adventures. 4mm lugs on the bottom keep you covered from whatever detritus is in your path while shock absorption built into the midsole takes the worst hits. Strapped into the hardy body, you’ll be more than happy to kick rocks. [Purchase: $50+]

Teva Omnium

Teva Omnium

Pro: Excellent adjustment features
Con: Insole is somewhat hard and dense

Enhanced Fit: Teva makes some of the most durable hiking sandals in a traditional style, but that isn’t everything they have in their quiver. The Omnium proves their expertise in footwear husbandry is above reproach, since they’ve crossbred a hiking shoe with a sandal to create something greater than the sum of its parts. Based around the non-marking Spider Original outsole, the foundation is sturdy. On the top, a mesh upper with bungee tightening and quick release buckle is comfortable and gives you a tighter fit for less friction and discomfort. [Purchase: $66+]

Chacos Z2 Vibram Unaweep

Chaco’s Z/2 Vibram Unaweep

Pro: Ergonomic design
Con: Straps can be difficult to adjust

Sand and Slope: No one would look askance if you were to head out onto the beach wearing these, but beneath that laid back “mahalo brah” exterior is the soul of a hill climber. The footbed is wrapped with a toe loop and embossed with a diamond pattern to keep your feet from sliding out and away, even on steep descents. A Vibram sole limits impact vibrations and the adjustable straps are light and quick-drying, preventing moisture from wrecking your day. Take them into the breakers or ascend the most appealing hill, these aren’t for hardier hikes, but ideal for use on smaller scales. [Purchase: $72+]

Vibram FiveFingers Spyridon LS

Vibram FiveFingers Spyridon LS

Pro: Aggressive tread for multi-directional traction
Con: Do not work well in water

Quickstep: Go ahead and fight us on whether or not this is actually a “sandal.” No laces, held in place by straps, mesh top, people laugh at you when you wear them, sounds like a sandal to us. The Spyridon straddles the gap between hiking sandal and trail running shoe, which means that you can take on the mountain with a quickness, rather than slogging along. With a 4mm Vibram TC1 rubber outsole, these are tough enough to take on slightly varied terrain yet thin enough that you’ll really get a feel for your environment. The carbon upper breathes well, though don’t expect the antimicrobial lining to save you from bacterial smell. [Purchase: $80+]

Merrell Kahuna III

Merrell Kahuna III

Pro: Good for transitioning between wet and dry conditions
Con: Not adept at any single terrain

Weightless: Sandals by nature are not bulky, but most hiking sandals tend to be forced to err on the side of heft in order to be able to endure the rigors set out before them. The Kahuna III breaks from the pack in feeling far lighter than its peers without turning into a weeping, broken wreck the minute it is challenged. Heavy, multi-directional treads let you move with equal agency in any direction and work reasonably well fording streams, but don’t get cocky in the water. It moves easily between environments with the textile upper fighting off wetness and the durable lower portion keeping your feet safe from sharpened shale. [Purchase: $88]

Teva Terra Fi 4

Teva Terra Fi 4

Pro: Padded heel and base
Con: Heavy

Complete Classic: Teva was a huge name in the 90’s, but unlike Hammer Time it didn’t fade into nostalgic obscurity. Rather, they have continued to make respectable products for the nature-loving set. The Fi 4 is a classic hiking sandal that bears a cushioned heel for better shock absorption as you climb. Don’t let the spongy feel deter you, it’s about as tough as they come. Those with unusual foot sizes and shapes have no problem finding a fit thanks to the simple triple strap system. Won’t retain water or smell easily, dries out quickly, and gives better traction in slick conditions than some water shoes offer. [Purchase: $100]

Ecco Sports Yucatan

Ecco Sports Yucatan

Pro: Supportive yet breathable body
Con: Limited protection

Soft and Strong: Give these a shot on your favorite challenging hill and you’ll probably never want anything else on your foot. Created from heavy-duty rubber and leather, they have durability that is hard to match by some hiking boots, much less a sandal. A direct injected polyurethane midsole seems comfortable for any stride and provides as much comfort as it does resilience. Interior stretch materials conform to your foot without feeling overly binding so that you skin can breathe beneath the straps. From the hill to handling the hard impacts of urban streets, these are likely to become your sole summer shoe. [Purchase: $100+]

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