The 6 Best Hiking Sandals for Hiking to Waterfalls and Hot Springs
Hiking boots usually get all of the love, but the best hiking sandals are a wonderful alternative for trails with water crossings and damp terrain
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If you’re new to hiking, you might not initially think to wear sandals for this outdoor activity. Yes, you want your feet protected on the trails, but the best hiking sandals for men and women come in handy if your path takes you to waterfalls, swimming holes or natural springs. Wearing sandals is also a lot cooler than even the lightest weight boots.
All of our top picks come in both men’s and women’s sizing, and the only real differences lie in the colors and designs. Consider these six hiking sandal options for all of your adventures this summer.
The best hiking sandals
Best hiking sandals overall
Astral PFD Sandals
The Astral PFD Sandals claims the top spot for best hiking sandals due to their ultra-secure strap system with three adjustment points, quick-release buckle closure, rugged outsoles with deep rubber lugs for grip and a contoured rubber footbed for comfort and security on any type of trail. The back strap can also hook into itself turning the sandals into a pair of slides.
These sandals feature a wide, durable design to keep feet in place during treks through technical terrain and water. One reviewer called the traction on wet rocks “insane” and another described them as “super helpful” for scaling river beds, making them a fantastic alternative to hiking boots.
One caveat: It seems that the chief complaint is that sand and small gravel can get stuck in the footbed. It’s a tradeoff, but one I’d happily pay if it meant keeping me stable (and upright!) on slick ground, especially wet rocks.
- Very good customer reviews
- Extremely secure design thanks to wide straps
- Ankle straps can be modified to turn the shoes into slides
- Three options for strap adjustment
- Available at Backcountry, Zappos, Moosejaw and REI
Small gravel and sand tend to get stuck in the footbed
Best budget hiking sandals
Teva Original Universal Sandal
For under $60, you can grab a pair of Teva Original Universal Sandals, which are some of the best hiking sandals for a good price. These feature double hook-and-loop straps—one at the ankle and one across the toes—for ultimate adjustability.
The durable straps are constructed of webbed polyester that’s sourced from traceable recycled materials. Additionally, the EVA soles feature a textured footbed to prevent slippage inside the shoe, and they’re treated with Life Naturals, which Teva says is “a responsibly sourced peppermint-based antimicrobial that fights the growth of odor-causing bacteria.”
With a moderately grippy triangular tread pattern, these sandals are best for light- to moderate-intensity activities. That said, I own a pair that’s performed wonderfully on hiking trails; it’s all about what you’re comfortable with.
- Less expensive than other hiking sandals
- Highly adjustable straps for custom fit
- Durable recycled materials
- Available in many colors and designs
- Available at Zappos, Backcountry, DSW, Nordstrom and Dick’s Sporting Goods
Some reviewers say traction could be better
Best hiking sandals for recovery
The North Face Skeena Sandals
All experienced backpackers know that one luxury is worth its extra weight: recovery sandals. No matter what type of trail you’re hiking, having sandals when you get to camp will take your backpacking experience to the next level.
The North Face Skeena Sandals keep your tired feet as comfortable as possible post-hike while providing protection from debris like rocks, sticks and thorns around your campsite. These are quite lightweight at just 12 ounces for the pair—or an impressive 6 ounces per shoe. Although they’ll add about a pound to your pack weight, you’ll be happy you brought them along.
It’s not just backpackers who can benefit from the Skeena Sandals, though. With durably webbed straps, a chunky foam midsole and rugged outsoles, the Skeenas are more than adequate for day hikes or strolling around a beach town.
- Great recovery sandals for wearing at camp or post-hike
- Lightweight at 12 ounces per pair
- Rugged tread for traction
- Made partially of recycled materials
- Nicely priced
- Available at Backcountry, Zappos and Dick’s Sporting Goods
Not designed for technical trails
Best hiking sandals for tough terrain
Keen Newport H2 Sandals
These Keen sandals are the hiking sandals you need if you plan on getting down and dirty in mud, swimming holes and creeks. Are they the most fashionable sandals out there? No. But you won’t care when you’re blazing the trail and are the first one to the waterfall.
As they’re closed-toed, they resemble sneakers from afar. When you get closer, though, you see that they feature a polyester webbing upper with plenty of gaps for water to easily permeate. Your toes are completely protected by the rubber caps, but you can hike through streams or puddles without the worry of soggy shoes. Furthermore, the bungee closure system tightens and loosens the sandals and there are aggressive outsole lugs and an anti-odor treatment on the footbed. As they run about a half-size small, consider sizing up, especially if your feet are prone to swelling or you prefer to pair them with socks.
- Great foot protection on any terrain
- Toe bumper protects from trail debris
- Deep outsole lugs provide fantastic traction
- Fully waterproof materials
- Available at Walmart, Backcountry, Keen Footwear and REI
- Heavier than other sandals at 1 pound, 12.3 ounces for the pair
- On the pricier side
Most stylish hiking sandal
Chaco Z/Cloud Sandal
Chaco Z/Cloud Sandals are time-tested staples for a reason. Almost anyone who’s owned a pair raves about them. Typically, your more rugged, adventure-ready sandals will be heavier and bulkier. But these classic sandals have proven time and time again that it’s possible to combine durability, comfort and style into one lightweight shoe.
Thanks to the versatility of the many fun color combos and the option to create your own custom pair, they work well as an everyday shoe in your summer camping gear (just like these highly-reviewed Teva ReEmber shoes!).
- Great blend of being both lightweight and rugged
- Available in seemingly endless color options
- Can design custom Chaco Z/Clouds
- Treated with an anti-odor solution
- Available at Scheels, Backcountry and Zappos
Some reviewers say the buckle chafes
Best traction hiking sandal
Teva Terra Fi 5 Universal Sandal
If you’re looking for a hulk of a hiking sandal with a minimalist upper construction—that is, you want your toes and the tops of your feet to be free—check out the Teva Terra Fi 5 Universal Sandal. I find this beefed-up version of the Original Universal Sandal to be some of the best hiking sandals for slippery terrain, with a chunky EVA sole that offers plenty of traction. The arch support is aggressive in the best way for a hiking sandal, and the double hook-and-loop straps easily adjust the sandals on the fly.
My only complaint: My pair started to smell after a few months of wear, even though Teva’s website touts the Terras have an antimicrobial solution for odor control. That said, I wore mine literally every day for over three months for several activity types, because they’re just that versatile and durable. And it’s nothing a bit of shoe deodorizer can’t fix!
- Deep, aggressive rubber outsole lugs
- Chunky, contoured footbed provides great support
- Hook-and-loop straps provide ultimate adjustability
- Wonderful arch support
- Available at Backcountry, L.L. Bean, REI and Zappos
- Footbed gets stinky after a while
What to consider when buying the best hiking sandals
No matter what type of shoe you buy, fit is the most important factor, but that’s especially so on a long, arduous hike. Take it from someone who has rubbed my feet raw: Don’t settle for a “just okay” fit.
Firstly, have about a quarter-inch of space between your longest toe and the very end of the sandal. The same between your heel and the back end of the sandal is preferred, too, unless it features a heel cradle.
Your feet shouldn’t spill over the sides of the sandal—look for a wide fit if you find that happening to you. The straps should lay flat and have plenty of length for adjustment. Any weird pressure is a warning sign for future blisters.
Fit aside, make sure the sandals adequately support your trails of choice. If you plan on hiking very difficult trails, a minimalist sandal isn’t the best fit on sticks, rocks and sharp plants. On the flip side, a minimalist sandal is great for easy day hikes on hard-packed terrain.
Types of the best hiking sandals
Here’s a look at some of the most common types of the best hiking sandals.
- Minimalist hiking sandals: These are often zero-drop shoes—meaning a totally flat sole—and intend to provide just a thin layer of protection between your foot and the earth.
- All-terrain hiking sandals: This type features a thick midsole, usually with some contouring, as well as an aggressive outsole to dig into slippery or wet terrain.
- Waterproof hiking sandals: Most hiking sandals are waterproof by nature, but some may have straps made of a more water-repellent material than the typical nylon woven textile.
- Closed-toe hiking sandals: Great for very intense hikes on rough terrain, these mimic a hiking shoe and protect your toes while allowing water to drain and air to circulate.
- Thong hiking sandals: These look like flip-flops with straps around the heel. Whether or not an individual will like this type of sandal depends on personal preference about having the material between the toes.
How we found the best hiking sandals
As shopping experts, our only job is to help you find a winning product. We start with the research and reporting basics—what products are made of, what they look like and how much they cost—to ensure that we’re only recommending the buys that are worth your time and money. Then we research the features that speak to the product’s quality, taking advice from industry insiders and subject matter experts on what makes a product a smart value (or worthy of a splurge). Finally, we do the work of combing through user reviews to see how real people interact with the product, and if it stands up to the test.
Is it OK to wear sandals hiking?
Totally! But probably not just any old slingback or thong. Hiking sandals are a fantastic option for any hikes that include water crossings over a river or stream, as well as hikes where a water feature is the destination—think waterfalls and natural springs. You can wear hiking sandals on any hike you’d like for their breathability, but most people reserve them for the aforementioned type of hike.
Should I size up or down in hiking sandals?
When it comes to hiking, whether you’re buying hiking boots, shoes or sandals, it’s better to go with your normal size or size up—never down, unless the manufacturer’s size chart indicates that you should. It’s common for feet to swell a bit during long hikes, so you want to leave room for your feet to wiggle around for comfort and stability.
Do you wear socks with hiking sandals?
You can do whatever makes you feel most comfortable, but hiking sandals are designed to be worn without socks. It doesn’t really matter, though, as long as your feet are comfy.
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