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When the sun is out and the weather cooperative, hiking sandals are the only thing I want strapped to my feet. Now, I’m not a podiatrist, but I have hiked 7,000 miles across 22 states, floated many rivers, and guided hiking trips in the desert, so I know what to look for when the day demands covering lots of ground with toes in the dirt (and water).
As a woman who has done quite a bit of outdoor adventuring in sandals, my personal experience has been that unisex sandals are just as comfortable as women’s models, and research backs this up. There aren’t many differences between men and women’s feet, though women may have more flexible joints and a wider Q angle (the angle between your femur and knee) and might appreciate extra support in their shoes. Though I personally prefer more minimalist sandals, I took this into consideration below when evaluating each piece of footwear on this list of the best hiking sandals for women.
In this guide, I’ll start by delving into what makes a good hiking sandal and my testing methods, then reveal the top selections. After spending a month (or more) with each pair and logging plenty of miles in the backcountry and town, I put together the final list of my favorites.
Looking for men's hiking sandals? Here's our top picks.
Criteria: How We Test and What We Look For
I live in Grand Teton National Park part of the year, which has numerous rocky hiking trails and slippery glacial rivers, so I was able to spend a lot of time testing each of these sandals in difficult terrain. This included hiking 5 miles or more, on and off trail, as well as walking around on river bottoms and slick boat surfaces. I also drew from prior thru-hiking experience in a few of these sandals, as well as testimonials from other long-distance, sandal-hiking friends.
One of the primary benefits of sandals is comfort out of the box since there are less spots to rub and restrict, so I primarily looked for durability and if/where I developed hot spots. I also considered how sore the bottom of my feet were after a rocky hike, and if the soles or edges showed any wear. Testing in wet terrain is one way to do this, as is testing in terrain with a lot of vertical gain and loss.
Field Mag's Top Picks
- Best Overall: Bedrock Cairn 3D Pro II
- Best Budget Option: Teva Hurricane XLT2
- Best Arch Support: Chaco Z/1 Classic
- Most Comfortable: ECCO Yucatan
- Best Closed-Toe Sandal: Keen Clearwater CNX
- Best Ultralight Hiking Sandal: Xero Z-Trail EV
- Best Water Shoes: Astral PFD Sandals
- Best Alternative to Bedrocks: Luna Middle Bear Winged
- Most Unique: Merrell Hydro Moc AT Cage 1TRL
- Best Newcomer: Deliberate Life Designs Pursuit Huarache
What Makes a Good Hiking Sandal?
The primary advantage of sandals lies in their breathability. Traditional hiking footwear can feel burdensome and make your feet sweaty, especially when the temperature soars. With their webbing straps, sandals allow air to circulate freely and effectively wick away moisture, ensuring your feet remain fresh. There's more to it than that, though.
Unlike hiking shoes, sandals provide maximum ventilation, ensuring your toes remain dry. This is particularly beneficial in hot, muggy climates and during hikes in swampy terrain or on trails featuring river crossings. Damp feet can lead to discomfort, quickly resulting in blisters, and over time, excess moisture can lead to more severe issues, such as immersion foot. The freedom to wade in and out of water is liberating, and you won't miss the need to gingerly step from slippery rocks to precarious logs just to keep your shoes dry.
While standard flip flops and slip-on slide sandals may offer some airflow, a true outdoor sandal that can stand up to trekking and other outdoor adventures is evaluated based on its traction and stability. The stickiness of the rubber and the effectiveness of the lug patterns are crucial. Several companies continue to rely on trusted Vibram rubber soles, which provide the same gripping power as your favorite hiking boots. However, most brands have developed their proprietary traction technologies that also perform well.
Stability is a matter of personal preference. For instance, dedicated minimalist hikers likely have a much stronger arch than those who rely on orthotic insoles and don’t need the arch support provided by some sandals. In general, a thicker sole tends to equate to better stability and often includes improved arch support for those who require it.
While the possibility of hot spots remains, many sandals offer fine-tuning options to customize the fit. Given the evident straps on sandals, it's relatively easy to anticipate potential hot spots. This allows you to break them in beforehand or carry athletic tape to preempt blisters. You're also less likely to endure the discomfort of debris rubbing against your feet since it's a simple task to remove twigs and pebbles from your sandals without the need to stop your hike.
Without further delay, the following are our top picks for the best women's hiking sandals, tested, photographed, and approved in the wilds of the American West.
The 10 Best Hiking Sandals for Women
Best Hiking Sandals: Bedrock Cairn 3D Pro II
I trekked 800 miles across southern Utah in a pair of Bedrocks, and walked through cacti patches, sand, silty rivers, quicksand, and more. Most people won’t put their sandals to this extreme of a test, but knowing that they can hold up to that much abuse says a lot about the quality.
I prefer the classic Cairns for everyday use but if you’re tackling trails with major vert or water, the shape and texture of the Cairn 3D Pro II midsole provides helpful traction. My favorite feature is the G-hook-and-heel loop, because nothing ends a sandal’s lifespan quicker than sandy, waterlogged velcro, and it was designed with desert-dwellers and river guides in mid. The Vibram® Megagrip Andesite Sole is the grippiest on this list - it’s made from fishing boot material for unparalleled traction - and the Cairn 3D Pro II sandals can really hold their own against some of the more water-focused sandals in this group.
I originally had a “most sustainable” option on this list and scratched it because there were too many good options, one of which is Bedrock’s ReSoul program. They’re the most expensive sandals on this list but they are also the most durable and can be resoled and restrapped for life, which makes them well worth the investment.
Weight: 8.7 oz (single sandal)
Best Budget Option: Teva Hurricane XLT2
Teva has always excelled at blending form and function, making the Hurricane XLT2 sandals one of the most stylish on this list and great for navigating indoor/outdoor life. It’s hard to beat the Teva Universal Original Sandals for price, but an extra $30 gets you a significantly upgraded sandal that can tackle more varied terrain.
The Hurricanes are a classic design with three adjustable REPREVE® straps. The straps are velcro, which isn’t great for watery and sandy hikes, but you only need to unstrap one of them after the initial adjustment. The EVA footbed lacks the stiff, durable feel of some other sandals on this list, but I know folks who have hiked 700+ miles in them without complaint. They’re also treated with Life Naturals, an antimicrobial agent, so hikers with sweaty feet will appreciate their odor-resistance.
Weight: 7.8 oz (single sandal)
Outsole: Durabrasion Rubber
Best Arch Support: Chaco Z/1 Classic
Chacos are one of the biggest names in the sandal business for good reason. I hiked most of the Appalachian Trail in a pair of Z/1s, which is a big testament to their durability and comfort. Though I do miss the days of Vibram® soled Chacos, the proprietary ChacoGrip outsole works well in most conditions and 3.5mm lugs are burly enough to dig into softer terrain. The Z-strap design holds your feet in place, which is a big plus for river walkers or those who want that shoe-like security. The extra thick sole is heavy but cushions and protects your foot from rockier terrain.
I’ve known plenty of folks who tried out minimalist sandals and returned to Chacos for their impressive arch support. Their Luvseat midsole is certified by podiatrists and provides the support you need for all-day activities. (For even softer sandals, look at the Chaco Z/Cloud collection.) They aren’t the cheapest model on this list but Chaco’s commitment to longevity and sustainability in their ReChaco program ensures that you’ll get your money’s worth, if you can go without them for four weeks. Or, if you’re lucky to live near one of their ReChaco Roving Repairs bus stops, you can get them repaired with an even faster turnaround.
Weight: 10.6 oz (single sandal)
Most Comfortable: ECCO Yucatan
The Ecco Yucatans are really in their own class. Their nubuck leather straps and a microfiber midsole mean that they’re not really made to perform in as many conditions as some of the other sandals on this list. But what they lack in outdoor versatility they make up for in everyday functionality, with looks and features that perform as well in the city as they do on dusty trails.
The Yucatans have a slight heel which made them less functional on technical trails, but this also meant that they were one of the only sandals that didn’t hurt my heels on pavement. The rockered EVA midsole is made to cushion and support your feet through their natural range of motion and the RECEPTOR tech provides stability that helps counteract the slight heel. I’d choose the Yucatans for adventurous trips when we need one shoe to go everywhere while looking a little less sporty for everyday life, too.
Weight: 10 oz (single sandal)
Best Closed-Toe Sandal: Keen Clearwater CNX
I’m an open-toe sandal fan, so I had preconceived notions about closed-toed sandals. I have only stubbed my toe one time in sandals, on a curb in 2018 crossing the road in Escalante, UT. So while I don’t necessarily buy the closed-toe sandal argument, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the KEEN Clearwater CNX sandals.
The sole is significantly thinner than I expected; this means less support than their burlier Newport H2 brethren, but they still offered enough to feel good after spending the day on my feet. They only offer a minor amount of adjustability with the top drawcord bungee, but that’s generally all I needed. The lugs aren’t very deep but the sole is grippy enough for most conditions, and they drain water quicker than other similar closed-toe shoes. If I was heading to Zion or the Everglades, O’d grab these in a heartbeat for those murky water hikes where you can’t always see what’s lurking beneath the surface.
Weight: 8.5 oz (single sandal)
Outsole: Non-marking rubber
Best Ultralight: Xero Z-Trail EV
I’ve tried a number of minimalist sandals, from the Bedrock Classics to the Deliberate Life Designs huaraches (see below), and the Xero Z-Trail EV are doing something a little different. The Xeros have a very dedicated following, and after trying the Z-Trail EVs it’s easy to see why. The ZV-Trails immediately stand out for their BareFoam™ midsole, which is dramatically softer than any other sandal we’ve tried. This does affect durability, as the edges near the toes showed wear pretty quickly, but wearing them in the river and on pavement is asking for premature damage. They have no arch support, but the TrailFoam layer provides a good amount of cushion even on harder ground.
At 5.6oz, they’re the lightest sandal in this group, which makes them perfect for travel. They’ll easily stash in a backpack as camp shoes or in a carry-on while traveling.
Weight: 4.3 oz (single sandal)
Outsole: FeelLite Rubber
Best Water Shoes: Astral PFD Sandals
Astral is one of the biggest names in water sports, and they’ve honed their footwear line for use on slick river surfaces. The Astral PFD sandal feels like a sandal/shoe hybrid but takes a different approach from the closed-toe models. Instead, they feature a neoprene Thwart Pad under the straps that protects your foot and holds it in place while still giving you room to wiggle your toes. Neoprene is also an insulator, and I noticed that it kept my feet a little warmer in chilly Wyoming waters.
While the Bedrock Cairn 3D Pro II sandals have the grippiest sole, I found the PFD Sandals’ ability to cradle your foot and prevent sliding inside the sandal more valuable than external stickiness. They do seem to run a little narrow and have limited adjustability, so hikers who wear half sizes should size up.
Weight: 7.2 oz (single sandal)
Outsole: Razor-siped Flex Grip outsole with G.ss Rubber
Best Alternative to Bedrocks: Luna Middle Bear Winged
I’ve been curious about the difference between Bedrocks and Lunas for a while; they look very similar but have completely different marketing. While we still love Bedrocks, we were stoked on the Lunas after taking them on the Teton Crest Trail.
The Vibram midsole isn’t nearly as textured as the Cairn 3D Pro II sandals, and during testing I found my feet slid around a bit inside the sandal on descents and when wet. But in everyday life the midsole was even more comfortable than the regular Bedrock Cairns, and there was something about wearing the Lunas that just felt so good. I particularly liked the cushioned panel on the back strap that prevented hot spots.
The sole of the Middle Bears is a work of art—aggressive, 3.5mm lugs in Vibram Megagrip for traction, plus lace protection so the straps don’t wear out. The lugs are also optimally spaced to reduce mud and debris build up. These sandals are designed for trail running, though I prefer regular sneakers for that sport. But for slower trail endeavors, I can confidently say that the Lunas are a solid competitor for the Bedrocks, though they thrive in slightly different environments.
Weight: 8 oz (single sandal)
Outsole: Vibram MegaGrip
Most Unique: Merrell Hydro Moc AT Cage 1TRL
Like the Hoka Hopara (featured on our list of the best men's hiking sandals), the Merrell Hydro Moc AT Cage 1TRL shoes look like they’re going 100mph. Their aesthetic is divisive along generational lines, but whatever the opinion, their fashion sensibilities and outdoor performance earned them a spot on this list. The AT Cage 1TRL stands out from the more casual Hydro Mocs for their adjustability. The upper shock cord cinches the shoe from the top and the back hook-and-loop closure secured our heels. I have a firm no-Velcro stance in shoes designed for water, but these straps were pretty set-it-and-forget-it, so they should hold up.
I tested them while schwacking through river bottoms looking for moose and on slippery wooden boats, and the Merrell Quantum Grip is one of the grippiest proprietary soles I tried. The Hydro Mocs are vegan and feature recycled and bio-based BLOOM foams, which are great initiatives though I’d love to see Merrell increase the ratios of these eco-conscious materials.
They don’t drain water as quickly as the Keen Clearwaters, and once your foot is wet it tends to stay wet and makes some very audible squeaking sounds. I found that they didn’t quite vibe with my foot shape due to a seam in the front that rubbed my toe and an arch shape that was a little too far back. But the overall consensus is that the Hydro Moc ATs excel on both urban and watery treks, if they fit your foot shape.
Weight: 10.6 oz (single sandal)
Outsole: Merrell Quantum Grip with 50% recycled Austin Rubber
Best Newcomer: Deliberate Life Designs Pursuit Huarache
Deliberate Life Designs is a small operation in Vermont, catering primarily to runners and thru-hikers. If there’s one thing thru-hikers and ultrarunners know, it’s the value of caring for your feet, so you can trust that these newcomers are onto something. The Pursuit Huaraches stand out for their versatile Vibram sole and customization options. Five standard shapes and an option for full customization provide a platform for even the strangest of toes, and customers can pick the strap, sole, and footbed colors of their choice. I chose the standard toe sandal design because that is my usual preference, but Chaco fans wanting a lighter sandal can customize the strap design as well.
The Vibram sole gripped better on slick rocks than all of the proprietary soles on this list and the straps were surprisingly thick and easy to adjust. They do follow the classic Tarahumara design in which the strap loops under the sole, which is a durability concern to me, but the straps are so sturdy that they can probably take a beating. The customization model doesn’t seem sustainable for a bigger business so it may not last forever, but right now is a great time to get in and design your dream sandals.
Outsole: Vibram Newflex
Frequently Asked Questions
What is a good brand for hiking sandals?
Chaco and Teva are the OGs in the world of hiking sandals, but as the category has become more popular among hikers, kayakers, adventurers, and folks who just want to kick around town, more companies have popped up to meet their varying needs. Bedrock Sandals is one company that's gone from niche to mainstream very quickly, and others like KEEN, Merell, ECCO, and the rest in this guide all make high-quality footwear.
What should you look for in hiking sandals?
A combination of traction, stability, and fit and comfort are the key attributes of a hiking sandal. How you plan to use them and how each sandal fits your foot will determine what balance of these features is best for you.
Why should I wear hiking sandals instead of hiking boots?
Deciding whether or not to opt for sandals over boots is totally up to you and your preferences. Generally, hiking sandals tend to be lighter and more breathable than hiking boots, though they sacrifice protection and support. Many people have worn sandals to hike some of the longest trails around the world, so they're definitely up to the challenge.