10 best women's walking sandals that give comfort and support for any type of trek
We've put a range of summer-appropriate, supportive footwear through its paces to find you the perfect walking companions
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Longer spring days are finally here, and warm weather adventures call for breathable walking sandals rather than restrictive hiking boots.
The main difference between flimsy, flip floppy beach sandals and proper walking sandals tends to be that the latter sport a sturdy sole and supportive straps.
When testing walking sandals we looked for thick but lightweight rubber soles with deep lugs (the indentations in the sole) for good grip, and wide Velcro straps across the foot and around the back of the ankle for support and stability.
There are plenty of sandal styles on the market, so it’s worth thinking about how and where you’ll use your new walking sandals before you buy a pair.
If you’re off backpacking or travelling, lightweight, packable sandals are useful. If you’re hiking in the hills, closed toe “shandal” shoe/sandal hybrids will offer more protection than open sandals but still let your feet breathe. And if you’d like to walk on the beach or even swim in your sandals, look for a quick-drying aquatic pair designed using mesh or neoprene materials.
When trying sandals on, check there’s no tightness or pinching anywhere when the straps are done up, and that they stay put as you walk. Your heels shouldn’t hang over the back of the sole, or your foot spill over the sides, and the soles should feel bouncy, not stiff, under your feet as you move.
Whilst chunky granny sandals are having a bit of a fashion moment, it’s worth picking a pair that are smart enough to wear off the trails as well as on, to get a good amount of wear out of your purchase. If you want a versatile, wear-anywhere sandal, look for leather finishes and neutral hues that’ll work in the city as well as the country.
Teva FI 5 universal: £80, Teva
We could never write a roundup of the best walking sandals without including Teva. The makers of classic outdoor kicks are famed for their simple Original sandal, but for walking we prefer the Teva FI 5 universal, which offers a tough, chunky rubber sole that sticks like glue on any surface and a structured foot bed that supports you when you’re walking long distances. The FI 5 doesn’t compromise on weight, either – it feels light and airy to wear. The sandals also dry super fast if you get them wet, and we love the retro styling of the straps.
Clarks tri walk: £65, Clarks
They may not be the most streamlined sandals we tested, but Clarks’ tri walks are definitely one of the most comfortable. Pop these babies on and it feels like they give your feet a hug, with a suede lining and bouncy, cushioned soles made of grippy rubber. If you usually find you slip about in sandals, these are perfect – adjust the Velcro straps and they’ll stay put all day, wherever you roam. We quite like the chunky, slider-style looks of the tri walk, but if want something more smart and suitable for city wear, we also rate Clarks’ arla jacory sandal, £39, which sports cushiony soles that are perfect for long days of travelling.
Merrell choprock sandal: £100, Merrell
Merrell’s newest sandal comes at a hefty price point, but you do get a lot of bang for your buck – the choprock is a clever combination of summer trainer shoe and sandal (or shandal), with a closed toe box and heel that protect your feet when hiking but with cut-out sections to let them breathe and keep cool. This is one of the heavier sandals we tested, but it’s ideal if you want something that you can properly hike in over rocky paths or for daily use on summer walking holidays. Despite being on the hefty side the choprock dries fast, too.
Keen evofit one: £104, Keen Footwear
Keen’s bright and breezy evofit is a delight to wear. These closed-toe shandals feel a little stiff when you try them on but they soon soften and mould to the shape of your foot, with a close, sock-like fit that stays put even if you’re climbing over slippy rocks. The deep lugs on the soles offer great grip and the lightweight fabric is quick to dry – a good aquatic shoe for wild swimming as well as for use on walks. The lighter shades get dirty fast, but they’re machine washable. Keen recommends going a half size up for a good fit.
Decathlon Quechua NH120: £34.99, Decathlon
You can always rely on Quechua, Decathlon’s own-brand collection, for cheap and cheerful outdoor gear, and their NH120 is our top outdoor and travel sandal on a budget. It looks and feels lovely to wear, with a smart ocean blue leather upper and soft, cushiony soles. These sandals were one of the flimsier we tested but they still offer well-built ankle support and grippy lugs on the soles. You might not trek a mountain in them, but they’re lightweight, portable and perfect for city weekends and summer travels.
Jack Wolfskin lakewood cruise: £60, Jack Wolfskin
Jack Wolfskin reckon the lakewood cruise is “light and sporty”, and we’d agree. These black sandals are an easy choice – they look great, they’re comfortable and despite having relatively thin soles, they offer good grip even on wet surfaces. We were impressed with how tough they were considering their light weight and lack of bulk – these sandals are ideal for popping in your carry-on or taking on a camping trip. A mesh and neoprene upper is quick drying and wicks sweat away well. The subtle black design also makes them smart enough to wear anywhere.
Mountain Warehouse trek shandal: £49.99, Mountain Warehouse
Another great hybrid of shoe and sandal, Mountain Warehouse’s offering may not win many style points but it’s a great option for walking trips. The trek is less solid than it looks, in good way – the light neoprene fabric upper feels like wearing your favourite trainers, and the roomy air vents make the shandal quick to dry and stop you overheating when you up the pace. We like the tough reinforced toe box and the adjustable ankle strap and elastic lacing, which help with getting the perfect stay-put fit. We’d recommend these for walking on uneven ground and rocky trails.
Columbia kyra III: £55, Columbia
The kyra III may come in colours named “mud” and “ancient fossil” but we’ll forgive it since it’s so smart and lovely to wear. The palm printed cushiony soles are a delight to walk on all day long, and we loved how light yet tough these sandals felt to adventure in – they’re the ideal choice for both walks on the flat and for backpacking trips. We’d have liked cushioning on the front straps though, as these do feel on the flimsy side.
Vivo Barefoot san-dal: £120, Vivo Barefoot
Ok, this is not your average thick and strappy walking sandal, but we couldn’t resist including the weird and wonderful san-dal from Vivo Barefoot, the advocates of barefoot-style shoes. They have recreated the ancient running and hunting sandals used by the Ju’hoansi people of Namibia’s desert, and the sandals are made by and benefit a group of cobblers in the Nae Nae Conservancy area, so you’re doing good with your purchase. They may feel impossibly light and flimsy at first glance, but for walking on sandy trails they’re as light as air, and that thin sole is surprisingly bouncy, tough and sticky.
Crocs literide sandal: £44.99, Crocs
These are Crocs, but not as you know it. There’s no hint of the huge holey plastic sandals the brand are well known for – the sleek literide sandal has smart fabric straps and a comfortable stretchy strap around the heel that stays snug in place even when you’re walking all day. The chunky rubber soles are lined with foam and are extremely comfortable, although they do make feet a bit sweaty on hot days. The bottoms offer good grip and the sandal comes in five smart colourways. Just don’t tell anyone you’re wearing Crocs.
The verdict: Walking sandals
For hiking in hot weather, you can’t go wrong with the Teva FI 5 universal, we also liked the more shoe-like style of the Merrell choprock. For travelling and backpacking, we like Columbia’s Kyra III. Looking for something completely different? Try the Vivo Barefoot san-dal.
Sian Lewis is editor of the award-winning blog The Girl Outdoors