Best walking sandals 2020: cool footwear for men, women and children | T3

Best walking sandals 2020: cool footwear for men, women and children

Pick up a pair of the best walking sandals, for everything from walking to water activities

best walking sandals: Keen SOLR
(Image credit: Keen)

The best walking sandals are a vital tool in the outdoor toolbox. For warm days where you need something more supportive than a flip-flop but hiking boots are overkill, a great walking sandal is perfect. Whether for letting your feet breathe a little around camp after a big day out, gentle days exploring, or coasteering-style adventures where you need an open shoe that'll allow water to drain, they’re absolute staples of a good summer. 

As well as providing enormous breathability, qualities you should be looking for in the best walking sandals include top-quality straps to keep the foot secure on uneven terrain, as well as good traction and some foot protection. This last point varies from a simple underfoot shank through to more enclosed options that incorporate toe protection similar to walking shoes. 

Of course this is a bit of a compromise, as too much protection here not only looks ugly, but also cancels out the point of a sandal in the first place, as well as potentially encouraging their use on terrain that really requires more protective footwear (if you're not sure quite what you need, browse our guides to the best hiking boots and the best walking shoes for some more options). 

Some walking sandals are also specifically designed for coasteering-style river scrambles, and general watersports use as they allow water to drain away easily. These hybrid versions can offer an ideal balance between the entirely open sandal and a shoe, but can look a bit too ‘technical’ for some tastes.

Overall, the walking sandal is a much more technical and capable item of footwear than the causal street sandal. Read on for our pick of the best walking sandals for a range of activities – or if you're buying for little ones, jump straight to our pick of the best walking sandals for kids. Our handy tool will pull in all the best prices, so you can be sure you're not overpaying (and for more hot outdoor offers, be sure to bookmark our guide to the best Amazon Prime Day deals).

Best walking sandals: our expert pick

  • Even in the rarefied world of walking sandals, there’s plenty of choice, but for looks, lightness and usability in water or on terra firma, the original Columbia Sandal does the lot. From a handy travel sandal through to more serious trail hopping and SUP, this sandal does it all in comfort and as much style as you’ll muster in a walking sandal. 
  • If you're after a more specialised watersports option, take a look at the Keen SOLR – for summer splashing and messing about in boats as well as offering real foot protection, it really does deliver

Best walking sandals

(Image credit: Merrell)

The best walking sandals: buying advice

Are you getting excited about owning some dedicated walking sandals? Well, you should be, because they’re an absolute revelation for enhancing your walking joy outdoors during the spring and summer. 

If you're planning on a big hike, especially a multi-day hike where you're carrying a heavy load, choose proper hiking boots. For something in between, where you need more support and full foot coverage than these sandals offer, go for walking shoes

Unsure as to which of those you need? Take a look at our guide to walking boots vs walking shoes, and discover how they differ.

However, if you want a highly breathable open shoe for walking, and preferably one that can cope with some water (sea or rain) every now and then, go for one of the best walking sandals we’ve rounded up below.

When choosing a pair, consider the type of fabric they are made from. Yes leather can take longer to break in compared to synthetic materials, but both materials can cause blisters if they start to rub. Leather feels cool on hot days, but synthetic materials are faster-drying, making them a better choice for those who regularly hit the beach.

Also think about what kind of terrain you'll likely be traversing on the regular, and how much grip you'll need as a result. You may find that a pair of sports walking sandals are the best option for you, as these promote fast and light walking but have great grip to keep you steady.

Ready to set your feet free? Then let’s take a look at the best walking sandals that are available now and discover which are the ideal pair for you…

The best walking sandals you can buy now

best walking sandals: Columbia Sandal

(Image credit: Columbia)

1. Columbia Sandal

This classic design is the best walking sandal overall

Reasons to buy
+Super-breathable+Stylish and rugged+Hydrophobic+Range of colours
Reasons to avoid
-Thin on foot protection

At first sight these are entirely standard walking sandals, webbing straps and a soft footbed with a grippy outsole. However, Columbia has done a couple of things differently with its confusingly named Columbia Sandal. First up, the brand has targeted water and land, which translates to a mixed tread pattern on the Omni-Grip non-marking rubber soles, as well as hydrophobic webbing up top. 

The closure is via a rucksack-strap style buckle, which forces you to tighten the toe correctly as you do up the sandal, a useful feature that ensures a good fit every time. A plush footbed and neoprene-style strap inner liners really amp up the comfort factor when worn on long days, but care and attention is needed on rougher trails as there's no toe or side protection at all. That said, if you need side protection for your route then walking sandals are the wrong choice! 

A weight of 191g per foot (size 9) is particularly featherlight, making these ideal for travel or hut-to-hut adventures, where having footwear other than boots is a real luxury. 

best walking sandals: Keen SOLR sandals

(Image credit: Keen)

2. Keen SOLR sandals

These specialist sandals are the best choice for water-based activities

Reasons to buy
+Water-ready+Recycled bottle webbing+Machine washable
Reasons to avoid
-Very water-focussed tread pattern

The Keen SOLR  (Sea. Ocean. Lake. River.) is all about the water, as the name suggests. Designed with stand-up paddle boarders and kayakers in mind, the result is a great all-round sandal with plenty of protection for taking on the rough stuff. The sole unit not only protects the toes almost as much as a pair of walking shoes, but also is non-marking, and has key contact areas fore and aft designed for gripping wet decks or paddleboards. A slight down-side is that this focus on water-based activities does hinder land performance just a little.

The webbing is fabricated from recycled plastic bottles, and gives good wrap-around support and protection too, while a simple bungee fastener locks your foot in place without fuss – we particularly like the retaining strap that keeps the end of the bungee in place. 

Best walking sandals: Merrell Choprock Shandals in blue, grey and green

(Image credit: Merrell)

3. Merrell Choprock Shandal

Bringing a whole new dimension to the concept of walking sandals

Reasons to buy
+Water-friendly+Protective rubber toe bumper+Vibram Megagrip keeps you steady+Webbing loops aid a secure fit
Reasons to avoid
-Warmer to wear than traditional open-toed styles

These Merrell Choprock Shandals have visible 'cut-out' ports on the sides of the shoes that allow water to drain out and to boost airflow around your feet, making them ideal for splashing through streams or pools when you’re out walking (we've tested the Choprock Shandals by clambouring in rock pools and traipsing through shallow streams).

We were impressed by the level of grip dished out (Vibram Megagrip tech and 5mm lug depth helps here) and they didn’t take an age to dry out either. Word of warning: if you plan on wearing them to the beach, sand will get into those drainage ports and build up on the bed of the sandals, but rinsing the shoes in the ocean gets rid of any residue. 

The protective rubber toe bumper adds extra toe protection to make these a little more suited to hiking when compared to a traditional open-toed sandal style. They were comfy to wear from the first hike and have webbing loops to help you adjust the fit to your foot (note, the sizing on ours ran slightly large). These shandals still feel hot compared to walking sandals with a more open design, but that’s the trade-off if you want a super-protective sandal-type summer shoe on the trail.

Best walking sandals: Ecco Offroad Walking Sandals

4. Ecco Offroad Walking Sandals

A comfy and supportive choice for all-terrain action

Reasons to buy
+Improved stability+Enhanced breathability+Wonderfully comfy

You don’t necessarily need a pair of hiking boots to wander off the beaten path during the warmer weather. Not when you’re wearing the Ecco Offroad Walking Sandals. Thanks to something fancy called Receptor technology, the sandals constantly react to the motion of your feet, maximising stability and reducing muscle fatigue. This should help you walk comfortably for longer. Rubber outsoles are there to provide long-lasting grip and durability on dirt tracks and beyond. We’re also fans of the three-point adjustability on the leather uppers, boosting airflow and breathability to keep slippery foot sweat to a minimum. 

best walking sandals: Merrell Kahuna Web Sandal

(Image credit: Merrell)

5. Merrell Kahuna Web Sandal

A classic, lightweight walking sandal from the archives

Reasons to buy
+Simple+Lightweight+Grippy Vibram sole
Reasons to avoid
-Not much foot protection

Merrell say that the Kahuna Web is 'from the archives' and there's a lot of truth in that, the design being instantly familiar and much-copied over the decades. However, that simple toe and heel strap combo (now in recycled webbing) still works perfectly well, keeping the foot stable on the sole without fuss or bother. The downside is there is little protection for the foot here, but on the upside the velcro closure is fast and idiot-proof, and they're easily packable, making them an ideal camp slipper for rest days in sunny climes. 

The Vibram sole has been updated with a camo-style pattern, but still sports a recognisable Merrell tread, while the Merrell Air Cushion in the heel helps absorb any shocks you might encounter. Lightweight, breathable, robust – a perfect summer outdoors companion.  

Best walking sandals: Merrell District Mendi

(Image credit: Merrell)

6. Merrell District Women's Mendi Sandals

Easy-wear summer walking sandals with a grippy sole

Reasons to buy
+Lightweight feel+Comfortable sole

If you want to feel as much of a breeze as possible wrapping around your feet, and you want much more support than flip flops can afford, the Merrell District Mendi Sandals could be your new summer shoe.

Lightweight and comfortable to wear, they’re ideal for warm weather strolls in the park, along the beach or on leafy country trails. If you have wider feet, you may find the fit at the top of the sandal to be too narrow, just like with the Teva Elzada featured elsewhere in this guide, so that's worth keeping in mind.

There are adjustable straps at the back of the District Mendi, and there’s decent padding on pressure points to keep rubbing and blisters at bay. Merrell’s SelectGrip sole is on duty too, providing decent grip on slippery surfaces.

Best walking sandals: Clarks Tri Walk in Combi White colour

(Image credit: Clarks)

7. Clarks Tri Walk Sandals

The best walking sandals for city to countryside

Reasons to buy
+Supportive yet lightweight+Optimises your foot's natural movement+Easy riptape fastening

Sporty walking sandals are having a moment on the runway as well as the trail, and the Tri Walk is Clarks’ answer to stylish summer walking sandals with an outdoors-friendly performance. They come in four different colours, though we wouldn’t be brave enough to wear the White Combi version on the trail – yes the leather uppers are wipe-clean, but mud has a way of sticking to those straps. 

More importantly, the sandals use Clarks' Trigenic System, designed to optimise the natural movement of your feet to make walking more enjoyable, easier and better supported.

One of the main benefits of wearing these walking sandals are the sheer ease of use – thanks to a riptape fastening they’re easy to pull on and off. The design is multi-adjustable too, so you can play around with the fit to make it work for you. This is handy towards the end of the day when feet naturally swell in size.

Clarks knows how to make comfy shoes, so no surprises to hear that these were a delight straight out of the box. The grip doesn’t have a patch on some of the other shoes featured elsewhere in this best walking sandals guide, but it’s plenty enough for hitting the park, countryside pathways and less challenging trails.

Best walking sandals: Columbia Men’s Salerno Sandal

8. Columbia Men’s Salerno Sandal

The best walking sandals for heavy footed types

Reasons to buy
+Supportive+Good traction on trails+Lightweight

Named after a picture-postcard city near Naples, the Salerno walking sandals for men are as luxurious as the views from Mount Bonadies. The canvas and leather uppers look more expensive than they are, while the memory EVA insoles and cushioned Techlite midsoles make each step a pleasure.

Columbia’s offering utilises an antimicrobial treatment to ensure the health of your feet. So no unbearable build-up of whiffs, sweat or nasties on the soles. The outsoles combination of OMNI-Grip rubber and EVA will provide you with decent traction during flash summer rain showers. As far as the best walking sandals for men go, these look decent enough to take you from trail to the pub afterwards.

Best walking sandals: Crocs Men’s Swiftwater Wave

9. Crocs Men’s Swiftwater Wave

Just as happy on dry land as they are splashing through surf

Reasons to buy
+Highly breathable+Water repellent
Reasons to avoid
-Styling won't be for everyone

Walking along the seashore on a hot summer’s day, it’s always tempting to dip your feet in the cool water. Usually, this means taking your sandals off first – but not if you’re wearing a pair of Swiftwater Waves. These all-purpose walking sandals are constructed from Croslite foam, so they won’t absorb water. Durable yet soft perforated uppers enable easy drainage – as well as helping your feet to breathe. Siped outsoles give you plenty of traction as you chase the tide. Just don’t go wearing them with socks, ok?

The best walking sandals for kids

Best walking sandals: Keen Moxie Older Kids sandals in silver and white

(Image credit: Keen)

1. Keen Kids Moxie Sandals

Cool walking sandals for kids who love to adventure

Reasons to buy
+Cushioned footbed+Protected toe box+Natural odour control

Your little one will love running, jumping, climbing and walking in these adventure-ready walking sandals from Keen. The Moxie Sandals for older kids have a protective toe bumper, and sport a secure fit lace capture system to prevent any trip ups. They’re comfy to wear too, thanks to a cushioned footbed, and boast Keen’s Cleansport NXT natural odour control. So even if your little one is wearing these all summer long, they should smell fresher for longer.

Best walking sandals: Keen Seacamp II CNX Kids Sandals

2. Keen Seacamp II CNX Kids Sandals

Cute walking sandals for kids who love the water

Reasons to buy
+Sturdy and supportive+Easy-pull velcro straps+Fun colour options

If you're embarking on a big family walk, you'll need to protect your little one’s feet too. Keen has managed to cram an impressive amount of features into its super cute walking sandals for kids, which is why they’ve made this list. First up, metatomical footbeds are there to cradle the natural contours of your kid’s feet, working to keep them steady and in true comfort as they walk, run and climb. These hybrid water sandals also have non-marking rubber outsoles, so they won’t ruin floors. Even better, they feature an environmentally friendly water-repellent treatment and eco-friendly anti-odour insoles that don’t use heavy metals or hazardous chemicals. Kids being kids, though, they’ll probably be much more interested in the crazy-cool colour options.