Best walking sandals 2020: breathable sandals for women, men and kids

Free your feet and enjoy enhanced levels of comfort and coolness during spring and summer with these top walking sandals for the whole family

Best walking sandals: a group of friends wear the new Merrell Choprock Shandals and shoes in a rock pool in Peru
(Image credit: Merrell)

The best walking sandals for exploring the outdoors are different to the majority of fashion sandals in that they provide enhanced arch support, and higher levels of cushioning and footbed comfort. They're also more durable for off-road walking, with grippy soles designed to keep you upright on slippery terrain. 

Walking sandals are ideal for wearing on beach, park and country trail walks, and for those days when you're exploring your nearest ‘big hill’. Some of them, especially 'shandals' (walking shoes meets walking sandals) are water-repellent and fast-drying, so you can wear them through the sea or streams.

In the past, there has been an unfortunate side effect of a sandal designed with boosted durability, comfort and grip: ugliness. Yes, walking sandals of old haven't been the best looking shoes in the shop, but the new breed (featured below) are getting more stylish by the day. 

Don't go expecting them to take your breath away on first site, but do expect them to blend easily into your casual walking wardrobe and, of course, with your hardier outdoors gear.

Best walking sandals: our expert pick

  • If you want a summer shoe that’s highly breathable and comfortable from the first wear, and one that puts in an impressive performance to keep you steady on your feet, try a great pair of walking sandals. The majority of these have an open design, encouraging greater airflow around your feet. Our top pick is a little different though…
  • Although it doesn’t look like any other shoe in our best walking sandals buyer’s guide, the Merrell Choprock Shandal is a walking sandal-shoe hybrid and is a real ally when it comes to more intense summer walking and hiking. It’s superb on the trail and loves splashing through pools and streams too.

Best walking sandals 2019: woman takes a stroll through the woods wearing sandals

(Image credit: Noelle Otto, Pexels)

Choosing the best walking sandals for you

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: Merrell Choprock Shandals in blue, grey and green

(Image credit: Merrell)

1. 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

Summer has only just started, but already we’ve had tons of wear out of our Merrell Choprock Shandals – not to be confused with the equally awesome Choprock Shoes for hiking. The Shandals have visible ‘cut-out’ ports on the sides of the shoes for allowing water to drain out and to boost airflow around your feet.

That’s why we’re saying they’re the best walking sandals for splashing through streams or pools when you’re out walking. We tested the Choprock Shandals on recent hikes, which included 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. 

Traditional walking sandals leave your toes exposed, which isn’t necessarily an issue depending on what type of walking you’re doing and the type of terrain you’re likely to encounter. We’d recommend Merrell’s Choprock Shandals for hiking as they have a protective rubber toe bumper ensuring complete coverage of your toes.

They were comfy to wear from the first hike and have webbing loops to ensure a more custom fit, which is handy as the sizing on ours ran a little bigger. 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: Keen Moxie Older Kids sandals in silver and white

(Image credit: Keen)

2. Keen Kids Moxie Sandals

The cutest 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 2019: Ecco Offroad Walking Sandals

3. 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 District Mendi

(Image credit: Merrell)

4. 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)

5. 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 2019: Jack Wolfskin Lakewood Cruise Walking Sandals

6. Jack Wolfskin Lakewood Cruise Walking Sandals

This unisex walking sandal is so easy to wear

Reasons to buy
+Hard-wearing+Good grip+Cushioned for comfort

Summer is a time for spontaneous adventures, beach walks, forest hikes and riverside rambles. However you decide to spend your time, Jack Wolfskin’s lightweight but robust Lakewood Cruise are ready to strap on and go. 

This unisex walking sandal is made entirely from synthetic materials and boasts grippy Wolf Aero soles that’ll keep you steady across a variety of terrains. 

If you tread in a puddle or get caught by an incoming tide, those fast-drying Air Flow Mesh uppers will ensure your new sandals don’t stay damp for long.

Best walking sandals 2019: Columbia Men’s Salerno Sandal

7. 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 2019: Teva Elzada Women’s Walking Sandal

8. Teva Elzada Women’s Walking Sandal

These stylish women’s walking sandals go with everything

Reasons to buy
+Quick-drying design+Comfy footbeds

According to conventional wisdom, footwear can either be sensible or stylish. Well, Teva’s Elzada sandals laugh in the face of such nonsense, providing everything you need for a comfy ramble.

That includes responsive polyurethane footbeds, quick-dry poly webbing and rubber outsoles for effective grip… All while looking good enough for you to wear your ‘normal’ clothes as well as your outdoor gear. We did find them to be quite a narrow fit towards the toes, so look elsewhere if you have wider feet.

Slip these beauties on when you’re hitting the beach, park or trail during late spring through summer and your feet will enjoy the breeze as well as ample cushioning underfoot.

Best walking sandals 2019: Keen Seacamp II CNX Kids Sandals

9. 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.

Best walking sandals 2019: Decathlon Quechua NH120 Women’s Walking Sandals

10. Decathlon Quechua NH120 Women’s Walking Sandals

The best walking sandals for a casual ramble

Reasons to buy
+Comfy and hygienic+Adjustable size

Despite their Olympic sounding name, the Decathlon Quechua NH12Os are ideal for casual strolls and rambles. They’ll easily take you from park to beach, and are easy to tug on and off thanks to two rip-tab straps.

They’re light and breathable, so keeping your feet dry if they get sweaty during longer walks, and have grippy CrossContact outsoles for when you encounter a slippery surface. Cushioned EVA midsoles add for an extra level of comfort, which is essential on longer outings. 

Available in Dark Ivy Green or Walnut Brown, these best walking sandals contenders are a solid choice for those not looking to spend a fortune.

Best walking sandals 2019: Crocs Men’s Swiftwater Wave

11. Crocs Men’s Swiftwater Wave

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

Reasons to buy
+Highly breathable+Water repellent

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?

Best walking sandal 2019: Skechers Go Walk Pizaz Women’s Flip Flop

12. Skechers Go Walk Pizaz Women’s Flip Flop

An easy on/off option for hitting the beach

Reasons to buy
+Easy to pull on and off+Lightweight for throwing in your backpack

For the ultimate airy, easy to flip on walking sandals, go for these Skechers. They’re not good for extensive walking, but for finding the perfect spot on the beach, or as a comfortable sandal for nipping out to the shops, they’re the perfect buy. 

They feature a spongy, comfortable sole, a soft upper and a supporting contoured footbed, so you’ll never go back to cheap market stall flip flops again.  

Best walking sandals 2019: Birkenstock Arizona Unisex Sandals

13. Birkenstock Arizona Unisex Sandals

These walking sandals for wide feet are a real classic

Reasons to buy
+Minimal design is unusual for a walking sandal+Stylish compared to most walking sandals

Birkenstock are the kings of comfortable sandals and while they’re no good for extended summer hikes, for a stroll along the promenade or on an equally flat surface, they can’t be beaten. 

Available in a huge range of colours and patterns, they’re as close to fashionable you can get, while the level of comfort they provide thanks to the the moulded cork footbed and posture enhancing heel certainly shouldn’t be sniffed at.

The final word

The Merrell Choprock Shandal is our top pick of the best walking sandals featured above because it’s ideal for tackling all types of summer walking and hiking, providing impressive grip on different terrain. It’s water-friendly, adjustable in terms of fit, and has unique drainage ports to allow water out and to boost airflow.

If you want a more traditional and far more open walking sandal, we would also recommend the Clarks Tri Walk Sandals. These aren’t as intense as the Merrell’s, but they do boost the natural movement of your feet to ensure a more comfortable time walking. Plus, they look pretty darn good with most summer clothes.

About the author…

Claire Davies is Senior Content Editor at T3 and routinely tests camping gear, and walking and hiking tech for the Outdoors channel.