If you're looking for a new pair of sandals for your outdoor adventures, you've come to the right place! After researching over 30 different models, we tested the 8 best to help you find the perfect pair. We hiked, scrambled, and waded through slippery streams in each pair, and wore them for months during our side-by-side tests. Then we rated them on essential criteria, like how comfortable they were and if they gave us support and traction in a variety of terrain. We compiled all of our findings below, and have some great recommendations for you, whether it's for overall performance, a closed-toe option, and a high value pick. We also have a full flip flop review, should you want a performance pair of those as well.
The Best Sandals for Men
Analysis and Award Winners
Summer is right around the corner, and we're ready to get outside in lightweight, breezy footwear again. We updated our sandal review to make sure that it's ready to help you as you go about buying your next pair. We're still big fans of the Bedrock Cairn Adventure sandals, and it remains our Editors' Choice winner. Teva has updated the Hurricane XLT and increased the price a little, but it's still less expensive than most other options on the market, and it keeps its spot as our Best Buy winner.
Best Overall Sandals for Men
Bedrock Cairn Adventure
The Bedrock Cairn Adventure led the pack in almost every test that we conducted and was the best overall model in our review, winning our Editors' Choice Award. They have a unique strap system that combines a thong with easily adjustable ankle straps. The slim Vibram rubber outsoles are grippy and have excellent traction and stability. With a far slimmer profile than any other sandal in our review, the Bedrocks were impressively durable. We took them over high mountain passes, through slick river crossings, and on a 24-mile backpacking trip. They handled it all and still looked good at the end of the day.
Because the sole is so thin, they don't absorb shock quite as well as a thicker-soled pair like the Chaco Z/2 Classic. If you have bad knees or plan on backpacking in your sandals with a heavy pack, then consider those instead. We also found that the fit ran small, so if you're ordering online and can't try them on first, you might want to size up a half a size. The Bedrock Cairn Adventure retails for $105, and are a versatile pair for all of your warm-weather outdoor needs.
Read review: Bedrock Cairn Adventure Sandal
Best Bang for the Buck
Teva Hurricane XLT 2
The Teva Hurricane XLT 2 is a streamlined version of the Teva Terra-Fi and retails for $70, approximately $30 below the average price of the other models in this review. One of the most comfortable and lightest options that we tested, it delivers excellent traction and durability. It has three points of adjustment, allowing you to dial in the fit to your own feet.
It didn't provide the same support or stiffness as some of the other models in this review; we could feel sharp rocks poking through the sole occasionally, and it wasn't that stiff overall. If you typically hike or boat around really sharp or uneven terrain, then the Chaco Z/2 Classic or Keen Newport H2 are better options. But if you're looking to save a few dollars, the Teva Hurricane XLT 2 is everything a Best Buy winner should be — a solid, cost-effective performer.
Read review: Teva Hurricane XLT 2
Top Pick for Closed Design
Keen Newport H2
The Keen Newport H2 hit the nail on the head for a closed-toe design. If you want something that provides the support and protection of a shoe with the air circulation benefits of a sandal, look no further. The Newport scored highly for comfort, fit and support, and nothing will protect your toes better than Keen's signature rubber toe cap.
The Newport can be a little tricky to put on, and the lacing system is more for show than tightening or loosening the upper. We did like that the material resists absorbing water, and the footbed didn't get slimy even after a day hiking on wet trails. The Newport is a great choice for water-based adventures and those who prefer to protect their toes at all times.
Read review: Keen Newport H2
Top Pick for Support and Problem Feet
Chaco Z/2 Classic
We've all seen Chaco's on people's feet; maybe even at inappropriate times where typical products fall short, such as periods of long standing. We were a bit perplexed at first with the Chaco Z/2 Classic due to some of its shortcomings (traction and weight being the key). As the shoe broke in, it became surprisingly comfortable — not for the cushy footbed or padded straps, but instead for the well-designed shape and contour of the shoe's footbed. The stamp of approval on the exterior of the box, boasting the approval of the American Podiatrists Medical Association, seems to hold merit.
As we mentioned above, this pair didn't have the best traction and are on the heavy side. We could easily feel the difference between the Z/2 (1.75 lbs) and the Bedrock Cairns (1.1 lbs). However, once we broke them in, the support and strength of the Chaco design, mixed with its genius footbed profile, leave the shoe unrivaled concerning support.
Read review: Chaco Z/2 Classic
Analysis and Test Results
After months of rock-hopping, stream-wading, hiking, and all-around use, we put our thoughts down on paper and graded each pair. We rated them for their comfort, stability, fit, durability, and traction, to help you find the perfect option for your needs. We'll go in-depth into each category and explain which models stood out and why. If you need something with great traction, head on down to that section to see which pair will help you stick like glue to slick rocks. We'll also discuss what to look for if you want a great deal, and have lots of recommendations for various types of feet and also recommended uses.
You often have to make tradeoffs when selecting your outdoor gear — if you want something comfortable on your feet it may not be as stable, or if you want good traction that softer rubber provides, know that it may not last as long as denser rubber soles. One thing to keep in mind with this category is that you don't have to spend a lot of money to get a great pair. In fact, the most expensive pair in this review, the ECCO Yucatan ($130), was also the lowest scoring. Most outdoor-oriented sandals ring in around the $100 mark these days, but there are still some more budget-friendly options available. The chart below shows the performance of each model graphed according to its price. While most of the models that we tested hovered around $100, they all had varying degrees of performance. Then there's the Teva Hurricane XLT 2, which retails for only $70 but performed as well as some $100 options, making it an easy choice for our Best Buy award. We include this chart in our reviews to help you find great products that don't cost a ton of money,
A shoe isn't going to be great to wear if it's uncomfortable. With most traditional shoes and boots, there's a relatively level playing field of comfort. However, with such a wide range of designs and styles, sometimes sandals fall short in the comfort category.
Through our brutalization of these shoes (and consequently, our feet) we found out for you. On the open design side of things, the Teva Hurricane XLT gave our feet the exact right amount of squish in the sole. The basic webbing design surprised us in how good it feels. Despite a few plastic pieces and hardly any padding on the straps, the shoes almost felt invisible on our feet (also thanks to their low weight). Teva's signature strapping and adjustment system gave us total control over the fit, which helped break in this shoe precisely the way we wanted.
Our Editors' Choice winner is also a comfortable model, albeit for different reasons. Utilizing a thong strap to stabilize the forefoot, our toes experienced great mobility and the most barefoot feeling of all contenders. They are also our favorites for avoiding blisters on long hikes and approaches. The straps are wide enough to avoid hot spots, but not excessively thick. We love that the minimal Cairn Adventure is also a comfort king.
Bringing the award home for the closed designs, we grew to love our Keen Newport H2. The shoe keeps a core construction by ditching the shoe-like fabric footbed found in the Keen Arroyo, which helps the shoe stay comfortable even when wet. While there hasn't been a metric-imperial measurement created yet for the amount of debris let into this type of footwear, this shoe seemed to stay more free of rocks, sticks and other nature trash that could prevent you from having a fun day.
Thin, spineless designs have plagued low-quality models for decades. However, with advances in design and technology over the years, high-quality sandals can provide the stability and support of a full shoe. Some shoes are notorious for sliding around and flexing side-to-side when hiking in more technical terrain, but as companies grow, they introduce great new designs to alleviate these issues.
For open design shoes, the Chaco Z/2 Classic is a spectacular choice. The addition of a toe loop adds a new level of stability over its competition by eliminating any foot slip from front to back. Additionally, the appropriately named "z" shaped z/2 system wraps around your foot by having well-placed connection points that hold your foot in a firm and strong area on your foot. In addition to the iconic strapping method, the Z/2 Classic's sole is second only to its big brother, the Chaco z/1 Classic, which is also available with a toe loop. The sole shared by the entire Chaco line is thick, supportive and firm. While it may not have the plushness liked by some wearers, the Chaco sole is unparalleled regarding support and thickness — its only downside being an excessive complete shoe weight.
The top stability performer in the closed shoe category was the Newport H2. The sole is firm, and the footbed has enough squish to absorb shock well without losing support by being too soft. The upper, though, flexes more than we like in rougher terrain.
Fit and Design
The fit and design can be drastically different. Hiking shoes you look at tend to look pretty similar. They've got laces and a sole and an upper and a midsole, and then some proprietary other "stuff" tacked on. But when talking about this kind of footwear, all rules are out. Every company seems to bring their flavor of straps and fastening, in addition to more classical shoe elements such as sole designs and materials.
Finding the right design for your foot is crucial. Some shoes we tested work fine with most feet, but they may not work for "problem feet." For example, any shoes in the Chaco Z/2 line (with the toe loop) have a dictated back-of-heel to space-between-your-toes…a highly technical and reasonably unheard of measurement that translates to try before you buy. That said, the entire line of Chaco's has been endorsed by the American Podiatric Medical Association for their design to help problem feet through pronation control and well-designed arch support.
In the open shoe category, Teva impressed us with the Terra-Fi Lite, which had a perfect balance between features and simplicity. Although the shoe looks deprived of fancy features, it has everything you need to get the job done. The Bedrock pair did not fall far behind with a wide range of adjustability to accommodate different foot volumes and shapes.
Who wants to buy a shoe that isn't going to last? Nobody. Durability is probably the easiest factor to consider, yet the most difficult to test. That's why here at OutdoorGearLab we've done that for you.
On minimalistic models, the main failing points come in the rings or connection with the sole to the straps. Additionally, some have issues with the sole separating from the midsole. With added features, potential failure points are introduced with shoe-like closed designs. Frequently, we hear complaints about exterior stitching, toe caps, and other critical parts falling apart.
We were fortunate enough to test these shoes for a long time, and for some of them, we still can't even tell. Both pairs of Chaco's that were tested, the Zampa z/2 and the Z/1 Classic blew us away with their durability. With a no-frills construction, a low-profile Vibram tread pattern, and plenty of rubber to go around, it's no surprise that these things are bombproof. Additionally, if you manage to wreck your Chaco's, the company will re-strap or re-sole your footwear for a reasonable fee. However, we had to ask around for a while to find someone who had been forced to do this. He was going on ten years of almost daily wear, excepting only to when it was snowing.
The Cairn held up well to our abusive testing, too. Under the weight of a heavy climbing pack, these shoes showed no signs of wear after dozens of rugged, scrambly miles of through the Sierras on rough Granite. The straps of most models are connected with plastic pieces, but not the Cairn. Instead, it holds the straps together with a cord, which is more robust in comparison.
As outdoor enthusiasts, we all put them through probably way too much strain for our well-being. As testers, we may have crossed the line into dangerous territory to test the traction of these contenders. Traction is necessary for all shoes, but when we expect these models to be able to handle anything from wet, mossy rocks strewn along creek beds to hiking up steep, sandy trails, traction goes from necessary to crucial for survival. Out of all of the categories we tested, we were surprised by the traction that some shoes provided, while others thought to be great for their traction turned out to fail.
The good folks at Teva have figured out a great solution. While some might scoff at their proprietary rubber compared to big name brands found on our other shoes, Teva's rubber compound and their tread design generally out-performed the competition. The Terra-Fi Lite has the best traction of the entire category. Take a look at the sole of this bad boy; there's no doubt this thing will stick to almost anything you'll throw at it, and the traction will continue to serve over the lifetime of the shoe. Even as the aggressive tread pattern breaks down over time, the rubber compound acts like glue under even the most treacherous conditions.
Still not sure? Take a look at our buying advice article for more info.