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In search of new sandals? Our experts have purchased and tested the best sandals on the market for over a decade. Our latest side-by-side comparison reviews 19 of today's leading models. We took these sandals on daily escapades from the Sierra Nevada, down to the California coast, and across the country to the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. We've used these sandals for everything from day hikes to water sports, from boulder hopping down creeks to strolls on the beach. We evaluated and ranked each model based on standardized rating metrics to help you pick the perfect pair based on comfort, performance, and value. Our experience and years of testing result in the most comprehensive review of the best sandals on the market.
While we adore our sandals, you might discover that the best flip flops or the best water shoes suit your needs better. If you're up for more than a casual or day hike, you may be interested in looking at the best hiking boots to complement your more casual sandal-wearing adventures. Whatever your needs, our experts have tested the , the best footwear available today, ensuring there's something for every journey and every individual.
Editors' Note: We updated this review on May 11, 2023, to add two new models from Teva and HOKA, to update award-winning options from Xero, ECCO, and Teva, and to adjust the weighting of our metrics to reflect important buying considerations better.
The Bedrock Cairn Adventure has earned our highest honor as the best overall sandal due to its lightweight, dependable construction and excellent all-around performance. Across any conditions, Cairn's performance impressed us, and it excelled in all of our rating metrics. The unique strap system is simple and easy to adjust, yet it provides plenty of security on uneven terrain. The footbed provides a nice balance of stability and comfort while being lighter than many other models we tested. The Vibram XS Trek outsole steals the show, as this material is usually found on much heavier-duty trail shoes and hiking boots. Despite its lightweight nature, we were amazed by the traction it provided in various conditions, giving us confidence in our footing.
One of the potential drawbacks of this model is that the thong-style strap system can take some getting used to, and it cannot be worn with regular socks. We also tested some cushier models that are more comfortable and supportive. However, the all-around performance, versatility, and high quality make the Cairn Adventure a worthy recipient of our top award.
The Teva Katavi 2 earns recognition for its competitive all-around performance at a surprisingly low price. The plush contoured footbed, comfortable suede straps, and durable rubber outsole make for a lightweight package that holds its own against many other contenders that cost nearly double. The classic Teva style is easily adjustable with three adjustable Velcro straps, making this model simple to get into and out of. The durable rubber outsole holds up against the roughest terrain.
The lightweight design and nicely cushioned footbed come with a tradeoff. These kicks come up short in our traction and stability tests, particularly in wet conditions, where we experienced some slipping on both the outsoles and the footbeds. The classic three-strap design is not as customizable as modern designs with fancier (yet more complicated) adjustment systems. Nevertheless, the Katavi 2 offers excellent value, outshining other contenders in its price range. This sandal is our choice for those looking for a comfortable, lightweight, and versatile sandal that won't break the bank.
The ECCO Yucatan impresses with its beefy construction and high-end materials, making it the most comfortable sandal in our lineup. The contoured microfiber footbed and nubuck leather straps nicely cradle our feet, and the Fluidform midsole with Receptor technology supports and cushions each step. The slightly rockered outsole encourages a natural foot strike and stride. While these kicks come at a premium price, their high-end features are easily recognizable and provide excellent comfort and support across various terrain and conditions.
The Yucatan falls just short of our overall winner, the Bedrock Cairn Adventure, as it weighs more, has less traction, and is less adjustable. However, with much better support, stability, and a more comfortable footbed, the Yucatan may be the right choice for many people.
The Xero Z-Trail EV is an undeniably great option for those looking to save pack space or weight on their next big outing. It is a lightweight minimalist model that is so thin you could fold it into your back pocket. While barefoot-inspired footwear may not be for everyone, the Z-Trail EV caters to this particular niche very well. The 10mm sole and ultra-thin webbing are remarkably comfortable and capable on the trail, though not as sturdy as some of the burlier hiking sandals we tested. The adjustable heel strap adds a nice touch to the overall secure fit. Xero is a leading company for zero-drop footwear that promotes the philosophy that feet are meant to move naturally and "Feel The World." According to Xero, the Z-Trail EV uses eco-friendly and vegan-friendly materials, such as nylon, from recycled water bottles.
Although not as traditionally comfortable as a thicker and more supportive sandal, the Z-Trail EV performs well with its secure strap system and comfortable footbed. One drawback of this sandal is that it lacks support and doesn't provide the best grip compared to other models in our lineup. But if you're looking for a lightweight, packable sandal that prioritizes minimalism and natural movement, the Z-Trail EV is an excellent choice.
The Keen Newport H2 is a worthy competitor in the performance sandal category. The Newport H2 is water-savvy with durable rubber outsoles and a hydrophobic EVA-foam footbed, but we also found it grippy and versatile in most dryland activities. The molded insole is comfortable and supportive while maintaining a relatively lightweight feel. The Newport H2's webbing structure is padded with neoprene backing, which is very comfortable and quick to dissipate moisture. As a closed model, it also offers improved protection from stubbed toes on submerged river rocks.
One drawback of a closed-toe sandal is that it's easier for pebbles and sand to get stuck inside the shoe if you're at the beach or hiking through a rocky stream bed. This is a minor inconvenience compared to the high-end wet-condition performance of the Newport H2. Although it is ideal for watersports and our top choice for a closed-toe sandal, it also keeps up with some of the burlier models in our lineup regarding traction and stability.
Weight per pair: 0.75 lbs (size 10) | Sole: EVA Foam
REASONS TO BUY
Simple slip-on design
REASONS TO AVOID
Lack of traction
Instability with thickness
The HOKA Ora Recovery Slide 3 takes the cake in the recovery sandal category with its thick, curved sole and lightweight foam construction, providing excellent cushioning and comfort. After a long, hard day on the trail or pounding the pavement during a run, the Ora Recovery Slide 3 is an excellent choice to help your feet recover and prepare for the next day. HOKA has become a household name among trail runners and outdoor enthusiasts thanks to their recognizable thick, plush, well-cushioned running shoes. It's a no-brainer that they could put out a recovery slide to help you get back on the road or trail a little sooner.
Cushy recovery sandals like the Ora Recovery Slide 3 sacrifice performance in certain metrics – like traction and adjustability – compared to other heftier hiking sandals we've tested. Although you may not wear these slides on a hike or a river outing, they have their place for day-to-day use around the house or to give your feet a break between workouts. The thicker profile and lack of adjustability may not work for everyone, so if you're looking for alternatives, check out other slides we reviewed, such as the Adidas Adilette Aqua Slide or the Oofos Ooahh Slide.
The Chaco Z/Cloud may not excel in any performance metric, but it consistently resides near the top of the charts in every rating category. This model has all the features that make Chaco a longtime user favorite: excellent foot security, good traction, and dependable construction, all in a package that's 20% lighter than Chaco's typical offerings. As we performed our testing, these sandals consistently delivered comfort and confidence, no matter the outing.
As with most Chaco models, adjusting the pull-through strap system's interconnected straps can be tedious and challenging to adjust the fit just right. While this makes on-the-fly adjustments a little more challenging, it certainly isn't a deal-breaker and is part of what makes this brand and style unique. There are consistently several Chacos tested in our lineup of adventure sandals, but this one is our favorite.
Why You Should Trust Us
We wore these sandals every chance we got during several months of field testing and conducted over 10 individual assessments for each sandal. We repeatedly walked and hiked identical routes to understand how each pair performs on similar terrain. We also took these sandals kayaking, running, and skateboarding to beach barbecues. As a result, we comprehensively understood each pair's strengths and weaknesses.
Men's sandals underwent testing across five performance metrics:
Comfort (25% of total weighted score)
Traction (25% of score)
Stability (20% of score)
Adjustability (15% of score)
Versatility (15% of score)
For evaluating men's sandals, we sought the knowledge of gear testers Nick Bruckbauer and Jacob Clark. Nick is a well-traveled adventurer – exploring Nepal, skiing in Alaska, and climbing 14ers in Colorado – and recognizes the significance of high-quality footwear as an essential part of his gear. He resides along California's Central Coast, allowing him to sport open-toed footwear almost year-round. Jacob is a former climbing guide and route setter who also spends most of his year on the beaches of the Central Coast of California. His favorite local spot for hiking and running is the cherished Los Padres National Forest. He also has extensive experience traversing mountain ranges throughout the US, often with his dog Eli.
Analysis and Test Results
This review concentrates on sporty sandals that offer a secure fit and sufficient traction for active adventures. We maintained our testing consistent with previous iterations while introducing recovery-style sandals to the lineup. After thoroughly examining the market's current offerings, we selected various models from some of the most reputable footwear brands. Our lineup features the best options that blend performance, comfort, and value for any on or off-trail activities you may have planned. For a more casual choice, check out our flip flops review and see our buying advice on how to choose a sandal.
Not all footwear is made or priced equally. We've observed that lower price tags often correspond with less expensive materials. While bargain hunting can be useful in some cases, we generally don't recommend it for footwear used regularly. When evaluating the value of these models, we looked for products that balance quality, durability, and reasonable affordability.
For an extremely comfortable model with respectable all-around performance that won't empty your wallet, our exceptional value award-winning Teva Katavi 2 is priced at roughly half the cost of some of its high-end competitors. While not a top scorer, the Teva Original Universal and Teva Universal Trail are comfortable classics at a friendly price with everything you need for more casual, non-technical terrain. While a bit pricier, the Chaco models, such as the Chaco Z/2 Classic, have noticeably burlier materials and construction and have a reputation for longevity.
Sandals are generally for casual and laid-back use. Although we selected models capable of withstanding tough conditions, we didn't want to compromise the comfortable, easy-going essence of sandals solely for performance. We carefully observed how our feet interacted with the shoes initially and over an extended period of wear. The contact points between the arch, footbed, straps, buckles, and attachments are all crucial contributors to comfort. Pairs that are ergonomic and well-designed generally receive higher scores.
We evaluated comfort during various activities, on different surfaces, and in diverse weather conditions, wearing socks when possible. After unboxing, we determined if the shoe required any break-in period before extensive use. If any hotspots or weaknesses emerged, we concentrated on the design or materials that might pose long-term issues.
Comfort primarily depends on factors such as foot shape and intended use. In this latest update, we included some recovery slide-style sandals prioritizing comfort. The HOKA Ora Recovery Slide 3 and the Oofos Ooahh Slide excel with their thick, cushioned soles, but their comfort can decline rapidly when pushed beyond casual use.
The Teva Katavi 2 and the ECCO Yucatan are exceptional performers for comfort and versatile use. Both have supportive yet cushioned sole construction that delivers the highest comfort levels in most situations. Teva utilizes a soft foam bed on most of their sandals, leading to a simple and affordable package. Additionally, the extra material coverage makes our feet feel secure and comfortable, although individuals with flat feet may need to explore other options. Both models feature decent arches. The Birkenstock Arizona Soft Footbed also stood out for its soft conforming footbed and cozy materials. The ease of sliding these on and off additionally enhances their everyday convenience.
The Bedrock Cairn Adventure and the Teva Terra Fi 5 are in the middle of the pack. Although the Cairn doesn't offer as much support as others, its ergonomic design and lightweight feel made it seem like we were hardly wearing anything. The Terra Fi 5 provides an incredibly comfortable footbed and is easy to secure, but it falls short of our top performers due to the bulky strap mounting points that caused chafing and bleeding during the first few uses.
Today's top-performing sandals have come a long way from the slippery, spongy, bargain-bin flip-flops we wore to the pool as kids. These days, it's not uncommon to find Vibram materials or other grippy rubber on the soles of many newer models. These top offerings provide excellent traction and are versatile and useful in various situations.
We tested traction on mossy creekbeds, steep granite scrambles, and loose, dusty trails. Each model was subjected to wet and dry conditions, carrying a pack, walking uphill and downhill, and being pulled by an energetic puppy. We awarded high marks to models that provided confidence in even the sketchiest conditions.
The Bedrock Cairn Adventure takes the cake in this category, which is unsurprising considering its aggressive tread pattern and Vibram XS Trek outsole material. Our feet felt secure and locked in no matter what conditions or surfaces we faced, and it excelled even in the Slime Test.
Stiff-soled models like the ECCO Yucatan and the three Chaco models receive respectable scores, though they lacked the raw gripping potential of Vibram soles across all conditions. They each feature various types of hard rubber molded into sporty tread patterns that maintain traction in most conditions, including loose pebble and wet rock. Some models received some deductions due to less confidence on steep descents.
The Keen Newport H2 falls short of our top marks in this category but still stands out with its outsole reminiscent of winter vehicle tires and optimized for wet conditions. Similarly, with its grippy Spider Rubber, the Teva Terra Fi 5 and Teva Hurricane XLT 2 provide dependable well-rounded traction, though models with Vibram soles best them.
The underperformers in the traction metric are the four slip models – the one notable exception to this rule is the Under Armour Ignite VI SL Slide. These products have soft outsoles, shallow or near-no tread patterns, and flexible footbeds. While this comforts underfoot, they all struggle on wet, steep, or sketchy terrain.
Stability is a crucial factor when evaluating the performance of technical footwear. A product lacking stability resembles a flip-flop more than performance footwear. We closely observed how balanced, firm, and secure our feet felt while wearing the sandals on various terrain to measure stability. Rigid (but not cumbersome) midsoles, secure straps, and superior arch support were the primary contributors to stability. High-scoring products offer users a secure and stable experience in nearly all outdoor environments and activities.
The most notable models in this category are the Keen Newport H2 and the Chaco Z/1 Classic. These sandals feature a stiffer and heavier sole that can endure harsh conditions and provide significant arch support. The adjustable straps and webbing on the Z/1 Classic deliver excellent support over the instep, while the fully-enclosed Newport H2 offers a sense of security regardless of the terrain. The Keen Targhee III Open-toe also delivered above-average stability.
The Teva Katavi 2, Bedrock Cairn Adventure, and Birkenstock Arizona Soft Footbed provide decent stability, albeit with significantly different designs. Flat-footed individuals or barefoot enthusiasts who prefer a "trail feel" will appreciate the Cairn, while those seeking more support should consider the Katavi 2 or Arizona Soft Footbed.
Unsurprisingly, the Teva Original Universal and the Xero Z-Trail EV received lower scores in this metric. These two models are intentionally more minimalist — even more so than the Bedrock Cairn Adventure — sacrificing stability for a lightweight, straightforward design. We don't expect a lightweight, flexible, trail-running-inspired model to offer exceptional stability.
Similar to comfort, adjustability is closely related to how each model interacts with the foot and, consequently, impacts overall comfort. We designed this metric to assess each sandal's ergonomic function and customization – specifically, how the sandal secures to the foot. We considered the total adjustment points, their ease of adjustment, and how often they needed fine-tuning during use.
Initially, we were curious about which strap or material configuration provided the most utility. Generally, we prefer models with multiple adjustment areas that offer different fits or styles to cater to multi-sport enthusiasts. Several adjustment areas also allow for a more precise fit on irregular feet or those with calluses from a season of wearing ski boots.
The top performer in this category is the Bedrock Cairn Adventure, which delivers excellent adjustability and customization in fit after a slight learning curve. Its three-way strap configuration allows for a secure fit that quickly and easily accommodates micro-adjustments on the go. The Xero Z-Trail EV and the Chaco models follow the Cairn – both offer very different strap systems with multiple adjustment locations for a customized fit. However, the system designed by Bedrock for the Cairn is ultimately the simplest and most intuitive.
Most of the Teva models, the ECCO Yucatan, and the Keen Targhee III Open-Toe rank in the middle of the pack with their conventional three-strap sporty designs. These models can provide a secure and customized fit, but not without considerable tinkering and adjustment. The closed-toe varieties we tested are boxy and incapable of achieving a precise fit. However, we preferred the two additional Velcro straps on the Teva Omnium 2.
Slide or recovery models like the Oofos Ooahh Slide and the HOKA Ora Recovery Slide 3 face challenges in this metric since they don't provide any adjustability by design. What they lack in versatility, they make up for in comfort and simplicity.
With contemporary innovations and unique technology permeating the outdoor consumer market, sandals are becoming increasingly prevalent as multi-purpose footwear. A reliable pair should easily navigate rugged terrain or river crossings while stylishly strolling through town. Striking the right balance between performance, functionality, and utility is challenging. In this metric, we favorably scored models that transitioned seamlessly through various activities, from fishing and skateboarding to trailblazing and visiting the taco bar.
Overall, the Bedrock Cairn Adventure is the most versatile model. It is sturdy and grippy while being lightweight, packable, and comfortable enough for even the longest days – seemingly, no situation is too much for it. Following closely are the Chaco models, such as the Z/2 Classic, which are slightly bulkier and less packable than the Cairn but ultimately well-suited for various tasks. The ECCO Yucatan is the most versatile traditional sports model, offering exceptional comfort and support across any terrain or activity.
Certain models, like the Teva Original Universal, Teva Universal Trail, and Omnium 2, may not be sporty enough for challenging approaches but are well-rounded enough to receive a respectable score. While practical for specific purposes, we awarded lower scores to minimalist models like the Z-Trail EV because they didn't instill complete confidence in certain activities where more support is necessary.
This review aims to highlight the nuanced strengths and weaknesses of the top-performing models available on the market. Offering more breathability and less weight than typical hiking shoes, this footwear category can bridge the gap between performance and casual. We hope our findings assist you in finding the perfect pair for your summer, spring, fall, or even winter adventures.
GearLab is founded on the principle of honest, objective, reviews. Our experts test thousands of products each year using thoughtful test plans that bring out key performance differences between competing products. And, to assure complete independence, we buy all the products we test ourselves. No cherry-picked units sent by manufacturers. No sponsored content. No ads. Just real, honest, side-by-side testing and comparison.