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On the hunt for the best women's sandals for any outing? We've purchased and tested scores of pairs since 2016, to bring you this current lineup of the 19 best women's sandals. We spent months trying out these products side-by-side. Miles of urban hiking, backcountry jaunts, neighborhood strolls, backpacking trips, bike rides, trail runs, and paddling trips have acquainted us with every strap and buckle. At this point, our intrepid team of nonstop explorers knows what makes for the right sandal in any situation and for every foot shape. We rate each model on their comfort, traction, and stability across a wide variety of possible uses. We adjusted and readjusted them over and over again to find their perfect fit and considered their versatility and style to boot. Whether you're looking for a great rafting sandal or something cute for vacation, we've got you covered.
Weight per pair: 14.1 oz (size 7) | Sole: ChacoGrip rubber
REASONS TO BUY
Superb traction and stability
Great for wider feet and arch support
Thinner, lighter, and easier to adjust than other Chacos
REASONS TO AVOID
Fewer color options
No half sizes
Brand new to the scene — and to our lineup — the Chaco Bodhi blew us away with their performance, fit, and look. Touting a simplistic strap design, the standard Chaco adjustment system (where all straps are a single strap that can be tightened and loosened to perfection by tugging on various parts of the strap in the correct order) is made much simpler and easier to find your perfect fit. By eliminating straps on the outside edges of the foot, the Bodhi better accommodates feet of any width. Though it appears as a minimalist design, the inclusion of the classic Chaco toe loop maintains impeccable security and stability. Combined with a thinner, lighter sole than ever before, this comfortable sandal soared to the top of our performance ranking system.
We have very few complaints about the Bodhi. Like all Chacos, this sandal is not available in half sizes, but we have yet to run into anyone who couldn't find a whole-sized Chaco that fits. While Chaco's classic Z strap lineup comes in an astonishing array of colors and patterns, the newly fashioned Bodhi is available in far fewer colors. Perhaps an increase in the popularity of this sandal will lead to additional colors available in the future. For now, even without all the wild strap designs, we love wearing the Bodhi. From backpacking to kayaking and beaches to cities, there's no other sandal we like wearing more than these.
Weight per pair: 18.2 oz (size 7) | Sole: ChacoGrip rubber
REASONS TO BUY
Incredible traction in even the most trying conditions
Toe loop adds unparalleled stability
Tons of colors and patterns
REASONS TO AVOID
Bulky and heavy
Adjustment process is challenging
If you're on the hunt for one of the best adventure sandals around, the longtime fan favorite, Chaco Z/Cloud 2, is our top recommendation. The Cloud soles of the Chaco's Z sandal offer unparalleled traction both on any surface and for your barefoot to stay put in all conditions. Our lead tester has been wearing these sandals to guide river trips and backpacking adventures for over 15 years and has yet to find a situation in which this sandal lets her down (with the obvious exception of in the cold!). Though the toe loop takes some getting used to, once its fit is dialed in, it's immediately apparent all the benefits it brings to our stability and security getting through the most trying conditions. We've swum rapids and hiked over late season spring snow in these seriously adventure-ready sandals.
The two biggest complaints we have about the Chaco Z/Cloud 2 are necessary evils of its vast benefits. The sole, while boasting some of the best traction and stability around, is also thicker, bulkier, and heavier than most other sandals we tested. And the toe loop, while ensuring stability and security, is also far more complicated to adjust and find the perfect fit than any other sandal we've worn. We've observed this sandal over many years and find it easier to continue to adjust through many wearings than previous versions, but with its single-strap adjustment, there's no way around it — it's more complicated and sometimes more frustrating, than any other. However, if you have the determination and patience to find your sweet spot for the strap system, the Chaco Z/Cloud 2 is our ideal adventure sandal.
Searching for a pair of sandals that can take you around the world without breaking the bank? The Teva Original Universal is an excellent, high value option. For less than half of many others, this pair of universally sized sandals offers reasonable security and solid traction for many types of adventures. Easy to adjust velcro straps are placed perfectly to keep them stable on your feet even on hikes and crossing small streams. They also can be purchased in a plethora of colors and patterns to best match your personal style.
The Teva Original sandals aren't without their downfalls though. Though they are certainly above average in their performance, in extreme conditions, they can fall short — when very wet, our feet slip slightly across the footbeds and the mild pattern on the bottoms of the soles can't offer the same serious traction that some of the beefier sandals can. We also found the edges of the velcroed straps to sometimes be scratchy on our toes and noticed that these shoes run on the narrow side. They also are totally flat, which just can't offer the support we want for long days carrying heavy loads. Still, if you're a modest adventurer and are looking for an affordable sandal that can keep up on moderate excursions, there's a lot we love about the simple, colorful Teva Original.
Weight per pair: 17.1 oz (size 9) | Sole: Vibram Megagrip
REASONS TO BUY
Good for wider feet
Really good traction and better stability
REASONS TO AVOID
Run very small and for those with short toes
Limited color options
The Bedrock Cairn 3D PRO II Adventure is a unique pair of sandals that fall somewhere in between a minimalist and a full adventure sandal, offering benefits of both. With nearly flat soles, the 3d PRO II version of these sandals has just enough added bumps, ridges, and crests in all the right spots to keep our feet firmly on the soles, regardless of incline or moisture levels. Minimalist straps are easily adjustable and more secure than they may appear. Though they look simple, these sandals offer top notch traction and well above average stability.
Though their lack of straps penning in the outsides of your feet allows the Cairn 3D PRO II to accommodate much wider feet than many sandals, we still struggled with the sizing of these unisex shoes. Our lead tester typically wears a 7.5 in women's shoes and ultimately found that she needed a size 9 to be able to keep her whole foot on the Cairn 3D. The strap attached between the toes is far enough forward that even average length toes hung off the end of smaller sandals. And while finding the right size and adjusting for the most secure fit makes these Bedrocks very rugged, they can't quite match the stability and security of cross-toe and cross-foot straps found in many other models. Still, if you're after a minimally designed sandal that still provides support and protection, the Cairn 3D PRO II is a superb choice.
Weight per pair: 8.0 oz (size 8) | Sole: FeelTrue rubber
REASONS TO BUY
Good traction on rough terrain
Secure without being tight and great for wide feet
Very lightweight and packable
REASONS TO AVOID
Need to get feet in shape for barefoot walking
Thin sole lets debris in easily
The barefoot bandwagon continues to amass enthusiastic supporters over the past several years and the Xero Z-Trail EV sandals are an exciting model for those craving as close to a barefoot experience as possible while still wearing shoes of some kind. The Z-Trail has impressively thin, exceptionally flexible soles that still have robust patterns that provide serious traction even across slippery surfaces like granite rocks and steep gravel trails. Employing the tried and true Z strap pattern, these Xero sandals are securely attached to your feet. And yet these minimalist sandals take things a step further with cleverly designed outward-leaning strap anchors. By angling away from your foot, these rubber slots hold the straps taut without putting any pressure on your foot that could lead to rubbing or blisters. They're also seriously lightweight and ridiculously packable.
Unless you're already used to extended barefoot walking and are regularly wearing wide toe box shoes with zero drop heels, going straight for a pair of Z-Trail EV sandals will likely leave your feet tired and sore. Like any body part, building up the muscles in your feet to eventually spend all day essentially walking around barefoot in your Xero sandals takes time and persistence. If you're already an avid barefoot adventurer, the only real downside to the Z-Trail sandals is that they come in very few colors. For anyone hoping to walk around barefoot all day, but needing shoes to enter buildings or cross intense surfaces, there's no pair of sandals we like more than the barefoot-feeling Xero Z-Trail.
Not every situation calls for a sandal with a heel strap, so we tested a number of slides as well. Across situations and outfits, the Birkenstock Mayari Leather emerged as our favorites. These leather sandals boast the classically comfortable Birkenstock footbed that starts out cradling your foot and conforms specifically to your exact foot shape the longer you wear them. Buckles in the straps allow you to find just the right tightness for your feet and stride. By including straps over the toe, these slides proved themselves remarkably secure and resistant to being kicked off or stepped out of unintentionally. And we love how they look with a sun dress or swimsuit cover up.
As much as we adore the comfort and superb fit of the Birkenstock soles and footbed, they also comprise the majority of this sandal's downsides. The mild patterning on the bottoms of the soles of the Mayari just can't offer the same level of traction on trying surfaces that many other heartier sandals cross with ease. Their luxuriously scooped footbeds, while cradling our feet through hours of walking, also easily collect sand on beaches and cut grass in lawns and need to be regularly emptied when crossing areas of high debris. And while you can get leather wet, the Mayari do not do well with wet soles or straps, making them not a great choice for paddling trips. Yet anytime we wanted a cute pair of casual slides that go with seemingly every outfit, we consistently reached for the Mayari.
Why You Should Trust Us
We've been scouring the market since 2016, updating this review with the most promising women's sandals we can find. Over the past 7 years, we've tested scores of sandals in all kinds of situations and scenarios. We've worn them on hikes over 20 miles, for multiday backpacking trips, for weeks-long rafting trips, on cross-town bike rides, and countless camping trips. We've worn them walking the dog, doing yard work, trekking through foreign cities, and spending all day at amusement parks and malls. We've matched them with outfits designed for backcountry expeditions and ensembles pieced together for brunch with friends. We've worn them across towns, cities, and whole countries, to learn which ones perform best for different feet and activities.
We rigorously tested every pair of women's sandals 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)
This review is brought to you by sandals enthusiast and Senior Review Editor,Maggie Nichols. Maggie has been obsessed with sandals for as long as her mother has known her. Always looking for a way to not wear socks, she has worn hundreds of pairs of sandals through countless adventures. Maggie started professionally guiding paddling trips and backpacking trips in a sturdy pair of adventure sandals in 2007 and never looked back. From traipsing through her Sierra Nevada neighborhood and wandering desolate desert paths to exploring jungles and trekking foreign cities, Maggie never leaves home without a trusty pair of sandals. She spent months journeying in these pairs to give them all careful consideration and learn what each is best suited for.
Analysis and Test Results
We wore these sandals incessantly to understand how they fit and function across different shapes of feet, different support needs, and different environments. We tested them wet and dry, on smooth flat surfaces and rocky hills, across pavement and sand. While each is ranked out of a total possible score of 100, our testing spanned five mutually exclusive metrics and dozens of individual tests. To dive into the nitty gritty of how this lineup of women's sandals performed in our testing, read on.
As with anything you buy, finding a high value item is ideal. And with a pair of sandals, the pressure is on — they should be comfortable but stylish, functional across activities but still go with a variety of outfits, and they shouldn't cost too much. While this is a lot to ask, it's not totally impossible to find. When it comes to high functioning adventure, the Teva Original Universal has a lot to offer for a much lower price tag. They come in a ton of colors and patterns to match just about any summer outfit. If you're the type of gal who likes to wear sandals 100% of the time, investing in a pair of Chaco Bodhi can take you from backpacking trips to winery tours and everywhere in between.
Probably all of us have, at least once, talked ourselves into wearing an uncomfortable pair of shoes just to "go" with our outfit. No one really likes doing this, so we put all of these sandals through intense scrutiny and testing to see how comfortable they really are. We compared the flexibility and protection of the soles, the feel and fit of the footbeds, and the touch points and fit of the straps. We walked in every pair for miles, over pavement, gravel, and on trails. We went to the beach and hiked in the forest, to evaluate how supportive they are, if they can accommodate wide feet or long toes, and check to see if they rub us raw.
The Chaco Bodhi outperformed the rest in our myriad of comfort tests. The open design of this shoe easily accommodates feet of many shapes, while the soft webbing never caused hot spots even through days of adventuring. We were initially concerned that the strap twisting to span from in between the toes back toward the heel would rub on the top of our second toe, yet no actual rubbing ever manifested — despite scrambling up and down rocks, walking coarse sand beaches, and meandering downtown for hours. The Bodhi sole is thinner, lighter, and more flexible than other Chacos in our lineup, with just the right amount of arch support to keep us going on even the longest hikes. Not far behind are the Chaco Z/Cloud 2 and Bedrock Cairn 3D PRO II, offering different types of comfort. The Chaco Z is similar to the Bodhi in terms of strap feel and footbed shape, though heavier overall than the Bodhi. The Cairn 3D offers a nearly flat experience, with just a touch of ridges and crests in key spots to help keep your foot in place.
For experienced barefoot walkers, the Xero Z-Trail EV proved themselves extremely comfortable as well. With their unique strap attachment system, we were able to wear these much looser than others, without compromising their security and stability. The Chaco Z/1 Classic have a similar sole to the Z/Cloud 2, though their lack of toe loop left a little more space for floppiness at the ends of our feet than we enjoy. The Birkenstock Mayari is also impressively comfortable, with the classic Birkenstock sole that conforms to your foot over time and leather straps in just the right arrangement that kept us happily on the move through long days.
The Birkenstock Arizona have the same type of comfortable sole as the Mayari, though the Arizona's thicker straps proved slightly less comfortable on our bare feet — though they softened over time. The Skechers On the Go 600 Brilliancy have very soft, squishy soles with pronounced thicker heels, making for a comfortable stride. The Keen Whisper has nearly as soft of a footbed, with a comfortable sneaker-like feel. Both the Teva Original and the Bedrock Cairn Adventure have totally flat soles with just moderate texturing — great for anyone with flat feet or low arches. The Sanuk Sling ST are extremely comfortable to stand in, with very soft, flat soles and sweatband-like elastic straps. Yet they ended up losing points once we were actually moving, as their supple straps had a difficult time keeping our feet on the overly narrow yoga mat soles.
Being able to walk without slipping or falling over on challenging surfaces is an important attribute of any pair of shoes. We tested the traction both of the bottom of the soles on various types of substrates as well as the traction of bare feet against the footbeds when dry and wet. We walked up steep hills, across slick rocks, and over shiny flooring. We wore them til our feet got sweaty and slippery and even wore them wading into the water.
Here again, topping our test rankings, are the Chaco Bodhi and Chaco Z/Cloud 2. Both these Chacos have exceptionally grippy soles. However, where they really stand apart is their additional top-side traction; a combination of texturing, sloped edges around the heel, and their toe loop, cementing your foot's place within the sandal. Put together, these traction traits easily allowed us to safely cross swift-moving streams, clamber over smooth boulders, and trek confidently up steep trails covered in loose gravel. The Chaco Z/1 Classic have very similar soles, but without the added toe loop, their traction suffers just slightly.
The Bedrock Cairn 3D PRO II also have very good traction, particularly on the bottoms of their soles. Though the 3D footbeds gave noticeably better traction than their flat counterparts (found in the regular Cairn Adventure sandals we tested), the more minimalist strap design proved to have mixed success in securing our feet adequately within the sandal, particularly in the water. The Xero Z-Trail proved to have impressively good traction. Large lugs on the bottom of the soles help in tricky substrates and the flexibility of those soles allows you to use the muscles in your feet to help adapt to whatever you're walking across, adding more mobility than any rigid sole can accommodate. On the flip side, the Teva Hurricane XLT2 have rather rigid soles but their undersides offer excellent traction on most dry surfaces.
The Teva Tirra have fairly good traction during normal strides, though the edges of their soles are smooth, offering very little grip if you find yourself picking your way across a talus field or slipping on the edge of a curb. Both the Teva Original and Bedrock Cairn Adventure have above average traction abilities, due to their exaggerated sole bottom patterns. However, they are also both flat on top, without any features that might help stop your foot from sliding — particularly when sweaty or wet. The Keen Whisper provides about the same level of traction as an average pair of sneakers. Though, just like sneakers, when worn without socks, sweaty feet quickly slide around inside these not-very-breathable sandals. The Reef Cushion Rem provide decent levels of traction for most dry surfaces, though lack the intense patterning that would put them on even ground with more intense adventure sandals.
The stability and security of a shoe on your foot go a long way toward determining what situations you'll be happy wearing it in. We evaluated the stability, flexibility, and protection of each pair of soles. We checked strap security, playing with tightening models that could be tightened and wearing them looser when we felt we could. We noted how much they move — or even come off — in certain situations. We also observed their overall balance and heaviness and considered how that changed the experience of wearing them.
When it comes to keeping our feet stable in a pair of sandals, no others could come close to the staying power of Chacos. While the classic Z-strap configuration of even the Chaco Z/1 Classic is impressively stable, the toe loops of the Bodhi and Z/Cloud 2 can't be beaten. When searching for a pair of sandals to wear on an intense river rafting trip or on an arduous backpacking adventure, these are the two pairs we trust to keep us safe and supported along the way. The 3D PRO II sole and strap offer a pretty good level of stability as well, but still allow for more wiggle room and tripping ability than any pair of Chacos we tested. The Xero Z-Trail are pretty stable on dry surfaces, but their need to be worn rather loosely (a benefit when considering their comfort) makes them not a great fit for wading through moving water.
The Teva Original have a rather secure strap design to keep them solidly attached to your feet. Their flat footbeds allow slippage when wet though, making these not the most secure pair in a creek or on sweaty feet. Similarly, the Bedrock Cairn Adventure sandals can be tightened for additional stability, but they too have totally flat footbeds that don't mix well with moisture. The Keen Whisper features closed toes and so many "straps" as to nearly enclose your foot. While all this added security makes them about as stable as a sturdy pair of sneakers, it also encourages and then traps foot sweat, which detracts from your stability. The Teva Tirra have additional straps in key places to keep them rather securely attached to your foot, but also has very inflexible soles that quickly dump your toes off the end when you bend your foot too far.
Many of the sandals we tested are in some way adjustable. We tested just how adjustable they are — how easily they conform to different foot shapes and different styles of wearing. We evaluated how easy they are to adjust and how readily they can be changed and adapted to different adjustment styles even after they're already worn in. And for models that have no adjustability, we considered how well they worked without it, if we missed it, or if they were still adaptable without it.
Some of the most adjustable sandals we tested are also some of the most complicated to dial in. All the Chacos sandals in our lineup offer the ability to finetune your adjustments to perfectly fit your feet, not some "ideal foot" shape that doesn't exist. Though in the past we have found Chacos increasingly difficult to change adjustments after wearing, all three of the pairs we tested maintained their ease of adjustment throughout our months-long rugged testing plan. Both pairs with toe loops — the Bodhi and the Z/Cloud 2 — require some additional work and patience from the wearer, to discover the perfect strap tightness. However, the Bodhi cuts out some of that hassle by making the toe loop the only portion to adjust, helping to simplify this issue. In this particular metric, we recognize that despite being some of the most complicated to learn their adjustment system, these sandals are also the most adjustable of any we tested.
The Xero Z-Trail features an easily adjusted Z strap that can be quickly pulled or loosened to your perfect feeling. The heel strap is fully velcro, further adding to its adjustability. It lost just minor points here from its inability to be really wrenched down tight on your foot — the outwardly bent rubber anchors for the Z strap prevent it from getting too tight (great for your comfort though!). Both pairs of Bedrock sandals we tested have the same adjustment system, allowing you to change the lengths of most components of their straps, with the exception of the one going between your toes. Their hook and loop systems are simple to use, though limited in their ability to be fine-tuned.
Both the Teva Original and Hurricane have wide velcro adjustments on nearly every portion of their strap systems. Though less flexible, the Birkenstock Mayari has two of its three straps with easy to use buckles to find, set, and forget your ideal strap tightness. The Reef Cushion Rem has many velcro straps for quick adjustments and an elastic heel strap that can't be adjusted but is rather comfortable. The Keen Whisper has just a single bungee cord to pull them tight — laced just like a pair of sneakers — and features lightly elastic straps all over. This is a good system if you have narrow feet that slip in through the small opening already, but isn't very accommodating of wider or taller feet.
In this final metric, we considered all the other factors that make up a sandal's versatility. Things like what activities it can handle and what environments it's best suited to. We evaluated their packability, considering weight, size, and overall shape. We also took into account their stylishness. While this is a subjective consideration, we asked as many women as we could to rate them and estimate the range of types of outfits they would feel confident pairing each pair with. We also looked at the amount of color and pattern options in which each model is available.
We are seriously impressed by the versatility of the Chaco Bodhi. Not only do they perform impressively well in every situation we could think of to throw at them, but they also have a more appealing style to our panel of testers. Our all-women team felt just as confident wearing them on a 15 mile hike as they did with a cute dress to the boardwalk. Their only downside in this metric is that they are currently available in just a handful of colors. The Chaco Z/Cloud 2 and Z/1 Classic are both also very accomplished in terms of situations they are capable of handling. Our testers think they both have a more "outdoorsy" vibe to them, limiting what types of outfits they might wear these with. However, both these long-running lines of Chaco sandals can be purchased in a dizzying array of colors and patterns that change every year, adding to their ability to be matched to your personal style. Both Bedrock Cairn sandals have a very similar look and style, with minimal straps that were generally considered to provide slightly more stylish looks. However, they also both have lots of hooks, clips, and seams on their straps, giving them a distinctly outdoor chic vibe.
Both the Xero Z-Trail and Teva Original have reasonably accommodating looks and the cross-sport versatility to earn high marks in this metric. The Z-Trail appearance was generally enjoyed more by our testing team, but the Teva Original can be purchased in a ton of different colors and patterns. The Birkenstock Mayari was a clear crowd favorite when it comes to style and outfit matching, but lost out a bit in their situational versatility performance. On the flip side, the Teva Hurricane offer better performance in a wider range of activities and situations, but their overly wide stance (much wider than any foot that can fit in them) didn't win them a lot of points in the style department.
Finding a perfect shoe is a difficult task. Finding the perfect women's sandal that can keep up with you all day without leaving your feet sore and blistered is even more challenging. We hope that our intensive testing and side-by-side comparisons have helped you to determine what pair of sandals is right for your lifestyle and wardrobe. No matter what you decide to try, make sure you have a window to return them if they aren't quite right for your feet. And happy (sandal) hunting!
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