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On the hunt for the best women's sandals? We've purchased and tested dozens of pairs since 2016, with 16 top contenders in our current lineup. 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 a great sandal for all situations and preferences. We rate each model on its comfort, traction, and stability, adjusting and readjusting them repeatedly to assess every nuance. 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
Excellent 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 its performance, fit, and style. The standard Chaco adjustment system (where a continuous strap runs through the footbed) is simplified on the Bodhi, making it much simpler and easier to find your perfect fit. Additionally, by eliminating straps on the outside edges of the foot, the Bodhi better accommodates feet of any width. Though this design is minimal, retaining the classic Chaco toe loop ensures impeccable security and stability. Combined with a thinner, lighter sole than ever before, this comfortable sandal soared to the top of our test group.
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 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 liked wearing more than these.
Weight per pair: 18.2 oz (size 7) | Sole: ChacoGrip rubber
REASONS TO BUY
Incredible traction even on technical terrain
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 Chaco Z/Cloud 2, is our top recommendation. The Cloud sole offers unparalleled traction on any surface, from the outer sole to the internal footbed. 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 doesn't perform like a champ. Though the toe loop takes some getting used to, the extra stability and security are immediately apparent once the fit is properly dialed in. We've swum rapids and hiked over late-season spring snow in these impressive adventure-ready sandals.
Our only complaints about the Chaco Z/Cloud 2 are necessary evils of its vast benefits. While boasting some of the best traction and stability around, the sole is 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 the Z/Cloud 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 than most. However, if you have the determination and patience to find the sweet spot for the strap system, the Z/Cloud 2 is our ideal adventure companion.
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 adventures. Easy-to-adjust velcro straps are placed perfectly to keep everything stable on your feet, even on hikes and when crossing small streams. The Universal can also be purchased in a plethora of colors and patterns to suit your personal style.
The Original Universal isn't without its downfalls, though. They are certainly above average in their performance, but in extreme conditions, they can fall short. When very wet, the footbed is slippery, and the mild pattern on the bottoms of the soles can't offer the same serious traction as beefier options. The edges of the velcroed straps can also be scratchy, and the sandal runs on the narrow side with zero arch support. Still, if you're a modest adventurer and are looking for an affordable sandal that can keep up on moderate excursions, this is a great choice.
Weight per pair: 17.1 oz (size 9) | Sole: Vibram Megagrip
REASONS TO BUY
Good for wider feet
Excellent traction and stability
REASONS TO AVOID
Limited color options
The Bedrock Cairn 3D PRO II Adventure is a unique sandal that falls somewhere between minimalist and super rugged, offering benefits of both. With nearly flat soles, the 3D PRO II has just enough added bumps, ridges, and crests in all the right spots to keep the 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 the lack of straps on the outer foot allows the Cairn 3D PRO II to accommodate wider feet than many other options, we still struggled with sizing these unisex shoes. Our lead tester typically wears a 7.5 in women's shoes and ultimately found that she needed a size 9. The strap between the toes is far enough forward that even average-length toes can hang off the end of the footbed. 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. 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
Great for wide feet
Very lightweight and packable
REASONS TO AVOID
Barefoot walking takes practice
Thin sole lets debris in easily
The barefoot bandwagon continues to amass enthusiastic supporters, and the Xero Z-Trail EV is an exciting model for those craving as close to a barefoot experience as possible while still wearing shoes. The Z-Trail has impressively thin, exceptionally flexible soles with robust patterns that provide serious traction even across slippery surfaces like granite rocks and steep gravel trails. The Z strap pattern ensures these Xero sandals stay securely attached to your feet. The cleverly designed outward-leaning strap anchors are angled away from the foot, removing any pressure that could lead to rubbing or blisters. This sandal is also seriously lightweight and flexible, making it a highly packable option.
Unless you're already used to extended barefoot walking and regularly wear wide toe box shoes with zero drop heels, going straight for the Z-Trail EV will likely leave your feet tired and sore. Like any body part, building up the muscles in your feet for this kind of footwear takes time and persistence. If you're already an avid barefoot adventurer, the only real downside to the Z-Trail is that they come in very few colors. But for anyone hoping to walk around barefoot all day but who needs shoes to enter buildings or cross intense surfaces, there's no pair of sandals we like more than these.
We've been scouring the market since 2016, updating this review with the most promising women's sandals on the market. 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. Across towns, cities, and whole countries, we've learned 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 overall score weighting)
Traction (25% weighting)
Stability (20% weighting)
Adjustability (15% weighting)
Versatility (15% weighting)
This review is brought to you by sandal enthusiast and Senior Review Editor,Maggie Nichols. Maggie is always looking for a way not to wear socks and has worn hundreds of pairs of sandals through countless adventures. She started professionally guiding river and backpacking trips in a sturdy pair of adventure sandals in 2007 and never looked back. From trekking through her Sierra Nevada neighborhood and wandering desolate desert paths to exploring jungles and touring foreign cities, Maggie never leaves home without a trusty pair of sandals. She spent months journeying in the models in this review 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, support needs, and 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.
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, stylish, functional across many activities, and — we hope — not overly expensive. While this is a lot to ask, it's not impossible to find. When it comes to high-functioning adventure, the Teva Original Universal has a lot to offer for a lower price tag, and it comes in many colors and patterns to match just about any summer outfit. If you're the type who likes to wear sandals 100% of the time, investing in the Chaco Bodhi can take you from backpacking trips to winery tours and everywhere in between. And for those that love the minimalist barefoot feel, the Zero Z-Trail EV is well-made and decently priced.
Probably all of us have, at least once, talked ourselves into wearing an uncomfortable pair of shoes just to match an outfit. But this isn't ideal, so we put everything in our lineup through intense scrutiny and testing to assess comfort. 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 support, potential hot spots, and comfort across many foot shapes.
The Chaco Bodhi outperformed the rest across our comfort tests. The open design 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 in between the toes would rub, but it didn't, even after 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, with just the right amount of arch support to keep you going on even the longest hikes. Not far behind is the Chaco Z/Cloud 2 and Bedrock Cairn 3D PRO II, which offer different types of comfort. The Z/Cloud 2 is similar to the Bodhi in terms of strap feel and footbed shape, though heavier overall. 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 also proved extremely comfortable. With a unique strap attachment system, we could wear these much looser than other options without compromising security and stability. The Chaco Z/1 Classic has a similar sole to the Z/Cloud 2, though the lack of toe loop leaves a little more space for floppiness. The Birkenstock Arizona is also impressively comfortable, with the classic Birkenstock sole that conforms to your foot over time. The thicker leather 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 Universal 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 is extremely comfortable to stand in, with very soft, flat soles and sweatband-like elastic straps. However, these supple straps had difficulty keeping our feet on the overly narrow yoga mat soles when on the move.
Walking without slipping or falling on challenging surfaces is an important attribute of any pair of shoes. Our traction testing was two-fold: we considered both the bottom of the sole on various types of substrates and the traction of bare feet against the internal footbed when dry and wet. We walked up steep hills, across slick rocks, and over shiny flooring. We wore them until our feet got sweaty and slippery and even wore them to wade into the water.
Here again, the Chaco Bodhi and Chaco Z/Cloud 2 take the lead. Both have exceptionally grippy soles, but what really stands out is their additional top-side traction — a combination of texturing, sloped edges around the heel, and a toe loop helps cement your foot in place. 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 has a similar sole, but traction suffers just slightly without the added toe loop.
The Bedrock Cairn 3D PRO II also has very good traction, particularly on the bottom of the sole. Though the 3D footbed has noticeably better traction than their flat counterparts (found in the regular Cairn Adventure sandals we tested), the more minimalist strap design had mixed success in securing our feet adequately within the sandal, particularly in the water. The Xero Z-Trail also has impressively good traction. Large lugs on the bottom of the sole help on tricky terrain, and the sole's flexibility allows you to use the muscles in your feet to help adapt to whatever you're walking across, adding more mobility than a rigid sole. On the flip side, the Teva Hurricane XLT2 has a rather rigid sole, but the underside offers excellent traction on most dry surfaces.
The Teva Tirra has fairly good traction during normal strides, though the edges of the sole are smooth, offering minimal grip in trickier situations. Both the Teva Original and Bedrock Cairn Adventure have above average traction abilities due to the exaggerated patterns on the soles. However, they both have flat, featureless footbeds that won't keep your foot from sliding around, 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 slide around inside these not-very-breathable shoes. The Reef Cushion Rem provides decent traction for most dry surfaces, though it lacks the intense patterning that would put it on par with more intense adventure sandals.
The stability and security of a shoe go a long way toward determining what situations you'll be happy wearing it in. We evaluated the stability, flexibility, and protection of each sandal. 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 the overall balance and heaviness and considered how that changed the experience of wearing them.
When it comes to keeping your feet stable in a pair of sandals, no others come close to the staying power of Chacos. While the classic Z-strap configuration of the Z/1 Classic is impressively stable, the addition of toe loops on the Bodhi and Z/Cloud 2 takes it up a notch. When searching for a pair of sandals to wear on an intense river rafting trip or backpacking adventure, we trust these two pairs to keep us safe and supported along the way. The Cairn 3D PRO II sole and strap offer a decent level of stability as well, but there's more wiggle room than with a Chaco. The Xero Z-Trail is pretty stable on dry surfaces, but the looser fit isn't ideal for wading through moving water.
The Teva Original has a rather secure strap design, but the flat footbeds allow slippage when wet. Similarly, the Cairn Adventure can be tightened for additional stability, but they also have a flat footbed that doesn't mix well with moisture. The Keen Whisper has a closed toe and provides a lot of coverage. While all this added security makes them about as stable as a sturdy pair of sneakers, it also traps foot sweat, which doesn't promote stability. The Teva Tirra has additional straps in key places but also has a stiff sole that tends to dump the toes off the end when you bend your foot too far.
Many of the sandals we tested are adjustable. We tested this by looking at how easily they conform to different foot shapes and different styles of wearing. We evaluated how easy each pair is 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 fine-tune your adjustments to perfectly fit your feet. Both pairs with toe loops — the Bodhi and the Z/Cloud 2 — require some additional work and patience 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. While Chacos are more complicated to get perfect, they also offer the most adjustability of any we tested.
The Xero Z-Trail EV features an easily adjusted Z strap that can be quickly pulled or loosened. The heel strap is fully velcro, further adding to adjustability. You cannot, however, overtighten these sandals — the outwardly bent rubber anchors for the Z strap prevent it from getting too tight, which is great for comfort. Both pairs of Bedrock sandals we tested have the same adjustment system, allowing you to change the lengths of most components of the straps, except for the one going between the toes. The hook and loop systems are simple to use, though limited in their ability to be fine-tuned.
Both the Teva Original and Teva Hurricane have wide velcro adjustments on nearly every portion of the strap systems. The Reef Cushion Rem has many velcro straps for quick adjustments and an elastic heel strap that isn't adjustable but is quite comfy. The Keen Whisper has just a single bungee cord to pull it 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, but isn't very accommodating of wider or hihger-volume feet.
In this final metric, we considered all the other factors that make up a good sandal. Things like what activities it can handle and what environments it best suits. We evaluated packability, considering weight, size, and overall shape. We also took into account stylishness. While this is a subjective consideration, we asked folks to rate them and estimate the types of outfits they would feel confident pairing each with. We also looked at the amount of color and pattern options each model offers.
We are impressed by the versatility of the Chaco Bodhi. Not only does it perform impressively well in tons of scenarios, but it also has an appealing style. Our testing team felt just as confident wearing them on a 15-mile hike as they did with a cute dress to the boardwalk. The Chaco Z/Cloud 2 and Z/1 Classic are also versatile options. Our testers felt they both have a more "outdoorsy" vibe, but both can be purchased in a dizzying array of colors and patterns that change every year. Both Bedrock Cairn sandals have a very similar look and style, with minimal straps that were generally considered to provide slightly more style. However, they also have many hooks, clips, and seams on their straps, giving them a distinctly utilitarian vibe.
Both the Xero Z-Trail EV and Teva Original Universal 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 Original Universal can be purchased in a ton of different colors and patterns. The Teva Hurricane offers solid performance in a wide range of activities and situations, but the overly wide stance didn't win them many points in the style department.
Finding the perfect sandal to keep up with you all day without leaving your feet sore and blistered is challenging. We hope our intensive testing and side-by-side comparisons have helped you 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.
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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.