Finding The Best Women's Walking Sandals
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Authored by Adam Sherman
Want to buy a brand-new pair of sandals but getting a bit overwhelmed with the choices available out there? Or perhaps you’ve had a bad experience with sandals previously and want to make sure you pick the right pair this time around?
If you are looking for the most complete most thorough guide on choosing the absolute best pair of sandals, look no further. Through this post, we wanted to put together the most comprehensive guide there is so that you know everything there is to know about choosing your perfect pair of walking sandals.
Because we want to make sure you’ve got as much information as possible based on the relevant occasions, we’ve also put together other sandal guides to assist you.
Last but not least, if you are looking for sandals to pack on your next vacation, be sure to check our review of this year’s Best Travel Sandals.
Our Complete Guide to the Best Walking Sandals
Sandals remain one of the most popular forms of footwear today. It’s easy to see why, modern walking sandals are stylish, comfortable, versatile and convenient. Sandals are available in hundreds of different designs, from your basic flip flops perfect for a day at the beach, to stunning fashion sandals ideal for wearing to a four-star restaurant or nightclub.
In this guide, we are going to delve into the world of women’s walking sandals. We’ll start by explaining why women’s walking sandals are so popular before sharing several essential tips to help you choose the right pair. This section will share information on the different types of walking sandals, materials, sandal components and much more.
After reading An Advanced Guide To Choosing the Perfect Pair of Women’s Walking Sandals, you will have all of the information you need to find the perfect pair of sandals that are well-made, comfortable, functional, and great value-for-money.
Why Are Walking Sandals So Popular?
Nothing screams summer more than a perfect pair of sandals. Right? But beyond the nostalgia, why do people often choose to wear walking sandals instead of shoes? Here are a just a few common reasons why women just love to find their perfect pair of sandals:
A well-fitted pair of high-quality walking sandals are extremely comfortable to wear. They have soft foot beds that feel fantastic on your bare feet and thick midsoles that cushion your feet as you walk. Most walking sandals also have thick outsoles that give you plenty of protection from sharp rocks.
The fact that the foot isn’t fully enclosed means that there are less surfaces for your feet to rub on as you walk, reducing the risk of blisters or abrasions when walking for a long time. Your foot will also remain cooler in warm weather, increasing your comfort levels.
Walking sandals are also great for walking through water as the water will drain quickly from the sandal, allowing your feet to dry within a few minutes. This makes sandals a far more comfortable choice compared to shoes and socks, which can quickly become waterlogged.
Many different types of sandals are available
There are many types of walking sandals available for women including:
Casual Walking Sandals
Casual walking shoes tend to be lightweight, versatile, and built for many different environments. You can wear these types of walking sandals to the beach, shopping center, restaurants and virtually any other location. Casual walking sandals can be made from a wide range of materials, including synthetic textiles and leather.
A hiking sandal is an extremely durable version of a walking sandal designed for hiking over rough terrain or other outdoor activities. These athletic sandals usually feature a thicker midsole, thicker upper with additional straps, additional stitching for durability and a thick outsole with plenty of traction. Hiking sandals are ideal for trail hiking, rock scrambling, camping and other outdoor activities.
Water sandals are a type of walking sandal designed to be worn in wet conditions. They typically feature a very grippy outer sole which is made for walking on the slippery surfaces that you might find on a beach, river or lake. Water sandals are made from materials that are water-resistant so the sandal will never be waterlogged. They are the perfect option to wear while boating, swimming, fishing or simply hanging out near the water.
Fashion walking sandals
Fashion walking sandals tend to focus both on the aesthetics of the shoe as much as its performance. They are ideal for women who want a versatile and functional sandal that looks fantastic. One of the most common questions about fashionable sandals is whether they should have heels or not. Low and broad heels or wedges are fine as long as you make sure the shoe provides good arch support and has a durable and comfortable sole and fits your foot. Some shoes even have a reinforced heel to provide extra support to your ankle and keep your foot in a neutral position.
The best walking sandals are available in a variety of styles
The popularity of walking sandals means there are hundreds of manufacturers involved in their production. They have released a staggering number of different walking sandal designs, from luxurious fashion sandals made for urban environments through to rugged walking sandals for trekking long distances. Each sandal has a different look to it, so you can easily find a product that matches your personal style.
Excellent air circulation
Walking sandals are the perfect footwear choice if you live in a warm climate as they provide plenty of air circulation. This will keep your feet cool and dry and prevent your shoes from becoming slippery, smelly and uncomfortable. Having plenty of air circulation can also be useful if you suffer from a foot condition that is made worse by wearing shoes. Indeed, when air circulation isn’t optimal, moisture can accumulate creating blisters or fungus.
Great walking sandals provide a snug fit
Many people prefer sandals over shoes because they can be adjusted with straps to provide a very snug almost hug-like fit. This is particularly useful for people who don’t find shoes comfortable because they rub on certain parts of their feet as sandals often feature straps which can be adjusted to your liking
Another reason for the long-lasting popularity of sandals is how convenient they are to wear. If you’re active and love to get involved in all sorts of fun activities, you’ll certainly enjoy how easy it is to take them off or put them on. Indeed, you can slip on a pair of walking sandals in a couple of seconds to walk down to the local shops or take a stroll on the beach. Then take them off equally as quickly to go for a swim or enjoy a delicious picnic.
Most walking sandals use a couple of straps to secure the foot to the sandal, one around the forefoot and one around the ankle. Once you have adjusted the forefoot section, it rarely needs to be adjusted again, you only need to secure the heel strap to get your foot in or out of the sandal. This is much simpler than trying to do up your laces and there is no risk of tripping on your laces while walking.
Low weight Sandals
Because walking sandals don’t have a fully enclosed upper, they are very lightweight compared to shoes. This makes them comfortable on long journeys as you will have less weight on your feet. Sandals can also be a great option if you’re travelling to a warm or tropical place as you’ll need to limit the weight in your luggage.
Last but not least, an ultimate reason for the long-lasting popularity of sandals is their versatility. Indeed, you can wear sandals to many different locations including restaurants, national parks, shopping centers and the movies. Depending on the sandals you choose, they can also allow you to indulge in fun activities such as kayaking, hiking or canyoning. The versatility of sandals helps you get a lot of use, making sandals great value-for-money.
Components of walking sandals
Although the concept of a sandal is simple, the design can contain several components. Learning what these components are will help you choose the right sandal for the activities you enjoy. The most important sandal components include:
The Sandal Upper
The upper is the top section of the sandal. Most walking sandals have sparse uppers that consist of straps made from leather or textiles. These straps secure the front of the foot and the ankle to the sandal. Walking sandals usually have rear straps that completely surround the heel, which is called the heel collar or heel cuff.
Sandals designed for hiking or running will have more material on their uppers to provide additional protection. This often includes a thicker heel collar, straps that cover the sides of the feet, and toe protection. These rugged sandals are a great choice for people who hike in the wilderness as they offer protection from rocks, sticks and other objects that may injure your foot.
Some uppers on hiking sandals offer so much protection that the sandal starts to resemble a shoe. Take this pair of Keen women’s outdoor sandals for instance, these sandals offer almost as much protection as a shoe but the foot is still well-ventilated and the sandal is lighter than a hiking boot.
Considerations to keep in mind when looking at a sandals upper include:
- Material durability
- How well the upper is attached the insole/midsole
- If the material is easy to clean
- How the sandal upper will feel against your skin
- How much protection the upper provides
- How easy it is to open the upper’s enclosure so you can get your foot in
- How well the upper contains your foot (will the sandal stay attached to your foot)
The Insole (the “footbed”)
The insole, or footbed, is the part of the sandal that touches the bottom of your feet. Most walking shoes will have a curved insole which is designed to be contoured to the bottom of your foot. This will usually include a raised section for arch support and impressions for the forefoot and heel. Many walking sandals will have a raised edge on the insole, for added protection. Sandals like the Samara Sandal, are specifically designed for those who are looking for sandals with arch support.
Walking sandal insoles are typically made from synthetic materials, EVA foam, rubber, cork or leather. Some insoles will have additional internal padding, which helps to improve the shock-absorption capacity of the sandal.
The texture of the insole can also vary. Leather and cork insoles are generally smooth, while many synthetic materials have a textured pattern to give your foot more grip against the sandal. Having a textured pattern on the insole can sometimes be useful if you are walking in wet conditions.
Considerations to keep in mind when looking at a sandal’s insole include:
- Whether the insole is soft or hard
- Whether the insole is textured
- How well the insole is attached to the midsole and upper
- How much arch support the insole provides
The Sandal Midsole
The midsole sits between the insole and the outsole (the bottom of the sandal). It is designed to provide the sandal with cushioning, strength and support. The midsole will also help to protect your feet when you stand on sharp objects.
Midsoles in walking sandals can be made from many different materials including synthetic plastics, rubber and leather. Hiking sandals often use synthetic materials like ethyl vinyl acetate (EVA) or Phylon because they are very lightweight. EVA is the lighter and more flexible of the two, with Phylon being denser and more rigid.
Some sandals will show off the midsole by having have three distinctive layers of insole, midsole, and outer sole. However, others will have an internal midsole that is wrapped in an extensive outer sole.
Considerations to keep in mind when looking at a sandal’s insole midsole:
- How much shock-absorption the material provides
- How well the midsole is attached to the insole (if there is one) and outsole
- The flexibility of the midsole
Finally, the point where the rubber meets the road so to speak, the outsole (or sole). The main requirement for a walking sandal outsole is that it is made from a durable material that provides plenty of traction. Ideally, it should also be wear-resistant, water-resistant, elastic, easy to fit, impact-resistant, heat-resistant and feature a traction pattern that is effective in the required environment.
The outsole on walking sandals will also have a pattern for additional traction. This can range from a low-profile design for general use to chunky tread patterns perfect for scrambling over rocks. In addition to determining how much traction you have, the outsole’s tread pattern will determine how it feels to walk in the sandal.
It’s common for hiking sandals to have an outsole that covers the front of the foot, acting like a toe cap.
Considerations to keep in mind when looking at a sandal’s outsole:
- How much shock-absorption the material provides
- How well the sole is attached to the midsole
- How flexible the material is
- What tread pattern the outsole has
Walking sandals that are designed for will sometimes have heel and toe bumpers. These bumpers will protect your feet if you accidentally kick or stumble on a rock or tree root. Most heel and toe bumpers are made from rubber, leather or a synthetic plastic of some kind. It’s usually a good idea to opt for walking sandals with bumpers if you hike long distances.
Heel and toe bumpers
Choosing the best pair of women’s walking sandals for your needs
Now that you know why these sandals are so popular and what the typical components of a walking sandal are here are some tips for buying the right women’s walking sandal.
Walking sandal activities
There are dozens of different sandal designs available. They range from rugged sandals designed for hiking in the wilderness to stylish designer walking sandals that are perfectly suited for a night on the town. When deciding which type of sandal to purchase, your primary consideration should be the kinds of activities that you will be performing while wearing them.
While there are some walking sandals designed for “all round” use, most sandals will be quite specialized in their intended use. If you choose the wrong kind of walking sandals for the activities you like to perform, you may find them uncomfortable, unsafe, or looking like they are out-of-place.
Do you want the best sandals for hiking?
If you intend to explore the wilderness in your new walking sandals, your best option is to purchase a pair of specialized hiking sandals. Hiking sandals have a few extra features that make them ideal for handling rugged terrain including:
- Thick midsoles for additional protection from rocks and other sharp objects
- A robust upper with thick straps to keep your feet in place
- Heel and toe bumpers or a closed toe design for additional protection
- A thick outsole with plenty of traction
- Lightweight and packable
- Good arch support
Do you want to wear sandals in the water?
If you intend to wear your walking sandals while enjoying water sports like boating, rowing, beach combing or fishing, your best option might be a pair of water sandals.
Water sandals are usually made from synthetic materials which are either water proof or water-resistant. This allows water to drain quickly from your sandals, preventing them from becoming waterlogged. Proper drainage helps your feet to dry quickly after being exposed to water, increasing your comfort levels. Having dry shoes and dry feet also helps prevent blisters and fungus from appearing.
Water sandals also have excellent traction, which is usually provided by rubber outsoles. This makes it safer to traverse wet rocks, move around on a boat that has water inside, or walking down a riverbank.
Do you want walking sandals for travel?
Many travelers opt for sandals because they are lightweight, comfortable and easy-to-store in a suitcase or backpack. With a wide range of options available on the market, they can cater to any activities from kayaking and water rides to hiking. If you are choosing a pair of sandals for traveling, they should have the following features:
- Low profile design so they can be stored easily
- Stylish enough to be worn to restaurants, hotels, auditoriums and other formal locations
- Plenty of arch support and a quality midsole for comfort
Do you need walking sandals for general use?
Do you want general use walking sandals that can be worn to the movies, a theme park, the beach and many other locations? You may need sandals that are:
- Stylish and compatible with your wardrobe
- Lightweight and comfortable to wear
- Easy to take off and put on
- Have good arch support
- Have a decent level of water resistance
The ideal walking sandal materials
The types of materials used to make a pair of walking sandals will play a huge role in determining their durability and comfort. A sandal’s materials will also determine how good they look and which environments they are best suited for. The most commonly used materials in walking sandals include:
Leather is used in shoemaking. It is a very durable, stretchable and flexible material that looks fantastic. It is also available in many colors and styles.
The character of leather changes over time, which can actually improve the look of your walking sandals. Some wonderful color changes can occur and leather often develops a beautiful patina as it draws in the natural oils from your skin and the environments where you walk.
Any component of a walking sandal can be made from leather, from the upper to the sole. However, it’s very rare for walking sandals to use leather soles nowadays, as rubber or synthetic materials are a better, more durable and cheaper option.
Leather sandals are best used in dry environments, as leather will absorb water and take a long time to release it. That means if you walk through water in leather sandals, they will be heavier until they dry. It also means that frequent contact with water can cause the leather to degrade faster. The good news is that silicone treatments are available which protect leather from water.
|Pros of Leather||Cons of Leather|
It’s common for walking sandals to have uppers that contain textiles, usually to stitch the upper to the midsole and insole of the sandal. In some cases, the entire upper can be made of textiles, including the heel cage and straps. Textile uppers are typically stitched onto a harder material like leather, rubber or a synthetic plastic.
Both natural and synthetic textiles are used to make sandals. The most commonly used natural substances are cotton and wool, while synthetic textiles include polyester, nylon, rayon, lycra and polypropylene. Polyester is particularly common as it is highly durable, mildew-resistant and abrasion-resistant.
|Pros of Textiles||Cons of Textiles|
Many high-quality hiking sandals feature outsoles made of natural rubber. Two types of rubber are often used, called carbon rubber and blown rubber. Carbon rubber is a durable rubber compound that is quite hard, while blown rubber is an air-injected rubber that is softer and more flexible.
Some walking sandals will use carbon rubber for most of the outsole, with sections of blown rubber for the forefoot as it feels better to walk on. Rubber is usually the best choice for the outsole of a walking sandal because it offers an incredible amount of traction and stability.
There are various synthetic materials that emulate the look and feel of rubber. The main advantage of these synthetic rubbers is that they can have greater resistance to abrasion, wear and water. They are also much more affordable than natural rubber. Their main disadvantage is that they don’t offer the same level of traction.
|Pros of Rubber||Cons of Rubber|
In the past decade, synthetic materials have come to dominate the walking sandal market. While the main reason for their increased use is affordability, synthetic materials also have some advantages.
The primary advantage of buying sandals made from synthetic materials is that the sandals dry out much faster than natural fibers like leather and cotton. This makes synthetics sandals a great choice if you plan on walking in the water often. Having fast-drying sandals will help you be more comfortable while walking and reduce the risk of your feet chafing against the sandal.
High-quality synthetic materials tend to have excellent durability. Most are abrasion-resistant, water-resistant, and hold their color for a long time.
The most common synthetic materials used in walking shoe production include nylon, polyester, rayon, lycra and polypropylene, which are often used to form a sandal’s upper. Synthetic rubbers are often used on outsoles of walking sandals and to make certain parts of the upper.
Various synthetic foams and gels are used for both the midsole and insole. However, the most common synthetics are Ethylene-vinyl acetate (EVA) and Polyurethane. They both provide excellent cushioning that make walking sandals more comfortable to wear.
|Pros of Synthetic Materials||Cons of Synthetic Materials|
Walking sandal design
The design of your sandal is the other major factor determining how long it will last. Some designs have more durability than others. In most cases, walking sandal manufacturers will use a combination of stitching and glue to hold the layers of the sandal together. However, some cheaper walking sandals will only use glue.
You won’t be able to judge the quality of the glue used, but you can look at any stitching that is on the sandal. Look for double or triple stitching, which is a sign of quality construction.
Some manufacturers will have moulded sandals where multiple sections of the sandal are encased in rubber or a synthetic material. This can reduce the risk of sections of the sandal splitting apart. The toe cap covers the midsole and outsole, reducing the risk of the sandal splitting, which is a common way that sandals fail.
Choosing walking sandals that are going to be comfortable is absolutely critical. Some of the factors that will determine how comfortable a pair of sandals is include:
The Best Walking Sandals for Comfort and Support
Sandals with Arch support
The foot’s arch is the curved section on the inside of each foot which allows our foot to support our body weight in an upright position. The height of your feet’s arches can vary, and it can even change in shape as you age. in shoes is used to spread the pressure of walking across more sections of the foot and to make the sandal more comfortable for the wearer. Sandals with arch support are also less likely to cause your feet to fatigue.
Foot orthoses, often called orthotics are special shoe inserts that provide additional support for a person’s foot. Some sandal manufacturers will make sandals that provide orthotics support. These types of orthotic sandals tend to have a fairly flat foot bed ready to accommodate orthotic inserts. Viakix has a revolutionary arch stabilizer designed in their midsole to provide the necessary support for those who need extra arch support. Women with high arches also find these walking sandals to be quite comfortable.
Midsole and insole cushioning
Walking sandals with spongy material of some kind in the midsole and insole tend to be more comfortable as they absorb shocks as you walk. Shock absorption is particularly important as every time our feet hit the ground, a shock that amounts to five times our weight travels up to our spine. Midsole and insole cushioning are therefore a critical feature to help protect our backs. Many walking sandal manufacturers use synthetic materials like EVA or Phylon to achieve this.
Forefoot flexibility and mid foot support
As humans, when we walk, we step onto the heel and then roll onto the ball of the foot. The toes and forefoot curve while the mid foot remains stiff. The most comfortable footwear to accommodate this walking style is flexible in the forefoot and stiff in the mid foot to heel , to provide stability. Sandal manufacturers will sometimes mention manufacturing techniques they use to accommodate natural foot movement. Keep an eye out for that as it could make a world of difference for your feet and posture.
Nobody likes smelly feet or shoes. Although sandals have a very open design, your foot is still partially covered by an upper that usually consists of several straps. The width of these straps and the material they are made from will determine the breathability of the sandal. Natural fibers like cotton tend to be more breathable compared to synthetic textiles. This can be a big factor if you are walking in a humid environment.
The types of strap design used on the sandal will also affect how comfortable it is. The strap design needs to be adjustable enough to accommodate the unique dimensions of your feet. The straps should be placed in a way that avoids any unnecessary rubbing on your toes or feet which could leads to abrasions or blisters. The materials that the straps are made from will also play a role in determining comfort.
Consider the traction each sandal provides
Traction is another important consideration to keep in mind when choosing a pair of walking sandals as traction is the best way to avoid sliding. The material and tread pattern of the outer sole will determine how much traction a walking sandal provides. For maximum traction prefer a sandal with an interlocked tread pattern. Avoid shaped patterns such as triangles with flat edges.
Natural rubber remains the most “grippy” material, however, synthetic rubbers are quickly catching up. In terms of tread:
- If you walk outdoors often, opt for a sole with deeper tread depth and multi-directional pattern
- If you often walk in water or slippery environments, use a tread with a shallower tread depth for plenty of surface contact and fine channels to move water from the sole
- If you walk in muddy environments, choose sandals with deep channels and deep tread
- If you mostly walk in urban environments, virtually any tread design can be effective.
Walking sandal weight
One of the main advantages of walking sandals is that they are usually much lighter than shoes. This makes it easier to walk long distances in sandals. However, there is also a big difference in the weight of walking sandals, which can weigh anywhere from 750 grams for thin fashion sandals through to 1.25 kilograms for rugged hiking sandals. Most manufacturers will share the weight of the sandals on their product specifications page, so take a look before you choose which sandal to buy.
Walking sandal coatings
Some walking sandals have a coating applied to prevent bacteria building up and stop any nasty odors from developing. In most cases, they will use a zinc or silver-ion anti-microbial treatment. If you are concerned about bacterial buildup, look for sandals that specifically mention this kind of treatment.
It’s also common for walking sandals to have a water-resistant coating applied at the manufacturing stage. Durable water repellent, or DWR, is the most commonly used coating. It makes the sandals surface hydro-phobic, causing water droplets to instantly run off the surface of the sandal. This kind of sandal coating is particularly useful for leather sandals, as it makes them less likely to discolor by reducing how much water can enter the sandal. DWR coatings do eventually wear out and need to be reapplied.
Walking sandal fit
Ultimately, the size and shape of your feet will determine what kind of sandal feels right. It’s up to you to learn if your feet are different to the average foot. Ask yourself the following questions: Do you have lumps or bumps on your feet? Are your arches high or low? Are your feet long and skinny or short and wide?
Consider your answers as you compare different walking sandals. If you do have flat feet, look for sandals with a relatively flat footbed. If you have a big bump next to your big toe, look for sandals with a strap design that won’t rub on it. If your feet are unusually wide or narrow, look for sandals with the right dimensions and a strap system that gives you plenty of adjustability.
Knowing your own feet will help you get a pair of sandals that fits well and will give you many years of excellent performance.
Walking sandal versatility
We mentioned earlier that sandals are one of the most versatile forms of footwear. But not all sandals are equally versatile. For example, you might look a bit silly if you wore a rugged-looking pair of hiking sandals to a fine dining establishment or nightclub.
A more fashionable pair of walking sandals would be more suited for that particular environment. Then again, a lightweight fashionable pair of sandals won’t serve you well if you are hiking through the Kakadu. The best solution is to realistically consider the activities that you often perform and choose a sandal design that can handle them
Water- resistant sandals
If you are going to be spending some time near the water or you expect to be hiking in wet conditions, choose a pair of sandals that are water-resistant. This will help you remain comfortable as the sandals will dry quickly and won’t become waterlogged. If you want to wear your sandals while in the water, choose water sandals.
Walking sandals value for money
The final consideration to keep in mind when buying walking sandals is their cost. The price of high-quality walking sandals can range vastly in price. At the cheaper end, you will find plenty of general use walking sandals to choose from. The more expensive walking sandals are usually designer fashion sandals or ultra-rugged hiking sandals.
The more expensive sandals will use higher-quality materials and utilise better construction techniques. They will tend to last much longer than cheaper sandals. However, you will need to look at your budget and find a pair of sandals that fits within it.
The Best Walking Sandals to Enjoy Every Activity
We wanted to thank you for reading our How To Choose Women’s Walking Sandals guide. We really hope that it helped you learn more about women’s sandals and provided some valuable insights on how to choose a high-quality sandal that meet all of your requirements.
If you want to take a peek some of best women’s sandals currently available, check out our guide The Top 20 Women’s Hiking Sandals (coming soon).