9 best women's walking sandals
Our outdoors expert has put summer-appropriate, supportive footwear through its paces
Summer’s here – time to swap clunky hiking boots for the freedom of sandals. Our pick of the best are all designed for active adventures, with footwear for water sports, walking and travelling light.
If you only buy one pair of summer sandals, it makes sense to choose a smart-looking pair, so you can wear them in the city or to work when you aren’t hitting the trails. Leather options look smart but are still sturdy, whereas webbing straps are great for water and hot hikes.
As with good hiking boots, a good walking sandal offers bouncy rubber soles with a good tread and non-slip grip. Check your sandals fit your feet perfectly, with space to wiggle your toes, and that your heels don’t hang over the backs. Once the straps are done up, you should feel like your feet don’t slip around at all and are well-supported, especially around the heel.
If you’re planning coastal hikes, rockpooling or messing around on the beach, quick-drying aquatic sandals are excellent for protecting your feet. If you’re walking or hiking, pick sandals with rugged soles and thick, reliable straps, or go for something with a closed rubber toe and ankle support – a good choice for hiking on uneven ground. We tested these outstanding pairs on coastal paths and hill walks.
1. Women’s Clearwater Leather CNX Sandals: £84.99, Keen
Keen’s Clearwater stand out as excellent all-rounder sandals. The soles are lightweight and bouncy and the leather straps are supportive without being restrictive and are easily adjustable to your feet with bungees. These perform well as walking shoes on long hikes, with closed toes to protect your feet from rocks. The aqua leather also looks and feels rather luxe. Worth the spend.
2. Terra Fi Lite Sandal: £60, Teva
Teva sandals are a cult favourite in the outdoors world. Designed after a bright spark worked out that they could attach a watch strap to a flip-flop and make a really effective sports sandal, its C shape is comfy, light and is married with tough soles that can take on rough terrain. The Fi Lite model offers more arch support and is great for walking, while the classic Teva Universal is a good versatile option at the cheaper price of £35.
3. Salt-Water Original Red Sandal: £59.50
If you hate the granny-ish styling of some walking sandals but need something a cut above a casual holiday shoe, Salt-Water’s beautiful creations are the answer. Based on a design that hasn’t changed since 1944, these smart leather kicks look gorgeous but are just as comfy as the more rugged sandals on our list – perfect for travelling. The insoles also mould nicely to your feet over time, achieving a custom fit. Care for them and they’ll last you for years.
4. Tri Ariana Sandal: £40, Clarks
Is it a slick city sandal or is it a walking shoe? Clarks has gone all fashion and swapped their old-school sandals for bright and bold leather numbers. These Ariana sandals combine lightweight rubber walking soles with smart leather cross-over straps and a pop of pattern. These are surprisingly breathable and the heel support is also excellent – the perfect choice for fans of the sport-luxe aesthetic.
5. Karrimor Aruba Webbing Sandal: £19.39: M&M Direct
A bit big and clunky to look at, yes, but for under £20 these straightforward sandals are a massive bargain. The thick webbing straps are very supportive and breathable and the soles are cushiony, with deep lugs and rubber studs for very impressive grip. There’s plenty of room for wider feet or if you suffer from bunions, too. Great for summer hill walks.
6. Kokomo Sandal: £39.99, Mountain Warehouse
A beautifully made sandal for a surprisingly decent price, Mountain Warehouse’s Kokomo is made with buttery-soft nubuck leather straps, a suede-y insole and tough, flexible soles. These are a great choice if you want just one pair of summer sandals to take anywhere from work to a walking holiday abroad. Our reviewer summed them up in three words: sturdy yet stylish.
7. Lands’ End Regular Water Sandals: £37
Designed specifically to wear in water, these light protective sandals are ideal for wild swimming, rockpooling, gorge walking and beach trips and will dry in a jiffy once back on land. They don’t just belong in the ocean, though – these are also good stand-alone walking sandals with the feel of a light trainer, and we especially liked the easily adjustable heel strap.
8. Columbia Women’s Sunlight Vent II Sandal: £25, Go Outdoors
Your best bet on a budget are these simple walking sandals. We’re fans of the quick-drying synthetic leather upper, the secure, comfortable straps and the soles, which have the strongest grip of any sandals we tested. Any downsides? Sweat and mud can discolour the sand-dune colour quickly and they are designed to fit narrower feet.
9. Eclipse Sandal: £40, Vivo Barefoot
These are the minimalist’s sandal of choice. Vivo Barefoot shoes are made with super-slim soles designed to connect your feet with the floor as if you are walking, you guessed it, barefoot. These sandals-cum-flip-flops are extremely light and comfy but still sit snugly on your feet due to well-placed straps. They also roll up into slim sausages – great for travelling in warm climates. They offer less coverage than our other contenders, though, so aren’t the best choice for serious walking.
Keen’s lovely leather Clearwater tick all our boxes: supportive, sturdy, stylish. They’re ideal for walking but smart enough for the city and quick-drying in water, they will go anywhere you do this summer. For a smarter option, Salt-Water and Clarks offer leather luxe sandals that can still take the trails. Water babies should choose the aquatic sandal from Lands’ End and travellers should pack Mountain Warehouse’s Kokomo or Vivo Barefoot’s Eclipse.
Sian Lewis is a travel and outdoors writer and editor of The Girl Outdoors blog
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