It doesn’t matter if you are athletic or not; the best sports sandals are incredibly comfortable. You can wear casual shoes with shorts and swimwear. They can also be used for outdoor hiking and activities where water is involved. Some people can also wear casual sports sandals to work in the warmer months of the year.
Some people choose to wear sports sandals instead of flip flops or shoes with closed toe boxes. Research shows that people who go barefoot or wear minimal footwear have stiffer longitudinal arches than people who wear modern footwear. Sports sandals are considered minimal footwear and can help feet maintain strength.
The best sports sandals provide safe cushioning on the bottom of the shoe. They also keep the foot in place using a set of straps and closures. But, the foot remains exposed to the elements through the spaces between the straps. Some have a partially closed-toe, but with the rest of the shoe open, toes can get wet or dirty.
Sports sandals are safe to use on solid ground, dirt trails, yards, and bodies of water. They often have grippy soles that make them helpful for hiking and kayaking, as wearers are less likely to slip on a slimy rock. They are far from the typical flip flop, which isn’t much more than a rubber pad for your feet.
It can be tough to pick a pair of sports sandals without trying them on, but these are some of the best on the market today. Wearers love these brands and styles because they provide support while still being comfortable. They are also stylish and durable. If you aren’t sure where to start with sports sandals, you can’t go wrong with either of these three styles.
Our Top Picks
- Best Overall: Chaco Z/2 Classic
- Best Value: Northside Women’s Burke II Athletic Sandal
- Best Premium Product: ECCO Sport Yucatan Sandals
For more information on sports sandals, keep reading.
How To Choose the Right Sports Sandals for Your Lifestyle
Before you spend money on sports sandals, you should know what would be best for your activity level and lifestyle. Some shoes are better for people who stay on dry land, while others are better for water activities.
If you are a clumsy walker, you might want to consider sports sandals with more foot coverage. Minimalist designs look great, but it is easy to stub your toe with an open-toe shoe that uses a few straps to hold your foot in place. Check out the models with closed-toe boxes if you are prone to kicking tables or having people accidentally step on your feet.
Sandals for Watersports
Some people prefer to only wear their sports sandals for watersports. While they can be comfortable and durable for everyday wear, they are ideal for activities that involve land and sea. Because they dry quickly, they are perfect for events where you aren’t comfortable going barefoot in the water.
When you choose sandals for watersports, make sure they have several necessary features. They should have grippy soles, water resistance, and secure straps. They should also fit well, as some brands do not run true to size. You want grippy soles, so you do not slip on rocks, mud, or docks.
You will want your sandals to have secure straps, especially if you are wearing them on moving water. If you are kayaking and you have to get out of your boat, you want your shoes to stay on, especially in fast-moving currents. Many have Velcro straps that will stay on in the harshest conditions.
Some people like to wear minimalist sandals for water activities. Minimalist designs dry faster than sports sandals with toe boxes and thick straps. However, they also can be less protective than more substantial sandals. Minimalist designs also are less likely to keep rocks and dirt in the shoe. There isn’t enough material to hold debris in them.
To ensure that your sports sandals are waterproof, be sure that they have a rubber sole and uppers made of mesh or webbing. Some shoes have leather straps that will not be waterproof. Some also have fabric footbeds that might need to be replaced before you wear them on a trek through a stream.
Before you go in the water, be sure your sandals are closed fully and securely, so they do not get swept off your feet.
You can wear Sport sandals in a variety of different situations. Some people like to wear them while swimming in lakes and rivers because they protect the bottoms of waterways. They have chunkier soles when compared to water socks or swimming shoes. You can walk into the lake and back out again without having to change your shoes.
Tubing and Floating
They are also ideal for wearing while floating down a river. Sport sandals are better suited to summer floating than water socks because they have adjustable straps and more protection on the soles. They keep feet cool, and debris slides in and out quickly, unlike water socks.
Walking in the City on a Rainy Day
If you are wandering around the city and rain is expected, sports sandals can’t be beaten – especially on a hot day. Rain boots are great on wet days, but if the weather is warm, your feet will get hot. The soles offer plenty of traction and comfort on cement and pavement, but the open design will keep your feet comfortable on hot days.
Sport sandals can get wet and keep your feet odor-free. This is not the case with rain boots, which can result in sweaty, smelly feet. Your sport sandals will dry quickly, too.
If you like to go fly fishing, then you must have a great pair of sport sandals with outstanding traction. If you don’t go too deep into the river, sports sandals will work as well as fly fishing wading boots. You don’t want them in fast-moving rivers, but they are ideal for calm water that isn’t too deep. Your feet will stay fresh, and the traction will keep you upright.
While stand-up paddling is geared toward being barefoot, some people prefer to wear sandals on their boards. If you are using your SUP board as a vehicle to get from point A to B, you will want shoes on land. Sport sandals are perfect because they have the grippy soles, and you can wear them when you get off the board.
If you don’t like to feel the muck and mush of a river bottom or lake bottom, then you will want to wear sports sandals when you go in the water. The water moves through the open structure of the shoe, but the muck and mush stays below the sole. Sports sandals are better suited to avoiding muck and mush, especially when compared to flip flops.
Sandals for Streetwear
If you are looking for sandals that provide more support than flip flops, sports sandals are the perfect alternative. They look sporty, and they offer more support for urban sidewalks and sandy beaches. The versatility of sports sandals is what makes them so accessible. You can wear them for a walk around the neighborhood or to a lunch date with friends.
Sports sandals are designed for more than pavement and shopping centers. But, some brands have sturdier soles than others, so they are better for urban activities. It can be helpful to have more cushioning if you are walking on unforgiving concrete. The sandals with thinner soles aren’t the best choices for regular city walking.
Sandals with Closed Toe Boxes
You might find occasions when wearing sports sandals with closed toes are right for you. If you are hiking in rough terrain, closed-toe boxes can give you extra protection. You might want your toes protected if you are prone to stubbing them. You also might like to have the protected if you wear your sandals while riding your bike, doing yard work, or clearing brush.
Some people also like to wear more substantial sandals in the water, especially if they aren’t sure what they’ll step on. Closed-toe sandals often have substantial straps, which keep the shoes in place in all types of terrain. Some of the closed-toed sandals are more like hiking shoes, but with added ventilation.
Closed-toe sandals do not dry as quickly as minimalist sandals. They also do not provide the same protection and support as hiking shoes. If you wear closed-toe sandals in the water, they will hold debris like sand and rocks, because they have sturdy straps. But, they are still easy to clean. Closed-toe sandals are the more versatile of all sports sandals.
Anatomy of a Sport Sandal
Sports sandals have limited parts. They tend to have a flexible, molded, and durable sole. There is usually a footbed that has an ergonomic design for arch support and toe placement. Then, they have straps that are attached to the bottom. Some have toe boxes that are made of protective rubber.
Usually, sports sandals will have straps that go over the top of the foot, just past the toes. Then, they have straps that wrap around the ankle and attach near the sides of the heels. Minimalist designs have ankle straps and front foot straps. Sandals with toe beds often have straps that cover most of the foot.
The most significant difference between minimalist designs and closed-toe sandals is how much of the foot is exposed to the elements. With minimalist designs, nearly all of the foot is exposed. With closed-toe shoes, the opposite is true. In both styles, straps stay closed with velcros rather than metal buckles or shoelaces.
Sports sandals come with plenty of traction on the lugs and soles. Many of the best sports sandals were designed to wear in the water, so they have traction designed for slippery rocks and moving water. They may not grip all of the sand and dry debris that you might encounter on a hike. For tough hikes, you will want to turn to traditional hiking boots.
But, for walking in water or terrain with loose debris, sports sandals will get the job done. To have the best traction on dry land, you should have dry shoes. The rubber soles can sometimes be slippery when wet. Check the soles for channels that wick away water for the ultimate in traction.
How They Close
Sports sandals first used hook-and-loop closures to stay on feet. They usually have fully adjustable straps for a customized fit. Many have straps that close around the ankle or over the front of the foot. Some also have adjustable, padded straps around the back of the foot and ankle.
Some only have adjustable straps over the ankles. Instead of hook-and-loop closures, they have plastic clips or buckles. Sandals with closed-toe beds often have a bungee lacing system that can be tightened and locked in place. Some of the minimalist sandals have a toe thong to keep the foot in place, too.
Can You Wear Them While Hiking?
If you plan to hike with your sandals, there are features you should consider. The best hiking sandals should be lightweight, comfortable, and durable.
They should be flexible enough to tackle terrains like rocks, gravel, and sand. It is also essential that they have traction for that terrain. They should also keep your feet fresh and ventilated so that you can stay on your feet all day.
Hikers appreciate sports sandals that they can take off with ease and throw in a pack. You might encounter a watering hole, so you might want to take off your boots and throw on your sandals. Or, you might want to take them off quickly so you can jump in the water.
Sports sandals can be worn on easy hikes, but they aren’t designed for rugged mountainous terrain. They are ideal for wearing around campsites and beaches because they have durable soles and plenty of ventilation. If your hike includes walking through streams or slow-moving rivers, sports sandals are better choices over traditional hiking boots.
Hiking boots are better suited to tough trails because they protect the foot and ankle. Sports sandals are designed to be worn in the water, so they do not have the same level of protection that hiking boots have. Sports sandals are easy to pack in hiking backpacks while hiking boots are not. If you do walk in sports sandals, you won’t want to carry a lot of gear.
Hiking boots are designed for heavy-duty walking, so they have the arch support that keeps feet comfortable. Some sports sandals also have outstanding arch support. Still, they usually do not have the same lateral support as hiking boots although some molded footbeds can provide some lateral support, only enough for moderate hikes on relatively easy terrain.
Hiking boots can wreak havoc on the feet, so it can be nice to have sports sandals with adjustable straps. If your feet swell after a hike, putting on comfortable, adjustable sports sandals can provide the relief you need after a tough hike. The sports sandals also allow your feet to cool off after a long day in a pair of hiking boots.
People often wear socks with their sports sandals for warmth and protection. Adding socks provides some extra shock-resistance against the EVA foam midsole.
If you do hike in your sports sandals, you might want to invest in a pair with toe protection. This will help you prevent hurting your toes if you run into rocks or roots. If you aren’t going for any big hikes, or you just need to walk from the car to your kayak, the minimal sports sandals will suffice.
Many of the best sports sandals for hiking have sturdy soles. They have more durability and support than flip flops. Before you take your favorite sport sandals on the trail, check out the tread and the channels in the tread. If you want to stay on your feet, you will want an excellent grippy sole that will help you stay on the rocks and gravel.
If the soles are too thin, you’ll notice every rock and root you step on. Many sport sandals have soles that are an inch thick, which should help you feel the ground below your feet, but not feel discomfort while walking.
If you are going to hike in your sports sandals, consider how much coverage they provide. Your feet might get sunburned while wearing minimalist designs because so much skin is exposed. You also might get more rocks and gravel in the footbeds of minimalist sandals. However, the debris and rocks slide out as quickly as they slide in on the minimalist styles.
Sports sandals can be worn almost anywhere. For women, some of the designs can go from a hike to a wedding to a kayak ride. For men, the same is true. Nearly all sports sandals can be worn with socks if you want to wear them on chilly nights. Many employers will allow their employees to wear sports sandals on warm days, too.
Read Also: Best Travel Sandals
The Best Sports Sandals Reviews
Now that you know all of the details about sports sandals, it’s time to compare the best-selling sports sandals.
The Teva Original Universal sandal is the iconic sport sandal that looks great on the street and stays on in the water. The straps are made of fabric and close with Velcro. The rubber sole has a heel that measures 0.75”. These are perfect shoes for watersports and boat decks. But, they are also ideal for anyone who needs comfortable walking shoes.
These were designed by river raft guides who needed shoes that stay put in the swift-moving water. They have a contoured EVA footbed with just the right amount of cushion. The straps close with triple hook-and-loop straps.
- Iconic look
- Minimal design
- Durable straps, Velcro, and footbed
- Lightweight and packable
- Run big, most wearers like them a size smaller.
- Toe area can get caught on steps if shoes are too big
The Crocs Swiftwater River Sandals are made of synthetic material that is ideal for walking in the water. The synthetic Crocs material called Croslite foam is perfect for river rafting, deck walking, and playing in the sprinklers. They have non-marking soles, too. The shoes are molded in one piece, so the straps do not have much stretch to them.
They have grippy soles, and the footbed has some traction to keep your feet in place. The straps are made of Croslite, and they close with hook-and-loop fasteners. They are lightweight and packable. The hook-and-loop straps do have some adjustability on top of the foot.
While these are designed for outdoor use, they are also excellent shoes for anyone who works in messy locations. They are easy to clean by running them under a faucet. They quickly air dry.
- Quick to dry
- Grippy soles and footbeds
- Non-marking black soles
- Run up to two sizes too big
- High arch shape
- Don’t fit wide feet well
The ECCO Men’s X-trinsic Sandal has textile straps on an innovative molded footbed. Made with ECCO’s Fluidform material, the footbed has a microfiber covering for comfort. They also have a unique toe grip for easy walking. These sandals are expertly cushioned, and they provide some of the best stability in the industry.
The sports sandals have a stretchable lining for added comfort. The three straps are adjustable so you can customize the fit. And, the rubber sole grips all types of terrains to keep you safe on dry land and in the water. The sandals are durable, too.
What sets the ECCO X-trinsic apart from other sandals are the textiles on the straps. The black straps are accented with sporty fabric that gives them outdoor styling. ECCO designs shoes to fit, from the toes to the heels. Once you put these on, you will notice the difference.
The X-trinsics use the ECCO Freedom Fit to keep your feet feeling good, so you can walk all day without fatigue. They help keep the blood flowing, too keep your toes wiggling and feeling great. They are engineered to support natural walking motions.
- Adjustability for a perfect fit
- Lining added comfort to the footbed
- Grippy sole keeps you safe on wet surfaces
- Attractive straps
- Some people do not like the grippy toe bed
- Some people do not like the ribbon textile on the straps
Along with the Teva Original, the Chaco is another iconic sports sandal. Chaco has been making them since 1989 and uses only eight parts. These are truly timeless. They have adjustable straps that can be customized for a perfect fit. The straps close with hook-and-loop fastener.
The Chacos are made with their LUVSEAT PU footbed that is certified by a podiatrist. They have a toe-loop for forefront control. The outsoles have Chaco’s iconic rubber grip to keep you from slipping on wet surfaces.
These have an attractive minimalist design, but the adjustable straps keep your feet in place. They also provide some support. These are comfortable for walking around town, playing in the water, and hiking in the dirt. They do have a slight heel, with a 3.5mm deep lug. The black outsole does not mark.
They are lightweight and packable, making them ideal for traveling.
- Comfortable, iconic design
- Minimalist strap design
- Adjustable straps
- Last for years
- Some people don’t like the minimalistic design
- Toe loop can be uncomfortable for some wearers
- Run small
The Keen Newport H2 provides toe coverage and extra straps for move support and protection. They have washable polyester webbing that closes with a lacing capture system.
These are proudly made in the USA with some imported parts. They have Keen’s Lug Sole sole that does not mark. They have an anatomical footbed made of EVA. The lug pattern on the sole adds traction in several terrains. They have a breathable mesh lining and removable footbed. They also have Keen’s odor control system, called Cleansport NXT.
Keen’s closed-toe design adds extra protection when you are stepping in uncertain spots. The midsole is molded with compressed EVA. The leather upper is water-resistant.
These comfortable shoes look great with casual clothes for a night on the town, but they also are incredibly durable. Wear them on a hike or while kayaking. They are easy to clean and quick to dry. They can even be put in the washing machine and run through the gentle cycle.
- Roomy toe box
- Adjustable straps
- Odor protection
- Removable footbed
- Run ½ size small
- Stitching can come loose on some models
ECCO makes attractive shoes that are comfortable, too. These sandals have a rubber sole, with leather and textile straps. They are built for performance with grippy soles that manage terrain of all types. They use ECCO’s Receptor technology that keeps the feet stable, while providing support at all stages of the gait, from impact to toe-off.
The Yucatan has a dual-density footbed and waterproof neoprene lining. The straps adjust at several spots so you can get a customized fit. The Yucatan sandals have an open toe-bed, but they are not minimalistic in design. They are substantial in design, but not overwhelming. They also have the most arch support of any ECCO sport sandal.
These sandals are designed all types of terrain, from the cement of sidewalks to sandy, mucky waterways. You will notice the Fluidform design on the footbed with every step. They perform without losing comfort. Even the sole is engineered for performance with channels to direct water and sand so the soles can stay grippy.
- Substantial arch support
- Customizable, adjustable straps
- Grippy soles for all types of terrain
- Stability all around the foot
- Front strap might be too close to the toes for some wearers
- Hard sole
- They run large
Teva knows how to design outdoor sport shoes that look great and feel great, too. The Forebay is a closed-toe design with leather and mesh straps that close with a bungee lacing system. The ankle strap closes with hook-and-loop fastener. The shoes have a textile lining with anti-microbial protection. The Microban lining offers cushioning, too.
The midsole is made of compressed EVA. The soles measure about one inch in height. The footbed will adjust slightly to the bottom of the foot. They are comfortable with or without socks. They are water-resistant and can be worn on nearly any terrain. They have a non-slip sole to provide a good grip on slippery surfaces.
- They last for years
- Require little-to-no break-in period
- Durable on all terrain
- Closed-toe offers extra protection
- Great looking
- Only available in whole sizes
- Run large
- Some people experience heel rubbing on the back ankle piece
These gorgeous minimalistic sport sandals are made in the USA. They have a molded rubber sole with a nubuck footbed and a breathable lining. The straps are made of solid mesh and a printed textile. The upper is also made of water-resistant mesh.
Merrell makes these incredibly comfortable with the air cushion design in the heel. They absorb shock and provide stability from the bottom up. They footbed is removable and easy to clean. With their minimalistic design they are easy to clean, lightweight, and packable.
You can wear these with a pretty summer dress, or put them on and take a hike. They can also be worn in the water. The straps close with a durable clip and with hook-and-loop fasteners. They can be customized to fit, and the versatile design fits all styles.
- Pretty, minimalistic design
- Removable footbed
- Good arch support
- Lots of exterior Velcro can pick up greenery while hiking
- Heel strap Velcro doesn’t always stay closed
- Ankle support strap is low
The Teva Sirra is a feminine version of the iconic river sandals. They have the synthetic EVA foam outsole that are ready for all terrains, especially those underwater. The midfoot shank has the right amount of rigidity for support while walking. The Durabrasion Rubber outsole provides traction on all types of terrain.
You could pair these sandals with a pretty dress, then throw on your swimwear and wear them while kayaking. The beautiful minimalistic style can be worn anywhere and with nearly any outfit from elegant to casual.
The webbing on the straps is designed for water wear. The straps dry quickly, so you don’t have to change your shoes after a day on the water. They also have a ladder-lock fastener for an adjustable fit. The ankle strap has padding for added comfort.
- Versatile styling
- Comfort strap on the ankle
- Ladder closure
- Designed for water wear
- Not as durable as the iconic Teva Original
- Minimal arch support
- Plastic strap attachments can hurt the lower part of the foot
- Not designed for wide feet
The name of these shoes says it all. They have happy little rainbows on them. Skechers make comfortable shoes that are built to last. These sport sandals have a one-inch heel and synthetic soles. The footbed is contoured and cushioned with a flexible shock-absorbing system.
The straps are made of a woven webbed textile that has a minimalistic rainbow pattern on them. They close with a buckle clip with an adjustability strap. The soles are grippy for all types of terrain.
The footbed has grippy dots to keep the foot in place, especially in wet conditions. The minimalist straps criss-cross in a pretty design. The toe thong keeps feet from sliding around the footbed. These cute sandals are lightweight and packable.
- Rugged and comfortable
- Grippy sole
- Criss-cross straps are attractive
- Plenty of arch support
- Straps are not fully adjustable
- Run big
- Straps can break
These comfortable sandals have an enclosed-toe bed for protection and safety. They have a durable and rugged neoprene exterior with mesh webbing straps. They provide plenty of foot coverage for stability in wet and dry conditions. The shoes function like water socks with a bungee lacing system, so they stay on in running rivers.
The platform is about 1.25-inches and is ideal for walking all day. The EVA insole is lightweight and cushioned. You can wear these while biking, hiking, walking, and kayaking without having to change your shoes. The rubber outsoles have multi-directional patterns for traction.
These are affordable and well-made.
- Grippy soles with multi-directional patterns
- Mesh straps dry quickly
- Covered toe bed for all types of uses
- Plenty of foot support and stability
- No half-sizes
- They run big
- Don’t last as long as the Chacos and Tevas
These sport sandals don’t look like a typical pair of Crocs. They cover the whole foot but don’t look fussy. They still have the minimalist design, with more than minimalist coverage. They are comfortable and functional.
The Swiftwater Deck Sandal is designed for wearing in and around the water. They have wide ports for water to channel away from the foot. They have grippy soles so you can safely walk on decks and slippery surfaces.
The upper is made of mesh. The shoes have a strap over the ankle that provides some adjustability. They closed toe box lets you wear them while biking, hiking, or playing in the water. They are lightweight and packable, but they still look and feel substantial. These are truly designed for men who like to be active.
The soles are made of Croslite material, but the mesh uppers give them a different look than the typical Crocs.
- Minimalist design with full-foot coverage
- Easy to clean
- Grippy soles
- Back ankle strap keeps shoes in place
- Not available in half sizes
- Footbed can be slipper
Sports sandals come in several styles and designs. They are designed for all types of terrains, but they often have variable sizes. Some have more support and comfort features. But, they are all designed for wearing in the water and on dry land. Most are lightweight and easy to pack. They are easy to clean and quick to dry, too.
When determining the best product, the longevity of the shoe is key. For people who like the look and feel of the iconic sport sandal, you can’t get much better than the Teva Original Universal. The straps are fully adjustable, the soles are grippy, and the footbed is comfortable. It isn’t unusual for people to have the same pair for several years.
While they do not come in half sizes and they run large, it is easy enough to find a pair that fits. These are universal shoes that are designed for men and women. They aren’t cheap, but they aren’t the most expensive option on the list, either.
Best Premium Product
If you need a premium sport sandal, you can’t go wrong with the ECCO Sport Yucatan Sandals. These come with all of the ECCO engineering, which means you get an ergonomic shoe with the ultimate in comfort. But, like all premium products, you will pay more for them. These are generally designed for men, but women can also wear them.
Like the Teva Original, the ECCO Yucatans will last for several years. They have grippy soles, comfortable footbeds, and plenty of support all around the foot. They may not have the classic styling of the Teva, but they are still good looking.
The best value in sport sandals comes from Northside Women’s Burke II Athletic Sandal. These affordable shoes come with all of the features of the more expensive brands. They are attractive, and they have an adjustable fit. They handle all types of terrains, from wet to dry. They dry quickly and are easy to clean.
The covered toe bed provides protection. The straps offer plenty of ventilation. These are lightweight and packable, too. They are designed for men and women.