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11 best walking sandals for men, women and kids for summer adventures

These have been tried and tested for light strolls and rugged hikes

Clare O'Reilly
Thursday 29 June 2023 12:01 BST
Each of the sandals were tested over a 5km to 10km distance on different terrains
Each of the sandals were tested over a 5km to 10km distance on different terrains (iStock/The Independent)
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There’s no doubting it, we’re walking more than ever before. Whether it’s for health reasons, to try and reduce our carbon footprint or to get out into nature and enjoy the warmer weather, the average person in the UK now walks around 210 miles a year.

In recent years there’s been an 18 per cent increase in the number of people walking for pleasure, which means around 24 million of us are using our feet more than ever before. But what footwear is best when clocking up the miles? Hiking boots are all well and good in the colder, wetter months but with the Met Office predicting summer 2023 will be warmer than the heatwaves of summer 2022, it’s time to start thinking about getting air around toes as you stride.

When you’re buying a walking sandal there are a few things to consider. Firstly what type of terrain are you going to be on? Are you more of a city break walker or a wilderness one? Where you’ll use them will help decide how much cushioning and what grip you need.

Secondly, do you want them to take you from day to night? Some sandals are designed just for walking while others have more of an aesthetic in mind that pairs form, function and style.

Finally will they get wet? Whether it’s beach walks or stream crossings if your sandals are going get wet, check drainage and how long they’ll take to dry. Wet seams can create hot spots which can soon turn into blisters over the miles.

Whatever your need though, we’ve done the hard work for you and tested 10 walking sandals for men, women and children. Whether you’re going it alone or taking the family with you and whether you’re sightseeing for miles or venturing on the trails this summer, these are the best pieces of footwear to do it in.

How we tested

Each of the sandals were tested over a 5km to 10km distance. They were tested on National Trust footpaths of varying terrain from sand to gravel, rocky, grass and some tarmac too. We looked at comfort, grip, wearability, shock absorption and style. The joy of walking sandals is that many don’t need to be dried out like normal footwear at the end of the day so we also made sure they went through some sreams so we could test for hot spots or sore areas too. These are the ones that will help you put your best foot forward.

The best walking sandals for men, women and kids for 2023 are:

  • Best walking sandals – Helly Hansen men’s and women’s capilano F2F sandals: £45, Hellyhansen.com
  • Best walking sandals for long-distance – Hoka women’s sky hopara: £105, Hoka.com
  • Best walking sandals for urban adventures – Columbia via women’s sandal: £36.37, Amazon.co.uk
  • Best walking sandals for narrow feet – Quecha kids hiking sandals: £17.99, Decathlon.co.uk

Helly Hansen men’s and women’s capilano F2F sandals

best walking sandals for men, women and kids
  • Best: Overall
  • Size: UK 4 - UK12.5
  • Colours: Navy or black
  • Category: Men and women’s

Available in both men’s (£75, Hellyhansen.com) and women’s styles for the same price, these are som serious hiking sandals. They have two adjustment points on both the ankle and foot area and come in varying colourways – blue, orange and black for the women’s sandal, and the men’s in blue and black. The F2F in the name meanwhile, is Helly Hansen’s Fjord to Fjell concept which is aimed at versatility from water to mountains and they most definitely delivered.

The upper is part made from recycled polyester so there are green credentials and they’re quick drying and antimicrobial. The textured anti slip footbed held feet in place even when they were wet and after a few hours of testing, neither of the adjustable straps needed any adjustments. The shock absorption felt fantastic over gravel and rock and the Velcro grip held firm even when wet.

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Fatface Beth animal print sandals

best walking sandals for men, women and kids
  • Best: Transitional sandal
  • Size: UK 3 - UK7
  • Colours: Natural
  • Category: Women’s

Available in tan, green and black, these are one of the only leather sandals on the list. These sandals not only look stylish, but were comfortable over every terrain tested. They dried a little harder as they’re leather after being wet but were comfortable again the next day. They have a single point adjustment – on the ankle strap – which is unusual for walking sandals but the sole fit comfortably and the uniform grip handled all terrains without slipping at all.

Not all walking sandals have the transitional look from being comfortable and good for purpose to the pub or meeting friends in the evening, but these offered comfort, good value for price and garnered comments from friends when they were paired with jeans in the evening.

  1. £25 from Fatface.com
Prices may vary
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Fitflop men’s gogh moc adjustable leather slides

best walking sandals for men, women and kids
  • Best: For posture
  • Size: UK 7 - UK12
  • Colourways: Midnight navy, dark tan and black
  • Category: Men’s

The only men’s slides on the list, these come in three colours; midnight navy, dark tan and black. Using Fitflops Microwobbleboard technology to absorb shock and diffuse underfoot pressure by increasing the contact area of the entire sole, these are some of the comfiest on the list. They’ve got the biggest stack height of any walking sandal but with two adjustment points, both across the foot, the lack of an ankle strap made for comfortable walking. The sole is slip-resistant rubber too, which held firm on all surfaces including downhill gravel.

With a leather upper but fabric lining they didn’t feel hard when they dried after being wet and anecdotally, among Fitflop afficianados, there’s claims the sole helps plantar fasciitis as well as back pain.

Use discount code “WELCOME” to get 15 per cent off the best walking sandals as a new customer

  1. £90 from Fitflop.com
Prices may vary
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Hoka women’s sky hopara

best walking sandals for men, women and kids
  • Best: For long distance
  • Size: UK 3.5 - UK7.5
  • Colourways: Castlerock/elderberry, foxglove/pale mauve, trellis/mercury
  • Category: Women’s

Available in grey, pink and green, the hopara’s market themselves as not just a walking sandal but a mountain sandal. The only ones on the list with a quick lace drawstring to tighten them, the single adjustment point means less faff when getting them to fit your foot. The rubberised toe cap offers debris protection and when stubbed on a rock, toes felt safe and pain-free.

The shock absorption is second to none and the neoprene collar around the ankle meant, even when the sandal was wet, there was no rubbing or hot spots. The 4mm multi-directional lugs gave incredible grip even when they were wet and they drained fast too. If you’re looking for a multi-terrain sandal you can wear for miles and even into the water, these are perfect.

  1. £105 from Hoka.com
Prices may vary
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Salomon men’s and women’s tech amphibian 5

best walking sandals for men, women and kids
  • Best: For beach/rivers
  • Size: UK3.5 - UK13.5
  • Colourways: Women; orange and dusky pink, white, green and men; blue and black, black and grey and grey and blue
  • Category: Men and women’s

These are the only sandal on the list specifically marketed towards wet adventures. They’re less open than the others on the list but the mesh upper lets water both in and out while keeping out gravel and sand. They’ve also got a collapsible heel which means they can be used as more of a mule or slider too. They’re the perfect swimming shoe too and the quicklace system even has a pocket on the tongue.

The multi directional grips give incredible traction even on wet rocks. They’re both lightweight and fast draining with brilliant shock absorption too. These were fantastic on dry ground as well as wet, keeping gravel out and letting the foot breathe. They’re also incredibly lightweight and very fast drying too.

The men’s sandal (£100, Salomon.com) is usually available in four differernt colour schemes – blue and black, grey and blue, black, grey – however, only one colour scheme and size is shoppable at the moment. But you can select the colour and size you prefer and sign up to receive a notification when it’s back in stock. Meanwhile, the womens’ are available in three colour schemes; an orange and dusky pink, a white and green and a green.

  1. £100 from Salomon.com
Prices may vary
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Columbia via women’s sandal

best walking samdals for men, women and kids
  • Best: For urban adventures
  • Size: UK 3 - UK9
  • Colourways: Black/dark stone or black/white
  • Category: Women

Available in black and dark stone and simple black, these sandals are incredibly lightweight and the most versatile on the list. Yes, the others can cope with an urban environment but might not be sandals you’re happy turning up to dinner in.

These are stylish and would be perfect for a city break where you clock up the miles but still want to look good while doing it. They’re some of the cheapest on the list and the polyester and rubber make them incredibly light and comfortable from the first wear. With two Velcro adjustments on the ankle and toe they can be tightened to fit with ease. Their shock absorption on rocky terrain wasn’t quite as good as some on the list but when it comes to tarmac or concrete these are a solid, comfortable sandal that will see you clocking up the miles in comfort and style.

  1. £36 from Amazon.co.uk
Prices may vary
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Columbia men’s breaksider sandal

best walking sandals for men, women and kids
  • Best: For beach walks
  • Size: UK6 - UK12
  • Colourways: Mosstone/golden yellow or black/graphite
  • Category: Men’s

Available in gold and green and simple black, the sole on the Breaksider is the most like a good flip flop sole. The polyester and rubber make it exceptionally lightweight and the single pattern sole mean weight is evenly distributed across the whole shoe and foot. One of the few sandals on the list with three Velcro adjustments on the foot, ankle and heel, these can be securely fitted to any type of foot with ease.

These are the ones that kept feet most free in testing which meant, while they let in gravel and sand, it also dissipated quickly away from the sole. They were also the fastest drying on the list and while they don’t have any lugs for traction, they didn’t slip on any of the terrians they were tested on and the shock absorption was surprisingly good for a sandal that doesn’t boast that in its arsenal.

  1. £30 from Amazon.co.uk
Prices may vary
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Birkenstock Arizona Eva kids sandal

best walking sandals for men, women and kids
  • Best: For multi surface
  • Size: UK kids 1 - UK13.5
  • Colourways: Faded lime, white, black, beetroot purple, sky blue
  • Category: Kids

The mulitfaded lime tie dye hue is perfect for younger feet that want to look funky while walking. The entire sandal is made from odour-neutral Eva, a lightweight and flexible material which is skin-friendly. The upper footbed, the lining and the sole are made from a single piece of Eva so it’s more likely little feet will outgrow these before they need to be replaced through wear and tear. And they’re available in a child’s UK9 to UK2.

The Birkenstock signature sole pattern coped well on all surfaces including in the water and they dried instantly too. The double adjustable strap means these can be fitted snugly to make the most out of the miles. While they’re available in all of Brikenstock’s colour schemes, the two-tone hue is down to the way in which the Eva particles are heated and then cooled so no two colour schemes will be exactly the same.

  1. £6 from Very.co.uk
Prices may vary
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Quecha kids hiking sandals

best walking sandals for men, women and kids
  • Best: For narrow feet
  • Size: UK kids 9.5 - 13 and UK 1 - 5.5
  • Colourways: Blue/grey
  • Category: Kids

Available in dak blue or blue/grey, these are the only woven upper on the list making them perfect for narrow feet or little ones who find straps bothersome. Available in a junior size 10 right up to an adult 6 they’ll fit kids and most mums probably too. They’re incredibly easy to put on and tighten with a single strap, while the grip performed in every terrain it was tested in. The foot coverage on the top also means feet won’t get sun-burned while out and about for the day. They also come with a two-year warranty and most importantly for a kids sandal, they machine wash at 30C.

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Vivo barefoot Opanka sandals

best walking sandals for men, women and kids
  • Best: Barefoot sandals
  • Size: UK3 - UK9
  • Colourways: Black, tan and off white
  • Category: Women’s

Vivo’s raison d’etre is its barefoot feeling. All its shoes come without heel drop which means the entire foot is in contact with the sole – the same feeling as if going barefoot. These might not be to everyone’s taste, but these performed brilliantly over all terrains in testing. Yes, every foot strike feels more in touch with the ground but from tarmac to grass to gravel these felt comfortable and looked stylish.

Multiple studies have found barefoot walking increases antioxidants, reduces inflammation and even improves sleep and while barefoot trainers and running shoes have been de rigeur for years, the Vivo team’s sandals are increasing exponentially in popularity too. The team there are so confident that it’s offering a 100 day trial where you can return your shoe for a full refund if you decide they’re not for you.

Available in three colours, black, tan and off white, these are made from 100 percent leftover premium leather. The 4mm sole and hexagon tread make for excellent stability and traction and they looked as good on a day hike as out for dinner in the evening.

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Quecha men’s leather walking sandals

best walking sandals for men, women and kids
  • Best: For cushioning
  • Size: UK 5.5 - UK12.5
  • Colourways: Deep shale/iced coffee or dark green/sepia
  • Category: Men

Available in brown and green and with a very cushioned walk thanks to the double Eva sole, these sandals have three adjustment straps on the foot and front and back of the ankle. They’re also sewn with minimal seams on the inside so there’s less chance of rubbing. The team at Quecha also only use leather waste from the food industry so while they are a leather sandal they’re also as ethical as a sandal made from leather can be. The grip held firm on grass as well as rocks and gravel too.

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The verdict: Walking sandals

Top of the list are the Helly Hanson men’s and women’s capilano F2F sandals. They’re incredibly comfortable and lightweight and didn’t skip a beat over every terrain they were tested on. At £75 they’re an average price point but they have a sense of durability about them and are light but very sturdy.

Special mention has to go to the men’s and women’s Salomon tech amphibian 5. The only sandal on the list to boast about their water credentials, it’s a special kind of manufacturer who can make a sandal that performs brilliantly when wet but doesn’t rub or cause hot spots while they’re drying and you’re still walking.

Heading on an adventure in the colder months? These are the best walking socks that’ll help keep your feet warm and comfy

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