Best 5 Sandals for Water and Hiking

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Picture this—you’ve planned the perfect hike. The trail winds through a lush forest, climbs up scenic hills, and descends into serene valleys. But, there’s a catch. The path includes crossing streams, maybe even wading through shallow waters. Now, if you’re imagining squelching in waterlogged boots for the rest of the journey after the first crossing, don’t panic. You have an alternative, and it’s the trusty hiking sandal.

When hiking through water, it’s essential to wear footwear that provides support, traction, and quick-drying capabilities. Water sandals are perfect for this. If you also want to use your sandals for hiking, they require extra robustness for tough trails. Among the best hybrid options for water and hiking are Teva Hurricane XLT2, Chaco Z/Cloud, Keen Newport H2, Merrell All Out Blaze Sieve, Bedrock Cairn Adventure Sandals, Xero Shoes Z-Trail, and Columbia Techsun. All offer a balance of comfort, grip, and water-readiness, which makes them great choices for hikes involving water activities.

Waterproof, grippy sandals are great for hIking through this kind of water!
Wouldn’t it be refreshing to hike through this in sandals? (Image credit: Mitchell Kmetz)

What to wear to hike through water?

When we’re talking about hiking in wet environments, traditional hiking boots just don’t cut it. They’re bulky, heavy, and not designed to drain water quickly. Sure, they offer fantastic protection and support for your feet on rugged terrain, but once they’re wet, they turn into foot-sized sponges. They absorb water, increase in weight, and take forever to dry. In contrast, hiking sandals are lightweight, allow water to flow through freely, and dry fast—saving you from the discomfort of hiking in damp footwear.

What are water sandals?

Now, if you’ve been thinking about your casual flip flops as water sandals, it’s time to adjust your view. Water sandals are a class apart. They’re engineered specifically for aquatic environments, equipped to handle the challenges of wet and slippery surfaces.

Constructed from water-resistant materials, these sandals are designed to resist damage from prolonged exposure to water. They also feature quick-drying straps—important for comfort and to prevent blisters. Also, their straps are extra durable, so that they won’t snap when your feet get caught on a rock or find themselves in a strong current.

Even more importantly, they sport outsoles designed for traction on wet surfaces. We’re talking about deep lugs and sticky rubber compounds that can grip slick rocks and slippery stream beds.

Water sandals are more than your go-to beach footwear. They’re robust, sturdy, and protective enough to handle rocky riverbeds and underwater hazards. They provide ample ventilation, ensuring your feet stay cool during your aquatic adventure.

Are water sandals good for hiking?

Certainly! Water sandals can be excellent for hiking—especially when your trail involves frequent water crossings or sloshing through streams. They’re lightweight, which means they won’t weigh you down during long hikes. They’re also breathable and usually have good enough traction to handle most types of terrain.

Are hiking sandals good for water?

On the other hand, you’ve got hiking sandals. They’re like the tougher older sibling of water sandals—designed to tackle challenging trails while also being ready to take a splash.

Not all hiking sandals are designed for water, but many models on the market feature water-ready characteristics. The materials used are often quick to dry and designed to resist the deteriorating effects of water. Plus, they offer more foot protection, superior support, and better traction than most water sandals.

However, it’s important to understand what “waterproof” really means in this context. While a waterproof hiking boot aims to keep water out and your feet dry, a waterproof sandal (or, more accurately, a water-friendly sandal) is designed to get wet and then dry quickly. They won’t keep your feet dry, but they’ll ensure you’re not sloshing around in soggy sandals all day.

Depending on your trail and the intensity of the water crossings, different styles might be more suitable. For instance, if you’re tackling deep, turbulent, rocky waters, a closed-toe water sandal or a full-on water shoe would provide the best protection. For simple stream crossings, shallow puddles, or a damp trail, a standard open-toe hiking sandal might do the trick.

No matter which you choose, in water it is especially important to properly adjust your sandals so your feet won’t slip around in them!

Best sandals that are great for hiking and water activities

When it comes to choosing the ideal blend of water-readiness and trail-worthiness, several sandals shine in the spotlight.

Teva Hurricane XLT2 has made a name for itself in the outdoor community. The water-ready polyester webbing upper is extremely durable and dries quickly after getting wet. The Rugged Durabrasion Rubber™ outsole is tough, providing excellent traction even on wet and slippery surfaces. The EVA foam footbed cushions and softly supports for all-day comfort. This is a fantastic all-rounder sandal—great for hiking, water activities, and everything in between.

Not far behind is the Chaco Z/Cloud. Chaco is known for the durability and ruggedness of its sandals, and the Z/Cloud is no exception. It features an adjustable, durable high-tensile webbing heel riser, ensuring a secure fit for your adventures in and out of water. The LUVSEAT™ dual-density PU midsole offers a high level of comfort and support, while the ChacoGrip™ rubber outsole provides excellent traction on wet surfaces. Whether you’re crossing streams, walking along the beach, or hiking up a mountain, the Z/Cloud has got your back (or rather, your feet!).

The Keen Newport H2 is designed with water adventures in mind. Its upper is made of washable polyester webbing with a hydrophobic mesh lining, which means it dries quickly after a water crossing. But what sets it apart is the protective toe bumper—perfect for rocky underwater terrain or trails. The multi-directional lug pattern on the outsole enhances control and stability for a safe and comfortable journey. If you’re after a sandal that can handle hiking and water adventures with equal aplomb, this is a top contender.

The Bedrock Cairn Adventure Sandals live up to their name. These sandals are designed for durability and versatility, embodying the spirit of adventure. They’re built with a minimalist design—featuring a Vibram® XS Trek Regolith Outsole and a Cairn 3D footbed shape. The result is a sandal that’s extremely resilient and ready for water drainage and grip on both dry and wet surfaces. When it’s time to venture into unknown territories, the Cairn Adventure Sandals are up to the task.

Lightweight and flexible, the Xero Shoes Z-Trail sandals are designed for long trails and easy water crossings. They feature a FeelLite™ sole, a 3-layer system for protection, comfort, and feel. The Z-Trail is made with quick-dry adjustable straps and a rugged TrailFoam™ layer for grip on various terrains. It’s the kind of sandal that encourages you to keep going, even after miles of trekking.

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