When it comes to summer footwear, sandals often get a bad rep for being lightweight and lacking in cushioning and support. But when you look at the most comfortable options, smart design features like flexible straps that cradle your feet and reduce strain, wedges that shift the weight of your heels away from tender areas, and specialized footbeds that offer more shock absorption make all the difference. In fact, a good pair of sandals can even prevent common foot problems, such as bunions and hammer toes, from worsening.
To help you find the best sandals to suit your lifestyle, we turned to experts and tested a range of pairs ourselves. We looked for sandals that are both aesthetically pleasing and durable, comfortable enough to wear all day, and versatile enough to dress up or down. And, most importantly, we wanted to see if they could hold up to extended hikes and other water activities.
The most effective sandals have soft, wide leather straps that wrap around your entire foot to create a snug fit and keep blisters at bay, says Strategist writer Fiorella Valdesolo. They also have no snaps, buckles, or ties that can irritate your skin and cause friction, and the molded footbed is padded to absorb shock and keep you from feeling pressure on your feet as you walk.
Another must-have feature is a flexible sole that’s not too stiff or rigid, and one that can bend easily in the middle. That flexibility allows the shoe to adapt to your foot as you move, keeping you from slipping or tripping. Finally, sandals with a firm yet flexible midsole are better for supporting your arches and reducing heel pain than sandals with a flexible but thin midsole or none at all, says Dr. Jacqueline Sutera of City Podiatry in New York.
If you do decide to wear sandals for longer walks, try to test them in advance by bending them in half and flexing them. If they’re too flimsy or they break apart, they’re not going to be very comfortable, explains Dr. Anthony Weinert, a podiatrist at the Center for Podiatric Care and Surgery in Troy, Michigan.
And for those who like to do double duty on their summer adventures, water sports-specific styles can be a game-changer. Models such as Keen’s Newport H2 and Hoka’s Solr are purpose-built for extended hikes on coastal beaches and include drainage ports for dumping water, flat soles for maintaining grip on slippery surfaces, and closed-toe constructions to protect the front of your foot from rocks and other debris. best sandals