Finding the Right Travel Sandals
In a former life I could easily fill up half the space in my luggage with shoes. Sneakers for days filled with sightseeing, flip flops for the beach, a fancy pair of heels for a night out on the town, dressy-but-not-too-dressy sandals for casual dinners, a pair of runners for exercise-heavy days, and maybe some hiking boots or rain boots depending on the destination. It was all too easy to over pack and prepare for any scenario the world could have flung at me. Easy, but not practical.
Since then, I've relentlessly worked on my packing skills and searched high and low for multi-functional footwear to use for all kinds of situations. Oftentimes I've found myself visiting warm climate destinations and have been left wondering how I can find a single pair of sandals that will take me from lazy days by the ocean to exploring cobblestone streets to keeping me sturdy on rainforest hikes.
After many moons of research and years of trial and error, I've put together my thoughts on the subject in this guide to help you choose the right sandal, plus a few options on the market today that are perfect for travel!
Things to consider before purchasing a sandal for travel:
- Material. While leather looks beautiful, it's not quite as practical as synthetic materials that allow your feet to breathe and often feature anti-smell technology. For travelers that plan on wearing their sandals every day, stick to synthetics to avoid stinky feet. If you're going to be alternating between sandals and other shoes, sandals made out of natural materials like leather or jute work well.
- Straps. Too thin and you might be left with red strap marks across your toes. Too thick and you might as well have worn a closed toe shoe with socks. Factor in different configurations and it really comes down to finding a strap style that suits your feet perfectly. Unfortunately, there is no be all end all trick to finding the right style for your feet, but brands like Chaco, who allow you to create your own custom sandals, make it a whole lot easier.
- Sole. In my experience, flat soles are the enemy no matter what you'll be using your sandals for. Looks for footwear that provides some kind of arch support (extra points if you can find some that are podiatrist-certified without looking like orthopedic shoes!).
- Fit. Like any other shoe, your sandals should fit your feet like a glove. Too big and you may risk them flying off your feet. Too small and you might end up with blisters after a few hours of wear. The width of the shoe is just as important as well. If you have wider feet, consider brands like Birkenstock which produce their shoes in regular and wider sizes.
- Purpose. Do you favor visiting big cities over spending time in the great outdoors? Then perhaps a classic leather sandal with a sturdy footbed is the best way to go for long days traipsing over hard concrete sidewalks. If you categorize yourself as more of an outdoorsy traveler, look for strappy sandals that keep your feet comfortably encased and yet allow you to get your feet dirty or wet without having to sacrifice your footwear. Or maybe, you're simply looking for an all-occasions sandal for dressing up in that can still be worn to the beach the next day. Stick with neutral colors and a simple shape.
Walking Sandal Options Perfect for travel:
#1. The Pons Avarcas Classic Style slip-on sandal is handmade on the Spanish island of Menorca and features a lightweight rubber sole making this a lovely option for exploring cities and discovering European countrysides. Men's options right this way.
#2. The made-in-Germany Birkenstock Mayari sandal features a contoured cork footbed which conforms to the shape of your foot and features arch support, a deep heel cup, and a roomy toe box. The sole is cushioned and includes shock absorption technology. Keep in mind that most Birkenstock sandals are lined with suede, the Mayari included, so if you're prone to sweaty or smelly feet, this one might not be for you. Birkenstock also features a wide selection of men's sandals - the Milano and Arizona look like comfortable choices for all-day wear.
#3. I think Chaco makes some of the most versatile, stylish, and comfortable travel sandal options on the market today, and the women's Chaco Z/Cloud is no exception (head here for the men's version). You can find my full review of this particular style here.
#4. The Teva Sirra is truly an all-around travel sandal. Featuring water-ready polyester webbing that stands up to abuse and dries quickly after getting wet, ladder lock enclosure for customized fit, lightweight EVA-foam mid sole for maximum comfort, and a rubber outer sole for traction. Plus, you can often find Teva sandals in a handful of different color options! They also have a large collection of men's sandals that are ideal for travel.
#5. If you're worried about your foot slipping out of your sandal, the fully-enclosed Keen Clearwater CNX has you covered. Not only are your feet comfortably strapped in to this sandal, but you'll also find it provides adequate arch support, odor control, and made from PFC free materials (PFCs are environmentally harmful chemicals often used in outdoor gear due to their water repellent properties). Right this way for the men's Clearwater CNX.