Show off your feet – trekking sandals, a buying guide

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Sandals have always been very popular. From the classic Jesus sandals to modern trekking sandals, there are numerous styles on the market that will keep your feet looking great during the warmer months of the year. But what is the difference between a hiking sandal and an outdoor sandal and where do trekking sandals fit in? Are there fundamental differences and if so, where?

There are models that look like outdoor or trekking sandals, but are mainly suitable for urban use due to their construction. Other models are designed for use in water sports and are ideal for sailing or canoeing. Generally, sandals such as these are also considered outdoor sandals, but they will not be included in this review. To shed some light on the jungle of sandals, we are taking a closer look at trekking sandals.

So what exactly are trekking sandals?

Trekking sandals buying guide 
purple trekking sandals
A good alternative on warm days.

Trekking sandals are a good alternative to approach and lightweight hiking shoes on warm days. They are not only very comfortable to wear but also offer surefootedness and grip on difficult terrain. This makes them ideal for long walks or shorter hikes on hot days. Trekking sandals can also be worn on the approach to sport climbing crags.

But trekking sandals don’t just impress in the low mountain ranges nearby. If you like to spend your holidays in warmer climes, a pair of sandals can’t go amiss. Depending on the type of holiday and activity, good trekking sandals can replace several types of shoes at once, significantly slimming down your luggage.

What makes a sandal a trekking sandal?

Trekking sandals are at home on numerous terrains. Therefore, each model can look very different from the others. In general, however, trekking sandals are characterised by their good off-road performance. For this, they have a sole with a relatively chunky tread. This ensures a good grip even on more demanding terrain. The materials used are usually very robust. The straps of trekking sandals are usually exposed to particularly high stress and are therefore made of durable synthetic materials or leather. Some models also have toe protection which makes them particularly suitable for rough terrain.

What type of trekking sandals should I choose?

Choosing the right sandals always depends on what you want to wear them for. You need to answer the following questions:

  • Will I cover long distances in the sandals?
  • On what terrain will I mainly wear my sandals?
  • What is more important to me: comfort or functionality?
  • Do the trekking sandals need to be suitable for water?

If you are looking for trekking sandals as an alternative to walking boots, it is important to find a good compromise between comfort and functionality. There are sandals, for example, that offer the feet maximum freedom but only have a thin, delicate sole. At the other extreme are sandals with toe protection. Depending on the design, these are more like low shoes with lots of ventilation slits that tend to stop the feeling of “fresh air” on the feet. The advantage, however, is that they provide good protection for toes and the tops of the feet even on rocky terrain or if you stumble.

Leather or synthetic?

Sandals are usually made of leather or synthetic materials, but some manufacturers such as Keen and Teva also use a material blend. The soles are usually made of rubber, but some models have a leather footbed. The optimum materials in each case depends to a large extent on the intended use and personal preferences. Leather usually offers greater comfort. On longer tours leather straps adapt a little to the shape of the foot. This reduces the risk of rubbing and blisters.

Leather footbeds also have their advantages. The most important factor here is comfort. On hot days in particular, sweaty feet are more likely to be prevented, which ultimately also reduces the formation of odours. However, leather also has disadvantages. The leather should be treated at regular intervals to ensure the durability of the sandal. Leather trekking sandals are also usually not waterproof, or only to a limited extent.

Trekking sandals buying guide 
Person with brown sandals walks through water
Trekking sandals are ideal in water!

If you want to cross streams and rivers on tours or are looking for sandals for use in water sports, you’re much better off with styles made of rubber and synthetics. Sandals made of synthetic materials are suitable for use in and around water. Many materials are also quick-drying, which means that they are much easier to care for. All that is required here is to remove coarse soiling from time to time with a brush or lukewarm water. But sandals should never be put in the washing machine. This can irrepairably damage rubber soles.

What should you look out for when buying trekking sandals?

As with all shoes, it’s important that your trekking sandals fit well. This may sound simple, but it’s not. Problem areas that can be concealed with padded socks in other shoes are usually more noticeable in sandals.

Chafing can quickly occur at the ankles in particular. It is therefore crucial that sandals fit properly. If a sandal feels uncomfortable when you first try it on, don’t include it in your shortlist. This will lead to problems later on. In general, sandals are easy to adjust to the individual foot shape with straps. Be careful here, as there can still be problems if your feet are particularly wide or narrow. Women with petite feet may prefer women’s specific models.

Another key point is that the sandals are the right size. They should never be too small. If there is any doubt, you should buy open sandals a half size larger. In general, it is important for sandals without toe protection that the sole is a little longer than the foot. This is because the foot will slide forward in the sandal on downhill routes. If the sole is not long enough, the toes will slide forward out of the sandal. This is not only uncomfortable, but can also be dangerous.

Trekking sandals for kids, it all depends

What’s the point of the getting the most beautiful trekking sandals for kids if they only wear them reluctantly or not at all; what makes good sandals for kids?

As well as good fit and functionality, kids want sandals that look cool. Almost all well-known companies offer child-friendly colours and models. The most important thing, however, is that the kids know how to use their sandals. It is important, especially with smaller children, to test putting them on and taking them off during the fitting. If kids do not like the way they work, the sandals should not be shortlisted.

Trekking sandals advice 
dark sandals with water
A more open variant

Children are not small adults, so specific kids and youth models are also sensible for sandals. Girls in particular usually have a much narrower foot than adult women, even when they have the same shoe size. To avoid problems with the fit, we recommend choosing models that are specific for children. The cushioning properties of kids sandals are also designed for a lower weight. If comparatively light children wear sandals designed for heavier adults, the cushioning is too hard. This usually has a significant effect on comfort and can lead to fatigue.


There are some points to consider before buying trekking sandals. Manufacturers such as Teva, Keen and Source offer a range of different models. Various materials are used depending on the intended use. The choice of material mix or model depends to a large extent on personal needs and your preferred terrain.

If you give some thought to your new sandals and take a little time to try them on, you can start the outdoor season on a high note. So, take those socks off and show off your feet!

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Alpinetrek-Expert Lisa

Alpinetrek-Expert Lisa

I didn’t choose mountain sports, mountain sports chose me. In the late 80s, my parents taught me how to ski and in the late 90s I joined a climbing club to learn how to climb. Since my youth, skiing and mountaineering are the mountain sports I regularly practise.

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