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The GO Outdoors Guide To Walking Sandals

Walking sandals are designed for multiple uses and lowland walking. With an open construction, walking sandals are highly breathable and airy, meaning that they are typically suitable for use in summer or good weather conditions.


What do walking sandals offer?

  • Ventilation: Walking Sandals are designed to offer coolness and comfort in hot, dry conditions.
  • Versatility: Walking Sandals are designed with a lightweight construction combined with technical features, meaning that walking sandals can be worn in multiple conditions 
  • Low Weights: Whether you pack them or wear them, walking sandals are designed to be easy to take with you, making them ideal for travel. 

How do walking sandals differ from flip flops?

Walking sandals differ from other summer footwear items as they are more secured, and more technical. 

Because walking sandals are designed to handle a variety of terrains, they typically have thick rugged soles and a level of cushioning in the midlayer, making them suitable for use on a variety of surfaces, from city terrain to muddy or rocky paths.


How do walking sandals differ from walking boots?

Walking sandals differ from walking boots in that walking sandals are not suitable for walking on high lands and in particular, hills

This is because on both the incline up a hill and the subsequent descent your body weight is supported by the ankle joint and because walking sandals offer no ankle support they can cause a strain on steep terrain, resulting in injury. Walking Sandals are best suited for flat land and slight inclines. 


Walking Sandal Straps and Closures

Walking sandals are typically made with a simple strapping system to ensure that they are easy to slip on comfortably. It also means that they have less weight than typical walking boots, but still offer security on lowland level walks. 

How walking sandals fit to your feet:

Most walking sandals are designed with a padded heel strap to protect the rear of the foot. Straps can vary, from hook and loop closures to hook and loop fitted closure systems. 

Closures to the walking sandals are typically placed at either the instep, the rear, or the forefoot of the sandal. 

Multiple closures give more support and ensure that the sandals securely stay on your feet. 

Some straps are removable, which allows the sandals to convert into a slip-on style, ideal for flat terrain, such as beaches. 

Continuous fabric construction indicates the sandals have been molded together in one construction for extra durability. The strap system should be comfortable against your skin. 

Your walking wandals should cup the ankle and provide support to your foot, close enough to be comfortable and so your feet don’t slide around, yet not so tight they feel restricted.

Walking Sandal Fabrics

Fabrics in sandals usually made from synthetics or leather.

Upper fabrics are usually designed to be aesthetically pleasing, and can vary, whilst stretch based fabrics are typically used in the straps or the lining of sandals in order to make them easy to put on and to make sure they move comfortably with your foot.

 Elastane, Lycra and Neoprene are all examples of stretchy fabrics blended into the straps to make them easy to put on, and to ensure that they rebound back into shape after use on your feet.  

Synthetics in Walking Sandals

  • Synthetic walking sandals are best for mixed or wetter weathers, as synthetic fabrics dry out quicker than leathers. 
  • Although walking sandals are designed for good weather, if you are out in muddy conditions, or walking on wet grass, a synthetic fabric in the main body of your walking sandals will ensure that your walking sandals dry out quickly, without absorbing moisture, so your feet don't chafe or rub when damp. 
  • Synthetics are also highly efficient at wicking away existing internal moisture such as sweat, and are capable of moving this excess moisture from your foot’s surface in order to prevent chaffing and irritation. For this reason, synthetic blends are typically used in the liner of your sandal, so that your feet stay cool and dry as you walk. 


Leather in Walking Sandals

  • Leather, such as pigskin leather, brushed leather, or nubuck leather are all commonly used in walking sandals. Walking sandals constructed with leather straps or leather outers are capable of minimising sweat and resisting small levels of external, environmental moisture. 
  •  Leather sandals are best suited for hot weathers, yet leather is not an ideal choice for poor and wet weather, as being a natural fabric, it can take longer to dry out. This is why leather is sometimes the best choice for walking sandals, as the hide naturally lends itself to appropriate 'sandal wearing' conditions. 
  • Look for a silicone treatment on your leather which prevents your sandals deteriorating with water contact. (Most sandals now incorporate anti-bacterial treatments such as Microban, or silver ion technology which provide a barrier on your walking sandals that prevent bacteria from settling, working by breaking down bacteria at a cellular level. )

Walking Sandal Coatings and Membranes:

Typically walking sandals are made with additional coatings that prevent bacteria and prevent odour build up on the sandals. These include a zinc or silver-ion anti microbial treatment.

Water-resistance is common in sandals and this too can be created via a coating applied at the manufacturing stage. 

The most common coating added to a walking sandal is a water repelling finish, such as a DWR (Durable Water Repellent). These vary from brand to brand, and DWR has positives and negatives.  To read more about DWR and other coatings, see our Guide To Waterproofing.


Walking Sandal Construction

The design or frame of the walking sandal itself is an essential part of the design of a walking sandal. 

Because a walking sandal lacks the support commonly seen on more technical footwear such as walking boots or walking shoes due to the unprotected ankle,  the sandal needs to offer excellent levels of padding and a comfortable area to secure the foot in. 

With the right fit of sandal and a supportive footbed, the strap and closure systems should be used purely as a 'tightening' measure on the foot rather than the only way your foot is secured. 

Walking Sandal Footbeds and Midsoles

Contoured foot beds are essential in walking shoes in order to secure you foot and to provide a non slip area for your feet to sit comfortably on. This is particularly important in walking sandals that are used for long periods of time, or over rocky terrain. 

The footbed should ideally be padded or cushioned, either with an air based midsole such as EVA, Compression moulded EVA, Vibram or similar. This can protect you from impacts and shocks, and provides lateral stability. 

 Foot beds can be deep, known as a 'bathtub' design allowing you to ‘sink’ your foot in with ease, and are lined with a comfortable, wicking fabric capable of absorbing moisture and providing comfort next to your skin. 

Midsoles are also used to provide good torsional stability, so when you walk your whole body is supported. 

Walking Sandal Soles

Walking Sandals comprise a lightweight sole unit that is suitable for walking, but not rigid enough for serious climbs and mountain walks. 

Soles on sandals are usually designed with a hardwearing yet light rubber, or carbon rubber to provide flexibility and lightness. 

 Water channeling systems can be inbuilt into the soles of walking sandals, allowing water underfoot to run through the sandals sole layer, keeping your feet dry.


Fitting Your Walking Sandals

  1. Your Walking Sandals may need to be purchased in a bigger size than your usual size.This is in order to provide a sufficient rim at the front of the sandals for protection from debris and knocks. 
  2. You should have a thumb's width between your toes and the end of the sandal.
  3. To ensure a fit that protects the toes and the heel, most sandals have a raised area at the front and back ends. This should be accounted for when you choose a size of walking sandal. 
  4. Walking sandals are designed to be breathable enough for use without socks, although they can be worn with them if desired. 
  5. If you do intend to wear socks with your walking sandals you should fit them with socks on. And watch out for the fashion police. 

If you are in any doubt as to what sandal is right for you, talk to an instore GO Outdoors trained specialist who will be happy to talk to you about various options within walking sandals before you purchase.