We wanted a pair of walking sandals that could cope with trails and look good in towns. So, we buckled up, strapped on and came up with a shortlist of the stylish-but-sturdy shoes to choose.
First of all, forget the flipflops and slides. You’ll slide out of them and injure yourself, your knees and back will hurt from lack of support and your toes will become like claws. Most walking sandal manufacturers claim some technological feature with power to make us pain-free, and we take those with a pinch of salt. The proof is in the wearing – three hours on a rough country track and 10 miles around a city. It’ll be the boys’ turn next, we promise! Our wishlist was:
- Good soles with grip
- Decent fastenings that hold the shoe properly and don’t let your toes slide forward (and into a rock)
- No uncomfortable internal seams
- No sweat
- Great looks with both shorts and skirts
Comfortable, soft footbeds lined with leather, suede or cork, durable rubber soles, smooth leather straps. We tried the Capri Universal in the delicious pearlised red (a lot more subtle and sophisticated than the picture shows. Also available in black, chocolate and green). They’re very comfortable, very stylish and have good non-slip soles. They come up a tad small (maybe half a size) and the cross toe strap is quite far back, which reveals a lot of toe. They were our joint favourite, though, for wearing with skirts. Gorgeous with a tan.
Vionic was a new brand to us. Some of the range are a bit old-fashioned looking, but we really, really liked the Paros model we tried. The shoes have something called FMT technology, which claims to align the feet to their natural neutral position to reduce aches and pains in the heel, knee and back. They definitely support the arch very well and were immediately comfortable, although some people might find the positioning of the straps doesn’t work for them. The Paros is adjustable at three points, though. The sole is good and grippy.
The Samar is comfortable too, though slightly less grippy on the sole.
Good old Clarks. Every year, they try out something a bit daring, but their range does tend towards sensible-shoe. We’ve found that some of the borderline styles look more up-to-date if your outfit isn’t also tending towards the sensible! A pair of sandals from the Unstructured range have been going strong for a while now. They update the shoe with new straps each year, it seems. This year, we like Un-Haywood in gold/bronze. VERY comfortable, pretty cool-looking and excellent non-slip soles. They tied with Teva and Vionic for top place. The Autumn Fresh is super too – especially in the neutral grey/sage.
Keen’s closed-toe waterproof walking sandals have been a staple in our camping wardrobe for ages – men’s and women’s. The Clearwater sandal is a long-time favourite because the sole isn’t as chunky as many of its type, so it’s a bit more ladylike (when you’re jumping from rock to rock in your flowery shorts in a ladylike way). Not a city shoe, of course, although there’s a great range of colours now. As for sandals, Rose City and Emerald City are nice for their very minimal look, some good colours, EVA and latex foam footbed, leather lining and toe ridge for extra support. The sole isn’t as grippy as some.
The Danish brand Ecco has a huge range. Like Clarks, some of the styles are a bit off-the-mark, but many can be given an edge with the right clothes. Sadly, the soles on the prettier sandal styles aren’t really hefty enough for off-road grip. The Flash is a decent compromise, but wouldn’t be our first choice for sturdiness.
We wanted to like FitFlops, but the soles are too slippy, the wedge a bit too bulky for trail-walking and the over-the-toes strap seems to always be cut too far back, leaving toes looking a bit long and naked. The best of the bunch is the Banda. The Skinny is almost nice, but tear your eyes away from the legs and look at the poor exposed toes!
These are very affordable, but aren’t quite smart enough for town, we thought. Depends on your town, of course! The soles on the Tobago are the business, though!
Lots to choose from with this brand, though they’re on the sporty side of stylish. EVA footbeds, odour-eating insoles and good soles. Some of the fabric straps can be a bit harsh and cut in, so you need to try them with bare feet to be sure. The super-slight Enoki range and the toe-protecting Siren Wrap and the are top of our list in this range. We could do without the Merrell logo on the side, though.