Best Sandals For Runners & Athletes Reviewed

You might find the thought of wearing sandals while you run a little odd, but in reality, it’s a style that more and more people are adopting. There are many reported benefits to running in sandals which include, the ability to spread your toes on impact, open airflow, and the gradual strengthening of ligaments, muscles, and tendons in the feet.

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By NicoleH:

Updated is our list of top sandals for running, and we've include a couple minimalistic, barefoot styles, as well as more rugged protective sandals. If you're newer to running in sandals, be sure to read our Criteria and FAQ to help answer questions you may have!

Think of that glorious feeling the moment you put on a pair of sandals after having your feet stuck in a hot and sweaty pair of running shoes for hours, now imagine never having had to wear those running shoes at all. What a beautiful feeling, right?! You may have heard of the Native people called the Tarahumara, also known as ‘the running people.’ They only wear huarache sandals that are made out of old tires and rope while regularly running hundreds of miles to communicate with neighboring tribes, to hunt, or to trade. The Tarahumara are a great example of how useful it can be wearing sandals while you run.

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Whether you have run in sandals for years already or you’re just starting out, it can be tough to know which ones to wear, and that’s precisely why we’ve made this list. After careful research, we have selected the very best sandals for runners based on style, comfort, material, and weight, so it’s a little easier for you to choose the most appropriate pair for your needs.

 

10 Best Sandals For Runners

 

1. Skechers On The Go 400

Skechers’ On The Go 400 is an ultra-lightweight athletic sandal that’s a good choice for runners. It features a responsive five gen cushioned midsole and Goga max return energy footbed. A rubber outsole makes the 400 a grippy shoe, and its soft fabric lining will have you sprinting on pillows.
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Comfort
The Go 400 is a super-comfortable sandal for outdoor activities like, running, walking, or yoga. Its responsive cushioned midsole and Goga max return energy footbed help to keep your feet and legs feeling rejuvenated while you move.

Security
The Skechers On The Go 400 features adjustable strap closures for a secure fit that ensures your feet will stay firmly in place. The Go 400 also sports a durable rubber outsole that provides grippy wear so you can run sure of foot.

Cost & Value
These Skechers are relatively inexpensive and bring tons of comfort to the playing field. Designed with the athletic enthusiast in mind, these are a good choice to consider.
Pros
  • 5 Gen Cushion
  • Goga Max Return Energy
  • Rubber Outsole
  • Budget-friendly
  • Adjustable Strap Closure
Cons
  • Narrow Toe

2. KEEN Newport H2

KEENs’ Newport H2 is made in the USA and features a non-marking rubber outsole with razor sipping. A low 1.5-inch platform and metatomical EVA footbed make these sandals an excellent option for runners, and a multi-directional lug pattern offers increased traction on any terrain. These sandals will stay in place thanks to a secure fit lace capture system and TPU stability shank.
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Comfort
The Newport H2 comes highly rated among users everywhere for its purely comfortable wear. Featuring a metatomical EVA footbed and non-marking rubber outsole, the Newport H2 is a well supported and cushiony ride.

Traction/Grip
The Newport H2 has a razor sipped sole and multi-directional lug pattern for incredible traction on any terrain, including slippery tracks.

Cost & Value
KEEN’s Newport H2 isn’t the cheapest sandal to make this list, but it is one of the most popular among users. The H2 boasts comfort-boosting features and secure fastening for a safe and supple ride.
Pros
  • 1.5-inch Heel
  • EVA Footbed
  • USA Made
  • Multi-directional Lug
  • Non-Marking Outsole
Cons
  • Shorter Life Span

3. Teva Hurricane XLT

Tevas' Hurricane XLT is made from 100% textile materials and boasts a grippy outsole with a minimal drop. It's adjustable hook & loop straps make for an easily customizable fit, while exaggerated lugs on its outsole make for incredible traction. These lightweight sandals are the perfect option for runners.
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Materials
Made from 100% textile materials that are breathable and lightweight, along with a grippy rubber outsole which boasts exaggerated lugs for superior traction on any surface.

Security
The Hurricane will keep your feet securely in place thanks to its adjustable hook & loop strap closures which provide a custom fit every time.

Cost & Value
The Hurricane XLT is a mid-priced shoe that has some serious comfort to offer the everyday runner. These are an excellent pair of sandals and will compliment any jog or sprint while on the trail, or off.
Pros
  • 100% Textile
  • Rubber Outsole
  • Exaggerated Lugs
  • Hook & Loop Closure
  • Minimal Sole
Cons
  • Pricier

4. Chaco zCloud

4. Chaco zCloud
Chacos’ zCloud features a polyester webbed upper that circles the foot across the midsole for a unique fit. It has adjustable high-tension heel risers and a LuvSeat PU midsole. The zCloud comes pretreated with an antimicrobial application that prevents odors from occurring and features an injection-molded ladder lock buckle.
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Features
The zCloud has a non-marking ChacoGrip rubber outsole that boasts 3mm deep lugs for superior traction on any surface. Its adjustable and customizable features make for a one-of-a-kind-wear.

Comfort
A LuvSeat PU midsole and a polyester webbed upper make the zCloud an overly comfortable sandal. The zClouds built-in antimicrobial treatment works to prevent odors before they happen.

Cost & Value
These sandals are available at a mid-price range and offer exceptional value considering their feature-rich wearability.
Pros
  • LuvSeat PU Midsole
  • Antimicrobial Treatment
  • Rubber Outsole
  • Heel Risers
  • Polyester Webbing
Cons
  • Sizes Run Small

5. Keen Rialto 3 Point

5. Keen Rialto 3 Point
Get ready to hit the trails with the Keen Rialto 3 Point. It’s the updated version of the model, and offers some design and function upgrades from previous versions. For runners, it demonstrates all the qualities of fit and support needed in a regular sneaker, but now in a sandal. Plus, you’ll have odor fighting technology to help keep these smelling great, even during the heat of summertime.
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Support and Cushion
Direct-attach PU midsole stabilizes and supports the foot during running, while the PU foam footbed helps support the metatarsals with a raised ridge. Ideal for proper toe splay without leaving the underfoot feeling sore. Synthetic soles help to give you traction with a textured bottom for grip, and water resistant uppers make it great for stream crossings, while the hydrophobic lining helps keep water from being absorbed into the sandal, including perspiration.

Adjustable Fit
As the name suggest, the Rialto 3 Point has 3 adjustable straps to give you the best possible fit for your individual foot. Two straps go across the foot, while one wraps around back of the heel to keep you snug and secure. And, this sandal has Cleansport NXT technology, to help prevent odor buildup in the sandal due to sweat, or other damp conditions which can cause bacterial growth.

Cost and Value
One of the more expensive items on our top ten list, it’s a solid investment for a pair of rugged sandals you can take off road, in the water, and still run comfortably in. The Keen Rialto 3 Point offers all the features structurally that a running shoe would need for performance, but keeps that open-air feel in a sandal design. Adjustable 3 way straps help give you the best fit possible, so it’s sure to fit you!
Pros

PU Foam Footbed

Adjustable 3 Way Straps

Raised Metatarsal Ridge

Water Resistant

Cleansport NXT Tech

Cons

Sizing Can Vary

Strap Durability

6. Atika Maya Trail

6. Atika Maya Trail
The Atika Maya Trail is a foot-friendly pair of sandals designed for wear on a variety of terrains. Jog in total comfort thanks to the Maya’s cushioned insole and added arch support. These sandals feature an intuitive footbed that conforms to the contours of your foot and adjustable long-lasting hook & loop Velcro straps for easy on and off wearability.
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Versatile
The Atika Maya Trail is a multi-purpose and convenient sandal that even has unisex options available. Run at ease on any terrain thanks to the Maya’s grippy outsole and comfort-boosting features.

Wearability
These Atika sandals are easy wearing and designed with durable hook & loop Velcro closures that will prevent any flopping. An intuitive footbed and cushioned insole top off the added arch support that makes these sandals so great for running in.

Cost & Value
An extreme saving, these sandals are one of the least costly to make this list. However, they certainly don’t cut any corners when it comes to quality construction and ease of wearability.
Pros
  • Cushioned Insole
  • Arch Support
  • Contoured Footbed
  • Hook & Loop Closure
  • Traction
Cons
  • May Rub At Side Strap 

7. Gold Pigeon GP5931

7. Gold Pigeon GP5931
This Gold Pigeon sandal boasts fabric and synthetic materials along with a rubber outsole for excellent traction. Its water release sole is quick-drying while also encouraging fresh air to flow around the foot. The GP5931’s bounce back bottom retains its shape well while its adjustable straps make for a secure fit.
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Comfort
A shock-absorbing sole makes for a flexible and cushioned feel while bouncing back to retain its shape. These Gold Pigeons are lightweight and waterproof making them a good choice for those summer morning runs along the beach.

Care
The GP5931 is easy to care for as you can simply put them in the washing machine and air dry after thanks to their BPA-free synthetic material.

Cost & Value
These sandals are inexpensive, comfortable, and waterproof, what more could you ask for in a pair of sandals?!
Pros
  • Fabric & Synthetic Materials
  • Rubber Outsole
  • Quick-drying
  • Water-release Sole
  • Adjustable Straps
Cons
  • Untrue To Size

8. Vibram VI-S

8. Vibram VI-S
The Vibram Vl-S is an ideal sandal for running or other physical activities like yoga. The VI-S is a form-fitting sandal with zero heel-to-toe-drop for a minimalist experience. Featuring an adjustable stretch closure system and easy side-release, these Vibrams are a comfortable wearing sandal for running. The VI-S has a rubber outsole that provides a solid grip on any surface and can be machine washed on a cold cycle.
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Security/Traction
The VI-S boasts an adjustable stretch closure system for a secure and customized fit, along with a serrated blade lug and grippy rubber outsole.

Zero Drop
The VI-S is a minimalist style sandal with a zero heel to toe drop. Run the way nature intended and feel more connected to the ground beneath your feet.

Cost & Value
The Vibram VI-S is available for a suprisingly low price considering the substantial safety and comfort these sandals have to offer.
Pros
  • Stretch Closures
  • Zero Drop
  • Rubber Outsole
  • Serrated Blade Lugs
  • Low-cost
Cons
  • Enclosed Toes

9. Xero Genesis Tarahumara

9. Xero Genesis Tarahumara
Xero Genesis Tarahumara Huarache is the embodiment of sandal runs, closest to barefoot that you can get in a shoe in general. They’ve kept a super minimalist look and feel, but simply added a protective sole to help keep the foot safe from abrasions, glass, rocks, or other bits that you can pick up in the skin when running barefoot. One of the most natural feeling and simplistic sandals out there for running, it’s worth a look if you’re a sandal run enthusiast!
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Design
Staying true to the tarahumara huarache minimalistic tradition, the Xero Genesis consists of a 5mm sole and nylon laces which won’t stretch out over time. The Feel True soles at the base of the Genesis come with Xero’s 5000 mile warranty, so should they wear out before then, you can contact the manufacturer for a replacement product at 60% MSRP plus the cost of shipping. With the extra tread pattern at the base of the sole, these will feel barefoot but still function to maintain grip when running.

Barefoot Minimalism
Nylon ‘laces’ create the structure to keep the foot in place on the sole, and can be styled in a number of ways. It may take a little getting used to, but once you have the proper fit for your feet, running will feel lighter than with regular heavier sneakers, and you’ll have breathability to the max. And, since there is little to these wonderful sandals, you can roll them up, pack them in your travel bag or purse, and take with you without fuss!

Cost and Value
At an average price threshold, the Xero Genesis Tarahumara Huarache is a running sandal made for minimalists, who appreciate the barefoot running style and history. With its 5000-mile warranty sole, zero drop, and minimal design, they make a great travel sandal as well as running sandal. But, get a hold of these quick as they seem to sell out as the running sandal starts to gain popularity!
Pros

Minimalistic

5000-Mile Warranty Sole

Nylon Laces

Feel True Sole

Barefoot Feel

Cons

Price

Toe May Turn Under If Dragged

10. ECCO Terra 3S

10. ECCO Terra 3S
Last but by no means least on our top ten list, ECCO weighs in with the Terra 3S. ECCO brand is no stranger to comfortable and functional footwear, and they keep things stylish too. The Terra 3S is a textile sandal with sporty appeal, loads of support and cushion, and durable sole built for trail running. Get ready to hit the trails, roads, streams all with the freedom feel of a sandal!
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Support and Cushion
If you want that plush cushioned feel in a sandal for your runs, the ECCO Terra 3S has a PU midsole foam to add that pillow soft feel to your steps. An EVA footbed with a smooth and supple microfiber cover helps keep the sandal lightweight, stable, and gives additional cushion. Mesh lining make the straps breathable and quick drying, so you can take these into the water on hotter days should you choose to.

Durable Sole
No running shoe, sneaker or sandal, would be worth the investment without a durable, yet supportive sole. The base of the Terra 3S has a trail-running inspired sole, with grippy texture and comfort abound. The PU/TPU sole is direct injected, and helps keep flexibility and cushion while maintaining a solid grip and traction. You’ll be pleasantly surprised with the performance of this pair of sandals on or off the road.

Cost and Value
By no means the most expensive, the ECCO Terra 3S runs slightly more expensive than average for our list, but is worth the consideration. From its techy comfort and stability features, to its breathable mesh and trail inspired sole, any running enthusiast can appreciate the design of this sandal. Adjustable straps give you the best individual fit you can find, and plush footbed will keep you going that extra mile!
Pros

PU Midsole Foam

Rugged Sole

EVA Footbed

Lightweight

Mesh Lining

Cons

Can Rub

Sizing Vaires

 

That wraps up our list of the Best Sandals For Runners Reviewed & Rated in 2018. It’s important to keep in mind certain factors when considering taking up running in sandals, including; the type of terrain you plan to run on, the distance, and the protective qualities that your sandals offer. It’s not necessary to run in a minimalist styled sandal; this is more of a personal preference as you could easily run in a cushioned pair of sandals. Hopefully, this list has given you the information you need to find the perfect pair of sandals that meet your running needs.

 

Criteria Used To Evaluate The Best Sandals For Runners

The concept behind running in sandals is a simple one, to have a more natural running experience that closely mimics that of running barefoot. There are many reported benefits to running while barefoot which include; consuming less oxygen, less ground contact, and striking with the forefoot instead of the heel. The problem with running barefoot is that it’s just not realistic regarding city life as the terrain would be far too hazardous without some form of barrier between you and the ground.

Many runners opt for the next best thing, minimalist running shoes or sandals. Running in a pair of sandals offers the same airy feeling as it would running with bare feet only the sandals act as a protective layer shielding your feet from all sorts of sharp objects and debris. Other benefits of wearing sandals while you run are: they are easy to clean, they discourage odors, and they help to prepare you for running barefoot or for using zero-drop running shoes if that’s something that is of interest to you.

Style

There are many different styles of running sandals available today and choosing the most appropriate for your terrain and weather conditions is essential. Some of the style considerations to keep in mind when you’re selecting a pair of sandals to run in are:

  • Zero Drop: Zero drop sandals are the same as minimalist running shoes and have a zero drop from the heel to forefoot. Many wearers feel that a zero drop encourages a more natural style of running and promotes striking with the forefoot instead of the heel. Landing with the heel is linked to an increase in the risks of running-related injuries and is encouraged by a higher drop from the heel to toe.
  • Straps: There are two types of strap closures to choose from which are vertical, or horizontal. Vertical straps are thong styled and rest between the toes instead of across them, as with horizontal styled straps. Some wearers prefer vertical straps because they have less material across the top of the foot, whereas, others prefer horizontal straps because they feel more secure and cover more of the toe area.
  • Closed-toe: While a closed-toe detracts from the barefoot feeling of running in sandals it does provide better protection and should be considered when running on hazardous terrain.
  • Open-toe: An open-toed sandal is more breathable and airy than a closed-toe but offers less overall foot protection.
  • Trail: Trail-specific options are available and feature a more solid sole unit, usually with a rubber outsole and a deeper lug pattern to grip the loose stones or wood of the trail.
  • Off-Trail: Off-trail sandals are similar to trail ones, only they usually have a closed-toe for added protection from the hazards of the terrain and will usually expose less of the foot overall as a safety design.

Material/Weight

When it comes to running in a pair of sandals, their overall weight affects how well the wearer can perform. A more substantial shoe requires more energy expenditure which in turn, causes slower times. However, it is essential not to sacrifice comfort in the hopes of attaining higher speeds as wearing an uncomfortable shoe can burn more energy through increased shock-absorption with every step.

Specific materials are lighter than others that are going to weigh you down. Elements to consider are:

  • Synthetics: Synthetic materials are human-made and consist of two layers, a backing layer, and an external layer. Synthetic materials are lightweight and breathable making them a strong consideration for footwear.
  • Foam: Foam is a top-of-the-line material for shoes and sandals alike. It’s ultra-lightweight and absorbs shock better than many other articles out there.
  • Leather: Leather is an all-around great material for the construction of a shoe. It’s breathable, lightweight, and long-lasting which is why it’s a favorite for many shoe manufacturers and consumers.
  • Mesh: Mesh is a lightweight woven material that allows for perfect airflow and keeps feet cool and dry no matter how far you’re going to run.

Another thing to keep in mind is looking for materials that are going to wick moisture away from the foot; this will prevent a build-up of bacteria that causes odors. An excellent moisture-wicking component is leather, while some synthetics are very good as well. For additional odor-control, look for shoes that have Cleansport NXT technologies, or those that explicitly have anti-microbial properties.

A woman hiking along the top of a grassy mountain with the sunset in the background

Comfort

Staying comfortable during and after your run is of paramount concern. Wearing a shoe that lacks in certain features will leave your feet, ankles, and legs feeling fatigued and painful. Depending on your level of strength running without proper cushion and support can cause all sorts of painful injuries and can result in a decrease in your overall performance. Some of the features to look for when selecting a pair of sandals based on comfort are:

  • EVA Footbed: Ethyl Vinyl Acetate (EVA) is a human-made foam polymer. It is an excellent material for use in footwear due to its soft and flexible properties. EVA provides a superb cushion while maintaining a lightweight and thin profile.
  • Arch Support: Arch support is something many individuals prefer to have ample of, especially those with flat arches or Plantar Fasciitis. Many of the shoes on this list have features that add an extra level of arch support.
  • Anti-slip: It’s essential that you’re sure of foot while running and preventing slips is of significant concern. It’s not a comfortable feeling when you slip and hurt yourself which is why you should choose a pair of sandals that have dependable traction for multi-terrain grip. Rubber is the best option as it provides superior hold, as well as, weather-resistance.

When thinking about the comfort of sandals for runners it’s important to consider various areas of possible concern, including rubbing and blisters. When a sandal has straps and closures it’s vital to thoroughly ensure there is going to be no rubbing before taking them out for a run. Rubbing and friction cause blisters which are painful and can impede overall performance, affecting you for days, or even weeks at a time. It’s also a good idea to inspect the footbed area and make sure there are no points of pressure that are going to press too much on a specific area of the underside of your foot as this too will cause blisters and calluses.

A beautiful shot in Floresville of a man running by a field with large trees

Frequently Asked Questions

 

Q: Is it safe to run in sandals?
A: Running in sandals can be completely safe so long as you are careful in choosing an appropriate style to meet your individual needs. Many people feel that sandals lack the proper support needed while you run but that’s just not the case.

There are many styles of sandal that are designed specifically for running and possess added supportive qualities. Alternatively, many runners are seeking a barefoot feel with the added underfoot protection one gets from wearing a bare minimum shoe. If you are interested in wearing a barefoot sandal than start off slowly, running shorter distances and build-up to more extended and more intense training. Allowing yourself time to adjust will give your body time to build the strength needed for running without the added cushion and prevent the occurrence of foot pain or fatigue.

You should also consider the potential hazards of the terrain you intend to run on and select an appropriate style that will adequately protect your toes and feet. For instance, if you’re running where there is an increased risk of falling objects or a danger of stepping on sharp debris it is better to opt for a closed-toe or a sandal with a thicker outsole.

Q: Will my feet hurt?
A: So long as you run using proper form and don’t push the limits too far while wearing sandals your feet should not hurt any more than they typically would after a run.

If you are transitioning from a standard heel-to-toe-drop to a zero drop, it is best to start off slow and reduce overall run time and intensity. Slowly work your way up to the level you would typically run at over the course of several weeks or months as this will allow your body time to adjust to this new style of running. As long as you don’t rush yourself through the transition period, you should not experience any pain in your legs or feet.

Q: Can I run in sandals if I have low-arches?
A: The strength of your arch determines whether or not you will be able to run while wearing sandals, not the height. Many people have the misconception that having a flat span means that they are limited in their range of footwear and activities which is not true. If you work at strengthening your arch, you will be able to withstand shock just as well as someone with an average arc and will be able to wear the same footwear as anyone else comfortably.

Q: What terrain can I run on wearing sandals?
A: Any terrain that you usually would run on so long as you protect your feet from the elements as well as, from the hazards of your surroundings.

Q: How long will my sandals last?
A: That depends on how well they’re constructed and how much wear you put them through. A well-constructed sandal should last as long as a running shoe would, and the items on this list were chosen based on their durability, among other factors.

 

Terminology

  • EVA: A human-made foam material that is lightweight and flexible making it an excellent material for footwear.
  • Footbed: A footbed, or insole, is the fixed or removable part inside of a shoe on which the footrests. Different styles of footbeds exist to target different areas of concern including, comfort, odor control, and orthotic purposes.
  • Hook & Loop: A type of closure system that sees one piece of material fastened directly to another, Velcro is the most widely used for of hook & loop closures.
  • Lug: A deep indentation on the sole of a shoe that has a patterned design and provides better traction.
  • Metatomical: An anatomically correct footbed that conforms to the contours of the foot.
  • Minimal Sole: A thin shoe sole that is made to mimic the feel of running barefoot and provides little-to-no cushioning.
  • Multi-directional: Refers to something going in all direction.
  • Outsole: The outermost sole of a shoe which makes direct contact with the ground and protects your feet from hazards and potential injuries.
  • Stability Shank: The part of the shoe that provides structure and sits between the outsole and footbed.
  • TPU: Thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU)  is a flexible and stretchy material that’s transparent and is also resistant to oil, grease, and abrasion.
  • Zero Drop: Refers to having no difference in height from the heel to the forefoot of a shoe.

Sources

  1. Xero Shoes, Xeroshoes.com, Manufacturer's Website, Apr 18, 2018
  2. Creative Commons, Seven Reasons To Run In Sandals, Article,
  3. Stephen Regenold, 50 Miles In Flip-Flops?, Article, Apr 13, 2016
  4. Matthew Karsten, Why I Love Barefoot Sandals For Adventure Travel, Article,
  5. Earth Runners, Earth Runners Minimalist Outdoor Sandals, Manufacturer's Website,


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