Prefer sandals to sneakers when walking? Here's what podiatrists and an orthopedic surgeon say to wear the next time you hit the pavement or trails.
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woman being active in sandals
Credit: Getty Images / Jordan Siemens

While many folks turn to sneakers for walking, sometimes you want your feet to be free from the insulated confines of shoes or boots—especially when the weather is warm. However, simply picking up a pair of $5 flip-flops just isn't advantageous or healthy for a long day of walking. That's why choosing the best pair of walking sandals is important for the support and health of your feet, spine and more.

Our feet are the foundation that carries the rest of us around. So, we asked several physicians about why choosing the right footwear is essential. Here's how to pick the best walking sandal, according to doctors.

What to Look for in a Walking Sandal

According to Gbolahan Okubadejo, M.D., a spinal and orthopedic surgeon in New York City, "Shoes with a slight heel are best. The fact that your heels are slightly elevated allows your ankle to turn a little bit and rotate differently. A heel that's the same height as (or lower than) the toe of the shoe affects the way your leg and pelvis turn. This will affect your spine and lower back negatively."

Podiatrist Douglas Dockery, D.P.M., says that traditional flip-flops are a no for him: "They provide no support or protection." Okubadejo echoes this sentiment and says that flip-flops "don't provide enough support or padding. It's also hard to get strong footing, which can lead to sprains or twisted ankles."

Dockery adds that it's important to prioritize comfort and fit over fashion when choosing a walking sandal. He says, "Make sure they are comfortable and have a good midsole. And, make sure those straps are adjustable."

According to our experts, here are characteristics to look for when buying walking sandals:

  • Adjustable straps
  • Styles with varying width options
  • A cushioned and anatomical footbed
  • A quality sole that provides traction and durability

Timothy Karthas, D.P.M., a podiatrist in the Boston area, adds, "If you do have a foot deformity or pain and aren't sure what shoes to wear, see a podiatrist and get more personalized recommendations."

The Best Walking Sandals

We know you like options. Therefore, we've made it our sole purpose (sorry, we had to) to provide you with some stylish walking sandal options that can provide all-day comfort and support. Here are the best walking sandals that keep both style and comfort in mind.

Note: The APMA Seal of Acceptance is granted to products that are found to promote good foot health. Many of the brands below have received this seal, while others that don't still come highly recommended by podiatrists.

Birkenstock Arizona

This classic sandal comes highly recommended by podiatrists. The Arizona is a popular style and comes in a variety of options including colors and width (for wider or narrower feet). For those that aren't familiar, the upper consists of a soft leather with a double strap with adjustable buckle closure. The cork-latex footbed features an anatomical shape that provides excellent arch support while molding to the shape of your feet with wear. As an added bonus, they're stylish and comfortable right out of the box.

Arizona Soft Footbed Sandal
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Teva Hurricane XLT2

Since its founding in 1984, Teva has pushed the envelope in creating adventure footwear. This remains true with the Hurricane XLT2, which features a comfort upgrade (from the Hurricane XLT) that includes soft heel-strap padding and a new modern sole. These are ideal for day hiking and all-day adventuring. And when they have reached the end of their life, the style is completely recyclable through the brand's TevaForever program.

Teva Hurricane XLT2
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OluKai 'Ohana and 'Upena

Olukai is a great shoe for all-around support. And, they feature a little island flair as each style carries a traditional Hawaiian name. The 'Ohana ("family") is a podiatrist-recommended flip-flop sandal and features one of the most anatomically supportive footbeds in the brand's line of sandals, while the 'Upena ("net") features an adjustable back strap that can take you from beach to dinner without compromising style or support.

OluKai Ohana
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OluKai Upena
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Merrell Juno Backstrap

While stylish, these sandals feature a pigskin-wrapped COMFORTBASE™ ACTIVE contoured insole for all-day comfort and a lightweight EVA foam midsole for stability and comfort. The back strap adds to the security of the shoe for active pursuits.

Juno Cross-Cross Slingback Sandal
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Nordstrom Rack

ECCO Yucatan

Known for their comfort, support and, yes, even style, ECCO shoes are frequently recommended by podiatrists. This sandal provides extra ankle support for active endeavors, and the direct-injected PU midsole and dual-density footbed provide all-day comfort. The Nubuck uppers are paired with a stretch-fit lining to insure that style and comfort mesh.

ECCO Yucatan Adjustable Strap Leather Sandals
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Keen Elle Backstrap

Chances are you have heard about this brand or perhaps even own a pair or two yourself. The brand is synonymous with comfortable and stylish options for just about any occasion. With so many to great options to choose from in the line, we wanted something that was unique and we found it in the Elle Backstrap. While they feature a compression-molded EVA midsole and footbed for extreme comfort, they also sport stretchy straps made from 100% recycled PET plastic bottles.

Elle Backstrap Sandal
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MBT Lila

The Lila is an active outdoor sandal that carries the APMA seal and features the MBT Level 3 Rocker which provides extra cushioning while maximizing muscle activation.

MBT Lila Shoe

Chaco Z/Cloud

This is the same classic Chaco sandal that features "pillow-top comfort" on the podiatrist-certified LUVSEAT™ PU footbed. The adjustable strap system allows for personal customization, and they come with the option for wearing with a single or double strap and with or without the toe loop. The rubber outsole is ideal for providing traction on a variety of surfaces.

Chaco Z/Cloud

Dansko Reece

This APMA-certified casual sandal offers a molded memory foam footbed along with an EVA and cork midsole for comfort. It also features a comfortable (and stylish) toe loop and adjustable back strap. We'll let you decide but this may very well be the perfect sandal for style and comfort.

Dansko Reece Leather Sandals
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Bernardo 1946 Ciara

Since 1946, Bernardo has been creating artisanal footwear. This platform sandal features soft glove leather in the upper and insole while sporting exquisite craftsmanship.

Bernardo Ciara
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