The best minimalist sandals only use a few straps and they are made with zero drops. Drop refers to the height difference between the heel and the ball of the foot. I wasn’t sure about zero drops, given I often use walking shoes that have a drop of around 10mm.
But there are a few advantages to this design, which include a more natural walking or running experience. At the same time, minimalist sandals are not as bulky as they are made with just a few straps which hold the sole to the foot.
Best Minimalist Sandals Reviews
From the thousands of possible options, I recommended these minimalist sandals for their combination of materials and simple designs. I still remember my first experience with minimalist sandals and how surprised I was to find so much comfort in such thin materials with just a few straps running over my feet.
1. Xero Shoes Women’s Z-Trail Sandal
- Material: FeelTrue rubber, TrailFoam, BareFoam, polyester
- Available sizes: 8
- Available colors: 3
The Xero Shoes Women’s Z-Trail Sandal is an impressively minimalist adventure sandal, coming surprisingly close to replicating the barefoot walking experience while still providing protection.
Weighing just 8 ounces, the Z-Trail’s thin – yet quite rugged – sole manages to shield feet from sharp objects while retaining exceptional flexibility to move naturally with your feet. Despite their lightweight and barely-there design, the sandals remain securely fastened, mostly due to the ingeniously angled anchor points on the straps (they pull slightly away from the foot). This innovative system allows even wet straps to be tightened without any rubbing.
An sandal enthusiast friend of mine found the comfort offered by this model unmatched by any other she tried before. She said that the adjustable straps and wide toe box accommodated her swollen feet after long miles while still feeling pleasantly loose and free.
While wet traction suffers due to slippage on the smooth interior footbed, the Z-Trail’s FeelTrue rubber sole excels on dry terrain, scaling rocky hills and cliffs with ease. Despite the less-than-supportive minimalist sole, the exceptional balance and foot-gripping capability empowered my friend to hike trails far longer than she anticipated.
Finally, for casual wear around town or camp, the understated style of Z-Trail blends well with any outfit.
- Good dry traction
- Very lightweight
- Flexible sole
- Limited colors
- Thin sole lets debris in
- Loose fit isn’t everyone’s favorite
2. Teva Men’s Original Universal Sandal
- Material: EVA, rubber, recycled plastic
- Available sizes: 8
- Available colors: 13
The Teva Men’s Original Universal Sandal sandal has managed to impress me with its classic style, supreme comfort, and budget-friendly price.
This particular model features multi-density EVA foam and rubber outsoles – a combo that makes it feel pleasantly lightweight. Subtle 3D molding on the plush footbed provided my feet with cushioning that felt surprisingly luxurious for the cost. The straps’ Velcro adjustability made finding the perfect fit simple, though the webbing isn’t the softest. While the materials don’t seem overly rugged, they get the job done for casual comfort at an affordable price.
Where the Originals fall short, however, is with wet traction and stability over uneven terrain.
The plush footbed turns slippery when saturated, which caused my feet to slide around. The shallow sole treads also lack the bite to grip slick surfaces. Similarly, the soft, flexible materials that feel so pleasantly cushioned on flat ground limit stability when bombing down steep, rocky slopes. The classic Velcro strap system looks retro-cool but but it struggled to lock my feet in place as securely as more advanced designs.
Still, for cruising around town, kicking back at camp, or simple day hikes on dry ground, I consider the Originals to be a versatile option, especially if you’re looking for something comfortable and affordable.
- Classic design
- Plush footbed
- Great value
- Poor wet traction
- Limited adjustability
- Mediocre stability
3. Xero Shoes Men’s Z-Trail Sandal
- Material: FeelLite rubber, TrailFoam, BareFoam, polyester
- Available sizes: 10
- Available colors: 6
Weighing a mere 12 ounces, the featherlight Xero Shoes Men’s Z-Trail Sandals appeal to gram-counting adventurers – such as myself – and minimalists with their eco-friendly design.
The dual-layer footbed combines dense rubber lugs for traction with flexible foam at the arch to enable natural barefoot running gaits. Reinforced nylon webbing, fashioned from recycled materials, managed to wrap my feet in genuinely comforting compression. Another thing that impressed me is the thin silhouette that still manages to provide decent cushioning for all-day wear despite its barely-there look.
During the testing, I’ve come to realize that the zigzagging tread works well scrambling over rocks. However, I can’t say the same for the sandal’s performance on wet surfaces. Stability unsurprisingly suffers on uneven terrain, too – these are, after all, minimalist sandals.
Still, slipping into the quickly adjustable straps to kick around town or relax streamside felt pleasurably liberating compared to some of the bulkier sandals I tested before. The Z-Trail’s packable size and weight makes them an awesome second pair of shoes for backpackers or a stash-and-go pair for travel.
While technical performance has its limits, the featherlight carrying comfort of these sandals broadens their versatility for multi-day adventures.
- Lack of support
- Durability concerns
- Slippery when wet
4. Vibram Women’s Five Fingers Sandal
- Material: Polyester, rubber
- Available sizes: 19
- Available colors: 13
The Vibram Women’s Five Fingers Sandals weigh mere 8.5 ounces and, as such, come tantalizingly close to replicating the barefoot experience while still protecting feet.
The glove-like fit hugs each individual toe in a separate pocket, enabling full flexibility and natural motion. The thin yet durable rubber sole provides a consistent 5mm of cushioning from heel to toe with zero drop, allowing feet to sensitively interact with the ground. After gradually strengthening the feet and paying careful attention to form, any female hiker is bound to feel empowered to sprint across virtually any terrain with precision balance and traction.
The breathable upper mesh keeps feet cool while the grippy soles find themselves at home even on dust-slicked rocks. While water and debris can permeate the flexible soles, the smart protective bumpers help deflect trail debris.
The only thing my friend – who tested these shoes – didn’t like are the edges of the plasticized bands which slightly rubbed her feet on longer runs before she found a perfect, snug fit.
While not insulating, the model’s lightweight versatility enables pushing the barefoot experience into cooler weather. For diehard minimalists willing to slowly build strength, the mere sensation of running unfettered that these sandals provide makes them a worthwhile purchase.
- Extremely minimal
- Moderate price
- Permeable to debris
- Rubbing issues
- Not insulating
5. Chaco Men’s Z/Cloud Sandal
- Material: ChacoGrip rubber, LuvSeat polyurethane, polyester
- Available sizes: 14
- Available colors: 7
The Chaco Men’s Z/Cloud Sandal impressed me as a supremely comfortable, rugged piece of footwear, capable of handling extended trail missions despite its genuinely casual styling.
Essentially the beloved Z/1 Classics but with softer, more plush midsoles, the Z/Clouds conformed deliciously to my feet with no tedious break-in period. The trademark ChacoGrip outsoles remain satisfyingly stiff for crossing uneven terrain while still flexing with natural foot bending – always a big plus in my book. The interwoven webbing straps, once I properly adjusted them to eliminate pressure points, supplied custom compression across miles of dusty trails and slick creek crossings.
While wet or dry traction never wavers thanks to versatile diamond-shaped tread, stability did suffer during the testing period – the consequence of the more flexible sole materials. But slipping into the precisely tunable fit forgives minor slips scrambling down loose slopes.
Despite the bomber build, all-day wear remained pleasantly fatigue-free thanks to the sandal’s strategic cushioning, which is exactly I expected from Chaco. And even though the lofty price exceeds most competitors, years of resilient service in all kinds of conditions showcase this sandal’s immense value.
For those desiring Chaco’s signature all-terrain versatility with enhanced long-haul comfort, the Z/Clouds float through adventures like a dream.
- Extremely comfortable
- Grippy on variable surfaces
- Rugged build
- Somewhat heavy
- Slightly less stable
6. Xero Shoes Men’s Z-Trek II Sandal
- Material: FeelTrue rubber, polyester
- Available sizes: 9
- Available colors: 5
The Xero Shoes Men’s Z-Trek II Sandal provides a happy medium between barefoot minimalism and traditional support. Weighing 7.2 ounces, this sandal sports a clean, versatile style that works extremely well with shorts or pants for all-season wear.
While I don’t consider this model as barefoot as the nearly non-existent Z-Trail – which I’ve analyzed above – the single-layer 5.5mm FeelTrue rubber soles of this sandal remains flexibly thin yet surprisingly protective even over gravel. By unfurling the compactly rollable soles, I found that the Z-Trek II contours to the feet more substantially than most other minimalist sandals I’ve had a chance to test.
Once I found a perfectly snug fit by cinching the quick-adjusting heel strap and customizing tension across the athletic strapping, I felt securely supported bombing down dirt trails. And, to mu surprise, breathability stayed pleasantly airy during a humid hike despite the fact that these sandals largely covered my feet.
While wet/dry traction grips well thanks to deep clefts in the rubber, the thin sole maintained enough ground feel for proprioceptive stability on uneven terrain. However, after a few weeks of testing, the fuzzy strapping showed some pilling – the only somewhat “major” disadvantage of Z-Trek II.
Nevertheless, for those seeking a transitional minimalist sandal before going full barefoot, the Z-Treks II supply genuinely enhanced comfort.
- Very lightweight
- Contoured support
- Packs compactly
- Fuzzy straps may pill
- Not as barefoot as some
- Grooves trap dirt
7. Luna Men’s Mono Winged Edition Sandal
- Material: Vibram, rubber
- Available sizes: 18
- Available colors: 3
Next up is a pair of sleek minimalist sandals called the Luna Men’s Mono Winged Edition Sandals, which embody barely-there barefoot style paired with rugged performance.
The thin 4mm Vibram soles gave me that great “ground” feel while still supplying impressive wet/dry traction while I was hiking over slick terrain and down dusty trails. Besides the soles, two other components that allow the Monos to have such a good performance in this category are their deep cleats and grippy footbeds.
Moreover, despite the featherlight and flexible silhouette of these sandals, Monkey Grip technology locked my feet in place as securely as a sturdy hiking boot. I also liked how the smooth tubular webbing eliminates rubbing – I experienced virtually no irritation issues during miles of hiking over (relatively) rough terrain. Slipping into the minimalist strap design of the Monos feels like going shoeless, yet provides protection from abrasive surfaces and unexpected hazards.
While the open-toed freedom enabled natural toe splaying and foot strengthening, I was quite disappointed when it came to arch support. Given the complete lack of upper coverage, I took extra caution hiking over roots and logs to avoid toe stubs. But after securely cinching the quick-drying straps, I felt stable enough to go over wet boulders and walk alongside slippery docks.
So, if you’re seeking sheer barefoot joy with a touch of security, these hardy sandals supply are an excellent option – the Monos supply simplicity without sacrificing versatility.
- Packable & lightweight
- Durable build
- Barefoot feel
- No toe protection
- Lacks arch support
8. Skechers Women’s On The Go 400 Sandal
- Material: Rubber, polyester
- Available sizes: 6
- Available colors: 5
I’ve tested countless sandals over the years, and one of the sandal brands that always stood out when it came to comfort and versatility was Skechers. For that reason, I’ve decided to ask my female friend for help and let her test Skechers Women’s On The Go 400 Sandal – one of the brand’s most popular offerings of this type – for two weeks and tell me whether they’re worth considering for purchase.
Featuring a featherlight silhouette, this sandal sports soft woven straps that feel pleasantly smooth against and cause no rubbing or irritation during all-day wear. The contoured sole provided my friend with surprising arch support while still remaining flexible enough for natural foot bending. She said she experienced no irritation issues whether strolling downtown or traversing garden trails.
The grippy traction of the mini wave-patterned bottoms gave her the much-needed stability even when she was scrambling up slippery pool decks, though she said that the bottoms did collect dirt in the crevices. She especially liked the memory foam insoles, saying that they feel like walking on clouds compared to the hard footbeds of flimsier flip flops. An extra stability strap across the top of the foot securely kept the 400s from flying off mid-stride.
With all of this mind, it’s safe to sat that the Skechers On The Go 400s are a good option for female outdoor enthusiasts looking for light, pillowy comfort at an affordable price. Make sure to check out my women’s hiking shoes reviews.
- Supremely comfortable
- Versatile wear
- Affordable price
- Wave treads collect dirt
- Thin sole lacks support
- Straps run small
9. Keen Men’s Newport H2 Sandal
- Material: Eva, polyester, rubber
- Available sizes: 16
- Available colors: 26
The rugged Keen Men’s Newport H2 Sandals stand out as my top pick for water adventures, earning high marks across metrics thanks to the protective closed-toe design.
Weighing just over a pound, the quick-drying upper wrapped my feet in neoprene-backed webbing, shielding my toes while resisting irritation. Despite the closed silhouette, the model’s drainage ports flushed water and debris. The supportive contoured footbed gave me exceptional comfort even during all-day wear.
While not the grippiest on slick dry surfaces, the Newport H2’s traction shines through on wet terrain and transitions seamlessly between water and land. The ample toe bumper made me feel very stable traipsing along the rocky shoreline, while the stiff resilient sole prevented rolling ankles.
The bungee lacing cinches tight, but those with narrow feet may struggle achieving an ideally snug fit. After sloshing through muddy shallows, I did find that the sand tends to get trapped inside with no easy exit. But for amphibious adventure in total foot protection without a clunky shoe feel, the Newport H2 supplies watery performance fit for play or sport.
Keen sandals are often compared with Chacos, so I suggest checking out my Keen vs Chaco comparison. If you decide that you want to go with Chacos after all, you might want to check out my How to Break in Chacos Fast post as well.
- Great wet traction
- Protective closed-toe
- Quick drying
- Sand gets trapped inside
- Lacks adjustability
- Doesn’t slip on easily
10. Teva Men’s Katavi Outdoor Sandal
- Material: EVA, Durabrasion rubber, suede
- Available sizes: 6
- Available colors: 2
I’ve seen people mentioning how the Teva Men’s Katavi Outdoor Sandal provides a fantastic value for the money, offering exceptional comfort rivalling premium brands at almost half the price. After a week and a half of testing, I can say the same.
While wearing the sandal, its plush contoured EVA foam footbed made me feel like walking on clouds while, at the same time, providing outstanding stability thanks to its subtly raised edges. Three wide straps wrapped my foot in soft suede luxury, while the model’s adjustable closures allowed me customize the fit. I particularly liked the sticky Durabrasion rubber soles – they provide reliable traction across dirt, rock, roots and asphalt alike.
While wet conditions do diminish grip slightly, performance remains impressive for the cost. Similarly, the classic strap system secured my feet well enough for most conditions (albeit without advanced supports of higher-end models). After scrambling over slick boulders to grab riverside lunch, I easily kicked off the Katavis to relax barefoot without worrying about destroying the hardy build.
Finally, the earth-toned color palette and streamlined silhouette even allows stylish transition from trails to brews with friends.
If you’re on a budget but still want lightweight comfort, the Katavi undoubtedly checks all the boxes.
- Supreme comfort
- Affordable price
- Loses some traction when wet
- Okay stability
- Average adjustability
11. OOFOS OOriginal Sandal
- Material: Foam, rubber
- Available sizes: 14
- Available colors: 17
While the oddly named OOFOS OOriginal Sandals conjure up images of orthopedic shoes rather than stylish summer sandals, their singular focus on cushioning provides unparalleled comfort for problem feet.
The super plush “Oofoam” footbeds feels extremely comfortable, conforming to my feet with memory foam decadence. While it did take me some time to break in the thick rubber, the effort was definitely worth it – the model tucks toes in pillowy heaven. And while traction struggled on uneven terrain given the model’s awkward towering silhouette, gliding over smooth sidewalks barely feelt like walking at all — more like floating.
After two weeks of use walking about beaches and kicking around downtown, the spongy footbeds showed no signs of packing down or losing their indulgent squish. The goofy curved lines lack mainstream visual appeal, but for those needing supportive cushion for plantar fasciitis or other foot troubles, that matters little. No other sandal soothes orthotic issues as sublimely.
In the end, the excessive plushness offered by the OOriginal Sandals may prove overkill for some, but if you’re looking for something versatile for the summer, these are a great choice.
- Exceptionally comfortable
- Durable foam footbed
- Provides arch support
- Clunky style
- Lacks versatility
- Poor traction
Barefoot & Running Minimalist Sandals Buying Guide
Choosing minimalist sandals requires a bit of research. Like me, you might be confused about the various materials and designs on offer. From EVA and gum rubber to zero drop or small drop exceptions, you need to consider a few characteristics.
Synthetic Leather vs. Real Leather
Many minimalist sandals are made with leather or synthetic leather straps. These materials have their strengths and weaknesses. Real leather comes from animal hides such as cattle and buffalo. Alternatively, synthetic leather is made from various plastics treated with wax at the surface.
What I like the most about the real leather sandals I own is that they are durable. I already own a few pairs which look as good as new a few years down the line. Then, there’s the element of uniqueness, as the pores on the leather surface make each material different. However, if you’re on a budget, synthetic leather straps might be a good alternative, together with nylon straps.
Why Non-marking Rubber Soles are a Must
When you’re following trails, you might not think too much about the quality of the outsole minimalist sandals come with. But whenever you enter a store or any indoor premises with clean floors, you immediately realize just how important the rubber on the outsole is. Like many others, I already had my share of sandals which left clear rubber marks on the floor.
EVA Foam Support
EVA or Ethylene-vinyl acetate is a rubber-like foam that is used for cushioning in minimalist footwear. If you like trekking like me, you might not know that some of your walking shoes might already include supportive foam. There are 3 main EVA variations with different degrees of support and most of them are seen on modern minimalist sandals.
Mesh Materials and Velcro Straps
Other materials seen on sandals include the omnipresent mesh. If you like walking in hot conditions as I do during the summer, the added ventilation might add breathability in the areas of the straps. Velcro straps are often used together with nylon mesh materials for added stretchiness. I vividly remember an old pair of sandals that were made with mesh straps and they were great for hugging the feet and following the natural contour of the fit a bit better to thick leather.
Are Minimalist Sandals Suitable for Hiking?
Minimalist sandals are great for hiking, but they don’t give the same support as hiking shoes. Sandals have a long history and the minimalist designs were as useful for comfort and breathability hundreds of years ago as they are today. As a fun fact, I remember reading about the oldest sandals on Earth as they were found in Oregon’s Fort Rock Cave. These sandals dating back thousands of years look exactly like modern minimalist sandals, with just a few straps made of dry willow leaves.
Can I Run in Minimalist Sandals?
Sandals have come far from their first historical discovery in Fort Rock Cave. Today, they can absorb shocks better with thinner and thinner soles and as a result, they can be suitable for running. Their variations are based on the actual surface you plan to run on. I would highly advise on getting sandals with thicker cushioning if you plan to run on trails or other uneven surfaces.
Are Sandals Made with Arch Support?
Not all sandals have good arch support. Zero drop sandals have no arch support at all. However, there are a few good minimalist sandals with contoured midsoles, just right for arch support. A good tip I was given here was to choose the sandals which were fitted for my foot from the start, as I cannot rely on adding an insole to my sandals, as I often do with my trekking shoes.
Can I Wear Sandals if I Suffer from Plantar Fasciitis?
Plantar Fasciitis is an inflammation of a tissue that runs from the heel to the toes. Its symptoms include stabbing pain somewhere in the heel area. Across my outdoor adventures, I would often see people with this condition which only gets worse with hours of standing and walking. In this case, I would recommend staying away from minimalist footwear thin soles as they could do a worse job at absorbing some of the shocks transmitted from the walking surface to the foot.
- Merrell vs Keen: Who Makes the Best Hiking Sandals
- Chaco vs Teva Sandals
- Keen vs Salomon Hiking Shoes
- Merrell vs Salomon
I think that the Xero Shoes Z-Trail in their versions for men and Xero for women are the best minimalist sandals. They drive innovation with the thin outsole and they can be rolled up and stored easily in a backpack. Teva’s Original Universal sandals are a good choice as well, especially with the EVA cushioning. But unfortunately, these sandals are not as versatile as the Xero shoe design.
Another advantage of Xero Shoes offers in the Z-Trail series is a large number of strap materials and colors to choose from. Starting with leather and continuing with nylon straps, there are plenty of options to suit all wearers.
If you’re like me and you also like to wear sandals around town after a long hike or run, such versatility becomes even more important, and if you are interested there are even some vegan hiking shoes. At the same time, I find the zero drop design of the shoes suitable for purists. While I’m not a perfectionist by any means, I still enjoy the natural feel this design gives me whenever I’m out in nature or when I’m wandering around city streets.
Given the outsole is non-marking, I can easily pop in a store to do some quick groceries after a long day out in nature. If I’m out on trails for multiple days, the fact that my feet don’t sweat and that they stay dry for longer is crucial as well. However, unlike most other sandals, Xero Shoes are also quick to dry. If I have to cross a small stream, I’m confident the sandals will completely dry in a matter of minutes.
I love hiking, backpacking, and camping. From the Camino de Santiago to the West Highland Way in Scotland or simply a great day hike on the weekend. Hiking refreshes me, my mind, and keeps my body reasonably fit. So far I have walked three Camino routes and many other long distance hikes in the UK, Canada, and around the rest of Europe. One of the best was my hike up Ben Nevis.