The current market for men’s and women’s shoes has become filled with many incredibly capable pieces of adventure footwear, thanks to shoes with arch support and sole materials and creative designs that are comfortable, supportive, and performance-oriented.
These sport-tuned models have transcended from simply being open-air footwear to serving unique and specified purposes, and can help you tackle your next objective in comfort and style.
With a seemingly overwhelming number of options for choosing the perfect product for your next adventure, we’re here to help break it down. Sandal options abound. The market now offers a range of ‘zero-drop’ models like the ones above that attract the minimalist and barefoot crowd. Sandal options abound.
The market now offers a range of shoes with arch support‘ models, like the ones above, that attract the minimalist and barefoot crowd. With a diverse and growing footwear market, part of the responsibility ultimately falls on you, the user, to determine which types will likely best suit your needs.
Unlike certain tools like Binoculars or Portable Grills, footwear has many personal considerations that are highly dependent on user preferences and physical anatomy. Your foot shape desired support or comfort level, and intended use should be the primary factors in helping you find the best product to suit your needs.
We’re excited to help you get started! Determining the best product for your needs starts with you deciding your most common usage. Even if you’re just looking for a solid all-around performer, it’s still a good idea to consider what type of activities you regularly engage in before narrowing down your choices.
Not all products are created equally for every different use, and you’d be wise to buy shoes with arch support closely related to your favorite activities.
For a lot of us, the greatest utility in a sandal is getting us from point A to point B across varied terrain, with more comfort and less weight than most other types of footwear. Humans have been blazing new trails with sandals on their feet for millennia, and today are no different. They can help you avoid hot, sweaty feet by keeping your toes and soles well-ventilated, they typically weigh less than most other hiking shoes with arch support or boots, and they’re easier to get off and on when you stumble upon that perfect swimming whole.
If you don’t wear sandals as part of your everyday footwear, you most likely still have a pair on hand for beach days, lake days, river days, or any outing that gets you close to the water.
The open-air breathability, quick-drying construction, and easy on and off of this type of footwear make them a perfect option for watery adventures, and sometimes flip-flops just don’t quite cut it. Like the rest of the offerings from the Breeze Sea is right at home in the water.
The webbing and Leisa Cacti sole also make transitioning from wet to dry a breeze. Like the rest of the offerings from Chaco, the Z Cloud is right at home in the water. The webbing and ChacoGrip sole also make transitioning from wet to dry a breeze. When engaging in watersports, your main considerations should be wet traction, water resistance, and the ability for water or sediment to drain from your footbeds.
Super grippy soles will not only help keep you safer on slick rocks, wet boat docks, or muddy trails but will enhance your overall performance in these wet conditions. Furthermore, the water-resistant materials and design help to keep your feet comfortable during these soggy outings.
Minimalist designs will have less material to get wet, but will also provide less protection from rocks and snags, especially compared to closed-toe designs. Again, the Bedrock Cairn Adventure was our preferred model in the watersports category. The Vibram MegaGrip soles do a great job of keeping your feet locked in on wet surfaces, and the minimal amounts of webbing and materials mean that your feet can dry out very quickly.
Additionally, the wide-open design makes it very easy to remove pebbles and sand from the footbed of the Cairn, without sacrificing too much comfort or stability. If you’re worried about the hidden dangers that lurk beneath the surface, or if you’re looking to accommodate wetsuit booties, we’d recommend the wider construction and closed-toe protection of the Keen Newport H2.
Some of the other lightweight models we tested, like our Best Buy Award Winner Teva Original Universal and the Top, Pick for ultralight touring Z-Trail from Xero struggled with wet traction because of their shallow tread designs. While these products certainly perform well in their intended applications, we’d recommend looking elsewhere if your primary use will be a watery one.
Travel and Urban Use:
Use if you’re looking for a model to do-it-all, that can be slipped on for a quick walk or tossed into a beach bag, this is the category for you. A sandal that you intend to wear around town should be comfortable and versatile. It also doesn’t hurt if it is stylish, to help make a smooth transition to happy hour or dinner after a day spent out and about.
But since style is highly subjective, we chose to not rate that as a metric and instead let you decide the most flattering type of footwear to suit your tastes. In some cases, a pair of flip flops may be all you need to get to where you’re going.
However, if you plan to venture off the beaten path in your new kicks or to keep them on all day, we would recommend something with a bit more support. Because of their classic design, relatively low pack weight, and versatile comfort, two of Leisa’s options, the Stinson Hi and the Original Universal are both great options for traveling, neighborhood, and urban use.
They keep your feet comfortable and supported all day, on asphalt or otherwise. Walking on hard, flat surfaces usually requires burly soles that offer both support and comfort. And for that reason, the Chaco models also fit well into this category.
Thinner models like the Breeze Sea don’t offer as much plush cushioning for long days on the pavement but are incredibly light and packable and well-suited for travel.
Closed Toe Designs:
Knowing the activities in which you plan to use your footwear is a great start to choosing the right pair. At some point, you’ll be asking yourself if you need the extra protection of a closed-toe design.
Depending on your intended use, an ultra-minimal pair of might be just fine, or, you might need extra protection if you’re bushwhacking through challenging terrain, or traversing rivers where you can’t see your exact foot placement. Additionally, some of us may opt for greater protection because we’re accident-prone, stub toes frequently, or are photophobic.
This review only included two closed-toe models, the Clarks, both of which were heavily researched before our testing process. We are well aware that some folks have an almost vehement opposition to closed-toe sandals, yet it’s prudent to include some representation from this less-popular but an essential category of shoes with arch support.
It’s is a fine question, but let us explain why closed-toe sandals and hiking shoes are two wildly different things.
A closed-toe sandal still provides the user with a substantial amount of drainage and breathability when compared to a hiking shoe. While they can still be worn with socks, we suspect that most of the time you will go without them.
One of the drawbacks to a closed-toe design is that the same holes that allow water to drain through can also potentially become filled with sediment and debris. In our experience, this debris is much more difficult to get out in closed-toe models than in a traditional open-toe model.
So, think carefully about whether you plan to be out and about in wet or dry conditions. Closed-toe models will excel in wetter or more rugged conditions.
Getting the Right Fit:
Along with all the different available styles and aesthetics, finding the right fit is where sandals get really personal.
While there isn’t a perfect substitute for going in-person to a brick and mortar store to try on different pairs, we also realize that this isn’t how a lot us shop in this day and age.
Shopping around in person can be inconvenient and time-consuming, and you can typically find a much broader selection of styles and prices on the World Wide Web.
Ultimately, we grew much fonder of the Clarks. The Newport is an overall much stronger performer with a more intuitive design. They both offer about the same amount of protection from trail snags and toe jams. However, the Newport is more comfortable and thus protected our feet from getting sore after long days on the move.
The Breeze Sea features a unique and comfortable strap design that perfectly hybridizes the light, airiness of a Clarks and the security of a proper trail shoe. The low-profile Vibram Mega-Grip sole provides stellar traction while still maintaining a decent amount of “trail feel.” The Cairn is no doubt a strong contender in every testing metric.
No matter the objective or destination, we found ourselves preferring this sandal over all the rest.
We were at first skeptical and then impressed by the Cairn’s ability to provide comfort amidst challenging conditions. The unique strap configuration allows the user to find a highly-customized fit as well as easily make micro-adjustments on the fly.
Combining a plugless toe loop, ¾ inch webbing, and a reinforced ankle strap, the Breeze perfectly blends open-air breathability of a flip-flop with the security of a proper sport sandal. The result is a minimalist design that eliminates hotspots and maximizes adjustability depending on the activity or foot type.
Comfort is gained not only from straps and toe loops but also from quality footbed materials and ergonomic shapes. The Breeze Sea as a durable midsole material with zero heel-to-toe drops, meaning that it is more or less flat. This might seem like a bummer to folks with high arches or feet that require more support.
However, our testing proved that this sandal is capable of providing ample support and comfort to a wide variety of foot types. The beauty of a thinner footbed/midsole construction is that with proper adjustment, you can get the entire sole to form around the contours of your foot.
Stability: Stability is the only metric in which the Cairn comes up the average, but we’re still not complaining. The wide-open-and-free feeling found in a minimalist sandal comes at the slight cost of reduced stability. We more-or-less expected this from the zero-drop offerings in our review; not excluding the Cairn. However, not all is lost thanks to Bedrock’s thoughtful design cues.
The Leisa Cacti is super cute, comfortable, and will mold to your feet over time, all for less than dinner and a movie. While it’s certainly not the most durable sandal out there, and the straps can be a bit of a pain, this is a lightweight and plush shoe that, with proper care, can still last you for years. For style, fun, and affordability, looks no further than the other shoes with arch support.
The Cacti is one of the sandals in our test group that we put on and didn’t want to take off. The plush foam footbed is cozy, and as it molds to your foot, it becomes more personalized and comfortable.
We did have some issues with the straps, though, which is why we can’t award a higher score in this category. The textured fabric can chafe a bit, particularly when wet. The strap configuration also makes this sandal a bit tricky to put on, it usually required us reaching down to adjust and pull them into place, an issue that lessens with time as the footbed compresses and breaks in.
With a lightweight foam footbed, it’s no surprise that the Cacti falls a little short in this category. The footbed is indeed quite thick, so it’s better than many cheap bargain bin foam flips, but not by a ton.
And one of the major issues with foot-molding footbeds is that, if you have any abnormalities in your stance, like pronation or supination, they will get molded into the footbed instead of the footbed helping to correct the issue.
These issues aside, the extra straps on this flip do add a bit of stability that would otherwise be lacking. But overall, if excellent support is a priority for your footwear, we recommend looking into a sandal with a well-executed contoured footbed.
As with support and stability, we can’t score the Cacti very high for durability because the entire footbed is made out of lightweight moldable foam. It’s thick enough that this shoe will last you for at least several seasons, but if you’re hard on your summer flips, scrambling, etc. The foam could get worn and torn pretty quickly.
Considering the Cacti is super cheap and made from lightweight foam, it performed surprisingly well here. Things went pretty well on steep hills (we only slipped once), but overall we couldn’t fully trust our feet on slick terrain. You’ll be fine in the city on all manner of concrete, stairs, and dirt park paths, but this isn’t the smartest choice as your approach shoe or river companion.
Here is where the Cacti get to shine. The women we polled loved this sandal, and for the price tag, how can you go wrong? It’s super cute and stylish and has some of the most fun and unique straps of all the models we tested. Easy to dress up or down, Clarks offers this model in quite a few fun colors and patterns. If you want to stay stylish without having to suck your wallet dry, the Cacti are a fantastic choice.
The Lexi has the potential to be wildly comfortable but, like many worthwhile things in life, you have to work for it a bit. In the beginning, this shoe is stiff and unwelcoming but, if you persevere, the cork footbed lined with suede will soften and mold to your feet, rewarding you with a sandal sculpted perfectly to your unique shape.
Add to that adjustable straps with a soft fleece-lined underside and a footbed design meant to cup and support every part of the foot’s anatomy, and you have a very comfortable sandal.
The footbed of the Lexy becomes soft and welcoming relatively quickly, though you should prepare for some level of discomfort for several days at the very least. The toe post is made of hard rubber, and it takes time and dedication to get used to and fully break-in.
By far the most common complaint we see in online customer reviews is regarding the toe post, but the majority of people also seem to agree that if you continue to wear them through the uncomfortable and/or painful stage, you will be glad you did. This was our experience too; the very first time we slipped this shoe on the toe post felt shockingly brutal.
Activities that caused our feet to slide into it with more pressure (like going up and down stairs or hills) bordered on excruciating. But, with some dedicated wear, this discomfort disappeared quickly. With all shoes with arch support, sizing is critical.
But the contoured footbed of the Lexy makes getting the proper size even more important; if you don’t, the arch support and toe ridge won’t sit in the correct place, and you may not be able to achieve the same level of comfort you available with an excellent fit shoes with arch support.
Support & Stability:
The Lexi has some interesting and unique features that add up to a seriously supportive and stable shoe. The contoured footbed provides a deep heel cup that’s meant to hold the heel bone in its most natural position and give almost as much support as wearing fully enclosed shoes with arch support.
It also has strategically placed arch supports running down the sides and middle, and a toe grip ridge to help keep the toes in a natural spread out position. Finally, the footbed edges are raised and extra high in the front to protect the toes when walking.
Whether or not these individual features do for you exactly what they are “meant” to do, this is a well-planned out and executed sandal that remains comfortable even after hours of being on your feet. Another aspect that makes the Lexy feel so secure is the presence of wide, long, adjustable straps. For a flip flop sandal, you end up with quite a lot of your foot covered. Some people may not like this as it can feel constricting and hold in more heat and sweat when it’s sweltering outside, but the natural materials also can breathe and dry quickly.
Stinson Hi boots have begun to dominate the mountaineering boot category, and the Clarks is an excellent example of why that is. This boot will keep your feet warm and dry for pretty much any weather that the lower 48 states can throw at you.
Most impressively, it will do that for only 1.5 ounces (40g) more than the lightest boot in our test. They also climb well, especially on steep ice. While the lace lock allows for great tensioning in the forefoot of the boot, it can be a bit confusing to use at first. We haven’t had any durability issues with our pair of Phantom Techs in the time we’ve been testing them, but we have heard reports from other climbers of the zipper teeth disengaging after closure, though apparently, this is always easily fixed. This is an excellent boot for anyone with winter mountaineering, ice climbing, or alpine adventures in mind.
Every boot in this review is good, and despite the fact that the Ashland Bubble is our lowest scoring model, it’s still a great boot. They’re incredibly light for a full-shank boot; the ankle flexibility allows for exceptional performance on mixed terrain, climbing rock without crampons, and hiking shoes with arch support.
It features a solid lacing system that even a toddler could figure out. While it’s warm enough for most winter days, it is a little thin on the coldest days or for mountaineers with chronically cold feet. The low cuff means that water could slosh in the top of the boot during shallow stream crossings.
This is a great boot for winter climbers with warm feet on light-and-fast missions, or for climbers who need a technical boot for spring, summer, and fall routes.