I have a lot of years of full-time travel under my belt now, and I’ve
made a lot of mistakes learned a lot of lessons about what makes for the perfect travel sandal. Here is a summary of some of the best, worst, and ongoing sandal debacles I’ve had.
Dear reader, I write this so you may read and glean from my experience so that your next pair of travel sandals are the ones that get you through thick and thin.
Attempt #1: Crocs
Crocs were my go-to for many years – specifically the Cleo style, which is both fashionable and functional.
Because Crocs are waterproof, they survived dodgy hostel showers and muddy walks, and the arch support meant they made it through many a long walk without causing me pain.
The style I chose combined fashion and function, and as such I could dress them up or down with relative ease.
They pack up like a dream, since they’re lightweight and relatively thin.
Basically I lived in these shoes, for many years.
Or rather, I lived in (many pairs of) these shoes, for many years. Unfortunately because I wore them daily (and I love to walk), I wore through a pair about every year. Although Crocs aren’t horribly expensive, this did mean dishing out cash for a new pair each year – and finding a place to buy them or have them delivered to (which isn’t always an easy chore when traveling full-time or staying somewhere obscure.
Even more distressing, was how unbelievably slippery Crocs were on wet surfaces. Certain types of sidewalk, stone, and any inside flooring when wet, became major hazards. I took a few spills in these shoes, especially as the tread on the bottom started to wear.
Lastly – and this is good and bad – the slip-on style is uber-easy to use on a daily basis, but if you are doing any kind of trail walking or water sports, this style of Crocs will slip away entirely.
I owned at least 3 pairs of Crocs in the first few years of my full-time travels. They definitely earned their place in my travel bag.
But keep reading for some alternatives and different viewpoints, since what I need may not be the same as what you need in the perfect travel sandal.
Attempt #2: Dikasas
One of the frustrating aspects of long-term or full-time travel is that you have to be very choosy about what goes in your bag. And for a girl who likes some variety in the fashion department, having only one or two pairs of shoes to work with is no fun. This is where Dikasas shine.
Note: Dikasas are no longer available, but read on to learn some principles of what makes for a good (and not so good) travel sandal. If you like what you read, Hurache and Luna make similar types of sandals.
These simply-designed shoes are all about variety. You can choose the colour of the base (black or white), then choose an array of colourful straps – or even create your own.
The soft jersey straps they provide have a nice stretch, and are lovely and comfortable.
You thread the straps through the set loops on the shoe base however you wish to configure your own masterpiece. After watching a few of the videos on the Dikasas site as well as tutorials for similar shoes (like Hurache and Luna shoes) on YouTube, I got some creative ideas and had fun experimenting.
If you need to pack the sandals away, they’re flat and very light, and the straps take up no space or weight.
There’s no arch support with these shoes, and after a while they started squeaking when I walked.
And although I initially enjoyed tying the shoes a million different ways, the truth is I’m a lazy person and I got tired of having to take five minutes to reconfigure the straps to a different colour or style when rushing out the door.
The loops for the straps also got in the way and dug into my feet, especially if I didn’t make use of them when threading the straps.
And some configurations (like the fish tie, pictured here), which involved threading the straps through the same loop many times – created an uncomfortable space between my big toe and the rest of my toes.
I walked up to 5kms in these shoes at a time, and I wouldn’t have wanted to walk any further – nor could I have taken these shoes “off-road” to any extent; there’s no support or mechanism to hold your foot on the bed where it needs to be shy of the jersey straps – which stretch. I’ve rolled over the shoe a few times.
The Dikasas didn’t make the cut as the one and only pair of travel sandals to carry with me – they’re cheap and cheerful, but I need something more substantial as an all-purpose travel sandal.
Attempt #3: Naots
I love Naots. I had a pair of them when I was a teenager, and they survived almost 10 years of solid abuse. So when Naot contacted me and asked if I wanted to reunite with these lovely babies, I could hardly wait to get my tootsies into a new pair.
Although Naots come in many different styles, they specialize in a footbed that is akin to Birkenstocks; they offer full support, customized feel, anti-microbial properties, and a fit that only gets better with time.
I chose a pair that suits my style, knowing I could dress them up or down as I wished. They were great for walking miles and miles on the city streets without a hint of foot fatigue. I got many (many) compliments on them!
Because I was in Grenada at the time, I didn’t have a chance to try on and properly fit my perfect pair of Naots. As such, the pair that was sent to me wasn’t quite a right fit, and ended up being uncomfortable, and since the footbed on the style I chose was so deep, I regularly came down badly on the footbed and rolled my ankle.
The large deep footbed also meant they weren’t the most compact or lightweight of sandal, and I must say this pair didn’t wear in nearly as gracefully as the pair I owned 20 years ago.
Incidentally, my Naots were destroyed in the head-on collision I had in Grenada.
I still love Naots. But I chose a bad style for my needs and foot shape, and I didn’t have a chance to try them on first. (If you order them online, best to ensure you can return them easily if they don’t fit).
Attempt #4: Taos
Taos makes high-quality shoes and sandals in an astonishing variety of styles. And having been bereaved of my Naots in the accident, I tried to apply all the lessons I learned from the above three pairs of shoes and choose what would be the perfect pair of travel sandals.
The footbed is very high quality with contouring, support, custom fit over time, and anti-microbial properties. (You can also choose different types of footbeds from the deep bed similar to the Naots above, to a more sleek version as shown here).
I chose the Trophy style because they can be dressed up or down, they’re fairly light and compact to pack away, and the ankle straps make them way more stable for walking, running (as in, to catch a bus), and even taking to (light) trails.
I also like the velcro adjustments on the ankle straps as well as both toe straps; this makes the fit always comfortable (even if my feet swell), and getting them on and off is almost as easy as having slip-ons.
I’m not sure how well Taos shoes would survive a battle with a mud puddle (given the microfiber footbed), but I’m fairly sure they’d survive.
And, um….well, I don’t have anything else bad to say about these shoes.
In this comparison, Taos wins hands-down as the perfect travel sandal. But I also encourage you to read between the lines here; it’s not necessarily (or entirely) the shoe itself; it’s the choice and style of shoe.
I learned from mistakes past, and ensured I had a fashionable, compact, stable, solid shoe that – like so many of the items in my full-time travel entourage – serves many purposes.
Qualities of a Perfect Travel Sandal
Overall, here are some of the qualities that – for me, and likely for you – make for the perfect sandal for a long-term or full-time traveler:
- Water resistant
- Comfortable footbed for walking
- Good sole for walking on multiple surfaces
- Ankle straps to hold the foot in place and increase versatility
- Stylish for multiple occasions
- Easy to put on and take off
- Lightweight and compact for packing
What is your experience? Have you found the perfect travel sandal? Please share in the comments!
(Editor’s note: I received a free pair of Dikasas, Naots, and Taos sandals for review, and there are some affiliate links in this post. Of course, all opinions expressed herein are my own.)