Christopher McDougall’s 2009 book, Born to Run had an out-sized effect on the running world – especially trail and ultra running. For all the mythologizing and noble-savage undertones the book may be guilty of, it introduced a wide audience to running possibilities many had never before considered. That includes what we put on our feet. All of a sudden, with McDougall’s book, shoes weren’t a given anymore. Runners started showing up to trail runs in minimal shoes, sandals, and sometimes no shoes at all.
The dust has had a decade to settle. The barefoot craze has, for the most part, subsided, but running sandals remain a very viable option for those looking for a very minimal running experience that still protects their feet. So in this post, we’re giving you a rundown of the best running sandals on the market.
“The best running sandals?” you ask. “What?” But yes – today we’re reviewing something that most runners may never have considered.
With an emphasis on cushioning and stability in modern running shoes, the idea of running in sandals may seem like an odd one to you. Barefoot running is still a controversial subject, but the barefoot/minimalist movement is not going away. If you want to try it out, choose a pair of the best running sandals before going foot-commando.
We’ve chosen the Luna Mono Winged Edition as our number one sandal. It’s lightweight and easy to run in, has specialized sole grip technology, and a tough, climbing-grade strap.
Just a word of caution – don’t try running in normal sandals! These ones are made specifically for running so you know your feet will be safe.
Here are our top picks.
Top 3 Best and Favorites
Luna Mono Winged Edition
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Teva Hurricane XLT2
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1. Luna Mono Winged Edition
These USA-made shoes get the nod as number one on our list of best running sandals. We love how lightweight they are: less than 6 ounces per sandal.
The footbed is 11mm thick, with lugs of an extra 4mm. The textured rubber sole features Luna’s Monkey Grip Technology footbed. These sandals are made for adventure!
The hardcore sole would be great for trail running, but if you’re a road runner, you’d still find these to be light, comfortable, and grippy.
These sandals should last a good long time, with EVA+ natural rubber as their sole. The Vibram sole is also waterproof, so you can run through puddles or in a drizzle with no problems.
No matter the size of your foot, it’s easy to get a tight fit. Luna’s one-strap design is unique and easy to work with. Easy-slide adjustment buckles make it a breeze to tighten the strap to your preference, and it’s made from climbing-grade webbing to withstand tough environments.
All in all, if you’re going to be running in sandals, we’d highly recommend going for these. Whatever type of runner you are, these are ready for any adventure.
- Waterproof Vibram EVA+ rubber sole
- Lightweight and flexible
- Monkey Grip sole technology
- Climbing-grade strap
- May run slightly small
Top Minimal Sandal
2. Luna Leadville Trail
This is another offering from Luna, and its name suggests that it’s designed for trail running. That doesn’t mean you can’t use them for other things, though – they’d still work great as a road running sandal, hiking shoe, or simply walking around while shopping.
Aside from their versatility, what makes these sandals great is how lightweight they are. At 4.45 ounces per shoe, they make you feel as close to barefoot as you can be while still wearing footwear.
Those who know their trails know the reputation Leadville has – one of the most rugged and challenging trails in the world. So you can expect a sandal bearing its name to be a match for the challenge. And they are. They’re only 9mm thick, but the underside of the sole is a rough and rugged tread with top-notch traction.
While the grip on the external is fantastic, be careful in wet conditions. Your foot may be quite slippery on the rubber footbed, although the undersole will keep you stable on the ground.
Another interesting thing these sandals offer is a custom fit. Of course, you still need to buy the right size shoe for you, but their adjustable strap system means you can tighten it exactly as you want without it being uncomfortable.
They’re made proudly in the USA, so you know you’re getting a quality product. Luna also offers the Moonrock Guarantee, which covers sandals up to a year old for manufacturing defects and a 6-month warranty on laces and footbeds.
- 9mm thick and flexible
- Sturdy “one-strap” adjustment
- Aggressive traction grip
- Very versatile, for any kind of running
- Some runners may find this a bit too pricey for a minimalist shoe
- Although the grippy sole is great on the road or trail, your feet may be slippery on the top of the sole in wet conditions
Lightest and Thinnest Design
3. Xero Genesis
Minimalism is the whole point of running sandals, and the Xero Genesis takes this to heart. These “barely-there” running sandals win our top spot for the lightest and thinnest things you could possibly put on your feet.
The groundfeel is second to none, but they still offer some protection with their 5.5mm non-marking soles.
There are men’s and women’s options, which look very similar in design but differ in size and weight (but not by much). The men’s shoes weigh just 4.6 ounces each, while the women’s come in at just 4 ounces.
Their adjustable lacing system is easy on the feet, while providing a snug fit that keeps you well-supported. The tension-adjusting system also makes them easy to get off in a flash.
One thing we really like about this skinny shoe is that you can shape it to your feet super easily using a pair of scissors! Yes, you read that right – it’s so thin that you can quite literally cut it into a shape to suit your foot.
These running sandals also get a thumbs-up for being latex-free, so runners who may be sensitive to latex can wear these without fear of a bad reaction.
- Men’s and women’s products
- Extremely thin and lightweight
- Easy-adjust lacing
- Customizable size
- Not likely to hold up to the 5000-mile warranty!
Top Lightweights with Strong Straps
4. Xero Z-Trek
Most of us never give any thought to the straps on our sandals. We check out the sole, the material it’s made from, the traction, but the straps aren’t something we usually take much note of.
But they’re an essential part of keeping your foot stable and safe in a sandal. The Xero Z-Trek gets our thumbs-up for the strongest straps.
The Z-pattern strap creates a sturdy cocoon-like feeling around the foot. It allows for the toes to move freely, although some runners may find that their little toe gets stuck behind the strap.
The straps are wide and thick, but still soft on the feet. They’re also very easy to adjust, so you won’t have to worry about them pinching or your feet floating around freely within them.
A 5.5mm footbed gives that ground-to-foot feel, but features extra heel support to give you the most comfort possible.
- Roll-up design to fit in bags or pockets
- Water-resistant and quick-drying
- All sizes are wide, for a better fit
- Z-style, tough webbing straps
- The strap style may feel restrictive to some runners
Most Cushioned Sandals
5. Teva Hurricane XLT2
Want to try running sandals but not sure if you’re joining the minimalism movement just yet? If you’re new to running in sandals or just need a bit more padding, these are the best running sandals with cushioning. They’re still fairly minimal, but you won’t feel the rocks and stones quite as much under your feet.
A thick, EVA foam midsole cushions the feet and absorbs shock as you walk or run. The outsole is crafted from Durabrasion Rubber and is quite rugged. You should be able to run comfortably on the road and the trails with these.
Both the footbed and the straps are quick-drying. This is a bonus, but some customers do report that the soles of the shoes are quite warm and make their feet sweat. If you live in a hot climate, you may want to go for something thinner.
Both the men’s and women’s shoes are available in a variety of colors.
- Available in a wide variety of colors, men’s and women’s
- Durabrasion rubber outsole for traction
- Quick-drying footbed and straps
- EVA foam midsole
- Some customers report that the sole gets hot and makes their feet sweat
Best All-Purpose Minimal Sandal
6. Luna Middle Bear Winged Edition
Can you tell we like the Luna sandals? We’ve chosen this one as our best all-purpose sandal for its extreme versatility.
It features some serious grip technology. The rubber sole is enhanced with Vibram Megagrip and Luna’s MGT (Monkey Grip Technology). That’s twice the traction in one very lightweight sandal!
The grip, its flexibility, and its lightweight style make it superb for any type of running. Whether you’re planning on hitting the trails or going for a run down a smooth road, these sandals will do it for you.
They’re also stylish enough to wear out and about, if you want to keep your feet cool but supported.
- Aggressive, grippy tread
- Minimalist style and feel
- Vibram butyl-rubber sole
- Lightweight strap design
- Some runners may find these too pricey for what they are
Best for Protected Toes
7. Vibram V-Run
These interesting-looking shoes aren’t your classic sandals, but they fit the “barefoot movement” bill. They’d be great for runners who want to try the minimalist, near-shoeless running style but would prefer their toes be protected.
They fit the feet like a coat of paint, and feature an easy-lace system that allows you to really get that skin-tight feel.
These toe-shoes are made from Vibram VI-LITE which is lightweight, but still offers some shock-absorbing properties to reduce jarring on your feet.
They’re also surprisingly breathable, with a perforated upper. The nice addition of an antimicrobial sockliner means they won’t smell after a long, hard, sweaty run.
If they are a bit grimy after a workout, simply throw them in the washing machine on cold, and air-dry them afterwards.
- Perforated upper for breathability
- Antimicrobial sockliner
- Made from VI-LITE compound that’s lightweight but shock-absorbing
- Not many sizes available for women
- Runs a little large – order a size down
Top Women’s Sandal
8. Teva Sirra
The Teva Sirra sandals are stylish and come in a range of colors to suit every women’s wardrobe. You’ll also find them in a variety of sizes (from 5 to 11), although they apparently run a little small in the toe box.
The EVA midsole provides a comfortable and shock-absorbing stride, and the outsole is equipped with a rugged texture that grips most surfaces.
Their “ladder-lock” enclosure is a Z-shaped strap with an extra heel-supporting piece. It’s incredibly easy to adjust and forms a tight fit without being uncomfortable.
Both the webbing and the footbed are water-resistant and dry quickly after being splashed. You can wear these out and about to the store, or for an excursion up a mountain – they’re that versatile.
- Available from size 5 to 11
- Water-resistant, quick-drying webbing
- Comfortable EVA foam midsole
- Good traction with a Durabrasion outsole
- Seem to run small in the toe area
Wondering if running sandals are a worthwhile investment? Not sure why you should even be considering them? Here are some of the most often-asked questions about running in sandals.
What are running sandals?
Running sandals are just that – sandals that you can run in. They’re not your casual sandals or hiking sandals that you find in any shoe store. They’re specifically designed for running and have an extremely minimalistic design.
Sandals for running are an ancient thing. Consider that our ancestors way back when didn’t have modern fancy footwear, but they spent a lot more time running around than we do.
Running sandals may not be for everyone, but they’re a unique and freeing experience. It’s almost primal – going back to our very running roots.
What is the point of sandals?
Some runners may be wondering “What’s the point of running in sandals when I have cushy, padded running shoes?”
Well, running sandals are actually a tried and tested way of strengthening your feet and increasing your connection with the ground – a primal kind of running experience.
Without all the cushioning you get on modern shoes, you can feel the ground as your feet land, toughening your feet up in a natural way. Remember, this is how it was done before technology came along, and ancient runners were a lot stronger and tougher than we realize!
What tribe from the book Born to Run did (and do) run in sandals?
The Tarahumara tribe of northern Mexico are who the book Born to Run is centered around. Their native name for themselves, Rarámuri, means “runners on foot.” They reside in the Mexican state of Chihuahua, and are well renowned for their ability to run extremely long distances.
They don’t run in new, cushioned shoes, though. Often, they go barefoot, or they run in huaraches – thin sandals they craft from tires. They’ve run in these types of thin sandal shoes for centuries.
These days, original huaraches are available for purchase from $50.