Best Sandals For Active Kids: 2021 Sandal Review

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Having a good pair of outdoor sandals is essential if you’ve got active kids.  My kids start wearing sandals as soon as the snow melts, and I have to bribe them to take them off in the fall when the temperatures dip below freezing.  In between, those kids water shoes get put through A LOT! 

kids sandals

My kids sandals go swimming, hiking, biking, and probably a lot of things that I’d rather not know about.  And since we’re all about encouraging our kids to be active and go explore, giving them a good pair of shoes is a MUST.

Quick Picks! Here are our picks for the best kids sandals:
(more detailed info below)
Chaco Z1 EcoTread
HANDS DOWN the MOST DURABLE KIDS SANDALS! We’ve had one pair last over 10 years and through all 5 kids and have yet to have a pair break or wear out. Perfect for playing in water, great traction and arch support, and never give our kids blisters!
Merrell Hydro H2O Hiker – best closed toe sandals, lightweight, great construction, budget friendly.
Salt Water Sandals – great for toddlers, best leather sandals, perfect for dressing up a bit + adventure play.
Reima Ratas Sandals – great sport sandals, easy hook and loop closure perfect for younger kids

best kids sandals
SandalBest ForSizesTop Features
Chaco Z1 EcotreadWaterplay, hiking, all outdoor adventure10 toddler and upDURABLE! Fully adjustable, great traction and arch support
Merrell Hydro H2O HikerHiking, Waterplay, exploringToddler 9 up to youth 7Closed toe, flexible sole, affordable
Salt Water SandalsOutdoor Play, toddlersToddlers 5-12Work great even when wet, easy to dress up
Reima RatasExploring, water play, outdoor adventureToddler 11 and upEasy for kids to put on and off with velcro closure
Keen Newport H2Climbing, hiking, water playToddler 4 to adultClosed toe, rugged
JambuKDRunning, climbing, water playToddler 5 to youth 6Velcro closure, sneaker like sole
Teva HurricaneWater play, exploringToddler 11 and upEasy on and off velcro closure and adjustment
Merrell Hydro Roam FreeRunning, wet hiking, gravelToddler 10 and upSneaker like construction with easy water drainage
Keen SeacampHiking, Water PlayToddler 8 and upClosed toe, lightweight construction
Teva Tirra SportWater sports, outdoor playToddler 11 and upCustom fit with lots of adjustment points
Crocs SwiftwaterWater playToddler 6 and upEasy for kids to put on, float
kids water hike wearing kids sandals

What makes a good outdoor sandal for kids?

Well, obviously comfort is really important, but traction is a close second.  You see, kids take these shoes EVERYWHERE, and it’s important that whether they’re on the rocks or in the river that they’re not going to slip. 

Kids Outdoor Sandals

Some kids prefer closed-toed sandals (I like these for kids 4 and under since they’re constantly tripping), and many summer camps require closed-toed footwear so keep that in mind when shopping around.  My older kids prefer traditional sandals with adjustable straps, so a lot of it is a personal preference.  We do a lot of whitewater rafting so sandals that do REALLY well in the water are a must for us (learn all about how we got into rafting with kids here).

Make sure that your kids sandals have a back on them for extra security. If they just slide on, they’ll likely lose them in the water, or they won’t provide the stability they need to be active outdoors.

What kids sandals are the best for the outdoors?

Personally, my favorite kids sandals are these ones. They last forever, are super adjustable, and they never get too stinky! Even though we get our kids great hiking shoes, I know that in the summer, these are the footwear they’ll choose for most hikes.

However, every kid is a bit different, so it’s important to find what works best for your kids. How do you narrow it down?  Well, it’s a bit of trial and error so I highly recommend trying on several. Most stores don’t have a great selection of sandals for active kids, so I recommend ordering several online and then returning the pairs that don’t work.

kids exploring Costa Rica In Sandals

Do kids need waterproof sandals?

YES!  If you’re buying your kids sandals, make sure that they’re waterproof so they can splash and play to their hearts delight.  In the summer kids are also much more prone to hot sweaty feet, so having waterproof sandals also means that they’re easy to wash so they don’t get all smelly. All of the sandals we recommend below are waterproof.

family river trip wearing chacos

Should I buy my kids closed or open toed sandals?

A lot of this comes down to personal preference. Four of my kids prefer open-toed sandals and one loves closed-toed sandals. If you’re going to be doing a lot of hiking in sandals or are planning to wear them to summer camp, grab closed-toed sandals. If you’ll primarily be using the sandals on the lake or at the river, I recommend opentoed sandals. As I mentioned above, kids 4 and under do better with closed-toed sandals since they trip more frequently and often stub their toes.

The Top 10 Outdoor Sandals for Kids in 2020

We’ve reviewed the best sandals for kids all in one place. These are all sandals for active kids that can stand up to running, hiking, climbing, and splashing in rivers and lakes. If you’re looking for other shoe recommendations, check out our review of the best kids hiking shoes.

Lake Atitlan Guatemala with kids

Overall Best Kids Sandals
1. Chaco Z1Ecotread Kids Sandal

In our family, we consider Chacos the best sandals for kids and adults alike.  They offer great traction with Vibram soles and the straps are totally adjustable.  They can be thrown in the washing machine (we do this at least monthly), and seem to last forever (seriously, we just passed a pair on to the 5th kid and they are in great shape still), so it’s a great investment. These are the best shoes for rafting, canoeing, or kayaking with kids.


rafting green river lodore with kids

Chaco makes so many different options to personalize your children’s sandals too, that it’s easy to find something for everyone.  We’ve found that Zappos has some of the best color options for kids Chacos.

Best Closed Toed Sandals For Kids
2. Merrell Hydro H2O Hiker

The Merrell Hydro H2O kids hiking sandal are our favorite closed toed sandals for kids. They are excellent for kids who need or want more foot protection in a sandal, and are a great kids’ sandal for protecting toes (making them a great toddler sandal – they go down to size 9).

These sandals for children offer the perfect combination of flexibility and support in the sole, so they’re the best kids sandals if you want lots of versatility. We like these sandals for children for hiking, running, water play, and of course climbing! Not only are these sandals incredibly well made, but they’re a great deal and are much more affordable than other children’s sandals.

Best Leather Sandals For Kids
3.  Salt Water Sandals

Until last year, I WOULD NOT have considered these an adventure sandal…that is until a friend gave us a pair of these.  These shoes have a synthetic sole and a waterproof leather upper (yes, it’s seriously waterproof) so they can really be worn everywhere. 

waterfall with sandals

These waterproof kids sandals were the only shoes our youngest owned for an entire summer and they were great for everything from exploring to church, and I can’t recommend them enough (especially for toddlers!!).  These are easily the best toddler sandals that we’ve found for all around use. If you want kids waterproof sandals that can go from the trail right to a nice dinner out, these are the ones.

4. Reima Ratas Sandals for Kids

reima ratas sandals on the beach

We absolutely love all things Reima for kids outdoor gear, and their sandals are no different. These childrens sandals from Reima are easy enough that my 3-year-old can put them on and off alone, but still give enough support for hiking a couple of miles. The lining is extra comfortable and soft, so these kids sandals are great for kids with sensitive feet. I love that these shoes are comfortable and secure and the traction gives kids lots of freedom to explore in the water.

5.  Keen Newport H2 Sandal

Keen Newport H2 Sandals for kids offer a bit of everything.  The soles are thick and rugged, almost like a hiking shoe, yet they’re completely waterproof and allow water to drain through the many openings in the side.  A great option for kids who want a bit more coverage or need a closed toe shoe. The only downside to these sandals is that the soles are really stiff. Head here for a great price on the Keen Newport H2.

6.    JambuKD Squamata Fisherman Sandal

With a combination of leather and mesh, the Jambu Squamata is a great mix of a tennis shoe and a sandal.  It provides lots of foot protection and traction, while still being water friendly.  This could be a great option to wear with socks occasionally if you’ll be in several different climates this summer and want one shoe to do it all!  Check out these prices in on the JambuKD Squamata Sandal.

7.  Teva Kids Y Hurricane XLT2 Sandal

Teva’s are a classic outdoor sandal with a classic design that’s been around for decades but don’t think that’s a bad thing.  Teva’s are super adjustable with 3 different Velcro adjustments, making them easy to fit and also easy to size up a bit (we always get our Tevas 1/2-1 size bigger since I know I can cinch them down well).  The new heel padding is also a great upgrade to make these a super comfortable sandal.  Find great prices on kids Teva Sandals here.  

boy exploring with Teva sandals

8.  Merrell Hydro Roam Free Sandal For Kids

These sandals for kids by Merrell are actually a combination of sneaker and water shoe. These sandals are perfect if you need full foot protection, want to keep sand and rocks out of your shoes, or are going to be doing a combination of light hiking and water play or stream crossing. While I wouldn’t fully recommend them for a full hike, they’ve been so amazing for my toddler who has to jump in every puddle and stomp through every stream to give him a shoe that’s made to drain water and keep him moving down the trail.

9.  Keen Kids Seacamp Sandal

If you’re looking for a good supportive shoe, but want one that’s lightweight and has a minimalistic feel, this is a great option.  It’s much lighterweight than a traditional Keen like the Newport, but still offers great quality.  Best of all, these can be thrown in the washing machine! Compare prices on the Kids Keen Seacamp Sandal here.  

10.  Teva Kids Tirra Sport Sandal

A Teva Sandal with a bit more support, the Tirra is a great option for both fit and comfort.  The Velcro webbing straps are easily adjusted and dry quickly, while underneath the padding keeps kids feet comfortable and secure.  The rubber soles also offer the great traction when wet that Teva is known for!  Find great prices on Kids Teva Tirra Sandals here.  

11.  Crocs Swiftwater River Sandal

Crocs are a must have for young kids, in my opinion.  They’re easy to put on, comfortable, and they float (my favorite feature!).  While traditional Crocs aren’t the most stylish shoe, the Crocs Swiftwater takes the comfort that kids love from Crocs and puts it into an adventure sandal. 

What are the best sandals for toddlers?

Toddlers usually do best with a closed toe sandals. We prefer the Merrell Hydro H2O Hiker or the Keen Seacamp Sandal for Toddlers. We also really like Salt Water Sandals for toddlers.

What brand of sandals is best?

The overall best brand of sandals for kids is Chacos. If you’re looking for closed toed shoes, we recommend Merrell sandals for kids, or for leather sandals for kids, Salt Water Sandals are fantastic.

Are Flip Flops Good For Kids To Wear?

Unless you’re at a sandy beach, flip flops aren’t good sandals for kids. Most children’s flip flops provide almost no arch support, offer horrible traction, and don’t stay on kids feet well at all. To help children have the freedom to run, play, and explore, we recommend getting kids sandals with a strap on the back, good traction, and proper arch support.

kids sandals, kids chacos, kids keens, kids tevas

kids sandals, kids chacos, kids keens, kids tevas

2 thoughts on “Best Sandals For Active Kids: 2021 Sandal Review”

  1. Since summer and nice weather are coming, now we need to choose the right sandals for a child. Your article helped me with that. Thanks!

    My advice is to take waterproof sandals!

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