These days, sandals can be broken down into two broad categories, performance sandals and lifestyle sandals.
Performance sandals, or “sport sandals,” are designed to work hard for you. With sturdy Velco laces or straps, these are designed to fit securely but comfortably onto the foot while offering excellent protection, ventilation and traction in both wet and dry environments. Performance sandals are essentially designed to act like a shoe, but without much of the material that would normally cover your foot. These are sandals to wear walking along the slippery rocks next to a stream, hiking a hot desert trail, or wading onto an ocean reef – as well as kicking around town.
Lifestyle sandals (also known as casual sandals) are made to look good and feel good on your foot. That’s it. They include flip-flops or thongs, slide sandals (which have no strap to slip between your toes), and fashion sandals (Forget about it. You are not rich enough to look good in these). Lifestyle sandals are the footwear of choice for when you aren’t doing much of anything at all -- like walking along the beach, after the big game, or vegging by the pool.
If you are planning to walk on anything besides carpet, suburban sidewalk or sand, go for a performance sandal. Look for the best designs from Keen, Merrell and Bite.
These days, Keen and Merrell sandals show up at trailheads where only boots have gone before. With excellent stability, ventilation, traction and usually some type of toe protection, these shoe-like sandals are the perfect choice for a casual, fair weather hike, and usually come in men’s and women’s colors. Plus, most models are built to not slip on your foot in wet conditions, then dry fast when you emerge -- so you can walk right through that stream or wade across a river without regretting it all day. Bite, a company that was born from long walks down the fairway, specializes in high-performance athletic sandals for golfers, as well as a men’s and women’s line of sandals for running, fishing and everyday active wear.
Performance sandals are built for function. The downside is usually that they are heavier and have more material area touching the foot than thongs or slide sandals. If you are not sloshing through rivers, climbing aboard rickety Panamanian busses or charging up a desert mesa, you don’t need all that extra shoe.
Lifestyle or casual sandals are your answer. The pros: The only way to get more ventilation is to be barefoot. The cons: Most lifestyle sandals fall off at the flick of a foot, and offer very little protection. But who needs protection at a luau?
For lifestyle or casual sandals, you can’t go wrong with surf culture. Quiksilver or Reef are your cool bets. Lightweight but rugged enough to take years of abuse, they have helped millions of surfers relax in style over the years. When you want more cushion and a sportier style, look to Nike – which has taken years of experience in athletic shoe design and applied it to your anything-but-athletic wear – comfort, comfort and comfort. Adidas is also famous among athletes for their after-sport slip sandals with a massaging footbed – perfect to slip into after a big game. These are the perfect “after cleat” sandals.Of course, you could still wrap your foot in a greasy animal carcass, but that wouldn’t smell as nice, now, would it?