Why the chunky hiking sandal is this summer’s fashion choice | Fashion

What do you call this type of sandal? Is it a hiking sandal? A walking sandal, maybe? It is a “tourist shoe” to some, a chunky sandal to others. What is it to you?

The correct answer is it’s a very fashionable sandal. This summer’s most fashionable sandal, in fact. An It sandal, if you like. Once a quirky choice of summer shoe, this is now the star of the show. Bit like the tale of the Ugly Duckling, but for shoes. The chunky, Velcro-tabbed sandal that was designed for coastal paths and backpacking trips is now hanging out at the beach bar, invited to the coolest parties. It is to summer now what a Havaiana flip flop was to the summers of the 1990s.

The hiking sandal has taken over from the Birkenstock as the shoe that fashionable people can’t get through the season without. Some of this has to do with actual hiking and walking and camping being dead popular and cool, which is definitely a thing. This stuff is aspirational and Instagrammable, and a ribbon-tied espadrille or a delicate toe-post gladiator isn’t going to cut it. When you feel despondent about the direction civilisation is taking in 2024, remind yourself that one area in which we as a society have made progress in is that we no longer treat practical shoes as embarrassing. The era when commuters would change from trainers into stilettos around the corner from the office is a speck in the rear-view mirror. Hardly world peace, I know, but it’s something, no?

If you usually go for a more conventionally pretty shoe, it can take a while to get your eye in on the hiking sandal look. This is a polite way of saying, don’t worry, these shoes look less clunky when you get used to them. And remember, all the iconic summer shoes are a little bit weird. Birkenstocks that look like boats, the garish rubber of flip-flops, the crazy colours of jelly shoes and Crocs: just like pop music and politics, footwear has a silly season in the summer months.

The trick to getting this kind of sandal right is to lean into its cheerful clunkiness. It might feel safer to look for something streamlined and sleek – slender straps, a slimmer sole – but for the shoe to feel like a fashion choice, it has to have personality. So don’t take baby steps; jump right in.

The right one for you obviously depends on how much you will be yomping about, and on what terrain. If your idea of a good day out involves climbing over boulders and jumping over streams, you need a shoe that will flex as you move, and stay on your foot, so Velcro-tabbed stretchy straps are important. If the Velcro is attached to metal or plastic rings, try the shoe on and pay attention to where these sit on your foot, and whether they have fabric cushioning – a piece of metal sawing against your ankle bone for hours is no fun.

If you are strolling city streets with frequent coffee stops, you can be a little more aesthetic in your decision making. You might prefer a sandal that slides on, rather than one that fastens at the back, for ease of kicking on and off. A diagonal strap across your foot, or straps that are closer to your toes, tend to give a more pleasing line to your leg than a strap that hugs the bend where foot meets ankle.

Teva is a great place to start looking. The Original Universal sandal (£50) comes in lots of colourways (my favourite is 90s Multi.)

Kurt Geiger has been making brilliant high-style hiking sandals for years. They’re not cheap – the Orion, in metallic pink, purple and gold, is £159 – but I’ve had a similar pair from the brand for three summers and they are still making me and my feet very happy. I’ve also been admiring Zara’s Crossed Strap Flat Sandals (£45.99) in tan leather with smart gold hardware – they’d be excellent with wide-leg trousers for summer in the office.

These sandals look best with something unexpected. A pretty dress, a smart trouser suit or white jeans. They will take you anywhere in style. And – hallelujah! – in comfort, too.

Model: Els Wright at Milk. Styling assistant: Sam Deaman. Hair and makeup: Sophie Higginson using Davines and the Current Body Light Therapy Mask. Sandals: Russell & Bromley. Dress: Rixo. Earrings: Jigsaw


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