So Darn Ugly, So Darn Functional: Travel Sandals

Gear Guide — By Alexi Ueltzen on March 12, 2009 at 2:14 pm

The following list of sandals will probably never be featured in a fashion magazine. They will not show off your pedicure, they will not “elongate your legs” and they will not “go” with your Gucci handbag.

They will, however, let your feet breathe as you walk through crowded Indian markets. They will give your heels and insteps support, and allow for toes and feet that need a little extra wiggle room. They will dry quickly if you have to wade through a mountain stream and keep blisters to a minimum. They are so dang travel-friendly, it’s scary.

The following sandals will keep you off the “traveler in Tevas” list, and on the top of the Gear Junkie list…

1. Don’t wear them with socks: Chacos

Chaco Unaweep

Chaco Unaweep

Adjustable straps and arch support are the hallmarks of these sandals. Cooler than Tevas (and a little bit pricier), Chacos are the shoe of choice for seasoned white water rafters. The signature criss-cross Chaco tan on one’s foot marks one as a true, gritty outdoor enthusiast. As much of a gritty enthusiast as one can be while referring to oneself as “one.” Moving on.

They come in a variety of styles, lots of colors and have different treads depending on your walking/gripping needs. Also know that the first pair of Chacos you buy will probably be your last; these babies are built to last. I wear mine all summer at the river, and a good friend who spent 6 months tramping around India swears by them. Also: these are the best thing I strap to the outside of my backpack for long treks through the Sierras.

2. If Crocs and Tevas had a baby: Keens Newport


KEEN's Newport

Anybody with wider-than-average feet can tell you that a day spent in too-narrow sandals is not a good day. Enter KEEN’s Newport sandal. The footbed accomodates the widest (read: cutest) kind of foot, and is cushioned enough to spend the entire day wandering, whether it’s the Austrian Alps or Disneyland.

They’ll keep your little piggies from getting banged up, they can handle a little moisture and they’re perfect for kids (no laces to tie, or velcro to fill with sand).

With lots of styles, in colors that tend towards “vibrant,” KEEN has everything from a flip-flop (with an innovative toe-protector) to everyday tennies and slip-ons. They pretty much have all your footwear needs covered. Except for strappy heels

3. We had to go there: Crocs

Crocs Cayman

Crocs Cayman

Uglier than sin, but more comfortable than that old college sweatshirt, Crocs are Prada’s antichrist. Want something you can slip in and out of easily during a road trip? Crocs. Want footwear that can get wet and not smell like a dead animal? Crocs. Want something you can decorate with littleĀ  accessories? Crocs.

Let’s give them credit: they’re trying to come out with some more fashionable styles, like Ballet Flats, Wedges and Mary Janes, and even a Boot style. And these are great shoes for kids: easy to get in and out of, comfortable and way more adorable when they’re not grown-up sized.

My advice, though? Just buy a bright orange pair of traditional clogs and rock them. And get ready for a lot of duck-feet jokes.

Did we leave your favorite pair of travel sandals off the list? Are you horrified to learn that the above footwear isn’t the height of fashion? Let us know – Gear Junkies are always happy to hear from NileGuidance readers.

Tags: Chacos, Crocs, Fashion, gear junkie, Keens, NileGuide, Sandals, Tevas, travel


  • Spencer Spellman says:

    I don’t think any of them are that fashionable or pretty, but I had a pair of crocs that were real comfortable and I liked because I couldn’t wear flip flops.

  • Inquitsutes says:


  • Kate says:

    Hey nice article, and I like your writing style.. pretty fun! So i’m looking for a good pair of travel sandals.. I was looking at Birkenstocks Milano Soft Foodbed sandals .. they are very pricey but look nice(r) maybe they’d be a good buy? People swear by them also due to their comfort and support.. which do you think would be a better investment?

  • Alexi says:

    Hi Kate,

    I highly recommend Birkenstocks…as long as you’re not looking for a shoe that can get wet or that will require traction on rocks/trails/etc. More of a wander-the-city shoe than a get-you-to-the-top-of-the-alps shoe.I have a pair of Birkenstock Gizehs that I love: great arch support, a footbed that molds to your foot and high quality craftsmanship. They’re worth the investment because they last FOREVER.

    I found mine on sale at, and if you’re willing to spend a little time bargain hunting online, there’s a good chance you’ll be able to find a discounted pair in the style you like. (I’d also try a pair on before ordering them online; European shoe sizes don’t always translate exactly as the size charts would have you believe).

  • Karen Armstrong says:

    Good job. I’m pretty much impressed with the information.


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