Life’s a beach when you dress the part—and those who’ve worn a pair of high heels or chunky leather slides along the shore already know that there is a best and worst sandal for seaside excursions. If you’re headed there this summer, it will be critical to have the proper footwear to walk across the terrain that comes with the territory, such as splintery boardwalks and hot sand. The best beach sandals won’t get stuck as you traverse a dune, but they also won’t be so casual that you won’t be welcome at a nice restaurant.
“[When] I took my son on a little surf adventure to Trestles, a hard-to-get-to marquee surf break in California, we decided to make it even more fun by renting e-bikes for the otherwise 30-minute hike to the break. I was wearing a very fashionable pair of leather slides and wished I had an espadrille [or] sandal with a strap,” says Kathleen Thomas, co-founder of the boutique sportswear e-retailer salt + snow. “My feet kept sliding out of the shoes every time I tried to get the heavier, less-mobile e-bike moving, and I nearly lost my shoes or fell several times.”
Thanks to the bevy of brands making their version of beach-friendly footwear, there are plenty of fashionable and functional options to choose from; you just have to know where to find them.
Sea Star Beachwear Cabana Slide
“I was once late for a meeting because I decided I needed to catch ‘just one more wave.’ I got to my car, threw on a dress, put my wet hair back in a bun, but realized I forgot shoes!” Thomas recalls. She phoned a familiar shop in her town for a pair of navy slides to match her outfit, picked them up, then wore them to her meeting. “They were my now-signature Sea Star Slides. I had no idea they were water shoes—I just thought they were a great-looking pair of shoes!”
Versatility is the exact promise that Sea Star makes with its Cabana Slide style. It features a soft neoprene strap for water-friendliness and a cushioned rubber sole for maximum comfort.
Price at time of publish: $65
Colors: Black, White Denim, Dark Navy, Platinum +more | Size Range: 6–12
Birkenstock Gizeh Essentials EVA Sandals
Birkenstock is known for producing high-quality, comfortable sandals at affordable prices, so it's easy to see why this sleek and waterproof style is so popular. “[The beach-goer who wears these] feels more like a traveler, and the gender-fluid Birkenstock style fits so many styles and occasions,” says Anush Mirbegian, Fashion Snoops' Director of Accessories. The lightweight shoes have a shock-absorbing footbed, ample arch support, and a flexible sole with excellent traction underfoot so you can go virtually anywhere in them.
Price at time of publish: $50
Colors: Black, Anthracite +more | Size Range: 4–12.5 in regular, wide, and narrow widths
Chaco Women's Banded Z Cloud Sport Sandal
Chacos’ Banded Z/Cloud style is a variation of the brand’s popular style, Z/Cloud. The new version caters to strappy sandal lovers with an extra strap for added stability. But the brand also promised that the shoe is better for the earth with its eco-friendly, waterless dyeing techniques and hardwearing footbed.
Price at time of publish: $100
Colors: Cerulean, Outskirt Caramel +more | Size Range: 5–12
Sea Star Beachwear Beachcomber Espadrille Water Shoe
“I opt for my Sea Star Espadrilles for any water activities where I have to walk on rocks or shells to get on a paddle board or boat,” says Thomas. “They look great [and] keep your feet cool, and the soles are grippy, so you don’t lose your balance.” Design-wise, they’re stylish enough to step off a boat and into happy hour with ease.
Price at time of publish: $125
Colors: Black, Dark Navy, Platinum +more | Size Range: 6–12
Ancient Greek Sandals THAIS Sandals
“I love Ancient Greek sandals so much that I have at least three pairs,” says Thomas, who assures us that they’re comfortable to walk around in all day long. This criss-cross style is classic, to be sure; it’s also non-constricting, with a pliable leather construction and two straps that are designed to mold to your foot with wear.
Price at time of publish: $265
Colors: Black, Natural, Off White +more | Size Range: EU35–EU42
OOFOS OOriginal Sandal
Flip-flops aren't known for being supportive enough to wear for days on end, but this cute pair by OOFOS is an exception to that notion. Its machine-washable foam technology is billed to absorb 37 percent more impact than traditional footwear. So, it should reduce stress on the knees, ankles, and back more than any flip-flop could.
Price at time of publish: $60
Colors: Black, Navy, Sage +more | Size Range: 5–16
Melissa Possession Sandal
‘90 kids know that there’s no shoe quite like the jelly sandal. In that decade, the popular playground staple was a colorful, comfortable alternative to other open-toe shoes. But, in 2022, the style has gotten an update of various proportions, which you can find at the likes of Bottega Veneta, Prada, and Loewe.
But perhaps the most nostalgic style is Melissa’s stock, namely, the Possession Sandal, which is inspired by the equally popular, classic fisherman’s shoe. It’s also among the best to combine fashion and function, given that its rubber material makes the shoe flexible to the foot and water-resistant.
Price at time of publish: $70
Colors: Clear, Matte Black, Pink +more | Size Range: 5–13
St. Agni Gio Leather Sandals
If you’re after something strappy and sleek, the Gio sandals have an understated appeal you’re sure to love. The slingback style sits on an insole of leather to mold to your foot for the most comfort. The outsole, on the other hand, is made from rubber for good traction. We love how it could work just as well to explore a beach as it could to wander through a city.
Price at time of publish: $225
Colors: Black | Size Range: IT35–IT42
Ancient Greek Sandals Eleftheria Sandals
I bought these jelly sandals in black and gold glitter last spring to take on an extended trip to Europe in the summer, and they ended up being one of my best purchases of the whole year. Since the straps are thin, I was initially worried about their potential to break with overuse or when navigating areas of uneven terrains, like rocky beaches. What I discovered is that they’re incredibly durable, which ultimately made them perfect to wear for mild hikes to hidden beaches on the Greek islands to dinner in the old towns with my go-to sundress. To keep them looking fresh over weeks of travel, I simply rinsed them with water to get them back to looking as good as new.
Price at time of publish: $140
Colors: Black/Gold Glitter, Clear/Fuschia Glitter, Clear/Silver Glitter +more | Size Range: EU36–EU41
Teva Hurricane XLT2 Sandal
For sandals with a technical touch—perhaps that you could even wear in the water—a pair of strappy, sporty Tevas is ideal. Like Chacos, the brand makes footwear that can withstand a swim or take you on beachside hikes. And, conscious shoppers should be pleased to know that the style is made from recycled materials and can be recycled again later through the TevaForever program.
Price at time of publish: $75
Colors: Light Multi, Sherbert Multi, Water Multi, Etching Maple Sugar +more | Size Range: 5–14
Ancient Greek Sandals Plage Lace Up
Sleek, simple, and understated—a pair of minimalist sandals can instantly elevate a casual beach ensemble. Take his simple lace-up style by Ancient Greek Sandals as an example: It’s as perfect for lunch on the harbor as it is for a beachside party.
Price at time of publish: $205
Colors: Black, Natural | Size Range: EU35–EU41
Sea Star’s Cabana Slide is so quintessentially beach-friendly. It features a soft neoprene strap and a cushioned rubber sole for maximum comfort. With the right fit, there’s toe-wiggling freedom, and it’s water-friendly, too. What more could we ask for? Birkenstock’s Gizeh style is a more sporty option, built with all of the brand’s classic features, such as a shock-absorbing footbed, ample arch support, and a flexible sole with excellent traction underfoot so you can go virtually anywhere in them. For the best value, go for Ancient Greek Eleftheria Sandals. While they’re pricier than the former two pairs, they’re incredibly durable and easy to dress up or down, so you’re sure to get a lot of wear out of them.
What to Look for in Beach Shoes
Be it an ultra-casual, rubber slip-on or a more refined, strappy kind, a well-made pair of beach shoes can last you years. When looking for the perfect pair, note the quality of materials used and attention to detail in a given pair. When looking at leather-lined sandals and espadrille styles, such as St. Agni’s Gio Leather Sandals or Sea Star’s Espadrille Flat, be sure that the soles are made from rubber for good traction. For good foot health, choose a pair with decent arch support. (Birkenstock is well known for its supportive soles.) These are some practical elements to consider when trying to determine what sets some beach shoes apart from the lot.
Waterproof shoes will allow you to navigate freely, without having to worry about water ruining them as you go. Thomas says she loves her Sea Star Cabana Slides because she can wash them off under a beach shower, dip them in the ocean to stay cool against the hot sun, and still look effortlessly chic on a lunch patio.
What are beach shoes?
Beach shoes are anything you can wear comfortably for activities along the seashore. “I would consider beach shoes to be footwear that [is] undeterred by sand and water,” says Mirbegian. “They might be produced from plastic, neoprene, or rubber.”
What constitutes a "water shoe?" When are they most important?
A water shoe is a type of footwear that is typically used when the feet are likely going to get very wet, in an activity such as kayaking or taking a dip in the waters of a rocky beach. “Water shoes are good for surfing shallow rock or reef breaks—basically anywhere you need a grip but don’t want your feet to get cut up,” Thomas explains.
Why Trust Byrdie
Hayley Prokos, Byrdie’s Associate Fashion Commerce Editor, wrote this article. She combed through online reviews and spoke to two experts to help compile this list of the best beach shoes for many kinds of shoppers.
According to our Diversity Pledge, 15% of products in our newly-published market roundups will feature Black-owned and/or Black-founded brands. At the time of publishing, we were not able to find any beach shoes from a Black-owned and/or Black-founded business. If you know of one we should consider, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, and we will evaluate the product ASAP.