With warm weather finally here, adventurous daytrippers will pack a lot of activity into sunlight hours — maybe time at the beach or kayaking on a lake combined with hiking local trails or walking around historic districts, popping in along the way for lunch. Well-ventilated, adjustable, quick-dry shoes that can see you through your entire day — and beyond — are invaluable. Unlike open-toed sandals and sock-like slip-ons, these shoes can handle both rocky river bed and steep trail with support and protective coverage. Even if you’re just schlepping around town and get caught in the rain, these recommendations can handle any puddle with comfort and distinctive style. And most of these brands offer a similar counterpart style for men.
Keen is the king of the active “fisherman” type sandals, offering a wide selection of lines and features based on strappy styling, fun colors, the trademark bumper toe, and cushioned rubber footbeds with probiotic odor control. The Whisper is the bestseller for all-around comfort, flexibility, and function. The washable upper has an elastic drawcord to customize fit, and the outsole has terrific traction for land or water. The Rose has a slightly sleeker profile, and the Bali Strap is even more slim and feminine for everyday wear, though offers less protection and traction. While all three have only moderate arch support, the newer Evofit has a deeper heel cup and a more cushy and supportive footbed. Its soft, sock-like synthetic upper also offers more coverage, and it has Keen’s “aquagrip” outsole for extra traction. It’s both water repellent and quick dry. ($80 and up, www.keenfootwear.com)
Abeo’s Dana is similarly styled to Keen’s Whisper, but it sits higher around the ankle and features much better insole support for those with high arches or problem feet — it comes in neutral and metatarsal footbed options. With a less bulky toe cap, it has a slightly slimmer, more elegant profile and dries remarkably fast. However, it only comes in full sizes, making an ideal fit tricky for some. ($114.95, The Walking Company, www.walkingcompany.com)
As someone with high arches, my new favorite is Chaco’s Odyssey. This all-terrain sandal has dynamite instep support and a soft, springy podiatrist-certified footbed for superb comfort. While not the sleekest shoe on the block, it has distinctive styling that looks better on the foot than online and comes in some striking color combinations. The Z strap affords custom adjustment, the cutout ventilation and breathable mesh upper keep it cool, and it has excellent outsole grip. ($100, www.chacos.com)
Jambu’s three affordable closed-back “water ready” styles feature spongy insoles that conform to the foot over time. With chic wave-like cutouts and lacey cording details, the Free Spirit is the most stylish, but the outsole material can feel a little slick on floors. The heftier Bleeker has excellent traction, but only a small Velcro strap at the ankle for adjustment. The light and flexible Regatta hits the sweet spot, with a stretch mesh upper and all-terra traction soles, plus an adjustable instep strap for stability. ($59-$89, www.jambu.com)
Merrell calls its new all-terrain Choprock a “shandal,” cleverly highlighting its versatility. A strappy, sturdy fisherman style with a closed back for heel protection and support, this hybrid has cutouts around the heel for ventilation and water drainage. The “megagrip” vibram outsole is aggressively textured, while the lightly supportive removable insole is laced with tiny drainage holes. The company’s adorable semi-dressy Siren Wrap Q2 is feminine and classy yet engineered with durable outsole traction, shock absorption, and heel-centering technology for stability. ($90-$110, www.merrell.com)
The lightest of the bunch is Cudas’s Roanoke. Cudas is known for its high quality yet affordable water shoes, and this fisherman-style shoe has a barefoot feel similar to the traditional sock slipper. The difference is a lightly supportive full-length insole plus the company’s innovative “dual sole” construction, essentially splitting the outsole in half for flexibility and traction. You can actually fold these babies in half, affording maximum grip climbing over wet, uneven terrain, though the fabric joiner in the split may not be optimum for woody trails with sharp sticks and stones. ($44.99, www.cudas.com)
The most full coverage solution for water to trail, protecting the foot from rocks and sticks, is the laceable hybrid sneaker or amphibious hiking shoe. Most have bungee laces for quick adjustment and easy on and off. Salomon’s light, breathable mesh Amphib Bold is a water-friendly, bungee-lace sneaker you can run in, with excellent outsole grip and the added advantage of being gorgeous and sleek. The soft, collapsible heel lets you wear it like a slide, making it an ultraversatile choice for an overall summer sneaker. ($75, www.salomon.com)
OluKai’s Miki Trainer is a chic, sleekly styled sneaker with a substantial, ultra cushy footbed that will serve the wearer well in athletic activities, though it’s one of the slower styles to fully dry after water immersion. The patented Drop-In Heel design offers a very smooth, blister-free feel at the back of the foot and also allows an easy fold-down for wear as a slide. ($120, www.olukai.com)
Teva has long flown the standard for water sandals, but currently offers only one sneaker designed for both water use and mixed terrain. The new Terra Float Churn is light and comfy, with a breathable mesh upper and a smooth high back heel design for easy-on functionality. The slip-proof rubber outsole offers solid traction and support while it pushes water out from beneath your foot as you move. ($100, www.teva.com)
Columbia’s two Drainmaker styles, both with cloth tie laces, offer the most secure sneaker fit. The Drainmaker III is super light and flexible, with openings along the footbed for quick water drainage. The Drainmaker IV is more cushy and supportive, with a heavier sole and excellent traction. Water drains through tiny holes in the footbed rather than directly out the sides. ($60-$63.75, www.columbia.com)
Aleader specializes in outdoor adventure footwear and offers a wide range of styles impressively low priced. The XDrain Classic Knit is super light with a comfy sock-like knit upper and excellent flexibility. Though it doesn’t offer as much lateral support as most, it dries fairly quickly and has nice cushioning as well as solid traction. ($45.99, www.aleadergear.com)
Land’s End offers one of the few supportive water-ready Mary Janes, constructed of quick-drying polyester mesh uppers with a Velcro strap. Light, breathable, and quite comfy, they’re feminine and cute enough for everyday wear, but can handle any off-the-beaten-path adventures as well. ($59.95, www.landsend.com)
Karen Campbell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.