Beach and Surf Proof Your Feet: 6 Multi-functional Footwear Options

Footwear is one of the most difficult things to decide on when packing for an island or beach vacation. With airline luggage and its weight limit, the need to pack footwear to cover all your pursuits quickly adds up.

The best all-around beach and resort wear sandals protect your feet from sand and surf while withstanding the wear and tear of surf and off-beach use. Your footwear also needs to support your feet when you’re walking on paved streets and paths—or even trails. Add in arch support and heel protection (to save you from the pain of Achilles tendonitis or plantar fasciitis) and you’ve nailed it.

By choosing functionally versatile or multi-use footwear, you can travel light without sacrificing style or comfort. Consider one of these six options:

Oofos Unisex Ooriginal ThongFor $40, the Oofos Unisex Ooriginal Thong sandal is billed as an orthotic recovery sandal, but they’re ideal for all-around wear: airport to beach to zipline to boat or beachside restaurant. Made from durable but soft dense foam that purportedly absorbs 37 percent more impact than even an EVA insert, Oofos support the whole foot, not just the sole. These water-resistant sandals are so comfortable you’ll feel like you’re walking on a cloud and getting a foot massage with every step. Available in a wide array of colors, they not only feel good but also look great and easily can be worn with something dressy.

Merrell All Out SeriesFor around $100, the men’s and women’s shoes in this collection are the very definition of multifunctional and ideal for island vacations where your plans includes beach lulling interspersed with runs, hikes, kayaking or cycling. Take a mesh fabric upper and marry it to a naturally shaped footbed designed to activate your muscles and to respond to diverse terrain and demands (think: decks, beach, paved paths, boats, or trails). Add in resilient, stable cushioning and circular lugs that provide grippy, multi-directional traction, and the result is an all-around agile beach and land shoe for active outdoors travelers. Water easily releases through the mesh and laces lock out sand, so you can travel by beach or boat, or hit the pavement or mountain trails for a run or hike. You could easily play tennis in them and or keep your balance on a catamaran.

Sanuk RaindanceStarting around $35, women will love this gorgeously fashionable but functional sandal/slide. Ultralight (5 ounces!), you can wear it for yoga on the beach platform, or for ambling on the beach or to and from hotel room to beach. They also add a stylish accent to dinner dress when enjoying a night out at casual beachfront or higher-end restaurants, but are comfortable enough to wear while strolling resort grounds or shopping. They feature a faux leather t-strap with a beaded embroidered textile inlay, combined with Sanuk’s proprietary high-rebound footbed and Power TPR outsole, which is water- and mildew-proof with excellent skid resistance, and a soft but durable foot to ground feel.

OluKai Pahono MidF14_M_PahonoMid_PndPnd_P_w
Whether you’re walking from your hotel to your fancy restaurant or just headed to the beach for a day of fun, the OluKai is the perfect shoe for every occasion. For $140 the OluKai Pahono Mid looks like a fancy shoe who’s main purpose would be going on a fancy dinner date but when you look deeper, and see the moisture-wicking Dri-Lex® microfiber upper and realize that you can push these shoes a bit further than your average dress shoe.

Leather and LaceGetting married on the beach? Sometimes, and this is a good case, its better to just surrender to the surf and beach. Leave the sandals at home and go with a ribbon for her and leather or twisted fabric cording for him. Serious. Tie one end around your big toe on one end and wrap the other end around ankle. Add your own frills—from shells, beads, flowers, pearls or lace.

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Jo Ostgarden

Jo Ostgarden is a freelance journalist who has traveled around the world by plane, train, thumb, bicycle and automobile. She bicycled across Canada, the Pacific Coast Highway from Oregon to British Columbia and throughout 14 countries abroad. Additionally, she's an enthusiastic longtime backpacker who calls the Grand Canyon her own personal energy spot. She's also expert on travel in the Pacific Northwest, Hawaii and Ireland. She edited and re-wrote the final edition of Best Places Northwest Travel Guide, and has written about travel, health, nutrition and endurance sports gear for dozens of magazines and newspapers, including Bicycling Magazine.

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