From footgloves, invisible sandals and amphibious footwear that make your toes curl (literally), to all-purpose trail shoes, weightless travel shoes for backpackers and fold-up leather loafers; we’re completely soled on the latest generation of footwear. (See what we did there?)
The innovation in footware right now is stunning, and could save you a few quid, too. Some of them can get you up a mountain, then through a stream and even into a nightclub as well. So whether you’re spending the summer dancing, sailing, glamping or, err, stuck in an office, we’ll get you well-heeled for summer and beyond. Your marching orders are as follows...
Reef Fanning Print flip-flops with bottle opener (£40)
We’ve all done it; bought a few bottles of beer, wandered to the park, then lacerated a hand trying to open the damn things. Instead, these sandals from surf brand Reef should open a few mouths. They’re no good for those of us who recoil at the thought of flip-flops that put a plastic thong between our toes, but there's no denying the sole-destroying feature - a built-in bottle opener underneath.
Perfect for barbecues and camping, the top strap is made from synthetic nubuck while the herringbone rubber outsole is joined not just by that bottle opener, but also by a heel that’s stuffed with air for extra comfort. A step forward from the usual cheap flip-flop.
Vibram Fivefingers Classic Barefoot Running Shoes (£55)
You’ll need a special kind of self-confidence to wear these tootsie mittens down town. One of our favourite gadget websites Advanced MP3 players are selling these plain odd foot gloves, but we can see why.
We wouldn’t advise you wander around a city or go backpacking in these, but they’re comfier than they look.
Though not - in our opinion - suitable for trekking or hiking, we can see a use for these for anyone into watersports, tai-chi or yoga, and indeed gym-goers. Made from Vibram TC-1 performance rubber soles and quick-drying (they’re even machine-washable) stretch polyamide fabric, the FiveFingers clock-in at a mere 300g.
Five Ten Dæscent (£60)
Self-styled brand of the brave, Five Ten’s Dæscent have been around a few years. Don't take them hiking in Britain - they’re too low-slung for that and the faux suede/micro-fibre mesh fabric won’t keep the inevitable water out - but the Dæscent are perfect for technical climbing and all-round use. Despite not being waterproof, on test this proved an exceptionally quick-drying shoe.
Styled more like casual trainers than serious shoes, the Dæscent’s have a lot of freedom around the toes, though the intriguingly named Stealth Mystique rubber sole - which features grip only at the heel, but a very sticky front-end - curves up at the front to act as a protector. Comfy, breathable and exceptionally lightweight, these are perfect for those who want a smarter shoe for all types of weather.
Redfoot Folding Shoes (£30+)
Folding shoes. Of course, why didn’t we think of that? Ideally sized for a handbag (or, indeed, man-bag), these are probably most useful after a night’s excursions in high heels - and Redfoot do a plethora of feminine designs for just that use.
They range from Coco, a quilted leather pump with gold cushioned insole (£45.99) to the bling Leona (£220), but the idea goes a bit deeper than post-nightclub comfort: cue folding wellies, sheepskin boots and "official" Sex and The City styles.
VivoBarefoot Ultra amphibious running shoes (£60)
Posh Crocs? And then some. These amphibious shoes are a three-in-one-of-a-kind. They might be designed for running, watersports and general use, but at their core the rather odd-looking Ultra slip-ons are all about comfort.
Complete with the slightly non-committal puncture resistant claim, these flexible two-piece running shoes are featherlight at a mere 100g despite coming in two parts. The inner sock - which can get rather hot -pops-out (thanks to two rather large plastic suckers on each end) to act as completely separate slippers, with the remaining shell suitable for running rivers, bouncing over beaches or as a fungal-fighter flip-flop for shared showers.
Ingenious and on our list for our next holiday in the tropics, though their pure gadget-ness - as well as the flimsy drawstring laces - do take a little getting used to.
Cushe Manuka Slide sandals (£45)
Honeycomb might be the plain silly name of the Android OS, but it finds a more fitting use on these unusual retro-styled sandals’ soles. A good deal more hard-wearing than your average beach bum’s flimsy flip-flops (we reckon at least 3 years' wear), these leather-topped beauties curve inwards but still feel really natural.
The Manuka Slide is an example of California Construction, which puts ankle and toes at the same level -i.e. as close to the floor as possible - but with a noticeably curved sole that looks weirder than it feels. If you’re used to sandals with ankle straps, don’t forget (like we did) that changing styles involves re-learning "the clench", that oh-so-subtle (though initially painful) grip your feet must give on each lift.
Timberland Inferno Low Hybrid (£50)
The best thing about this boot is that it doesn't need any wearing-in. We strapped on these slightly alarmingly orange and grey shoes and headed off up a hill, returning blister-less and blissful.
Breathable and excruciatingly lightweight to the point of uneasiness, the All-Mountain Inferno Low Hybrids are pretty bouncy beauts; if you're into mountain goat-style trekking then these hybrid hoofs are for you. Made from 42 per cent recycled rubber , and available in brown/bronze and black/grey.
Keen Owyhee amphibious hiking sandals (£65)
We dare you to wear these with white socks. Could these rugged chameleons be the perfect space-saving travel shoes? Replacing both heavy hiking shoes, trainers and sandals; these go-anywhere, quick-dry shoes lack only style. They might look a little like the VivoBarefoot Ultra, but these are a different beast altogether; as well as those all-important toe protectors (so reassuring if there’s any loose rocks around on a trail or beach), the 790g Owyhee for both men and women are more like hiking shoes than sandals.
Still, as well as toe protectors and a grip-tastic sole, they feature a drawstring instead of laces, so the shoes-on/shoes-off shuffle of temple trudging or beach life should be made a little easier, too. The outdoors crowd are going bonkers about these, and there are dozens of copyists already. Travel to the sweaty tropics and these - also odour-resistant (i.e wear for weeks) - all-in-ones cover all the bases.
Teva Zilch roll-up sandals (£70)
The thinnest sandal on the planet - we think - is this pair from Teva. Available in blue/black or orange/black and made with 10mm-thick barefoot technology, they not only feel comfy enough to walk on for hours, but roll-up (though a pretty thick roll) for storage in a backpack’s side pocket - though we’ve taken to tying them to a couple of daypack straps.
At about 200g these are about half the weight of anything else we’ve tried - perfect for gap-year travel, though don't climb mountains in them.
Karrimor Zenith Low eVent walking shoes (£65)
First and foremost a pair of walking shoes, the Karrimors are easily the least fussy or flashy shoes on test. They work great as a pair of all-rounders and are as comfy as any here, though they work well on treks; in mountain side conditions, a good Welsh soaking left the test in jeopardy, and it was the Zenith’s that got us home alive - with dry tootsies.
Well cushioned on the inside with an excellent Vibram outsole for grip, these flexible and versatile 400g shoes are our new best friends.
Redfoot Man folding leather loafers (£99)
Attention frequent flyers. Proving Redfoot’s split personality is this chap’s shoe, the Redfoot Man leather loafer, which are useful for overnight business trips or while travelling. Our black review sample (brown is also available) folded up fairly easily - though it’s a surprisingly stout shoe despite being soft - to fit into a small fabric bag which is also included. That done, the 24 x 12 x 6cm package proved easy enough to stash in a daypack.
In use, they feel comfy on the inside and durable enough, and are easily smart enough for any kind of meeting we can think of (and certainly overkill for the kind of meetings we go to).
Cushe Shucoon Slide convertible slip-ons (£22)
The greenest around, though not in colour, Cushe’s super-lightweight Shucoon Slide sandals for men and women don’t come with any packaging; instead they lock together and are secured by a rubber wristband. So called because they can be worn as either open or closed toe (the "toe-guard" is soft, so acts like a collapsible pocket that your toes either slide into, or not), the Shucoon Slide is one of the few shoes we’ve seen that are designed with transportation/storage in mind.
Marketed as surf slippers and thoroughly affordable, they’re easy to stuff in a side pocket, though their traveller chic shouldn’t be over-egged; these are pretty basic slip-ons. The uppers may look slight but the organic cotton/hemp mix as hardy as the moulded rubber bottoms. They're at their best as summer shoes for cities, though their home made look won’t appeal to all.
Lowa Renegade II LO approach shoes (£125)
So smart we managed to wear them with a suit at a recent trade fair and still look dapper, these chunky fellows are remarkable in that they’re just as suited to office types that walk or cycle to work as they are trekkers. If you’re office is up a mountain, even better; these sumptuous soft leather-lined approach shoes with breathable inner have been German brand Lowa’s best-seller for yonks.
Their Monowrap sole is the real genius, managing to be easily the fattest on test without being heavy, and finished with the industry-standard Vibram "Renevo" outsole. With super-soft high-end leather on the inside and waterproof, these go anywhere and are chunky in both style and price. Men get espresso colour, women can buy stone.
Timberland Ledge Low approach shoes (£85)
Another classic approach or trail shoe that could easily be your only pair of shoes, this design is far lighter in design, and sportier in look, than the Lowa boots. Great for day hikes and the outdoors, this men’s and women’s all-purpose shoe is one of the few that uses Gore-Tex - the material of dreams for outdoor types - to bring bona fide waterproofing.
That Gore-Tex membrane, however, doesn’t mean the Ledge Lows are like wrapping your tootsies in cling-film; an overall lightweight feel makes these versatile shoes ideal for summer trails. Available in Grey/Orange and Dark Brown/Rust.
La Sportiva Wizard approach shoes (£60)
Another pair of all-purpose shoes, but this time it’s not just about functionality. A clever two-tone soft style that uses suede and leather will appeal to all - especially female readers put off by the butch look of most approach shoes - but there’s a lot of tech underneath.
The Wizard’s FirXion AT sole has a built-in Impact Brake System that's designed to reduce bumps and help keep your feet steadfast in the shoe, though in practice it seems to be the unusually long lacing that makes these low-cut boots feel particularly secure. All of that makes the Wizard perfect for all-terrain and even rocky climbs, but to our toes they're all about comfort; a glove-like fit is rare in the international business of shoes; we’ve never been so snug.
Lomer Sella MTX (£40)
Back to Germany now for some more rugged mountain boots, though these attempt a disguise that could work in town. Developed for medium altitude trekkers - i.e., not the really crazy ones - the Sella MTX is the kind of shoe we’d wear on holiday where there’s a lingering possibility of either a summit assault or a 10-hour trudge around a tourist attraction.
Covered in a classy, light suede finish but as waterproof as any (though don't expect its good looks to last after several soakings and a mudbath), the Vibram rubber soul and waterproof Mertex covering makes these a bit of a bargain.
Meindl Respond XCR (£60)
Lined with that magic, but marvellously expensive, substance that is Gore-Tex, these 410g shoes from Meidl are currently going for a song.
Manufactured in both men’s and women’s sizes, these every day use boots are slim and perhaps one of the more subtle designs here, though with a velour leather/mesh upper, comfy footbed and a reasonably grippy Contagrip Trail they do a job wherever you put your feet.