When the average person thinks about hiking, the most likely images that will come to mind are huge backpacks, beautiful mountain landscapes, Clif bars, and high-top hiking boots.
However, many hikers have abandoned the idea of wearing hiking boots for a pair that allows them better freedom. While there’s still a time and place to wear high-top boots for hiking, they can be quite heavy and do not offer good ventilation.
Thus, many people gravitate towards hiking or trail shoes. These lightweight shoes have become very popular since they are lighter, offer better ventilation, and often don’t require break-in periods.
But, it seems that people just won’t stop there. These days, you can find hikers that swear by their pair of hiking sandals. For this post, we talk about hike sandals, their benefits, and buying tips to help you choose the right minimalist pair.
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Is It Safe To Hike While Wearing Sandals?
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Safety is the biggest concern when it comes to wearing sandals while on a hike.
I have always loved my pair of hiking boots, but it can be unbearable during summer hikes due to sweaty feet. As you all know, the summer heat plus sweaty feet will eventually lead to painful blisters. This got me wondering if I should swap my hiking boots for a pair of sandals during warmer hikes.
However, there’s the concern that sandals don’t offer the same stability and protection as boots. One will have to wonder if sandals are truly suitable for long, strenuous hikes.
As it turned out, there’s very little to no safety concern with regards to wearing sandals on the trail. As expected, you would be giving up the stability, protection, and ankle support from boots. However, if you are not prone to accidents, wearing sandals should be fine.
Another thing to consider is that your feet are exposed when wearing sandals. Therefore, snake encounters and the occasional toe bashing while hiking can be a problem. Other than that, wearing sandals for hiking is a perfectly safe option if you want a more minimalist approach.
This brings us to our next point…
Why Should You Wear Hiking Sandals?
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Why should you consider wearing sandals for your next hiking trip? Here are some of the reasons why:
Allows the feet to breathe
- One of the main reasons why I went for a pair of hiking sandals is because they allow my feet to breathe. Due to the open design, sandals don’t restrict air circulation. Your feet will always feel cool and remain at a comfortable temperature while you’re on the trail. This breathability also reduces the chance of forming blisters since your feet won’t be sweating.
Plenty of support
Contrary to popular belief, hike sandals offer plenty of support nowadays. Sandal manufacturers such as KEEN have been implementing innovative designs for their products to ensure the best kind of support. Some pairs offer support for the arches and other parts of the feet which means that you won’t start to ache as the hike goes on. Trail sandals also feature thick, rubber soles which provide the much-needed grip for exploring level terrain.
Hiking boots are great, but they are heavy which could become uncomfortable over time. If you are hiking for great distances and scaling mountains, your feet will thank you by wearing something light. Few footwear options are lighter than sandals. They are smaller and lighter which can only mean a more comfortable hike. For reference, my pair of hike sandals only weighs about 15 ounces.
Easy to dry
Do you have to cross some bodies of water on your next hike? Then, it’s a good idea to wear sandals. Your sandals will let you walk straight through the water with no problem. If you are wearing boots, you will have to take it off and on again with every crossing. With sandals, you can just submerge them without a care in the world. You can dry them out on the fly by simply moving on with the hike.
Fewer contact points
Blisters can be very painful, and they can easily ruin a perfectly good hiking trip. By wearing sandals, you are minimizing your chances of developing blisters on your feet. This is because sandals have fewer contact points and very little materials to chafe. Open toe sandals will also prevent your toenails from being pounded away.
Why Shouldn’t You Wear Sandals?
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Wearing sandals for a hike is not without its drawbacks.
Perhaps, the most obvious disadvantage of sandals is that you can’t wear them all year round. If you are going to ask me, I’ll wear my sandals to every one of my trips, but it’s just not possible. Your exposed feet and snow just don’t mix well. When it’s cold, you have the option of wearing waterproof socks to keep your feet warm.
Also, your feet will be a magnet for dirt, mud, and sticks which can quickly become annoying. The lack of ankle support also makes you vulnerable to ankle injuries.
How To Choose A Pair Of Hiking Sandals
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You have decided that you’ll give sandals a try for your next trip. However, you have no idea how to start shopping. Well, just ask yourself these questions when shopping for your pair:
1. Do I Need A Closed Or Open Toe Sandal?
Outdoor sandals are mainly available in two designs, open and closed toe. While it’s tempting to go for the open toe due to better breathability, it’s not the best option if you are planning to do some serious hiking on a trail with rocks, roots, and other debris.
Don’t worry because many closed toe sandals offer good ventilation while keeping your toe protected.
2. Do I Require Good Arch Support?
When it comes to arch support, not all sandals are created equal. Some offer better support than others.
True enough, there are trekking sandals that offer superior arch support, allowing you to go through the trails comfortably. A good pair will also have a footbed that’s partially shaped to fit your foot, adding to the overall comfort.
3. Do I Need Shock Resistance?
Don’t think for a second that you can use a traditional sandal for hiking.
Outdoor sandals have specialized features that enable them to be viable for activities such as hiking and trekking. If you want to hike with your sandals, go for a pair that offers a good amount of shock resistance. Most trekking sandals come with ethylene vinyl acetate (EVA) or foam midsoles that do a great job in terms of shock absorption.
4. Do I Need My Sandals To Be Waterproof?
Well, there’s really no way around this. You need to get a pair with good waterproofing capabilities.
Even if the hiking trail doesn’t have rivers, streams, or any other body of water, there is still the possibility that it will rain. Again, this will depend on your location’s climate. But for good measure, it’s never a bad idea to get a pair of waterproof sandals.
In addition, make sure that you get a pair with rubber soles and synthetic uppers.
5. How Is The Fit?
Like with all footwear, checking the proper fit is a must. It’s always a good idea to try on the sandals before purchasing them.
Many pairs have adjustable straps, which are not only helpful in securing a good fit but are also a godsend for rough trails. During a tough hike, there’s a good chance that your feet will become swollen. You can simply readjust the straps to ease the discomfort.
Plus, you need to be able to adjust your sandals, in case you want to put on a pair of socks.
Freedom For Your Feet
Wearing a pair of hiking sandals is not for everyone.
However, if you are curious and want to give sandals a try, I say go for it! I’ve had great fun while wearing my favorite sandals on a hike. It does have its pros and cons, but the benefits do outweigh the drawbacks.
If you want a quick recommendation, it’s hard to go wrong with the KEEN Newport H2 Sandal.
Have you tried wearing sandals for hiking before? What’s your experience? Would you recommend it? We’d love to know your thoughts in the comments!