When you set off on a hiking adventure, your first instinct may be to reach for your hiking boots. Yes, these are an amazing footwear option when it comes to getting out on the trail but they are by no means the only option.
Modern footwear has come on leaps and bounds and there are now many choices as to what you put on your feet when exploring the world. One such option is the hiking sandal. At first thought, you could be forgiven for thinking that this idea sounds ludicrous; how can a sandal offer you the support and protection that your feet so desperately need?
In reality, these are suitable and protective types of hiking shoes. However, you should be mindful to choose a proper pair of hiking sandals as opposed to the beach flip-flops you have in the back of the closet.
In this article, we are going to be exploring the idea of wearing sandals for hiking as well as showing you the different types of this modern, innovative footwear.
What Are Hiking Sandals?
We have all heard of hiking boots, and when we haven’t fancied wearing a cumbersome type of shoe, we would usually edge towards a lightweight hiking shoe. But a sandal seems almost alien to a lot of hikers.
However, these shoes are designed with even the most demanding trails in mind. Of course, being open, hiking sandals are much more appropriate for use in warmer weather. If you’re heading out in the snow, this isn’t going to be an option.
Hiking sandals come in a range of styles and depending on how you intend to use them will depend on the type you go for.
Hiking sandals have been specifically designed for outdoor use. They are made from extremely durable materials such as leather and feature a robust rubber sole that offers excellent traction and support.
Unlike regular sandals, the hiking equivalent is much more comfortable and this is thanks to a thicker sole and better cushioning. If you are walking over long distances, this is a must. What’s more, this gives you a greater deal of protection for the feet even when you are walking across jagged or sharp ground.
Beach sandals are typically designed for use on, you guessed it, the beach.
They have excellent traction giving you the ability to walk across the sand without slipping but this feature also makes them a great option for hiking.
Athletic sandals are very similar in nature to traditional hiking sandals but tend to be a lot more lightweight.
They are intended for walking and other sports allowing the feet to stay cool and protected.
Water sandals are the newest options and are designed for use in water. They are made with rubber soles that are both flexible and offer good traction.
Furthermore, they are water-resistant and quick-drying, so if you know you will be passing through a stream or wading through ocean shallows, these are a good choice.
Is It OK To Wear Sandals For Hiking?
As we have discovered, if you are going to wear sandals while hiking, you must source a pair that have been designed with this purpose in mind.
If you attempt to wear your fashion statement sandals then you will not get very far.
However, with such a vast array of styles and designs, modern hiking sandals are the perfect choice for summer hikes, regardless of the terrain.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the reasons that sandals are a viable choice for hiking shoes.
A lot of hiking trails involve water. This could be anything from stepping in a puddle on the ground to having to paddle through a stream. Even a sudden rainstorm can happen when you least expect it.
For this reason, a lot of hiking boots are waterproof. But they are not designed to cross bodies of water. Conversely, a hiking sandal will allow you to make water crossings easily and without having to worry about your shoes filling up.
If the inside of a hiking boot becomes wet, it can be incredibly difficult to get it dry; it will certainly take a day or two. However, when you are wearing hiking sandals, the water has nowhere to go other than back to where it came from.
Moreover, these versatile shoes are often made from fast-drying materials, so if you do get wet, it won’t be for long.
Of course, if you are taking part in a long, hot trek in the height of summer, there may be nothing more refreshing than being able to dip your feet into a cool stream!
Have you ever attempted to walk in a pair of constricting boots or shoes with a blister? It can be debilitating.
The only way to make it more comfortable is to dress the area with a thick dressing, but this can then make your boots feel too tight.
Sandals will not give you this problem. Since they are open, you are much less likely to experience sores and blisters. The reason for this is that your feet are able to breathe.
Blisters often happen when you are wearing boots because the feet are not able to breathe and moisture will build up inside the shoe.
Of course, a lot of hiking boots claim to be breathable and these claims are not incorrect.
But if you are wearing the boots for extremely lengthy periods of time, this breathability can become ineffective.
One of the things that deter people from wanting to wear hiking boots is their weight. It has been proven that carrying too much weight on your feet can be vastly more draining than carrying the same weight on your back.
For example, if you were to wear a heavy pair of hiking boots on your feet and walk for one mile, you would get tired more quickly this way than if you carried a pack on your back weighing the same across the same distance.
It stands to reason, then, that when the conditions are right, downsizing to a pair of lightweight hiking sandals will give you much more energy for getting on with your adventure.
Many hiking boots come with what is known as a bellows tongue and this can help to prevent debris, such as stones, from getting into the shoes.
However, this does not apply across the board and if you have ever gotten a piece of debris in your hiking boot, you will know how inconvenient it is to stop, remove the boot, tip out the debris, and put the boot back on.
In contrast, should you find any debris has made its way under your foot while hiking if you are wearing sandals, you can quickly and easily remove this without taking off the shoe.
One of the greatest fears of many people when using hiking sandals is that their toes will be exposed. To a degree, this is true but there are many hiking sandals that come with a covered toe, giving you a little more peace of mind.
What’s more, a lot of these shoes feature a toe bumper. This is a raised section at the front of the sandal which prevents you from bumping your toes on rocks or other obstructions.
This may be a minor reason, but if you are looking to (safely) catch some rays while hiking your favorite summer trail, wearing sandals gives you a great way to do this.
The Cons Of Hiking Sandals
Nothing comes without a downside and while we would advocate the use of hiking sandals in many situations, there are some things that you should consider when using this type of footwear.
Primarily, you should consider that your feet are not going to be fully protected. There are several things that could pose a threat and your location and the conditions of the hike will depend on which of these factors may be a risk.
- If the sun is particularly strong, there could be a risk of your skin burning. While we have discussed getting a healthy tan, this should always be done responsibly. When you are wearing hiking sandals, you must carry a strong SPF and reapply this throughout the duration of the hike.
- If you are somewhere in the world where snakes live then there is a risk of being bitten. Since hiking boots cover the feet entirely, it is unlikely that a snake bite would be an issue. However, with open toes and exposed skin, if you were to startle an unsuspecting snake, you may be at risk of being bitten. If you are in a location where there are venomous snakes, it might be worth switching your sandals for something more protective.
- With the feet exposed, there is a risk of bumping the feet into rocks and other obstructions on the trail, particularly when coming downhill. While this problem can be somewhat solved with covered toes, the feet won’t be completely protected.
- Your feet may become a little chilly when wearing hiking sandals, and while it might be akin to sticking two fingers up to the fashion Gods, wearing socks with your sandals is an option if the temperature starts to drop.
Exposed feet is one thing to think about but another major downside to wearing hiking sandals is that the straps can become abrasive, causing sore spots on the skin. Of course, you can solve this problem by purchasing hiking sandals with adjustable straps or using athletic tape to cover and irritated areas.
But the problems with the straps do not end there. Hiking boots are unlikely to fall apart in the middle of a long walk. Conversely, there is a small chance that your hiking sandal straps may snap or become damaged in some other way. This could leave you high and dry so it is always advisable to carry an extra pair.
When Should I Wear Sandals For Hiking?
It is evident that there are a lot of good points about hiking sandals and when we ask ourselves ‘are sandals good for hiking?’; the resounding answer is yes. However, as we have learned, there may be times that hiking sandals are not suitable.
The best time to whip out this type of footwear is in warmer weather. If you attempt to wear sandals for hiking in cold climates, you will soon wish you had your cozy boots; not to mention this is not ideal for the health of your feet.
Sandals are also an excellent choice when you will be hiking through wet conditions or when water crossings are necessary.
With modern approaches and design, hiking sandals are just as adept for use on uneven, slippery, or rough terrain so regardless of the location, they will provide just as good traction as a more robust hiking boot.
Ultimately, there is no right or wrong and your comfort is the main thing you should consider. Some people prefer the freedom of wearing a hiking sandal as it can feel much less restrictive than a boot whereas others prefer to feel fully encased and supported.
Traditionally, people wear hiking boots or shoes when they are exploring the far reaches of the world. But in some cases, this type of footwear might not be suitable and as such, there is now a great selection of hiking sandals on the market.
Many hikers have questioned whether sandals are good for hiking and are pleasantly surprised to discover that they are more than suitable. This is especially true if you need to walk through water or will be hiking in warmer weather.
However, this footwear may be ideal in certain situations such as the extreme cold or where there might be aggressive wildlife.
Before deciding on whether to wear hiking sandals be sure to check out the conditions as this will help you to make a more informed decision.