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Hiking in Sandals: Pros and Cons

These days, the trend in hiking footwear is minimalism. Lightweight and breathable options are preferred. Many hikers have moved away from heavy hiking boots over the past few years. A new trend that is quickly growing in popularity is hiking in sandals. Understandably, some hikers are skeptical about hiking with exposed feet.

This guide outlines the pros and cons of hiking sandals compared to other types of footwear. We’ll cover weight, comfort, support, efficiency, cost, versatility, and more. We’ll also discuss some risks of hiking in sandals. Next, we’ll talk about some things to consider when choosing hiking sandals. Finally, we’ll list a few of the best hiking sandals and share some tips for getting started.

I started hiking in sandals about 5 years ago after getting tired of my feet getting wet and sweaty in my boots. These days, I almost always hike in sandals during the warmer months. In this guide, I’ll share my experience.

Hiking through a stream in closed toe Keen hiking sandals
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Key Takeaways

Hiking sandals are lightweight, breathable, quick-drying, comfortable, versatile, and efficient to hike in. They keep your feet cool and make water crossings easy. They also help to reduce the likelihood of blisters, athlete’s foot, and toenail damage. In addition, you don’t need to wear socks.

There are drawbacks. Broken or stubbed toes, scratches and cuts, bug bites, and sunburn on your feet are more common when you wear sandals. Sand, twigs, rocks, and other debris can get into the sandals and cause discomfort. The straps can cause abrasion. Sandals also offer less traction and support.

Hiking sandals are ideal for hikes with lots of stream or river crossings, hot weather hiking, hiking light trails, short hikes, travelers, and use around camp.

Hiking sandals are not ideal for rugged or technical terrain, cold weather hiking, long-distance hikes, those with ankle or foot issues, those carrying heavy loads, hiking in areas with poisonous plants or animals, and hiking in areas with lots of ticks and mosquitoes.

An Overview of Hiking Sandals

Hiking sandals are sandals that are designed specifically for use on the trail. They include arch support, rugged lugged soles, and durable straps to keep your feet firmly in place. Some varieties include built-in toe protection as well. Hiking sandals are also waterproof. They are designed for walking in rivers and streams.

A wide range of hiking sandal designs are available. Some are designed for backcountry use. These sandals include thick soles with deep tread and lots of arch support. Others feature a more minimalist design for everyday use. Some models are designed specifically for walking in water. There are ultralight options as well.

Hiking Sandals Pros

  • Fewer blisters– No matter how breathable your boots or trail runners may be, your feet will still sweat all day. The combination of wet feet and friction causes blisters. Hiking in sandals solves this problem in two ways. First, your feet stay dryer in sandals. The open footwear provides plenty of airflow. The sweat evaporates away before it has the chance to accumulate. Second, sandals have fewer points of contact with your feet. There is less rubbing as a result. You can also adjust the hiking sandal straps to reduce abrasion. This means you’ll suffer far fewer blisters. Hiking boots and trail runners make contact with your entire foot. Sometimes they rub and create blisters. Of course, it is still possible to get blisters in sandals. The straps can rub on your feet and create hot spots. It’s pretty easy to prevent this. On the best hiking sandals, you can adjust the straps so they don’t rub. You can also use some athletic tape to create a barrier between your skin and the straps.
  • Hiking sandals are lightweight Hiking sandals weigh less than hiking boots and around the same as trail runners. The average pair of hiking sandals weighs between 1 and 2 pounds (around 450-900 grams). The lightest pair of hiking sandals are Xero Z-Trail sandals which weigh only around 12 ounces (340 grams). This is probably your lightest hiking footwear option without going barefoot. To compare, an average pair of hiking boots weighs around 2.5 pounds (a little over 1 kilo). The average pair of trail runners weighs around 1 lb 6 oz (around 625 grams). When it comes to footwear, the lighter the better. You can reduce the weight of your footwear by around 8 ounces by switching to hiking sandals.
  • Breathability- Sandals, being completely open, allow air to easily circulate around your foot. They also allow the sunlight to hit your feet. This helps the sweat evaporates away so your feet stay dry and fresh. Dry feet are less likely to develop blisters and fungal growth. Having dry feet is also much more comfortable. Nobody likes hiking in soggy socks and shoes. It’s also nice to feel a cool breeze on your feet on a hot day.
  • Sandals make water crossings easy and fun- This is probably the best part about hiking sandals. You can hike across a stream or river without a second thought. As an added bonus, the cool water feels nice on a hot day. When you hike in sandals, you don’t have to hop over slippery rocks that are sticking out of the water. Just walk through the water instead. You also don’t have to deal with the hassle of removing your shoes and lashing them to your pack. You don’t have to worry about stepping on a sharp rock while crossing barefoot. Hiking sandals offer thick soles to protect your feet. When you reach the other side, you don’t have to wait for your feet to dry out and take time putting your socks and shoes back on. You can just keep on hiking. Your feet will dry off in no time. When you hike in trail runners or boots, you have to keep them dry. If they get wet, they may never dry out. Sandals dry quickly. To help prevent blisters, you may consider drying off your feet on the other side before continuing. It’s a good idea to carry a small towel. The wet straps rubbing against your feet can cause blisters. Whether or not this is necessary depends on the sandals.
  • Your feet stay cooler in sandals- While hiking in hot weather, your feet heat up fast. Sandals are open.The heat just radiates away rather than building up. This greatly improves comfort in hot climates. When you wear hiking boots or trail runners, heat gets trapped in your shoes and your feet get hot and sweaty. This can lead to soggy socks, blisters, and general discomfort.
  • Hiking sandals are versatile You can use your hiking sandals when you’re not hiking. Use them as your summer footwear. Take them to the beach. Wear them on vacation. Walk your dog in them. Wear them around the house. I wear my hiking sandals almost daily. You won’t get this much use out of your hiking boots.
  • Hiking in sandals is more efficient- For hiking, the lighter your footwear, the better. One major benefit of wearing lightweight sandals instead of heavy hiking boots is that you’ll burn less energy while hiking. This allows you to hike further and faster without tiring out. With every step you take, you have to lift the weight of your footwear. When you wear lightweight footwear, every step takes a bit less effort because you don’t have to lift as much weight. Your heart rate stays slightly lower and you burn fewer calories. Reducing the weight of your footwear is particularly helpful because weight carried on your feet requires a disproportionate amount of energy compared to weight in your backpack. The climbers who made the first summit of Mt. Everest noticed this phenomenon. They claimed that one pound on your feet equals five pounds on your back. There is scientific evidence to back this claim up. Check out this interesting article to read about the results of these studies. Cutting a pound from your footwear can save you a significant amount of energy over the course of a long hike. Switching from a 3 pound pair of hiking boots to a 1 pound pair of hiking sandals is the same as removing 8-10 pounds from your backpack. The savings is that significant. You may be able to cover an extra mile or so per day thanks to the added efficiency. This allows you to hike more trails and see more.
  • Toenail damage is less likely- Some long-distance hikers lose toenails. This happens when the toes hit the front of the shoes as you walk. Over time, the nails get damaged, blood blisters form underneath, and the nails lift off of the nailbed and come off. Most hiking sandals are open-toe. Your toes can move freely. You’ll never suffer from lost nails.
  • Sandals are better for foot health- Hiking can cause a number of foot problems. Sandals can remedy some of them. You are also less likely to suffer from athlete’s foot when you hike in sandals. Athlete’s foot is caused by a fungus that favors warm and humid conditions, such as the inside of a shoe. When you wear sandals, your feet stay dryer. Athlete’s foot is less likely to develop when your feet are dry and cool. You are also less likely to develop trench foot when you wear sandals. Trench foot is a problem that develops when your feet stay cold and wet for an extended period of time. It can be caused by hiking in wet boots. Sandals reduce the likelihood of trench foot by allowing your feet to dry out. Sandals also help reduce blisters by keeping your feet dry and reducing abrasion.
  • No need to clean and dry out socks- While hiking in sandals, most of the time you won’t wear socks. There are a number of benefits of this. You won’t have to worry about keeping socks clean and dry. Not having to wash your socks every couple of days saves you time. Packing fewer bulky hiking socks saves some space in your pack as well. You also won’t have to buy hiking socks as often. This saves you money. You should still pack hiking socks, even when you’re hiking in sandals. A good pair of merino wool hiking socks can keep your feet warm. They can also add a bit of protection from bugs and debris when you need it. One pair is probably sufficient.
  • It’s easy to remove pebbles and debris that get caught in your sandals- While hiking along, you may feel a small rock caught between your toes, you can usually get it out by strategically shaking your sandal. If that doesn’t work, you can almost always stick your finger up under your foot or between your toes to extract the problem stone. You don’t have to stop and remove your shoe or boot. Of course, you will get more pebbles and debris stuck under your foot while hiking in sandals than you would with hiking boots because the sandals are open. Luckily, stones almost always roll right out as you walk.
  • Hiking sandals can often be resoled- Some manufacturers offer repair and re-sole services when your hiking sandals wear out. For example, I know Bedrock and Chacos both offer this service. Other brands probably do as well. Having your sandals resoled can save you a nice chunk of money. It’s almost always cheaper to resole rather than buying a new pair. Resoling is also good for the environment because you’re not throwing away your whole hiking sandal every time the sole wears out. Most hiking boots can also be resoled. Trail runners, on the other hand, go straight in the trash when they wear out. They can’t be resoled.
  • Hiking sandals take up less space- If you travel to your hiking destination, a pair of hiking sandals take up far less space in your luggage than trail runners or hiking boots. They’re also easy to pack. After all, sandals are essentially just slim slabs of rubber with straps. They pack flat. You can easily slide them in empty spaces in your luggage. Saving space is particularly important if you’re flying to your hiking destination. Airline luggage limits are pretty strict these days.
  • Hiking sandals are trendy and cool- The current trend in hiking footwear is minimalism. Everybody is going ultralight these days. Hiking sandals fit that trend perfectly. They are the definition of minimalist. I’ve been seeing more and more on the trail. If you care about looks, hiking sandals are a great choice.
Chacos hiking sandals

Hiking Sandals Cons

  • Broken and stubbed toes- You’re more likely to break a toe while hiking in sandals than hiking in boots. This is because hiking sandals are open-toe. They offer very little foot protection. Breaking a toe is my biggest worry when hiking in sandals. While researching before buying my first pair, I encountered a shocking number of stories of people breaking toes while hiking in sandals. I concluded that if I hike enough miles in sandals, eventually, I’ll catch my foot on a rock or root and break a toe. Of course, this is not guaranteed. If you’re careful, you’re unlikely to get injured. People have hiked the entire Appalachian Trail in sandals and have not suffered a single injury. It is something to consider. You are taking a small risk of injury when you hike in sandals. If you’re worried, you can choose a hiking sandal with built-in toe protection.
  • Sunburn and tan lines- While hiking in sandals your feet are exposed to direct sunlight. Over the course of a day, you could develop a pretty severe sunburn if you’re not careful. Particularly if you’re hiking in an open area where there isn’t much shade or if the sun is very intense. You need to be sure to apply sunscreen to the top of your feet while hiking in sandals. Remember to re-apply every couple of hours or after a water crossing. You will also develop some funny looking tan lines on your feet as well. Your tan lines will match the pattern of your hiking sandal straps. Personally, I don’t mind this but others might.
  • If a strap fails, the hiking sandal may become unusable- Sandals can catastrophically fail. If the wrong strap breaks, the hiking sandal simply won’t stay on your foot anymore. This can happen unexpectedly. A strap can pull out of the sole. Boots and trail runners don’t really fail in the same way. The sole may begin to un-bond from the upper. Maybe you wear a hole in the side. These problems are usually slow to develop. You have time to make repairs or get replacements. If a lace breaks, you can just tie it back together. While hiking in sandals, you should inspect the straps periodically to make sure they aren’t fraying or coming loose. Also, consider carrying a sewing kit and some duct tape to make field repairs with. Hiking sandals are very durable but, after enough use, everything fails.
  • Your feet can get cold- Hiking sandals don’t offer any insulation. If it’s cold outside, your feet will get cold. For this reason, sandals aren’t ideal for winter hiking. You can wear a pair of socks for a bit of insulation in chilly weather. If it’s below freezing, your feet will get cold. You could suffer frostbite if you attempt to hike in sandals in below-freezing weather.
  • Hiking sandal straps can cause blisters- In some conditions, it’s easier to get blisters when you hike in sandals. For example, if you are hiking in a wet area and your sandal straps stay wet, you may develop blisters where the straps contact your feet. Friction and moisture cause blisters. There are a few ways to reduce blisters. If possible, dry off your feet after water crossings and keep your hiking sandal straps as dry as possible. You can also apply athletic tape to the parts of your foot that make contact with the hiking sandal straps. Wearing socks can also help reduce the likelihood of blisters.
  • Sandals aren’t ideal for hiking in sandy conditions- Sand can stick to your sweaty feet and make its way under the sandals traps. If sand gets caught between the straps and your feet, your hiking sandal straps basically turn into sandpaper. Over a few miles, the sand cause abrasions and rub your feet raw. If you’re not careful, the sand can rub your feet until they start to bleed. If you’re hiking in a sand, wear high-top boots or gaiters that will keep the sand out. Alternatively, you can hike barefoot if the sand is soft and free of thorns. If you are hiking through a sandy area in sandals, wear socks or apply athletic tape to the parts of your foot that come into contact with the straps.
  • Rocks and debris can easily enter your sandals- Because sandals are open, it’s easy for a sharp rock to get caught underfoot. Twigs and thorns and other debris can easily enter as well. Usually, this is just an annoyance. In some cases, they can cause bruising, splinters, or cuts if you step wrong. This is just part of hiking in sandals. The only way to prevent it is to step carefully while hiking in areas with lots of loose rocks and debris.
  • No ankle support- Hiking sandals don’t offer any kind of protection against sprain injuries. If you step in the wrong place, there is nothing to stop your ankle from twisting. High-top hiking boots, on the other hand, tighten around your ankles to stabilize them. This ankle support may help protect you from sprains. Having said this, there isn’t really any solid scientific evidence that proves that ankle support prevents hiking injuries. This study actually showed that high-top shoes may actually have a negative impact on ankle stability.
  • Hiking sandals have less grip Hiking sandals offer surprisingly good traction. Most are designed for use in water so they work particularly well on slippery surfaces like wet rocks and logs. Having said this, hiking sandals aren’t quite as grippy as a good pair of hiking boots. The lugs are usually significantly smaller and the tread pattern is less aggressive. For rugged backwoods hikes through snow, mud, or loose gravel, sandals aren’t ideal.
  • Hiking sandals have a long break-in period- Hiking sandals require quite a bit of time to break in. When they’re new, the soles are extremely stiff and hard. It takes time for the soles to loosen up. On some hiking sandals, the soles are designed to form to your feet. This takes time. You may have to hike 10-20 miles before your sandals form to your feet and become comfortable. Of course, the break-in period depends on the brand of sandals you buy and the materials they’re made of. Some sandals are comfortable right out of the box. Some hiking sandals will be ready for the trail after just a couple of days of walking around the house. Others take much longer to break in. Trail runners generally take less time to break in than hiking sandals. Hiking boots usually take more time to break in.
  • Snakes and bugs can bite your feet when you wear sandals- Being open-toe, hiking sandals leave your feet exposed to critters. Snake bites are rare but can happen in some locations. Bugs bites are also common. Ticks can crawl right on your feet and up your legs. Mosquitoes can feast on the tops of your feet and your ankles. If the bugs are out, the best solution is to wear thick hiking socks with your sandals. This is particularly important if you’re hiking in an area where other diseases that are transmitted by insects exist. Some common diseases that are transmitted by insects include malaria, dengue fever, Lyme disease, yellow fever, Zika virus, etc.
  • The weight savings of sandals may not be that great- Hiking sandals are surprisingly heavy. An average pair of hiking sandals weighs about the same as a pair of trail runners. You’re not gaining much, weight-wise by switching from trail runners to sandals. Hiking sandals can weigh as much as hiking boots. One of the most popular hiking sandals, the Chaco Z/1 Classic, weighs in at 1 lb 15 oz. An average pair of hiking boots weighs just one ounce more at 2 lbs. Of course, there are much lighter options available. What I’m trying to say is that you’re not always cutting weight when you switch to hiking sandals.
  • Your feet can get scratched up by sharp objects- Sandals won’t protect you from sticks, brush, thorns, pine needles, or rocks that rub against your feet. This is particularly common when hiking through dense vegetation or off-trail. It’s not uncommon to suffer small scrapes, cuts, and bruises on your feet when you hike in sandals. If you’re not careful, these small cuts can get infected. For this reason, sandals aren’t ideal for hiking off-trail.
  • You may get some funny looks or comments from other hikers- Some hikers think hiking in sandals is dangerous or just plain stupid. Some just don’t get the appeal. While out on the trail, you’ll probably get some questions about your footwear choice. Particularly from old-school traditional hikers with heavy boots and heavy packs. Some hikers might just be curious about how the sandals are treating you.

How to Choose the Right Hiking Sandals

Not all hiking sandals are built the same. You have a number of styles and design options to choose from. The three main decisions you need to make when choosing a pair of hiking sandals include closed-toe vs open toe, minimalist vs regular, and between the toe straps vs over the foot straps. You’ll also want to consider arch support, cushioning, tread design, water resistance, and price. Below, I’ll outline the benefits and drawbacks of different hiking sandal designs to help you choose the best hiking sandals for your feet.

Closed Toe Vs Open Toe Hiking Sandals

Most hiking sandals are open-toe, like regular sandals. Some hiking sandals offer built-in toe protection. Closed-toe hiking sandals are built like a shoe in the front with a sturdy rubber toe cap. There are openings along the sides and in the back of the upper for airflow. Rather than straps, closed-toe sandals usually use some kind of quick lace system or bungees. There is usually a heel strap.

The main benefit of closed-toe sandals is that they protect your toes from rocks and roots in the trail. They offer built-in toe protection. This can save you the pain of a broken or stubbed toe. Closed-toe sandals also tend to offer more support and protection from sharp objects than open-toe sandals because they have more material surrounding your foot. Rocks and debris are also less likely to enter closed toe sandals.

The main drawback is that closed toe sandals aren’t very fashionable. If you only plan to hike in your sandals, this doesn’t really matter. If you plan to wear your hiking sandals around town and on vacation, this may not be the best choice. Another drawback is that closed-toe sandals are often heavier because they contain more material. They can also take longer to dry out. They’re often more expensive as well.

Open toe hiking sandals

Minimalist Vs Standard Hiking Sandals

A number of companies make ultralight hiking sandals that weigh less than a pound. Some models weigh as little as 12 ounces. If you want the absolute lightest hiking footwear available, this is it. The light weight is achieved with an ultra-thin sole and lightweight straps.

Minimalist sandals would be a great choice for someone who likes to hike in boots or trail runners most of the time but also wants to have the option to hike in sandals. On days when you’re doing multiple water crossings or the weather is very hot, it is nice to have the option to wear sandals. Minimalist sandals pack down small and the weight penalty of less than a pound isn’t too bad. They would also make great footwear for around camp.

Of course, you are making some compromises when you choose minimalist sandals. Thin soles can’t offer the same lug depth or tread pattern that thick soles can. The traction suffers. Thin soles also allow you to feel every rock underfoot. This can be painful in rugged environments. They offer minimal protection.

Between the Toes Strap Vs Over the Foot Strap

Hiking sandal strap designs vary widely. Some sandals strap over the top of your foot. Some straps go between your big toe and the toe next to it. These could have a flip flop like design or a loop for your big toe. The best hiking sandals have a strap behind the foot for added stability.

The main benefit of having a between-the-toe strap is that it can give you a bit more control and stability. The toe strap helps to hold your foot in place better so you don’t slide around on the sandal’s rubber sole. You can also manipulate your big toe to adjust the hiking sandal slightly while stepping. For example, if you lift your toe, the straps on your foot tighten slightly. This is useful while hiking on a slippery surface. The strap may also reduce blisters by preventing your foot from moving and rubbing against the straps too much.

There are two drawbacks to having a toe strap. First, it makes putting the hiking sandal on slightly more difficult. You have to put your toe into the strap. Like threading a needle. You can’t just slide your foot in as easily. The second drawback is that toe straps make it more difficult to wear socks with your sandals. You may need a pair of toe socks to go with your sandals if you ever plan to wear them with socks.

This choice really comes down to personal preference. It is a major debate between those who wear Chaco sandals. For technical hiking, having a toe strap is probably best. For casual hiking and day-to-day use, sandals without toe straps are often the better choice.

Arch Support

One major difference between hiking sandals and regular sandals is that hiking sandals offer much more support for your feet. The soles aren’t just flat slabs of rubber. Hiking sandals have an arch.

The supportive soles make hiking sandals much more comfortable for hiking long distances. They provide the support that your feet need to stay healthy. If you hike in sandals with flat soles, you will end up with achy feet at the end of the day. When choosing sandals, look for a model with good arch support.

Cushioning

The soles of hiking sandals are often thicker than standard sandals. The thick soles help to protect your feet from sharp rocks and roots. Thick soles allow you to tackle more rugged terrain. If the soles are too thin, you can feel the terrain under your feet. This can get painful after a while.

Ultralight hiking sandals often have thin soles to save weight. The drawback is that you can feel the texture of the ground underneath. Thin ultralight hiking sandals should be avoided if you plan to hike in rugged terrain.

The best hiking sandals also feature soles that are made of materials that are designed to form to your feet over time. This can improve comfort. The drawback is that break-in time is longer.

Water Resistance

One of the biggest benefits of hiking in sandals rather than hiking boots or trail runners is that you can cross streams and rivers without having to stop and remove your footwear. Most hiking sandals are designed to get wet. They don’t absorb water. They are made from quick-drying materials.

Some sandals are not water resistant. For example, sandals that are made of leather should not get wet. When buying hiking sandals, be sure to choose a model that is designed for use in water.

Tread Design and Traction

Traction is important to prevent slips on the trail. Some sandals have smooth, flat soles. Having flat soles on your footwear can be a huge safety hazard, as they can quickly become slippery when wet or when hiking on loose terrain.

The best hiking sandals have thick soles with deep lugs for extra grip. These deep lugs will provide better traction on wet and loose surfaces, meaning you don’t have to worry about slipping or sliding when out on a hike. Not only does this give you more confidence on the trail, but it also allows you to enjoy a much safer experience overall. Vibram soles are a great choice for hiking sandals.

Price

Hiking sandals are pretty expensive for what they are. A high-end pair can cost as much as a pair of trail runners. Expect to spend $80-$140 for a premium pair of hiking sandals.

Cheaper options are available. You can buy a basic pair of hiking sandals for under $30 if you wait for a sale. Cheaper sandals tend to lack durability.

For long-distance hiking or thru hiking, it’s best to invest in a pair of high-end hiking sandals. For casual hiking and use around town, a budget pair of hiking sandals can work fine for most people.

The Best Hiking Sandals

Chaco Z2 Classic Sport Sandal

If you’re looking for a pair of sandals that are capable of some serious hiking, Chaco Z2 Classic is an excellent choice. These durable sandals offer excellent arch support and an adjustable strap for a custom-like fit. They also have 3.5 mm lugged rubber soles which provide solid traction when the terrain gets technical. The thick soles provide protection from sharp rocky surfaces. These sandals are on the heavier side for hiking sandals but the features and comfort are worth the additional weight in my opinion.

KEEN Newport H2 Sandals

If you’re looking for a closed-toe sandal, the KEEN Newport H2 is an excellent choice. These waterproof sandals offer rubber soles with a multi-directional 3 mm lug pattern for great traction. These are a great choice if you spend a lot of time in the water. The material dries quickly as well. As far as the fit goes, these sandals and fit more like a shoe. This is great for people who don’t really like the feel of sandals but want the benefits. The toe cap can protect you from stubbed or broken toes.

Teva Hurricane XLT2 Sport Sandal

These classic three-strap sandals offer an excellent combination of comfort and performance. They feature an EVA foam footbed to cushion and support your feet. The polyester webbing dries quickly, making these an excellent choice for hikes where you expect to encounter wet conditions and water crossings. The durable rubber outsoles are designed to give you plenty of traction in wet environments. These sandals do not have a toe strap. They do have a heel strap. I wear these sandals regularly. They are comfortable and durable. They are also one of the best hiking sandal options for those on a budget. These make great budget hiking sandals.

A Few Tips for Hiking in Sandals

  • Lighten your load- Sandals don’t provide the same support as heavy-duty hiking boots. This means you can’t carry as heavy of loads when you hike in sandals. To avoid unnecessary pressure and stress on the joints in your knees, ankles, and feet, try to lighten your pack before switching to sandals. Getting your base weight under 20 pounds is ideal.
  • Break-in your sandals before a long hike- Hiking sandals need to be broken in, just like any other type of hiking footwear. Sandals can take a surprisingly long amount of time to break in. They aren’t that comfortable right out of the box like trail runners. Particularly if they have thick soles. Start out with short hikes so you can get used to the feel of your sandals and get them properly broken in.
  • Don’t forget to apply sunscreen- Before you put your sandals on in the morning, apply some sunscreen to the tops and sides of your feet. Re-apply sunscreen after a water crossing or every two hours. If the tops of your feet get burned, the straps rubbing on the sunburn can be painful.
  • Pack socks- When hiking in sandals, it’s still a good idea to pack a pair of socks. Socks can keep your feet warm. They can also prevent sunburn. Socks can also help to prevent blisters.
  • Avoid leather sandals for hiking- Most hiking sandals are made from synthetic materials. These materials are strong, durable, and quick-drying. Some companies sell sandals with leather components. There are a couple of problems with leather. First, it causes chafing when it gets wet. Wet leather rubbing against your feet can cause blisters. It can also change shape when it gets wet and dries out. Moisture can cause a leather sole to warp. Leather also requires additional care. It can dry out and get brittle and crack. For these reasons, it’s best to avoid leather sandals for hiking.
  • Carry a small towel with you to dry your feet off- Even though a hiking sandal can get wet, it’s a good idea to wipe your feet off after a water crossing. This will speed up the drying process which reduces the likelihood of blisters.
  • Choose sandals with extra toe room- While hiking in sandals, it’s easy to stub your toe. The best way to reduce toe stubs is to buy sandals that leave extra room for your toes. Ideally, your sandals should extend at least 1/2 inch beyond your toes. This way, if you hit your foot against a rock or root in the trail, the rubber sole will absorb the impact. You don’t want your sandals to be too large. If your sandals extend too far beyond the ends of your toes, you’ll be more likely to get caught up on obstacles and trip and fall.

My Experience

During the summer, I often hike in sandals. I also wear hiking sandals while traveling. I can comfortably hike for miles in my sandals. They do take a little while to break in. The straps can cause some abrasion at first. After they’re broken in, they are extremely comfortable.

If I expect to hike in loose gravel or sand or if I expect cold weather, I will wear my trail runners or hiking boots instead. For particularly long hikes, I will also wear closed toe shoes.

Hiking sandals offer a number of advantages over boots or trail runners. Sandals are breathable, reduce blisters, and make water crossings easy and fun. The main drawback of hiking in sandals is the lack of protection for your feet. It’s easy to stub a toe or cut up a foot on a sharp branch.

When getting started hiking in sandals, start small. Take a short hike in an area with easy terrain so you can get used to the feel of your new footwear. Put your sandals to the test to gain some confidence in the grip and traction that they offer. After you get your sandals broken in, you may never go back to hiking boots until the winter.

Do you hike in sandals? Share your experience and tips in the comments below!

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Gipcgirl

Monday 13th of November 2023

I have done 2 Thru hikes of the AT and many other hikes in keen sandals and have had no issues whatsoever. I wear merino toe Sox with them, this prevents blisters. I have also hiked long distances in toe sox and crocs very comfortable although they wear out very quickly. Try them you may be surprised. Gipcgirl AT 2010 & 2011.

Zachary Friedman

Sunday 19th of November 2023

Good tips. I think I'm going to give hiking in Crocs a try. I've seen a lot of people doing it.

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