Should You Hike in Sandals?

Hiker in the mountainsSome people really love their sandals. In fact, some people love sandals so much that they will wear them regardless of the weather. It can be pouring rain or dumping snow, in the summer heat and the winter cold, they reach for their sandals every time. We understand. Sandals are quick, easy, and comfortable. No one is here to dispute the comfort and convenience of a good pair of sandals.

The question is, should you hike in sandals?

Let’s clarify real quick and take a moment to remove flip flops from the conversation. Under no circumstance should you hike in flip flops. Flip flop sandals are fine for a quick walk along a paved trail, but as soon as you decide to go off-road and take on a proper trail, you should opt for more substantial footwear than a flip flop. Do not hike in flip flops. Reject this advice at your own risk.

The sandals that we’re talking about have straps to stay secure and a more rugged sole than your average flip flop. We’re talking about the sandals that you would actually consider hiking in (think Teva).

In general, it’s recommended that you wear hiking boots or trail shoes whenever you’re going on a hike. That being said, there are certain times when sandals will be an adequate choice of footwear while hiking, and you may have even seen some free-toed free-spirited hikers trudging along the trail in a pair of sandals.

Why sandals are bad for hiking

  • Sandals don’t protect your foot. How many times have you tripped over a tree root or kicked a rock on the trail? In boots this is no problem, in shoes you’ll probably be OK, but in sandals you will have trouble finishing the hike because you can’t see where you’re going through the tears streaming down your face. And you’re on your own when it comes to poison ivy or a snake encounter.
  • Sandals don’t provide ankle support. Boots offer the best ankle support. There’s no contest. Low top trail shoes offer very little in the way of ankle support, but they’re tanks compared to sandals. Even with straps, your sandals can slide around resulting in a twisted ankle.
  • Sandals don’t have a sole. Well, they have soles, but they just aren’t going to give enough padding for a long thru-hike. No matter how much you love your sandals, they do not provide as much padding as a hiking boot or hiking shoe. Even thick-soled sandals come up short when compared to boots and shoes.

When it’s OK to hike in sandals

Now that we’ve gotten why it’s bad to hike in sandals out of the way, there are times when you can hike in sandals.

Sandals are lightweight and convenient. They dry quickly and they are as breathable as it gets.

If you’re hiking in prime conditions on a short, flat, easy trail that is well-maintained, it’s OK to hike in sandals. Just realize that you’re at a greater risk of injury if hiking in sandals, and hope that the convenience and comfort of letting your toes breathe is worth the potential risk.

When you should never hike in sandals

Let’s say that you throw caution to the winds on this issue. There are times when it really is unwise to hike in sandals. If you’re tackling rocky, strenuous, steep, or uneven trails in thick vegetation, and soggy conditions, you shouldn’t wear sandals. The dangers go beyond scuffing up your tootsies — you’re risking a fall when you do this.

Rough terrain calls for a stiff sole, ankle support, and good all-round protection. The same goes for extended backpacking trips. The longer the trail, the more you should consider a pair of shoes or boots.

Obviously, you can wear a tutu and hike in bare feet if you so desire. What you wear on your feet or otherwise while hiking is up to you. There are plenty of people who hit the trails in sandals and come out unscathed. Just know that if you aren’t sure-footed, you’re better off in a good pair of boots.

One Comment

  1. […] No one would really consider hiking in a mesh sock, but there are, however, people who think it’s a good idea to hike in sandals. Sandals are of course lightweight and breathable, but you shouldn’t wear sandals while hiking because they offer no support and no protection. Read more on why you shouldn’t hike in sandals. […]

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