Hiking is a fun and engaging activity that allows adrenaline junkies to get in some exercise as well as enjoy the scenery around them. If you enjoy hiking when the weather is warm, then you might have an idea of how uncomfortable your feet can get as a result of being in regular hiking boots despite adequately protecting your feet from the terrain. In such instances, you will probably be more comfortable going for lightweight footwear that will allow your feet to breathe. This article takes a look at one such style of footwear to help you determine if you should take them along on your next hiking excursion.
What are hiking sandals? Hiking sandals are a type of footwear that are specially designed for use on rugged terrain. They are a great alternative to hiking shoes and boots as they are lighter in weight and reduce the chances of sweat accumulation as they are more open.
There are different designs of hiking sandals to choose from; open-toe hiking sandals are great for use when the weather is hot and you expect to come across water bodies, closed-toe hiking sandals provide more coverage, and finger sandals are a padded glove for your feet. Other than hiking, these sandals can also be used for water sports such as rafting, camping, and even backpacking adventures. A hiking sandal will typically have a treaded sole to provide traction, and many varieties will also feature a toe cap that is meant to protect the toe. Another common feature to look for in this style of footwear is arch support to ensure that your feet are comfortable even when you spend most of your day hiking.
Hiking sandals are different from your typical sandals as they are meant for more rigorous physical activity. Here are the various aspects of this unique footwear style.
Types of hiking sandals
There are many different designs of hiking sandals. Here are some of the most common:
1. Open-toe hiking sandals
Open-toe hiking sandals are best for particularly hot weather, sweaty feet, and for those who expect to encounter water frequently on their path. Dirt and sand will not remain trapped in an open-toed sandal as it features an open upper with only a few straps holding it to the foot. The main downside of this type of hiking sandal is the lack of toe and foot protection as the minimal coverage leaves your feet exposed to whatever nature will throw at you.
2. Closed-toe hiking sandals
Closed-toe sandals provide more toe and foot protection in general than their open-toed counterparts. The upper of this type of hiking sandal features more coverage, with several evenly-spaced straps running across the foot. On a cool day, you can add a pair of thick socks under these sandals for a bit more warmth. Unlike open-toe sandals, they are a bit heavier, and they are not easy to slip on and off your feet.
3. Closed-toe casual sandals
This type of hiking sandal is not as heavily-built as the closed-toe hiking sandal. That being said, they are considerably comfortable and can be used for some short-distance hiking on a terrain that is not too rugged. They are also great for use in a camping site.
4. Finger sandals
This category is made up of just Vibram Five Finger sandals/shoes, but they are prevalent enough to be listed as hiking sandals. The finger sandal is more of a glove for your feet as each toe fits into its own slot. This is more of a shoe/sandal hybrid because they are more closed than any other varieties featured on this list. Finger sandals are lightweight and have a barefoot feel while still offering adequate protection for the feet.
5. Open-toe casual hiking sandals
This category comprises of flip flop varieties that have a sturdier construction than their often flimsy counterparts.
Uses for a hiking sandal
Some hiking sandals are more suitable for a backpacking adventure, while others are best suited for a night out trekking to your favorite drinking hole. Here are the various uses for a hiking sandal:
- Water sports – For hiking sandals that are intended for water sports such as rafting, traction and quick-drying are important considerations.
- Hiking – These sandals are especially great for hiking excursions in warm weather.
- Backpacking – Backpacking requires the sturdiest designs of hiking sandals especially if the terrain is particularly rugged.
- Camping – Hiking sandals for camping should be lightweight and comfortable.
- Urban – Hiking sandals are great for use on paved streets, steep stairs, and in-city peaks.
Choosing the most suitable hiking sandals
Here are some considerations to keep in mind when selecting hiking sandals:
- The type of hiking – Before going out and purchasing a particular type of hiking sandals, it is important to consider the type of hiking you will be doing. As with other outdoor excursions, the type of equipment you choose to take on your hiking trip is critical and should be fit for the purpose. For easy and flat trails, open-toed sandals should work just fine, but for rougher terrains, you want more protective sandals. If the hike you intend to go on is particularly rigorous and you plan to carry a heavy pack, you will want an especially sturdy and comfortable pair, or avoid sandals all together and go for hiking boots to be on the safe side.
- Support – When it comes to arch support, not all hiking sandals are built the same. Therefore, you want to examine potential sandals closely and get a feel of the type of support they offer, whether it is high, medium, or low arch support.
A well-cushioned footbed will keep your feet protected by significantly reducing the impact of walking on rugged terrain. This is because cushioning in footwear is meant to absorb shock and consequently keep your feet comfortable and supported. Pay attention to the midsole and heel support featured in the sandal, looking for cushioning elements such as EVA and polyurethane (PU).
- Sole and treads – For a hiking sandal, it is important to consider the outsole – you want it to be rugged and durable to ensure that it holds up well to the rigors of hiking while still maintaining the required friction through all conditions. A hardwearing rubber sole is generally considered to be the most suitable for this style of sandal.
Among outdoor sandals, there are many types of treads available. Look for hiking sandals that have a well-defined tread pattern on the sole. This will ensure that you have enough grip and traction as you make your way through the different terrains. The deeper the lugs and grooves on the outsole, the higher the efficiency of the tread pattern at ensuring your stability.
- Toe cap – Depending on the terrain you are hiking on, you will need some degree of toe protection to reduce the risk of injuries that may result from being hurt by sharp objects, getting bit by bugs, or mistakenly kicking a rock. In such instances, opt to wear closed-toe hiking sandals. On the other hand, if you are just hanging around the campsite, open-toed ones will do.
- Fit – Like with any other type of footwear, it is important that your hiking sandals fit you properly. If they turn out to be ill-fitting, they will inevitably rub in the wrong places which will result in the development of painful blisters that may end up popping and leaving you with open sores on your feet.
You should also keep in mind that feet tend to swell especially when under stress and in heat, so you might want to go for sandal designs that you allow for you to adjust the fit accordingly when your feet enlarge.
- Securing method – Hiking sandals can either feature Velcro or adjustable flat straps that are webbed in various designed. Both securing methods allow for a secure and enveloping fit, although webbed adjustable straps allow for a more customized fit.
- Waterproofing and moisture control – One of the exciting things about wearing this style of sandal for a hiking excursion is the newfound ability to walk through water obstacles without having to worry about your boots and socks being wet for the rest of the hike. For this purpose, you want to look for sandals that are constructed with waterproof materials or have a waterproof coat. It is also important for the sandals to have natural ventilation to allow them to dry out quickly when they get wet.
For those with sweaty feet, you will want a pair of hiking sandals that have a microfiber lining that will wick away sweat and keep it from accumulating. Sweat buildup tends to lead to the release of an unpleasant odor and could also cause your feet to overheat.
Hiking sandals are a great option whether you plan to go hiking, camping, backpacking, or even rafting. They are a convenient alternative to wearing heavy hiking boots and shoes, but they are best suited for trails that are not too rugged. When selecting hiking sandals, always go for a pair that is comfortable and fits you well. Other factors to take into consideration include toe protection, soles, waterproofness, and coverage.