It’s hard to keep cool if you’re hiking on a hot, summer day. The heat can slow you down, and after a few hours, you might feel like you’re melting into a puddle of sweat and stink. Hiking in sandals isn’t a cure-all, but a good pair of hiking sandals will help you beat the heat.
More thermal energy is transferred through the feet and hands than anywhere else on the human body. How many times have you heard that wearing heavy wool socks is the best way to keep warm on a cold night? Wearing less on your feet will help stabilize your core body temperature on those days when the mercury is on the rise.
There are a lot of myths out there about why you should not hike in sandals. Some hikers vow never to wear sandals on the trail, but that means they’ve never worn a solid pair of hiking sandals for themselves.
Below are just a couple of reasons to hike with sandals:
The extremities of your body play a huge role in regulating your core body temperature. After a long day of working in the heat, kicking off your boots and socks is one of the best ways to cool down quickly. And conversely, putting on gloves and wool socks will help you preserve heat in the cold.
Shoes and boots completely cover your feet, so it’s not hard to imagine that wearing open-toed footwear would increase ventilation. Hiking in sandals means there is more skin exposed, increasing the surface area exposed to air (which is not as hot as the inside of a boot).
And in addition to wearing boots or shoes, you have to wear socks. Socks are a must since they help prevent blisters, but they definitely add heat to the equation. Hikers in particular need to wear wool socks instead of cotton — an even heavier material — because cotton absorbs sweat and make your feet that much more prone to blisters.
In short, wearing heavy socks and boots combined with walking — any type of movement generates heat — your feet, can become sweaty and hot very quickly on the trail. On those brutally hot days, try opting for hiking sandals.
Unlike other types of toeless footwear, hiking sandals feature thick outsoles and deep lugs for traversing obstacles commonly encountered on the trail. Just like hiking boots, hiking sandals provide padded midsoles and outsoles that offer comfort and support.
Just because the shoe is not closed does not mean it provides less support. Hiking sandals have straps — usually tightened with a metal clasp or Velcro-like material — and should fit similarly to hiking boots. Your heel should not wiggle as you take steps, and you should only have about an inch or two between your toes and the front side of the sandal. Loose fitting sandals will lead to blisters like any other type of footwear.
Do keep in mind that hiking sandals do not provide the same level of ankle stability as hiking boots or trail shoes. The fit is not as snug, so make sure to watch your step and avoid uneven terrain to prevent spraining an ankle. If you think the trail might be treacherous at points, it’s best to wear boots or at least bring some lightweight trail shoes, just in case.
Sure, if you’re planning to go off-trail into the wilderness, hiking sandals are not the way to go. You won’t get as much support if you’re climbing boulders and trekking through uneven terrain. But if you’re hiking on a relatively well-maintained trail, you’ll be happy to be wearing sandals to keep you cool.
If you’ve ever crossed a stream in boots, you know how much of a pain the process can be. You have to stop what you’re doing, sit down to unlace and remove your boots. Then after fording stream, river, or creek in waterproof footwear, you need to figure out a way to dry your socks and put your boots back on.
With hiking sandals, you just go.
Most types of hiking sandals are not only waterproofed, but they also dry quickly. That means you don’t have to think twice about getting wet. Not to mention that cool water on your bare feet feels great on those hot, summer days.
Hiking sandals are not poolside flip flops. They are not fashion-centered wedge sandals or runway-approved gladiator sandals. A hiking sandal is for walking the trail.
Good hiking sandals feature deep lugs that give the bottoms of your feet plenty of traction. Of course, it’s not wise to run in them, but for mild-paced hiking, they’re great.
The lugs on a hiking sandal’s outsole provide grip, essentially biting into the earth with each step. As long as the terrain isn’t too rough, your sandals should prevent slippage while keeping your feet cool.
With less material and bulk, a pair of sandals way significantly less than shoes or boots. A pair of beefy hiking boots can weigh upwards of 25 oz., adding more weight to your feet. That means you are forced to exert more energy with each step. Even lightweight hiking boots tend to weigh more than 18 oz.
Hiking sandals can weigh as little as a third of heavy duty hiking boots. A pair of sandals like the womens Galicia Strap weighs just over 5 oz. while mens sandals like the Laguna Strap weighs around 9 oz.
The biggest concern most hikers have with sandals is lack of protection. Unless you’re hiking on snake island or you’re incredibly accident-prone, you have nothing to worry about.
While it’s true that open-toed sandals leave your feet exposed, it’s not like there’s a higher chance of being stung by a scorpion or bitten by a snake. And if you are planning to hike a trail that’s infamous for having a ton of these creepy crawlies, it’s advisable to come prepared with close-toed shoes or boots.
Are you very accident-prone? If you just can’t seem to avoid being nicked by branches on the daily, regular hiking sandals might not be for you. Sandals don’t increase the likelihood of being cut up by branches and rocks; however, since your skin is exposed, the cuts will be more severe.
That’s why we invented shandals — they’re right in between shoes and sandals, offering close-toed protection, yet sandal-like ventilation.
Don’t knock hiking in sandals until you try it. A good pair of hiking sandals will keep your feet dry and cool on the trail, and prevent you from fussing about sweaty socks in the heat of summer.
Just remember to always exercise caution on the trail. And do your research before hitting the trail to make sure you’ve come prepared with the proper footwear. Hiking sandals are great for easy to medium level trails, but they will not offer the same level of support as hiking boots on difficult, uneven terrain.
Enjoy your summer hiking and remember to send us your pictures on the trail!