Summer in Vermont is short and even though it’s July, the lakes are still too cold to swim (for me, at least), and I’m still wearing flannel pajamas to bed. So, when we are blessed with summer hiking weather, I am the first one in my family out the door, ready to make the most of every ray of sunshine while I have the chance.
I also hike in sandals for the majority of my summer hikes. Like the rest of me, my feet rejoice when they don’t need to be fully clothed. I’m a careful hiker, and hiking in my Oboz Sun Kosis has a lot of benefits — they are lightweight, dry super fast, and can double as water shoes and camp shoes. Of course, hiking in sandals isn’t awesome all the time.
I do suffer from minor scrapes, stubbed toes, and the random pebble that gets stuck under my foot, but it’s not near as bad as some of the blisters I’ve gotten from hot, sweaty feet on long trails in heavy hiking boots. Here are some tips to make the most of sandal hiking season, and some suggestions for choosing between boots or sandals on your next hike.
When Hiking in Sandals Makes Sense
While we have plenty of mountains and rugged terrain in the Northeast, we also have lots of meandering waterfall hikes, lake trails, and boardwalks through boggy wetlands. These trails were made for sandals, and make it easy to trek across a rocky stream bed or take a dip in a local swimming hole without much thought.
Sandals are great for tame trails, for swapping out with your boots on calm sections of longer hikes, and for wearing around camp. They’re also super useful for paddling trips, where you can wear them in your boat, in the water, and while portaging on trails.
As you become accustomed to hiking in your sandals, you’ll start to know the limits of what you can and can’t do in them. Many hikers have completed the Appalachian Trail in sandals, and there are die-hard aficionados that won’t wear anything else, no matter how rugged the terrain.
Personally, I opt for sandals for day hiking when I know the trail isn’t rocky. I don’t mind an incline, but I hate smashing up my toes, and Vermont is pretty famous for rocky trails.
When You Should Opt for Hiking Boots Instead
Again, this is going to vary from person to person, but I’d say that the heavier your pack, the more sturdy your footwear should be. The Sun Kosis are very supportive as far as sandals go, but they’re no match for sturdy hikers. Here are some other reasons why you might want to opt out of hiking in sandals.
- You see poison ivy or other dangerous plants on the trail
- You are a clumsy hiker that is prone to sprains or other accidents
- You are hiking a very rugged or rocky trail
- You are hiking long distances at a fast pace
- You are doing lots of bushwhacking
- It’s too cold for sandals
Tips for Hiking in Sandals
Ready to strap on your sandals for some friendly day hikes or even something a little more ambitious? Here are tips to keep your feet happy on the trail:
Wear your sandals for several weeks before attempting a big hike. This will give your feet a chance to toughen up so they withstand any hot spots from friction on the straps.
Bring a pair of wool socks. You just never know when you’ll need them—either because your feet are cold, the poison ivy is after you, or you get a nasty cut. And socks with sandals is a stylish way to rock the trail.
Keep your heels moisturized. If you are doing a multi-day hike, your heels will dry out big time. Rub them with some lotion or foot balm before bed to keep them from cracking, which can be super painful.
There’s definitely a place on the trail for sandal hiking, and if you find yourself gravitating toward your sandals all summer long, take them for a spin on your favorite trail and see how it goes.