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How to Choose Hiking Sandals

Hiking sandals have gained popularity in the past decade or so, as experienced hikers have gravitated toward ultralight backpacking. Even for those who prefer hiking boots when actually on the trail, hiking sandals are great shoes when you’re at a campsite. Having alternative pair of shoes will help preserve your boots by keeping odor to a minimum and minimizing the amount of stress put on them.

Hiking Sandal

When Can I Wear Hiking Sandals?

While trekking sandals are not recommended for particularly rough terrain, they’re great for mild climates and tame trails. They also work for wearing around a campsite, or during calmer portions of a trail. Because they’re so ventilated and quick drying, hiking sandals can also be helpful when crossing a stream in the backcountry.

Ultralight Backpacking

If you’re using hiking sandals for their light weight, keep in mind that the rest of your gear needs to be light as well. If you have a regular hiking backpack and hiking sandals, you’ll end up putting an unnecessary amount of pressure on your joints, which can be damaging to your feet.

Arch Support/Cushioning

Unlike standard sandals, most trekking or hiking sandals come with great arch support, which enables hikers to go about trails comfortably. A footbed that is already partially shaped to fit a foot will add to your comfort while also protecting it.

Shock Resistance

If you’re using trekking sandals to hike, you should consider finding a pair that’s shock resistant. Hiking sandals with ethylene vinyl acetate (EVA), or foam midsoles, absorb shock well for an easy hike.

Fit

Adjustable straps are a lifesaver in the middle of a rough trail when your feet have swollen. Not to mention that when it gets chillier, you can throw on a pair of SmartWool socks under your sandals. Adjustable straps will give you the room you need for a pair of warm socks. Moreover, EMS’s Foot Guru program will help you find the pair of sandals that fits you best.

Toe Protection

It’s important that hiking sandals you plan to actually hike in also have protection for your toes. Exposing this area of your foot opens it up to rocks, roots, and other debris. However, if you don’t plan to do any serious hiking in them, you could be safe with open-toed Tevas.

Waterproofness

In order to be especially effective, your sandals should be mostly waterproof. When used to cross streams, hike modest portions of trails, and even walk around a campground, you’re going to come into contact with water. Look for a pair with rubber soles and synthetic uppers.

Soles

Your trekking sandals require a very sturdy sole, preferably Vibram. One of the advantages of hiking sandals is that you can go hiking in them, but other models won’t have that advantage, meaning you shouldn’t hit the trails in flip-flops. Additionally, you should also check to make sure the sandals have an appropriate amount of tread. Even if you’re just using them to walk around the campsite, there will be sticks and rocks you don’t want the soles of your feet to be that close to.

Coverage

Some hiking sandals, Keens in particular, have a surprising amount of coverage for your feet. Others, like Teva and Chaco, are lighter weight, more exposed, and more suited to a campground or easy, level walks. Make sure you know what you want to use the sandals for before purchasing them.

Hiking Sandal Coverage

Socks

In colder fall air, hiking sandals can still be used! Just be sure to wear a hearty pair of wool socks. Some hikers prefer to double up on pairs, but remember that you don’t want to sweat through them. Consider using socks that have more padding on the impact zones of your feet: usually the ball and heel of your feet.


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