In the many books I’ve been reading about taking long (multiday) walks some people advocate using hiking sandals (or even less sturdy sandals) than boots. So I thought I’d give it a try. Clearly, backpacking on rough trails with a heavy load requires good boots, but what about light loads on relatively smooth trails, like the rails-to-trails conversions I do around here. So I got a pair of Keen Newports and am breaking them in. These are sturdy walking sandals with thick soles (almost as good as my boots) so they’re not that much lighter. One idea advocating sandals is that weight on your feet requires even more energy than weight in your pack since you’re moving your feet (and not much a pack) so even relatively small reduction in weight saves energy. So far I can’t tell if that’s true but I haven’t gone as far with new sandals as previously I’d done in boots.
Clearly the sandals, even the closed toe types (which I consider essential as protection), are a bit cooler. And, at least compared to high top boots, I have more flexibility in ankle – good for sitting, not as good on rough rocky trails where twisting an ankle is possible. But the real issue may be water. Clearly tromping through even a shallow stream is tough on boots (walking on wet boots and socks is a good way to: a) get blisters, b) wear out the inner linings of the boots, as I’ve done before). But I have to wear socks, to avoid blisters from the back strap on sandals, so getting wet isn’t going to be much fun either way. And in light rain (as opposed to actual crossing water) my feet do get wet quickly, but as I’ve found on long hikes in rain, anything short of waterproof boots (bad for sweating feet), will get wet sooner or later and be semi miserable.
So I don’t yet have enough experience to declare any results. But one problem I’ve always had with sandals, these new ones included, is that somehow the manufacturing process creates some “bumps” in the inner sole (never had this with multiple pairs of boots) and so I get a little stress on bottom of feet, especially in these new sandals on left foot (two bumps). I don’t understand why this happens but thus far it’s be consistently true – never in boots, always in sandals. So I’m a bit nervous doing my longest walk, to date (planned for next week) with the sandals instead of the known trustworthy boots. Since I’ll have support (i.e. a car a phonecall away) next week I suppose I’ll try the sandals since any problems won’t be as bad as one a multiday hike in nowhere, with no support.
So actually, thus far, I think the issue is just more trendiness and fashion than actual suitability for walking, but perhaps over time I’ll be able to add more data to suggest which is the superior choice. But I’m relatively sure the most popular (and open-toed) sandals are not for me.