Hiking Sandals vs Hiking Boots

What Are the Best Hiking Sandals and Why to Choose them Over Boots.

Boots vs sandals for hikingHiking in boots will offer more support for your ankles and prevent possible strains and pains, but what about sandals? How could I possibly benefit from hiking in sandals?

Well you could indeed find that sandals are the way to go for a lot of hiking situations. There are certain downsides to wearing sandals as mentioned above, but there are most certainly perks as well. Here I will outline why sandals are great for hiking.

Benefits of Sandals:

Comfort: Being a fishing guide and spending every single day in the summer wearing sandals I find that there is nothing more comfortable for my feet.

Airflow:  It’s nice to give your feet a little air! Especially if you are plagued with stinky feet 🙂 Not too  much is worse than getting to camp and having sweat soaked socks.

Stream Crossings: Crossing streams will be no trouble at all while wearing sandals. It is likely you have encountered high water over some stream crossings. Hiking in the spring in the mountains will surely cause water fluctuations. You won’t even notice them if you are wearing sandals. They will dry out quickly, and you will get a nice set of cool feet.

Lightweight: Sandals are just plain lighter than hiking boots. This is an obvious benefit to the long distance hiker.

As you can see there are surely some benefits of wearing sandals over boots. There are also plenty of downsides. You are giving up a lot of support for your ankles and you are also exposing your feet to the elements. Wearing sandals everyday in the river I have become immune to the cold temperatures and water, in fact as soon as I start wearing shoes in the fall my feet will begin overheating. It takes a month of wearing shoes again to become re-accustomed to shoes. If you have ever seen the survival show where the guy gets dropped off on a glacier in nothing more than a pair of wool socks, you will soon realize that wearing sandals in all types of weather is possible,  just not for all of us. Lets go over some situations and why sandals for hiking might be a bad idea compared to boots.

Potential Disadvantages of Wearing Sandals on the Trail

Support: As mentioned you will get no ankle support while hiking in tough terrain.

Sticks and Sharp Rocks: If you are going off trail, you will find that sticks will inevitable poke your feet. You will need to use extra caution in wooded areas and where rocks are jagged. Generally many volcanic rocks tend to have sharp edges, on a steep incline your foot could slide partially out of the sandal and cause terrible foot damage.

Snakes and Insects: You will have to exercise a little more caution in areas with scorpions and poisonous snakes! Also consider in areas with a lot of ticks, if you are wearing boots you can easily tuck your pants in them to prevent unwelcome tick visitors on your body. This is definitely not the case with sandals.

Personally I will often hike wearing sandals if I know that I am going to be on a trail 90% of the time. If I am unsure about the terrain and thing some off trail action will take place, I will opt for the hiking boots. If you do choose to get into sandal hiking here are some things to consider.

Keen and Chaco’s are the two brands I use. I am sure there are other good brands, but these are the ones I have experience with.  I have noticed that keens will offer more traction on rocks and in water than the Chaco sandals because of their softer sole. The Chaco’s vibram sole will give you more protection from possible impalement from nails and other unseen objects. Granted you are unlikely to find nails in the trail or river bottom, but it can and HAS happened to me. (I had a nail go right through the bottom of my keen into my foot).

I find that the layout of the keens will offer more support and protection to the sides and front of your foot. If you kick a rock in the chaco’s you are going to experience a little pain..

Durability: The chaco’s are without a doubt more durable and will last longer than the keens. In my experience I go through a pair of keens every year. As for my chaco’s They are on year 4 and still look brand new..  I will usually alternate each day between my two pairs of sandals in order to keep them both from getting too worn.


Sandals have their pros and cons. Weigh the benefits and decide what is best for you and your hiking needs. For many hikers sandals are the only way to go, for others not so much..

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  1. Aras Androck

    October 15, 2013 at 4:28 am

    I agree. That’s why I prefer sandals over boots whenever I’m out for a hike.

  2. Christopher James

    October 17, 2013 at 4:30 am

    Hiking sandals all the way. No question about that.