Adventuring with a pair of hiking sandals has its place and benefits. Not only do your feet remain better ventilated than when inside a pair of hiking boots, sports sandals also dry quicker than any other footwear.
However, for hiking trails that have logs to climb over, boulders to hop and narrow ridges to traverse, wearing hiking sandals is a dangerous risk to take simply for additional comfort.
Updated: June 2013 With the Latest & Greatest
On the other hand, hiking in tropical regions or dry climates on well-maintained trails, such as Costa Rica or Australia, are suitable for wearing a Keen sports sandal.
That is not to say packing a hiking sandal is pointless for you.
For backpackers and day hikers, a sports sandal can have many benefits, including:
- Wearing around the campsite
- Venturing into the icy, alpine lakes
- Crossing streams on backcountry trails
Why Buy Hiking Sandals
While sports sandals should never be worn while hiking with a backpack, they can be used for minor excursions on well-maintained trails in Glacier National Park or other National Parks within the United States.
However, you should consult with a Ranger beforehand about conditions to ensure the trail is safe for wearing hiking sandals on.
If trail conditions permit wearing sandals, benefits include:
- Fewer pressure points, which will reduce blistering
Hiking Sandal Downfalls
Personally, even if a Ranger gives you the go-ahead to hike with sandals, I still would recommend wearing either hiking boots or shoes. Quite simply, the downfalls in my opinion out-weigh the benefits:
- With sandals, dirt and sticks can easily become a nuisance
- Montana & Rocky Mountain weather is unpredictable – a storm can roll in and make once safe conditions dangerous
- Lack of ankle support makes your ankles vulnerable to injury
Hiking Sandal Purchasing Advice
That said, nothing beats having a pair of sandals to lounge around the campsite in – wear your boots during the hikes, and relax in the comfort of sports sandals at night.
For all my National Park adventures, I always bring a pair of sandals for this exact purpose and it greatly increases morale.
Unlike regular sandals, sports sandals are constructed with thick, rubber soles. These provide the necessary grip you need to safely and securely explore level terrain.
When purchasing sports sandals, be sure to look for:
- Solid Straps to keep your foot and ankle secure
- Shaped Footbeds to cushion and protect your foot
- Closed-toe to keep your toes safe from obstacles that can stub or break them
What Hiking Sandals Do I Recommend?
The sports sandal I most highly recommend is the Keen Newport H2 Sandal. Keen’s sandal is lightweight, shock-resistant, and uses a quick-lace system.
A benefit of the Keen Newport H2 Sandal over other sports footwear is that it has reflective pull loops that improve your visibility in low light conditions. This can be very useful during evening hours around the campsite.
**UPDATE** Recently, I purchased a pair of Keen Newport H2 Sandals. Hands down, these hiking sandals are the best out there. No doubt about it.
I have worn them on numerous day hikes around Boulder, CO and throughout town. The only downside is the breathability. The bottom of my feet get very sweaty and the bottom of the sandal is impossible to ventilate.
Otherwise, invest in a pair of these sandals. I am a Keen Sports Sandal supporter for life.
Want proof? Here’s my video review of the Keen Newport H2’s.
And if you want to take the word of myself and others, then check out this page for the full Keen Newport H2 review. I’ve been hiking and compiling video testimonials from real people who hike in their Keen sandals.
One of the best sports sandals that combines all of these is the Keen Arroyo Hiking Shoe. Technically, this is a light hiking shoe, but it functions like a hiking sandal and raises the bar for sports sandals in both appearance and functionality. What sets this sandal apart from the others is that:
- Patented toe protection
- Patented 3S: Shock suspension and stability to reduce chances of a twisted ankle and minimize shock
- Washable & Waterproof
- A metatomical footbed to keep your foot secure and safeLearn more about the Keen Arroyo Hiking Shoe
Another great option is the Mion Current Sandal. It provides benefits not seen in other sandals, including:
- A Super-Structure instead of straps that creates a cage around your foot
- Patented Gripstick rubber technology for the best gripping ability
- At 12.5oz these incredibly lightweight hiking sandals can be brought into the backcountry
- A patented Ergomorphic foam footbed morphs to your feet shape
Buying A Hiking Sandal Online
You may think that it is foolish to buy footwear online. Years ago, yes, this was the case. However, purchasing online is easy with REI. I recommend all visitors to REI because they have:
- The best selection in prices
- Footwear sizing charts
- No questions asked return policy
- Vast, in-stock selection
- Detailed product descriptions and visibility
- Did I mention Best Prices??
With REI, you can try the sandal out for size in a store near you, then order it online for a cheaper price from their store. Click here to find Family Camping Gear at REI.com.