Hiking sandals have a reputation for being the best alternative to traditional footwear during warm summer day hikes. They also earned the reputation for being the lightest alternative to hiking boots and hiking shoes. But outdoor sandals are not stopping in being just the lighter alternative. Shoe manufacturers have introduced lightweight hiking sandals for a more comfortable day hike.
Summer provides a perfect time for people to go out and enjoy the world outdoors. Outdoor sandals have moved with the times to give hikers a larger footwear option. In a sea of hiking gears, this option stands out for many reasons.
The phenomenon of using sports sandals started when they were first used by river rafters. The open-air design and the nylon straps, mesh, and leather material combination made these a perfect option for water sports footwear. Hikers have eventually embraced them on the trail for their ventilation and quick-drying materials.
Sandals are made of fewer materials than boots and shoes, so they tend to be lighter. Lightweight hiking sandals weigh just a few ounces, almost like slippers or flipflops. Hikers who wear them cover longer distances with only a few blisters or sores, if they have them at all at the end of the trip.
There are different designs that hikers can choose from. The open-toe design offers utmost breathability although it leaves the toes exposed to twigs, rocks, and other things that can cause injuries. Closed-toe lightweight hiking sandals offer some toe protection but are not as breathable as open-toe versions.
There are distinct differences between boots, shoes, and lightweight hiking sandals in terms of style and materials. Unlike shoes and boots that are secured by laces, sandals are secured using Velcro tapes or buckles.
The outsoles of lightweight hiking sandals just have the right amount of stiffness to support a day hike. The lugs and tread give just the right amount of traction for tackling easy trails. These are made of synthetic materials that make the sandals characteristically light and dry quickly.
Lightweight hiking sandals offer different benefits to hikers. Their biggest edge from other outdoor gear is their ability to provide ventilation. When hikers pound their feet while tackling different terrain types, a good pair of outdoor sandals help the feet dry quickly and let them breathe.
The main characteristics of lightweight hiking sandals for men and women
Hiking sandals are available in many different styles and with different features. Their lightness makes them an excellent choice as camp footwear since they can be squeezed into a backpack without much effect on its weight.
Sandals do not have the same amount of materials that boots and shoes have. Many manufacturers also use synthetic and quick-drying materials on them. Because of the way these bulky materials are eliminated, they weigh half to one-third the weight of hiking boots and shoes.
A pair of sturdy boots can weigh over 25 ounces. Because they are quite heavy, hikers need to exert more energy to move. Traditional hiking sandals weigh a little over a pound, a far cry from boots and lightweight shoes. Lightweight hiking boots for their part, can go as light as 5 ounces. Hikers do not exert as much energy with them on as when they are wearing boots or shoes.
The makings of lightweight hiking sandals
When looking for a pair of outdoor footwear, hikers need to consider the trail conditions they will tackle. Hiking sandals need to have the technical and performance capabilities expected of outdoor gear. And while they have the needed features to support a day of walking, one thing is never sacrificed: the lightness.
Hiking sandals already have a reputation for their weight. Before they were widely accepted in the hiking world, hikers had to live with their clunky boots and shoes. Some were a little skeptical at first, thinking that a pair of hiking sandals will not be a sound footwear choice for a day on the trail. These days though, the vast selection of these sandals in the market indicates how much they are loved and patronized by outdoor lovers.
Hiking boots and hiking shoes have closed designs. Since they are closed, the footwear is capable of protecting the feet against abrasions and stings. They are also used for long hikes on difficult and mostly cold locations as they come with enough insulation to keep the hikers comfortable. Because of these considerations, this traditional hiking footwear is manufactured with equally heavy and sturdy materials.
Lightweight hiking sandals, on the other hand, are made of quick-drying and mostly synthetic materials. Different companies use technologies that do not just improve the overall feel of the sandals but also make them very light as well. Some companies could also offer a selection of lightweight leather sandals for outdoor enthusiasts.
Footwear weight and how it affects hikers
It was Sir Edmund Hillary who originated the homespun wisdom that a pound on the feet equals five pounds on the back during his successful ascent of Mount Everest in the year 1953. This paved the way for various academic researchers to conduct their own study on the subject. It seems however that these study derived the same conclusion: weight on the feet is more exhausting than the weight that hikers carry on their torso.
Many outdoor junkies are curious about how the weight of their footwear affects their pace on the trail. Researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder conducted a study with the help of 18 competitive runners and found out that for every 3.5 ounces of lead pellets added to their shoes, runners ran about 1% slower. The same principle could be applied in hiking footwear.
Hikers need to pick the footwear that gives them the best support on the trail, but they also have to consider the weight. For a day hike, wearing heavy mountaineering boots is not a sound choice since it will require the hiker to use more energy. It is advisable for hikers to choose lightweight hiking sandals instead of bulky footwear as these require using less energy so wearers can keep a good hiking pace.
If the trail is relatively easy, wearing lighter footwear will be a sound choice. Lightweight hiking sandals are so light that they give hikers the freedom they need during hikes. If there is one thing these studies tell hikers, it is that a lighter pair of shoes will help them go farther, and feel more comfortable than they would in clunky boots.
Best brands for getting lightweight men's and women's hiking sandals
Hikers have different reasons for getting their own pair of lightweight hiking sandals. These various reasons also set the demands that hikers should look for when buying a pair. Various designs have been introduced, and all of these have their own stability, motion control, and cushioning features that support hikers.
Gone are the days when people frowned on lightweight hiking sandals. More and more hikers love the freedom that this footwear gives them. The growing number of footwear manufacturers that include sandals in their outdoor line is one proof of this growing acceptance. Some popular brands offering lightweight hiking sandals are Keen and Teva.
Pros and cons of wearing lightweight hiking sandals
The idea of wearing big, clunky, and full leather hiking boots always crosses the mind of people when the topic of hiking comes up. The big switch to lighter and more breathable trail footwear has introduced hikers to the concept of hiking on their sandals.
Lightweight hiking sandals are charming their way to the hearts of hikers. As great alternatives for summer hiking, these deserve a spot in any hiker’s gear arsenal. As with anything though, these sandals also come with positive and negative points, here are some:
They are perfect for crossing water which hikers commonly meet on the trail. Sandals liberate hikers from the worries of crossing bodies of water. There is no need to take sandals off since these dry out faster than other footwear.
These are easier to adjust when the feet swell during the hike. Feet swelling is a natural experience during hikes and the adjustability of lightweight hiking sandals let them accommodate foot swelling during activities. These sandals are secured by Velcro tapes and buckles, adjusting the fit is easy and convenient.
Lightweight hiking sandals do not wear hikers out easily. They are lighter than traditional footwear so taking them for a hike require less energy. With less energy used on the footwear, hikers have more energy to last throughout the day.
Hikers get little to no blisters. Blisters are the bane of a hiker’s existence. Sandals are coming to the rescue of hikers. Not only are sandals adjustable, but they are also made with mostly fabric materials. The design and materials of lightweight hiking sandals leave hikers with just a few blisters or none at all.
The biggest disadvantage of using lightweight hiking sandals is that they can’t be worn all the time. There are only very specific trails where these can be worn by hikers. Since they are breathable, they are best worn during the summer but not in cold weather.
Another disadvantage is that the open design leaves the hiker exposed to the elements more than they are in shoes and boots.
Other lightweight hiking gear options for men and women
Going light is a goal of many hikers. And while sandals sure meet every hiker’s lightweight requirement, they are not an all-weather hiking gear. During cold days, they are best kept inside the closet. Hikers could turn to other lightweight hiking footwear when necessary.
Lightweight mountaineering boots have earned the reputation for being heavy but shoe manufacturers have found a way to reduce their weight to at least 1 to 1.5 pounds. These lightweight boots are often made from a fusion of synthetic materials and split grain leather. They are comfier than most boots and are much lighter, too.
Trail runners are another option. Compared to lightweight boots, trail runners are breathable, quick drying, and weighs only half to a kilo at most. These have more stability, support, and traction than running shoes.
Lightweight hiking shoes weigh from 1 to 1.5 pounds. These usually have deep lugs and tread and are made of a mix of synthetic materials and leather. They are also known for their durability and on-trail performance.
Qualities of a good lightweight hiking sandal
Choosing a pair of lightweight hiking sandals is important for outdoor enthusiasts. As with any footwear, there are qualities that these sandals need to have so they can be considered a worthy investment. Hikers need to examine these aspects when searching for a good pair of sandals:
Fit. Lightweight hiking sandals must have the right adjustment points to keep the heel locked to the back of the sandals. Hikers should avoid footwear that will rub against their skin as this can lead to blisters. Hikers need to test the pair at an actual walking distance to check the feet for swelling which can make the fit a problem.
Flexibility, support, and cushioning. Foot rolling is natural when walking. Lightweight hiking sandals need to be soft enough to accommodate this natural motion. If the sole is too stiff, the foot will fight the footwear with each step.
Waterproofing or water-repellency property. Sandals are usually made with quick-drying materials. Manufacturers have also made it a point to create lightweight hiking sandals that are waterproof. This property makes it possible for hikers to cross streams, creeks, puddles, and other wet surfaces without worry.
Lacing and other security systems. How a sandal is secured is important. Unlike shoes and boots that are closed and secured by laces, sandals use Velcro and buckles. Although these could secure the sandals properly, they should also be reinforced.
Durable. Durability is another consideration as hikers want a pair of sandals that will last a long time. Lightweight hiking sandals are worn on less than friendly trails so it is important to get a dependable pair that will not destruct on the trail.
Lightness. Sandals are made with less materials, so they weigh significantly less than shoes or boots. Lightweight hiking sandals can weigh as light as 5 ounces. For a hiker, having very light footwear means having more energy to be used on the trail.
Style. Although a stylish sandal is not a pre-requisite, many people love how they can also express their personality through their footwear. Sandals usually come in different designs and colors to fit every personality
Lightweight hiking sandals questions and answers
Should lightweight hiking sandals be broken in?
A very important advice that everyone gets when they purchase new footwear is to break them in. Boots and shoes have a reputation for being too stiff so they needed to be broken in before taking them to a long hike. Sandals, on the other hand, are softer and lighter that breaking them has become optional. Breaking in is the discretion of the wearer although it seems wise to wear the sandals for a few minutes or hours per day leading to a long hike.
How long should hikers use their lightweight hiking sandals?
No matter how durable a pair of lightweight hiking sandals is, there will come a time when hikers would have to let them go. Any footwear wears out at the place where it gets most pressure so it will eventually succumb to such wear and tear. If the pair is properly chosen, a hiker can enjoy a pair for a few years. If a few parts are worn out, it is best to consider replacing it with a newer one.
Can anyone wear lightweight hiking sandals?
Sandals do not offer as much support as shoes and boots. If hikers feel pain or discomfort in their foot, they may want to reconsider wearing lightweight hiking sandals during their hiking trips. Footwear that does not offer protection to hikers with foot conditions should automatically be discarded from the options list.
What is the proper way to care for lightweight hiking sandals?
Sandals can be washed carefully with cold water and mild detergent. They should be air-dried and kept in a dry place. Sandals with leather uppers need special care since they can crack, shrink, or stretch when washed. The lightweight hiking sandals should also be used solely for their intended purpose.
15 best lightweight hiking sandals
Teva Hurricane 4
Keen Clearwater CNX
Chaco Z/1 Classic
Keen Newport H2
Teva Terra Fi 4
Teva Langdon Sandal
Teva Hurricane XLT2
Chaco Z/2 Classic
Keen Evofit One
Teva Omnium 2
Paul loves adventure. Over the past 20 years, he has climbed, hiked, and ran all over the world. He’s summited peaks throughout the Americas, trekked through Africa, and tested his endurance in 24-hour trail races. He has worked in the outdoor industry as a whitewater and hunting guide, gear tester, copywriter, and outfitting specialist at places like The National Outdoor Leadership School, No Barriers USA, and Sierra Trading Post. He has been quoted in NYMag, NBCNews, and Business Insider to name a few.