Hiking footwear has evolved through the years. Over a decade ago, outdoor enthusiasts only had hiking boots as their only footwear option. Things have changed for the better, and several hiking footwear options have been made available. If hikers want to explore the difficult terrain, they can get the support they need from traditional hiking boots. Those who prefer a lighter option can get hiking shoes. And for hikers who want utmost breathability, multi-sport sandals are a great choice.
Multi-sport sandals are made for different outdoor activities in warm regions that demand comfortable footwear. This type of hiking footwear is for tackling well-maintained trails in hot and tropical climates. These sandals are made of a robust rubber outsole that can provide ample support in different terrain types. These also use softer EVA or Super EVA foam insole and polyester or nylon straps that dry quickly. Owing to the materials these are made from, multi-sport sandals can be used for activities like hiking, trekking, rafting, paragliding, among others.
Introducing multi-sport sandals to the market
It wasn’t until the 1980s when people were introduced to sandals for outdoor activities. Footwear manufacturers started combining ancient strap designs with rubber soles and nylon webbing to come up with the modern, comfortable, and practical sandals that can be used for outdoor activities. Today, multi-sport sandals are used by outdoor junkies for hiking, running, camping, river rafting, and other activities.
Multi-sport sandals facts and myths
Since multi-sport sandals are relatively new in the outdoor market, there are a lot of misconceptions about them. These myths often discourage hikers from wearing them on the trail. Here are just a couple of facts and myths about these sandals:
Myth: Multi-sport sandals lack support
Since it is toeless footwear, a lot of hikers believe that multi-sport sandals lack support. This is a misconception because these sandals actually come with thick soles and deep lugs which offer great support in traversing obstacles on the trail.
Sandals, although they are not closed, provide enough support because of the straps that can be adjusted to the wearer’s preferred tightness. It may not provide the same amount of snugness and support that mountaineering boots and hiking shoes can offer but if they fit well, they should provide the right amount of support for tackling well-maintained trails.
Myth: Multi-sport sandals don’t give any traction
Outdoor adventure sandals are not like flip flops, wedges, or gladiator sandals that are only good for strutting down the street. These are built for mild-pacing since these have deep lugs that give good traction. The lugs of these sandals provide grip in each step. As long as the terrain is not too tough, the sandals should be able to prevent slippage.
Myth: Multi-sport sandals expose hikers to more injuries
Most hikers are worried about the protection that adventure sandals can provide for them. Open-toed sandals may leave the feet exposed, but they should provide enough protection for hikes on safe trails. If you know that there are snakes, scorpions, and other critters on the trail, come prepared by wearing closed shoes.
Fact: Multi-sport sandals keep the feet cool
Engaging in any outdoor activity on a hot, summer day is not fun at all. The heat can torment hikers and slow them down. After a few hours into the hike, the feet will be drenched in a puddle of sweat. Multi-sport sandals, while not a cure-all, are a reliable pair that helps beat the heat. The body’s thermal energy is transferred mainly through the feet and hands which explains why wearing breathable footwear helps keep hikers going.
The body’s extremities play a great role in regulating body temperature thus, after a long day in the heat, removing stifling footwear feels like heaven. Shoes and boots completely cover the feet, and they are good for cool day hikes. On warm days though, open-toed sandals provide the solution to regulating body heat.
Fact: Multi-sport sandals are perfect for crossing bodies of water
Some hikers are worried that their boots or shoes will be damaged when crossing streams or rivers. Wearing soaked shoes and socks is not a very pleasant experience as well. Multi-sport sandals do not give hikers these problems as these are made of waterproof or quick-drying materials that make crossing bodies of water a welcome addition to the trek. If they ever get soaked, since they are made of quick-drying materials, they dry out just a few minutes into the hike.
Fact: Multi-sport sandals are lightweight
Light hiking is the trend. Multi-sport sandals use fewer materials, so they are generally lighter than most hiking shoes. Wearing sandals mean exerting less effort since these usually weigh less than 10 ounces.
Characteristics of men's and women's multi-sport sandals
The popularity of multi-sport sandals surged in the past few decades. They have become a popular choice among hikers who want to go out hiking during really hot days. The footwear provides the support that shoes and boots would give but in a lighter and more breathable form.
Like lightweight mountaineering boots and backpacking shoes, multi-sport sandals can be worn for outdoor sports that people love. They are also packed with different features that make them as functional as other outdoor footwear.
Multi-sport sandals are a great hybrid that combines the features and functions of both hiking boot and shoes. They are a practical choice for the hiker who likes his adventures light. It has a comfortable interior that makes hiking more enjoyable.
Originally, the multi-sports sandals manufactured and sold on retail outlets have open toes. These mostly come with multiple straps that are adjusted and secured using Velcro straps. The heel is secured using Velcro, buckles, or a combination of both. Unlike boots and shoes that are really close and secured by laces, sandals are secured by these adjustable materials. It becomes easier for the feet to fit the footwear since there is a very minimal restriction to the natural shape of the feet.
Closed-toe sandals are variants that provide better protection to hikers. These closed-front sandals look like they are a cross between hiking sandals and hiking shoes. The closed-front version provides a breathable, durable, and reliable footwear to hikers during warm days.
Uses of multi-sport sandals for men and women
Multi-sport sandals come in different styles, materials, and uses. These are worn for outdoor adventures during warm days or as alternative footwear worn during camps in between hiking and mountaineering trips. These adventure sandals are equipped with deep lugs for tackling slippery trails during hiking or spelunking trips. Since they are made of quick-drying materials, they are also good for rafting, canyoning, and other water activities. The strappy sandals are also good for walking around parks or for doing errands.
How to choose multi-sport sandals
Multi-sport sandals are gaining popularity because many outdoor junkies want a very light hiking experience. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that there are a lot of hikers who want to include a pair of sandals in their hiking gear options. In choosing multi-sport sandals, consider the following:
Size. Adventure sandals can come in different sizes, but because of their mostly open design, some hikers may find themselves wearing a pair that is a size smaller than their shoes and boots. While it is tempting to buy multi-sport sandals that are just the right length, it would be ideal to buy one that is a bit larger. The extra material past the toes will protect the feet from twigs and rocks.
Soles. Multi-sport sandals are perfect for hiking on different surfaces. Most outdoor sandals have outsoles which are extremely slip resistant. Some sandals have stiff and rigid outsoles which are perfect for tackling the more difficult terrain.
Straps. When choosing multi-sports sandals, make sure that the straps are designed to suit the weather conditions. Most straps are made of polypropylene, nylon, or other material that dries much faster than leather and other fabrics.
Overall design. Style should never be sacrificed when it comes to hiking. The great thing about multi-purpose sandals is that they come in different fashionable designs and colors. Owners can choose between open or closed-toe designs, multi straps and other types that make them feel most comfortable.
Weight. The edge of multi-purpose sandals from boots and shoes is the very low weight. Hikers need to choose lightweight sandals that support both short and long hikes.
Different footwear options of hikers
With the growing popularity of outdoor activities like hiking, footwear options also expanded. Hiking boots, while they earn fans and haters alike, are still the most popular choice for hiking. However, boots can be clunky and uncomfortable, so footwear companies have introduced variations that provide support and protection without the bulk and weight.
Before, the only alternative to boots were sports shoes. These can come in low, mid, or high-cut variations. The main differences between brands are the weight and support that their shoes offer under different weight loads.
While shoes are great and lighter than boots, they can also be too hot for walking around on summer days. Multi-sport sandals were introduced to the market as alternative footwear for warm day hikes. Aside from offering the support expected of outdoor footwear, sandals are also very breathable.
How temperature affects hiking performance
High temperatures affect the body in two ways: first, the body temperature increases, and second, it can cause dehydration. For people who are engaged in physical activities, these two things do not just slow them down, but also lead to injuries.
High core temperatures cause a shift in energy production which leads the body to use its stored muscle energy rapidly. The increase in body temperature also decreases the blood flow to the heart because of blood pools in the limbs. If there is not enough blood in the heart, it will not pump enough oxygenated blood back to the muscles which result in cramps.
Dehydration causes a decrease in VO2 max, the rate of oxygen consumption of an individual that determines their endurance capacity during physical activities . If a person is dehydrated, the body will not be able to use oxygen efficiently and provide energy.
People use different techniques to combat the effects of warm weather. Some go to the venue ahead of time for acclimatization. There are some who also take fluid replacement into account. Experts also advise any person to wear lightweight, light-colored, fluid-wicking, and breathable gears.
Questions about multi-sport sandals answered
Hikers who are thinking about adding adventure sandals into their collection may have a few questions they want to be answered. Here are some of the popular questions about this footwear:
What are multi-sport sandals?
Multi-sport sandals, as the name would suggest, are adventure sandals that can be worn for different activities outdoors. These can come in either open or closed-toe versions and are often made of quick-drying or waterproof materials.
These are preferred by hikers who want to go on a warm day hike because the sandals leave more skin exposed to air, keeping the feet cool and comfortable. The straps help secure the foot, so it doesn’t wobble while on the trail.
What makes a sandal comfortable?
A lot of sandals have great arch support perfect for hiking. These also have rubber insoles formed to the shape of the foot. Lighter sandals are very comfortable especially when worn for short hikes or leisurely walks. Shock absorption is also a trait to consider so pick sandals with EVA soles.
What is the perfect fit for sandals?
When it comes to footwear, the fit is always king. Sandals are among the oldest styles of footwear and in the thousand years that they have been used, it can be expected that people have mastered the art of choosing them. Contrary to such belief though, people have struggled with how sandals should actually fit. Unlike a shoe that covers the whole foot, sandals have open areas which mean wearing them do not play by the rules.
When picking a sandal, pick a pair that is a little bit bigger than the foot. The sandal should have room for the foot to conform to it. Do not choose ones that are too narrow or too wide. You’ll end up having to tighten or loosen the straps from time to time. While straps adjust the upper space, they must not compromise the shape and comfort of the foot.
Should you wear multi-sport sandals with socks?
One thing that many people wonder about is if they need to wear any sock with their open footwear. While there is no hard and fast rule when wearing sandals, wearing socks with them is not the best idea at all. Not only will fashion-conscious people give you a stern look, but it also defeats the purpose of having breathable footwear.
Sandals can be worn in most environments and paired with shorts, pants, and dresses for casual days. Enjoy wearing your sandals around as long as you feel confident and comfortable.
15 best multi-sport sandals
Bedrock Cairn 3D Adventure
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.