Wearing Sandals on a Thru-Hike? Yes I am!
A Little History
Seven years ago, I jumped on the minimalist shoe train and have never looked back. I started with Vibram Five Fingers and wore them everywhere I could. I even started running in them, to the shock and awe of my fellow drill instructors. Yes, I was a drill instructor at Coast Guard boot camp in Cape May, NJ. I ran many miles in my Five Fingers, including a 10 mile race and the 15k Gate River Run in Jacksonville, FL. I have since given up the Five Fingers (and running) and moved to Xero Shoes Prios and Z-Trek Sandals. I wear my Prios everywhere (even to work where I’m on my feet for 8 hours straight) and my Z-Treks for hiking and walking around town.
Now, let me say that I’m not a doctor, and nothing I’m saying here should be taken as medical advice. You should always talk to your doctor before changing your foot routine. OK, now that we have that out of the way, let’s move on. Two thousand years ago, what did our ancestors wear on their feet? That’s right, a sandal-like shoe or nothing at all. Next question. How did our ancestors get around? You get a gold star if you said that they walked! They didn’t have high-tech arch supports, new-age polymers, inserts or podiatrists, so how could they even walk? We need all that “stuff” for our feet to be healthy and work correctly, right? I don’t think so. We have everything we need to travel by foot right at the end of our ankles.
The biggest piece of advice I can give if you decide to jump into the minimalist shoe life style is to take it slow at first. The first thing you’ll notice when wearing minimalist shoes is that your heal hits the ground first. In minimalist shoes this will hurt bad in the beginning. This is why it’s important to slowly transition. Your stride will adjust over time until you’re not walking with your heel striking first. I’m not going to go into great deal about stride because there are many resources available on the topic. Just take it slow. As your feet and ankles get used to walking with no support, they’re going to get stronger.
Now, I know that I’m going to get a lot of flack for this blog post, and that’s ok. I can hear it already: “What about ankle support?,” “What about rocks, roots, dirt, mud, etc?,” “You’ll stub your toes,” and on and on. Well, yes. There are some issues that you’ll have to overcome if you’re going to go this route, but with a little forethought you can overcome them. Trail runners don’t provide much more ankle support than sandals, and people thru-hike in them every year. Also, by feeling the ground you’re walking on, you’ll feel your ankle getting ready to roll before it does, and you’ll compensate for it automatically. Rocks will hurt, especially pointy ones, so you have to be conscious of where you’re putting your feet, same thing with stubbing your toes. Do a little research, and I think you’ll be surprised at the benefits of minimalist footwear.
My Reasons for Choosing Sandals
Here are my main reasons for choosing sandals for my thru-hike.
1. They’re light weight. My Z-Treks only weight 15.8 oz. I’ll be carrying an extra pair with me on the trail.
2. Less contact points on my feet for blisters to develop.
3. When they get wet they’ll dry faster than any other shoes.
4. I can wear socks with them if my feet get cold. (I’m taking two pairs of Darn Tough socks and a pair of waterproof socks).
5. I don’t have to take them off to ford streams and rivers.
6. Seriously, how cool am I going to look hiking in socks and sandals?
Hiking in sandals is not going to be for everyone, and I know that. However, for those that want to give it a try, I say go for it! I’m still testing and will update my results when I do a final gear list. So far I’m loving the sandals, and I think they’re going to work out great.
Thanks for reading.
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