|Guru wears sandals 90% of the time.
Sandals provide an easy out for tortured feet.
Page 61 - Complete Walker IV
Sandals were used or serious hiking in biblical
times and have made a millennial comeback.
My love affair began when a disgruntled chap
returned a Grand-Canyonized pair of size
twelves to the store where I worked.
Loath to pack heavy waders for alpine hydrology
work, I cut off the straps that blistered his heels
and wore them with neoprene divers’ socks.
Soon, I was donning them to wade creeks and simply
stopped taking them off. Some of the present horde
are simple footbeds with straps while others look
more like half-finished shoes, but some basic
choices present themselves.
The first is between an open- or a strap-toe
(encircles your major digit with webbing).
The second is along a range from simple
(continuous webbing, one buckle, plain footbed)
to complex (padded straps, connective hardware,
plastic superstructure, and shaped footbed).
The soles need to absorb shock, and some
styles have molded arch supports and
curved stabilizers at the insteps.
The front of the sandal should curve upward
enough that, as you raise your foot, there’s not
much air between your toes and the footbed.
Straps should have enough play that
you can wear socks on chill nights.
Leather footbeds (made popular by Birkenstock)
are comfortable at first, but wetness and
grime tend to glaze them quickly.
Weights for sturdy footpads are 20-some ounces.
Prices (for those that hold together) start
around $35 and swoop up to $90.
Page 78 - Complete Walker IV
I’d used sandals for wading creeks and as camp
shoes, but generally hiked in boots until a new
pair gave me blisters at the start of a trip.
So I pressed on in my new sandals, Chaco Elans.
For a week along the Continental Divide, I wandered
- alpine tundra, streams, talus, and bedrock - savoring
the delicious lightness while my blisters healed
(for more on sandals and foot care, see page 111).
With a 45 pound pack, I worried about the
lack of ankle support but experienced
no soreness whatsoever.
There was one grip-up crossing a snowfield
when, being too lazy to put on my boots,
I almost slid off into a lake.
The other contretemps occurred back at the
trailhead when a structurally perfect young
woman in spandex shorts bent over in
front of me to tighten her laces.
Distracted, I tripped and almost butted
her goat-fashion from behind.
Which also could happen wearing boots.
The following spring my friend Jose, who runs
a bookstore in Moab, Utah, challenged me to
a series of slickrock, sandal-hiking loops.
Not only did Chacos make exposed friction climbs
less scary than in lugged boots, but they carried
me over (and through) dunes, oakbrush,
cactus patches, streams, and quicksand.
My subliminal guidance system registered
stubs, spines, loose rock, etc. and
steered my naked toes accordingly.
I was careful in a highly conscious way when
descending rubble fans, crossing patches of
cactus, or crawling along ledge overhangs.
Otherwise, I just walked, feeling
the air between my toes.
Despite my suffering a bad case of adrenaline
fatigue, the week’s damage amounted to
a few inconsequential scratches.
Since then I’ve done many bootless trips,
with neoprene socks for snowdrifts and
creeks, regular socks for nighttime warmth,
and liner socks for daytime sun protection.
While I don’t think sandal hiking will
save the world, the generic ills are few.
The straps can chafe where they cross or
double up, especially in sand, but you can
affix moleskin and then keep your eye on it.
The flattish soles tend to skate on loose or sloppy surfaces.
Your insteps get poked by twigs and tufts,
Pebbles creep in between foot and sandal,
requiring a quick dance step.
But in sum I prefer these mild irritations
to confining my feet in sweaty, sticky socks.
I now wear Chacos about 90 percent of the
time when there isn’t snow on the ground.
What should you look for in a hiking sandal?
Anatomically designed, continuous straps that
adjust by pulling through the footbed, with a
one-buckle closure; polyester webbing, which
is softer and faster-drying than nylon; as few
plastic fittings, foam pads, etc. as possible;
molded polyurethane (rather than sheet-rubber)
footbeds with a distinct upcurve (1 to 1 ½ inches
from ground to sole at the sole), not just a raised
edge (which makes it harder to shed pebbles);
and replaceable straps and soles.
I like nonmarking Vibrams, but sticky
5.10 Aqua Stealth rubber adds grip.
Linda, a longtime fan of Teva’s cushy footbeds,
just adopted Chaco Z-2s, with toe straps for
more lateral cling and countered
footbeds for more arch support.
Besides Chacos, my former-favorite Alp Sports
are now available as a style from Teva,
the General Motors of the sandal world.
I also tried Lizard Y-Hiking sandals, from La Sportiva.
The Lizards had leather-covered footbeds
that wee likable around town, but dried
slowly and glazed rather fast on the trail.
But my first pair of Chaco Elans, with new soles, is
still in the running afer three years despite the fact
that I wear little else from April through October.
In basic black, they also work for formal occasions.
Page 112 - Complete Walker IV
Sandals provide an easy out for tortured feet.
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