W ith the considerable advancements made in footwear technology in the past couple decades, performance sandals have come a long way in the areas of stability, traction, comfort, and durability. While they are unlikely to completely replace a more traditional hiking boot any time soon, there are many circumstances in which your hike can be improved with the use of a performance sandal.
What are performance sandals good for?
Lots of things. At a bare minimum, it’s incredible to have comfortable footwear to change into at the campsite, after the most arduous and difficult hike. Getting out of your boots for even a little while will help relieve fatigue, prevent blisters (and take pressure off any blisters you’ve already developed), and otherwise help your feet recover and relax from the day’s exertions. However, there are times when doing some hiking in a performance sandal is feasible, even desirable. Short diversions on a well-maintained trail, without a lot of ankle-twisting obstacles, can be easily traversed in a performance sandal. Stream crossings in a performance sandal can be a lovely, refreshing experience for tired feet, as can shallow wading in any sort of remote mere or pond. Performance sandals dry quickly due to their open-air design and synthetic-heavy construction (some even incorporate drainage systems to facilitate rapid drying) –this is a boon for any wet/dry explorations you make.
What should you look for in a performance sandal?
Comfort.Broad straps that provide a secure fit, and a thick, anatomically-structured footbed, to provide your foot with adequate support and prevent slipping. The footbed should be a meaty slab of compression-molded rubber, not thin or flimsy-feeling. If you plan to do more than short excursions in performance sandals, choosing a pair with an enclosed toe and a secure, cage-like construction is necessary, while for around-the-camp, other features like a flip flops with a built-in bottle opener may be more practical.
While performance sandals are unlikely to dethrone the prosaic hiking boot as the footwear of the dedicated wilderness trekker, there are occasions where the airy, lightweight, water-shrugging sandal is a great boon. As always, your own explorations with help guide you in deciding this matter for yourself.