Sandal fail (or foot fail)

I’ve never been much of an open-toe footwear person. I like my socks. And I never learned how to walk in flip-flops. So it was with some anxiety that I recently decided to pick up my first pair of sandals after a visit to REI recently. I had been eyeing the Keens, but the guy there sold me on the indestructible Chacos. I ended up ordering a pair of 9 wides from Zappos because they had the color I preferred. Stephanie also picked up a pair, which I thought looked surprisingly elegant on her feet (for being so hardcore).

Justin and Stephanie wearing Chacos

Well, we decided to put them to the test on what was supposed to be an eight mile hike around Tubbs Island, in the San Pablo Bay National Wildlife Refuge on Saturday. Turns out part of the trail was closed, so we didn’t make it all the way around the island, but just getting down there and back we hiked about six and a half miles. In sandals.

What were we thinking?

We spent practically the whole time talking about how the sandals felt, adjusting the straps, picking little stones out from under our feet. Even though we could have waded through the “impassable” section of trail, we were happy to have an excuse to turn back because our feet hurt so much. By the time we made it to the car, I had three blisters on one foot and two on the other. Ouch.

Not sure what we’re supposed to take away from this experience…

  1. Sandals are not a replacement for good hiking shoes
  2. My pampered feet need to gradually work up to this
  3. Chacos are not a good match for my feet
  4. Sandals are not intended for long treks

Anyway, it kind of sucks, because I thought they looked pretty sweet. For sandals.


I going to say A & D. I love sandals—cheap flip flops are the best—but they’re not cut out for hiking, particularly if the trail is rocky.


I have several pairs of Keens, which I love and have worn on trails. I also have a pair of Chacos which I hate. I have the same design as Stephanie’s and I found that they tend to tighten up and cut off the circulation to my toes. Sandals can be worn on long treks, but you need to work up to it. I came from the other way of basically only wearing shoes when I had to and lots of designs I still can’t quite handle. The Vibram Five Finger site has a good program for working up to wearing less shoe-ing you might want to check out.

Your initial prejudice was well founded. Stay away from sandals! Just say no. Made an amusing blog though.

Jackson, yeah, I would probably hang on to them if the blister/soreness was just on the sole of my foot, suggesting B from my list below, but actually the worst blisters were on either side of the back of my feet above the heel, where the straps connect to the base of the sandal (suggesting C). Even with the wides, the foot bed and straps poke in just enough to rub my foot on the sides, where the skin is especially sensitive and prone to blistering.

Allison, I’m super curious about Five Fingers. They seem like the perfect combination of post-hiking, around the campsite shoe (for someone who can’t walk in flip-flops), with the bonus that they can also double as a water shoe. I guess they only downside is they look weird (and freak people out).

Chris, ha! Perhaps I should have worn them with socks, no? That would have been very European…

Sandals are in no way useful for real hiking. Any type of walking that requires to you walk in dirt, gravel, rocks, etc. is a bad location to use sandals (IMO).

Also: don’t go on long hikes in brand new shoes; new shoes usually need a little breaking in.

Personally, I find two problems with sandals:
1) rocks/debris. Only suitable for debris free environments like pavement, or environments where regular shoes will trap debris even worse (like sandy beaches). Sandals with a toe box (“fisherman”) are much less prone to picking up debris.
2) The bits that have constant foot contact get funky and with daily wear the sandals smell bad. Because of this I have been known to wear sandals with “micro crew” socks.

The blisters you describe sound like they’re poorly fitting sandals for your feet. Maybe not quite wide enough? Maybe just a bad design in the first place placing a strap that moves across a blister-prone spot?


give your Chaco sandals another chance. they are adjustable so if the straps feel tight anywhere, you can always play around with the adjustable strapping. they also have a repair/warranty team that will help you adjst your straps, if you need more or less webbing – plus they resole your sandals, which rocks. so for what it’s worth, here’s another perspective.

Wow, such passion for sandals. Color me impressed!

i also recomend you the five fingers from fibram – feels like barfoot with socks – its a realy incredible feeling !! – in germany a lot of people wear sandals – also spzial typs made for hiking. I wear teva sandals all summer long – they have spezial 5point fixing system – it’s realy good !! let me bless you a secret … we would call your feet “cheese feet” because of the coulour ..hi..hi..

Cheese feet! I love it. Believe me, copious sunscreen was applied to my little piggies.

Since I was part of this experiment I need to comment :)
What bugged me the most is that even though the straps were adjustable, it would loosen its adjustment precisely because it’s all connected together. As you walk, it’ll tighten the part you loosened before. I had to really loosen all parts like crazy for it to stay… but it was then too loose, creating yet other frictions in other places. I vote: shop some more or go with flip flops, but no open toes for hiking.

I just got the Vibram Five Fingers myself, and they seem to be well-thought-of for hiking and such, though I haven’t tried them out on a trail yet. C’mon, join the funky-looking five finger cult ;-)


funny that you guys had the same experience that i did w chacos. I found them quite uncomfortable!! People hailed them as super awesome (after breaking them in). For me, they were still weren’t great after walking around on them everyday for a month! I should have taken my Birkenstocks instead, they are the best! Let me also say, I despise socks and always wear sandals.. Just realized this is a really old post. oh well..

ruk, the post is not that old! Thanks for your feedback, glad to hear we’re not alone. In the end, Stephanie found a pair she really liked: The sandal quest. Me, I’m sticking with hiking shoes, but I did get a pair of $2.50 flip-flops from Target so I can start to adapt.


stephanie, your feet are beautiful. They are so natural and fresh and a rare sight to see. Thanks for the wonderful photo.

Hey! What are my feet? Chopped liver? ;)


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