Walking is one of the best forms of exercise. It is low impact, requires minimal equipment, and can be done almost anywhere. Many people enjoy going on long walks for exercise or recreation. When preparing for a long walk, having proper footwear is essential. Sandals are a popular warm-weather shoe, but are they a good choice for long walks? There are pros and cons to consider when deciding if sandals are appropriate footwear for long walks.
The benefits of wearing sandals for long walks
There are some advantages to choosing sandals for long walks:
One of the main benefits of sandals is that they are extremely breathable. The open design allows air to circulate around the feet, keeping them cool and dry. This can help prevent discomfort, blisters, and fungi like athlete's foot. The breathability of sandals makes them ideal for warm weather walks.
Sandals are one of the most lightweight shoe options. The simple design lacks much of the padding, insulation, and structure of athletic shoes. The lightweight nature of sandals reduces fatigue and makes it easier to pick up the pace on a long walk. The lack of weight also minimizes pressure on the feet over long distances.
Sandals allow the feet to move and flex naturally as you walk. This gives you a good range of motion and allows the feet to strengthen muscles and tendons. The flexibility can lead to a more comfortable, natural gait when walking long distances.
Easy to slip on
Sandals can be quickly slipped on and off as needed. This makes them convenient when you need to remove shoes or switch into a different pair during a long walk. It also makes them easy to put on to head out the door for a quick walk.
The drawbacks of sandals for long walks
While they do have some advantages, sandals also have some downsides when used for long walks:
Lack of support
One of the biggest disadvantages of sandals is the lack of structure and support they provide. Long walks put a lot of repetitive stress on the feet, legs, and back that require adequate support. Sandals lack the arch support, cushioning, stability, and motion control features of athletic shoes that can prevent pain and injury during long walks.
Risk of rubbing/blisters
The exposed design of sandals leaves the feet vulnerable to rubbing and blisters, especially when wet from sweat or water. Blisters and hot spots become more likely the longer you walk in sandals without proper socks. This can quickly make your walk uncomfortable.
Sandals often fit more loosely than closed toe shoes. This allows the foot to slide around when walking long distances. This can result in instability, friction, and pain in areas like the heel and toes. Properly fitting the straps and sizing sandals appropriately can help.
Lack of protection
Sandals leave the top and sides of the feet exposed. This gives little protection from stubbed toes, debris getting into shoes, vegetation, biting insects, or abrasive terrain. The lack of protection can make long walks more challenging and hazardous.
The soles of sandals are designed more for casual wear than athletic activity. They often lack the traction, grip, and durability of athletic shoe outsoles. This could result in slips and falls when walking on uneven, wet, or loose surfaces.
Who should avoid sandals for long walks?
There are certain groups of people and conditions where sandals would not be recommended for long walks:
- Those with overpronation or high arches that require stability and arch support when walking long distances. Sandals lack these features.
- People with neuropathy or diabetic nerve damage in their feet. The lack of protection and support in sandals can exacerbate issues.
- Anyone with ankle or knee instability. Sandals provide little lateral support.
- People hiking on truly rugged terrain. The lack of protection and traction make sandals risky.
- Those with foot issues like plantar fasciitis or heel spurs that need cushioning and shock absorption.
- People prone to lower extremity repetitive stress injuries. Sandals lack the features to prevent these over long distances.
- Anyone walking long distances while carrying substantial weight in a backpack.
Best practices for walking long distances in sandals
If you do opt to wear sandals for long walks, there are some best practices to follow:
- Choose sport sandals, hiking sandals, or trail sandals over flat fashion sandals to get better arch support and structure.
- Wear them with socks to wick sweat, minimize rubbing, and prevent blisters.
- Make sure to size them properly so they don't slip and slide while walking.
- Pick sandals with adjustable straps rather than a thong-style to distribute pressure evenly.
- Consider using anti-chafing balm or lubricant on areas prone to rubbing.
- Bring backup closed-toed shoes in case sandals become uncomfortable or the terrain gets rough.
- Avoid getting sandals wet to minimize blister risk and sliding.
- Replace sandals regularly as the soles can wear down quickly with long walks.
- Select sandals with textured tread rather than smooth soles for better traction.
Sandals can be a comfortable option for warm weather walks, but do have limitations when it comes to long distances. They lack the support, stability, structure, and protection of athletic shoes. For people prone to foot issues, injuries, or walking on truly rugged terrain, sandals are likely not the best option. However, for the average person looking to go on casual long walks in dry conditions, sport sandals are a reasonable choice. Following fitting best practices and taking preventative measures can make walking long distances in sandals a perfectly pleasant experience. The freedom and breathability sandals allow may outweigh their disadvantages for some walkers. Just be mindful of your own needs and walking environment when selecting footwear. With informed decision making, sandals can be a good alternative to shoes for your long walks.