Hiking in Sandals

This year, I’ve become a huge fan of hiking in sandals, putting a ton of mileage on my Keen Newport H2‘s. These have been my shoes of choice for weekly hikes through nearly every condition with the exception of snow. The fit of these sandals has been great and with the shielded toe, they prevent toe injuries from inadvertantly kicking a rock on the trail. From a blister perspective, these “shoes” have been better than any others that I’ve worn on the trail keeping my feet in pristine condition even on a 30+ mile day hike. Apart from blisters, the cushioning is fantastic, preventing bruising of the bottom of my foot.

Having tried my sandals in myriad conditions, I sported them on an ascent up Kings Mountain on August 1st. On the climb of ~2,500 feet, the sandals performed excellent, providing good traction–even on fine dirt and sand. I didn’t fare so well in these conditions on the descent as the soles of the sandals aren’t suited, I would find, to steep descents. On several conditions on this brutal decline, my feet slid out from under me causing me (and my pack) to take an abrubt seat on the trail. This was in spite of poles! For the rest of the descent, I had to adjust how I used my poles to brace myself against further slides causing me to be very tentative on the trail.

To be fair, the Newports are intended to be used for the beach and have a tread designed as such.

Not intended for the mountains!

This caused me to rethink my plan of wearing my H2’s on the Wonderland trail in September as I clearly don’t want to suffer a similar fate over ~93 miles and greater than 23K of cumulative elevation gain. Returning from the hike, I set out to find another pair of Keens that would meet my requirements–given that Keens fit me really well, I did not consider any competing brands such as Teva or Chaco. My requirements were as follows:

  • Comfortable
  • Easy to put on/remove
  • Can operate as both a trail -and- camp shoe
  • Aggressive tread that can function in fine sand/dirt
  • Light weight (less than a pound per foot)
  • Suitable for wearing if I need to ford streams
  • Must have toe protection

For my intended use, the Keen Arroyo II appeared to be a perfect “fit.”

The aggressive tread on the Arroyo II

Requirement evaluation:

  • Comfortable — as noted above, Keens fit me really well
  • Easy to put on/remove — these feature the same lacing as the Newport H2’s
  • Can operate as both a trail -and- camp shoe — the lacing can be loosened for in camp use
  • Aggressive tread that can function in fine sand/dirt — the Arroyos feature the same tread as Keen’s hiking shoes
  • Light weight (less than a pound per foot) — these weigh only 14.25 ounces per foot. I’ll note that these are slightly heavier than light trail runners, but not by much.
  • Suitable for wearing if I need to ford streams — these are Keens, aren’t they?
  • Must have toe protection — yes

I purchased a pair on Thursday and will update this post after I’ve had a chance to adequately test. Will these be my new all-around hiking shoes? Time will tell . . ..

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2 Responses to Hiking in Sandals

  1. pithypaul says:

    What are your conclusions? I’m also searching for the “perfect” backpacking sandal…

    • ploss says:


      I’ve tried many different varieties of sandals in the last 1.5 years (xeroshoes, Luna sandals, etc.) and have concluded that I still enjoy Keens the best due to the toe protection that they provide. I’ve been extremely pleased with the extremely light CNXs, hiking 24 miles in them last Sunday without any blister issues whatsoever!

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