By: Sawyer Smith
Support Your Feet!
Did anyone else go through a phase in their teen years in which all they wore were Chuck Taylors and flip-flops, or was that just me?
On days when it rained or when I had PE, I would wear my beat-up Converse, which I’d inherited from a friend. They had the words “punk rock” written on the rubbery side of the sole in sharpie, don’t ask me why. On days when it was warm and I didn’t have to participate in graded physical activity (the bane of my existence), I wore flip-flops.
Now—I have knee and back problems.
Am I saying the two are directly linked? Not necessarily. But based on the research I did for this article, I think it’s safe to say that I wasn’t doing myself any favors by slipping my feet into some of the most notoriously unsupportive shoes every single day.
Proper footwear is actually very important. Not only for everyday wear, but especially if you’re going to be doing any sort of prolonged physical activity, such as walking, hiking, or participating in a week-long river rafting adventure.
So, if you’re still thinking about packing your flip-flops for five days on the water, maybe read the rest of this article first and decide whether or not your shoes are actually providing you with the support you need.
Nay, the support you deserve.
The Importance of Proper Footwear
According to experts at Cincinnati Foot and Ankle Care, wearing improper and/or unsupportive footwear can not only have an effect on the health of your feet, but it can also have a negative impact on the rest of your body. It can cause problems with your legs, knees, hips, back, and neck!
It’s all about proper alignment, alleviating pressure on the joints, and supporting your foot and ankle as you walk in order to avoid trips or twists that could lead to further injuries. Some side effects of improper footwear include joint pain, bunions, ingrown toenails, and peripheral neuropathy. This last one is caused by nerve damage often associated with wearing shoes that are too tight. It causes the feeling of pins and needles in your feet, and while it can be treated, the nerve damage itself is irreversible.
Not to mention, wearing improper footwear can also affect performance, making you a slower walker/hiker, and forcing you to take more breaks to ease the pain in your feet.
In other words, there is no upside to wearing the wrong shoes. Think of your unsupportive shoes as you might think of an unsupportive friend—sure, you can rely on them to meet you for a cup of coffee once a month, maybe they’ll even make an appearance at your birthday party, but they are not the person who shows up for you on a daily basis.
They are not the person you bring along on the river rafting trip of a lifetime.
So—it’s time to find some more supportive shoes… and maybe some more supportive friends while you’re at it. Perhaps you’ll meet them while you’re out shopping for superior footwear!
Chacos, Tevas, and Bedrocks
I’ve chosen to focus on hiking sandals exclusively because, for river rafting purposes, heavy-duty hiking boots or even ultra-supportive sneakers are not your friends. You need something that dries fast and doesn’t weigh you down, but that still provides all the support and durability this type of outdoor adventuring requires.
And of course, there are more brands than just these three, but it is between Chacos, Tevas, and Bedrocks that hiking sandal enthusiasts have drawn the battlelines.
Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of these three top competitors.
Chacos are probably the most popular hiking sandals out there. The Chaco Z/Cloud is often rated as the best hiking sandal money can buy, and if you talk to Chacos fans, that is not an over-exaggeration.
Chacos are known for being extremely supportive and durable. One Chaco lover I spoke with said she had been wearing her current sandals for nearly a decade! They have amazing arch support and come in a wide variety of colors and styles.
Historically, Chaco soles were made from a durable rubber patented by the company, Vibram but are now equipped with their proprietary “Chacogrip” outsole. Some die-hard Chacos fans say that the shoe has gone down in quality since this switch, but others say these sandals are just as reliable as they’ve always been.
The Chaco Z/Cloud will run you $100, which is steep, but think of it this way, if they last you ten years, that’s just $10 a year! And you’ll be saving way more than $10 a year once you stop meeting up for coffee with that flaky friend of yours.
These particular shoes can also be repaired, depending on the type of damage, which cuts down on the need to purchase new ones.
Tevas are another brand that people swear by. They have many different styles of sandals, some with more support, others that are more lightweight and casual. Tevas tend to be cheaper than Chacos, and their Hurricane XLT2 sandal is often compared to the Chaco Z/Cloud. These sandals do tend to have less support than Chacos, but they are also lighter, which some people argue makes them the superior choice.
Tevas will also recycle your old sandals for free, and send you a little gift in the mail when you utilize this more sustainable option for getting rid of your old footwear.
Tevas have budget sandals that are around $55, but again, you get what you pay for, so keep that in mind. If you’re buying sandals for a single trip, knowing they will afterward be thrown into the back of your closet, never to see the light of day, maybe go for the cheaper ones and recycle them when you’re done. It’s a more sustainable, wallet-friendly option for sure!
Last but not least, we have the newest brand on the list—Bedrocks were first manufactured in 2011, so they are a relatively young company trying to make a name for themselves in the competitive world of adventure sandals. And let me tell you, they have done just that.
According to multiple outdoor publications, including the REI Expert Advice Blog, Bedrock’s Cairn Adventure sandals are the number one pick. They are lightweight, adjustable, and grippy thanks to their Vibram soles. They have a thinner base than the Chacos and the Tevas, which makes them more flexible.
Some drawbacks are that they offer a little less support than their predecessors, and some users say the y-shaped strap takes some getting used to. These sandals in particular retail for $105, and Bedrock offers a fairly generous warranty, meaning they will repair some damages for free. They will also re-sole or re-strap your shoes at a much cheaper rate than the price of buying new ones.
Really, you can’t go wrong with any of these shoes, but if the prices are throwing you for a loop, you might want to look into buying a pair second-hand. Because all of these brands build shoes that are made to last, buying them used is a great option for your wallet and for the environment. One quick search on Poshmark and I found tons of sandals in my size, many of which had never been worn.
No matter which sandals you buy or how you buy them, just do us a favor and don’t show up to the trip with your high-tops or your 99-cent flip-flops. We want you to have the best time while on the water, and we want you to return home with good memories and new skills—not bunions and athlete’s foot!
Sawyer Smith is a Utah native currently residing in St. Louis, Missouri. When she isn’t working as a freelance writer or hiking through sections of the Mark Twain National Forest, she is planning trips in her head back to her beloved state to once again climb on the red rocks and ski down the snowy mountains.