My introduction to the use of Treking sandals for backpacking and walking in the mountains was after watching Chris Townsend use them ploughing through the mud and bogs of the Central fells when I accompanied him and Terry Abraham on our June trip in 2014 where Terry and Chris made their backpacking DVD. The weather was very warm and they were ideal footwear, no issues with Goretex lined shoes or boots being soaked and remaining wet. They dried rapidly and Chris said they were very comfortable to wear.
I have been a convert to unlined trail shoes for awhile and really do not like the restrictions of boots, outside the dead of winter. I didn’t get any treking sandals until this year and decided on an open – toe sandals so any debris would be easy to get out. I purchased a pair of Teva Fi 4’s which had really good reviews. There is no problem with stubbing your toes as the ends of the sandals are up-turned.
They are very comfortable to wear, no problems about fording streams, having to take socks off or change shoes, or boots and they dry rapidly. With 3 straps, you can get the fit very precise, much more so than trail shoes or boots.
I had no problem with using them in steep rocky conditions, and wore them very successfully when hiking in Sierra Mountains in California this June.
Rather dusty and dirty feet after a day’s walking in Lassen Volcanic Park
Other trips back in the UK convinced me that these were the ideal footwear, particularly during backpack trips. Everything was great until the weather started to get colder and my toes started to get chilly. Back to trail shoes and boots or was there another way? I had read about using neoprene socks typically for kayaking and found that Joe Valesco owner of Z-packs had used neoprene and sandals on the 2014 TGO challenge.
I found some NSR Hydroskins which are 0.5 mm thick. The great thing about neoprene is whilst they won’t stop your feet getting wet your feet should remain warm, or that is what I have read. I also wear a pair of Treking Expedition socks from X socks. I have used these mainly synthetic socks with some merino wool in unlined trial shoes and they dry more quickly than wool, which leads to less possibilities of blisters.
The fit of both the X socks inside the NSR Hydroskins is good and comfortable.
NSR Hydroskins (top) and Treking Expedition socks from X socks ( bottom)
I have used combination over the last two weeks for local walks lasting up to two hours. This period has been very wet. The route is extremely muddy goes through marshy areas with one stream crossing and many puddles.
The temperature yesterday was around 2C and the weather was sleet and rain. Whilst my feet were wet, they were not cold and walking the dry sections it soon felt that my feet were getting drier.
Showing neoprene socks with Teva sandals in very wet and muddy conditions
So far so good, my next test is a short back pack in them, to test the suitability. This will include foot care procedure. I will take two pairs of X socks and one pair of warm merino wool socks to change into as soon as I am in the tent. Keeping your feet warm and dry overnight is essential to avoid foot problems. On an extended back pack, it will be important to wash out the socks and Hydroskins. I will report back further my experiences as they occur.