Why I Hike in Flip-Flops, and you Shouldn’t.

Backpacking

If you have a close friend, you tend to pick up their traits and characteristics.  Not physical characteristics (such as having your eyes go from brown to blue), but gestures, expressions, and personality traits.  It may not be consciously at first, but as you start to mirror expressions that you’ve picked up from your friend, you’ll start saying to yourself “I’m becoming too much like you, we can no longer be friends.”

My friend, Rachael Kokomoor, hikes in flip-flops; and now so do I.

“I hate pictures of me, which is why I upload them all onto facebook” – a quote by Rachael I made up.

Rachael and I became friends back in sophomore year of high school.  Back then, I mostly wore sneakers , and occasionally flip-flops.  She always wore flip-flops year-round.  I remember walking to CVS with her (when we both couldn’t drive) in the middle of January and she would still have flip-flops on while sloshing through the semi-melted snow.  She would tell me about how her family would hike up some mountain in Vermont and she would do it in flip-flops; to which I replied “why would you do that?  That’s a terrible idea!”  And of course I was right.  Now though, I’m just as bad.

The more I hung out with her, the more I wore flip-flops.  Now it’s all I wear, even when I hike.

Yes, I hike with flip-flops.  No, you should not.

This really became apparent a few days ago when we went for a night hike up Lantern Hill, in Ledyard Conn.  As we were getting ready to leave my dad goes “You’re not wearing your boots?”  To which I simply replied:  “nope.”  Now, when it comes to hikes, Lantern Hill is a hike people do to “get away from the slot machines” (it’s conveniently right across the street from Foxwoods Casino), but that actually got me thinking, should I be wearing boots?  My answer was yes, but my actions were the opposite of that.

Flip-flops are bad, as it turns out.  Much like candy and the band Nickelback; and for a number of reasons.  But I’ll try to focus quickly on some that will relate hiking and my poor decisions.

This is up in Maine, not Lantern Hill, BUT LOOK AT HER FEET.

Just keep in mind, when I say that “flip-flops are bad,” I’m talking solely about hiking with them.  Myself, Rachael, Jim (the guy who runs the EMS blog), and anyone you talk to will agree that flip-flops are fantastic footwear.  After all, what other shoe let’s your feet be open and free and breathe?  Wear them for the beach, walks, running errands, looks.  When it comes to hiking though, leave them at home.

NO ANKLE SUPPORT:  This one’s probably the most obvious thing in the world.  But ankle support does not exist in the world of “slaps” (as Rachael likes to call them).  According to the article I hyper-linked to, sprained ankles are common during the Summer because of flip-flops; which completely makes sense.  You’re not hiking on a smooth surface.  There are rocks and branches and uneven paths everywhere!  Having a boot with ankle support will help prevent sprained ankles a lot better than flip-flops will. Wearing flip-flops is basically asking for injury(…..).

And while we’re talking about rocks and branches and insects who want to take over the world, I stubbed smashed my foot into a rock during that night hike, and even worse:  I had ants crawling on my feet while I was sitting at the summit.  There’s no protection with flip-flops.  If you look carefully, you’ll notice it’s just a soft platform with a toe strap, and nothing else.  Don’t let what happened to me happen to you.

NO ARCH SUPPORT:  On cheap flip-flops, it’s just a soft foamy platform.  While this may seem comfortable, it loses its comfort quite quickly.  The soft platform will end up making your feet over-pronate, which is a term used by people who know what they’re talking about, and it means to have the foot roll inward.  This, coupled with the fact that there is no support at all, will cause pain in the heel, arches, the balls of your feet, and toes.  But, it’s at least soft isn’t it?

BACK PAINS:  There’s a reason why people spend the money for boots with good arch support, or the natural bare-foot stance of Vibram 5-fingers:  The correct foot-stance is better for your body overall.  I’m not a “foot guru,” so to quote the source I got all my information from:  “When wearing flip-flops, you tend to alter your gait, taking shorter steps, which can lead to pain in other areas of the body.”  Yup.

There are a few other reasonings in that article, but I won’t bore you with all of them.  Now, I will wear boots for strenuous hikes:  Katahdin in Maine, Bear Mountain in Conn., I do have some rational thought.  But even with all the information about how bad flip-flops are, I still manage to convince myself that “I’m a teenager, so that obviously I’m invincible!”

rational thinking.

I’m not looking to force you to not wear flip-flops, I don’t like forcing anyone to do anything.  I don’t think people should be forced to wear helmets, seat-belts, or life-jackets.  While I strongly advocate you do wear them, at the end of the day the only person that is put in danger by you not wearing a helmet is yourself; your action does not affect me.  So I will not say “don’t wear flip-flops.”  Instead, I strongly recommend that you don’t wear them when you hike.  Leave the poor decisions to Rachael and me, and wear boots.

Christopher Magro


This proud Eagle Scout is a part-time employee at our Waterford, CT store and full-time Journalism and Psychology student at The University of Connecticut, Chris Magro still manages to find time for the outdoors and loves helping others do the same. Whether it is whitewatering, cycling, hiking or backpacking, "it doesn't matter whether it's your first or fiftieth time, or you’re a professional or a new-comer, as long as you're out having fun, that's all that counts," explained Chris.

1 Comment

  1. Chris
    June 26, 2012, 4:17 pm

    Growing up and living in Hawaii, slippers are a way of life. Though I do laugh when I see people slip-sliding-away in the mud when out hiking here.

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