I have never really been a sandal wearer. When I was younger I wore slaps, as flip flops were called, in my high school and beach days.
I have been around boats and the water for most of my life. Between them and the hot surfaces here in Florida, I rarely went barefoot. I wore boat shoes on the boat, and water shoes when I planned to get wet while canoeing, kayaking, or paddleboarding.
For a short period of time I experimented with Tevas. Yes, while those around me were experimenting with other things, I was experimenting with outdoor products, never thinking that it would one day lead to gear testing as part of my future career.
When I first started seeing Crocs, I did not give them much thought. They just looked like something a child would wear. Then one day while visiting an outfitter in the Georgia mountains, I found a box outside the store entrance filled with a selection of knockoffs marked down to $10 a pair.
I bought one pair and wore them completely smooth on the bottom. I was still using this pair when Sandy and I began our AT hike. They seemed the perfect lightweight camp shoe. Until I made my first trip to get water at Springer Mountain. I stepped on some slick mud and slid a couple of feet toward the water. Within one week on the trail, we learned that several pieces of our gear would not not be continuing with us. My knock-off Crocs were among them.
At the next stop, two new pairs of genuine Crocs joined our hike, and they were perfect camp shoes for the rest of the trip. They are still part of our travel gear.
Being around hikers all the time, I started noticing that many of them were wearing Keen sandals. These were not just fancy looking flip-flops. The ones I saw had the sole of a hiking boot and a built-in toe protector, which keeps some of the dirt and bigger rocks out.
I have met dozens of people who hike everywhere wearing this type of sandal. I do not believe that they will ever replace my hiking boots. But they are cooler and more comfortable for casual walks. I am sure that after being cooped up in boots most of the time, my feet are enjoying the change and the fresh air.