Minimal Footwear Review: Bedrock Cairn Adventure Hiking Sandals
Do you really need heavy, supportive boots for hiking?
The answer is always ‘it depends’. If you’ve never worked on your feet or transitioned to minimal footwear, you might benefit from traditional hiking boots (but you should definitely also start transitioning your footwear!).
However, if you’re already a minimal footwear fan, you can definitely explore minimal options for hiking footwear. There are a few out there: Vivobarefoot, Xero, and Altra all make minimal hiking boots. Because natural terrain creates more loads to the feet, it’s especially important to transition with care and to take your time. But it’s completely possible and you may find it feels amazing to hike in flexible soles or even barefoot with time.
For our travel and hiking adventures, I decided to buy a pair of Bedrock Cairn Adventure hiking sandals and I have to say, I love them. Here’s why.
I knew that hiking and backpacking was going to be a major priority for our trip. So I needed to get some footwear that would allow me to hike on varied terrain and carrying a heavy pack.
Our plan is to generally stay in warmer areas for the foreseeable future, so I didn’t need to consider warmth as a major factor.
I also happened to need a new pair of sandals, so hiking sandals seemed like an obvious option.
My footwear needs.
When choosing minimal shoes, it’s important to take the current state of your body into consideration, and how you’re planning to load it.
For me, that means acknowledging that my feet tend to be hypermobile. When they get overloaded by stepping on too much texture, I get pain and swelling in my right mid-foot. This has mostly gone away when I’m walking in the city, but I knew the trip was going to create a lot of new loads.
I also considered the rest of my shoes and my backpacking goals. I love hiking in Vibram Five Fingers (and I brought 2 pairs), but when we backpacked in Hawaii last year, my feet were really, really sore. Especially that pesky right mid-foot. For me, backpacking is a) a lot of added weight, b) much higher amounts of texture – rocks, roots, and hills, and c) higher volumes of walking and squatting than in city life. So it’s a big increase in loading for a foot that needs some help!
So basically I wanted something that gave me more support, thicker soles, and rigidity than Five Fingers. Because I want to hike a lot, I also wanted grippy soles and a really well-attached upper. And I wanted to make sure that my forefoot had lots of room – my previous sandals seemed to be too narrow for my forefoot.
The minimal hiking sandal options.
After doing a bunch of research, I narrowed my search to Earth Runners, Bedrock Cairns, and Luna. All came highly recommended by friends and colleagues. And I knew it would be a shot in the dark anyway since buying shoes online always takes some guesswork.
I eliminated the Earth Runners pretty early. Although they looked great for hanging out, they just didn’t look like they would be very rugged and secure in a heavily loaded hiking situation. Maybe they are fine, but I didn’t want to take the chance.
I eliminated the Lunas because I tried on a pair of Luna Monos (so happy to get a chance to try them!) and I didn’t love how they felt really clunky. Again, a bit arbitrary because I know they have more minimal options (which weren’t available to try unfortunately) but I had to make the choice somehow! Luna also has a special extra strap to wear when backpacking – probably a really good idea but I’m also the kind of person who will always lose the extra straps. So Lunas might be my next hiking sandals, but not this time.
In the end, I chose the Bedrock Cairns. I liked how they look and they are designed specifically for hiking (instead of just being a minimal sandal that you can wear to hike if you want).
How I Transitioned.
The Bedrocks are actually a much thicker sole than the sandals I was wearing for 95% of the summer – but they’re also very light (they weigh 8.9 oz each for size 9s according to their website). This made for an easy transition. They basically felt like walking on a cloud right away.
And I bought them about a month before we left the city so I had plenty of time breaking them in on good old flat and level pavement. I had no issues with rubbing, even the straps between my toes. They were simple to configure to my feet as well. In short, it was a simple and easy transition that felt great. By the time I was hiking in them, they were nicely broken in.
And How Did The Bedrock Cairn Sandals Do?
Basically, I love them. They’ve been a great choice for me and I would definitely recommend them. Here’s what I’ve noticed.
They give me the support my feet need.
As I mentioned, I wanted to get support from a thicker, more rigid sole so I don’t over-load my right mid-foot injury. Since I also want lots of foot strength, I usually hike with a couple of shoe options. I started mainly with my sandals, which worked out great – my right foot got a little sore from time to time when hiking but felt fine the day after.
(That’s my personal barometer of knowing that I chose an appropriate load, by the way, but that’s a whole different blog post topic!)
For our first backpacking trip, 4 days on the International Appalachian Trail, I knew I’d be loading a lot more than earlier hikes due to the weight of my pack. So it was all sandals all the time. And same thing – occasional soreness but nothing problematic.
Sandals or Boots?
I picked sandals for hiking partly because I’m convinced that hiking boots always get wet and it’s always kinda icky. Since I needed sandals anyway, I thought I’d give hiking sandals a go.
They actually worked really well in the rain! We had a super wet day while backpacking and lots of muddy puddles. My feet got wet and I did notice the cold, but because we were moving on natural terrain, they basically just warmed up again. I think wool toe socks will solve the problem and I’m planning to pick up a pair of these Injinjis when I have a chance to figure out the logistics.
One downside of sandals was that I did occasionally get a bit scraped by rocks or sticks. It was minor and mostly avoidable.
I got the ‘dry’ version of the sandal since I’m expecting to hike mostly dry places right now. If I’m wrong about that, I’d definitely consider getting the ‘wet’ version since the footbed was a bit slippier in the rain that I’d prefer.
The biggest issue was definitely the toe posts. Going down steep hills with a pack put a lot of pressure on those attachments and I didn’t love how it felt. I don’t know if there’s a way around that with a toe post system, and again, it wasn’t terrible, but it was a bit ouch-y.
Straps and Fit
The straps work well and feel secure. After an hour or so of hiking I find they loosen a bit but they’re very easy to do up again. They’re fitted using velcro and hooks but the on/off system is a sliding buckle that works very well.
I really appreciate the toe post design because I feel like there’s plenty of room for the width of my forefoot. That said, although the fit works for me, my feet are exactly as wide as the base. I have fairly wide feet, but nothing crazy. I suspect this means they’ll be on the narrow side for anyone with a wider foot.
A Nice Surprise
There’s a very light crosshatch pattern on the foot beds. I suspect it’s there for traction. One thing I didn’t except – and completely love – is the feeling of the pattern on my feet as I walk. It’s really nice.
Other Thoughts About Bedrock Cairn Sandals.
My Bedrock Cairn Adventure sandals are too new to weigh in on durability but they feel sturdy and well-made so far. Bedrock also offers a strong guarantee and a repair/re-sole program which is very cool. I suspect they’ll last me a long time and a lot of great hikes.
The Bedrock Cairn hiking sandals are expensive, but I feel great about the choice I’ve made. They’re perfect for my particular needs, and I think they’re an awesome option for anyone transitioning into a more minimal shoe/sandal, especially hikers.
If you’re new to the idea of transitioning to minimal shoes, here’s what you need to know.
Feet Are Amazing
One thing that I’m noticing as we travel and move more is how much the natural world requires from our feet.
There is constant loading in incredibly varied ways. I’m noticing huge increases in my foot strength and mobility, and I’m loving every second of it.
The gap between our feet living in shoes and on pavement and being barefoot in nature is incredibly wide.
And it really does explain many of the foot and body issues that are so widespread in our modern world.
If you’re ready to start fixing your feet, try my free 5 day boot camp to get you on the path to happier feet and hiking in minimal footwear!
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Petra is a movement educator and personal trainer with a passion for helping people find greater ease, joy and health in their bodies. She believes that better movement can help every body - and she's always happy to chat about it. She's on the road right now, travelling the world and moving in as many ways as possible. When she's not out exploring or working on her movement practice, you can probably find her hanging on some monkey bars.