Dozens, maybe even hundreds of Cape Wrath Trail walking reports are floating around the internet. However, I didn't spot a single one, where the hiker was crazy enough to walk the entire trail in sandals. Hence, I decided to create an extra chapter, where I describe my experiences walking CWT in sandals.
To start off with: After completing Te Araroa and several hikes across Switzerland in sandals, I'd consider myself as a fairly seasoned sandal hiker. It was also during these hikes, where I recognized the benefits of walking in sandals. Most of these hikes I completed with Luna Sandals. For this trip however, I decided to try the competing product of Bedrock, the so-called Cairn, a fairly sturdy sandal compared to the Lunas.
Like with every piece of gear there are pros and cons. Compared to trail running shoes or hiking boots, sandals are easy to put on, they dry quickly and the feet are hardly ever sweaty or smelly. Blisters are very rare and the the feeling of my feet being wedged is non-existent .
On the other hand, they don't offer much protection thus making progress in difficult terrain slower, as one have to take extra care. Furthermore all the grip between the bottom of the foot and the sandal is lost as soon as mud gets stuck in between. Snow has a similar effect as mud - and it can make the feet uncomfortably cold as well. You see... Depending on the terrain sometimes the advantages of sandals outweigh the disadvantages, sometimes it's the other way round.
While preparing for my Scotland trip I read many reports about mud respectively boggy sections, which would speak for trail runners. However, roughly the same amount of reports mentioned all the river crossings, where sandals would be favorable. Not an easy decision at all. In the end I obviously opted for sandals but carried my old, worn trail runners as a back-up.
In hindsight, using sandals, was definitely the right choice. Lots and lots of water along the whole trail - I'm fairly certain that even the best hiking boots would eventually surrender to the water! While there was a lot of walking through bogs indeed, they weren't actually muddy but rather just standing water, which are perfect conditions for sandals. Only towards the end, in the Knoydart the mud got thick and therefore a bit annoying. Making it that far in my sandals, I opted to continue with them all the way to Fort William. Especially since, compared to my Luna sandals, the Bedrocks seem to perform slightly better in these muddy conditions. Still, mud remain the weakness of sandals.
Neither did I get any blisters nor other injuries. Waking up in the morning, knowing I don't have to put on soaked shoes is a big relief, too. However, it took me a bit by surprise, how cold the temperature was. More than once I woke up to some morning frost. Even with socks, it got uncomfortably cold down there. Nevertheless: despite the cold and mud, I'd definitively walk the trail again in sandals.
If anyone is intending to walk CWT in sandals as well: Please make sure your feet are adequately prepared. The loads on your ankles, especially in this rough, pathless terrain, are enormous, as, similar to some trail runners, they don't offer any ankle support at all.