It was only April in Texas, but by 9 a.m. my four companions and I were already shedding layers and guzzling bottles of sun-warmed water in preparation for our hike on the Window Trail in Big Bend National Park

As we put away the last remnants of breakfast and shouldered our packs, my husband Josh looked down at my sandaled feet and raised an eyebrow. “You gonna hike in those?”

I nodded, smiling. Today was the day I would set my feet free.

I’ve always found hiking boots to be insufferable—if my feet are hot, I’m miserable—but I long viewed them as required gear for anything more strenuous than short strolls on easy trails. Growing up, my parents had always insisted that sturdy, close-toed shoes were the safest attire for adventurous activities, and I had trusted them, even well into adulthood.