‘Sandal-shaming’ or good advice? Arizona sheriff’s office defends post on hiker rescue

An Arizona sheriff’s office that posted to Facebook about rescued hikers found wearing sandals says it faces online heat over “sandal-shaming,” but others say it’s just good advice.
An Arizona sheriff’s office that posted to Facebook about rescued hikers found wearing sandals says it faces online heat over “sandal-shaming,” but others say it’s just good advice. Gila County Sheriff's Office

An Arizona sheriff’s office says it’s taking heat for “sandal-shaming” in a Facebook post about a rescue Sunday of hikers wearing inappropriate footwear on a rugged trail, Yahoo reports.

A story in The Arizona Republic about the post suggests the sheriff’s office may be engaging in some “shoe-shaming” while acknowledging sandals really aren’t a good idea on hikes.

But nearly all of the hundreds of comments on Monday’s post to Facebook by the Gila County Sheriff’s Office strongly support the warning about proper shoes — with some even suggesting deputies should have left the stranded hikers to die.

“We try not to embarrass people or anything like that,” said Undersheriff Michael L. Johnson, Yahoo reported. “We just want to get the information out there for people to take it seriously.”

The sheriff’s office posted to Facebook about the rescue along with photos of one hiker’s cloth sandals and a sign at the trailhead warning hikers about proper footwear.

“This hiker failed to take the posted bilingual warnings seriously as she and seven others had to be rescued out of Fossil Creek yesterday,” the post reads. “Definitely not appropriate footwear for the ten-mile hike.”

The eight hikers, ranging in age from 10 to 36 years old, got five miles down the trail “where they stayed by the water for the day” but then discovered at least one hiker couldn’t climb back out in sandals, Yahoo reported.

A rescuer used bandages to fashion additional straps on the sandals while others ensured the hikers, who also had not brought enough water, were properly hydrated, and then walked them to safety, according to Yahoo. The entire effort took about five hours, Johnson said.

A sign at the Fossil Creek trailhead, shown in the sheriff’s Facebook post, says “200 people have to be rescued” from the trail every year. It warns hikers to bring plenty of water, sun protection and “sturdy hiking shoes, not flip-flops.”

Almost every comment on the Facebook post, which has been shared more than 400 times, backs the sheriff’s office — with many bitterly castigating the hikers and some wishing death on them.

“I hope the rescued people end up having to pay for their rescue,” wrote one person. “It would be an expensive lesson learned, but would teach them to think things through in the future.”

“Risking those kids lives is unconscionable,” reads another comment. Others suggest the parents be charged with child endangerment for setting out unprepared.

“Just create a special boneyard down there for these that are (too) ignorant to read the warnings, then they can all be together!” wrote one person.

“They should each be fined $10k for having to be rescued!” suggests another comment.

“Should have let nature take its course and claim 7 on that trail,” reads one comment.

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Don Sweeney has been a newspaper reporter and editor in California for more than 25 years. He has been a real-time reporter based at The Sacramento Bee since 2016.