Hot sand: the beach you're walking might be hotter than you think

Do you know how hot sand at the beach is? I can't be the only one who has wondered this during a beach excursion. I decided to test it.

Picture this-- you're just getting out of the lake on a hot summer day. The cool water felt refreshing, and you're ready to head home. You get halfway back to your belongings when you realize your feet feel like they are on fire! Why does sand get extremely hot?

It has to do with its specific heat. This is the amount of energy needed to raise the temperature of an object. In sand's case, it is receiving its energy from the sun. Sand has much lower specific heat than water.

A low specific heat means sand doesn't need much energy from the sun to warm. That's why when the sun comes out in the middle of the day, sand goes from comfortable to hot quickly. At night, when the sun goes down, the sand cools also very quickly.

Just how hot does the sand get? My thermometer and I visited Silver Beach on a sunny, 80 degree day. It wasn't the hottest or most intense sunlight of the day, but I still had measurements well above 80 degrees.

My measurements ranged from 108 to 116 degrees! In comparison, I also took measurements of the concrete that day, which came in around 104 degrees. If you're walking with no shoes at the beach, these are the temperatures where you're stepping barefoot.

Jill Adams, the environmental property manager of Berrien County Parks Department, says that although lifeguards at Silver Beach have never treated a burnt feet injury, it is important to protect your feet by always wearing shoes.

"Just like face masks are handy to have and are required at this time, feet protection is just as important. From the car to the water's edge, you may step on hot blacktop, sidewalk, and sand," Adams said.

She went on to explain that wearing shoes will protect you from stepping on any litter that may be hiding under the sand.

If you aren't sure if you should wear shoes on your walk across the beach, Adams recommends, "It is good to come to the edge of the sand and stick your feet in there, or hand,and test it before you just start walking. You don't want to get halfway out there, and kind of get stuck."

Remember sand heats quickly, so if you're planning a long walk, it might become uncomfortable while you're in the middle. Wear or carry your shoes to be prepared.

Don't forget about your pets. If you are visiting a pet-friendly beach, you might want to carry your dog until you reach the water. Their paws are also sensitive to hot sand.

On the topic of sand safety, Adams said digging deep holes in the sand has been problematic at Silver Beach. If kids dig deep enough to get inside the sand hole, they can be in danger if the sand shifts and collapses on them.

As we return to green flags in this weekend's beach forecast, remember to protect yourself and your feet from the hot sand.

Share this article: