Barefoot kayak paddlers?

I have been trying to decide the best method – paddling barefoot with half-inch foam under my heels, or with water shoes. When barefoot I put my Tevas under the deck bunjees, so I can grab the quickly for any rocks. Barefoot feels better at first, but after an hour or so my heels begin to feel numb, even with the foam. The water shoes don’t feel as good initially, but I haven’t had the problem of numb heels. I’m curious about what other paddlers have chosen to do.

Paddle Shoes?
Try the Teva Proton. It’s a paddling bootie that alot of people like. Vaughn Fulton

We use sponges
Round small happyface boat sponges from REI - I cannot stand the smell of my watershoes anymore so I bungee them outside of the cockpit also and put one sponge under each ankle and it works great. Family thought it was stupid until they tried it. If I can find better shoes I will still put those sponges there no matter what.

I do and I don’t
I use NRS Kickers.

when I am in a place where I wll be getting out a lot or if I am paddling in a wild river or surf and I am liable to swim I usually keep them on.

When I am on a all day off shore paddle or out on a large lake I keep them off and just put them back on when I am heading into a beach. I like the nice open feeling with them off.

When I am racing they stay on. I want the little extra support for pushing off the foot pegs.

Hence; I do and I don’t.



Teva Gammas

– Last Updated: Jun-15-07 4:33 PM EST –

The Teva Gamma water shoes rock, especially at this closeout price:

Lightweight, rugged, good grip on slippery rocks, bumper toe and heel, mesh drain panels. And they don't look so obviously beachy, so you can stroll into a Subway without turning heads.

Wear with a pair of polypro cycling socks from the bike shop and your feet won't feel clammy.

I don't like going barefoot, for the same reasons you mentioned, plus the pegs wear on my feet fairly soon, and I have no protection from glass, etc. when stepping ashore. (Couple weeks ago I found an old-fashioned pull tab, the kind with the ring, on a protected section of the Wisconsin River. You know, the kind that curls upward with a little blade, perfectly designed to slice your foot open? Sheesh, the last time I saw one of those I was 12 years old, opening a can of Tahitian Treat ...)

Sandals are no good (and are not allowed in any of our club kayaks), as the straps can potentially entangle the pedals or other boat innards, making an exit dangerous. I think they also do not offer nearly the same feedback feel as a snug pair of water shoes. Check out the Gammas.

kickers are cool, but somewhat ineffective for walking, so I use the NRS combat boot looking water shoe, it rocks, drains water pretty well, and looks manly… I can’t be seen looking like some multi colored water dork, its all about “the LOOK” It was bad enough somebody got me on film walking a Pomeranian. Next thing you know I will be talking about the cats that I own and paddling a Lime green yack!!!

heel and peg pads
Yakpads makes heel and peg pads for just this purpose.

I use the plain pegpads on all my boats and paddle barefoot when climate allows–I don’t have that heel problem, but this seems like a possible solution. The pegpads have so far lasted 3 years on my oldest boat, which gets a lot of use. Seems to be a good product.


fit on the Teva Gammas
I’m an 8.5. Would I be better off ordering a 8 or 9 in these? My hunch is 9, but maybe they fit weird

…especially in the summer. I haven’t had any numbness problems, but that may be partly due to the fact I removed the foot braces and foamed out the bow end of my T165 cockpit instead. Very comfortable and convenient … only problem is that folks not my height might not fit if they wanted to borrow or try my boat, but that’s OK because I’d rather be the one paddling anyway!

$5 watershoes from Walmart…
is what I wear. I buy a couple pair a year and consider them disposable. They appear to be exact knockoffs of famous brands and work great.

In winter/fall it’s scuba booties.

Arch Support?
I’m not clear on why sandals would present a potential entrapment problem. Please enlighten me (and any others with similar questions). I frequently wear Chaco sandals when paddling. I’ve tried paddling shoes but they cause discomfort. I have plantars fascitis, which results in a lot of heel pain unless I wear a shoe or sandal with arch support. I haven’t tried barefoot paddling, but suspect it wouldn’t be good for those with plantars facistis.

Sandal straps can get caught on the footpegs - not a good thing when you’re trying to wet exit.

I always wear neo booties, but still need to take the pressure off my heels. I use a gardener’s kneeling pad across the bottom under my lower leg from the ankle up - it keeps the pressure off my heels. Easy, cheap, and it usually stays in place. Multi-purpose too, if you are camping . . .

yep, Kmart has the $5 shoes also
They work great in warmer waters, no straps or drawstrings to get caught, but just a zipper. Also, light enough that swimming with them is easy. In cold water, a neoprene bootie. Again, just a zipper, nothing that can get caught.

Don’t go bearfoot

– Last Updated: Jun-16-07 12:18 PM EST –

I mean barefoot.

Comfort issues aside, after working river clean-ups, I recommend not going barefoot. We pick every kind of crap out of the river. Bottles a plenty and usually some light bulbs, too. We only pick up the floating or landed ones. What happens to the broken ones? Right, they're on the bottom. And that is not to mention all the metal crap that is rusting down there. So barefoot seems like an accident waiting to happen.

I have big feet and can't wear Tevas or sneakers in the kayak. I have used cheap water shoes, but now I mostly wear neoprene booties. Heal numness happens. I like to slide a half-inch piece of foam material under my heals, and that definately helps. Rolling helps too, surprisingly.

~~Chip Walsh, Gambrils, MD

Land’s End Water Shoes
Bought a pair of Land’s End Water Shoes this year and have been very pleased. Not the sneaker type but the ones they list as water shoes. They give you support and have just enough sole to protect you from sharp rocks when carrying the boat to the water. Not bulky and plenty of flex to be comfortable inside the kayak as well. I’ve purchased various water shoes both cheap ones and expensive ones but I like these the most by far.

Tough Neoprene
Will Neoprene Booties or water shoes really protect feet from broken glass, sharp rocks or similar hazards in the water>

Foam Block
I take an old foam block that’s been compressed some and rest my ankles/calves on it. Feels great. I like paddling barefoot. I keep my sandals either in the cockpit or bungied to the deck.

thanks for the tips
It’s good to hear that I’m not the only one wrestling with what to do with my feet. It would be nice to find some water shoes that feel comfortable and take care of the heel problem, but until then, I think I’ll try some foam under the ankles next time I’m out. I’m also going to check out the gel pads. I bought some foam to glue to the hull under my heels, but don’t want to reduce the space there for my feet unless I’m sure that is the only option. I’d like to still be able to wear some warmer booties or even boots when the colder temperatures return.

I have the women’s version
And they’re very comfortable. Although I’ve wondered about the entrapment issue with the shoelaces - maybe change out the laces with some bungee-type string?

in my water shoes work fine. I’ve had very stubborn P.F. With some foam under your heels, barefoot can also work. Bear in mind, you’re not putting your full body weight on the feet, and provided your not pushing on the pegs more than what’s really required, I find paddling actually helps. I wear NRS wetshoes, and put my orthotics in as standard practice.