Best water shoes + light insulative sock

-- Last Updated: Apr-30-15 12:10 AM EST --

Hi All,

First post after having just heard about the site from friends. Psyched to have found a great paddling community. My wife and I are four season outdoors people, enjoying hiking, backpacking, paddling, cycling, skiing and snowshoeing. I've been on multi-day and all-day canoe trips and coastal kayak day trips. I'm looking forward to improving skills and knowledge to take my sea kayaking to multi-day camping trips. We're currently based in the San Francisco Bay Area but also spend time in New England and will also be spending some time this year on the Mediterranean.

We're looking for a good water shoe which can be worn alone on bare feet, as well as with a light hiking sock and light thin insulative sock such as NRS Hydroskins, to replace the Salomon Amphibians we used to use, which IMHO are a flawed design with an open back and large holes in the mesh which let it many rocks to cut up your feet. I'd sincerely appreciate suggestions. Looking for a shoe that drains well yet has protective mesh/synthetic shoe material all around the foot.

Also looking for a light thin insulative sock, such as an NRS Hydroskins, which can be worn with the same water shoes to add a little warmth when needed in the warmer months.

We generally prefer shoes similar to the trail runners we wear hiking and trail running - good cushioning, roomy toe boxes, good breathability, low heel to toe drop (not too high a heel), neutral without high forced arches, etc., like the Saucony Xodus 5 or Pearl Izumi Trail N2 trail shoes. This should be a water shoe you can walk/hike in comfortably when you need to for portage or walk to camp, though primary purpose is a kayaking shoe.

I wear a size 11.5-12 dress shoe and 12.5 trail runners. She wears 7.5 dress shoes and 8.5 trail runners. Sincerely appreciate any fit advice for a shoe that won't be too big and sloppy on bare feet and still accommodate a thin insulation sock or thin insulation sock + thin hike sock under it.

Some water shoes I've found so far:

-Columbia Powervent
-NRS Crush
-Astral Brewer
-Salewa Swift
-Adidas Climacool Boat Lace
-Chaco Outcross Evo 2 Water

For light thin socks, I've found the NRS Hydroskins. Anyone have any experience with them? What's sizing like?

for SF Bay Area…
For SF Bay Area, unless you are in the outskirts of the Bay (like Redwood City) or resevoirs that warm up in the summer, I am almost always in wetsuit booties (and a wetsuit on my body) or in water shoes like the Five10 Water Tennies which go over my dry suit socks.

For warmer water areas, I just use cheapo water socks (CostCo had some Speedo ones for S20 last time I was there).

I never go the insulating sock route under water shoes (under dry suit booty I do).

Just get basic neo paddling shoes/boots
Like Kickers from NRS or the Chota equivalent. Available from a number of outdoor stores that cover paddling, or online from nrsweb. IMO, most of the fancy water shoes are just that, expensive and needlessly fancy. If you need something with better traction for seaweed you can get them with a felt bottom, for hiking on land throw a pair of regular hikers in the dry storage on the boat.

AstralBrewers & Hanz Submerge Socks
No Celia,

You’ll never go back to Kickers again after trying the Brewers. Or now, the new LoYak for a more minimalist approach. You won’t miss the neoprene funk in your car plays a number of other excellent features I’ve rambled on about here before.

Add a set of Hanz Submerge breathable socks which you can add a light wool crew sock underneath and you’re good for wading 12"-14" deep plus some added warmth.

See you on the water,


The River Connection, Inc.

Hyde Park, NY

If I ever try them… it is worth remembering I would say the same about dry wear I guess.

But one issue is lower volume boats and foot space. Hard soled shoes become a fit problem in my favorite boats, something lower profile and not-stiff is significantly more comfortable.

Gas Pedals…
Hi Marshall,

I have the Brewers and love them, but I find the stiff soles and rockered toes (toes curve upwards) that work so well with my touring kayaks, are cumbersome for controlling “gas-pedal” kayaks like an Epic 18X.

I didn’t use my Brewers in the recent Everglades Challenge for that reason – and used Merrell Barefoot Road Glove shoes paired with SeasonFive Tech Socks. These are flexible enough that I can bend my toes forward and engage the rudder rather than having to lift my heel/foot. The Merrell’s work pretty well but tend to accumulate sand and without socks you can get some nasty abrasions. For drainage, I burned some holes near the sole with a soldering iron. That worked but I missed the “dump port” that the Brewer has, which effectively drains sand and water.

I haven’t tried the LoYak. Would these, being more flexible, work better for gas-pedal “go fast” kayaks?

Greg Stamer

the problem with felt bottoms
is that they can carry invasive species from one waterway to another. At least in fresh water. Didymo immediately comes to mind. They are banned in some places for that reason.

Hanz work pretty well
I used those well into November here in VT last fall. They run a little large, but plenty of room for wool underneath and completely flexible. I did pair them with some cheap mesh-topped water shoes for rocky launches to prevent the socks from getting damaged.

Hi Greg,

I love my Merrell Road Glove minimalist running shoes and have on occasion used them with the gas pedal close quarters on my Mako 6 Surfski where larger footbeds just don’t fit as well.

With the new LoYaks I’m not going to have to soak my Merrells anymore. Only catch is whole # sizing. I’m generally a #11 and the LoYaks are roomy enough where I could easily wear a light neo sock with them. The 10 on the other hand is perfect length wise for barefoot but just a tad snug around the width. They all just arrived yesterday so I haven’t had time to play with the #10s to see if they’ll stretch a bit.

See you on the water,


The River Connection, Inc.

Hyde Park, NY

felt bottoms
are actually banned in some states. As another poster said you can transport invasives pretty easily on felt bottoms. IMO unless you’re an avid fisherman it’s a luxury feature you can do without.

I gave up on the best !
Now I use Wally World $13 “running shoes” - At least I think that is what they are billed as?

I get the gray ones with the double velco straps for easy on and off.

I drill a few quarter inch holes in the upper heel part for drainage and they are not only light weight, but work great.

I have used them on the past two Adirondak 90 milers.

In the Florida Keys, I alternate between them and Tevas and usually put about five hundred miles on them in four months.

My high end water shoes sit forlornly in the bottom of the shoe box now.

The only time I differ is in cold water and cold weather when I wear my NRS Boundary boots.

Jack L

It’s hard to beat NRS. I have the one

– Last Updated: May-01-15 9:11 PM EST –

with a velcro strap. Its a boot, has a zipper on the side and thick treads on the bottom. Great traction on slippery rocks, do not come off in deep mud and I can wear them all day.

The name is Attack Shoe

For paddling Monterey or SF bay
I usually use neoprene socks. They’re lighter and thinner than wetsuit booties, can be worn under a shoe, if such is desired, and do just fine for immersion in the ocean. Cold feet isn’t something I’ve ever noticed being a problem during immersion, but if I’m paddling in harsh weather, I use wetsuit booties.

Best is that neoprene socks are much more easily removed than booties at the end of the paddle. They can be worn with some sandals (but not fliplops or sandals which have a strap that goes between toes), so this makes them pretty convenient footwear.