Canoeing Footwear

Just returned from a couple of days on the Current River, and renewed the debate about what kind of footwear would be best for canoeing. The discomfort on various trips is generally minor, but I have experienced both cuts to exposed feet and sores to protected (but constantly wet) feet. Seems like everything has a plus and minus. Sandals allow the sand to escape and your feet to dry, but don’t protect your toes and heels from sharp rocks. Water shoes protect your feet from sharp rocks, but keep in the sand and don’t allow your feet to dry. Rubber (Tingley-style)boots could keep you dry in shallow water, but would fill up in deeper water and would be hot in the sun. Haven’t heard much about water socks, but would they work for side hikes or portages? Would appreciate your suggestions for a best compromise.

Use two pairs
I know exactly wht you are talking about.

I use NRS kickers, (water shoes) for paddling and standing in the water, then at the end of the day when I am through paddling, I change in to Tevas for hanging around the camp site.



I switched to

– Last Updated: Jul-01-04 2:25 PM EST –

Chota Quetico Trekkers, coupled with their Brookie Waders (cold weather) or their Gaiter socks (warm weather) over lightweight wicking liner socks. The shoes are quite sturdy; comfortable; my feet stay cool; no debris has gotten in them; and, best of all, my feet are generally dry when I remove the shoes at day's end. And, like JackL, I also take a pair of 'easy on/off' shoes that I use just for camp lounging.

my 2 cents
I have hard to fit wide feet (see the wide foot thread) and use two options.

For colder water and rockier rivers like the Ozarks, I use New Balance water shoes with a hydroskin water sock. Protects the feet from rocks, provides some warmth, and keeps the sand and gravel out. Also avoids getting that gravel stuck between your foot and the sandal in the one place you can’t clear it without taking off the sandal.

For warmer water with more sand or mud bottoms I use the Chaco Z/1 Colorado sandals in the wide width. Cooler feet, and the strap design won’t let those muddy Iowa river bottoms suck the sandles off your feet.

for warm weather check out the NRS Combat water shoe, and drill some small drain holes in it…

I love my …
… Teva Gammas

All the durability and grip of trail shoes, far more protection than any kind of sandal, won’t get sucked off your feet like water socks, but drain and dry much faster than neoprene booties or old sneakers.

They offer plenty of support for light portages or scrambling on river rocks. I wear mine with a lightweight pair of woven polypro liner socks, which just make them more comfortable to wear and keep sand and grit off my skin, and I think help them dry out faster.

About $60.

Canoe Shoes
I use the water shoes that are sort of a light hiking shoes that drain. I have a wonderful pair of Salomons that they stopped making a few years ago. They work great on summer back country trips. I recently picked up a set of Merrills that are similar. The Teva Gammas are sort of half way between these more agressively treaded shoes and water socks. I like the Chota Queticos, and the NRS ATB Work Boot for high-top ankle support (would like a pair of either in a smaller size than are offered for my girlfriend).

The modified water sock… NRS KIckers, or any of a dozen others are great for local rivers but useless on whitewater, or a wilderness trip. They just don’t offer sufficient grip or protection in nasty whitewater.


A recent article did a review and rated the Kenn the best by far. I am very pleased with them.