danger of paddling shoes

OK, I’m new to canoeing, but have kayaked for some time. I bought a pair of Keen paddle shoes (Hood River I think, no bungee laces, nice smooth design so as not to get caught on stuff) and have the fear that when kneeling, there is a possibility that my shoes could get caught under the seat if I went over. Is this an irrational thought? I keep the seat tilted forward and I have tried it on the highest position. Is my kneeling form wrong? Don’t want to paddle barefoot, should I look for a different shoe? Looks like most have a thick sole for river paddling, which makes sense, but it is the back end of the sole that I’m concerned about.

your fear is not irrational at all
Don’t know if you are talking about flatwater paddling or what. If flatwater, I wouldn’t be all that concerned. If you are doing class II whitewater, the risk of bad consequences of foot entrapment go up quite a bit.

It happened to me once, I was wearing kaykers paddling shoes (small, no heal) and kneeling in a boat with very generous foot room, a Supernova. When my foot hung, I tried to get it out pretty urgently as there was a set of rapids and drop just ahead. I got out but in the process wretched my knee quite a bit. It was a very good learning experience. Pretty much learned me to put a saddle in.

I also got hung up in a Yellowstone Solo in flatwater (racing and pushed too far). No issues, because no real urgency to get out. Head was completely out of the water (PFD) and I could have spent an indefinate amount of time freeing myself.

So, the answer is what it usually is … it all depends. And, if you’re a clutz like me, better factor that in too.

I lowered the seat on my solo canoe and have just enough room to get feet in/out with no problem. Did have to switch to a very low profile watershoe the Teva Proton. If you are really concerned do what you would do with the kayak. Go out and do some capsize, self rescue experiments and see how hard it is to get out of the boat.

In my 30+ years of bothering other
paddlers, I’ve seen or heard of hardly any serious incidents involving shoe/foot extraction.

However, as someone with long legs, size 15 feet, and being a frequent paddler of decked c-1s, I take the foot extraction issue seriously. At minimum, there is the possibility of wrenching a knee when trying to wet-exit and having shoes catch under a seat or in a c-1 cockpit.

I now usually wear neoprene socks in my decked c-1s. Sometimes I put supplementary neoprene on the soles for more comfortable walking and longer wear. In my open boats, I wear Teva Neutrons (now over 5 years old and just wearing out). One other thing to check on water shoes is that the soles give enough to allow your feet to lie flat on their tops when kneeling. Otherwise you may be partly up on your toes, with your knees bent more than they need to be.

One of my paddling partners broke his
foot (big foot, but I don’t know how big)trying to get it out from under the seat of his Okd Town Pack after a capsize in fast and tricky water, so, sometimes there are problems.

I’m still not comfortable kneeling in my royalex Bell Wildfire because it’s a tight fit and I’m not an experienced kneeler. I prefer to wear shoes that are sturdy enough to wear while portaging around log jams etc., so sometimes they’re not the best for getting them out from under that seat in a hurry.

The stock seat position in the Yellowstone felt too confining for ease of foot exits in kneeling position. Cutting a couple inches off the wood drops greatly improved this for me. I like to use the Padz ankle pads to keep my ankle in more of a relaxed postion instead of resting on the bottom of the boat. This also adds a little more insulation from cold water. I also use the Padz foam knee pads.

Potential hazards with kneeling include getting hung up under a tree limb in fast moving water. If you are moving forward and lean backwards instead of leaning forward you could possibly get hung up with your upper body being pulled toward the stern and have your legs clotheslined under the front edge of the seat. So it is probably always best to lean forward when ducking under overhanging tree limbs.

Less likely but still possible is to have your boat pin sideways, wrap around an obstacle and trap your feet under the seat (or paddling thwart).

And keep the space under and near the seat free of gear crappola.

You really do not need a stiff sole on your paddling shoes to portage in many of our midwest areas. If you are paddling moving water in a Wildfire you really do need to get comfortable paddling in a kneeling position.

paddling shoes
Try the Teva Proton. They aren’t to expensive and they don’t have any laces or straps to get caught on. Vaughn Fulton

I prefer minimal heel in a paddling shoe because my heel tends to hang up in a wet exit.

Even with Rodeo Socks, neoprene socks with a thin rubber patch for walking on, I sometimes get hung coming out of my whitewater C1.

This was posted by ezwater on another site.


“One thing I suggest, in your C-1, is that you keep both hands on the boat, probably grasping the cockpit rim or some other positive assist to grasp, while you shift your butt out, slide your knees forward, and then snake your feet out. Just because you are smaller than me (I assume that to be the case), don’t assume you can just swim out. Keep your hands on the boat and control the process until you have your feet out.”

Substitute gunwales for cockpit rim and I’d say it applies to openboats as well.

Nasty, unadjustable metal seat drops in
my royalex Wildfire rather than the adjustable (by cutting or replacing) wooden drops that many have.

I like some padding and support on the soles of my paddling shoes for carrying the boat and portaging. Rocks and sticks hurt when the soles are too thin.

Good advice on leaning forward, rather than back, when kneeling and approaching an overhead obstacle and also on keeping the area around the seat free of crapola. Thanks for that suggestions of the Padz pads.

Some day I’ll have my Wildfire outfitted so that I actually like it. So far, I like the “cockpit” feel of everyone else’s Wildfires and Yellowstones better than my non outfitted boat.

My sandles did that
Went paddling on the eleven point monday. kneeling in a wildefire i went over. the sandle heel on the bad leg got snaged in the seat.

not any fun. but not life threating.

C-1 cockpit design
It’s always surprised me that C-1 designers have not evolved the C-boaters equivalent of the large keyhole cockpit in reverse to resolve this problem. It strikes me that the front of a C-1 cockpit could be over the paddler’s knees with the hole extending backwards over the paddler’s feet.

I’ve gotten my foot stuck in a C-1 when bailing out in fast water.

shoes, seats, and kneeling
This is definitely a concern. The first well documented case, years ago, was a doctor paddling on the Buffalo River who wore hunting boots and kneeled. After a capsize he could not get the boots clear of the seat and drowned. Since then this has been a standard safety concern. Be sure your footwear can clear the seat if you kneel! Also, I find that kneeling thwarts are just as useful as seats and in most cases greatly reduce the chances of a foot entrapment.


Actually, even the smallish cockpit on
my Phoenix Seewun has never been an issue for wet exiting. On the other hand, the lawyer-approved large cockpits on the Perception Slasher, the Dagger Cascade, and the Dagger Atom have been nothing but a nuisance. A small and therefore reasonably sized cockpit opening means that the inside of the cockpit rim can supplement the thigh straps in controlling the thighs.

With a large, Cascade/Slasher sized cockpit, the cockpit is too large to supply ANY support to the thighs, and so the thigh straps have to be tightened down to uncomfortable and circulation compromising levels to keep the paddler in the boat for that second and third roll attempt.

The equivalent of a kayak keyhole design would be a C-1 with the aperture extending backwards from the seat. How is one to manage the simple problem of putting on a sprayskirt, if one has to reach way back to hook the rim, and then reach way forward to reach the lawyer-approved front of the cockpit rim??

If anyone thinks larger cockpit rims would make you safer, just consider what happens when you are running an unfamiliar creek and have to doff and don your sprayskirt quickly. If you have a small sprayskirt like mine, this is easy, much easier than it is for kayakers with keyhole cockpits. If you have one of the lawyer-designed large Cascade, Atom, or Slasher cockpits, you are going to be struggling with the damn sprayskirt while you are washed over the next 8’ ledge. A no brainer decision for me. And, at 6’ 5", with size 15 feet, I have as serious a foot and leg extraction problem as any.

Small cockpits for decked c-1s. A proven approach not susceptible to reasonable challenge.

Rodeo socks
I wear 'em both canoeing and kayaking for that very reason — there’s very little chance of them catching on anything, and they fit into those super-low volume Greenland kayaks I like so much.

There’s just enough sole on them that I can just about walk on anything (Except traprock, or other sharp cobble) without discomfort. And they’re flexible enough to kneel in a canoe without undue hardship, although I still prefer to canoe barefoot when practical. Love 'em!