It seems that by far the most popular choice for kayak footwear is something made out of neoprene. The problem I have with this is that the neoprene gets wet when you launch and stays wet the whole time you are paddling and if my feet are bare under the neoprene they stay wet too and don’t breathe very much and the skin gets all shriveled up and then starts peeling the next day when they’re dry. I can’t imagine that the skin on my feet is unusually delicate compared to other people. What I’ve done many times is just take the neoprene shoes off in the boat after launch and put them on again before landing, which is kind of a pain in the cockpit but not too bad once you get the hang of it and my bare feet can dry off and breathe nicely under deck while I’m paddling though I do experience some discomfort with unprotected heels against the inside of the hull.

Has anyone found a better solution? something that allows your feet to dry and breathe below deck but also provide firmly attached protection for launching and landing on shores that can be too painful or too slippery for bare feet. Crocs maybe?

no way to keep your feet totally dry
Neoprene is not meant to keep you dry, just warm. In fact that is why neoprene clothing is called a “wetsuit”. Your body heat warms moisture either from your sweat or the water that leaks in and the closed cell keeps that heat in. The peeling skin you say you are getting is probably the same you would have if you used a pedicure stone on the calluses on your feet after a long shower or bath. There is really no way to keep your feet completely dry while paddling unless you use knee high Goretex mukluks, which are overkill for most mild weather day outings. I know some people use Crocs and I have a pair of slimline knock-offs (not the big bulky clog style) that I used to use but they can be a hassle if they pick up debris that gets trapped in the shoe when you are walking to the put in. And they are too bulky for under some decks. The cheap hard soled stretchy watershoes that every sporting goods store and chain drug and dpeartment store sell for $5 to $10 are a good option for protection walking, and they do breathe but your feet will still be wet under the deck. Same with the mesh sneaker style water shoes. Wearing lightweight polypropolene, acrylic or Smartwool socks under your foot wear does pull some of the dampness off your skin and will keep the boots from rubbing but your skin will still be moist. Some people wear the rafter-type sport sandals. Again, your feet will still stay damp – a kayak cockpit is going to be a damp place no matter what you do.

I have every type of footwear you can possibly think of. Honestly, even in warm weather I tend to wear the knee high Kokatat mukluks which have neoprene feet with Goretex in the upper leg. I get no water inside them from launching so I start paddling with dry feet but they do eventually perspire a bit in them. That is the driest you are going to get.

my footwear changes according to

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the weather, boat, and type of paddling.

yesterday I did a slight seal launch into the river so my feet stayed dry in neoprene booties until some water seeped into the boat (Lower Gauley river), feet got wet but stayed warm so I can relate.

rafters like sandals with grippy soles but they are expensive and don't provide a lot of support if you have to hike out or travel on slick rocks- they like the sandals because they allow the feet to dry while in the boat Sandals probably aren't very comfy to kayak or kneel in a canoe.

sometimes I wear crocs, slide them off while I'm sitting on the back deck, stuff them in the back of the boat, and paddle barefoot- if you swim you've got no shoes until you retrieve your boat, wouldn't want to hike out without shoes- I could wear crocs in the boat but I'd have to adjust the bulkhead- too lazy to do it.

Water shoes have thin soles- okay if you're not walking around on shore much- mesh helps to dry out your feet but some are prone to collecting sand, and grit.

Old tennis shoes and the new astral shoes with the sticky soles provide support, but your feet are going to stay wet while you paddle just like the neoprene booties

Wet feet are pretty much a forgone conclusion with me, just have a nice pair of dry socks and shoes at the take out! I look forward to that part of my day at the end of a trip.

dry pants/suit?
One option would be to wear dry pants or dry suit, with built in booties. Should keep your feet totally dry.

I agree with the earlier post that what I wear varies with what type of paddling (and walking) I will be doing. I don’t actually wear neoprene a lot, but do wear water socks when I am not wearing a dry suit. Doesn’t keep your feet dry.

Perhaps you can try something like that Kokatat Nomad ( They are waterproof low cut booties with roll up knee high waders built in.

Here’s your solution

Sock 'em
Hanz Sumbmerge waterproof breathable sock added to something like an Astral Designs Brewer,Rassler or Hiyak and you’ve got dry feet and the ability to run on slime covered rocks and not wind up on your rear end. Mind you I’m not advocating you run on slime covered rocks just because I do.

See you on the water,


The River Connection, Inc.

Hyde Park, NY


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Yeah I wouldn't wear dry socks or high boots in the summer. I guess going barefoot and just having the neoprene shoes along for extreme situations is the best solution, the more you go barefoot the more your calluses can develop and the easier it gets, but unfortunately I can't go barefoot every day all summer like Huck Finn or this guy I find simple flip flops are fine for getting to and from a put in for all but the most challenging rocky terrain. I'll see about putting a piece of foam inside the hull for the other issue.

Edit: I may have come up with a decent compromise, I just doubled over a piece of light bungee and looped it around one strap of a flip flop and tied the other end to other strap to make a heel strap. Not as much protection as the neoprene shoes but at least you're protected from stepping directly on something sharp and eliminates the floppiness that makes flip flops very unsuitable as kayaking shoes and ought to be much easier to slip on and off in the cockpit. Like huaraches but don't google that word or you just get these funny looking Nikes.

Wool socks under the neo booties. Or polypro. Yes it is a bit soggy feeling. But I have always done this and my feet do not experience the issues you describe.

wet wool feels dry
I have noticed that wool socks that get wet when hiking don’t really feel wet. The short smartwool micro socks would work best with my neoprene shoes, no need for ankle or calf coverage. Maybe I’ll try that when it starts to get a little cool for barefeet before dry sock/suit season.


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I paddle barefoot whenever it's warm enough, otherwise I use neoprene socks. I have sandals handy for landings unless I know I'm going to need them, then I wear them. I had a footboard put in my kayak last year and it's so much nicer going barefoot than with footpegs. If I'm on calm water and it's warm, I'm paddling barefoot.

most non-flip-flop sandals
Most any sandals will do well in warm air/warm water. Anything semi-properly fitted will have a heel strap, and maybe even a little rise behind the heel, that keeps your heel from touching the kayak.

wet sandals
Yeah like sandals is what I was thinking but most Teva type sandals and even flip flops have nylon webbing that stays wet for a long time. Havaianas are all rubber but they flop around too much.

I have a committed pair
Most of the time they never enter my house. :slight_smile:

away from home
I also need footwear that’ll be dry later in the evening if I’m not going home for a few days or weeks…

Evening wear

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After circumnavigating Manhattan the Astral Brewers rocked fashion week in NYC. They were dry enough not to leave water marks on the catwalk. Black/white seemed to be the demand.


See you on the water,
The River Connection, Inc.
Hyde Park, NY

I’ll ditto Marshall,

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except my Astrals are turquoise (because I'm colorful). ;)

If I have to get my feet wet, which I do now since my dock is out for the season, I'll just enter my kayak then hang my feet over the sides. The Astrals drain nicely and dry quickly.

Just don't wear neo socks with them. Tried that yesterday. Ugh. Sticking with SmartWool.

Barefoot not ACA recommended
I think I heard somewhere that shoes are required for kayaking jus like a life vest is required. Has anyone seen this in writing?

I can see the point in oyster country but maybe not everywhere.

Bare feet are most comfortable in my Surfski and there is not more width for shoes, but maybe a thin sock with a bit of sole attached would be good.

Shores were required (in writing)
For my ACA L2. Don’t recall if they were required for the L1, but guessing they were. USCG has no such requirement.

Tried paddling barefoot once when I first started. Had sore buns and sore feet. Shoes and a different kayak fixed both.

What Marshall said.
Astrals are a good choice.

I wouldn’t try to go camping in Manhattan and if I was just on a day trip I don’t suppose it would be too hard to pack a pair of dry shoes for a glamorous night on the town though I’d probably be too tired for that anyway :slight_smile: What I’m sayin’ is I don’t want to lug around a pair of perpetually wet shoes on an expedition though I suppose there are worse things, like getting eaten by bears. Maybe I could start a line of waterproof huaraches though I think my Havaianas with bungee heel strap are close enough, or maybe rig these up with bungee: supposedly some people run marathons in those, just don’t stub your toe on a cactus or spiny urchin.