Kayaking Footwear for a Newb

My Folbot Cooper kayak is due to be delivered some time next week and I am gearing up for my first real kayak experience (I’ve demoed them before).

I am happy with the gear I have thus far, but unsure of what foot wear sea kayakers wear during these warmer months.

-When I demoed kayaks, I went bearfoot, as my sneakers did not fit comfortably in the cockpit, so bulking sneakers are out, and I figure anything w/ laces is out for safety reasons as well.

-I was considering the cheapo, slip on water shoes you see at Walmart. They would not provide any warm, but simply a thin layer of protection for my feet where I launch at public access sites. They’d be thin, not bulky, and no hard edges to damage the underside of my foldable kayak. Thoughts?

-Do people use the calf-high neoprene booties when kayaking? During the summer or only when it gets colder out? I’m having trouble deciding on what is the appropriate foot wear. I want something that is temperature appropriate for the NorthEast this time of year, and protects my feet while launching on rocky places. I’ve already resolved to have a separate set of sneakers in a dry bag for when camping out of the kayak on a long wknd.


lots of choices
take a look at some of the offerings from Teva and Keen, buy a good sturdy pair, those cheap water socks fall apart pretty quickly.

I wear Crocs sometimes since they float, clean/self-drain easily and don’t put any pressure on your feet, but they don’t have good traction on muddy banks.

I recommend the new Kokatat Seeker boot - I use it in my skin boat as anything larger doesn’t fit. Pluses - comfortable, good traction, no straps/laces to tangle. Minuses - a little narrow to use over drysuit booties, a little spendy, sole could be a little thicker I guess. I used cheapo water socks for a while, but the ribs in my boats always seemed to pull them off at an inopportune time.

NRS Kickers are good if you have room
Not expensive, they give you good foot protection (mine have taken stingray hits) and they last forever.

In the summer I wear NRS Desperado Socks, lots like socks with a heavier bottom with a bit of tread.

Whatever you do, specially on a SOF, don’t have laces, they can get caught inside the boat effectively trapping you inside.

Bill H.

Booties, mostly
Barefoot or booties here. As Bill mentioned anything with laces or straps (sandals etc) pose an entrapment risk.

NRS Kickers

My first summer I used some deck shoes from Belks for $3, part neo, rubber sole, much better than barefoot, but were loser.

the NRS are fine, (most people have them) but I would also look at other brands like Kokatat. I also have a very low deck where an extra half inch is huge.

$6 water shoes from walmart. Gonna get booties some day, but these work just fine for now. I just want booties for when I have muddy banks to launch from!

low profile booties
Here are 3 I use and like very much:

Teva Pro Oniums (now discontinued, good deals if you

can find them). Low ankle cut, very

low profile over top of the foot, very


Teva Protons - lower cut and lighter than the above.

Great warm water choice for full foot


NSR Desperadoes - my new fave: flexible, great support and comfort for the ball of the foot, outer sole is ridged & provides excellent traction over mixed shorelines w. sharper rock, cobble, wet wood, etc.

All of these are ideal for low volume decks and full

foot protection while being very comfortable on the pegs… enjoy your Folbot!

Barefoot it
If you’re worried about cheap, i would just barefoot it your first few times. My first 2 years of kayaking i just wore shoes or sandals to the shore, threw them in the hatch and climbed in at the edge of the water (always got in parallel to the shore). The only thing with barefoot is some peoples heels get sore, or if you have any sort of metal footpegs your feet/toes can get sore. Your first trip though i’m guessing isn’t going to be a 100 mile epic quest, so for a few short trips try barefoot, then decide if you want some shoes.

Teva sandals are pretting good for paddling and don’t take up a lot of room. I’ve been using Keene sandals for the past year, but mine totally self-destructed last weekend after spending a lot of time in the water. I thought they were supposed to be waterproof but apparently not so for extended periods in water. Hopefully REI will let me return or exchange them.

The “cheap” vs. the good -:wink:
I have been using almost exclusively the $5 pairs of water/beach mesh shoes that Target sells. They are actually pretty comfy and work just fine. Two drawbacks though-they tend to fall off and in strong currents/mud/waves you may loose them when you need them most on your feet, and second, they fall apart fairly soon.

I’ve used may be 4 pairs over a year and a half already. In contrast, my Tevas have lasted already 3-4 seasons of very heavy use in wind surfing, where the light shoes don’t even work as my toes would come out of them on the first use due to the pressure forward while surfing.

So, for kayaking, especially recreationally, the cheap shoes are fine and one can probably break even using several pairs of these compared to one expensive pair over 2-3 seasons.

For more hard use, get a good quality pair to start with. Something with a low profile sole that is still sturdy enough not to fall apart, not to fall off your foot, and to allow you to walk over pebbles or rocks with some caution.

In the summer, I mostly kayak barefoot with a pair of sandles behind the seat to put on/off getting out/in the kayak… That’s for sea kayaking/recreational use. On WW I always wear booties as the potential for injury stepping on submerged rocks is much greater.

Keen Newport H2 Sandals …
… have been my fair-weather paddle shoe of choice although they’re not cheap. Somewhere close to $95 at REI but if you wait for a sale or close-out special you can probably pick them up for around $60 if you’re not picky about color.

They’re very comfortable, have held up very well, and drain thoroughly since the back of the sandal is open. HOWEVER, as much as I love them, they’re not perfect. When launching from a sandy or gravelly shore you’ll likely get some of that sand or gravel into the sandal. It should rinse out easily but it WILL get in there! Also, if you’re paddling a composite boat you might get some minor chafing on your heel from the rough-ish interior of the boat. You could glue some thin closed-cell foam underneath the pegs but in an inflatable it probably won’t be a problem.

As I said, I love those sandals. I have a second pair I use just for kicking around.

I love my Kickers, but I had to …
customize them before liking them.

I have a wide foot, and they were just too tight to get on and off, and after about a year with them I was ready to can them.

My wife suggested making a slit in the top under the velcro strap which I did.

That was about four years ago, and I have been a happy paddler ever since with them being easy on and easy off.

In the heat, I usuall take them off once I am out in the boat, since my feet like me better when they are nude, but I’ll put them on prior to landing.

In a fast flowing river, or some place where I could take that inevitable spill, I keep them on.



neoprene booties
have kept me warm and comfortable. no matter how hot it is, the water always feels cold on my ankles, and the protection and traction for walking on rocks is great.

Walmart Special
Well I went for the $6 Walmart specials…a cheap experiment: