Paddling footwear - what do you wear?

in warm weather i wear an old pair of tevas in the canoe. In colder weather I prefer a pair of dark colored Mudboots that get toasty warm in the sun. I also pack an old pair of trail running shoes for walks into and around towns.

I had planned to buy a pair of NRS Boundary shoes or Chota Quicklace Mukluks, until I saw the comment by occ_l_swimmer regarding a problem with getting Chotas out from under the seat in a canoe capsize. The plan was to buy these to address that problem since they have no heel component on the sole (which is where I believe the seat hang-up occurs). What other potential problems are here? Is it shoe size? I’ll probably be going with a size ten in the NRS because they seem to have a stiffer sole (though narrower)… better for portaging.

Stiff sole
The sole on the Quicklace is stiff enough to jam it if you’re trying to pull it out from under a low seat, and makes it hard to point your foot if you like to kneel with your feet flat. For me, the Lite works better for paddling, but it offers much less support for portaging.

On my canoes …
On my solo canoes, most of them have the forward edge of the seat lowered by an inch and a half to two inches. I wear size 13 NRS Boundary Water shoes, and don’t have any concern whatsoever about foot entrapment.


Chotas and Tevas
I have two pair “Summer” shoes, one is a discontinued style of Tevas, and some ankle high Chotas. Winter, I use my Chota mukluks and feet stay plenty warm. They come to just below the knees, and I have swam in them (not on purpose) with no problems. I also routinely step in water over the top and they just get a bit damp inside. Like Jay said, they’re so comfortable, you will wear them arround camp too. WW

About those rubber boots
On the Alaska paddle trip, I started out using my Teva Protons. After all, though the water was cold, it was no colder than my home waters in spring or fall.

Well, it’s one thing to have wet neoprene on your feet for 2 to 3 hours; it’s another to have them on your feet all day and then they don’t dry out because the environment is so humid! Makes for a nasty start to the next morning, not to mention wading into very cold salt water several times a day gets real old. The leggings get wet, too.

On the advice of a veteran AK paddler, I had bought some $13.99 rubber boots and was carrying them on my rear deck. I began wearing them, with a pair of thick wool socks, and LO! my feet and lower legs thanked me. No more salt water irritation; no more wet calves; no more frigid starts to each day. And their stiff soles made carrying gear over those rocks and mussels much more comfortable. Ahhhhh.

Why didn’t I bring my Chota Mukluks, you ask? Because the insides take too long to dry out even in dry Colorado, let alone Alaska. The cheap rubber boots are not insulated so they dry out much faster. Just gotta be more careful not to flood them, because the tops don’t cinch tight like the Chotas do. But I only flooded them a couple of times.

I still use them around here, to hike in mud and slush. They are actually comfortable enough for that.

tevas and chota neoprene socks
are what i’ve been using lately. one or the other or both seem to cover most situations here.

Chota Mukluks in cold weather.

Warmers Aquapurge 4/6 booties or Sealskins in warmer weather.

canoeing shoes
For canoe racing and training in the summer, I wear cross country running shoes. They have good tread on the bottom for portaging, are light, and compact.

Canoe shoes
In warm weather, when I don’t care if my feet get wet, I wear a pair of Converse tennis shoes.

In cold weather, when I do care if my feet get wet, I wear Red Ball duck boots. I was skeptical of them for most of my life, but when I was given a pair as a present I was hooked for life. My feet stay warm and dry, but they are like wearing moccasins.

Chota lights in the cold.
Cheap neoprene sandals in warm weather.

Size 13 feet
and I put size 9 water sandals on them. That way I can fit my feet in the boat but still have protection for landing/launching and the foot pedals.

Foot Clearance
It wasn’t the Chotas…It was that the saet was too low !!! I had problems with Nike River trainers also.

Warm? Cold?
Warm is a pair of sandels or something like that. I always pack a “dry” set of cloths including boots/shoes for in camp anyway.

In the cold weather I’ve turned to wearing Muck Boots. Warm, waterproof(well tested over time!!!) and even though my feet sweat they still stay warm. Only downfall is that those suckers stink after a day or so. Pull those babies off around the campfire and you’ll have that fire all to yourself! Needless to say what it does to make your feet stay healthy smelling and does wonders for keeping critters away from your tent!

You can also stash them in your paddlin’ partners car for an afternoon unless you value that friendship! :wink:


The water blocker version of these socks keep your feet dry even if you stand in water above the top of the sock, their regular ones work to that height but don’e keep water from coming over the top. We live in these things come warmer weather under sandals, NRS Kickers or whatever. About $30 and worth every penny.


I wear Teva Gammas most of the time. I just ordered a pair of Onium Pros thru REI that I hope will also double as wet suit booties for back strap slip in scuba fins. Bob

For the really cold water…
(less than 40*F) I use heavy weight (7mm) divers neoprene boots. I have a size big enough so that I can use WalMart neoprene socks (cheap) underneath them, but this is because I use SOT kayaks, and keeping exposed feet warm in the winter is more difficult than with a SINK. The boots I have are actually waterproof as long as no water goes over the top.


summer is time for capilene socks and

– Last Updated: Nov-28-04 10:49 PM EST –

aquaterra watershoes from hi-tec. transiional is time for capilene liners and neoprene socks and aquaterra watershoes.

Winter is time for the drysuit with goretex booties, capilene liners under the heaviest wool mountaineering socks, and aquaterra watershoes.

Chota mukluks might be nice for those who do not have a drysuit with goretex booties.

Barefoot All Year
It’s an old southern tradition to fish year round barefoot. My feet just don’t get cold and the gas pedal rudder controls on my Prijon Eski work great when barefoot. My sandals stow behind the seat for beached exits. I keep a pair of half socks with the toes cut out handy if sand in the floor starts to cause heel abraision. The whole theme of Kayaking for me is to keep it simple. Up north, well, I dunno!

Plain ol’ rubber pull-overs
I usually wear cheap 17-inch rubber boots (usually the Tingley brand). I do a lot of wet-foot landings and launchings, and will usually walk the boat through shallows rather than trying to grind and lurch along. They go on and off pretty easy, so I usually take them off if I’m going to be cruising in the boat for any length of time unless I need them for extra warmth. They are light enough to go on long hikes with, and the shoes I wear within provide the fit, support and warmth for whatever kind of walking I need to do. Pikabike is right about rubber boots too. The fact that they do not absorb any water is a huge advantage (nothin’ better’n dry warm feet!).

I once considered getting a pair of high-top Chota “Marsh Boots”, but they don’t come in half sizes so I couldn’t get anything close to a decent fit with them, and even if I could, they seemed like a pretty lousy design for walking any distance. An improved cinch-strap system would make a world of difference in that regard (those eighth-inch bungies are worse than useless - might as well not even be there).