"Perfect" footwear

What’s your idea of the perfect type of footwear for use in and around water. My wife has Merrell’s and I have Columbia and cheap Gander Mt water shoes (like running shoes). They all seem to not dry out well and keep your feet wet all day or all week while canoe/camping.

Better ideas?


A couple choices

– Last Updated: Feb-05-09 4:31 PM EST –

If it is summer and I want to be able to step in deep water with a rocky bottom, those "water shoes" are great. I just wished they lasted longer. Seems like everyone I know with a pair says that the soles break loose after a year or two. Water shoes aren't much good where there is find gravel or sand - take just a couple of steps and they just fill up with all that grit.

I like Chota breathable mukluks for spring and fall especially, but even in summer. If you are careful to not step in water too deep, they will keep your feet dry. They go on and off very quickly, so you can easily slip them off during those periods where you don't actually need them and pop 'em back on right before you get to a take-out.

I use breathable mukluks all summer for my shore-bound activities. On the Wisconsin River I love a sand-proof boot that I can wear when collecting firewood or just wandering the beaches. Same goes for the sticky, clayey soil in most river bottomlands around here. The boots are comfy to walk in and it's no problem if they get sandy or muddy because I can sit in my tent with my feet outside, slip them off, and crawl into the tent dirt-free. I just leave them outside the tent with the tops folded over, and even if it rains they will stay dry inside, always ready to make a midnight trip to the "rest room" quick and easy - no messing around with regular open-top shoes that are caked with dirt but need to be put in the tent to stay dry inside. Make sure you wear wool socks, and these things will keep your feet comfy.

The downside of breathable Chotas is that the lacing loops are made of rubber which wears out too easily. Once the elastic bungies wear out, I switch to soft-surface parachute cord as shoelaces, and the rubber lace loops don't hold up. I had to sew on my own nylon loops to solve that problem. The cold-weather Chota mukluks have much sturdier lacing loops that will never wear out no matter what you use for laces.

It’s Seasonal
Warm weather = Chaco sandals. (They come off in the boat. I paddle barefoot if it’s warm)

Cold weather = Chota Mukluk Lites.

I love my keens!
I know- not too warm, but in the spring and summer they are great!!!

I have worn them on week long trips to both Idaho and the Grand Canyon (both rafting) and they were great for water and hiking.

No such thing dude!

– Last Updated: Feb-05-09 6:35 PM EST –

1. Winter paddling with drysuit...a silk liner sock and a thick wool boot sock under neoprene booties or Chotas that I can put crampons in if I have to get out on an icy take out.

2. Summer salt water paddling where you want the boots to stay on and not get sucked off in the mud: Chota Mukluks or smaller sized booties. (Yes I have oversized winter ones for the sox)

3. Wet foot portaging where its a single canoe takeout as in the boreal forest around Wabakimi or Woodland Caribou..Salomon Techphibians or Merrell Waterpros(the lace up kind). Sometimes you have to carry over blowdowns and a light shoe gives you the best agility. Portages in this area are covered with lichen and you need Vibram soles for best traction on Shield rock with caribou moss on top. Heavy boots for me are a tripping hazard.

4.Portaging in basalt or other sharp rock country.. Kevlar hiking boots with a GoreTex membrane. Lightweight (got mine from LLBean). I might be going to the Barrenlands this year and those would be my shoe choice. But they are not meant to be water shoes. If you make portages on the tundra its once a day and long.

5. Keen Newport are OK but I can wreck them in two weeks in the boreal forest.

6. Open toed sandals IMO are an invitation to toe injury. Fine for city paddling..bad if you are in sat phone country.

7. I kneel in my tripping canoes and I prefer a shoe that can do that as well as not having to be changed for every portage. Sometimes you should change to hiking boots but that can get tiring after portage five or six.

I have accepted wetfoot paddling. Its not a big deal IF you remember when you get to camp to change to dry footwear. I have holy dry footwear. And wool sox dry..the other holy thing. Good foot care on arrival starts with drying and airing your feet and applying medicated talcum powder liberally. There is no need for trench foot.

If it is warm water nothing beats Keens.

I Need Something New
I have nice neophrene footwear. I say nice, because they have a good bottom for walking on, but they stink to the high heavens when I’m on my way home and stopping in stores, people must wonder what that stink is. When I camp, I take them off, rinse them and my feet, then put on flip flops.


Keens are the best warm weather
shoes I have ever had.

Squish, squish, squish
The Merrill’s and Columbias we wear are the water shoe type and while comfy, they just don’t dry out enough even overnight. The Gander watershoes seem to hold much less moisture and may dry overnight. We frequently paddle more than one day in a row and start getting itchy feet. You would think that footwear mfgr’s would take that into account when making a shoe designed to get wet/ as in it won’t absorb water. The river we paddle quite often has areas of shallows & sandbars that I must get out and pull across and they are loaded with clam shells so barefootin’ is out of the question. I’ll have to take a look at some of the footwear mentioned here and see if I can find a happy medium.


shoes depend on conditions
You’ll need different shoes depending on what type of conditions you are in. I paddle mostly brackish/dark river water and intercoastal waterway in NC. And it’s mostly warm water except for winter time when water temps go down to 50ish. For shoes I have 3 different models of the waterproof KEENS sandels. I even wear one during the winter with a pair of wool hiking socks. When actually paddling, I wear a pair of TEVA water shoes. They’re thiner and the sole moves/gives more than the KEENS. The KEENS have a very good toe guard and I use them for just about all my camping adventures too. Plus I’m a boy scout lifeguard and when I’m doing that I wear the KEENS, feet stay comffey when I’m walking up and down the hot pier watching all those scouts and if I have to jump in, the shoes stay on me.

Reckon’ maybe not “perfect” but…

– Last Updated: Feb-06-09 8:38 AM EST –

a good boot fer warmer water... water drains out o' de sole.

OTB Abyss Boot


(Jus' dun't step in any dog turds while waarin' dis boot! An' yes ah' have...)


My son-in-law wears these

Lots of good thoughts here, but most are too bulky for me, as I like low volume kayaks. I also like more feel than the heavier sole provides. I would actually prefer paddling bare foot, but need some foot protection when beaching, etc. Dive booties work well, but man, they stink after a few days. Any ideas here? I also would prefer something that would allow my feet to dry while paddling. For now I will continue wearing old sandals or flip flops until in the boat, then kick 'em off. Not really the answer, but until I find something better… Ken

I had never heard of Keen
They look ideal for what I will be doing. I had some Teva Hurrican 3 that were adequate but I like the looks of the toe protection on the Keens.

I found some Keen Venice H2 in green on sale at shoesonline.com 25 bucks off with free shipping. Came to 70 bucks.

squish squish squish
I have the Merrill water pro’s, and after oading the boat on the roof I clip them to the loop on the stearn of the canoe with a carabiner and let them air dry at speed on the way home. They get pretty stinky otherwise.

I used to do this with my Tevas also.

People on the road notice the shoes more than a flag on the back of the boat too (though it doesn’t overhang enough to need a flag).

Keen Taos
That’s what I have and love. The Newports are also good, I hear.

I want to try the Five Fingers.
I think I’d really dig them. I assume your son likes them?

He really likes them
he’s a runner in training for his first marathon. He’s run 15 miles plus in them at a clip in all kinds of terrain (including off road). He says they are a lot easier on his knees than standard running shoes yet they have enough sole to protect his feet from debris.

if you have a wide foot…

– Last Updated: Feb-06-09 11:45 AM EST –

otherwise, it's Chaco's Z-2's w/the Stealth rubber soles over their standard soles or the Z-1's IF they are used anywhere near wet rock. Keen and everyone else's sandals can only wish they stuck to wet rock as well as these suckers. My feet swim in Keen's, not enough side-to-side contact for my feet. Not near as good a supportive foot bed as the Chaco's either

$70 is a good price for Keen h2s.
I paid $65 3 or 4 years ago.