Water sandles

I have been using a pair of Keen (H20?) closed toe water sandles for years. I wear them for everything including carrys and wading/lining. I am a solo canoer. They have worked well, but are heavy and don’t get very good traction on rocks. Is there now something better?


Maybe you could try sanding the soles
with coarse sandpaper to restore some grip. Some of the sticky rubbers companies use will tend to glaze over, more so if worn for a lot of dry land use.

One of the companies offers a liquid that can be painted on soles to renew traction, but I don’t recall which one. Sanding might produce a kind of micro felt that would stick decently.

As for weight, my Tevas are rather heavy, but that thick weight provides protection from sharp stones and thorns.

New Balance
Most of the people I know around here either wear Crocs or neoprene boots/shoes.

A while back I bought a pair of New Balance 921 shoes that have drain holes for water and a quick dry insole. They are really comfortable since they are basically just sneakers. I quit using them when kayaking though since I usually launch from sandy beaches and the sand clogs the drain holes. For non-sandy area I think they would be quite good though.

New Balance has other versions that are more sandals-like as well. Might be worth looking into.

I’ve had a couple of pairs of 921’s
They were great for river paddling, but it looks like they are no longer in production.

Home made ones
I have tried a bunch and never found ones that I really like until I experimented a bit.

Go to Wally World and buy a pair of what they call “running shoes”. They cost $13 and are light weight.

They have two Velcro closures for quick on and off. They come in gray or black. I like the black.

Then drill a few quarter inch holes just above the heel in the back. I drill one in the middle and one on each side. I used to drill some in the front too, but I found that the way I get in my kayak, they will automatically drain as I am getting with the holes just in the back.

They have good traction, but also keep sand and pebbles from getting in.

I paddle thousands of miles a year, and they hold up fine.

I’ll also use Tevas so the Wally world ones get a chance to dry out.

I like them much better than my high buck bass pro shop ones.

Each pair will last me about three years and would last longer, but eventually the Velcro gets clogged with sea weed

Jack L

I Hate Keens
All sandals pick up stones. With Tevas and other open toed sandals you develop the trick of lifting your foot, wrinkling your toes, and dropping the stone. Not with Keens where you have the choice of walking with a boulder in your sandal or sitting down, taking the shoe off and shaking the rock out (while in the middle of a river). If only my Keens would wear out so I could replace them.


Can you cut a toe hole for shedding
stones? Because of my large feet, I used to have to cut holes in the ends of my river shoes and sandals. This had no negative consequences other than getting sand in the holes, or a bit of gravel now and then. The holes never tore or spread.

Open Toed Shoes and rocky rivers
don’t mix. I guess for flatwater paddling the concern isn’t that big, but paddling frisky water with open toed shoes is asking for broken and/or bruised and/or cut piggies.


water booties

– Last Updated: Dec-04-14 10:10 AM EST –

Just get a good pair of above the ankle water booties like NRS Cross 4's, etc. They're on sale right now, too.

Oh yeah, and while you're at it, get an electric boot drier. You'll figure out why.

Chacos or neoprene booties
I use chaco sandals and/or neoprene booties with good soles from NRS for boating.

Dealing with gravel

– Last Updated: Dec-04-14 11:23 AM EST –

I don't do sandals.

Don't want to deal with gravel, and I want my feet/toes protected from sticks, stones, etc.
Have never gotten my toes shredded, speared, scraped or bloodied wearing any type of full coverage water shoes. I can't say the same about sandals.

Don't want hassle of getting stiff soled sandals under, or out from under the canoe seat when I'm kneeling.

Don't want a bunch of straps usually associated with sandals catching on anything.

Want sandals; go for it.
NRS has some good alternatives


I need covered toes. I have done 5mi rocky carrys with my keens in the ADKs. When going lite, I don’t take extra shoes. I have tried water shoes.I was hoping for a lighter, sticker alternative? As an old motorhead,I thought of “tractionizing” the soles. Now there’s a blast from the past!


tough to beat keens for toe protection

– Last Updated: Dec-04-14 11:39 AM EST –

I have an old pair of trail running shoes I've been using lately. They drain incredibly well, have a drawstring lace system so they're easy on and off, and they keep rocks out (sand, not so much). They take a bit longer than my old keen sandals to dry, but cost less than a new pair of keen sandals.
I like to paddle without shoes or soles on my feet.

Did it for years without consequence.
When you have really big feet like mine, you develop a sixth sense about rocks and stuff. Only recently have closed toe sandals in size 15 become fairly available.

google canyoneering shoes
Meant to have great traction but for canoeing you want Vibram soles for rock and root protection to keep your feet from flexing too much.

Salomon Tech Amphibian is an example but the sole is not Vibram. I have several pairs of the Merrell Waterpro Maipo…an older canyoneering watershoe with Vibram soles.

Kevlar laces with loop closure say bye bye to the angst of untied shoes on the portage.

Felt bottom Neopreme Boots
It’s more due to the fact I walk on sharp coral rock all the time, but here we use felt bottom scuba boots. They are slightly higher than ankle height and have a 1/2" 3/4" thick felt bottom (kind of like a scouring bad), rubber toe tip, and a neopreme top. They grip very well on rocks. It’s not impossible to slip, but they make sneakers or rubber soled shoes seem like ice skates in comparison. Out here they are $35 or so a pair.

Felt banned in many states
Those of us that fish rivers have used felt soled wading boots for generations. Unfortunately they have been implicated in carrying invasive species from one River to another and thus have been banned in many states.


I used to have a pair of Alps sandals that had fastex buckles for keeping them tight that were okay. Velcro is a disaster. They fill up with sand and algae and won’t stay on.

Now in all conditions except the cold, I use Asolo hiking shoes made for water. They drain easily and provide good traction. I bought them for hiking in the side canyons of the Grand Canyon and have worn them on all boat trips since.

A tool to clean fuzz or seaweed from
velcro, is called “GripClean” and can be found on Amazon.com for under $7.00. I didn’t check other sites for cost but I have one I found at an estate sale for $1.00.

I use it on different velcro teeth here around the house and also on my water sandal straps. It’s a nifty little item, approximately 3"X1 3/16"X¾" in size and small enough to put in your pocket or ‘handy-dandy kit’.