water shoes

After going through …

– Last Updated: Mar-08-12 9:14 AM EST –

Several $5 pairs of the kind with mesh top sold in Target and the like, I bought NRS Kickers and they have held without any visible signs of wear for the past 2 years of use. By the way, I would still be using the said $5 pair shoes if I could find these particular ones with a thin sole as they are very comfy and lower profile than just about anything else I've seen, plus more breathable and light.

The NRS Kickers have a good sole but are not too stiff either - in my case that is important because they allow some flex to fit into tight (for me) cockpits. It is a compromise, because (at least with my skinny but long feet) these shoes feel a bit lose when walking and may cause the foot to twist inside if the shoe steps at an angle on a rock - not something you want with the kayak on your shoulder and a rapid below you.
Still my prefered shoe for one very simple reason - I have not found anything else reasonably priced that works well enough in size 15...

I also have a pair of Montrail Griptonite shoes that are a much tighter fit and a lot more secure on the foot once put. I've used these for many years now, first surfing and now kayaking. They are harder to put on and off and their sole is stiffer so it might not comform well inside the kayak (but more solid when walking) plus they are lower profile than the Kickers. I would not wind surf with the Kickers - too much movement of my foot inside, where the Griptonite is what it says - it grips both your foot and the surf board and has nice bumps on the bottom that prevent the dreaded aquaplaning against the surf board that you get with bare feet or some other flat-surface soles.

Neither shoe offers real cold protection - you need your dry suit's water-proof socks plus a neo sock in the winter to wade comfortably in cold water in the high 30s F.

not great for a kayak
My experience is that shoes with a big heel don’t work in a kayak. You need your heels to sit close to the floor when you’re seated. Shoes like the Gnarkosi appear to have at least an inch of foam and rubber behind your heel, and that makes even medium sized feet hard to fit in a lot of kayaks.

This is why I have trouble beating the silly looking NRS booties. They have a low-profile rubber sole that wraps up behind the heel. Perfect design for sitting in a kayak.

Not keen on Keen
I liked my Keen water sandals because they were wide enough to fit my foot and because they had toe protection.

That said, they dissolved in short order, the stitching was poor and failed and the company offered nothing for me unless I could produce the dated sales receipt, which I had thrown out.

So while my initial impression was good, I won’t buy Keens again. I will probably go back to old sneakers, as I have a supply and they last just as long.

Thick Soles
I find the thick soled water shoes very uncomfortable in the boat. If they have a squared off heel it’s even worse. For me water shoes have to cover most of the foot, dry quickly and have a low volume and rounded heel to fit in the kayak comfortably. The soles only need to be thick enough to protect the bottom of my foot from sharp rocks not thick and shock absorbent like a running shoe. There’s not room for big clunky shoes in many kayaks.

Big Feet
Having big feet, i ran into the problem of shoes not fitting as well. I suggest the barefoot type running shoe. It takes a bit to get used to, but no problem with my feet fitting. I installed some gel cushions onto my feet pegs to cushion my heel.

Best danged warm wadda shoo
ah’s ever had wuz de ol’ L.L. Bean canvas “canoe shoe”. Guess dems stopped makin’ dem cuz they didn’t look “yuppie” 'nuff.


thats sad.
My keen Newport watershoes are well over five years old and still rock solid. However, the other keen products I’ve had did wear a bit fast for my taste.

Ryan L.

I got the NRS kickers and love them. Thanks for all the advise. I used them today for the first time. and they keep my feet warm even after they get wet. and they feel good on my feet.


Adidas Hyrdoterra
After looking at virtually every specialty water shoe company’s shoes, I thought they all looked dumb and goofy.

I finally found these two pair, I love them they are comfortable, dry and drain well and look like normal shoes instead of dorky half shoe/half sandals.



Fivefingers or Merrell
I’ve been using the Vibram Fivefingers ‘KSO’, they drain fast and have just enough protection while still fitting well in a tight cockpit. Their ‘Flow’ model is just like the ‘KSO’ but in Neoprene with a stickier, rock gripping sole compound. I just recently stocked the Merrell Water Glove shoe in my shop, and it looks like it would be a great kayaking shoe also, a minimalist shoe with a siped Vibram H2o sole in fast draining mesh. Check 'em out!

FF v Merrell
I had some five fingers - they were great but my mutant toes kept falling out of the little toe sleeves, so I had to sell them. I tried on the Merrell water gloves which seemed really good - no toe divisions, but the rest of the shoe felt similar, maybe a bit more protective than the FF. I plan to pick some up after I get sick of / wear out all the crappy shoes I’ve been using lately.

Keen knockoffs
I have a pair of Keen sandal knockoffs purchased at Sports Authority, forgot the actual brand name. THey look very similar to the Keen “Kanyon” model.


They have the rubber cap over the toes which I like and the elastic tightening “bungee” which I like. Dislikes are lack of traction on slick surfaces like moss covered rocks or muddy banks, and on my model there is no mesh on the open parts of the upper which allows gravel to get in. This happens often enough and is annoying enough that I’m looking for replacement shoes.

Keen not good for all but great shoes!
I absolutely love Keen shoes…BUT…I don’t wear them in my Whitewater boats! I have big feet and it’s already tight in there. If you can pull off the Keen’s…they definitely cannot be beat! I usually wear neoprene booties…there was nothing special about them but the hard sole is a must if you are dealing with foot pegs. I just bought a pair of Five Fingers and I’m loving them. I’ve worn them in the pool so far and not on the river, so i cannot say if they would suck on the wet rocks and such. I’ll let you know in afew months when the water is warm enough to ditch the neoprene boots! In cold water (Nov/Mar), I’ve paired my neoprene boots with hydroskin socks and it works great to keep my feet warm. (I paddle in wet suit currently, so do not have dry suit booties)

Sperry Son-R Booties
I’m four outings into my sperry son-r booties and I’m liking them more and more. Good all around bootie. Fits in my ww boat and sea kayak. Good heal and toe protection, they are comfortable and most of all they look good! Nice grippy soles. The mid-foot adjustment strap could tighten a little more, but still a solid fit.

Keen Knockoffs
I also have a pair of Keen Knockoff sandals (Newport style) that are very good and only cost $20 at Big 5 Sporting Goods about 4 years ago. They are SAND brand and I cannot find them on the internet at all now. I should have bought several pairs.