What shoes/booties stay on well in deep muck

I was on a group outing not too long ago that involved some unplanned muck walking as we dragged our boats onto an island during low tide. With each step, each foot was probably sinking a good 8-10 inches into the muck. I had almost reached dry land, albeit with considerable difficulty, when one of my water sandals came off. Even though I knew within a few inches of where it had to be, it took me several minutes to find and retrieve it. Anyhoo, just wondering what type of footwear (category or model) people have found particularly good at staying on in such conditions.

I use ankle high zippered neo boots from NRS year round. Just stick them in the water if it is hot. Protects your feet on hot pavement or rocky beaches, usually stay on in muck and make for surer footing when handling the boat. So it doesn’t land on your toes if things slip.

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Old school here, I wear canvas Chuck Taylor Converse All Star high tops. No way they come off, no worse for the wear getting wet, and they dry overnight about as fast as neoprene. I have lace up water shoes but they allow gravel in and the bulbous toes require toe pointing to fit under the kayak deck; only worn twice.


When I used to lead walks in tidal marshes, I used canvas Chuck Taylor Converse high tops and they never came off. My foot never even slipped inside them. Totally solid. Pro tip…double tie the laces.

For kayaking, when it is cool, and especially for kayaking, I prefer zippered neo boots. Again, never slip either, and they are slightly more form fitting than the canvas sneakers, and more cushiony, so I prefer them for kayaking.

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I’m another Chuck Taylor fan. When I lace them up, to provide ankle flexibility, at the instep I skip every other eyelet to the top, double wrap the excess laces around your ankle and tie up.

Great shoe for moving around in a canoe and you have great support should you be out of the boat.

I like Rocsocs as they are stiffer, they give me better support over…you guessed it–rocks. They’re speed laced, so when I need to get out in a soft bottom, I just take them off and go really old school–barefoot.

Best deep mud/muck boots I’ve ever had were U.S. military jungle boots.
I wore/tested them at least 100 times before I wore them out; then bought another pair. Caving in some super nasty caves, some of which had hip deep mud passageways.
No problem with cleanup of the boots, my nylon coveralls, my caving pack, helmet, or any of my other gear. 6 quarter at a car wash.

Lightweight, and provided good ankle support for hiking rough and rocky terrain…
I would not suggest them as ideal for canoeing, but would be good on rough portages.

Vintage miner's helmet and lamp
Vintage carbide lamps by Justrite
Justrite carbide lamp of plastic
Metal carbide container

Some vintage caving gear, which I collect, is pictured

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They are outstanding, but there have been a lot of cheap fakes out there. I prefer the ones w/the panama soles. Definite great use for conditions where you’re stepping down into muck/mud where there are sticks or mixed, wet terrain.

Yep! You are absolutely correct; lots of “knock offs”.
I had the real deal; I’m ex military, and had relative in US Army reserve.


I have been buying 8mm scuba boots made by Thug off of Scuba.com for cold weather use. They have a much thicker sole than anything NRS has to offer and if you stepped in the muck, your leg would likely come off before the boot did. That may not be the best answer though. I jumped out of my boat in to what I thought was shallow water with a sandy bottom and ended up thigh deep in muck. I was about 20 minutes ahead of the rest of the group and I could not get free and when someone showed up to help I lost both shoes trying to get out. Fortunately I had sandals on that day or I might still be there.

I bought Kokatat Nomad knee high boots some years ago figuring I would use them with the drysuit in colder conditions. But I ended up liking them so much I now wear them year round because they can handle the muck and sloppy clay and goose poop launch sites that are so common around here, and I can enter the boat while in shallow water without starting the day with soaked feet. The goretex gaiter-like uppers can be pushed down around my ankles once in the boat to keep my legs cooler. The ankles of the boots are snug enough that there is no way they would come off in the worst sucking bog. I bailed on water sandals long ago since I got sick of gravel and sand getting caught in them.


One of the things I miss is the mandatory Saigon Sams outside of military bases. You could always get ‘milspec’ gear there. In the 90s there was a place in Cheyenne that sold mil items, real ones. He didn’t get much traffic which is a shame because all of his gear was mostly from the AF, so top notch stuff.

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In warm weather I wear TEVA sandals - they have a strong velcro strap that goes around the ankle so they will not be pulled off by mud, and they last for years.
They are open, comfortable and adjustable too, and have a hard sole to keep your feet from aching when pressed against a foot brace for hours.

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I use Gill long sailing boots, which afford me protection from my knees downwards. The inner legging of my drysuit sits well in the boot with the outer legging fastened by velcro fastener. The few times I have capsized and when I walk out of the sea dragging my kayak I have found not so very much sea water in my boots. I use the short version when in camp.

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Chuck Taylors used to be standard rafting wear. Good with fuzzy socks.
They work in any conditions for any craft.

Now there are all kinds of portaging shoes and boots in neoprene. The best ones either lace up or have some straps to tighten them up to stay on in the muck. There is a lot of suction in marshy and boggy areas. Make sure you buy footwear that will stay on. Forget about sandals. Especially sandals with velcro.

I use a pair of inexpensive water shoes that I picked up at Walmart. Very flexible rubber soles that provide great foot protection when walking but allow your feet to grip the foot braces in the kayak. Tops are a sort of tight mesh you can’t really see through but let water pass through easily for drainage. These hug your foot very tightly and don’t come off unless you take them off. I have been in some really thick, muddy muck, coming halfway up my calf, and these stayed on. They may not be ideal for cold water but where I live in South Florida, they are great. Have had them for three seasons and they are still in great shape. I think I paid $12 for them.

NRS Wet shoe or Freestyle. When we put our dock in this spring, everyone else lost a shoe but me. Your feet can still get sucked into mud but you can get then back out. And your feet are atill pretty clean once you take them off.

A few months ago and got a pair of very gently used NRS Boundary Boots for about half of the normal price. They’ve been working really well for me. They reach most of the way to my knee when pulled up, but then I fold down the tops to just above ankle height once I’m off the water.

We haven’t learned to launch from docks yet, and several of the places we’ve gone so far don’t have them anyway. This way I can wade and be far enough in the water to also launch myself without too much awkward scooching, and scraping the kayak bottom, etc.