When the river starts pumping, it’s time to break out your spring and summer wardrobe. For us here at PaddlingLife, that means living in one outfit: dry top, helmet, life jacket, board shorts and water shoes, be it booties or a full water shoe. The last of this list is what this review is all about. We beat the streets to find the best treats for your feet.
The Teva Gnar:
All there is to say is that these are the shoes of a water god. They’re Teva’s newest shout out to a growing generation of younger paddlers. Don’t be fooled by its fancy styling — these dogs were made for the water. The mesh camouflaged side panels allow for maximum drainability, and the closed cell EVA foam of the tongue and collar are built to absorb no water. Best yet, you’ll feel like a mountain goat hopping from rock to rock knowing your shoes are stable. The secret is in the SSR rubber sole, like the rubber found on the soles of climbing shoes. It’s built to grip like Spider man. You can take them running, biking, hiking, rafting and, of course, kayaking (though not recommended for small boat, mostly for portage). They also make a great everyday shoe.
Teva Cherry Bomb:
If you’re looking for a shoe/ bootie to wear while in your boat and across those scary portages, the Cherry Bomb is up your alley. Made to keep the little piggies warm as well as protect them from the evils of the portage with their toe wrap and 4mm neoprene, the Cherry Bombs also includes the SSR rubber outsole to provide maximum grip on those slippery portages. The SSR rubber goes along with other safety features such as two ankle straps to keep your feet snug. The heel pad is another great feature as it keeps your heels from hitting the plastic of your boat (and if you have to climb in them, they afford good heel hooks). As with the Gnar camouflage seems to be in this year.
Along with the Cherry Bomb and Gnar Teva has also released the Sunkosi 2s Click here for review
Somewhat modeled after their flagship toe-covering model, the Cimarron is made for all aquatic adventures. The non-marking Aqua Stop sole provides traction for many activities, from actually running shuttle when you forget your keys to lounging in a raft. An EVA and mesh upper provide drainability and good airflow for those hot times off the river. The Cimarron also supplies great toe protection with an over the toe wrap. One of our favorites of the bunch.
Chaco’s Z-1, Z-2 and Zong:
While Chaco might have just been sold to Wolverine (owners of Merrell, and not the comic book hero), its feet are still firmly entrenched in the paddlesports market. The Chaco Z/1s and Z/2s are a staple in the river guide diet of footwear. The Z/1 features an open toe design that can be worn both with and without socks, and the Z/2 has a wraparound toe loop that makes it feel like a flip-flop. Focusing on comfort and foot control is exemplified by the pull-through strap system. The Zong take the basic styling of the Z/2 but Chaco has removed the back band to make it into a fore-foot engaging slip-on. Bottom line? Chalk one up for Chaco.
A great little slip on water shoe that is able to fit in your playboat as well as provide traction in river and on the banks, thanks to a Vibram sole. These shoes also ward off noxious paddler-foot odor, thanks to an Aegis Antimicrobial treatment, which kills microbes that cause stench and fungus build-up. With a mostly nylon mesh upper, they don’t offer mambo insulation, but they get the water out fast.
NRS Attack Booty:
The relatively new booties from NRS are a great addition to a paddler’s closet. With great traction, insulation and a great safety system to keep feet from falling out these shoes rage from the playboat to the party. The arch and back heel strap provide a system to keep your foot in place and to prevent ride up.
With an improved HydraGrip sole that wraps over the toe and around the heel they are sure to ward off most bumps and bruises. The Attack shoe also comes equipped with little drainage ports that get the water out fast while still holding out sand and grit.
Sanuk Sidewalk Surfers:
After a long day in the boat your feet need some relaxation. While many sandals constrict your feet and hold them tight, and flip-flops often cause chaffage, the Sanuk Sidewalk Surfers are sheer cush. They look like a shoe but they aren’t. Built with a shoe upper and the bottom half of a sandal, they’re as easy going as it gets – a lot like us paddlers. Based on the company’s Barefoot UnTechnology, they’re meant to not only be comfortable but also work different muscle groups; they allow the foot to walk naturally while still protecting from stones and hazards. Another feature for comfort: the back heel section can fold down to give a more slipper-like feel. Sanuk’s newest design, the Overboard, adds a classic boat shoe look to the mix while still staying true to the original designs. The Overboard also provides a water-resistant canvas upper and drain holes around the toe. Sanuk also makes flip-flops and different styles for men and women. Our only warning: they run a little small.
By Matt Hill