Choosing The Best Kayaking Shoes
If you intend to kayak in the near future, you must get yourself kitted out with the right pair of shoes. Even if you just kayak on a casual basis to soak up a bit of sun and tranquility, bear in mind that waterlogged and sodden shoes make for an uncomfortable experience and can potentially ruin an otherwise fun day out.
Suppose you’re a seasoned kayaker and take your sport a bit more seriously. In that case, factors like agility, foot protection, and general safety make purchasing a good pair of shoes before getting onto the water even more crucial.
There’s a huge variety of Watersport shoes available on the market, each with unique designs and features tailored to their specific purpose and activity. Although this is great for kayaking enthusiasts, it can certainly complicate matters when choosing the right shoes to buy.
We’ve put together a guide of what kinds of shoes are suitable for kayaking, as well as what features to look out for. This will, of course, depend on your particular kayak adventure and level of experience.
What Shoes Can You Wear Kayaking?
Over the years, the designs of wet shoes have been fine-tuned and refined, and today there is a massive range of different styles, cuts, and materials available. Insulation technology, water drainage features, interlacing grip patterns on the soles, and aesthetic, stylistic features are just some of the attributes wet shoes boast.
Wet shoes are usually made of neoprene, which is the same durable rubber fabric used for wetsuits. Neoprene acts as an insulator by trapping water between the skin and a layer of the neoprene material. They will also likely come with a top made of a flexible, air-permeable fabric called air mesh. This makes the shoes breathable and comfortable and prevents your feet from feeling too clammy. Rubber soles will additionally provide grip and form a layer of protection from any sharp objects you might stand on. Wet shoes are also very quick to dry, and this makes them practical to pack and store.
Price range – Slightly thicker and more durable neoprene models start at around £20.
These come up over the ankles and will provide a bit more warmth and support for your feet. They usually come with a thicker layer of neoprene than standard wet shoes, increasing their potential for insulation. These are, therefore, an excellent option for winter.
Price range – Prices start very reasonably at around £12 for 3mm thick neoprene and rubber soles, although they might not be the most durable at the lower end of the price range. These aqua boots are available at £12.99. Other more sophisticated designs start at about £40, like these ones.
Also known as aqua socks, these are a much thinner, slip-on alternative to standard wet shoes. While they are very lightweight, they still provide some traction. They’re a good option if you want to have the sensation of being barefoot while still having some protection.
Price range – These are great for beginners on a budget at around £14. These thin designs still come in a range of different styles with various features. These stretchy polyester skin shoes are available in various colors and designs and come with a sturdy gum sole for £13.99.
In warmer weather, a good, sturdy pair of sandals can be a good option. Just make sure they come with adequate grip and fit well enough that your feet don’t slip around. Look out for neoprene models and designs with features specifically created for contact with water.
Price range: These neoprene lined sandals offer a sturdy grip and secure velcro straps for £19.99.
If you’re on a very low budget, then a pair of old trainers you don’t mind ruining will suffice. They provide some protection for your feet but will become quite uncomfortable when wet and cold – so probably an option to avoid in cold weather. The other thing to bear in mind is that they might weigh you down while swimming if you capsize.
The Bottom Line
The best shoes for kayaking are wet shoes or wet boots that fulfil all the criteria needed for the sport, namely: adequate insulation, lightweight flexibility for swimming, adequate protection underfoot, quick-drying, and mould resistant. But when starting out, certain other types of shoes can be a suitable, cheaper option.
Things To Consider When Buying A Pair Of Wet Shoes
If you do decide to get some wet shoes, then there are certain factors to take into account in order to make sure you make the optimal purchase.
Wet shoes work most effectively and are most comfortable when they’re just the right size. Ensure there’s no gap at the heel or any excess room around the sides, as this will allow water to seep in and reduce the insulation’s efficacy. If the shoes feel comfortable, don’t feel like they’re slipping off, and you can move your feet with ease, then they’re probably a good fit.
Consider additionally the size and shape of your kayak’s foot hold, and check your new shoes will be complementary.
Season and Temperature
The weather and season will have a big impact on which shoes you should wear out on your kayak. Low temperatures can put your health at risk if you’re not amply prepared, and adequate insulation of your feet should be taken into account. In colder winter months, choose neoprene of around 5mm thickness and opt for above-the-ankle boot options for optimal warmth.
In warmer months, you’ll want to focus on getting shoes with a breathable fabric as a build-up of sweat is unhealthy for the skin of your feet and can lead to bacteria growth. Look for low-cut wet shoes with a thinner material. Some models have holes on the sole which serve to drain out excess water, perfect for hot days.
Manufacturers will usually indicate in the product description what kind of season they’re designed for to help guide your purchase.
Neoprene, sometimes fortified with polyester, is the near-imperishable material made for the pros. But more affordable products sometimes come made of lycra, which is also fast-drying and can be a perfectly suitable choice for beginners. Bear in mind that lycra is much less durable than neoprene, so it probably won’t last you through the years to come.
Assess what you intend on doing in your wet shoes and how many trips and seasons they need to endure before making the purchase. If you want your kayaking shoes to last a few years, then choosing a more expensive one will be best.
Some wet shoes come with straps, which can help secure the shoe, but be aware that straps can potentially get caught on rocks or branches, becoming more of an obstacle than a support mechanism. Be careful about buying open-toed designs, too, as any falling debris could injure the parts of your feet left unprotected as well as leaving them exposed to the elements.
The sole is the most critical part of the shoe to pay attention to. Look for designs that have a thick, sturdy, rubber sole which will provide a good deal of grip and protect your feet from any crooked objects underfoot. Slips and falls are the main cause of kayaking-related injuries, and making sure you have adequate traction on your soles will help prevent this (along with a cautious step!).
Walking long distances over rocky surfaces or stoney beaches with an aqua-sock thin wet shoe will cause a lot of discomfort and potentially an injury. So rapids and rocky terrains necessitate a much thicker-soled wet shoe to protect your foot from sharp objects. Meanwhile, on smooth sandy beaches and in warm, gentle waters you’ll be tempted to swim in, it’s best to go with breathable, tensile shoes. This will allow for maximum flexibility while treading water or swimming and provide ample comfort walking along the sandy shore.
Be prepared for your kayaking adventures by making sure you purchase the optimal shoes for you. Whether walking along the riverbank, swimming, or coasteering as accompanying activities to your kayaking, you want to make sure your shoes support your feet and keep you safe from slips or injuries. As long as you make sure your choice of shoe fits snug, has a thick enough sole underfoot, and insulates your feet adequately in winter, then you can’t go far wrong.
For summer months and ventures on hot, sandy beaches, look for wet shoes with a thinner material that will allow for breathability and maximum comfort.
With such a variety of designs, materials, and cuts, there is simply no excuse for not having feet correctly kitted out for kayaking, no matter the terrain, weather, season, or activity. The diversity of price ranges and brands means there are shoes available for everybody’s budget, from beginner to pro.