Keeping Warm, Pt. 10: Kayak shoes!

Keeping Warm, Pt. 10: Kayak shoes!

Why is it that shoes are so exciting? I think it’s because our feet don’t get fat. We may not fit into our favorite jeans from high school anymore, but we can still wear our buffalo platforms (remember them? We wore them with Brittania jeans with leather pocket details).

Returning to the 21st century, let’s talk about kayak shoes.

Tevas & similar sandals

Teva sandals, popular with kayakers

The popular kayaker sandal by Teva

Most people wear sandals, like Tevas. I don’t have a pair of these so I can’t speak from personal experience, but judging on the number of paddlers who do wear them, I guess they’re good. They’re certainly quick-drying and cool. Some people worry about the straps getting caught on a foot peg in the case of a capsize, but I think the actuality of that happening depends a lot on the type of paddling a person does.


What is not to love? You don’t have to look at them–they’re under your deck. Personally, I sort of adore these shoes, but I also love Uggs. So, yeah, I have questionable taste. It’s not a secret, the world has eyes.

Here’s what is good about Crocs: They are easy to keep clean and fresh, knock-offs are very cheap, they float, they come in great colors, and they last until the strap breaks. I like the somewhat stiff and cushiony sole because I push hard against the foot pegs and these keep my feet from hurting. This, however, is my favorite thing

Paddling shoes you love to hate

Comfy, hygienic, great colors, and you can wash them in the dishwasher!

about Crocs: they can be washed in the dishwasher. A shoe that can be washed in the dishwasher is awesome.

Here’s what’s bad about them: For me, at least, the strap around the back of the ankle can be uncomfortable on long journeys. However, the dishwasher factor outweighs the strap irritation.


Five Fingers

I love these shoes. You may be sensing a theme. I really like ugly

Vibram Five Fingers, kayak-friendly & stylish

Coolest shoes ever? Why, yes, they are!

shoes. I want to look like a cartoon from the ankles down. Anyway, these shoes have many benefits. First, they’re hilarious. Second, perfect strangers will point and laugh at you on the street (this has actually happened to me). Third, they’re really comfortable once you get used to them. Fourth, they dry quickly. Fifth, they can go in the clothes washer (not the dishwasher). Sixth, they last pretty long. I’ve had mine for about 4 years and they’re only just beginning to come apart. If you do Crossfit or lift weights, they’ll do double-duty in your sports gear footwear wardrobe. The only downside of them is that not everyone wants to be pointed and laughed at on the street. Plus, they’re not cheap at about $80. Also, you can’t really buy them online. You have to try them on in person. I had to buy them to fit the length of my toes, not the size of my feet.

Actual kayak shoes & scuba booties

Can’t complain about these. They were the first kayak shoes I

NRS paddler shoes

Reliable, affordable, & easy on the eyes

bought and my first pair is still holding up after 5+ years of heavy use. They’re affordable, sturdy, and not too ugly (that’s their main downside). I’d like the sole to be a little stiffer. They let my feet hurt on a long journey, but for most trips, they’re good shoes.


Kayak boots on steroids

NRS kayak boots

These bomb-proof boots are suitable or the apocalypse.

I love these NRS boots. There’s a more expensive version that’s used by British SAS and Navy Seals, but these do the job. I like them because the sole is stiff and they’re great for long journeys and also for short hikes and climbing over slippery rocks. The inset strap is adjustable, so you can make them fit comfortably. They’re sturdy and they look fine. So I recommend these without reservation.

Tall boots

I really like the way these types of boots look. I feel like a superhero

NRS neoprene boots

Best for canoeing

in my Chota Mukluks. However, they do fill up with water if you swim. They’re good for days when the chances of a capsize are low and you have to step into cold water to get into your kayak. As long as the water is lower than the top of the boot, these really are waterproof. I tend to wear mine mostly for canoeing, & I recommend them highly for that.

And that’s the scoop on footwear for paddlers. I’ve missed a bunch of types, I’m sure. What do you recommend and why?

— Jay Gitomer

Keeping Warm (& looking good), Pt. 9: Shopping Sources

It’s easy to walk into REI and drop a bundle on cute rashguards and such. But where the fun in that? Where is the challenge? There are better prices and a better selection in other departments. Women’s bike clothes are mostly suitable for paddling, and you can find cuter styles at better prices. Ditto for yoga clothes. So shop widely.

Here are a few links to places that have that sort of thing at good prices. For those who like to shop in person, don’t overlook the big box stores; Target and, yes, Walmart have some nice styles. And depending on your neighborhood, TJ Maxx, Marshall’s, and Burlington Coat Factory often have large activewear sections. Also, since we’re always on the highway going to one paddling adventure to another, we pass lots of activewear outlets. Build in shopping time to score some bargains on the road. This is easier to do if you’re driving with female paddling partners. Did I even need to type that?


Great prices. They carry Roxy, Columbia, North Face, and lots of other stuff. The sales are great.

Swim Outlet:

Some bargains. Great selection of all the cool women’s outdoor brands, including Roxy and Shebeest.

Activewear USA:

Click on the link to On Sale. The other prices aren’t great. The selection is good, though.



— Jay Gitomer

Keeping Warm and Safe, Pt. 8: Helmets

I bought my first helmet nearly 10 years ago and never gave much thought to it. I was at a symposium and was signed up for an intro to surf class and the class required a helmet. I went to the outfitter nearby and pulled a blue one off the shelf (my kayak was blue and I wanted to match). I pulled it over my head. It fit and I bought it. Fortunately, I got lucky. Unbeknownst to me, I bought a whitewater helmet that was well padded, comfortable, had ear covers, and provided complete head protection – a feature I really like.

So now that I know more about kayaking and paddling in surf and other rough water conditions, how would I go about selecting a helmet? In other words, what features are essential when selecting a helmet?

Basically, there are two types of helmets to choose from and three primary features you should consider.

The two main helmet types are – a full cut helmet 20150119_151420(my preference) where the head is fully covered-ears and temples, or the half cut helmet 52da51e3__SDHCDUOGW.LEFTwhich sits on top of the head and doesn’t cover the ears or temples. The latter tends to be more comfortable and looser fitting and from my point of view is much prettier. The former provides greater coverage and for us risk-averse Babes seems safer. Having said this however, I see half cut helmets being worn by white water paddlers and sea kayak surfers alike.

The three critical helmet features to consider regardless of helmet type are: the material of the outer shell; the interior lining or padding, and the strap system to keep it on your head. Let’s start with the outer shell.

At the time of my helmet purchase nearly 10 years ago, most of the helmets were made of a hard plastic. Today, you can get them in plastic, carbon, kevlar, carbon kevlar. You name it. And the styles and shapes are countless.

When selecting your helmet’s shell, think about where you will be paddling and from what you need to protect your head. Helmets made from carbon and Kevlar are the strongest and hardest material while plastic is less so.

While my uneducated purchase of a whitewater helmet years ago was a good choice in terms of head coverage, the outer shell is made of plastic, so it probably doesn’t afford me the best protection in severe conditions. Even though, it has served me well and I have had no problems (cracks, chips, etc.) and most importantly head injuries. However, as I have evolved as a paddler and find myself in more extreme conditions, I find myself in the market for a helmet with a stronger shell.

The second element of the helmet is the padding or liner. The lining is really important because if you have the unfortunate experience of actually banging your head (unpleasant to say the least) you want to make sure that the liner will absorb the shock and direct it away from your head to the shell. According to experts, there are two types of lining in a helmet – the foam that rests against the shell which is responsible for redirecting shock from any impact and the softer inner layer that touches your head.

When it comes to fit you want a helmet with a snug fit but not a tight fit. If it feels like it’s squeezing you, it’s too tight. If it feels like you can spin it, it’s too loose. A good fit is when the liner is slightly compressed with no space between your head and the foam.

The third element of the helmet is the strap system. In my experience this is just as important as the shell and lining. Make sure your straps fit nice and flat against the side of your face and that the buckle and adjustment system are easy to manipulate so it gives you a nice snug fit. Although, most buckles are made of plastic, make sure it is not the cheaper brittle kind of plastic that could easily break or over time become affected by use and not hold a clasp. I can tell you there is nothing more nerve wracking than to feel your helmet slip backwards off your head as you are about to take a wave or just as scary, feel that the buckle is not securely fastened.

Finally, there is another element that is frequently a consideration for us Babes. That is the fashion element, specifically – color and style. There are a multitude of companies out there now that offer all sorts of styles and colors. Some helmets even come with glitter. My latest favorite helmet company is Shred Ready: I like them not only because they offer a multitude of helmets types for kayakers – style and materials, including the very sexy Vixen a0c7830b__vx_fgreen_left– their version of a women’s helmet, but also because their products are of exceptional quality, they have a helpful fit guide and they have a range of prices which gives us Babes lots of options. And we all like options!

So do some exploring. See what’s out there. These tips should help you pick the right helmet for you!

— Kerry Pflugh

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