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?

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— Jay Gitomer

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