Finding the Best Water Shoes for Kayaking

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Finding the Best Water Shoes for Kayaking


Footwear, it’s probably one of the last things that you think about before a kayak trip, but when you’re out on the water, your shoes need to do everything – be waterproof, provide traction, and protect the soles of your feet from sharp rocks. Paddling with the wrong shoes is miserable, so your footwear can make or break the trip.

Water shoes can take many forms – some paddlers choose sandals, others prefer booties, and there are even a few models that you could probably pass off as sneakers. Their only common trait is that they perform well when wet, and that’s why you need water shoes for kayaking; regular shoes swell up and take forever to dry.

Person wearing sandals standing in water.

What to Look for in Water Shoes

Kayakers need to be particularly careful when choosing water shoes, there’s a lot to consider. They need to be comfortable when they’re up against the boat’s foot pedals, sometimes for hours at a time. They need to have great traction, for when you step out of the boat and need to pull it ashore over slimy rocks.

Water shoes have to dry as quickly as possible, so as to prevent hypothermia when the waters are cold or from the feeling that you’ve contracted trench foot when the weather’s warm. Even more challenging, they need to be comfortable for walking and provide ankle support in case you need to hike for a mile or so while carting your 50-pound kayak.

It can seem almost impossible to find a shoe that can do all these things and do them well. One shoe that does fit this jack-of-all-trades profile is the Chaco Z2 Pro; it’s an excellent shoe from a company that’s been a favorite of river guides for decades.

Chaco Z2 Review

You probably already knew that Chacos are some of the best water shoes out there. Outdoors enthusiasts, in and out of the water, love the brand, and the Z2 doesn’t deviate from the qualities that have made the brand so famous.

  • Chaco is renowned for their unique strap system that is completely adjustable. No matter the shape of your foot, these shoes can be tightened to fit like a glove.

    Chaco is renowned for their unique strap system that is completely adjustable. No matter the shape of your foot, these shoes can be tightened to fit like a glove.

  • Their polyester straps dry very quickly compared to the nylon that is often used in water shoes.

    Their polyester straps dry very quickly compared to the nylon that is often used in water shoes.

  • After walking a couple miles, flip-flops can be hell on your feet, but Chacos are lauded for their excellent arch support. The Z2 Pros are no different in this respect and can be used for hiking sandals in addition to water shoes.

    After walking a couple miles, flip-flops can be hell on your feet, but Chacos are lauded for their excellent arch support. The Z2 Pros are no different in this respect and can be used for hiking sandals in addition to water shoes.

  • There are plenty of less expensive sandals you could use for kayaking, but few will provide the stability that comes with Chacos. Along with their famed arch support, the strap system provides great ankle support for a relatively minimalist shoe. No one wants to twist an ankle while navigating a rocky shoreline.

    There are plenty of less expensive sandals you could use for kayaking, but few will provide the stability that comes with Chacos. Along with their famed arch support, the strap system provides great ankle support for a relatively minimalist shoe. No one wants to twist an ankle while navigating a rocky shoreline.

  • One of their downsides it that they are heavier than a lot of other water shoes on the market, which makes them less than ideal if you’re planning to take them with you traveling.
  • The thick soles also lessen your ability to sense what’s going on under your feet. On any mountain scramble, you want to feel the angle of the rock underneath you, so you can get a better grip. With your feet underwater, feeling the rock beneath you is doubly important, because you won’t be able to see through the water well enough to judge your foot’s placement. On the other hand, a thick sole provides protection against the sharp rocks you can’t see too.
  • Some users complain that the back strap causes blisters on their first few uses. This is a problem you’ll find with almost any watershoe, or hiking shoe for that matter, and your foot will gradually become conditioned and stop blistering. This is more of a problem for paddlers who need to hike to their put-in point, and probably won’t affect those who just need to get from the car to the kayak.
  • minus
    As sandals, they provide no protection from the cold and can really only be used during the warmer months. They also can’t be worn in cold, glacier-fed waters, but for most kayak trips, they’re a great fit.

Conclusion

It’s well worth it to invest in good footwear for paddling; you’ll reduce your chance of injury and feel more comfortable traversing challenging environments. The Chaco Z2 Pros are an excellent choice for paddlers (or really any outdoor enthusiast).

Admittedly, they are not the best for cold-weather paddling, as they provide no insulation, but they’re fantastic in warm waters. You’re also not limited to using these Chacos just on the water; they’re great hiking and walking shoes too. No need to have a closet full of shoes

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2018-01-18T07:26:30+00:00 By |Gear Reviews, Kayak|

About the Author:

Ian Waterman Here, my true passions in life are all things water related like kayaking, fishing and most water sports. I love being outdoors and trying new things. Some of my fondest memories are camping as a small boy and fishing with my family

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