What Shoes Should I Wear Kayaking?

Kayaking is exciting and fun. But without the right kayaking apparel, you will end up with discomfort or, sometimes, injuries. Do you need special shoes for kayaking? Of course, this is a question that many novice kayakers ask because they believe that kayaking is all about sitting in your vessel and padding.

Your answer lies here!

The proper footwear helps with comfort and protection, and this is not debatable. And whether the river or course-way is calm or full of rapids, your feet are bound to get wet. Your footwear needs to stay on your feet despite the wetness.

So, kayaking shoes are undoubtedly some of the most popular accessories you will find for paddling. They are waterproof and will keep your feet warm and dry despite the paddling conditions. Also, the right kayaking shoe is durable and will serve you religiously for several years.

Special kayaking shoes are breathable and provide the best aeration for your feet. At the same time, they protect your feet and toes from the discomforting impact of creek rocks and other items.

But what type of footwear should you wear kayaking?


Recommend Footwear for Kayaking and Paddling

Ideally, opinions vary on what is suitable kayaking footwear and what is not. We save you the nightmare by discussing some of the viable options that you may need to consider and the very wrong options that you should not contemplate purchasing for your kayaking needs.

Let’s begin the count!


a.       Water Shoes

Look, ordinary shoes are good enough for keeping your feet protected. However, they are not designed for water or wet conditions. They hold a lot of water, and your feet will get heavier. Interestingly, water shoes are manufactured with this in mind and do not hold any water.

They are made from water-resistant materials and will reliably shed water and leave your feet dry. Water shoes are the kind of footwear you need if you want something breathable, thanks to the mesh-like uppers. The uppers are also light and will dry fast.

Interestingly, water shoes feature inbuilt systems that help drain the water and leave your feet relatively dry. A hole at the sole provides drainage in exceptionally damp conditions.

Water shoes are your ultimate choice for kayaking. They have rubber outsoles for exceptionally wet and slippery environments.  You will also like the fact that this category of footwear is available in a variety of brands, models, and sizes.


b.      Skin Shoes

The next option that you would want to consider is skin shoes. They are relatively new on the market and less popular than the first category discussed above. Nonetheless, you will find them pretty effective for kayaking and other water-related activities.

While they come in closed form, they are very breathable and will keep your feet comfortable throughout your kayaking expedition. Skin shoes are easy to put on, and you can slip them on or off at will.

While they are very lightweight, these shoes are very protective. They will reliably protect your toes and feet from impact. You will also find them protective against rocks and other foreign bodies. Their simplicity and the lightweight feature should not fool you into thinking that they are more or less the same as being barefoot.


c.       Kayaking Booties or Neoprene Boots

Call them kayaking boots, kayaking shoes, neoprene boots, or kayaking booties. These are more niche-specific footwear that you will find suitable for kayaking expeditions. These are the ultimate choice of shoes for an avid kayaker whose taste for kayaking goes beyond occasional excursions if you get on and off your vessel frequently as you paddle.

Just like your ordinary boot, kayaking booties are conveniently rugged. Such a feature gives them the proper traction for gripping slippery rocks and surfaces. Additionally, they have extra protection around the toe and the mid-foot. Such a feature protects you from potential injuries from debris or rocks as you walk on water.

Kayaking booties are made from neoprene, and that’s why they are called neoprene boots. You will find heavy and lighter options. So, you have the convenience to choose. They are perfect for cold weather conditions as they will keep your feet dry, warm, and protected. They are warmer than ordinary shoes. You may also need to put on a non-cotton pair of socks for more warmth in frigid environments. Neoprene socks would be a great choice.


d.      Sandals

Should I wear sandals when going on a kayaking trip? Well, this is a question commonly asked by novice and seasoned kayakers alike. Your answer is an emphatic yes. So, you can wear sandals when kayaking.

Sandals are interestingly waterproof and will keep your feet wet most of the time.  Also, they do not hold any weight and dry quicker than ordinary shoes do. Sandals are a perfect option for full-day paddling activities in warm. They are sufficiently aerated and cool.

You will find sandals perfectly easy to put on and take off. Thus, you can remove them and dive into the water for a swim, and put them back on when you are back on your kayak.

When you make your mind to choose sandals as your shoe for water activities, choose water adventure sandals and not ordinary sandals. Water-specific sandals have more rugged soles to help you maneuver rocks and other challenging terrains. They are not slippery like any standard flip-flop and will rarely get off your feet, even in tricky conditions. Besides, they double up as a hiking choice of footwear, making them perfect for kayaking and hiking expeditions.


e.      Old Trainers

Kayaking can be a cost-demanding activity for new entrants. Can you imagine the cumulative investment you will need to acquire a kayak, new equipment, and kayaking attire? Well, it is often a substantial amount that goes beyond the capability of many prospective kayakers. So, your old trainers will suffice.

Still, protection is paramount, making it realistic to check if you can still secure the laces. Trainers are not as warm as neoprene boots. However, they will still prove very valuable in warm or hot conditions. Trainers can also soak in water and get heavy, making swimming in case of a capsize easier.


Bad Options

While we have discussed the most viable options, it is only prudent that we also provide you with options that you need to avoid. So, stay away from the following;


a.       Barefoot

Look, newbie kayakers sometimes choose to go paddling barefoot. Of course, this is not advisable. But why not?

Firstly, weather can be unpredictable. You could start on a relatively warm day, and the weather suddenly turns cold. You do not want to brace the weather barefoot. A suitable footwear helps to provide your feet with warmth in such conditions. It will also protect your feet against direct sunlight.

Notably, apart from staying fashionable, shoes help to protect your feet. And this applies to both special kayaking shoes to your ordinary footwear. Since you will not stay in your kayak throughout the expeditions, you will need to protect your feet against debris, rocks, and hard shells.


b.      Walking Boots

For general purposes, walking boots are great. They are warm and reliably protective. However, they are not suitable for paddling or any other water activities. Avoid them at all costs as they can prove more dangerous for you in water than safer.

Walking boots are heavy and can be uncomfortable once they get wet. Again, anything can happen when you are on the water. And in an unlikely case of a capsize, walking boots can work against you. They restrict your ability to swim, and this may be detrimental. Avoid!


c.       Flip-Flops or Plastic Sandals

Water sandals are exceptional for kayaking expeditions. However, you should avoid plastic sandals, flip-flops, or any other type of footwear that can easily slip off as much as you can. Firstly, they are not as protective as the best kayaking shoes are. They leave your feet and toes exposed and susceptible to impact from debris and rocks.

Also, flip-flops can be very slippery when wet. This interferes with your stability. Can you imagine dragging your kayak from water on wet plastic sandals? Well, that would be very difficult and will prove nearly impossible. At some point, you may be forced to remove your sandals, an action that will expose you to rocks and other foreign bodies.

In the case of a capsize, it is nearly impossible to keep the sandals on your feet when you take a swim. And with most natural rivers full of rocks, stems, and other debris, you risk hurting your feet as you wade back to the river bank or shore.


Tips to Consider When Shopping for A Kayaking Shoe

Now, irrespective of the shoe category that you opt for, the following are some of the tips you need to consider when buying kayaking footwear;

i.                     Size and Fit

Shoes are made for comfort. So, your footwear should neither be too loose to wobble or fall off nor too tight to constrict your foot. Choose shoes that do not allow any gaps inside or at the top. Spaces can hold water, and this will not be suitable for your comfort and movement.

Again, shoes that are too large will easily fall off your feet as you swim, while those that are too small will constrict your feet and possibly bruise your legs. Choose footwear that snugly conforms to your legs.


ii.                   Weight

Look, weight is a special component to consider when choosing kayaking footwear. You will find an array of both lightweight and heavier options. While for many people it could be about personal preference, lightweight models are recommended.

In as much as these shoes are generally breathable, they will still soak in some water. You do not want the additional weight of water to weigh you down further. A heavy kayaking shoe will feel like a brick when it soaks in water, which is detrimental to your movement and capabilities.


iii.                 Height

This has probably come to you as a surprise. However, the height of the footwear you choose also matters. In this case, you can select between low-cut, ankle height, and over the ankle options. The differences are as follows;

  • Low-cut kayaking footwear is often very thin, incredibly lightweight, and ultra-breathable. They do not reach the ankle position and are ideal for warm conditions when you do not need to keep your legs warm.
  • Ankle-cut models are by far the most common types. They are versatile and easy to carry. You can use them in both warm and cold conditions. Often, this category of kayaking booties comes with an outstanding balance of warmth, protection, and breathability. But in cold conditions, you may need to wear them with socks.
  • Over-the-ankle shoes are the highest cuts you will find in the market. They are ideal for cold conditions. They protect against impact and extreme cold. While these boots look bulky, they do not way much. They are also very comfortable and breathable.


iv.                 Material

If you are going for boots, consider those made from neoprene materials. The material is lightweight, non-slip, flexible, fast-drying, and breathable. A combination of neoprene and titanium is also a good pick. Incorporating titanium into the formula essentially improves performance and durability.

Soles should be made from steady rubber to protect your feet from rocks and debris. The outer sole should be non-slip and have the right Again, any reinforcements on the sole also protect the forefoot when you slip or fall.


v.                   Season

Kayak is an all-season activity. And just with any kayaking attire, the season will determine the type of shoe opt to purchase. For cold seasons, choose options that will keep your legs warm. On the other hand, good aeration is good for kayaking in warmer conditions. But if you are an avid kayaker who paddle regardless of the season, you may need more than a single pair of kayaking shoes.


Key Takeaway

Having the right shoes is a crucial consideration if you are looking t enjoy your paddling expeditions. In this article, we have highlighted some of the types that you may consider. But even after deciding on the right style, choosing can still be difficult, particularly bearing in mind that there are several models for every category. We advise you to take your time before you make a choice. And if you can, owning two or more pairs is not a mistake.