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Paddling Footwear

In warm conditions, many paddlers like sandals because they're light and airy.

Photo: Dany Coulombe


  • For use in water, select polyurethane footbeds, not suede.
  • If the sandals don't have loops over the big toes, you can wear them with neoprene socks in colder conditions.

Hard vs. Soft Soles

  • Soft-soled footwear flexes easily, great for kneeling in a canoe.
  • Hard soles protect the bottom of your feet better when portaging over rocks or when slamming against the footpedals after drops over waves or waterfalls.
  • Many whitewater play boats are too small to comfortably accommodate hard-soled shoes. Soft-soled neoprene booties are a good option (available with Kevlar®-reinforced heels and soles for durability). Stow a pair of sandals in the back of the boat for walking over rocks.
  • Stiffer uppers offer more ankle support when wading or portaging, but are not as comfortable when kneeling.
  • Neoprene socks under a pair of old running shoes offer a bit more ankle support.

Cold Weather Footwear

  • Many cold weather paddlers favour high-cut "semi-dry" neoprene boots, which are more flexible and comfortable than Wellingtons or yachting boots.
  • Ankle seals on high-cut boots withstand wave splashes and quick dunks, allowing you to wade in several inches of water during launches or landings.
  • Even if water does slop into the tops, the boots retain considerable warmth.

Foot Care

On longer paddling trips, when your feet are damp and enclosed all day, athlete's foot is a distinct possibility.

  • Go barefoot as much as possible at lunch stops and at the end of the day.
  • If going barefoot is impractical, change into dry socks and footwear once you're off the water.
  • Be sure your feet are completely dry before going to bed.
  • Some paddlers apply anti-athlete's foot powders or creams at the beginning of each paddling day.