Let’s face it, wearing shoes on the river is more for the people we paddle with than it is for ourselves. For ourselves, walking out barefooted in the cold dark is really unappealing (once your Tevas are lost with your kayak). For our paddling partners, the time you lose cautiously toe-stepping from rock to rock instead of leaping boldly across rugged terrain and into the river to save a pinned / swimming / drowning companion will never be forgiven.
The days of “my sandals are in the back of my kayak” excuse are long gone… today’s booties fit into every boat made. If you run rivers, especially isolated, long, pin-prone, cold ones, you wear shoes.
Choose either a paddling specific “shoe” with a heel cup that runs up high for comfort, or a ‘Sock-fit’ where the sole is minimal. Climbing-shoe rubber is such a huge benefit on rocks it’s probably not worth buying a shoe without it. A low-profile kayak-specific design with a heel-cup should solve your comfort complaints AND give you and your paddling partners additional safety. But old running shoes with a section of the heel sole and foam cut off (for a low-profile fit) should work just fine.
Going “barefoot” on the river is like showing up without a rope…
Having shoes in the back of the kayak, but not ON your feet, is like setting safety, but leaving your rope upstream still clipped in your boat.
by Clay Wright, Team Jackson
From The Eddy Line, July, 2010