Shoes news


Feb 27, 2006
So I was a big fan of the older-model Keen amphibious sandals as summer kayaking footwear. Sadly, all of their newer models are open at the lower heel back. Great for draining out water and grit, I'm sure. But for someone like me, who has to insert a 1/2 inch lift in one shoe (to offset legs of different lengths*), it rules them out as an option. My last pair of the old-style Keens have multiple cracks on the soles and are not long for this world.

I wandered into the Bass Pro Shop/Cabela's in Tsawwassen Mills today, and found these, the Copper River IIIs, from a brand I suspect is owned by Cabela's, "Worldwide Sportsman." They are either a serious homage to the Keens, a stellar example of convergent evolution, or proof that in some companies, R & D stands for "replicate and duplicate".

Time will tell how durable they prove to be. (FYI, they're not on Cabela's website, but exist in the brick-and-mortar store.)

*This factory defect was not detected until I was about ten years old, to the great chagrin of my parents, as it meant I was just beyond the refund/exchange period.

Copper River III shoes.JPG
I’ve always been leery of shoes with laces or bungees when paddling. I used to wear some Keen sandals that had bungee laces. Man, I loved those sandals and wore them everywhere (including the Banff Beehive hike a number of years ago). Great, great product.

However, in my earlier paddling days I happened to be wearing them during a wet exit (intentional, so in safe waters). Those bungees got hooked on something (I think it was the foot brace adjustment) and I had a brief but scary few seconds where I couldn’t extricate myself and struggled to come up for air. It obviously ended well (I’m still here), but from thereafter I only wear footwear with nothing that can get caught. Currently those are a pair of Deep See 6.5mm neoprene boots that I wear to protect my goretex drysuit booties.

I’m not intending to knock your suggestion Philip; I know you are an experienced paddler who probably already considered that possibility and have weighed the risks. Just a cautionary tale to others when choosing new paddling footwear, especially newer paddlers who are more likely to not keep their cool during an unintended (or in my case, practice) wet exit. :cool:
I'm always on the lookout for a good pair of water shoes and I came across these recently at Trotac here in Victoria. They're made by Gil, a clothing brand that specializes in blue water sailing gear (I use one of their 50 SPF baseball caps for paddling, it's awesome). Something to consider if you're in the market; the small dark panels are mesh areas where the water drains out. Not cheap - I think they run about 140 or so.

Gil water shoe.png
Always seems if you want a quality product with good design, you gotta pay the bucks.
I plan to move to a shoe like this. I've been using NRS paddle shoes for years now. They're so worn out and tattered I'm surprised they still stay on.
If the deck on your boat is low enough to make it a tight fit for your feet (and shoes), shoes with protruding heels may require a trip to the disc sander. That's what I had to do with some similar shoes I got a few years ago.
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I'm really hard on paddling shoes. I wear out the heels driving my feet for torso rotation and whenever I have found a shoe that works and I go to buy a replacement pair they have either been discontinued or changed in some manner that makes them incompatible. I've found a way of extending their life though.

I cut patches from my worn out Glacier Gloves and Shoe Goo them on the outside of the heels. The Teva Churns in the photo are over 10 years old and were completely worn through but are holding up really well after surgery. The Astrals are nearly new and I reinforced them before a problem could develop. I install the reinforcement patches fuzzy side out so that they can slide harmlessly against the hull and they seem to wear like iron.

Shoes? Why shoes? As a kid bare feet across the icy mud flats in winter. Summer, obvious it would be bare feet. And with age? Not much has changed.
Yes, there are a pair of jandals usually jammed in the sides of the cockpit in case of a long walk on stones.
I have tried using shoes but have found that inevitably sand and grit gets in them and sandpapers my feet.
I prefer a pair of old Chaco sandals (not velcro straps). Any sand/grit that gets in can be rinsed out before putting my feet in the boat to slow the sandpapering process down.
In cooler weather I will add a thin neoprene sock (or if the sandals have managed to rub my feet, usually on long trips).
If you are always wearing socks then your feet are protected from sand etc so it is not much of an issue. (Unless sand in shoes wears the drysuit sock too?)
(Unless sand in shoes wears the drysuit sock too?)
That's exactly what happens. Sand can wear away at fabric (like sandpaper) with repetitive paddling movements or walking. A small pebble will put a pinhole in a GoreTex drysuit sock in minutes if it's in a 'pressure spot'. When I wear sneaker-style water shoes with dry pants or a drysuit, I wear neoprene socks between the shoe and the suit, to protect the suit. And that means larger size shoes, which means less foot room in a low volume gets complicated! :)
Y'all have made me want to try some proper water shoes rather than the neostink booties I've been using for years.

Going to give the Astral Hiyaks a try:

One of my paddling buddies picked up a pair of those sometime in the past year. He is very happy with them.

For years he used Keens always had wet feet in his dry suit. He was constantly patching holes in his dry suit socks. He admits to being a slow learner.
One of my paddling buddies picked up a pair of those sometime in the past year. He is very happy with them.

Great to hear a first hand report! I read a bunch of reviews, and most of them are positive. The majority of negative ones seem to be from women (rightfully) complaining that there are no ladies’ sizes and want smaller ones made, and a few from men wanting size 14+. So negative reviews from their perspective, but positive in that they are in demand.

For years he used Keens always had wet feet in his dry suit. He was constantly patching holes in his dry suit socks. He admits to being a slow learner.

Ha! Yes, I don’t miss the Keens whilst paddling. I do miss those sandals for just day to day wear, however.

The neoprene boots worked fine, but on recent outing, I was reminded how little traction they have on slick seaweed covered rocks and how much I can feel through the soles. There are conflicting reviews about the Astrals traction and sole protection, but I will report back once they arrive and I’ve had a chance to try them out. :cool: