As either an experienced or aspiring canoe enthusiast, you know that paddling lakes, rivers, and streams is one of the most fulfilling things you do outside. From its numerous health benefits and the ability to relieve stress to achieving a sense of peace while providing closeness to nature, this hobby is extremely rewarding for the body, mind and soul. But, in order to fully enjoy this experience, you have to choose the most suitable gear.

Everybody assumes that you need to find the right paddles, life vests, and the like. Besides the canoe itself and the obvious gear, choosing the right footwear is also very important.

When you’re out exploring the waters, chances are that you’ll also find yourself walking on some beautiful trails or you’ll be portaging overland for short or long stretches. If you are paddling in the rugged parts of Minnesota and Maine, you may also find yourself portaging, a unique and demanding activity. Unlike stand-up paddle boarding where you might expect to be barefoot, canoeing requires that you have capable footwear. It calls for shoes that can provide you the kind of support and protection you need while being in your canoe, on the beach, and on ‘wilder’ paths and portages.

What to look for in shoes for canoeing

Here are some key aspects to take into account when you’re in the market for a brand new pair of shoes for canoeing.

The quality of the material. Always choose shoes that are made of top-notch materials. This way you’ll be sure that they’re comfortable and lightweight, yet very sturdy. This makes perfect sense since we’re of a mind that you need something reliable and long lasting that will offer you optimal protection and keep your feet warm. At the same time, canoe footwear shouldn’t weight you down or be uncomfortable.

Footwear type. You might have noticed by now that there are 2 main types of paddling shoes out there: low-profile and high-profile. The low-profile pairs leave a significant area of your foot exposed and they’re great if you’re going paddling in warm weather or if you don’t plan to do much walking during your canoe trip. High-profile pairs cover the whole foot; sometimes even go past the ankles. They’re perfect if you want your feet warm and protected, as well as if you’ll be wandering a lot off your canoe and exploring nature.

Consider the weather. It’s very important to wear shoes that are suitable for the weather you’re going to be paddling in. Therefore, when it’s warm or hot outside, go for low profile footwear that will allow your feet breathe. When you’re going canoeing in a cold, rainy, or winter day, choose shoes that are high-profile and will keep your feet warm.

Your feet will almost always get wet, so be sure to choose something that feels good when it is soaking on your foot. Trust us on this one.

Here is a list with some of the best shoes for canoeing available on the market:

Chaco Classic Sport Sandal Shoes

Featuring a timeless design, these sandal shoes are perfect for paddling in warm weather. Their adjustable, durable straps will flawlessly custom-fit to your foot and offer awesome support. The toe-loop is a nice addition that will provide great forefoot control for the entire time you’re both in your canoe and walking about in nature. These shoes are ideal for long canoeing days, as they feature the brand’s renowned LUVSEAT PU footbed that’s podiatrist approved, reliable, and very comfortable.

Keen Newport H2 Sandals

An absolute favorite among both rookies and pros, Keen Newport H2 Sandals are extremely comfy, versatile, sturdy and rugged. They offer a solid traction (thanks to their razor-siped soles) and their wonderful toe box will protect you from rocks. Another cool thing about these sandals is that their very lightweight, yet offer amazing toe protection. Plus, the footbed keeps your feet rested and relaxed throughout the day.

NeoSport Wetsuits Paddle Low Top Boots

The lightweight NeoSport Wetsuits Paddle Low Top Boots are extremely durable thanks to their sewn and glued seams which also keep them considerably watertight. Regarding their soles, they are made of a flexible, soft thermoplastic rubber and feature an integrated hardened insert that makes them resistant to punctures. In addition, the aggressive tread pattern these boot feature offers amazing traction. These low-profile canoe shoes come with shock cords which are easily wrapped around your ankle, providing a tight fit. Overall, they’re stylish, affordable, warm and snug. You can slip them on and off with ease and stick well to your feet.

O’Neill Reactor Reef Booties

O’Neill’s Reactor Reef Booties are highly appreciated for their affordable price, lightweight, warmth, and the ability to fit without falling off. These are low-profile footwear made out of neoprene that adds durability and keeps your feet cozy and warm. Therefore, if you were thinking of going canoeing in colder waters, this is a pair that will be a great choice. They also have good resistance to damage thanks to their top-notch rubber soles which also offer a nice firm grip.

NeoSport Wetsuits Premium Neoprene Pull On Boots

Now it’s time to talk about some superb high-profile canoeing boots. NeoSport’s pair is renowned for its durability, lightweight, softness, flexibility, and the ability to keep your feet warm and snug. The neoprene makes them resistant against damage of any kind and awesomely warm; you can wear them during cold weather and when paddling across cold water. Their reliable zipper keeps all the water away from your feet and their soles are specially designed for maximum grip, puncture resistance as well as great protection.

Your old tennis or running shoes

We once asked an experience Boundary Waters canoe guide in Minnesota what he recommended we wear on our feet for canoeing and portages.  We were expecting to hear him say some highly technical product made by Orvis or REI.  We were wrong. He said “I wear an old pair of running shoes.”

The great thing about them is that you’ve worn them in, so they already offer a comfortable fit. Plus, as they’re intended to support active feet that run, jump, and walk a lot, they’re grippy and very breathable. And they’re already old, so getting them wet isn’t going to be a big deal. And they perform well when wet, something that is critical for those you might find themselves portaging.

The shoes we’ve talked about in this article are great for both canoeing newbies and seasoned paddlers. We’ve made the list, now it’s your turn to compare, analyze, and choose the pair that best suits your needs. Enjoy your time aboard!

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