“Cinderella goes to Lohemann’s” is the mental image evoked for the chore of sorting through booties in today’s market. It’s enough to make a boater give up on footwear entirely—if you’re into toe jam, bloody soles, blisters, bone spurs and infections that’ll last to the next season. Paddling Life took the task head (and foot) on this spring with the following summary of new booties for ’08. With apologies to Patsy Cline, these booties were made for boatin’….
Stohlquist Caveman If your feet belong in the Neolithic era, put them into these booties. The toebox is generously shaped and the neoprene upper surface stretches to accommodate any size instep. What really impressed us: Despite all the room, our heels were held firmly in place by the rubber heel pocket and hook-and-loop adjustable straps, making these booties a joy to walk in. A removable insole offered cushioning rarely found in a bootie, and the ridged vulcanized rubber sole provided excellent traction on dirt and rocks.
These were among the easiest booties in the test to get on and off, owing to the stretchy neoprene and twin pull tabs.
Not a low profile bootie, the Caveman is best suited for boaters who have room for their feet and need footwear for rough scouting and portaging.
For more info check out Stohlquist or call (800) 535-3565
Mion Water Snake Mion keeps your toes toasty with a Smartwool liner, but your feet won’t boil as water in the bootie drains quickly through a port under the heel. Featuring a partially recycled EVA footbed and Gripstick® rubber outsole this is the PL bootie of choice for walking over broken glass, rusty nails, sharp rocks and slate—if you’re ever boating somewhere like that. An adjustable strap around the instep keeps your foot stable, but this bootie is best suited for those with slightly larger heels.
The pull tabs around the cuff and stretchy neoprene construction made these booties very easy to put on and take off.
Large for most playboats, the Water Snake is best for those who paddle larger craft in highly variable temperatures and need a bootie to protect their feet from rough terrain (ie creekin’).
For more info go to Mion Footwear or call (866) 784-MION
Teva P-2 One of the lowest profile booties in our test, the P-2 should satisfy kayakers with all but the smallest playboats. The split toe construction felt odd at first but was adjusted to quickly, and it inspired confidence when moving laterally across steep terrain. This feature, combined with the SSR® outsole, made this bootie an excellent choice for demanding portages. This bootie also had an impressive array of drainage ports–one under the heel and one on each side of the instep.
This snug bootie was difficult to get on and off, but that’s frequently the price of compact sizing.
Fit was this bootie’s only disappointment, and testers with large volume feet complained of tightness at the instep. Teva included an instep strap on the P-2 which those with smaller feet found to keep the bootie snug, but even with it unlatched this bootie was too tight for those with extra wide feet.
Boater who have smaller feet, paddle a small boat and frequently scout and portage through demanding terrain will enjoy this bootie. Raft guides looking for extra style points might want to check it out as well. With the split-toe, you can also use them to retrieve dropped paddles.
Learn more at Teva or call (800) 367-8382
Keen Payette We’re going to borrow some tent terminology and call the Payette a four-season bootie, for the range of sizes it can accommodate. Sure your foot might not change size over the year, but thanks to the three-point lockdown system the Payette will be snug during the summer and still allow you to slip your feet in under the wool and latex socks you’ll want on in the winter. Drainage ports behind the heel and under the instep let water out and the KSF sticky rubber outsole keeps your feet from sliding out on slippery surfaces.
These booties are easy to get on and off, and the straps are more fuss-free than they initially appear.
Those who like to layer up will not find a better bootie out this year. Rafters tired of wearing heavy and soggy hiking boots during the early spring have a new option in the Payette.
For more info check out Keen or call (800) 509-KEEN (5336)
Sperry Top-Sider Cabo Sport Waterfront boaters who need a shoe to take them from the boardwalk to the bar, with a few hours of paddling in between, will be pleased with Sperry’s Cabo Sport. This breathable shoe drains and dries quickly—a big plus for those with sit-on-tops—and is styled like most beach footwear. Getting it on and off is a snap, and the pullcord tightening system is easy to use. GRID® patterned technology cushions your feet and the EVA midsole provides shock absorption.
See more at Sperry or call (800) 617-2239.
Vibram FiveFingers SPRINT Vibram’s FiveFingers Sprint is one of the most unique booties we’ve ever seen—one that acts like a glove by keeping each toe separate from the others. The rationale behind this is that the design closely mimics being barefoot, which it does. Testers found these booties to be difficult to get on, with their little piggies frequently finding sanctuary in the wrong toe sections. The extremely low-cut design and thin sole provide less protection, but this bootie was able to fit in some tight boats we’ve never been able to wear booties in before. Some protection is better than none.
Best suited for those with tight boats and open minds. Keep away from rough portages unless you have some seriously burly ankles. Also a good choice for sit-on-top paddlers fed up with more constricting conventional footwear.
Go to FiveFingers or call (978) 318-0000 ext.208
NRS Scout Water Shoe If you plan on doing some warm summer rafting or canoeing and want to wear one shoe while boating and taking side hikes the Scout is for you. It’s highly ventilated and quick to get on and off, and the HyperGrip® sole is substantial enough for hiking up rocky slopes while your toes stay safe behind a sturdy toe cap. The shoe fits better on those with narrower forefeet and wider heels.
– Sam Weiss
For more info check out NRS or call (877) 677-4327