Let's face it, being barefoot is an awesome part of paddling for a variety of reasons. But every so often, we have to get from point a to point b just to get to the water. Or perhaps in an oc6 we want a little traction to lock in some extra leg drive on the slipper canoe bottom. What if there was a totally amphibious shoe designed to work in the water, and on land with almost immediate drying, and look rather cool to boot (pun intended)?! Well there is, and we took it on the most strenuous trip we could to test it out!
I recently did an amazing paddle race/journey called Maui Nui. We paddled from Maui to Moloka'i to Lana'i and back to Maui. 3 days, 100 miles in an oc6. And it was a perfect testing ground (pun#2) to try out these shoes. We had to jump in and out of the canoe, swim to shore, walk across kiawe thorns and lava rock, and all the while paddle effectively without worrying about something uncomfortable on our feet.
We got our pair of the ZKG Amphibious Shoe from OnTheWater360. This California-Paddler-Started company offers thoroughly tested gear that paddlers of all craft rely on to enjoy time on and off the water. According to their website, this item is "an amphibious shoe with high grip, perfectly adapted for OC6 or any other marine vessel, or even on the street. Made from perforated neoprene for great drainage, and super flexibility."
Our impressions on land
First off, I spend most of my time in flip-flops/slippahs. And when I rarely wear shoes, it is Airwalks or running shoes, and always with socks. So I was a little worried about getting blisters. However that was never a problem. Even after hiking a mile along cliffs and rocky dirt trails to a beach on Lana'i. The shoes were comfortable as any other shoes I wear, and extremely flexible. No break-in time was needed. Plenty of hiking in between paddles, and trips to the harbor to schlep things from the escort boat to the campsites and they felt just like any other pair of shoes.
I have to say, one of the best parts on land to be rocking these shoes was when I had to take a little trip across a kiawe grove. For anyone who has walked along the beaches of Hawaii, these bushes and trees are notorious for the thorns that rip right through the feet of barefoot travelers. And many a flip-flop or sandal has come across these thorns too and had them puncture all the way to flesh. These thorns are enough to have you hobbling for days if you are not properly equipped. Well, I found about 8 of them in my shoes by the time my little journey across the thorns was complete. Each one buried deeper then the one before it as I pulled them out. However none of these got deep enough to penetrate the sole and get to my feet. Unlike the friend of mine rocking a pair of Locals slippers (which I normally would have been in as well).
Impressions in water
I had to jump off and swim from our escort boat out to a moving canoe as part of our change-race several times. One of those times I was going in for the finishing leg of the race. Afterwards we had to swim from the canoe to land across sharp rocks and a shallow slippery stretch of water and then help carry gear and the canoe to the beach. Having the shoes was perfect as I could walk in the water without any worries of stepping on a sharp rock. Within a minute of being on land, my shoes were reasonably dry and light again to wear without any discomfort. While I was in the canoe they actually provided some added grip when I paddled too, allowing me to use my legs more with each stroke.
Impressions from jumping off a waterfall
Ok, so this one might not be a normal testing environment, but when on the road to Hana on Maui, we came across some waterfalls. And like any good Cali Paddler, I decided to explore the surrounding trails to see about getting to the top to jump off. The trail was found, and I was very glad to have the shoes as it was slippery, muddy, and rocky. That said, I got to the top of the trail and there was only one way down without losing my pride. Good thing my shoes were made for water right? In fact, a friend ended up jumping later and borrowed the shoes herself to scale the trail and across a river.
Only thing I didn't get a chance to try was paddling SUP in these shoes. Which may or may not be something paddlers want to do. But if someone has a ways to walk from their car to the water's edge, these shoes would be a great part of the ensemble. And wouldn't take up space in the board's cargo straps or risks falling into the water like flip-flops have when I paddled SUP and had a wave or boat wake wash over the board. I plan to try them on a prone paddleboard workout soon, since I have started wearing booties more when I do that so my feet don't get sunburned.
If you are looking for some quick dry shoes to paddle in, these are certainly worth a look! They are comfortable, dry super fast, and work for hiking and paddling. They even look like normal shoes and come in various colors which is great if you want to avoid looking like a tourist as you walk to the beach in some hideous aqua-socks as I have worn in the past. The only thing these won't be super helpful for is providing significant cold-water protection. While they may offer minimal warmth, folks looking to keep their feet warm in cold winter waters, a full neoprene surf bootie would probably still be best. I invite you head over and check out these shoes at On The Water 360 and see what colors and sizes they have for you. Chances are they will have something that will be good for your sole (pun#3). And if you did want something for cold water, they have solutions for that too.
[Thank you to OTW360 and Cyril Derreumaux for the chance to demo some of your great products and share with other Cali Paddlers our experience.]
Team Writer Clarke Graves - If there is water, he will paddle it (regardless of craft). Clarke is a surfer turned paddler who grew up in San Diego but has traveled every corner of California enjoying its beauty and appeal. He has had the privilege of racing SUP, OC6, OC2, OC1, Prone and can't wait to hop into a dragon boat and surf-ski for an extended length of time.
One of Clarke's goals is to paddle as much shoreline in California as he can, with as many paddling friends who are willing to join him. If you have an idea for Clarke to write about or any questions, send it our way and we will pass it along!