whitewater rafting shoes

Best Whitewater Rafting Shoes (For Men & Women)

Welcome to ThinkVail – we hope you find this review of the Best Whitewater Rafting Shoes helpful.

When rafting, kayaking, tubing, fishing or for most any way that you enjoy the water, life is better with a good pair of water shoes. They protect your feet from sharp objects like, rocks, sticks, and submerged metal in the water. They give you tons of traction whether you’re in a muddy put-in, a steep portage or a side hike in a slot canyon. In Vail, Colorado, when the rivers begin to run in the spring, they are made completely of snow melt, so the water is very cold and the right river shoes will keep your feet warm and dry.

First and foremost, you want a shoe that will not get pulled off of your feet if you fall out of the raft or take a swim in your kayak, all shoes must stay securely on your feet. If the water is cold look for booties or dry boots.

If your river trip also includes a side excursion such as hiking or zip lining you are going to want a shoe with a good, tough outsole that will protect your feet on the trail.

Look for a good lug for lots of traction on both dry land and wet, slippery surfaces.

Lastly, but most importantly, you want a comfortable shoe that you can wear all day long and not get sore or fatigued.

The following river shoes are the cream of the crop, so have fun finding the ones that are right for you and your adventure!


See Also: Best Dry Bags for Boating


The Best Whitewater Rafting Shoes


NRS Boundary Dry Boots NRS Boundary Dry Boot

NRS, or Northwest River Supplies has been making professional-grade river equipment since 1974. Their gear is rugged, reliable and built to the standards of professional river outfitters and guides. You will wonder how you lived without these dry boots.

  • Made of Neoprene, Titanium laminate and plastic
  • Completely waterproof
  • High traction, 6mm rubber soles makes portages easier, no matter the terrain.
  • Adjustable ladder buckle and instep strap offers a secure closure system that keeps your boot on your foot
  • 15 inch, knee-high style boot is waterproof and warm. Ideal for wet, mucky put-ins.
  • Feature a 5mm neoprene upper that is glued, blind-stitched and double-taped to ensure your feet stay warm and dry.
  • Features a 7mm neoprene insole
  • 2mm plastic shim offers protection against sharp objects or terrain.
  • Taped Seams
  • GlideSkin cuff
  • Tall boot style allows for easy entry/exit from your boat while in 12-16 inches of water.

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Chaco Women’s ZX2 Sandal Chacos Women's ZX2 Classic Athletic Sandals

Chaco has been making premium water sandals since 1989. Their products are versatile, super adjustable, durable and really comfortable. This is a shoe that can take on any river!

  • Classic sandal is made of 100% polyester jacquard webbing so you can customize the fit to your foot
  • Toe-loop for additional forefoot control
  • Rubber sole and durable high-tensile heel risers keep rocks, sticks and any other sharp object away from your feet.
  • Podiatrist-certified LUVSEAT footbed insures contoured arch support
  • Non-marking ChacoGrip rubber outsole with 3mm lug keeps you from slipping in the wet conditions.
  • Available in variety of colors
  • A variety of strap styles to suit your mood and your needs
  • Midsoles are made out of polyurethane compounds and do not break down or compress with wear, so it is durable and long-lasting.
  • All Chaco footwear features a biocentric footbed and has received the American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA) Seal of Acceptance.

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Chaco Men’s Z1 Unaweep Sandal Chaco Men's Z1 Unaweep Sandals

Like the Chaco Women’s sandal, this Chaco Men’s sandal is a boss both, on the river and off.

  • Made of polyester jacquard webbing that can be adjusted for an ultimate customized fit.
  • Thick, synthetic sole and 1″ heel risers protects the bottom of your feet from rocks, sticks and sharp objects
  • Custom injection-molded ladder buckle lock at the ankle for a secure hold that keeps your shoe in place.
  • Podiatrist-certified LUVSEAT polyurethane footbed is slip resistant and offers arch support and all-day comfort. This biocentric footbed has received the American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA) Seal of Acceptance.
  • Non-marking unaweep outsole with vibram tc-1 rubber and 45 millimeter lugs for incredible traction and durability on land and water.
  • Unaweep Vibram® TC-1 outsole boasts toothy lugs for exceptional footing.
  • Bigger, bulky style allows you to trek anywhere in these sandals

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Crocs Swiftwater Mesh Sandal

Crocs Men's Swiftwater mesh sandal

Crocs, need no introduction. In 2002, they took the country by storm and have been making great shoes ever since. These river sandals are no exception. With more than $1billion annually in shoes sales and more that 600 million pairs of shoes sold, it’s safe to say that Crocs know a thing or two about shoes.

  • Synthetic sole
  • Stretchable mesh upper
  • Features the iconic Crocs comfort
  • Hook and loop (Velcro) closure keeps the shoe secure but is easy to put on and take off
  • Synthetic lining for all-day wear.
  • Footbed is made of Croslite,™ Crocs’ proprietary closed-cell resin, which produces a soft, comfortable, lightweight, superior-gripping, non-marking and odor-resistant shoe.
  • Perfect for professional and recreational uses such as boating, hiking, hospitality and gardening.

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Astral Men’s Filipe Outdoor Sandals Astral Men's Filipe Flip Flop Sandals with strap

If you LOVE flip-flops this is the shoe for you. Flip flops are never recommended on a river trip but these flip-flops include a removable, securing strap around the foot and ankle so they are perfect for rafting, kayaking or boating of any kind.

  • The Ultimate Flip Flop, these shoes are super comfy and convert to an action sandal with the easy ankle strap attachment (included)
  • Made of recycled polyester these shoes feature a cushioned synthetic leather with a soft, wicking knit liner and soft nylon toe post
  • G.15 rubber outsole is flexible, extra grippy, super sticky, abrasion resistant and non-marking and will take you where you want to go without slipping!
  • FLIP Lug pattern sheds debris to keep it looking and feeling fresh
  • Level foot bed promotes balance and agility
  • Wide forefoot lets your feet and toes spread out for stability
  • Lightweight, at only 178g/shoe, it’s easy to forget you’re wearing shoes
  • Synthetic leather shoes are vegan
  • They instantly convert from a flip-flop into a “sandal” via a simple accessory strap.

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Astral Women’s Rosa Outdoor Sandals Astral Women's Rose Flip Flop Sandal with Strap

The Astral Women’s Rose is perfect for the woman who loves flip-flops but also wants to be able to easily convert them to an athletic sandal.

  • Made of 15mm polyester webbing with ladder buckle lock
  • Featuring a rubber sole
  • The uppers are made of vegan, cushioned synthetic leather with cute embroidery and emboss details.
  • Soft, wicking knit liner, reflective star at center
  • Soft nylon webbing toe post.
  • Midsole are made of dual density EVA with G.15 rubber pods at foot bed to make shoes more durable and long-lasting.
  • Super-grippy and non-marking on most surfaces.
  • Includes an easy to convert Ankle Strap
  • Available in Red, Grey Black and Turquoise
  • The removable heel strap turns this flip-flop into a regular sandal.
  • Ideal for the adventurous girl!

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Sea to Summit Ultra Flex Booties Sea to Summit Ultraflex Bootie

Since 1983 Sea to Summit has embraced “Design Perfectionism” and creates ingenious, functionally beautiful products with a “no worries” Australian attitude. They are always coming up with the next cool thing, these booties are no exception.

  • Made of 3mm neoprene
  • Rubber laminated, flexible, sensitive sole gives great feedback for technical pursuits while boating, however don’t rely on this boot to keep your feet protected if you have to portage.
  • Secure Y-pull Velcro strap system keeps shoes in place
  • Low profile style is lightweight and easy going but chances are they will take on water when you head into the big waves so you may have to drain them occasionally.
  • Stitching lines have been optimized to prevent chaffing from foot straps.
  • Super comfortable boots.

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KEEN Men’s Newport H2 Sandal Keen Men's Newport H2 Sandal

Keen is an American company based in Portland, Oregon that has been producing great footwear since 2003. Their shoes’ signature feature is the thick black toe bumper that makes these water shoes, durable, practical and able to hit the trails or the rapids just as easily.

  • Made of water-resistant leather
  • Made in the USA
  • Synthetic sole has great grip and the multi directional lug pattern offers traction even on wet surfaces
  • even on wet surfaces
  • Thick 1.25″ heel keeps your feet safe from rocks, sticks and sharp objects
  • Pull-on sport sandal style
  • Double-needle stitching and leather upper with Keen logo
  • AEGIS Microbe Shield-treated lining for natural odor control
  • Quick-draw bungee lacing system
  • Patented toe guard protects all your little piggies way better than any other sandal
  • Easy-on heel loop
  • Non-marking siped outsole.
  • Hydrophobic, breathable mesh lining sieves water
  • Removable polyurethane foot bed conforms to your specific foot shape
  • The secure fit strap design adjusts for a comfortable fit.
  • Machine Washable on Gentle Cycle

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KEEN Women’s Newport H2 Sandal Keen Women's H2O River Sandals

  • 100% washable polyester webbing uppers
  • Made in the USA
  • Synthetic sole
  • Sporty sandal featuring contrast stitching, ghillie lacing, and rubber toe bumper
  • Compression-molded EVA midsole. Secure fit lace capture system. Hydrophobic mesh lining
  • Multi-directional lugs
  • TPU stability shank ; PFC Free materials
  • Razor siped outsole and 3mm lugs provide excellent traction on all sorts of surfaces. Siping is a process of cutting thin slits across a rubber surface to improve traction.
  • Odor-reducing Aegis Microbe Shield lining.
  • KEEN patented toe guard offers tons of protection whether you are on a river or a trail.
  • Machine washable on gentle cycle.

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ALEADER Men’s Quick Drying Aqua Water Shoes ALEADER Men's Quick Drying Aqua Water Shoes

Born on the water,  these rugged water shoes are built for comfort and designed to be lightweight. They protect your feet from cuts and abrasions caused by rough pool bottoms or rocky shallows.

  • Fabric upper
  • Rubber sole protects your feet
  • Breathable and durable air mesh upper allow the foot to breathe and water to sieve for excellent drainage
  • Solyte midsole is exceptionally lightweight and has excellent bounce-back properties.
  • Full coverage shoe is very durable
  • Water Grip and cushion outsole offers exceptional traction in wet and slippery conditions
  • ComforDry sockliner and arch support insole provides the optimum cushioning.
  • Drainage ports are engineered into the shoe to keep water flowing out and away from your foot.
  • Vegan material
  • Rubber pods strategically placed in high wear areas for additional traction.
  • Quick drying, breathable hydrophobic engineered mesh

See Also : Aleaders Women Quick Drying Water Shoes


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See Also: Where to Raft in Vail, Colorado


Comments whitewater rafting shoes

If you’re planning an awesome rafting or kayaking trip you are going to want the best whitewater rafting shoes. Please tell us YOUR favorite water shoes and why? Are your favorite river shoes on this list? If not please leave a comment and tell us the brand and why it should have a place on the list. Water adventures are so much better with a good pair of shoes, please let us know a favorite story where shoes saved the trip or where they were the bane of your existence, we would love to hear all about it!


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6 Comments

  • Harry

    Great post about whitewater rafting shoes and awesome timing as I am looking for a good pair of river shoes for my girlfriend.  I have been rafting for years and love it, it is one of my favorite hobbies, my girlfriend id ne to the sport and I want her to enjoy it. She has a tendency to get cold so I am looking for shoes that will help keep her warm and happy so she will like rafting as much as I do.

    I am thinking the NRS Boundary Dry Boots or the Ultra Flex Booties.  What are your thoughts on these shoes and which would you recommend?

    • ThinkVail

      Hi Harry, thanks for the comment on the post about the best whitewater rafting shoes and I hope the article and my response helps you in making your decision for your girlfriends white water shoes.  If you are looking for a good, waterproof shoe to keep her feet warm, I would not mess around I would go with the NRS Boundary shoes.  The Ultra Flex booties, with their low profile will take on water and make her feet cold especially if your rafting in spring run off waters. The NRS Boundary shoes are completely waterproof and she could wear a pair of thin wool socks if needed for added warmth.  These shoes will keep her warm, happy and wanting to go rafting with you every weekend. Also check out the article onthe Best Dry Bags for Raftingso she can take additional layers of clothing and change them out if she gets wet or once you pull out of the river.

  • RoDarrick

    Great article about the best whitewater rafting shoes.  I have been a river guide for years as well as spend my free time paddling any river I can.  This is a great list with a lot of good shoes and it has my current favorites; the Chaco Men’s Z1 Unaweep Sandal. These sandals can take on anything and they are comfortable even if you are guiding all day long but keep your feet safe if you end up taking a swim.  They can handle rough, steep portages, and any type of trail but they also look good with a pair of jeans if your going into town for a bite of food or to go to the bar.  Super versatile shoes that last forever even with hard use.

    cheers

    • ThinkVail

      So happy you found the article about The Best Whitewater Rafting Shoes helpful and yes great minds must think alike(!!!) Chaco sandals rock and the Unaweep style is a burly beast of a shoe.  Chacos are also great for women, they are a classic sandal that has been popular for years, and for good reason, they work hard and they look great.

  • Marlo

    I love my Chacos, and so does my wife and I would definitely give them a thumbs up. We are planning a trip to Vail next summer and are very interested in fishing and rafting on the Colorado, can you steer me in the direction of guides and raft rental shops that I can check out before we get there?  We would love to have all booked and reserved ahead of time, before we get to Vail. Any info and advice you have would be greatly appreciated.

    • ThinkVail

      Hi Marlo, thank you for your comment and yes, Chacos are definitely high up on of the favorites on the list of Best Whitewater Rafting Shoes. And don’t forget to bring yours along when you come to Vail next summer for a fun adventure of rafting and fishing.  Yes I would be happy to steer you in the right direction, check out the post White Water Rafting in Vail, CO for tons of information on local rivers, what to expect and a list of outfitters for rafting.  We also have a post all about Fly Fishing in Vail, CO that can give you lots of information about fishing in the area.  I hope this helps and have a wonderful time when you come to Vail, Colorado!

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