Footwear: A Splashy New Breed

Outside magazine, July 1996


Footwear: A Splashy New Breed
By Jonathon Hanson


Sport sandals are evolving furiously--offering sophisticated footbeds, grippier soles, and multitudinous strap arrangements. The only problem is, they're still sandals: cool, light, great in water, but lacking the support and protection for hiking side canyons or jagged coastlines.

For boaters who enjoy the occasional dry-land excursion, there's a new phylum of footwear to meet your aqua and terra needs. Known as water shoes or amphibious sport shoes, they have laces and moderately lugged soles that make them look more like trail shoes than river wear--and that's exactly the point. They're equally at home sloshing about the bottom of a raft and gripping steep sandstone. Designed to be worn sockless and built with quick-drying mesh panels, water shoes are squelchy just after a dunking but drain water quickly enough to stay light on the trail.

Teva Wet Climber The stylish Wet Climber ($80; 805-684-6694) combines a rugged upper of mesh and waterproof leather with Teva's stickiest River Rubber sole to keep you anchored on the slickest rock. The laces thread around the heel, securing the shoes in the worst of recirculators, while two tiny one-way drains in the heel squirt out trapped water. For shore jaunts, a reinforced heel counter provides good lateral support, and a rubber-encased toe box guards against scree-scrapes.

Five-Ten Water Tennie The Water Tennie ($96; 909-798-4222) boasts four drains in the sole, plus nearly see-through mesh in the upper--when you step out of the water your feet look like trawlers shrugging off a North Sea gale. A cushioned insole that rivals a running shoe's makes it the best of the lot for riverside jogging, and two buckling neoprene straps and an elastic and hook-and-loop ankle collar comfortably secure your foot. The only downside: a slightly marshmallowy feel on side slopes.

Hi-Tec Aqua Terra For less money than most sport sandals, the Aqua Terra ($50; 209-545-1111) meets all your amphibian needs. A neoprene ankle collar lets you slip them on and off even while laced, and the tongueless construction helps keep out infiltrating sand, although they don't feel quite as secure as the Teva Wet Climber and don't drain as quickly. Flexible enough to be worn as a snorkeling bootie, the Aqua Terra is a bit soft for jogging, but its molded sole is comfortable, and grippy rubber wraps up far enough to protect the sides of your foot while hiking.

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