Essential Gear: Foot Coverings

Outside magazine, May 1996

Essential Gear: Foot Coverings

Think of your footwear as helmets for your feet: If you do wind up in the water, ricocheting off boulders in the feet-first position, you'll appreciate a little sole asylum.

Despite the fact that the first sport sandal was designed by a river guide and sandals are almost synonymous with rafts, these days some outfitters ban them. Sandals come off, they complain, and guides spend too much time retrieving them for clients. This faction also insists that a sandal doesn't protect the toes and sides of your feet the way, say, a pair of old Keds does. (But Keds squish when wet and take forever to dry.)

Enter the latest in river gear, the water shoe. (Pictured at far right is Hi-Tec's Aqua Terra, $55; 800-521-1698.) Not to be confused with the flimsier water sock introduced a decade ago, water shoes stay on in big water, protect the entire foot, and dry quickly--though some models lack the traction and support of a good sport sandal.

In fact, sport sandals have legions of loyalists. Among the most loyal are kids, who appreciate a sandal's barefoot feel without a bare foot's vulnerability to cuts and abrasions. The newest sandal models self-bail, which speeds the already-speedy drying process, and in addition to Velcro, straps come with buckles or ratchets for added hold. Wearers should be prepared to endure one indignity, however: that so-called Teva tan.

The following companies offer full lines of sport sandals. For information, call Hi-Tec, Nike Inc. (800-344-6453), Five Ten Co. (909-798-4222), Deckers Outdoor Corp. (800-433-2537), Merrell (800-869-3348), or Teva (800-433-2537).

Copyright 1996, Outside Magazine

More Gear