Tech Amphibian
Tech Amphibian (courtesy, Salomon)

Should I buy specialized water shoes for a kayaking trip?

I’m planning a nine-day, 24-mile canoeing expedition to the Boundary Waters in early July. As for footwear, would it be better to purchase a pair of hiking boots or a pair of Salomon phibian water shoes? We'll mostly be in the canoe, with about five miles of portaging at most. Which option would be better? Jonathan La Grange, Illinois

Tech Amphibian

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Actually, five miles sounds like quite a bit, given that you’ll be lugging your gear and a canoe. So I’m kind of on the fence. On the one hand, the Salomon Tech Amphibians ($75; will give you good traction and foot protection, plus drain well when they get wet, which is inevitable. They’re much better than water sandals for what you’ll be doing. But they won’t offer a ton of support, which may be an issue.

Tech Amphibian Tech Amphibian

The alternative is a light, fast-drying hiking boot, something such as Merrell’s Chameleon Ventilator ($110; But, they really aren’t a water boot, so while they can stand getting wet, you wouldn’ want to dunk them and just leave them soaking for days. Nike’s ACG Air Zoom Tallac boots ($140; have a waterproof bootie and are made almost entirely of synthetic materials, so they wouldn’t mind a dunking and would dry fast. They’re also extremely light (just over two pounds per pair) and have an interesting “exoskeleton” that wraps around the shoe to add support. They’d be a good choice.

So, my take is that it all depends on how much ankle support you think you’ll need. If your route takes you through several short portages that add up to the five miles, I’d say the Salomons would be perfectly fine. But, if they’re mile-plus portages, consider the Zoom Tallacs.

Have a great trip!

Check out Outside‘s 2004 Buyer’s Guide for more paddling gear reviews and advice.

From Outside Magazine, April/May 2021
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Lead Photo: courtesy, Salomon