For me, finding the best canoeing shoes was a lot of trial and error. On my first big canoe trip, I remember bringing “waterproof” sandals and a pair of running shoes – eventually both got wet and never truly dried. It wasn’t until my most recent summer guiding that I ~finally~ found my dream system totally tailored to my preferences.

But that won’t happen to you, because you’re taking the time to research shoes for canoeing before your trip. Good for you. That foresight will bode well for you in the backcountry.

So rather than diving into the exact shoes I recommend, I’d like to take a few moments to explain what I look for in a good pair of canoeing shoes – both my “wet” shoes and my “dry” shoes. Okay, let’s begin.

What do I use currently? My wet shoes are Salomon Supercross and my dry shoes are Teva Hurricane, both of which I’ve outlined below.

Hi I'm Mikaela, your wilderness guide!

Wet Shoes: What you Wear in the Canoe

Your “wet shoes” are the shoes you wear during the day. Whether it’s getting in and out of the canoe, stepping in a puddle on a portage or encountering a rainstorm – they most definitely will get wet.

The best shoe for canoeing is dependent on the trip you’re taking. So ask yourself the following questions:

  • What time of year will you be canoeing? Exclusively summer, or spring and autumn too?
  • Will you be primarily paddling on flat water? Or will there be whitewater too?
  • Will there be portages?

The best canoe shoe for you will be dependent on your answers above.

What properties to look for in any canoeing shoe

Comfort: You will be wearing these shoes for the hardest and longest parts of the day. You want something comfortable. That means a shoe that fits well and doesn’t give you blisters. If you ever canoe on your knees, you probably want something with a flexible ankle. If you primarily canoe in the summer you want something with ventilation that won’t make your feet overheat. But if you also canoe in the spring or autumn, you want something that can go over wool socks.

Traction: If you can, you want canoe shoes you can also wear on a portage because then you can avoid changing your shoes during the day. That means you want something with good, sturdy traction. This is why some people canoe in hiking boots, but there are plenty of non-hiking boots that offer a comparable level of traction.

Closed Toe: You want your entire foot to be covered. This prevents sticks from getting in your shoes during a portage or cutting your foot on a submerged rock if wading through rapids.

Durable: You want your shoes to at least last the season, if not many more, so durability is an important consideration. Sharp rocks under the water can cut through fabric or wear away at the sole if the materials aren’t durable. Hiking on rugged portage trails can do the same.

Quick Dry: Not as important, but definitely something I care about, is how quickly the shoes dry. I really hate putting wet shoes on in the morning, so I like my canoeing shoes to be quick dry, and ideally dry overnight.

Tip: If your shoes get wet during the day, and they have inserts (i.e. hiking boots), take the inserts out and dry them and the shoes by the fire. Don’t put them too close though or they might melt. Leave the inserts out of the shoes until you have to put them on in the morning. That gives the inserts as much time to dry as possible.

Read more: The Ultimate Guide to Canoe Camping

Additional properties to look for in a river shoe

River shoes (also referred to as ‘white water shoes’) are specifically used for canoeing on rivers where you will encounter rapids or white water. You may have to get out of the canoe to scout rapids, wade across moving water or go into a rapid to retrieve a pinned canoe. Since you could be walking on uneven rocks in moving water, you need your river shoes to have a few specific properties.

It is very important river shoes be closed-toed. Traction is especially important as well, because you’ll be walking on submerged rocks. If you will be canoeing in a dry suit (in the spring or autumn) consider river shoes that can be worn over the feet of the dry suit.

Read more: How to Get Started Whitewater Canoeing

Canoeing on the Noire River

My Tops Picks for Wet Canoeing Shoes


Salomon Trail Running Shoes

Check prices here.

What I Love

  • Depending on the model, there is great stability / ankle support
  • Less sturdy options are incredibly breathable
  • Traction is great for portaging
  • Quick drying
  • Lots of options of varying stability, durability and breathability

What I Don’t Love

  • Mine were more breathable and less durable, so the fabric on the top of the shoes ripped a bit when I got my foot caught on a sharp rock (but this was after 40 nights in the wilderness)

Astral Brewer 2.0

Brewer 2.0

Check prices here.

What I Love

  • Super sticky rubber sole is especially good on slippery rocks portages
  • Incredibly durable sole
  • Designed specifically for water sports, so excellent waterproofing and quick drying

What I Don’t Love

  • Would prefer more ankle support if there were long and challenging portages
  • Although nothing has happened to them yet, I have some concerns about the durability of the fabric

Keen Clearwater CNX

Women's Clearwater CNX in GARGOYLE/NORSE BLUE - large view.
Check prices here.

What I Love

  • Very breathable and dry incredibly quickly
  • Excellent traction (great for navigating wet rocks at campsites but not great for walking in rapids)
  • The best shoe for summer flatwater paddling with minimal portages
  • Most popular canoeing shoe of my peers

What I Don’t Love

  • Heel strap stretches over time so your foot slides backwards
  • Sticks get stuck inside on portages, cut my exposed heel on a rock once while wearing these shoes
  • Don’t feel super sturdy – always felt like I was sliding out of them, especially when wet

Keen Newport H2

Women's Newport H2

Check prices here.

What I Love

  • This sandal is a beast – best durability and best traction out of any sandal I’ve ever tried canoeing with
  • Unlike the one above, there are no holes at the front of the foot which reduce the number of sticks getting inside during a portage
  • Dry quickly, fairly breathable

What I Don’t Love

  • Very bulky for sandals, the toe covering is quite bit and the clunkiness takes some getting used to
  • Some concerns about the heel strap over time, but much more durable than the shoe listed above

Tip: I’ve been able to buy my last few pairs of canoeing shoes on sale by shopping through one of the following: Mountain Equipment Co-Op (CAN), Atmosphere (CAN), Altitude Sports (CAN) and Backcountry (US). Check there first before ordering a pair of shoes from the brand’s website.

Scouting rapids on the Missinaibi, wearing Salomon Trail runners as my canoeing shoes
Scouting rapids in the older version of these Salomon Trail Running Shoes

Dry Shoes: What you Wear at the Campsite

Your ‘dry shoes’ or ‘site shoes’ are your light at the end of the tunnel. After a long day on the water I get so excited to take my soggy canoe shoes off my tired feet and slip on a pair of breathable, comfy sandals. I do my absolute best to keep these shoes dry no matter what. Because dry shoes are only worn at site, you don’t need to worry about their performance ability as much. Here are the things I care about:

Wool Socks Compatibility: The shoes need to be easily worn over wool socks. That means anything that separates my toes is a no-go for me.

Comfort and Breathability: I like the shoes to be as open and loose as possible. That means no running shoes or similar shoes that cover my whole foot.

Waterproof / Quick Dry: Even though these are dry shoes, there is a chance they’ll get wet. Like if you drop them in the water by mistake, step in a puddle or get caught in the rain. Ideally you want these shoes to dry as fast as possible so your dry shoes continue on as dry shoes.

Tip: I don’t change into my dry shoes (or my campsite clothing) until camp is totally set up. If it looks like it might rain heavily, I don’t change into my dry shoes either. I do everything in my power to keep them dry.


My Tops Picks for Dry Canoeing Shoes


Tevas Hurricane XLT2

Check prices here.

What I Love

  • My go-to campsite shoe
  • Easy to put on and take off, and fit nicely over wool socks
  • Waterproof, and dry really quickly

What I Don’t Love

  • Straps aren’t super sturdy – not recommended for hiking or portaging


Chaco’s Z / Cloud

Check prices here.

What I Love

  • The look WAY more attractive than Tevas or Keens
  • Quick to slip on and take off
  • Rubber sole makes them good on (somewhat) slipper rocks
  • Waterproof and dry reasonably quickly

What I Don’t Love

  • The strap across the foot closest to the toes isn’t adjustable
  • I don’t find them super compatible with big wool socks
  • Not super sturdy – not recommended for hiking or portaging


Crocs Classic

Angle

Check prices here.

What I Love

  • Fastest drying shoe ever
  • Fit comfortably over wool socks
  • Excellent breathability

What I Don’t Love

  • Be careful close to the fire, as the heat and embers can melt the shoes
  • Not great traction / stability
  • They’re Crocs

Personally, my favourite out of the above are Tevas, though I do like Chaco’s as well. I really dislike Crocs as a product, but I can’t deny that they tick all the boxes for dry shoes. A lot of the older Wilderness Canoe Association members I canoe with swear by them.

Cooking dinner on a camping trip, wearing tevas as my canoeing shoes
My Tevas in action!

Canoeing Shoes: Some Final Tips

I really hope this post has been helpful in choosing your next pairs of canoeing shoes. Here are a few final tips for having comfortable feet on trip. If you end up purchasing a pair of shoes, comment what you chose below!

  • Don’t be afraid to experiment – if one shoe really isn’t working for you, try something else
  • Join a canoe group like Ontario Canoe Tripping or Wilderness Canoe Association to ask experienced paddlers for advice before making purchases
  • Don’t leave your shoes out overnight (evening rain or the morning dew will make them wet) – keep them under your vestibule
  • Have a pair of wool socks dedicated for sleeping – don’t let these get wet ever!

Happy adventuring!

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