Best River Shoe for 15th Straight Year

I've been wearing NRS Paddle Wet Shoes for over 15 years. In the beginning it was just a pretty good river shoe. But, every year they insisted on improving it. Now it is almost perfect for the canoe, kayak, paddle board, pack raft and inflatable.

The NRS Paddle Wet Shoe is comfortable in ice cold salt water or hot and muddy tropics. 

Most of my paddling is on rivers with granite ledges and rocks that are often slimy and moss covered. The rubbery soles of the NRS paddle wet shoes are tough for portaging over rocks and gravel and the nubs on the soles splay and grip to help prevent slipping. There is enough tread on the soles to enable stability in mud and slick river banks.

The sole wraps up over the roomy toe box to give protection, no more split and bloody toenails when you jam your foot between two underwater boulders.

The rubber sole turns up on the heel, protecting your sensitive heel bone and the kayak bottom. There is even a protective patch for your ankle bone. For whitewater canoeists the soft neoprene shoes bend with your foot and ankle in the kneeling position. 

The neoprene shoes are low-profile and form fitting to give hours of comfort even in snug bows of whitewater play boats. The neoprene uppers are form fitting and reinforced with bands to snug the shoe around your foot and ankle so no debris, sand or silt can make its way into the shoe.

There are no drain holes to allow sand and silt to infiltrate. These shoes will not get sucked off your feet in deep mucky bottoms or mud. The gusseted zipper makes taking them on and off a breeze. No tugging and struggling. 

They weigh just over a pound, so won't weigh you down on the portage. The sole is plenty tough enough for rocks, gravel and pavement. But, for long portages, and in camp, I change to my dry hiking shoes for comfort and to give the wet shoes a chance to dry overnight. I appreciate the hiking shoes because I can use my custom inserts that support my arches and help prevent plantar fasciitis on long portages under heavy loads. 

The complaint I hear most about NRS Paddle Wet shoes is the sizing. If in doubt order them a half size larger, especially if you plan to wear socks or drysuit booties or inserts.

The other complaint I hear is the sole does not offer arch support. The solution is to use shoe inserts with increased arch support.

I first learned about real foot pain when I started hiking on the Appalachian Trail. Up until then my biggest complaint had been tired feet.

After hiking many miles with a heavy pack I began to experience numbness, shooting pains, dull aches in my feet, especially in my heels. After sitting for even an hour and then trying to walk I would have to hobble until feeling returned to my feet, then deal with the pain.

Waking up in the morning I had to ease into walking, afraid my numb feet would not support my weight. I went to a foot doctor and that began my long education in plantar fasciitis.

I have pronated feet, especially my right foot. It rolls in on the heel. I wear inserts to correct the problem and provide relief from plantar fasciitis. My first pair of inserts came from a foot doctor and cost over $300. He determined the shape of my feet and how to shape the inserts by scanning my feet on a footbed with sensors. The inserts were very effective and gave instant and lasting relief as long as I wore them every day without fail.

Shortly after getting the inserts I was planning a hiking expedition to remote waterfalls in Hawaii. To reach some of the remote waterfalls we would be wading up rivers for as much as a mile. I wanted to wear the foot inserts but was afraid that constant immersion would delaminate and deteriorate my $300 investment.

One day I was walking through a Walmart store and spotted a Dr. Scholl´s foot scanning kiosk and my problem was solved.

Dr. Scholls shoe inserts for plantar fasciitis pain prevention and relief

The inserts sell for less than $50 so I bought two pair. They turned out to be just as comfortable as the $300 custom orthotics and withstood wearing in water.

An unexpected pleasant consequence of the Dr. Scholl´s inserts is they are 3/4 length, meaning my toes are now free to roam around an increased toe box.

Since getting the inserts I have not had toe blisters or blackened toenails.

Dr. Scholls Tekscan foot imaging kiosk at Walmart, Walgreen, Rite Aid.

Wading in mud, even knee-deep, is not a problem with these NRS Paddle Wet Shoes. They simply do not get sucked off my feet.

A quick rinse at the end of the day and hang to dry, then good to go in the morning. I make them even more comfortable by wearing thin socks to help prevent blisters on long portages. In cold weather I wear either dry suit or wet suit booties inside the paddle shoes. For long distance tripping I wear long wet socks that help keep my feet dry, and I can stuff my pants legs into the tops of the socks to create a tick barrier.

Now that I have comfortable and efficient footwear I no longer dread walking long portages or wading upstream through rocks and sharp gravel pulling my canoe or kayak upstream. My footing is more stable with a lot less slipping and sliding on wet, moss covered rocks.

I highly recommend NRS Paddle Wet Shoes. Not only are they safe and comfortable to wear, they are long lasting. One pair will last 2 to 3 years of heavy use.

Andy Lee is the author of Five Hundred Miles to the Sea; Adventure Canoe and Kayak Camping Book 1 and the administrator of the Facebook group Adventure Canoe and Kayak Camping. His new book Headwaters to the Sea will be published in mid-2019.

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