Choosing the Best Option!
During 35 years of rafting New England rivers at Crab Apple Whitewater Rafting, we have seen guests show up with every type of footwear imaginable. Here are some that we have seen and our thoughts on each type:
Open Toe Sandals – at one time the best option for rafters and still popular today. Brands such as Teva are especially popular for sandals with straps around the ankle and over the top of the foot. Knock-off versions of the more expensive brand names work great in the short run for guests but River Guides will tell you that you get what you pay for when it comes to river sandals.
Overall Thought: Excellent Option for Rafters!
Closed Toe Sandals – many Crab Apple whitewater rafting guests and River Guides have adjusted from open toe sandals to closed toe sandals such as those made by Chaco or Keene footwear companies. Closed toe sandals protect toenails from getting impacted by riverside hazards such as uneven ground, rocks, pebbles and loose material such as sticks and leaves.
These sandals still are secure by the best option – straps over the ankle and top of the foot.
Overall Opinion: Excellent Option for Rafters!
Flips Flops or “Slides” – many Crab Apple Whitewater rafting guests arrive with only Flip Flops or “Slides” to wear on their rafting trip. Neither kind of footwear is a good option for several reasons. Most importantly, flip flops do not give you security in the raft. “Flops” slide around the foot and negatively affect balance and security in the raft. Further, they will be lost if a rafter goes overboard unintentionally in a rapid or also in the instance where the river is calm and guides allow their guests to enter the river and float alongside the raft. Lost flip-flops quickly get claimed by the river and become unneeded river trash. Rafters who arrive without a better footwear option may be required to get wetsuit boots which are available at Crab Apple Whitewater.
Overall Opinion: Leave the flops and slides at home and get some secure, stable footwear!
Old Sneakers – ahh, the tried and true old (possibly smelly) sneakers. Sneakers will work in the raft, for sure. They are secure and stable. Fashion be damned, they do the job … we love the ones that are colored green from mowing the lawn but come out clean after a rafting trip!
Overall Opinion: stable and safe, wear the old sneaks one last time!
Water Shoes – we first saw these back in the 90’s. Some River guides even tried them out back then … but found that they did not hold up through a long season and that they were not 100% secure in the whitewater swim. Further, the biggest weakness to the water shoe is the inability to drain and flush out small particles like pebbles and sand which quickly became a nuisance as they abraded and rubbed the foot.
Overall Opinion: Perfectly OK for a rafting day tripper, but not durable for lots of wear and sand/pebbles are a real nuisance.
Updated Water Shoes w/ “Toes” – new in the early 2000s, these updated/upgraded water shoes offered security, comfort, balance for the user. River guides tried them and liked their security but disliked their lack of ankle stability and the inevitable “trench foot” that came from wearing wet shoes day after day on the river. Gotta dry those feet! Overall Opinion: Very good for the rafting customer, stable and comfortable.
Bad Ideas that we have seen repeatedly over the years:
Barefoot – never an option. No stability in the raft and unsafe walking to/from or near the river.
Hiking Boots – remain wet and heavy during a trip. Not safe for floating in rapids.
High Heels – yup, we’ve seen it. Function over fashion, please!
Open Top “Puddle Boots” – think about it … they will fill with water if you are in the river! Not safe!
10/28/18 Frank Mooney, River Manager Crab Apple Whitewater Rafting 1990-2018