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4/19/2023 7:35 am  #1

Best footwear for canoeing/portaging

What is your preferred footwear setup (especially for cold weather tripping)? I have been looking at Astral's, but not sure which model is best suited for portaging. Thanks for any information.


4/19/2023 8:17 am  #2

Re: Best footwear for canoeing/portaging

I use old Merrill water shoes, but more important than brand is that they fit well and stay on your feet.
When I was instructing we actually outlawed slip-on shoes after a couple of kids lost a shoe and had to borrow someone else's' spares or go barefoot on granite- laden portages.


4/19/2023 9:28 am  #3

Re: Best footwear for canoeing/portaging

For early spring ice out trips I still go with a 2 pairs of wool socks in a snug pair of rubber boots. At that time of year my goal is to stay dry. In warmer weather I'll wear my Keens most of the time and save my dry shoes for camp. 


4/19/2023 9:42 am  #4

Re: Best footwear for canoeing/portaging

Here is a copy and paste of my take,

MartinG wrote:

The most important feature is fit and comfort. That's personal. Next they have to be quick drying. You can pretty much stop here and you are good.

But if you feel like getting into the weeds, the important qualities in a canoeing shoe vary based on the type of travelling you do. It seems the most popular shoe for canoeing are Crocs and Keen sandles. These are both at the bottom of the list for me. One step below any 3/4 high Goretex boot.

I like to have adventurous trips. I don't base camp. My feet are often wet. I run white water. I bushwhack. I like seldom used or rougher trails. I usually travel for long days.

The grippier the shoe the better. But not all grip is the same. Shoes with big durable lugs are great for rocky and rooty dirt trails. But do next to nothing on wet rock. Wet slippery smooth rock is the most likely place for slips and falls. For wet and moss/algae covered smooth rock, you need soft rubber soles with siping. These types of shoes will not last like the big durable lugged soles. But are much grippier and will save you from falling. Saying you like Contagrip or Vibram is meaningless. These are brands and both brands can tweak their rubber and designs to suit different needs. In my opinion, you want soft sticky rubber that has been siped.

Another important feature for me is protection and security. I like the shoes to have a good toe guard to protect my toes when banging into rocks and roots both in and out of the water. I also like the shoes to be slightly higher to offer some ankle protection. The slightly higher collar also prevents them from coming off in mud or white water dumps. But, they can't be so big and bulky that they give you difficulty getting your feet under a canoe seat or present an entrapment hazzard.

Finally I like my shoes to be lightweight. Both when wet and dry. For a shoe to be light when wet it has to have built drainage and the material should not absorb water. There is always a compromise between weight, grip, durability and support. My ankles are still strong enough that support isn't a big concern. For me lightweight, quick draining, hydrophobic nylon uppers and soft grippy soles take precedence over durable leather or waterproof synthetic uppers and dense rubber soles.

Last, I change my shoes out seasonally. Early and late season white water trips I use a very warm boot. It is a huge compromise. Big and bulky and very heavy when wet. I don't love them but they keep my toes from freezing.

Ice out white water trips I use NRS Workboots. The rest of the year Astral Rasslers. Other shoes I like include Astral TR1 Merge, Soloman Speedcross, La Sportiva Ultra Raptors, 5-10 Canyoneers and Baffin Amazon.



4/19/2023 11:29 am  #5

Re: Best footwear for canoeing/portaging

I have the Astral Rassler and TR1 Merge Martin mentioned.( edit I have the TR1 Mesh not Merge)  Both great. Both run a 1/2 size small IMO. Durability of the Rassler isn’t great.  TR1 seems better.

I bought a pair of vivobarefoot shoes over the winter that are designed for swim+ trail run competitions. Gonna give those a try at some point this year.

Really cold weather I wear the NRS boundary boot.

Last edited by ShawnD (4/20/2023 8:59 am)

We do not go to the green woods and crystal waters to rough it, we go to smooth it.
 - George Washington Sears

4/19/2023 11:41 am  #6

Re: Best footwear for canoeing/portaging

Astral Rassler is the best shoe in my opinion.


4/19/2023 6:39 pm  #7

Re: Best footwear for canoeing/portaging

I appreciate all the responses and details. Ordered a pair of Astral Rassler 2.0.

     Thread Starter

4/20/2023 9:10 am  #8

Re: Best footwear for canoeing/portaging

Those NRS Boundary Boots look like a really good option for spring. I might have to make a trip to MEC in Burlington or Barrie to try them on. 

The Astral Rassler's look like they heel on the boot is really short. Is it short, or does it just look that way because the tongue is more "short boot" height rather than shoe height? 


4/20/2023 9:35 am  #9

Re: Best footwear for canoeing/portaging

Most Astrals are close to a zero drop Rob. Maybe a 1mm difference between heel and ball distance to the ground. I like a zero drop shoe though. One of the reasons I’m going to try the Vivobarefoot Tempest next.
The Rasslers are probably the grippiest shoe I  tried so far. 
And Like  I said above they do run a bit small. I’m a 9-9.5 and a  10 in the Rassler is likely good for me. I’m in a slightly tight 9.5 right now.

We do not go to the green woods and crystal waters to rough it, we go to smooth it.
 - George Washington Sears

4/20/2023 10:10 am  #10

Re: Best footwear for canoeing/portaging

ShawnD wrote:

Most Astrals are close to a zero drop Rob. Maybe a 1mm difference between heel and ball distance to the ground....

I knew this was going to be confusing. :-) I know what you mean by drop. What I'm trying to ask about is the height of the boot from the foot bed up on the back of the heel. Is that any more clear? 


4/20/2023 10:32 am  #11

Re: Best footwear for canoeing/portaging

🤔Does this help Rob?

Heel comparison.  Rassler to TR1 mesh. Rassler on the left. Both made by Astral.

And Rassler compare to a Salomon Techamphibian

We do not go to the green woods and crystal waters to rough it, we go to smooth it.
 - George Washington Sears

4/20/2023 11:00 am  #12

Re: Best footwear for canoeing/portaging

In the spring, waders are king IMO. I would suggest frogg toggs hellbender, and 8 fans wading boots, or sims if you don't mind spending the extra $. 

- you never have to worry about getting in and out of the canoe.
- you can access fishing spots that would otherwise would be difficult to reach from shore or in a canoe.
- you are always ready for rainy weather - also windproof. 
- your feet will never get cold or wet.
- I find that the morning "frozen boot" isn't as bad because your feet are insulated by the neoprene booty.
- that higher chest waders help to keep you warm, especially on long rainy days when rain jackets tend to fail. 
- wading boots are usually high tops and provide exceptional support and stability on portages. they also have wide soles, which help with grip on the trails and in the river. 


4/20/2023 12:33 pm  #13

Re: Best footwear for canoeing/portaging

That's just about exactly what I was looking for Shawn. Thank you!

My Keen's are about 3 inches deep on the inside although the top 3/4" of that is soft as opposed to being "structural". 

upload facebook pictures


4/20/2023 9:46 pm  #14

Re: Best footwear for canoeing/portaging

I think I run against the grain by wearing vasque hiking boots year round. I absolutely hate putting on wet footwear no matter the season, and unless it's a full day travel in consistent downpour they haven't yet wetted out on me. They have been good to me. Ankle stability and grip have been a non-issue. In the summer heat, I will rock barefoot around the campsite if I need to air out.

I would be curious to try these astrals though. I feel like my feet would feel naked in such a light shoe, but that's a me problem that I would have to overcome.


4/25/2023 4:37 pm  #15

Re: Best footwear for canoeing/portaging

I printed the sizing template from Astral's website and measured into US 10.5 M. I ordered the Rassler 2.0 in US 11 M, however, they are still far too small and uncomfortable. I went to return them, but found out that they won't accept returns from Canada. 

     Thread Starter

4/25/2023 10:20 pm  #16

Re: Best footwear for canoeing/portaging

I just wear whatever hiking boots I'm using, currently La sportiva wildcats with aftermarket insoles (no goretex).  Years of backpacking with wet boots all day taught me it wasn't that big a deal and I prefer  not taking the time to change footwear every portage (especially in bug season).  Only exception is if it's a non-portaging day.  In summer, I wear thin wool socks and in shoulder seasons, neoprene booties.

Boots get hung up or laid on sunny rocks when I get to camp and I spend a while airing out my feet.

Last edited by keg (4/25/2023 10:20 pm)


5/17/2023 12:21 pm  #17

Re: Best footwear for canoeing/portaging

Delighted with my footwear for spring this year. My summer merrel water shoes, and knee high seal skinz socks, cold weather strength. Waterproof until I accidently step too deep out of the canoe, jump in to the creek, or sink crotch deep in to mud, in those cases the boot would have been flooded and lost anyway. Plus like a wet suit, that's your water now, you heat it up and it's not so cold anymore.  Roll down easily to get your shins some sun while canoeing. Dries overnight. Highly recommend


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