One of the most important pieces of equipment in any kayaker’s kit bag is a good pair of reliable water shoes as walking over rocks or slippery ground is inevitable. More importantly if anything happens to turn critical, one needs to be able to get out of a kayak quickly and move rapidlyto the person in trouble without any fear of slipping or being hindered by poor shoes.
Recently Scotty and I were given a pair of Vibram Five Finger Flows to test to see how “toe” shoes can perform on a river. This is an initial review of the shoes after a couple paddles.
Once you get used to having your toes separate from eachother the shoes are remarkably comfortable. There are two straps on the shoes, one that goes over the top and the other which tightens behind the heel. Whenthey are fitted the shoes mould around forming an extension of one’s foot. I admit that when you put them on for the first time they do feel slightly weird,but after a while you forget that you have anything on.
As far as grip is concerned, the shoes have minute slits inthe sole that make the grasping onto the ground extensive. Since the soles arethin and flexible they shape around the rocks and stones allowing one to getthe most friction possible while still protecting your feet from thorns, glassor almost anything else you can throw at your feet.
I used my flows on the Witte, the Molenaars as well as for oceanpaddles and my conclusion is that they are the most efficient shoes I have everused as far as grip on wet terrain is concerned. They are very fast drying andbeing thin it makes it possible to wear them in even the smallest, tightly outfitted play boats. The only issue I have with the shoes is that my toes got cold being separate from each other.
Apart from getting a pair of Flows I also received a pair of Sprints that are made for everyday use and for road running. I’ve heard of people doing the recent Iron man completions in them. That alone is proof of their durability. Personally my calves felt on fire from running on the balls of my feet, but it is something that I can see myself getting used to.
When you run in normal shoes the extensive sole makes one land primarily on ones heel. This jarring force gets absorbed in the joints likeones knees, ankles and hips. This leads to injuries in the long run (no pun intended). I hope that with time I will be able to run as comfortably in Five fingers as I do in normal shoes.
The last aspect of the shoes is their look. As they are very”different” one does get a hand full of funny looks for wearing them and people do tend to ask you lots of questions about them. I have been stopped inshopping centers and petrol stations by inquisitive observers. This has subsequently led to me been “banned” from wearing them in public when mygirlfriend (or family) is present.