We receive many questions about the best footwear for rafting trips. There are an overwhelming number of shoe and sandal options. Make sure to break in your new shoes and sandals before your rafting trip. Bring some extra socks along in case your sandals start giving you blisters or your feet get sun burn. Below are our favorite shoes and sandals for Grand Canyon rafting tours, along with why we like them.
Rafting Shoes or Sandals
For Grand Canyon we prefer sandals to shoes while on the river. Sandals dry fast while river shoes keep feet wet and in this case warm for one to two weeks. That warm wet environment leads to fungal problems hence the preference for sandals. If you still want to go with a shoe for rafting avoid the slip on water (aqua) shoes. They fall off easily and the soles are too thin. Also avoid wetsuit booties since they have no arch support, thin soles, and dry slowly.
On rivers other than in Grand Canyon and the desert of Utah, rafting shoes can work well. Check out Astrals, Addidas, or bring an old pair of running/tennis shoes.
There are some hybrids that incorporate the stability and toe protection of shoes while being airy to allow for quick drying like sandals. By far the most popular in this class is Keens.
Keens makes great shoes for hiking and rafting. They are well constructed and can be put to good use after your river trip. The biggest downside is the way they collect sand in the footbeds – which can be mitigated by wearing socks. Unfortunately wearing socks does increase the chances of getting a foot fungus. The hard soles provide poor traction on wet rocks. Fortunately, this isn’t typically a problem in the sandy Grand Canyon. Keens are the best river sandals for hiking with their excellent toe protection, stability and durability.
Sandals are nice since feet can dry quickly. Make sure to get sandals that securely fasten around the ankle so they don’t come off in a planned or unplanned river swim.
Chaco historically made the best river sandal. They hold to your foot well and are almost like flipper if you have to swim in them. The downside is the lack of toe protection which makes it hard to stuff your foot under a thwart to keep yourself in a paddle raft. They’ve also had some problems with delamination of their soles over the years but any shoe or sandal with softer rubber has that problem. Bedrocks are now considered the best rafting sandal by many guides.
If you have a cool friend, they are probably wearing Bedrocks. These adventure sandals are not only cool but also functional. They don’t protect much of your foot but everyone I know that has them loves them. Bedrock lightweight sandals are where Chacos were 10 years ago and Tevas were 20 years ago – still being made with quality for people in the outdoor industry. Get them now before some big company buys them and starts cutting corners to make more money turning the Bedrocks into another Chaco or Teva.
Order your own Bedrock Sandals for your rafting trip.
Not good for rapids, put-in or take-out. Nice in camp and for floating on a lake. I’m a big fan of Scott “slippers” sandals made in Hawaii. They are heavy duty flip-flops that will last a while. Avoid the plastic flip-flop they most likely will not last through your trip.
There are two types of Grand Canyon hiking shoes for rafting trips. One is for hiking in and out of the Grand Canyon. The other is for doing side hikes within the canyon. Our recommendation is pick one for doing side hikes in the canyon and then be sure to pack light enough that you can use that same shoe if you have to hike in or out from a rafting trip.
The best side-hike shoes are light weight, tough, quick drying, and well used. Grand Canyon rafting side-hikes have varied terrain from steep dry hikes over rocky outcropping to wet hikes in grottos that last a couple of hours. Here are a couple of shoes that guides enjoy using.
River Camp Shoes
Flip Flops (Thongs) are one of the best camping shoes for Grand Canyon. They make it easy to flip sand out, feet get to air out, they pack light and are easy to clean before putting in your dry bag for a day of rafting. Many guests also enjoy having a pair of Crocs as their camp shoe. They also are light, easy to clean and have the added bonus of protecting your toes.
Crocs – Popular Grand Canyon Rafting Camp Shoes
Concluding Thoughts on Rafting Footwear for Grand Canyon
Quick drying footwear that protects your toes is ideal. Most likely you have shoes and sandals in your closet that will work well for your trip that you have already broken in. If you buy new ones, be sure to wear your river sandals and hiking shoes enough so that they are comfortable before your trip. Mend small foot cuts before they become bigger problems., take care of your feet! A foot injury while on your rafting trip can keep you from enjoying all the amazing hiking and exploring.