What Shoes to Wear White Water Rafting? Best and Worst
White water rafting is a great outdoor activity that can provide the thrills adventure seekers love. But fast-flowing rivers, with lots of submerged boulders and rocky beaches means your feet need protection. White water rafting shoes that protect your feet from sharp rocks, glass, and other obstacles are a must.
What shoes to wear white water rafting? The best shoes to wear white water rafting are Tevas, Chocos or water shoes that won’t be ruined when they get wet. White water shoes should be comfortable to wear without socks, stay on your feet even in fast flowing water, and provide protection to the soles of your feet while carrying the raft.
Finding the perfect shoe for white water rafting can be a daunting task, but there are a few options to consider before going out. You’ll need the comfort and support of a standard shoe because you’ll have to carry the raft in and out of the water.
Though tennis shoes will do, you don’t want to ruin a good pair of sneakers by getting them soaked either.
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Shoes You Can Wear While White Water Rafting
White water rafting is an excellent hobby to enjoy as a group. But because of the nature of the the sport, more often than not, you’ll get soaked from head to toe. And that includes your feet.
But more than just getting wet, wear shoes wile white water rafting will protect your feet from all manner of objects that can cut, bruise and scrape them.
Especially on overnight and multi-day rafting trips, you’ll have to walk out into the shallows to get the raft in and out of the river and to push off when you get going for the day. Many riverbeds are very rocky and dangerous to walk barefoot across.
In addition, not-so-eco-friendly participants in the outdoors have been know to “accidentally” break glass along the river. And that sharp broken glass finds its way into the river and onto the beach. Water shoes protect your feet from broken glass.
Along with gripping the bottom of riverbeds, white water rafting shoes also have to be able to get wet and dry quickly. No shoe will be completely waterproof while you’re white water rafting, so finding shoes that can get splashed and have most of the water leave the shoe (a.k.a. open shoes) are ideal. Plus, being able to dry quickly is critical to avoid mold growth in and on the shoe.
Shoes or sandals that have a tight heel or, at the very least, a strap that goes behind the heel are probably the most ideal shoes to wear on a rafting trip. These shoes are less likely to fly off than shoes with no strap or heel.
Toe coverings are also not a huge concern, but there is the chance of a paddle coming into contact with your foot while white water rafting, so having some protection over your toes is a good idea.
Most companies with a white water raft service available will recommend aquatic-based shoes or river-specific footwear that can get wet without getting damaged and also provide good comfort and reliability. One name brand shoe company that is highly recommended by numerous white water rafting companies is Teva.
Tevas as White Water Rafting Shoes
Teva is a sandal company that specializes in activewear sandals. This means that their sandals are ready to be worn outdoors while doing some hiking or fishing and even white water rafting.
Their website even boasts specific “river shoes” that are perfect for white water rafting. They have a rugged bottom, which is ideal for gripping slippery rocks. Plus, Tevas are perfect for white water rafting because they are open: the sandals take on water but drain fast and dry faster.
Can You Wear Normal Street Tennis Shoes with No Socks?
Now, probably the most frequent question river rafting companies get when asked what kind of shoes to wear for white water rafting is this: can I wear regular tennis shoes?
Tennis shoes are a fantastic choice to wear if you don’t want to have to go out and buy a new pair of shoes/sandals for your white water rafting trip. Tennis shoes have the heel that is ideal for white water rafters to wear, so their shoes do not fly off. Also, tennis shoes generally have a substantial amount of padding on the soles, so protection from the rocky riverbeds is covered as well.
However, the biggest drawback of wearing tennis shoes is the question of wearing socks with them or not. On dry land, you almost have to be wearing socks with tennis shoes; otherwise, your feet and shoes will start to smell or your heels will get rubbed raw. However, with white water rafting, wearing socks with tennis shoes isn’t ideal.
Socks will just absorb all of the water that comes into your shoe, and then you have soggy feet all day long. At the end of the trip, you will have a hard time peeling off your shoes and socks if they are drenched.
With that in mind, tennis shoes that fit comfortably without socks are a good choice in a pinch, or if you’re working with a budget for a white river rafting trip.
If you’re just on a day trip, you can find an old pair of tennis shoes and designate them as a sacrifice to a day of whitewater rafting. Because when the day’s over, depending on how much abuse they take and how much water they’ve absorbed, those sneakers may be ruined.
Note: The biggest caution to have with tennis shoes is to ensure that the shoes get completely dry after using them. You do not want any sitting water to get absorbed into the shoe itself, as that can cause problems later. Plus, if the shoes do not dry quickly, there is a chance that mold and mildew can grow in/on the shoes, which will ruin them.
Shoes You Shouldn’t Wear White Water Rafting
For white water rafting, being comfortable with the shoes you’re wearing is key to having a good time. You don’t want to be complaining that your feet hurt because there’s not enough padding on the bottom of your feet or that your shoes will be ruined because they got too wet.
Regardless, there are plenty of shoes to never wear while white water rafting. For instance, open-toed sandals, like flip flops that people would wear to the beach, are not ideal.
Flip flop sandals usually offer very little protection on the bottoms of your feet from the rocky riverbeds. Plus, they aren’t secure enough with the straps to prevent them from coming off and getting lost while white water rafting.
Also, water socks may seem like an excellent option to wear, but be careful. By themselves, water socks seem like the ideal choice: they are designed to get wet and still function. However, they do not dry all that well and tend to fall apart if they are worn as shoes. If you find water socks that say they act like water shoes, those are not a good fit.
White Water Rafting Shoes Wrap Up
White water rafting is a great way to get out into the water and have some fun flying by on the rivers and other waterways. To protect your feet and get the most out of the day’s adventure, though, you want to make sure you have the proper footwear.
Sandals like Tevas, with straps across the toes and behind the heel, are always the most ideal ones to wear when white water rafting. These provide the comfort needed but also have the capability to shed water and dry quickly. Tennis shoes are also a great option if you’re in a pinch and don’t mind getting them wet.
Be wary of flip flops or other sandals similar to water socks because they can be troublesome. Many of them tend to fly off while in the river or offer little to no protection from the riverbed’s rocky bottom.
I’m Steve, the research and technology workhorse behind Paddle Camp. I do tons of research on all our family’s paddling gear before I buy or recommend anything. I grew up canoeing with my dad and brother. A few years ago I bought paddle boards for my daughters, myself, and my wife. Ever since then, we plan most of our vacations around kayaking, canoeing, or paddle boarding.
Knowing what to bring on a white water rafting trip will not only make your trip more fun and prevent you from getting cold and wet, it could save your life.
If you’ve never been white water rafting, it’s very important that you know what to wear before you go. Because it’s not about how hot or cold it is outside.
We love paddling! We all remember being beginners and having no clue what kayak, canoe, or SUP to buy. Nor did we understand all the rafting gear, paddling laws, and how-to paddle info we’d need to get started. So we built Paddle Camp to help you navigate the often confusing world of kayaking, canoeing, stand up paddle boarding, and river rafting.
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What to Wear for River Rafting: The Complete Guide
White water rafting or river rafting is an exciting sport and an excellent outdoor recreational activity.
It allows you to navigate through the river rapids water using an inflatable boat.
As you go up and down the river rapids, the thrill is often accompanied with risks and challenges so rafting requires a great deal of teamwork.
While you don’t have to be a professional swimmer to enjoy rafting. All it takes is a simple set of instructions from the outfitters and you are ready for the ride.
Yes, you are ready for the adrenaline rush and thrill, but are you dressed properly?
Many people plan a rafting trip with their friends and family. They search for the best outfitter with an experienced guide and reliable equipment. It is obvious that people want safety on this bumpy ride.
So they go for the company which offers the highest levels of safety, have a first aid kit and other necessary equipment on board.
While some do their research for choosing the best and most reliable outfitter, many people are confused about how to dress up for rafting. If you are one of them, this guide is for you.
It includes all the information you need about rafting clothing. Whether you want to go for river rafting in summers or winters, having the right gear will allow you to make the most of your ride.
Below you will find out what to wear and what not to wear. Though the type of dress you choose for rafting clothing is critical, choosing the right material is equally important.
So if you are confused about the right type of material for your rafting clothing, you can find out relevant information here.
Let’s get started with a few tips using which you can make your rafting trip a trip to remember.
Significance of Dressing Appropriately for Rafting
River rafting is a wet sport.
Whether you stay on the boat or you dive into the river, you are bound to get wet.
And for this very reason, you need to dress appropriately for rafting. Below, you will find out what to wear and what not to wear for river rafting.
What do you wear for river rafting?
All outfitters provide the equipment necessary for rafting. You will get a helmet, life jackets and paddles.
However, you will need to take care of other essentials such as clothing, shoes and sunglasses.
Though most outfitters provide these rafting essentials on rent, it is always a good idea to bring your own stuff. Let’s have a look at what you will need on your rafting adventure.
Wet suit is a special type of swimsuit which keeps you warm. It is water proof and is designed to insulate the body.
Swimsuit is a must. Regardless of the season, you need a swim suit which you can wear under the wet suit or along with your shorts or pants.
Shorts or Pants
Always go for synthetic material when choosing pants or shorts. Avoid denim or cotton pants or shorts as they retain water, become heavier and do not dry quickly.
Almost all outfitters rent good quality pants or shorts for your rafting ride, but bringing in your own pair will give you all the comfort you need on your rafting adventure.
Many people prefer to wear a shirt over their swimsuit. If you are one of them, choose a tightly fitted shirt. It works best under wet suits.
Choose the shit you are most comfortable in keeping in mind the weather.
If you are comfortable with the sun and want a tan, go for a tank top but if you want to protect your hands from the sun, a long-sleeved shirt is ideal.
Keeping a light weight jacket along is always recommended on your rafting ride.
A light wear jacket made from a synthetic material such as polypropylene or neoprene is ideal. It dries up quickly and provide you all the warmth you need when you are wet and cold.
While most people still manage to take care of their clothing, footwear is often the most neglected area.
Many people do not realize that they need proper footwear because they are required to walk through the shallower parts of the river and the river bed is full of rocks which are often sharp and slippery.
So as you are boarding on the raft and getting off it, it can be very painful to walk if you are not using the right footwear.
So always keep in mind that the right footwear can make a whole lot of difference.
When choosing the footwear for rafting, always remember,
Do not Wear Slippers or Flip Flops
Rafting is an extreme water sport.
Though many people choose flip flops as they come off easily but keep in mind that they can fall of the raft as easily.
In case that happens, you will not have the protection against the rocky, river bed and you might end up hurting your feet.
Go for Strapped Sandals
It is best to go for strapped sandals. Secured by Velcro, these straps allow you to adjust the grip of your shoe according to your comfort.
They also provide adequate grip and safety as you walk into the shallower parts of the river while getting on the raft and coming off it.
An added advantage! Strapped sandals dry quickly. So you can wear them as you leave your home, go rafting and come back in the same pair.
Crocs Can Be an Option
Crocs are often an option. They stay on your feet most of the time and they dry up quickly. While they give the perfect outdoor look to your attire, they do not have the best grip.
So as you walk in the river, there is a good chance that you might slip. Also, since they are designed to be worn slightly loosely, they can float away as you enjoy the river rapids.
If You Have No Other Option, Go for Sports Shoes
Jogging or sports shoes is something most people prefer. You can wear jogging shoes as they provide full coverage to your feet. However, they can slip easily on wet surfaces.
So before you walk in the river, it is possible that it might even slip in the wet surface of the raft. Also, sports shoes do not dry up easily.
So if you are planning to wear sports shoes to your rafting adventure, make sure you have an extra pair of shoes to drive back home as coming back home in wet shoes can be quiet uncomfortable.
Don’t Forget the Socks
Socks is probably the last thing on your mind when planning rafting. But they can be a life saver.
So if you are rafting during the cooler months, woolen socks can help keep your feet warm during the trip. However, you don’t need socks if you are rafting during warmer months of the year.
If you are planning a rafting trip on a bright sunny morning, then you need a good pair of sunglasses. Certainly you don’t want to be stuck with the sun all day.
But at the same time, you wouldn’t want to lose your favorite pair of glasses on your rafting adventure. So go for glasses which provide a comfortable fit even during the most rough rapids.
At the same time, provide protection to your eyes from the harmful UV rays of the sun.
As you head out to the river, don’t forget to keep a dry towel. You will definitely need one at the end of your trip. You don’t have to go for a bath sheet.
All you need is a regular sized towel which is enough to dry up after you are all wet. At the same time, it should be small enough to fit in your bag.
You would certainly not want to get stuck with the sun for a few hours and tan your skin. As you head for the river, lavishly apply a good quality sunscreen.
It will not only save you from tanning but will also protect your skin against the harmful effects of UV rays. But sunscreen is something you won’t need on the raft.
So apply it well before your rafting adventure begins.
What Not To Wear?
Now that you know what to wear, it is equally important to know what not to wear. This information will prevent you from carrying unnecessary baggage to your rafting trip.
Jeans/denim retains water and dries up slowly. As since you are bound to get wet on our rafting trip, opting for jeans can make you really uncomfortable.
Similar to denim, cotton takes up a lot of time to get dry. Though it won’t get as heavy as denim, it is definitely not comfortable to be in an outfit which takes so long to dry.
Don’t go for slippers, flip flops and any other type of footwear which can slip on wet surfaces. Also avoid wearing jogging or sports shoes as they can take very long to dry up.
Jewelry and Other Accessories
Taking care of jewelry and other accessories can be very difficult as you go rafting on the river rapids. Also wearing jewelry on rafting can increase the risk of injury or scratches on the skin.
Don’t bring a plastic poncho on your rafting trip. It won’t keep you dry if it is rainy. Plus plastic ponchos are water resistant but not water proof so at the end of the day, you will be dampened.
A Few Considerations When Heading Towards the River
Take Weather into Account
Weather is one of the key considerations when choosing gear for river rafting. Weather conditions on the river change seasonally so it is important to dress accordingly.
If you are rafting in warmer weather, you should dress lightly. Remember to bring along a bathing suit, some old sneakers or water shoes if you have a pair.
You might also need to bring in a pair of shorts, a t-shirt (quick dry), a hat and sunglasses. Since the river rafting trip is usually a few hours long, it is important to wear a lot of sunscreen.
On the other hand, if you are rafting during the cooler months of the year, it is recommended that you go for heavier clothes. Make sure you dress up in layers which will definitely keep you warm, if not dry.
Adding a fluffy fleece jacket over the swimsuit will give you insulation. Wearing a woolen cap will protect your head from the cold air and water.
Type of River
All rivers are classified into six categories based on the type of rapids. River rapids are sections of river characterized by increased water turbulence due to steep gradient.
Category one is the easiest with limited or no rapids. This is generally safe and you are not expected to wear a helmet or other safety gear as the flow of the river is relatively stable.
But in case of higher categories of river where there are more extreme and dangerous rapids, it is risky to go without a helmet. So decide your gear keeping in mind the type of river you are rafting in.
Type of Material
For some people, it is given that they need a swimsuit and a pair of strapped shoes as they head towards the river. But many people choose the wrong material for their outfit.
It is important that you always go for synthetic material which is not waterproof but dries up quickly.
So always go for woolen, fleece, neoprene, polyester or any other quick drying fabric instead of cotton or any other pure fabric material.
What is Neoprene? – The Best Material for Rafting Clothing
As mentioned earlier, synthetic material is ideal when choosing the material for your rafting outfit. But there are many types of synthetic fabrics to choose from. One of the best choice is neoprene.
It is a brand name of polychloroprene, which is a synthetic substitute of rubber. It is produced by a process called polymerization. Chloroprene is polymerized to produce neoprene.
Due to its distinct properties, neoprene has wide commercial application.
It is commonly used as orthopedic braces, for electrical insulation and as laptop sleeves. However, one of the most important uses of this material is in swimwear.
Should You Wear Neoprene Clothing to rafting?
Neoprene is considered as one of the best materials for rafting outfits. There are a few reasons for that
Neoprene is Impermeable
Neoprene is impermeable. It forms a barrier between the skin of the person and all other elements.
Though this makes neoprene a piece of fabric with zero breathability, it provides insulation from external conditions.
This property makes neoprene an ideal material for rafting clothing as it protects the body from cold water making it completely waterproof.
It is Elastic
While neoprene provides a perfect barrier against river water, it provides a great stretch. The elasticity of this material allows swimmers to get into their swimsuit easily.
Neoprene Retains Heat
Most synthetic materials are sensitive to heat. They can melt as the temperature slightly increases. However, neoprene is heat resistant. Also, this property prevents the water from escaping the suit.
This triggers another action. As your neoprene swimsuit gets wet, the water gets absorbed in the cells of the fabric.
This retained water gets heated due to body temperature. In turn, your body stays warm even when your swimsuit is wet.
It is Not Woven
Unlike most other types of fabric, neoprene is not woven. Instead, it is formed. It can also be pre-made literally into any shape and size. So it saves a lot of work in terms of customization.
In all, neoprene is the best material for swimsuits because it keeps the divers warm and waterproof even when they are fully submerged in river waters.
Ready, All Set!
A well thought out and the appropriate outfit is critical when planning river rafting.
It can make all the difference as you head out for your adventure. But an outfit is not all that you need.
As you head out to the river, you need a dry set of clothes, wear appropriate footwear, sunglasses and a dress made from the right material.
So if you follow the tips highlighted above, there is no doubt that you won’t enjoy your rafting adventure.
What Shoes to Wear Whitewater Rafting
To have the best time possible whitewater rafting, you should consider both comfort and safety. This means not only bookin g a trip with a reputable rafting company, but also showing up with the right clothes and equipment .
No matter what type of river adventure you’re planning, an appropriate pair of river rafting shoes should be pretty high on your list. Not only will having the right river shoes keep your feet protected, but they’ll keep you prepared in the event of unforeseen circumstances like an ‘out of boat experience’.
As longtime river guides in Colorado, the team at Echo River Canyon Expeditions has years of experience testing different rafting shoes. We know what will stick to your feet and what will end up as an offering to the river gods. So we’ll walk you through this brief guide before you head out on your next adventure.
Why Should You Wear Shoes Whitewater Rafting?
There are a number of reasons why shoes or other secure footwear is necessary while rafting. To begin with, it’s immensely helpful to have a good grip on the raft with your feet when bracing and paddling through the rapids. There are also times when need to walk on rocky shorelines to access the raft at the start and end of the trip, or while taking a break over the course of the tour.
Similarly, if you fall out of the boat and go for a swim, appropriate rafting shoes will help keep your feet protected. During a swim and on your way back to your raft or to shore it’s common to bump your feet on rocks – good shoes are super helpful in this situation. They’ll also protect your feet when it comes time to walk along a rough shoreline on your way back to your raft.
Can You Wear Sandals for Rafting?
A common question that people have about rafting trips is whether or not they can wear sandals on the river. While sandals with secure, adjustable heel straps work just fine for whitewater rafting, flip flops simply won’t cut it. I t’s not unusual for people to lose their flip-flops when they are first climbing into the raft, where a little bit of current simply whisks them away. Even more, if you fall out of a raft, there is simply no chance of saving your flip-flops.
How about Crocs? While we have nothing against the brand itself, the most popular style of Crocs, the Classic Crocs with the hinged ankle loop is truly no better than flip flops. Comfortable when dry? You bet. But once they’re wet they tend to slip off quite easily. Avoid this style of footwear for water activities.
So what are the Best Shoes for White Water Rafting?
While there are a number footwear options or shoes to wear white water rafting, they are not all created equal. Below is a recap of what style of footwear you should consider, and a few you should definitely avoid…