Adventuretess' favorite paddling shoes are falling apart.
After serving her very well for 3 years on her frequent paddling trips the sole has started to come apart from the upper. Time for new ones.
While the Merrell Waterpro were a very good choice since they offer excellent support and a very sturdy sole (to protect the foot from sharp rocks and the occasional broken bottle) the upper part of the shoes had a lot of padding that took a long time to dry.
It was time to look at alternatives. Away from water sports, the emerging craze of barefoot running is taking the USA by storm, with Vibram Fivefingers being the leading brand. The low profile design appeared to suit the snug fit required in low volume kayaks.
Fivefingers offer minimal support and are very low profile however they only fit feet that are "square" in shape where the second toe is longer than the big toe. Fivefingers don't fit a lot of people.
Merrell has followed the new trend of barefoot running with a slightly beefier shoe that has more of traditional look but lacks the hefty padding in the sole.
This spring (Northern hemisphere) they released the Pace Glove.
Initially designed for running off-pavement the shoe has almost no cushioning and minimal fabric in the upper making an ideal candidate for a paddling shoe.
Since all its materials are synthetic the Pace Glove has no problem getting wet.
The sole is a Vibram offering (the absolute best grip and durability in the biz) has low profile lugs that offer outstanding traction on slippery boat ramps. The heel has a gentle curve that allows a comfortable rest of the foot when seated in the cockpit (no Achilles tendon dig-in either).
The shoe is very low profile and contours the foot's shape with no "empty" pockets. It does therefore fit well in low volume cockpits. It is rather flexible to allow some feel from the foot rest pegs but the sole is stiff enough to prevent sore feet after an energetic long paddle with positive legs drive in one's stroke.
The only problem are the shoe laces. Obviously takes more time to lace up shoes than just pull a toggle to secure them on the feet. The Merrel Waterpro had the toggle. Shoe laces also have to be tucked away to prevent possible entanglement with the cockpit foot pegs or other protruding fittings.
Obviously these shoes offer no insulation and probably not suitable for cold water paddling. They are however an ideal compromise of support, safety and durability for our style of paddling.