Happy Feet – A Quest by Soggy Lemming


Jumping into the sea

The world of coasteering moves in mysterious ways, procedures and techniques are localised, attitudes vocalised and information never formalised. In such an environment it seems that companies a reluctant to share information. Freelancers on the other hand, used to talking the hind legs off clients, can’t stop talking cobblers and therefore are the ideal people to consult about opinions toward which shoes are the dogs bollocks when it comes to scaling the cliffs or swimming amongst rocks.

Trawling through the companies, eager to separate the lowly instructor from his hard gained pittance, reveals very few options in amphibious footwear. But here we’ve bullied these hard working neptune’s of the outdoor world to share their experiences with the wider audience in the hope that in the future we no longer have to accept inferior products for the lack of alternatives.

To draw some comparisons the shoes were assessed as to how comfy and secure they felt on your feet. How heavy and cumbersome they may be, how grippy on the rocks, how long they lasted in this very demanding environment and finally did they provide value for money. To benchmark this highly specialised footwear we also included pair of cheap trainers bought from a local farm supplies store for under a tenner!

5:10 Canyoneers

team-510

The Canyoneers have for years been the benchmark shoe for most people coasteering, why? The answer I have time and again is that there isn’t any other alternatives. If you you look around most outdoor gear shops, then your probably correct. Everyone sings the praises of the 5:10 stealth rubber sole and the warm comfortable fit, personally I found them cumbersome. The original buckle system was an odd design feature, difficult to get tight and dogged with persistent failures, I’ve seen countless instructors with their feet wrapped in duck tape holding these together. 5:10 saw the folly in this and in the canyoneer III replaced it with what they marketed as the new innovative system, laces! The key selling point of the original was that the soles were super sticking and great to run around the rocks on. The new edition as changed the flat sticky profile for a more aggressive tread, better on mixed ground where mud and grass are your biggest enemy, but less effective on rocks and barnacles. This may be catering to the wider market for these boots as boaters and rescue technicians may be a much bigger client population, and probably have more disposable income. The originals were renowned for their design but let down my the quality and unfortunately the same issues have been reported with the latest versions, some returned after only three weeks of use. For this reason their premium price is often resented.

5:10 Canyoneers

Comfort 9
Weight 6
Grip 7
Longevity 4
Cost 4 (£124.99 – £66.00)

5: 10 Water Tennie

water tennie shoe

5:10 had a different solution to the same problem in the Water Tennie. A light weight laced boot with a flat sole, again with stealth rubber. Whilst it doesn’t offer the warmth and comfort of the canyoneer it approached the problem in a direction. This was a light boot which fitted closely, more like a climbing shoe, was good to swim in and drained easily. Everyone I spoke to who owned a pair loved these shoes, but where disappointed with their durability, the pair in the picture where three weeks old and already starting to disintegrate (although the owner does hammer them, everyday). The price was considerably cheaper than some of the alternatives and therefore the durability was seen as slightly
more acceptable. This shoe would suit the more active coasteering sessions, more swimming and more delicate climbing, but doesn’t offer the warmth and comfort which may be more welcome when enduring slow moving, activity reluctant groups.

5: 10 Water Tennie

Comfort 9
Weight 8
Grip 8
Longevity 5
Cost 7 (£74.99 – £69.99)

NRS Velocity

nrs veolcity

NRS Velocity boots are less often seen around the cliffs, but a regular with American raft guides and boaters. Initial reports are favourable, with our test pair still surviving after three months of hard abuse. Their first outing was met with quizzed look, most probably because they aren’t, in your face, brightly coloured. This would suit the far more conservative dressed coasteering instructors,
or those who are embarrassed by re-surfacing feet first. Light and fast draining they’re good to swim in and grippy on rocks, but with enough tread pattern, so unlike some coasteering boots, don’t magically transform into roller blades on mud and grass. The verdict is not yet out on these but indications are robust and value for money, but not very flash, if bling is your thing.

NRS Velocity

Comfort 9
Weight 9
Grip 9
Longevity 8
Cost 7 (£74.99 – £69.99)

Adidas Hydro Pro

addidas hydra pro

The Hydro Pro has been around the European canyoning scene for many years, but there are no stockists in the UK (opportunity for someone?). An interesting challenge to the 5:10 canyoneer given that Adidas now own 5:10 and have used the stealth rubber on these soles. The fit is slightly better than that of the canyoneer, but similarly doesn’t drain readily making them a little heavier to swim in. The flat soles however, stick to the rock like s**t to blanket, the same can’t be said for tackling those extreme moderately grassy slopes. An interesting lacing system with pull cords covered with a zip top cover. Whilst these must be great in the fresh water of the alpine canyons, zips and saltwater don’t mix! Despite being religiously washed and lubricated these zips gave up after twenty sessions and the covers cut back to stop
them flapping around. In this coverless format they are still going strong after half a season. The cost of these is about the middle of the market but watch out for shipping costs as they all seem to originate from Europe. The zips are unsatisfactory, but the same shoe is available without the covers as the Hydro Lace. This may be the solution, if you can track down a pair.

Adidas Hydro Pro

Comfort 9
Weight 6
Grip 9
Longevity 7
Cost 7 (£93.99)

Salomon Techamphibian

salmon

Whilst not strictly a coasteering or canyoning shoe I’ve included these as the pair I had lasted four seasons, and despite looking very worse for wear, I am still using them to paddle in. A free draining running shoe really, they are light to walk and swim in and, being nylon sewn, haven’t disintegrated in the salt water. The mesh uppers do snag on barnacles which is where they start to look tatty, this is cosmetic and the only major drawback
is how grippy they when worn side by side with stealth rubber clad boots. The harder sole means that the friction is compromised in favour of longevity, so it depends how deep your pockets are, or what rock or seaweed hazards you have to wrangle with on a daily basis. Costs vary widely but it is possible to get these relatively cheaply and get lots of use out of them. They don’t offer ankle support but they are great to swim in and drain quickly.

Salomon Techamphibian

Comfort 7
Weight 8
Grip 7
Longevity 9
Cost 7 (£80.00 – £39.99)

Crappy Trainers

Crappy Trainers

The term “crappy trainers” has been used as a catch all phrase for cheap running shoes (under £10) which time after time emerge on the feet of hard worked, under paid instructors who have to balance their kit needs with their drinking habits. In this particular test several pairs where purchased from an extreme outdoor adventure farmer supplies shop. Whilst not the usual place for outdoor instructors
to shop, a lot of the other clients did surprisingly smell very similar. These running shoes performed similarly to the Tech Amphibians, light, flexible and readily free draining. The grip offered by the soles are shockingly good given the technology employed, the only caution being, don’t by the thick cushioned super comfy soles. Their wide underfoot doesn’t allow the foot to get close to the rock and support you very well, indicated by feet constantly cutting away off small holds. The only down side of such a purchase has been the longevity, sometimes measured in weeks or even down to sessions. If you only go out coasteering occasionally then this may well be a viable option, just remember to wash them in fresh water as the cotton stitching might not hang in their very long.

Crappy Trainers

Comfort 8
Weight 8
Grip 8
Longevity 7
Cost 9 (£10 about)

Conclusions:

What does it all boil down to, cost and robustness seems to be the general consensus from all the guides I spoke to. For years the only solution seemed to be the canyoneer, no longer the case. As kayaking shoes have come into vogue more and more manufacturers are entering the market. It appears that canyoning boots across the board have been dogged with reliability issues. Some good solutions are now being offered, but you might have to hunt around for them and research far and wide to get a good deal. For me my money is on the Adidas Hydro Lace, but not cheap if you don’t do a lot of coasteering. For the occasional dip in the sea, just buy cheap trainers and get used to how they perform on rock. If you want some middle ground then the NRS Velocity is shaping up well and you could always paint them another colour if you feel the need for some bling for your feet. In addition to those trialled above the Palm Gradient and Baffin Swamp Buggy are now being used by some local guides and whilst the initial thoughts have been expressed we await the verdict.

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