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Best shoes for Boundary Waters?

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My club has a Boundary Waters trip scheduled and I'm actually thinking about it. Not too seriously, but it's on my mind.
I'd pretty much decided my Boundary Waters days were over, but most of my other trip plans fell through and I have a new solo canoe that just screams Boundary Waters. This would be my first time paddling a solo canoe, in the Boundary Waters. Something I've always wanted to try.
I've been trying to remember what I wore, on my feet, the previous times I've done trips in the Boundary Waters. I'm certain I wore light weight hikers on, at least, one occasion.
Just wondering what most people wear? I think Cliff Jacobson wears high top waterproof boots. Seems a bit much to me, but I haven't tried it, so can't really say. So happens I have a brand new pair that I bought for something else. Anyway, what do you wear?
 
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Shoes are the one thing no one agrees on. I don't wear hiking boots as I tend to trip over them. Have worn them previously tripped and the canoe landed on top of me.

I wear something like canyoneering sneakers . Good vibram tread but flexible sole and closed toe. I have several pairs of Merrel Maipos that I got years ago. I like to test out the thing I am committed to stepping on and feeling ; Is it going to roll or is it slidy? A good test is if you can stay uprignt on wet leather lichen.

Salomon Techphibians are made with the same principle but the heel cup too shallow for me.

In the spring I wear old Chotas, boots with waterproof lining. However my feet sweat and they give no support really.

Crocs are OK but just for camp shoes. Sandals for me are a no no as they admit small pebbles and sand.

You are going to get about1,672 thoughts on this.

Ecology matters. In the BWCA I don't worry about mud sucking my shoes off. In the Glades I do.
 
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My usual and preferred boots are NRS Boundary boots. I use insulated Bean Boots in the shoulder seasons. OTB Abyss boots with neoprene socks if the portages are rough and need the ankle support. I have some lightweight sneakers in camp that I try and keep dry.
 
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I was there during fall shoulder season. I wore my high top hiking boots with wool socks.
 
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Ecology matters. In the BWCA I don't worry about mud sucking my shoes off. In the Glades I do.
Not only does ecology matter but so does time of year, expected weather, personal physical gifts (or lack thereof), personal tolerance for various annoyances/hardships. When you put all of this together, especially the personal gifts and tolerances, you end up with many different solutions to the footwear issue.
I trip in Shield country quite a bit. In the summer I wear Keen Arroyo II sandals/shoes and in the fall I wear rubber boots with wool socks. I always take along an extra pair of footwear for in camp and for possible failure of my other footwear. I am fortunate to have very good ankles and quite a bit of tolerance for mud/twigs/etc. in my Keens (which I find doesn't happen very often).
I'd start with thinking about your personal gifts (or lack thereof) and your tolerance for annoyances/hardships and then look at the options that will be shared.
 
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The shoe spectrum has been pretty well covered so far......a lot of good advice.....maybe it was already mentioned and I missed it, but another variable is the route/trip you will be taking. Are you traveling a lot of distance each day through less traveled areas or base camping with shorter day trips? I have tried about everything.....what works best for me right now is a pair of LL Bean "Maine Hunting boots" (Unlined/uninsulated). They provide good foot/ankle support/protection, they dry out fairly quickly when you go in over the tops which I manage to do a couple of times per trip, pretty good traction on wet portages and rocks, and the sole is flexible enough that I am not worried about foot entrapment if I am kneeling in my canoe. I had a pair of goretex lined and insulated bean boots in the past and they were great until I went in over the tops, they never did dry out and felt like 5 pound weights on my feet the rest of the trip. I think Cheaseandbeans mentioned the NRS boundary water boots...I know several guys that like those, I have not tried them yet, my only concern with them is how much protection/support the sole has....maybe C&B can speak to that? they are on my list to look into a little more. Yellowcanoe also mentioned trail runner style shoes.....they are becoming more popular with the BW crowds, I may have to give them a try one day. My only concern with a low top shoe is loosing one in knee deep muck when crossing an area where a beaver dam has washed out. Another popular option are "Chota" breathable hip waders and wading shoes. A buddy of mine has used them for several years now, however, I have noticed that at the end of the day he is just as wet from sweat as I am from wet footing it. Some day, someone will develop the perfect BW footwear.....maybe.....

Mike
 
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Recommendations about boots of shoes for canoeing will get you Kim’s 1600+ personal opinions.

In cooler weather I prefer a near knee high Muk boot of some sort, to permit wading and “wet foot” entry/exit, and if I’m going to be doing much walking or wading in them something with good tread, arch support and a stacked heel. Of course with size 12 EEE feet that much stiff sole and raised heel precludes kneeling, or at least getting my feet out from under the seat without capsizing.

“In the spring I wear old Chotas, boots with waterproof lining. However my feet sweat”

Mine too. Veering a bit off topic, socks matter too, perhaps especially with muks.

One “trick” with muk boots that a friend taught me years ago, quickly adopted by almost everyone in our off-season paddling circle. I buy Muk boots a bit larger than needed and wear two layers of socks; first layer against my feet something like thin Smartwools, second layer waterproof Sealskinz socks or knockoffs. Or others; I found a killer deal years ago for mil-spec Sealskinz, identical in every way to the name brand and probably made in the same factory.

When I take the muk boots off there may be (at times considerable) perspiration on the boot lining, but my feet are still essentially dry and, even if slightly damp, the Smartwools dry very quickly. In camp I turn the Sealskins inside out and hang them to dry, muk boots stood tall in some sunny/breezy spot if possible.

Another benefit of that sock layering, with the pinhole leaks that neoprene muck boots tend to develop, often at the neoprene-to-rubber stitching (Aquaseal with Cotol works wonders there when I get home) the Sealskins still keep my feet dry and warm.

“I always take along an extra pair of footwear for in camp and for possible failure of my other footwear”

Amen to that, for a variety of reasons. I may be the Imelda Marco’s of tripping footwear, but leave my Manolo Blahnik heels at home.

I want muks or water shoes for in-canoe use. I want dry footwear for in camp, usually times two; one sturdy pair for walking/exploring/setting up camp, and one light airy pair my to dry out my tootsies between sock and shoe changes, or to slip on when nature calls in the middle of the night instead of fumbling with laces.

Or when I want to slip my shoes off and wiggle my toes while resting in the day hammock and watching the clouds go by.

PA281464 by Mike McCrea, on Flickr

Croc’s are OK-ish for that purpose, lightweight but bulky to pack, and no protection when stepping on a sharp thorn, cactus spine or even a sandbur. FWIW sandburs are an ouchy PITA to pluck out of Croc foam soles. And, for something originally developed as a no-scuff “boat shoe” Crocs can be slippey as hell, especially when the foam “tread” becomes worn smooth.

Or, if it is hot out, rigid-soled flip flops, which pack smaller and eliminate the thorny puncture issue, but can be toe stubbers. My compromise slip-ons are most often a pair of moccasins with a synthetic sole. Hell, in cold weather I bring fuzzy lined moccasins (OK, read “bedroom slippers”)

“I have some lightweight sneakers in camp that I try and keep dry”

Same here, and I do have a recommendation in that “try and keep dry” regard. In some venues an actual leather boot may be a wise choice, if you can deal with the volume, weight and lack of on/off ease.

I did the lightweight “sneaker” (tennies, runners, trainers for our UK friends) for years, but got tired of trying to keep sneakers dry when walking around camp. Dewy brush would quickly wet out lightweight nylon sneakers, and water running down my raingear pant legs was saturation worse. I at least wanted my feet and socks inside the sneakers to stay dry.

My solution, eventually, admittedly after too many years of cheap wet sneakers, was a pair of Goretex-lined trail runners. Decent support, good grippy tread for slippery rocks, and my socks stay dry. Heavier and more expensive than a pair of cheap nylon sneakers, but they have lasted a long time and are still going strong. Oft worn even at home and worth every penny, although I haven’t run a trail in them yet.
 
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Liner socks help me tremendously with any moisture issues. Those with wool on top is what works for me if it's chilly.

The Boundary boots don't have much in the way of arch or ankle support, but I don't do crazy portages usually so isn't an issue. I've gone over the top with no leakage with the top cuff and they are comfy while paddling. I wear them in camp if it is wet or raining.

If it is cold enough to warrant the insulated boots I am extra careful not to go over the top, but it does happen and they are heavy.
 
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I like a waterproof shoe around camp and have an ankle high pair that have rubber half way up. Rainy days, dipping water near shore and dew in the morning and my feet are still dry. They have enough support that they are a backup if I blow out the portage shoes. I prefer to wet foot but on long dry portages I may wear the camp shoe I mentioned. Keeping your feet healthy is the important thing. Most will admit that a long lasting water shoe is so hard to find. I use old ankle high hikers and drill a few holes around the bottom. Leather gets heavy but the synthetics work well, just make sure the shoe is not built around cardboard.
 
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