The Best Boots for Canoeing (2022)

My go-to boot for shoulder season day tripping has always been the NRS Boundary Shoe. But, on longer trips, especially those without a dry suit, I’ve found the shoes to be too flexible for portages and not waterproof enough for long days. They weren’t the best boots for canoeing, especially during the shoulder season. I polled my friends and fellow paddlers, some of who have spent years guiding canoe trips and have paddled on expeditions all around the world, about what boots they typically used for this. They recommended the following most often: Xtratufs Legacy, Kamik Bushman and Muck Wetlands.

The criteria for the best boots for canoeing was as follows:

  • Sticky soles that wouldn’t slip getting into the canoe.
  • Supportive enough for portage trails with a sole that protects from rocks.
  • Warm enough for sitting in the canoe in mid-30 to mid-50 degree temps.
  • Small enough to fit under a seat for kneeling.
  • Waterproof.

Our Top Pick – Xtratuf Legacy Fishing Boots – Winner of the Best Boots for Canoeing

The Xtratuf Legacy boots are neoprene, rubber-covered boots designed originally for commercial fishing in Alaska. They are so common in Alaska that they have been called the Alaskan sneaker, and there’s a joke that all Alaskans own three pairs: one for fishing, one for working and the other for church. These boots came highly recommended from friends of mine, so I was excited to try them out.

For this test, I tried the Xtratufs in both the Legacy and the Legacy 2.0. The difference between the two is the fit and the outsole. On the original, Xtratuf recessed the lugs so they wouldn’t snag on fishing nets. The 2.0 has regular hiking lugs on the outsole. I didn’t notice any difference in how sticky they were during my tests. Surprisingly, the fit between both boots is different. The 2.0 felt tight across the top of my foot while the originals fit perfectly. If you have the chance try both, because one style may fit you better than the other style.

One downside shared by both models is that they aren’t warm. The warmth depends on how thick your socks are and how many layers of socks you have on. If you’re looking for warm boots, look at the runner up or buy the Legacy a size bigger and wear extra socks and put in a warmer insole. In the end, I got a pair of the originals and sized up to 12 (I’m between an 11 and 11.5 usually). The extra size is big enough for a warmer insole and thick socks.

These boots have been solid performers. They are dry and warm with the right socks. They fit under the canoe’s seat when kneeling and stick well to rocks when getting into and out of the canoe. After using them, I can see why they are so desired in Alaska. They really are the best boot for canoeing.

Runner Up – Kamik Bushman

The Kamik Bushman have a neoprene sleeve and upper combined with a rubber boot that comes up to the ankle. They appear similar to the Mucks, the other boot in the test, but the Kamiks have 7mm neoprene instead of 5mm neoprene of the Mucks. This makes them warmer than the Mucks and much warmer than the Xtratufs — almost too warm. Somehow the Kamiks wick the moisture away from the foot, so in my experience my feet stay relatively free of sweat and dry in the boots when in the field. When I first got these, I wore them around the house for a full day and did feel sweaty after I took them off in the evening. But, I haven’t noticed that in the field.

I found that the fit of these boots were good (the Mucks are better) and find them comfortable wearing around. The ease of putting them on and off has earned them a location near my front door, and they are the boots I slide on when heading into town or for fetching wood from the wood pile. I got these just before winter and have found that down to about 0°F they stay warm when standing around. When staying active they work well below that temp. They also are solid on wet rocks for getting into and out of the canoe. While the Xtratufs were slightly better, these boots are nearly as sticky. They fit under the canoe seat for kneeling, but they aren’t as easy to get there as the Xtratufs.

The Kamiks are more of a winter boot than the others in the test, but if your feet tend to get cold easily these would be a good option. This would be especially true in the lower 40s and 30s. I bought a pair, and they have become my go-to boots this winter.

Participation Prize – Muck Wetlands

The Muck Wetlands seemed to hit all the criteria, so I ordered a pair. They have a tall top that goes almost to the knee, felt plenty supportive and stayed warm but not too warm when wearing them around the house. While they weren’t exactly slim, they fit under a canoe seat when kneeling. They were also the most comfortable of the boots that I tried. Unfortunately, they slip on wet rocky surfaces. I had heard this from friends of mine who called them dangerous for canoeing, but I wanted to try them myself. If fit is your priority, you might want to check these out. BUT, I don’t recommend them for areas that require you to stand on slippery surfaces when getting into and out of the canoe or in areas that might have wet rocks.

Testing the Best Boots for Canoeing

The Best Boots for Canoeing (1)

While trying to balance the criteria that I set out of the best boots for canoeing, I decided that how well they stuck to rocks was the most important. For the rest of the criteria all the boots were about equal except in the warmth category. To test for slipperiness, I poured a glass of water onto the smooth cement in my basement to see if each model would stick. As a control, I used a pair of hiking boots that I found plenty gripy on wet rock in the outdoors.

A friend of mine who tried the Mucks on a trip in the past said that they were dangerously slippery. I tried the Mucks first and nearly fell on my butt. They didn’t stick at all! The Xtratufs hardly moved on the cement. They stuck the best. The Kamiks didn’t stick as well as the Xtratufs, but they stuck almost as good. Both the Kamiks and the Xtratufs did better than my control hiking boots, which slide just a little.

After this test, I knew the Mucks were out, because if they failed on the cement they wouldn’t work in the outdoors. The other two boots I’ve now used in the outdoor on slippery, wet rocks and such and found that they are more sticky than my hiking boots and more than acceptable for canoeing.

Conclusion

I found finding the best boots for canoeing during the shoulder season a trade off. While the Xtratufs were nearly perfect, they weren’t as warm as the other boots. The Kamiks had good fit, great traction but they were just a little too warm. The Mucks were about perfect, except they slipped on wet surfaces. If Muck would put the Vibram sole from the Kamiks on their bottoms, it might be the best boot for canoeing in the shoulder season. In the end, I bought both the Xtratufs and the Kamiks. I picked up the Kamiks because I found them on sale for an incredible price and couldn’t refuse. If I was only going to have one pair, I’d have bought the Xtratufs. Additionally, in the summer months I usually just wear Chaco sandals. If you’re looking for a pair of boots for canoeing, I’d suggest trying the Xtratufs. If your feet tend to get cold or you want your boots to do double duty as winter boots, then get the Kamiks.

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