Water sport shoes for SUP, Or barefoot?

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Should you wear water sport shoes for SUP or deck shoes, or go au naturel? Bottom line, it’s going to be a personal preference, and the style of paddling you choose will play a role in where you put your toes. The serious surfer, racer, or freestyle SUPer might claim that to be one with the board, barefoot is the only way to go. On the other hand, casual paddlers can be seen both with and without shoes.  

Whether you're planning to go on a stand-up paddleboarding adventure, explore a new hiking trail along a river, or just hit the beach for a day of fun in the sun, having the right water sport shoes is essential. Good water sport shoes can protect your feet from rocks, shells, and other hazards, while also providing the grip and support you need to navigate wet and slippery surfaces. However, with so many options on the market, it can be tough to know where to start when it comes to finding the best water sport shoes for your needs. Here are some tips to help you find the right shoes for your next water adventure.


See full review of the affordable Bluefin Sprint here: https://www.standuppaddleboardingguide.com/sup-gear-reviews-paddle-boards.html

“Yes” to water sport shoes for SUP:

  • 1. If the plan is to ride down a lazy river where rocks and other objects lie below the water, or if you’ll be cruising the ocean where a bed of oysters may be hiding, shoes make sense. This is especially true while getting in and out or off and on your board. 
  • 2. there are some who are simply not comfortable barefoot or for whom foot support is needed in general.
  • 3. cold weather paddlers need some type of neoprene shoe or bootie. This is a must to protect from cool temperatures.

No to water sport shoes for SUP:

  • 1. Many flat water paddlers, cross trainers, serious racers, and yoga enthusiasts prefer bare feet. Stand up paddle boarding requires the muscles in your feet to help you to stay on the board, so those muscles get a workout as you balance. Shoes get in the way of all that muscle building.
  • 2. Some SUPers report better balance and more secure turning, claiming that bare feet can better feel the board and its movements.  
  • 3. For shifts in stance, such as paddler to surfer stance, or for tricks on the board, bare feet can mean greater confidence as bare feet are more connected to board movements.

During a demonstration, instructors will often suggest bare feet. Ask before you arrive, but ultimately you should do what is comfortable for you.

Whether to use water sport shoes or go barefoot while paddle boarding largely depends on personal preference and the type of conditions you will be paddling in. Water sport shoes provide protection for your feet and can improve grip on slippery surfaces, making them a good choice for rocky or rough terrain. They can also provide additional insulation in colder water or protection from sharp objects in the water.

However, some paddle boarders prefer to go barefoot as it allows for greater sensory feedback and can provide a more natural connection to the board. Additionally, going barefoot can be more comfortable in warmer water and allow for better range of motion and flexibility.

Ultimately, the decision to use water sport shoes or go barefoot comes down to personal preference and the specific conditions you will be paddling in. It's important to consider factors such as temperature, terrain, and comfort when making your decision.

Let’s talk about kinds of water sport shoes for SUP.

The criteria for a good fit is the same for all categories:

  • • Shoes should fit snug to minimize rubbing that could lead to hot spots and blisters, but comfortable.
  • • Shoes should be designed for water, with good drainage and ventilation. Shoes that absorb and hold water will hinder your movements and feel uncomfortable.
  • • It’s best to have some flex in the sole to allow quick shifting of your feet on the deck pad.  

Deck shoes:

Deck shoes are typically low profile and styled for warmer weather. The soles are non-slip and have holes for quick release of water. The uppers are made of varying materials, usually a mesh.

Water sport shoes:

This category has a wide range of styles and brands:

  • • the Vibram Five Finger brand makes water sports shoes that are ideal for SUP. They are non-restricting, with a glove-like fit and a sole with grip, making them feel close to bare feet.
  • • water sandals work so long as they have a sole with some flex and sturdy straps, and a good grip on the deck pad. A secure fit is necessary for safety.  
  • • slip-on water shoes or aqua socks must fit snugly, so your foot has little or no movement. A loose-fitting aqua sock could shift on your foot, making it hard to stand square on the board.

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