One of the more common questions we get from guests preparing for their upcoming Grand Canyon river trips is some variation of, “What should I wear on my feet?” You’ll need to be prepared for walking on sandy beaches, wet rubber boat surfaces, and rocky trails, AND you’ll want to be comfortable and warm, so we understand why choosing the right footwear can be daunting.
Here is what we recommend for most of our guests:
A Comfortable Pair of Hiking Sandals
What we mean by this is a pair of sandals that strap to your feet, have a thick sole with treads, and are able to withstand being wet for the better part of most days. Most guests choose to wear their sandals on the boats each day and on many of the hikes (particularly those that involve frequent creek crossings or that go right up the creek beds themselves) as well.
Things to consider:
Popular brands: Chaco, Teva, Keen, Bedrock
Alternative: If hiking sandals aren’t your thing, you can easily swap them for a pair of lightweight tennis shoes, hiking shoes, or water shoes as long as you don’t mind getting them wet! If you decide to go the non-sandal route, we still recommend bringing two pairs of shoes (aside from your comfortable camp footwear) so that you can always change into a dry pair and so that you have a backup in case a shoe is lost or broken during your adventure.
What to avoid: flip flops or slip ons that can easily slip off your feet with a rush of water; flimsy shoes that won’t hold up to the hiking and other adventuring you’ll be doing
A Comfortable Pair of Lightweight Tennis Shoes or Hiking Shoes
These are for when your hiking sandals just aren’t quite cutting it. Some hikes on your trip are completely dry and can be up the steep sides of the canyon or over rocky unmaintained trails. In these instances, many of our guests choose to switch from sandals to tennis shoes or hiking shoes.
Things to consider:
Popular brands: Whatever you already own will probably work great!
Alternative: If you are generally more comfortable with more ankle support or if you are hiking the Bright Angel Trail at the start or end of your trip, you may want to consider bringing a pair of high profile hiking boots instead of tennis shoes or hiking shoes. Boots are typically heavier, but can provide your feet and ankles with more support on longer hikes.
What to avoid: shoes marketed as “waterproof” or that have been treated with a waterproof coating—typically waterproof(ed) shoes have exterior coatings that repel water, but if water gets inside them, they take longer to dry than shoes not designed to keep water out
Comfortable Camp Shoes
When you’ve finished a long day of rafting and adventuring, it can be nice to kick off your shoes and give your feet some room to breathe. There’s just one problem... the campsites in Grand Canyon are still in the backcountry, meaning that they are likely to have sticks, rocks, ants, and other elements of nature that can cause injuries to bare feet. For that reason, we recommend that even as you walk around camp you keep something on your feet.
Popular brands: Whatever is hanging out in the back of your closet
Alternative: Wear your river shoes or tennis shoes. Camp shoes are among those non-essential items that are nice to have, but easy to go without. If you’d prefer to pack as lightly as possible, simply use your hiking sandals or your tennis shoes to walk around camp.
What to avoid: fuzzy slippers or other materials that will hold onto sand no matter how much you try to shake them out
Don’t forget socks!
As important as wearing the right shoes on the river is wearing the right socks. Here are some of our sock recommendations:
Bonus: For VERY Cold Weather
Most guests travelling with us will be perfectly warm with the shoe/sock combinations described through the rest of this article, but if you are on one of our earliest April trips you might benefit from, bringing an inexpensive pair of rubber boots. You can wear these on the boats with warm socks underneath and your rain gear over top to keep your feet toasty warm. You’ll even be able to jump in the shallow water without getting your feet wet and cold.
General Footwear and Foot Care Tips:
If you want to discuss your particular needs and what types of footwear would best serve you on the river, feel free to call our office. We know that if your feet are happy on the river, the rest of you will follow!