Canyoneering shoes need to do it all: offer support, flexibility, a good grip, and adequate drainage to lead you on all of your canyon adventures. In this article, I’m going to share my top picks for the best canyoneering shoes, plus give you a few of my personal recommendations on the best ones out there!
Since you’ll be grappling with rocks, a simple hiking shoe or boot won’t be sufficient because of the structure of the shoe. A normal sneaker doesn’t work either because it may not hold up well to the jagged edges you’re likely to encounter. A water shoe is good because it’s flexible and drains easily, but who wants to scale a canyon in one of those flimsy things?
So what kind of shoe do you really need for the canyoneering trip of your life? Here are a few recommendations that should tick all the boxes mentioned earlier, as well as go above and beyond to make sure you’re comfortable for the duration of the entire trip.
Our Picks for Best Canyoneering Shoes
- Five Ten Guide Tennie Approach Shoes
- Arc’teryx Acrux FL Approach Shoe
- Adidas Terrex Scope GTX
- La Sportiva TX4
- Scarpa Gecko Approach Shoe
Best Canyoneering Shoes: Comparison Table
|View on Amazon
|Five Ten Guide Tennie Approach Shoes
|Split-suede leather, textile lining, rubber outsole
|Arc'teryx Acrux FL Approach Shoe
|PU coated nylon, stretch nylon mono-mesh liner, Vibram sole
|Adidas Terrex Scope GTX
|Textile and synthetics, GORE-TEX, fabric lining, Stealth rubber outsole
|La Sportiva TX4
|Leather, Vibram Mega-Grip rubber outsole
|Scarpa Gecko Approach Shoe
|Suede & synthetics, rubber outsole
What to Look for in Canyoneering Shoes
Canyoneering shoes are not like all other types of shoes.
Because canyoneering is such a versatile activity, you need a shoe that can essentially do it all. Some shoes may have most qualities you’re looking for and lack one, while others may be more split.
Either way, here are the prime things you should keep in mind when on the hunt for the ideal canyoneering shoe.
The most important aspect to look for in canyoneering shoes is a good grip. Your shoes should provide you superb traction on both wet and dry rocks, as well as any uneven surfaces that you may encounter.
Canyoneering can be highly unpredictable, and often times you don’t really know what you’ll come across. Being prepared for any kind of situation will go a long way in terms of preventing you from slipping and sliding the entire time.
You’re going to need a pair of shoes that offer great support for canyoneering — this is an adventurous sport, after all! Rolled ankles and foot fatigue are common without shoes that offer proper support as the terrain can be uneven and you may find yourself jumping from boulder to boulder.
Make sure you choose a pair of shoes that will give you adequate ankle and arch support so your foot stays comfortable and supported all day long.
Support is one thing, but flexibility is another. The main reason you don’t want to wear a hiking boot canyoneering is because it isn’t flexible enough to get you where you need to go.
A good canyoneering shoe will not sacrifice support for flexibility, but will incorporate them both to allow you those questionable reaches and foot holds in unexpected places.
Canyoneering can be full of unexpected surprises, especially in the jagged rock department.
Be sure to pick a pair of shoes that have protection throughout the foot (not skimping on the toe department!) to keep you from getting cut up while climbing, rappelling, or crossing streams.
Speaking of crossing streams, another thing you want to look for in a canyoneering shoe is proper drainage. You may find yourself in water more than once during the day, whether you’re crossing a water of body, swimming through it, or walking under a waterfall.
The last thing you want is a shoe that holds water because you’ll be squishing around in it for the rest of the trip. Having shoes that drain properly instead of keeping water in will give you so much more comfort than a pair that does the opposite.
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Best Canyoneering Shoes
To make your hunt a little easier, here are five of the best options available for canyoneering shoes.
Most of the options on this list are approach shoes, which are a type of hybrid between comfy boots and flexible climbing shoes. They’re made for Class IV hiking and climbing, and most come with special rubber soles to give you outstanding traction.
Keep that in mind when going through this list, and hopefully you can find something that works best for you!
What We Love: Lightweight | 100% leather | Great traction | Durable
Starting off is a killer option from Five Ten. Their Guide Tennie Approach shoes should do the trick if you’re looking for a lightweight option to take adventuring with you.
The shoes themselves are made of 100% leather, offering excellent durability no matter the conditions. The synthetic sole and outsole also give fantastic traction due to the Stealth C4 Dotty tread. Perfect for high-friction, rocky activities, you better believe these shoes should hold you up against anything.
Five Ten meets most of the criteria of what you should look for in a great canyoneering shoe. Good support, awesome grip, adequate protection (I mean look at that toe cap!), and flexible enough.
That said, the one downside to these bad boys is they don’t drain very well. Also, note that these shoes tend to run a half size smaller than general, so consult the sizing chart before purchasing
What We Love: Excellent grip | Durable | Good drainage | Good protection
Rapidly rising in popularity when it comes to outdoor gear, Arc’teryx makes a solid approach shoe that’s perfect for canyoneering.
The upper of this shoe is crafted from PU coated nylon to give the shoe durability and prevent water from sticking in the shoe when wet. All the material is also treated with high abrasion protection films which makes these shoes some of the most durable out there.
Finally, you’ve got a moulded heel and toe cap to protect your feet from any unpleasantries while adventuring about.
The grip on the Acrux FL is superb and will keep you upright on wet or dry land. Plus, the liner inside of the shoe grips your foot (instead of the rocks) to keep it comfortable and in place while you move about the canyon.
These shoes offer awesome protection from wetness as the shoes not only dry and drain quickly, but have a tongue-less design to keep water out of the shoe in the first place.
The main negative aspect of these shoes is you may find they squeeze your foot a bit too much (especially if you have a wider foot) as the liner (and shoe in general) has a tight fit.
What We Love: Lightweight | GORE-TEX water protection | Laceless system | Flexible
Besides killer running shoes, Adidas also makes awesome high performance shoes for canyoneering as well.
The Terrex Scope has an interesting, lightweight design that was specialized for strenuous activity on uneven terrain. The shoes are made of durable and tough textiles as well as synthetic materials, then they’re fully outfitted with GORE-TEX for water protection.
Besides draining quickly and wicking water in general, the Terrex Scope is flexible, durable, and offers great protection with a wraparound toe cap and thick rubber sole.
Something extra notable about this shoe is the laceless system. Instead of being stuck with flimsy laces that need to be tied, you can just slip these babies on and go. Thankfully, you won’t have to worry about your shoelace getting caught on a ridge or tangled in ropes. This system is the best!
Just be sure to break these shoes in before wearing them out on your expedition. They may be a bit firm and uncomfortable when you first get them, but nothing fixes that like wearing them out and about before setting off on a grander adventure.
What We Love: Snug fit | Durable | Awesome traction & grip
This pair of shoes from La Sportiva is extremely well thought-out and rightfully deserves a place on this list of best shoes for canyoneering.
First, assuming you get the correct size, these shoes should fit like a glove, giving you the ultimate comfort, support, and confidence a good pair of canyoneering shoes should.
Next, they’re unbelievably durable. Crafted from, leather, rubber and synthetic materials, no jagged rock or misstep is going to rip these shoes apart. They’ll stand up to pretty much anything and keep you comfortable while doing it.
You get some awesome traction with the TX4 as they use a Vibram Mega-Grip traverse outsole which not only makes sure you’ll stick to anything you step on, but comes with a heel braking platform and enhanced stability. Total win, right?!
Finally, this shoe is designed for all of your adventures. You’ll feel as comfortable climbing as you will hiking as the shoes feature a “climbing zone” toe to make those holds that much easier.
The TX4 may not drain as well as some other canyoneering shoes, but they certainly make up for it in all other areas.
What We Love: 100% suede upper | Good grip | Lightweight | Lace-to-toe design
A final option is the Scarpa Gecko which is a favorite among canyoneering fanatics everywhere.
Starting with the basics, you’ll get an 100% suede upper on this shoe with a synthetic rubber sole with an outstanding grip. The lugs aren’t the deepest here, but they’ll make sure you stay on your feet when scrambling over uneven terrain. The material of the shoe, in general, is super durable so you won’t have to worry about the shoe catching and tearing on anything you come across.
There’s a rubber toe in place for further abrasion resistance. Plus, the lace-to-toe design ensures a performance fit and that all strings will be tucked away before you get going.
These shoes are comfortable, lightweight, and ready for anything. If you’re looking for something that’s ideal for climbing and can really take a beating, these are the shoes for you.
That said, if you frequently go canyoneering that’s heavy on the hiking side (rather than climbing), you may want to opt for a pair of shoes with more support than these. Otherwise, the Scarpa Geckos are truly are remarkable in all other areas.
Alternatives to Canyoneering Shoes
Not completely convinced about whether you need actual canyoneering shoes? You may be able to stick with something you already have if you’re willing to sacrifice some of the important qualities that come with canyoneering-specific shoes.
Here are some alternatives, if you aren’t completely sold on canyoneering shoes.
A solid alternative to canyoneering shoes is a simple hiking shoe.
Hiking shoes aren’t exactly hiking boots as they’re better for easier trails, lighter loads or trail running. Think of them more as a hybrid of hiking boots and a typical sneaker. Ideally, a good pair of hiking shoes shoes should give you most of the things most important in canyoneering shoes like support, traction, comfort and durability.
That said, hiking shoes may not be the most flexible for climbing or give you grip on both wet and dry surfaces. They may not even drain well, to top it off!
If you’re taking a canyoneering trip where you’ll be in water most of the time, hiking sandals are also a decent alternative. Hiking sandals come in all shapes, sizes, colors and fits, so you should be able to find something sturdy enough for your water-bound adventures.
Just be sure to pick a pair that aren’t opened-toed (toe cap forever!) and don’t have mesh on the side. While mesh may get rid of water, it will hold any pebbles or debris hostage that you may have collected from the water, making for an all-around unpleasant rest of your day.
A last alternative is wearing a pair of sneakers or running shoes. This may not be the best option as they can rip or tear easily, but they’re pretty flexible, grippy, and lightweight.
For easier canyoneering, these may do the trick, but in general, you’ll probably want something a little more supportive and protective than a running shoe.
So what do you think? Any of the shoes on this list catch your eye for a canyoneering adventure? Hopefully, you at least know what to look for when deciding on the perfect pair for you.
Be safe, and enjoy your canyon adventures!
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