Whitewater Rafting: Best Shoes to Wear

Footwear for recreational rafting isn’t as specialized as footwear for many other sports, but it’s still important to have appropriate shoes for the section of river you will be rafting.

Here’s the simple question we get asked a lot:

Q: What are the best shoes for whitewater rafting?

And here’s our answer:

A: Closed-toe athletic training shoes, running shoes, or water shoes are the best choice for most river rafting trips. Whitewater-specific shoes are nice—but not necessary for Timberline trips. In cold temperatures or on high-intensity sections of whitewater, neoprene booties with rugged soles are often worn. If your trip requires booties, Timberline Tours will provide them, along with other essential whitewater rafting gear. Sport sandals that strap on and have toe coverage may be appropriate for some float trips, but keep in mind that open-toe shoes offer little protection for your feet on Colorado’s rocky riverbanks.

Flip-flops are not appropriate footwear for any rafting trips with Timberline Tours.

Colorado Corporate Group Events

Play it safe with rafting footwear by wearing closed-toe athletic shoes, such as running shoes, which will provide safe and appropriate foot protection for all Timberline Tours rafting trips. Be sure that you’re willing to get your shoes wet and possibly dirty.

Bring dry socks and a dry pair of shoes to put on after your trip to stay comfortable during transport to and from the river. Soggy shoes are no fun. Even if you do not swim on your rafting trip, it is very likely that your feet will get wet. Water will splash into the raft, and even self-bailing rafts—the kind of rafts used for commercial rafting trips—often have water splashing around on the floor of the raft. While rafting, it’s nearly impossible to keep your feet from getting wet.

Sport-specific water shoes for whitewater rafting

Purpose-made, technical shoes for whitewater rafting are not essential to bring on a Timberline Tours rafting trip, but they’re nice to have if rafting is a regular part of your lifestyle. If you often go out rafting recreationally with friends, or if you frequently go on commercial rafting trips, then river-specific shoes may be a good investment for several reasons.

Upper Colorado River Rafting

River-specific water footwear has many features that are ideal for rafting. The tread and sole of river shoes are grippy, making them good for walking around on slippery riverbanks and for providing traction inside of a wet raft. Technical whitewater rafting shoes also need to drain fast and dry fast, especially for those—like Timberline’s guides—who spend all day out on the river all summer. Good thing: river-specific water shoes are often designed with fabrics that resist getting stinky. Shoes designed for whitewater rafting also need to be sturdy enough to withstand rocky shores and a lot of outdoor wear and tear. Astral is one of our favorite makers of river-specific water shoes. Teva, Chaco, and Keen also have some good full-coverage water shoes that are appropriate for whitewater rafting.

If you still have questions about the best shoes for whitewater rafting or about what to wear whitewater rafting, give our friendly office staff a call to consult. We want all Timberline Tours guests to have a safe and enjoyable time out on the river, and having happy feet is definitely a part of that process.

Timberline Tours is the Vail-area’s premier whitewater rafting and backcountry jeep tours outfitter, also offering stand up paddle board (SUP) and duckie river trips on Colorado’s Eagle, Colorado, and Arkansas Rivers. All of our guided trips are open to Vail, Colorado visitors, locals, families, and corporate groups.