Excellent mid-height shoes for 3-season paddling on rivers, lakes and the sea, the Palm Rock shoes are a solid choice for everyone from total beginners through to seasoned sea kayakers, river runners, canoeists and SUPers.
If you’re a beginner, determined to get into paddling properly, or an intermediate kayaker, canoeist or stand-up paddleboarder looking for one shoe that does it all, then the Palm Rock water shoes are almost certainly the footwear choice you have been looking for.
These are my top choice of shoe for everyone except, perhaps, winter whitewater kayakers, and I genuinely think that they’re the best kayak shoes around.
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Palm Rock Shoes: look and feel
The Palm Rock paddling shoes are not as hardcore as the Palm Descenders, and you won’t get imposter syndrome when wearing them even if you’re a complete beginner, but they still look the business, and make you feel as though you’re ready to hit the water as soon as you pull them on.
Essentially a mid-height wetsuit bootie, they feel comfortable to wear, tighten securely with a single Velcro strap across the top of the foot, and the comprehensively protective outsole fills you with confidence when you’re launching, landing or generally messing around in the water.
Unlike the Salomon Amphib Bold 2, the Xero Aqua X Sport and the Helly Hansen Ahiga V4 HP Sneakers, the Rocks are not the kind of shoes you’re likely to wear casually off the water, mainly because they have been designed primarily with practicality and performance in mind. As a result, they’re brilliant for paddling pursuits.
Palm Rock Shoes: design and materials
The uppers of the Palm Rock shoes are made with 3mm-think CR limestone neoprene, which is commonly regarded to be better and (slightly) more environmentally friendly than petroleum-based neoprene.
The already snug-fitting bootie can be tightened on the foot with a Velcro strap that passes through a buckle, and once this is done the Rock shoe is not going come off no matter what kind of conditions you find yourself paddling in.
When you do actually want to get the booties off, it’s pretty easy (once you’ve released the Velcro strap), thanks to the tab on the heel.
The substantial outsole is covered in raised ridges arranged in triangular shapes in order to provide traction on slippery surfaces, and it extends up over side of the foot to supply protection to your toes, instep and heel areas. On top of that, the mid-height collars keep ankles safe too.
The glued and blind-stitched construction, and the robust materials used, means these shoes are very hardwearing and should last for years.
We have been using the Palm Rock shoes in my household for several years now, for paddling adventures in kayaks and canoes, and on stand-up paddleboards.
Capable of doing pretty much everything most people are ever going to ask of a paddling shoe, robustly built to last for many years, and yet available for a very reasonable price, this is the model used not just by me, but also my wife and eldest daughter, and they have become tried-and-tested favourites for all of us.
The neoprene is 2mm thinner than the burlier-built and taller Palm Descender, and the Rocks are not necessarily warm enough for mid-winter paddling, but on the other hand they don’t overheat your feet in the middle of summer – so the majority of paddlers will get the most use from these shoes.
They don’t drain, or allow your feet to breathe much – so bear this in mind – but the grip is excellent, keeping you upright on slippery rocks and launching spots, and the protection levels across the foot are fantastic.
We haven’t managed to destroy a pair yet (which is saying something), but if we ever do, I’ll definitely be buying more Palm Rock shoes.
These versatile kayaking shoes are brilliantly balanced, supplying the perfect amount of features and functionality required by the vast majority of paddlers without being so over-specced and technical that they bamboozle beginners or put people off with a high price tag. No matter where you’re at in your paddling journey, what sort of craft you typically paddle, or where and when you most often get on the water, the Palm Rock shoes are almost certainly going to suit your requirements, offering protection, support, security, warmth and grip. At the height of a hot summer you may find them a little too warm, and equally in the midst of a biting winter the 3mm neoprene and lack of extra insulation might mean they’re just not quite warm enough, but for the vast majority of the time the Rocks are the perfect paddling shoe.