I'm heading up for some walking to Scotland soon. I will need to cross multiple rivers.

I have no interest in crossing wearing my walking boots as so many people like to do as wet feet are the worst of all options. Yes I could remove my socks and cross, but the water in the boot will just wick into my socks as soon as I put the socks back on.

I also don't want to be crossing in bare feet for obvious reasons.

This leaves me with buying some alternative footwear just for crossing rivers (I'll wear my boots the rest of the time). Other than Crocs, what would people recommend? I've been making a big effort to reduce my pack weight recently, so the lighter the better. A rigid sole would be nice, but I'm not too bothered about the cold as I'll only be wearing them for crossings.

  • 1
    your feet will get wet in scotland anyway. You can consider crossing with your boots
    – njzk2
    Commented Apr 23, 2016 at 16:16
  • 1
    @njzk only if you seek out bogs to wade through. Gaiters over boots should keep your feet dry.
    – Chris H
    Commented Apr 24, 2016 at 7:11
  • @ChrisH last time it was not the boots that failed, it was the infiltration in the pants that dripped along the legs. same result anyway.
    – njzk2
    Commented Apr 24, 2016 at 22:33
  • @njzk2 that shouldn't happen even in heavy rain - just put the waterproof trousers over your gaiters if the rain runs inside the gaiters.
    – Chris H
    Commented Apr 25, 2016 at 15:53
  • Specific shopping recommendations are explicitly off-topic. Perhaps you could reword this question to rather ask what types of shoes are best suited to crossing rivers, instead of soliciting specific products?
    – nhinkle
    Commented Apr 25, 2016 at 15:57

10 Answers 10


I guess the answer really is

It depends

As a general purpose solution I normally bring sturdy trekking/hiking sandals on my trips. Something like the models from Teva for example (many pictures on Google). I specifically look for models with have sturdy rubber soles with good profiles, and which come with velcro straps that I can fasten/adjust quickly and safely. Note that I'd forgo the models made from leather - while comfy for walking these mostly don't handle getting wet very well.


  • Sandals double as light footwear during the mornings/evenings
  • They are fairly light and dry quickly


  • Can be painfully cold, depending on the water.
  • While grip is normally sufficient, you don't have any ankle support. As you mostly can't see where you are placing your feet (and depending on the cold you might not feel the ground anymore either) this can be quite dangerous.

If you're looking to cross more dangerous waters, for example rather high, fast-flowing and cold, it can be necessary to wear your regular hiking boots. This is not something I would normally suggest, but I have been doing it on occasion when the crossing is really tricky. I realize that OP specifically asked for other solutions, but I think sometimes this is the only reasonable option: I suggest rather risking some blisters and discomfort than a broken or twisted ankle 5 days from civilization.


  • Best possible grip and support for your ankles
  • Sort of isolates your feet, thus a lot less cold


  • Depending on circumstances drying your boots can take a long time, leading to less than comfortable walking or even blisters and worse.

As a middle ground between the two I have seen people use fast-drying trekking shoes which are maybe ankle-high max and mostly made from purely synthetic materials to allow for quick drying.


  • Better grip and ankle support than sandals


  • Can weigh a good bit more than sandals
  • Don't dry as fast as sandals, so your comfy evening footwear might be wet still
  • 2
    Just a note about the cold feet: when canyoneering my feet typically get wet so I always bring a pair of neoprene socks with me. They do a fantastic job of helping your feet stay warm in the water.
    – DawnPatrol
    Commented Jun 10, 2016 at 14:07
  • @DawnPatrol: I have a question that might seem strange: are the neoprene socks mosquito-proof? Its one of the negative side-effects of bringing sandals as fording/leisure shoes: even with thick socks your feet will get eaten by all the stinging critters... If I could avoid this by bringing a pair of special socks that would be great news. :)
    – fgysin
    Commented Apr 26, 2017 at 13:58
  • @fgysin you should ask your own question for this rather than hijacking. The rule is generally one question per post. Commented May 3, 2017 at 0:27

Any kayaking shop will have a selection of both shoes and boots designed for this. While you can get them with thin soles, I recommend thicker soles if you're mainly wearing them on rocky river beds and banks. You'll get a range of weights and prices.

Neoprene dive boots are also an option though they tend to be heavier.

For a (possibly) cheap option, sports sandals work well, but check out the soles first - some of the very cheapest use foam soles that will fall to bits in any decent use on rocks. If you go down this route, I suggest getting ones that protect your toes.


I've owned pairs of both Keen and Ecco sandals, and have been quite happy with both. They each have solid leather construction with comfortable padding on the inside, and they tend to hold up well.

The sandals are cut so that water flows out of them quickly. The down side is that this allows gravel and sand into the sandals as well. If you're in the water enough, though, it rinses through and does not accumulate. If you're going to be more dry than wet, you may want to consider these or other brands which fill the holes in the shoes with a nylon mesh. This will help to keep the gravel out while still allowing the shoe to dry.

Many sandals of this sort are held on your foot using elastic cords. I don't like this feel (too loose around the ankle), so I look for models which can be easily modified to take a boot lace or paracord.

Some models even include Vibram soles, which offer excellent traction and can allow the shoe to be re-soled for a reasonable price.


If you are only going to use them to cross rivers and you are wanting to save on weight / space, I would suggest some neoprene booties. Surf or diving booties will do just fine. Some are like a neoprene sock, you will get a hole in these fairly quickly. Some are more substantial and are like a neoprene sock with a rubber sole. I would suggest you get a pair of these. They weigh very little and will easily survive walking over slippery wet rocks. You can also pick them up for well under £20 from any surf shop or online retailer. Try somewhere like decathlon or go outdoors or just do a goole search for surf booties. There are plently of online retailers selling them.


Merrell make several excellent shoes which are designed to be lightweight running shoes and I believe they would fit your use case neatly.

Unlike sandals they offer a fully enclosed toe for greater protection, with synthetic and mesh upper and drainage ports in the sole. They're often designed to be worn sockless and so fit the foot closely to minimise gravel ingress. The sole is pretty thin and unstructured, but has the advantage of offering good feel of what is underfoot and I've found their rubber grippy on both wet and dry surfaces (within reason, nothing grips on slime except carbide studs).

I have owned several variants over the years (currently on a pair of Trail Glove) and used them as travel shoes in wet environments or as camp shoes to give the feet a nice airy alternative to boots as the end of a days hiking. They dry quickly, pack small and my current ones have hanging loops on the heels so you can easily stow them on the outside of your bag to dry following a crossing or for easy access.

The ones I have don't seem in the catalogue any more, but something like the Vapour Glove 2 is a starting point for an equivalent design (though without the vented sole, I've never found that important). Anything with "glove" in the name will be a similar low profile, lightweight, well vented design.


For the UK in spring where you expect river crossings there is an argument for just using boots which dry fast eg unlined fabric and leather construction as these also have the advantage of being more breathable in general.

If that is not to your taste then the traditional canvas and rubber plimsoles are as good as anything for river crossings as the pack up small and light


If I were you I would just grab a plastic bag and slip it over your boot. It's small, lightweight, and won't break in a backpack. This way you won't need to take off your shoes and socks either, just slip on the covers, and you are done (especially nice if it's raining).

Good luck

  • 1
    And what if the water is higher than the boot? Commented Jun 9, 2016 at 19:44
  • @Pedr I think the boot height doesn´t matter in this case, but rather how high you pull the bag. I like this answer, however I fear that it can get quite uncomfortable when the bag gets holes - and I would expect that to be sooner than later. Commented Jun 10, 2016 at 7:00
  • And what if the bag gets deteriorated on the first sharpest rock?
    – Akabelle
    Commented Apr 26, 2017 at 11:44

Not to recommend a brand but I like heavy flat soles with straps
They pack flat
If you have to swim they are little flippers



If you are rock climbing your rock shoes


Lighter than a shoe and preferred by many, there is also the option of Five Fingers, which are like a cross between a shoe and a glove. It doesn't hold the ankle, but at least provides the advantages of Vibram, and it holds more stable than a Teva or any other sandals.

Usually I wear Teva sandals for as long as possible during hikes with rivers, but I have the problem that after it gets wet I get blisters on the soles of my feet, where the big toe meets the wet sandal strap.


Neoprene socks.

  1. Your feet will stay warm
  2. You retain the feel for the surface you're walking on
  3. Weights practically nothing
  4. Protects your feet from sharp rocks

You can find them in stores selling scuba diving equipment.

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