I’m going to admit to a bit of snobbery. A few years ago my wife got some Vibram shoes — the ones that look like rubber gloves for your feet — as water shoes. They had pockets for each toe, and damn they looked weird. Kirsten really liked them, but I basically made her shoes into an object of mockery. They just seemed… goofy. To her credit, my wife never let my disdain bother her. She’d tell me each time that they felt great, and I didn’t know what I was missing. Kirsten had a funny way of saying, “I’m wearing my feet,” whenever she’d put them on. That was endearing. Not that it made me want to wear the shoes, but it was cute. They did look like feet. Gross, rubbery, deformed, amphibian feet.
Then I received a pair of Body Glove 3T Barefoot shoes to review. And yup, they look like Kirsten’s “feet”. They don’t have sleeves for all five toes, just the first two, but the design was close enough. Would they be good enough to replace my beloved Tevas? Would they be tough enough for the Hudson River? Would the material between my toes feel icky? Would I even condescend to put them on?
Of course I tried them. Now I’ve had barefoot style sneakers for years, but these were a whole different level of “barefootness”. They were quite nice to move around in, and I liked how connected I felt to the ground. The material between my toes felt better than flip-flops (which I hate) although a few times I had trouble getting the right toe into the correct sleeve. Once I was on the board, the shoes were more stable than Tevas. I was embarrassed to realized I rather liked them. One of the bad things about Tevas is that they raise you up about half an inch from your board. That changes your stroke. With water shoes like this doesn’t make much of a difference.
Thin soles for a true barefoot feel on your board.
Another thing to consider is that when you fall in, Tevas act like a sea anchor. They actually make it harder to swim towards your board. These Body Glove water shoes don’t hinder your swimming much, and that’s good. Tevas also leave the tops of your feet vulnerable to rocks, which has hurt me more than once. So, I liked them. These Body Glove shoes will be my new board shoe. My one concern is that the sole might be a little too thin. We have a freshwater version of the sea urchin in the Hudson, the water chestnut pod, which is like a medieval caltrop. It has spikes that will pierce almost any shoe. The soles on the Body Glove 3T Barefoot are also vented, and in any normal environment those vents are a great idea. Unfortunately they’re perfect for admitting a water chestnut spike.
Slipping them on is like putting on a pair of snow moccasins, and there’s a bungee for tightening them. Because of the snug fit, the shoes take a little doing to put on and off, especially when wet. When little pebbles invariably work their way inside, you need to take off the shoe. Despite this, the shoes are comfortable, especially for wide, flipper-footed people like myself. So despite my wife’s teasing (which I richly deserve), I rather like these shoes — easy to wear and you get a good grip on the board. And now I can tell her before I go out on a paddle, “I got my feet!”