Gear Pick: Fila Skele-toes

Originally published in The Aspen Daily News on June 29, 2012

If you’re regularly on the river, be it in a kayak, raft or ducky, you can probably appreciate a good water shoe when you find one and that’s exactly what the Fila Skele-toes are. Although the shoes look as weird as their name sounds, don’t let that scare you off.

My first introduction to the strange-looking shoe was when I was in the middle of the brutal two weeks it takes to train as a raft guide. One of the more eccentric rookies pulled out a version of the shoe and began showing off his new gear — a typical custom of new guides. My first reaction was ridicule. The shoe made him look like some kind of a man-frog with individual slots for each toe. It looked less like a sleek bootie and more like a weird sock/glove hybrid. That season he took the relentless criticism from us guides like a champ and faithfully defended his shoe, swearing by its versatility and warmth.

Four years later, almost all of the guides who once made fun of him have converted from the sneaker-like watershoes to the Skele-toes. Part of the problem is that most watershoes are made by companies that are better known for their hiking and walking shoes than their watershoes, which tend to be just waterproof versions of their dry-land counterparts. The same feature that makes the shoes look strange is what makes them better than their competitors.

Any guide knows you can’t predict when you’ll end up stranded in the middle of the river with only one way out or when you’ll need to jump from rock to slippery rock for one unfortunate reason or another. It helps to have a good watershoe that can grip a variety of surfaces, wet or dry, and that’s exactly what the Skele-toes does. By allowing each toe its own slot, the shoe gives you that primitive ability while allowing you to go from a slippery boat to gravel-covered land without second a thought.

The Fila Skele-toes  comes in different colors and materials. As a rule of thumb, water shoes made out of neoprene are better than others because they keep your feet warmer. As for color I go pink — which is partly because they’re easy to identify if a river rat happens to “borrow” them in between runs and partly because they like totally go with my pink and gray Astral life jacket.

Get your own:
Fila Skele-toes are available at http://www.fila.com. 
Prices start at $49.99

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