As water shoes have become more popular the last few years, companies have tweaked their designs so that you don’t have to sacrifice comfort to get a truly amphibious shoe. Timberland’s Rip Current Tech is a good example. After wearing these water shoes for a couple of months while kayaking and canoeing, our testers came to appreciate their comfort, support and cushioning, as well as their ability to shed water and provide sure footing on wet surfaces.
The first aspects we noticed about the Rip Current Tech were the soft, smooth synthetic materials that line the inside of the shoe and cover the ankle area. These shoes never rubbed our feet wrong or created hot spots as we sloshed through the water, walked on riverside trails and just kicked around town. The liner materials are also slightly padded, so your feet never ride against hard surfaces and feel as if they’re encased in stiff plastic — a problem with some earlier water shoes we’ve tested.
One nice feature of the shoe is that the upper has a nice balance of flexibility and support. Synthetic materials covering most of the upper part of the shoe are rigid enough to support the foot and protect it from rocks and other debris, but the materials are still flexible so the Rip Current Tech bends with the foot like an athletic shoe. The tongue and topmost portion of the upper are made of a soft, open mesh, further allowing the foot to move freely. Because the shoe’s upper and interior are completely synthetic, it does not absorb water and dries relatively quickly, whether it’s placed in the sun, or in a cool, dry place.
As we portaged boats to and from the put-in, we appreciated that this shoe also has ample foam in the midsole to help the shoe bear some weight and support the arch of the foot. We found that we didn’t quite get the support of a running shoe, but it’s pretty darn good, and we were able to wear these shoes all day without any complaints of foot fatigue.
A true test of a water shoe is whether it allows the user to scramble over rocks and riverbanks without slipping — especially important if toting a boat and a fall could result in a nasty injury. This shoe’s outsole, made of recycled Green Rubber, not only grabs really well, but it also has channels that let the outsole flex and increase the surface area of the rubber that touches ground, rocks or whatever.
We also found that the shoe never felt loose or sloppy when walking or swimming in strong currents. The bungee-style lacing kept it firmly in place, and ribs on the laces prevented the elastic cord from slipping though the adjustment toggle.
A really nice aspect of this water shoe was it purged water easily, so once walking on dry land, our testers noted that their feet didn’t remain swamped. Drainage ports at the sides and rear of the Rip Current Tech expelled water quickly, leaving just a slight amount of water underfoot. The ports are covered with mesh that allowed only the finest silt to enter the shoe. Of course, with pretty much any water shoe, including the Rip Current Tech, some debris will enter through the throat of the shoe, especially if the foot is submerged in the sandy bank of a river. It might be a good idea to outfit this water shoe with a soft collar to hug the upper ankle and block out dirt, mud and small rocks.
As for the basic fit of the shoe, we found it was best for low- to mid-volume feet, and those with very wide feet might find it constraining. However, the lacing system does allow a wide range of adjustment, so this shoe should fit a wide range of foot types. One tester also felt that the shoe rubbed slightly where it flexes above the toes, but it was not a big enough issue to cause a hot spot or blister.
While not perfect, the Rip Current Tech is a vast improvement over water shoes of yesteryear, and it’s a great option for those seeking more protection and support than most sandals provide.
SNEWS® Rating: 4.5 hands clapping (1 to 5 hands clapping possible, with 5 clapping hands representing functional and design perfection)
Suggested Retail: $75
For more information:www.timberland.com