I hate shoes. There I said it. I once went four or five months without wearing a pair but the hard truth is that in some situations they need to be worn. Be it bushwalking for Trout or Bass, walking over oyster covered rocks chasing squid, or wading sandflats in the dark for prawns, there are some things double pluggers just can’t do.
Most fisherman will immediately think of Crocs and in many situations they serve their purpose just fine, just so long as that purpose is on dry land, or on a boat. Anything else, while doable, is not really comfortable. So I started looking for sandals. Basically thongs with a strap to hold them to your foot. Maybe I got the wrong ones. They were safer than crocs or thongs but they rubbed the crap out of my feet.
Then I saw one of those banner ads on a website. I never click on those kind of things but the Vibram Five Fingers looked like they might be worth a try. The idea is that there is a sole that just covers the bottom of the foot with a minimum up top just to hold them on and that all five toes can move independently. Apparently running bare foot is a thing now because when you run in shoes you tend to land on the heel of your foot first which is a lot of impact on your ankles and knees rather than the tendency to run on the front pads of your feet when bare foot. The only problem with that is that your feet have nothing on them and running cavemen didn’t have to worry about things like broken glass.
Cut to the chase, they were more expensive than any shoe I had used for fishing, and nobody likes to shell out a heap of hard earned for something that sucks. So I started with the cheapest pairs that I found for about $65. From the moment I put them on I was stoked with how comfortable they were. It really isn’t like any other footwear I have worn. But would they stand up to fishing?
The first test of my nice new footwear was the ankle deep mud of Marlo at low tide in front of the Orbost Anglers Club (any kayaker will know it). It is soft crap that hides sharp, shell pieces and a couple of mollusc covered rocks that have cut a few people. I hadn’t intended for that to be the test and actually wasn’t even thinking of it as I stepped out of the yak. My first thought was “awesome, well those white shoes will be brown from now on”. Thankfully they aren’t and washed up just fine. I felt quite secure my feet were not going to get cut up but that first pair didn’t pass the mud test 100%. The heel would pull off a little as I came out of the mud. It wasn’t a “digging for clams” Croc stuck in the mud calamity but not the ideal. Other than that the first pair passed with flying colours with everything else I have done with them (which was A LOT).
From there I bought the black pair, the KSO version that has a lining further up the foot and a small velcro strap to hold it on a little better. This solves any of the mud or soft sand underwater problems I had with the first pair but it does make them a lot harder to get on my foot. I put the new black pair to the ultimate test the other weekend, exposing them to just about every terrain possible above and below the water while Trout fishing for three days straight. They passed with flying colours and had the added advantage of drying very quickly to wear the next day.
Now for one obvious point. These shoes probably suck with regard to snake protection and while I would use them for most things I would probably leave them behind when hitting the really snakey areas (i.e. fishing with Aaron Horne). I’m usually a bit mindful of snakes though and don’t go leaping blindly over logs with out looking on the other side or stamping my footsteps to let them know I’m around. So it doesn’t worry me as much.
All in all, I would totally recommend Vibram Five Fingers as fishing footwear but when I get a third pair some time down the track I would go for the ones that do not have the extra webbing over the top of the foot but does have the velcro strap as the black KSO’s are much harder to get on than the first pair I wore and they would be the perfect in between.