It's only January, and the weather is brutally cold, but we're already receiving inquiries about canyoning tours; presumably from those who are looking forward to winter's end.
A lot of the questions we are asked, centre around footwear.
We are still a small company, and we're not yet able to provide everyone with shoes on tour. To keep our tours small and private, yet still affordable, we ask guests to bring their own shoes. We provide everything else, and we do hand out 5mm neoprene socks to keep your feet warm and safe.
In this blog, we'll talk a little bit about what footwear to bring, or not bring.
However, we'd like to put these disclaimers up front:
1. We are not endorsing (or renouncing) any particular brands.
2. We are talking specifically about our tours (of terrain in which we are intimately familiar), rather than canyoning in general.
There are a few main criteria to consider:
Is the sole suitably thick and robust enough to protect your feet from stones underfoot?
Are the toes covered?
The approach trails on our canyons typically take about an hour; they are rocky and uneven.
B. Ankle support
Ground on approach to, and descent of, the canyons is uneven and prone to movement - so ideally you'll want something that gives your ankles a little support
We move slowly and carefully through our canyons, but after periods of heavy rain, some rocks are liable to shift underfoot.
C. Arch support
You're going to be in the shoes, on your feet, for an extended period of time - so arch support is essential to keep your feet happy.
Our tours all take between 2.5-4 hours.
D. Weight (and water drainage)
Canyoning involves swimming, sometimes in moving water, so you'll want to wear a shoe that does not impede your ability to swim. When assessing the weight of your shoe, consider that it is going to be wet.
Our Lost Valley Tour involves a lot of swimming.
A shoe that is flexible helps with the climbing and scrambling sections of the tour. It also provides a little extra comfort.
All of our tours involve a scramble or two.
Canyons are generally slippery. Grip in many shoes is often gained at the expense of the other qualities above; it is however, potentially the most important criteria by which most canyoneers will measure the worth of their shoe.
We protect all sections of our tours where we really don't want you to slip. Better grip on our tours is mostly beneficial for giving a little confidence boost on our rappels. We'll teach you how to move in the canyon, and show you where to go; loss of grip can be somewhat compensated for with technique.
The soles are generally too thin, making them far too uncomfortable for the hike in. They don't offer the best arch support, and are surprisingly lacking in grip.
Typically the most readily available shoe for the non-canyoneer. Most of us own a pair of trainers - or even better, an old pair of trainers.
Our canyons are aimed at the beginner; a pair of trainers will get you down just fine.
The soles give great supports and protection to your feet.
These are light weight and comfy, with the added bonus of drying quickly after tour. A hiking sandal with closed-toes is up to the challenge of our canyons.
These really expose your toes. Slipping forwards in canyons is a common occurrence, without anything to protect your digits you run a severe risk of mashing them up. We don't allow our guests to wear open-toed sandals on tour. (Although they are the perfect thing to slip on once the tour is done)
These generally lack the flexibility you'd want from a canyoning shoe. They are also very heavy and do not drain water particularly well.
They do offer great ankle support, and often grip well, but the weight, and loss of maneuverability you tend to suffer, make them less than ideal in our canyons.
Trail / Approach shoes:
These are ideal - Great grip, good arch support, not too heavy, flexible and offering good protection.
If you have trail shoes, we recommend you bring them along on tour.
If you own a pair of these, you're probably a canyoneer already.
They are made specifically for the sport, but their lifespan versus cost is a question of how much value you expect to get from them.
If you are considering joining us on tour, or going out to explore some of Korea's streams by yourself, and you have some footwear (or other gear) related questions, don't hesitate to get in touch.