By BENJAMIN ROMAN
On a lot of trips, getting to the destination is half the fun. But for rafting or kayaking excursions, backcountry approaches and rocky put-ins can be miserable in sandals or booties. The Teva Gnar, released in March ($80, www.teva.com), aims to deliver serious support and traction on land as well as comfort in the water.
Over the last few weeks, I tested the Gnar shoes along the rocky coastline of the Pacific Ocean near Los Angeles to find out how they perform.
Teva Gnar Shoe
Out of the box, the Gnar looks like a sneaker, not something from Aquaman’s workshop. But take a close look and you’ll see drain vents throughout the upper and a perforated insole. Teva equipped the Gnar with closed-cell EVA padding in the tongue and collar, which is designed to be non-absorbent, unlike your soggy old running shoes. A nylon and synthetic-leather upper and a sticky-rubber sole round out the package.
The Gnar fits like, well, a sneaker. The shoe is comfortable for trail approaches, and the support and toe protection were great for wrestling a boat down a rocky slope. Traction on wet rocks was good thanks to a smart tread pattern and the company’s grippy SSR rubber. But because the tread is so soft, keep the Gnars off pavement to avoid unnecessary wear.
Sole shot, Teva Gnar
In the water, the shoes felt secure on my feet. Swimming in the Gnars was tricky though, like swimming in sneakers, which means you get less “bite” with each kick because of the rounded tops. I was happy to find the Gnars are slightly buoyant — a plus for anyone who has ever had to rescue a stray sandal from downriver.
Since the Gnar is a hybrid, don’t expect it to drain quite as well as a pure water shoe. In my test, the side vents drained water effectively, but the tongue, collar, and insole soaked up a fair amount of water and remained squishy even after drying in the breeze for a while. This extra padding provides added protection from rocks. But it may make the Gnar too bulky for some kayakers — especially those needing a sleek fit for a playboat.
Teva Gnar, rear view
On a side note, Teva reports that the Gnar has become popular for the fringe sport of wakeskating. I’ve tried it in the past, both barefoot and wearing waterlogged sneakers, and neither option is ideal. Although I didn’t try wakeskating while wearing the Gnar, the solid grip and padded construction would certainly make it a good choice.
The bottom line: The Teva Gnar combines casual style, good padding and support, and solid traction in wet conditions. It is a shoe that will get you to the water’s edge as well as down the rapids.
—Contributor Benjamin Roman is a writer and design consultant from Venice, Calif.