New Balance 921’s – Water shoes built for the back-country

Always on the lookout for new footwear, I spotted the New Balance 921’s and I was instantly intrigued. Water shoes have always seemed like a great idea, but until recently they have been unable to deliver as one would hope. I have long been a fan of the New Balance Outdoor line of sneakers; they have been my cross-trainer of choice for as long as I can remember.

Navigating the steep, rocky portages and boulder lined waterways of the Boundary Waters would seem to be more than any shoe can handle. These are Hiking Boot conditions, right? Not necessarily. I wore a pair of 921’s for 5 days, in every condition imaginable, and only once did I wish I had waterproof boots on.

As my brother-in-law found out the hard way, most water shoes require you to wear socks to avoid blisters. I went both ways in the 921’s without even a sign of skin irritation, and I’ll tell you why. These things are never wet for more than a few seconds once you step out of the water. New Balance’s H2Flow water evacuation/drainage system gets rid of nearly every drop. The lining feels like a neoprene wet-suit and retains virtually no water. Wearing socks, when you are going to get wet, kind of defeats the purpose of wearing water shoes in the first place.

Razor siping and gnarly tread provide excellent traction on even the slickest creek beds. Your foot is fully protected from the elements, unlike the mesh upper construction of many water shoes. Where I did miss my hiking boots was on the muddy portage trails when there wasn’t a pool of clean water in sight. If you get mud and rocks in these, it will rinse out no problem, if you can find any clean water that is.

All-in-all I loved these shoes in the BWCA. I sat comfortably by the fire watching several of my fellow travelers trying to dry out their “waterproof” boots. They were fully capable of handling all the terrain we encountered and were light, which is nice at the end of a 280 rod portage. So when keeping your feet dry is practically impossible, grab a pair of the New Balance 921’s and go ahead, get wet.

MSRP:   $89.99

Weight:  330 grams (11.6 oz)

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