If you follow the Sitons Facebook page you might have spotted some green toes at the bottom of a lot of our photos recently, thanks to some new paddling footwear I’ve been testing – Camber shoes from Palm Equipment.Coming from the biggest name in kayaking apparel, it should come as no surprise that these rather stylish low-cut shoes are designed specifically with paddling in mind. The official blurb describes them as a “river and approach shoe to wear on land and water”, which seemed like a pretty good excuse to get them wet and muddy to me (I might have even added some sand into the mix).
The Camber is no retiring violet when it comes to looks. They only come in one colour combination: black and “look at my feet” fluro green. The uppers are made from layered mesh, with a contrasting grey mesh tongue, and the sole is a satisfyingly chunky light grey made from “Vibram Megagrip compound”. They certainly stand out compared with the conservative look of my usual Palm Rock water-shoe – my feet have never looked so stylish! As you would expect from Palm they are also remarkably well constructed from quality materials with double-stitched seams throughout. There are also nice “paddler-friendly” touches like big rear loops and a raised surface on the heel to help when removing wet shoes with cold hands.
FIT AND COMFORT
The Camber offers masses of room, particularly around the toe area. Even with my famously wide and square feet there is plenty of space – even when wearing them over a drysuit or thin wet socks. That toe section isn’t loose though and the laces hold the Palm Camber firmly in place. Low cut fitting makes the shoe very comfortable, even when sat in a kayak (no rubbed Achilles tendon here). Inside there is a removable padded sole for a bit of extra luxury.
I’ve always been happy moving between bare feet and water shoe depending on the weather and had never considered more robust footwear before. I now find that I’m opting for the Camber all the time. The most notably benefit for me is the rugged sole. I most frequently launch from a shingle beach and land on a muddy one – with the occasional diversion across a slippery rock or two. The Camber handles all those surfaces well, always delivering confidence inspiring grip. The big advantage though, over a softer soled water shoes, is the comfort across those surfaces with the solid sole and cushioning you get from all the points and edges. There is also a real comfort advantage when the weather warms up. The mesh outer allows your feet to breath and keep cooler as the temperature rises – unlike neoprene which can leave you wanting to dangle your feet over the edge to cool them.The only drawback I could find was that the Camber does take longer to dry that a lighter type. Solid construction means you can’t fold and wring them out – you are more reliant on evaporation. Whilst this isn’t likely to cause a problem for those with a warm place to dry their footwear, it might be a factor for those paddling several times a week and wanting to ‘air’ their shoes.