*Note: this review is specifically geared toward the use of the Women’s Oboz Campster Sandals for stand up paddle boarding.
Shoes or no shoes? Sandals or no sandals? These are often the questions (and plight) of newbie stand up paddle boarders. And, it is a dilemma not to take lightly because it can impact several aspects of the SUP experience. I have been on an interesting journey with my feet since I first took up the sport last year (2019), and here is what I can share with you about this dilemma.
Firstly, I love my ISLE Glider Wood stand up paddle board, and this sport is my ultimate passion. I love it fiercely, and quickly developed a talent for it. However, there was (and still is) one thing that troubles me: foot pain and numbness. Specifically, the pain always begins in the balls of my feet and ultimately leads to my feet and toes falling asleep. This sensation starts to occur after I have been paddling about one-and-half to two miles, after which, I have to transition to a kneeling or sitting position to allow the blood to flow back into my feet. From that point on, my posture will fluctuate between standing, kneeling and sitting every one to two miles. My preference, however, is to be able to stand the entire time through my paddling excursions, which are sometimes up to ten miles.
There are dozens of websites that discuss this common problem. It is often contributed to not moving the feet/toes around frequently enough while standing on the board, and the muscles in the feet being too tense/strained (from “gripping” the board with the feet). Experienced boarders state that once a person becomes more acclimated with the sport, the feet will naturally begin to relax as confidence is developed, thus resulting in less “gripping” of the board with the feet. As I reminisce about my beginnings with this sport, these theories make perfect sense. However, despite the level of comfort and experience that I have developed, I continue to experience problems.
The deck pads on stand up paddle boards are made with different thicknesses and types materials. Our boards have a very thin foam deck pad, but it is not any different from other boards in the same respective category. As I thought about this, my first theory was that perhaps the deck pad just does not provide enough cushion for my tiny, bony feet. I thought about different ways to alter the deck pad in the exact spot where my feet stand, but then quickly decided against it because I would not want to damage the deck pad in any way.
My thoughts then shifted to the notion of trying to wear something on my feet in an effort to provide more cushion. And even though my gut instinct warned me that that was not a good idea, I was desperate to find a solution. So we stopped at Local Experience, a high-end shoe store in Fraser that had several types of minimalist shoes and sandals. I tried on several, and ended up purchasing the Women’s Oboz Campster Sandals (I will discuss the specific features of this sandal later).
Anyone who is an experienced boarder will tell you that the sport is best done barefoot, which I agree with. And anyone who tells you otherwise may not have as much experience under their belt as they think they do. Paddle boarding with bare feet truly allows the boarder to be one with the board and water. I know this may sound a bit strange, but it is so true.
The first time that I wore the sandals, it was a windy, wavy day so I was able to get a good taste of what it felt like to handle the board wearing something on my feet. And while I was able to handle the water conditions just fine, the ‘feel’ was entirely different; it felt awkward and totally off. It seemed like I had to concentrate harder instead of just letting my body absorb the natural rhythm of the water through my board. I did not paddle board long enough that day in order to tell if the sandals would remedy the foot pain or not. But, I was able to discern that I did not like the way it felt handling wavy conditions.
The second time that I wore the sandals, the water was fairly calm. However, after about two miles, my feet began experiencing the same pain and numbness. At that point, I took the sandals off and decided that I would never wear them again on my board. Not only were they unable to resolve my foot discomfort, but they also created a bit of abrasion on my deck pad, which I feared would ruin it if I continued wearing them. So…now what? Well, now they are just an expensive pair of water sandals that I wear when I walk the paddle boards and kayak to the shoreline, and for causal wear at our cabin in Grand Lake.
FIT/STYLE: there is some decent arch support, cushion, and tread that would make these comfortable enough to wear as an every day sandal. The body of the sandals is comprised of a super tight weave nylon, which could make these a very long-lasting, durable sandal. There are little finger loops on the top of the sandal, and on the heel strap that enable these to be put on and taken off very easily. And the best feature of these sandals is the adjustable heel strap. It can be adjusted to wear behind the heel, and it can be lifted forward and placed atop of the sandal so they can be worn as a slide sandal.
FINAL THOUGHT 1: the Women’s Oboz Campster Sandals are a very comfortable, attractive, durable, and versatile sandal, made by a company that produces some of the best active outdoor footwear in the industry (see the review for Larry’s Oboz Bridger Mid Waterproof). Oboz stands behind their products, carefully tests each product, reliably sources materials, plants a tree for every shoe sold, donate shoes to charitable organizations, and takes steps to reduce their carbon imprint on the planet.
FINAL THOUGHT 2: while the Women’s Oboz Campster Sandals are a fantastic sandal, and I enthusiastically recommend them for casual wear and for water-use, they did not, however, accomplish the purpose for which I had purchased them for.
Overall: Good Purchase
Price Paid: $68.80 (Discontinued Price)
Place Purchased: Local Experience (Fraser, Colorado)
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