Since forever, warm-water reef booties have gotten a bad rap. Sure, their primary function as added protection for your tootsies from razor-sharp reef, rocks, and other pointy objects on the ocean floor makes sense, intuitively. But something about the cost of surfing in sodden rubber-soled clogs has led most (this writer included) to eschew the extra protection for board feel. Or maybe the occasional filet-o-feet is simply a rite of passage?
Anyway, warm-water boots have never really caught on save a few dedicated loyalists. But, a recent effort from Vans – steeped so thoroughly in skate history as the brand is – begs the question: could warm-water booties designed with performance in mind actually become a thing?
This week, Vans dropped its skate-inspired, warm-water Surf Boot Mid as part of a three-piece capsule of experimental surf gear that also includes a cold-water bootie, the Surf Boot Hi, and a fly-less surf trunk. Unlike previous additions to the warm-water bootie genre, Vans’ effort prioritizes performance features like grip and fit, and boasts a “perforated upper” so your hooves don’t overheat. Vans’ iconic sidestripe is, of course, a nod to the brand’s skate shoe roots.
But what about the feel of the board under your feet? The wax on your toes? Vans is also boasting a “second skin feel” that will help with that traditional loss of sensation when wearing booties. Grip seems like the least of your worries (for that, skaters have trusted Vans for decades).
But the question remains, could the performance-minded warm-water bootie actually be better than going barefoot with the added benefit of protection when your toes make contact with sharp coral heads? Maybe.
Front traction has been adopted by many an inclined punter, and in warm climates, a well-fitting, extra-grippy booty offers many of the same benefits without the added nipple chafe. In other words, a warm-water boot could soon be the solution to the problem you never knew you had.