Over the past few years, we’ve seen an increasing number of footwear companies wade in with new water shoes, and that has really raised the bar for function and comfort. This season, New Balance joins the scene with the 920, its first performance water shoe.
The SW 920 shoe for women looks, at a glance, like a regular sneaker. But look again and you will find signs that this is not your average kick-around-towner: The shoe weighs only 9.5 ounces and has ports between the midsole and upper which are designed to drain water and sand.
SNEWS® sent the shoe with rafters on river trips in the Southwest, during which testers got plenty wet falling out of boats and plenty tired schlepping up side canyons. As the only footwear for our testers on the entire trip, the shoe won praise with a few minor quibbles.
The drains worked well for water, letting the moisture slide right out of the footbed, but some sand always remained in the shoe. The rubbery footbed dried quickly, but the shoe itself took hours to dry completely—on par with a sport sandal made of out webbing, for example. Still, it was not at all uncomfortable to wear when slightly damp.
Testers took the shoe on rugged canyon hikes and found that it didn't chafe, even when they did not wear socks. Unlike many water shoes, the Vibram soles gripped shockingly well on slanting slickrock and rubble-strewn slopes even when damp. On long hikes, the shoes offered a supportive, stable platform for traversing rocky terrain. Still, as is the case with most waters shoes, it lacked the ankle support you get with a boot. Hey, no big surprise.
We also appreciated the low-profile rear pull loop and the one-pull lacing system, which made it easy to adjust on the fly and to dial in a custom fit. One nice detail was the lace garage, which kept the lacing pull tab out of the way. While the mesh upper breathed well and kept feet plenty cool, the light color of the women's version we tested got dirty quickly.
Despite the sand particle incursions and dirty appearance of the shoes at trip’s end, reviews of the 920 were almost entirely positive. For those looking for a water shoe that's cool, lightweight, and offers a bit more support, grip, and performance than the average Joe (or Jane), the 920 is a solid buy.
SNEWS® Rating: 4 hands clapping (1 to 5 hands clapping possible, with 5 clapping hands representing functional and design perfection)
Suggested Retail: $90
For more information: www.newbalance.com