The king is dead, long live the king!
Five Ten’s Canyoneer was once the whitewater shoe of choice. At the time, it was the only high top shoe with arch support and good grip in all conditions; yet it was hindered by several aspects. It was bulky, with large buckles used to secure the shoe instead of laces. These buckles were prone to breaking. It was heavy when wet, and took ages to dry. It also had mesh in the wrong places for kayaking, and was prone to wearing through in front of the outer arch of the foot. They were also hard to get on and off, especially with a drysuit.
This fall at Outdoor Retailer we saw the Canyoneer 3 Canvas, a complete overhaul of a shoe that many users had a love/hate relationship with. At first touch, it's obvious that Five Ten did slim down the weight of this new model. They come in at 17.8 ounces, 3 ounces lighter than the previous version. This doesn’t seem like a huge difference, but what we found is that, when saturated, the old Canyoneer bloated to nearly two pounds: just under 30oz when wet. Version three is 22 ounces when saturated. This is a very real difference in use.
In hand, the new Canyoneer has less bulk. The buckles are gone, replaced with an off-center lacing system that is reminiscent of Adidas's soccer cleats. This lacing system opens wide, and they are surprisingly easy to get in and out of even while wearing a drysuit. That's not even taking into consideration that these are high top shoes with ankle support; they're easier to slip on than other low top river shoes. Think of it as entering the shoe from the top more than the back, pinched toes from drysuit socks are a thing of the past. Once laced up, there is a nice little pocket to tuck the laces into and a final Velcro strap to keep things tight. Very clean, very functional. Not something you'll wear out on the town, it’s function over fashion, a welcome trade.
The footbox is very roomy, good for wide feet, less so for narrow. This is by design because canyoneers often wear different layers of socks and neoprene. Kayaker's do too, but for most I would recommend against sizing up the usual half size for drysuit use: just get your normal size and there will be plenty of room. The Canyoneer is not initially a comfortable shoe—they are stiff and take a few weeks of use to fully break in. That's a good sign for longevity of the shoe. After a few weeks of use they are quite comfortable, even on longer hikes.
The mesh is gone. This is good. The canvas material is wearing better, and in use it keeps dirt out. Have you ever owned a pair river shoes with mesh that were supposed to let sand and debris out, yet only seemed to let it in? That's the story of my life with mesh. This change is a welcome relief, unless you sink in over 6" deep, the new Canyoneer stays free of debris, making life much better for drysuit sock wear and tear.
The tread pattern used on the original shoe was a good mix between traction on slick rock and in loose dirt. Five Ten has improved on the classic design. The lugs are now deeper and further spaced for penetration in loose terrain. In loose dirt or scree fields, it's no competition, this is the best traction out there. The tread pattern wraps up the heel cup, allowing for solid traction on steep down climbs. Using Five Ten's Stealth S1 rubber, the traction on slick rock is just what you'd expect: tacky and predictable. This is the rubber that set the standard for traction, and it's still performing well.
There is no ignoring the elephant in the room; Astral's Rassler. We've been singing the praises of this river shoe for the last few years. These two are the only high top, high traction river shoes available. The Rassler is lighter, cheaper and less bulky. The Canyoneer has the best traction in all conditions, more foot protection, are easier to get on and off, they keep sand and grit out out, and have a stiffer, more supportive foot bed for extended hiking. Of course there is no ignoring the rather eye watering price of $180 for the Canyoneer.
We have two concerns about the Canyoneer. Has their rather notorious durability been improved, and will there be breathability issues on the long hikes into some of California's High Sierra classics? In a few months we'll be back with an update on long term use of what looks to be our new favorite river shoe.