Used & Abused Review: O'NEILL SPLIT-TOE WETSUIT BOOTIES
ABUSED BY: AG Outdoor contributor Louise Southerden
I BOUGHT THESE PUPPIES for my first overseas surf trip, in 1994, to Bali and Lombok where most of the waves break over razor-sharp reefs, making booties a must. These ones are low-cut with soft neoprene side panels so they don't rub on your ankle bones (and they're not as hot and clammy as full ankle booties). One of the nylon Velcro straps across the instep (which stop the booties coming off in the surf) tore a while back, but I stitched it up and it's been fine ever since.
There's a piece of hard plastic on the end of each strap, too, making it easy to undo so you can remove the booties one-handed (because your other hand is holding your surfboard). The soles, heels and toes are reinforced with tough, black rubber and except for the time a sea urchin spine went clean through that rubber and into my foot, these little rubber shoes (they're a US size 5) have protected me in all sorts of scenarios. I've worn them on land and in the sea on recent sea kayaking trips in Panama, Papua New Guinea, Fiji and the Philippines. And they've got a nifty split toe: the big toe is separate from the others, so they're like prototype Five Fingers running shoes (for added grip when you're surfing and to look cool at other times).
THE VERDICT: Considering the salty and sandy environments I've worn them in, the fact that they've lasted this long is a testimony to O'Neill quality.
RRP: $59.95, www.oneill.com