If there's a sport, there's a shoe specifically made to help you do it better -- even if you seldom need to touch the pavement. Here are a few examples of highly functional footwear for some of the most popular off-asphalt pastimes.
Climbing soles that grip
Five-Ten Gambit: The rock-climbing shoe Spider-Man would love.
Likes: Has a super-grippy sole due to use of innovative Stealth Onyx, claimed to be the industry's "stickiest" climbing rubber (the soles literally stuck together after I rubbed them against each other for a few seconds). The comfy synthetic upper stretches to fit, while the toe rand provides a snug fit in the toe box without hot spots. Effective for beginners through experts.
Price: $115. (Siren, the female counterpart, is $109.) (909) 798-4222; www.fiveten.com.
Support for water adventurers
Chaco USA Z-2: Kayaking-rafting sandal that fits like a second skin.
Likes: Comfort, fit and control. Big-toe loop keeps forefoot firmly in place. Foot is locked in by the design's single, continuous strap, which eliminates all slack. Durable; avoids use of Velcro, which can fray over time. Pronounced arch and thick, heavy sole provides good support and grip when hiking and portaging (carrying the boat over land). Can be re-soled for $30.
Dislikes: No toe guards to protect against rocks in white water spills. The arch support may initially irritate those with flat feet.
Price: $95. (970) 527-4990; www.chacousa.com.
Stretch and tone in style
Reebok Zanchi Zen 06: Minimalist shoe for yoga and Pilates.
Likes: Provides good grip and antibacterial protection. Folds up for traveling. Includes stylish leather upper, elastic straps and tactile rubber bumps on the bottom for support and comfort.
Dislikes: No corresponding men's shoe available.
Price: $64.99. (800) 228-7867; www.rbk.com.
Biker-hiker combo that stands up
Pearl Izumi X-Alp Mid: Mountain-bike shoe for tough, biker-hiker adventures.
Likes: Versatility. Great balance between stiffness (needed for efficient downward power transfer through the pedals) and walk-ability (for trail sections that are too tough to ride and hoofing it to Starbucks for a post-ride cappuccino). Burley studded sole, toe rand and mid-rise upper protect against sharp rocks and thick brush. Has a hidden bay for a clip-in pedal system. Velcro strap keeps shoe snug and laces from getting caught in the pedals.
Dislikes: Can run a bit narrow for wide feet.
Price: $95. (800) 328-8458; www.pearlizumi.com.
A snug seal for surfers
O'Neill Mutant: Surfing bootie that keeps you high and dry.
Likes: Warmth and dexterity. Highly fitted, split-toe boot of 3-millimeter neoprene has a unique Velcro strap/rubber gasket design that seals water out, keeping your foot dry and in place. Grippy sole aids control. "Mod" women's bootie and a warmer model with thicker neoprene are available.
Price: $49.95. (800) 662-7873; www.oneill.com.
-- Roy M. Wallack
Irvine-based Roy M. Wallack is an endurance cyclist and runner whose latest book is "Bike for Life: How to Ride to 100." He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.