This is a great question that I got the other day. I actually went looking to see if anyone else was addressing this issue, and only found one post on it. So...I decided I would make a video with the pros and cons of some typical shoe types I see people rowing in.
I made this video, and within hours, had someone post a picture of their bloody scraped up heel/ankle from rowing in hiking boots. It's funny, because I didn't even think to mention hiking boots in my video, so I will address that here....not a great idea.
Hiking boots don't allow for a lot of movement, they are designed to keep your foot and ankle stiff so when you are walking on uneven surfaces, you can last longer. However, on a rowing machine, you want to have motion. So your heel will be trying to create motion at the foot and ankle, and the hiking boot will try and limit it, hence unhappy feet at the end of it.
Check out the video for other shoe tips and what is ideal to wear on the rowing machine and why.
Amanda Painter is the Rowing Doc. She is a Doctor of Physical Therapy and is here to help people stay active and rowing without aches and pains so they can keep doing what they love!