Traction , protection, water drainage,anti odor, toe protection and avoid ruining your regular shoes.
Getting in and out of water over uneven rocky river beds with slick rocks throughout can be difficult and dangerous, you can see what your wading through and you could hurt your feel on any submerged object. river shoes have fast draining ports for water to flow out of, quick drying materials to keep them dry for the next day of use and reduce bacteria build up that would happen with normal footwear. Some river shoes incorporate a neoprene upper and go up over your ankle providing warmth stepping in and out of chill water. Using specific rubber compounds they are designed to grip onto the wet rocks beneath as well as the dry rocks on the rivers edge making your put in , take out and portage experiences better.