12 Best Water Shoes For Men And Women Reviewed ( For Hiking, Swimming, Beach Use Etc )

feet wearing sandals submerged in water

Whether you like to lounge on the beach or paddle down raging rivers, spending time in the water is incredibly fun. However, walking around in wet, rocky terrain can be dangerous for our feet if they’re left unprotected.

That’s where water shoes come in. Designed to protect your feet from rugged terrain, water shoes are highly breathable footwear for outdoor adventures.

These days, however, there are hundreds of different models of water shoes on the market, each made for a specific purpose. With so many options, it can be easy to get overwhelmed.

Thankfully, we’ve put together this guide to the best water shoes for men and women so you can find the right aqua shoes for all of your adventures.

We’ve even included some top tips and advice on choosing the right pair so you can spend less time researching your gear and more time enjoying some fun in the water.

 

The 12 Best Water Shoes For Men and Women of 2020: Outdoor Empire Reviews

Here are our recommendations for the best water shoes for men and women:

  1. Best for Hiking: Adidas Terrex HydroLace
  2. Best for the Beach: Astral Loyak
  3. Best for Toddlers/Kids: Crocs Swiftwater Easy On
  4. Best for Kayaking: NRS Paddle Wetshoe
  5. Best for Swimming/Snorkeling: Speedo Surfwalker Pro 3.0
  6. Best Water Sandals: Chaco Mega Z Cloud

 

CategoryBest HikingBest BeachBest Swimming/Snorkeling
ProductAdidas Terrex HydroLace
Adidas Terrex HydroLace

Astral Loyak
Astral Loyak

NRS Kicker Remix
NRS Kicker Remix

Weight6 oz4 oz29 oz
Drainage FeaturesNoneDrainage holes and mesh panelingNone
Upper FabricSynthetic/textile with neopreneCanvas and air meshNeoprene
Footwear Closure SystemVelcro ankle strap and elastic closureLacesSlip-on
Best forCanyoneering lovers who need the most durable and protective water shoe on the marketBoaters and beach lovers who need a stylish water shoe for regular useSwimmers who want warm neoprene booties for shoulder-season adventures
CostCheck PriceCheck PriceCheck Price

 

1. Best Water Shoes for Hiking #1: Astral Rassler 2.0

Astral Rassler 2.0

Designed for maximum traction on the most rugged of terrain, the Astral Rassler 2.0 is a great all-around water shoe for hiking. These boots feature a super grippy sole that’s surprisingly lightweight, providing all-day comfort.

The Rassler 2.0’s upper is made with a quick-dry canvas for durability and protection from rocks and debris. They even have holes around the midsole to help drain water as you hike. Oh, and with padded ankles and heels, there’s nothing you can’t take on with the Astral Rassler 2.0.

Important Specifications

  • Weight: 15 ounces (425 grams)
  • Drainage Features: Drainage holes
  • Upper Fabric: Quick-dry canvas
  • Footwear Closure System: Laces

Pros

  • Durable and protective canvas upper
  • Thick outsole for added protection underfoot
  • Very sticky G.ss rubber
  • Drainage holes in the midsole
  • Very supportive around ankles

Cons

  • Too bulky for paddling and beach use
  • Not very breathable compared to other options

Who these shoes are for:  Hikers who want a rugged, do-anything water shoe for all types of terrain.

 

Astral Rassler 2.0 is also available at:

Moosejaw

Outdoorplay

 

2. Best Water Shoes for Hiking #2: Adidas Terrex Hydro Lace

Adidas Terrex Hydrolace

Created specifically with canyoneering in mind, the Adidas Terrex Hydro Lace are a premier hiking water shoe. Featuring 5.10 Stealth rubber, which is some of the best rubber in the world, the Hydro Lace are ready to provide ample traction in any situation.

The shoes are built with a synthetic and textile upper with integrated neoprene paneling. This neoprene provides lots of warmth for those cold days in the canyon, while the synthetics protect your feet from the environment.

Plus, they have an easy-to-use Velcro and elastic closure for quick on-and-off whenever adventure calls.

Important Specifications

  • Weight: 6 ounces (585 grams)
  • Drainage Features: None
  • Upper Fabric: Synthetic/textile with neoprene
  • Footwear Closure System: Velcro ankle strap and elastic closure

Pros

  • Incredibly sticky 5.10 Stealth rubber
  • Neoprene lining for extra warmth
  • Sturdy and supportive high-top design
  • Cushioning underfoot

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Very heavy and bulky
  • No built-in drainage features

Who these shoes are for: Canyoneering lovers who need the most durable and protective water shoe on the market.

 

 

3. Best Water Shoes for the Beach #1: Astral Loyak

Astral Loyak

Stylish, yet functional, the Astral Loyak is a low-profile water shoe for a variety of activities. Thanks to its lightweight and highly breathable design, Loyaks are great for use on the beach or while boating.

The Loyaks feature a canvas and mesh upper that’s comfortable for all-day use. Thanks to their lace-up closure, they look a lot like regular street shoes but have added drainage holes to keep your feet dry, even in exceptionally wet conditions.

Important Specifications

  • Weight: 4 ounces (408 grams)
  • Drainage Features: Drainage holes and mesh paneling
  • Upper Fabric: Canvas and air mesh
  • Footwear Closure System: Laces

Pros

  • Lightweight
  • Stylish look
  • Highly breathable with good ventilation

Cons

  • Don’t offer a lot of protection
  • Thin outsole isn’t great for rocky terrain

Who these shoes are for: Boaters and beach lovers who need a stylish water shoe for regular use.

 

Astral Loyak is also available at:

Moosejaw

Outdoorplay

Cabelas

 

4. Best Water Shoes for the Beach #2: Astral Brewer 2.0

Astral Brewer 2.0

The Astral Brewer 2.0 water shoes are a slightly more protective and supportive version of the Astral Loyak. The Brewers are built with G-Rubber outsoles that provide ample traction on wet terrain, despite their sneaker-like look.

Featuring hydrophobic canvas uppers with air mesh panels and drainage holes, these shoes are great at keeping your feet dry even after frequent trips into the water. Plus, they have a thick, protective outsole, making the Brewer 2.0 a true all-around performing water shoe for nearly any activity.

Important Specifications

  • Weight:9 ounces (535 grams)
  • Drainage Features: Drainage holes
  • Upper Fabric: Canvas and mesh
  • Footwear Closure System: Lace

Pros

  • Stylish and look a lot like regular shoes
  • Thick outsole for added protection
  • Comfortable for all-day use

Cons

  • A bit heavy
  • Not as breathable as other models
  • Low cut but slightly bulky

Who these shoes are for: People who want a good all-around beach water shoe that is also comfortable out of the water.

 

Astral Brewer 2.0 is also available at:

Moosejaw

Outdoorplay

 

5. Best Water Shoes For Toddlers/Kids #1: Crocs Swiftwater Easy On

Crocs Swiftwater Easy On

As sneakers or water shoes, the Crocs Swiftwater Easy On is a stylish children’s water shoe that’s perfect for toddlers. Lightweight and comfortable, the Swiftwater Easy Ons slip on your child’s foot in seconds, reducing the hassle of getting ready to go for a swim at the beach.

These shoes protect your little one’s feet, thanks to their thick outsole. Plus, they’re comfortable enough for all-day wear and have a built-in toe cap to protect your child’s toes as they run around outside.

Important Specifications

  • Weight: 6 ounces (170 grams)
  • Drainage Features: None
  • Upper Fabric: Textile and mesh
  • Footwear Closure System: Slip-on

Pros

  • Lightweight and comfortable
  • Stylish
  • Thick outsole and toe cap for protection

Cons

  • No drainage holes
  • Somewhat expensive for children’s footwear

Who these shoes are for: Parents who want a stylish, yet functional water shoe for their children to use at the beach or the pool.

 

 

6. Best Water Shoes for Toddlers/Kids #2: Crocs Swiftwater Sandals

Crocs Swiftwater Sandals

A modern take on the classic Crocs design, the Swiftwater Sandals are an excellent children’s water sandal for a variety of different activities. Built using Crocs’ proprietary foam in the outsole, the Swiftwater Sandals provide ample protection for your child’s feet as they explore the world.

The Swiftwater Sandals feature a mesh upper with oversized drainage holes to help keep your child’s feet dry, regardless of the conditions. These shoes are highly breathable and incredibly lightweight, so they’re a great summertime companion for days at the beach.

Important Specifications

  • Weight: 5 ounces (141 grams)
  • Drainage Features: Large drainage holes
  • Upper Fabric: Mesh
  • Footwear Closure System: Velcro strap

Pros

  • Easy to put on
  • Large drainage holes
  • Oversized toe cap for protection
  • Lightweight
  • Highly breathable
  • Great colors

Cons

  • Bulky and clunky
  • Slightly expensive

Who these shoes are for: Parents who want highly protective water shoes for their child to use in any situation.

 

 

7. Best Water Shoes for Kayaking #1: NRS Paddle Wetshoe

NRS Paddle Wetshoe

One of the most versatile water shoe booties on the market today, the NRS Paddle Wetshoe is a comfortable bootie for any paddling adventure. Made with three-millimeter neoprene, the Wetshoe is great for use with or without socks in any summertime environment.

The shoes use a large, wide-opening zipper for easy on-and-off, while the fleece-like VaporLoft lining helps keep your feet warm when wet. The sole of the Paddle Wetshoe even wraps around the lower part of your foot to provide maximum traction on wet rocks.

Important Specifications

  • Weight: 17 ounces (481 grams)
  • Drainage Features: None
  • Upper Fabric: Neoprene
  • Footwear Closure System: Zipper

Pros

  • Very warm neoprene
  • High-traction outsole rubber
  • Easy-on zipper closure
  • Affordable

Cons

  • Not warm enough for winter use
  • Provides minimal support
  • Not great for rocky terrain
  • No water drainage system

Who these shoes are for: Summertime paddlers who need reliable neoprene booties for their adventures.

 

NRS Paddle Wetshoe is also available at:

Moosejaw

Outdoorplay

 

8. Best Water Shoes for Kayaking #2: Astral TR1

Astral TR1

Designed to look a lot like a regular sneaker, the Astral TR1 is an all-around kayaking shoe for warmer weather. Built with mesh uppers, the TR1s are some of the most breathable water shoes on the market today. Plus, thanks to their drainage holes, they’re great at keeping your feet dry.

The TR1s also use sticky G Rubber on their outsoles, which provides unparalleled traction in nearly any situation. They also have a built-in shank underfoot and a thick midsole to help reduce foot fatigue for longer portages on a kayaking or paddling trip.

Important Specifications

  • Weight:2 ounces (600 grams)
  • Drainage Features: Drainage holes
  • Upper Fabric: Ripstop 2D Mesh and TPU overlays
  • Footwear Closure System: Laces

Pros

  • Stylish like a regular sneaker
  • Offer lots of protection underfoot
  • Sticky rubber provides lots of traction
  • Lots of ventilation

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Somewhat bulky
  • Relatively few drainage holes
  • Heavy

Who these shoes are for: Kayakers who need a water shoe that performs well on longer portages in the backcountry.

 

Astral TR1 is also available at:

Moosejaw

Outdoorplay

 

9. Best Water Shoes for Swimming/Snorkeling #1: NRS Kicker Remix

NRS Kicker Remix

A new take on a classic water shoe design, the NRS Kicker Remix is designed to provide warmth and comfort without the bulk of a traditional bootie. Made using three-millimeter Terraprene neoprene, the Kicker Remixes are ready for colder water for shoulder season swims.

They have integrated stretchy rubber bands for added stability as well as a shoe-top drawcord which helps to keep your foot secure within the shoe. The Kicker Remixes even have a plastic shim to provide a bit more protection from rocks than your average low-profile water shoe is normally capable of.

Important Specifications

  • Weight: 29 ounces (822 grams)
  • Drainage Features: None
  • Upper Fabric: Neoprene
  • Footwear Closure System: Slip-on

Pros

  • Very warm
  • Easy to get on and off
  • Protective rubber toe cap
  • Low-profile design

Cons

  • Sole isn’t thick enough to provide lots of underfoot protection
  • Not as versatile as a full neoprene bootie
  • Not great for winter
  • Heavy

Who these shoes are for: Swimmers who want warm neoprene booties for shoulder-season adventures.

 

NRS Kicker Remix is also available at:

Moosejaw

Outdoorplay

 

10. Best Water Shoes for Swimming/Snorkeling #2: Speedo Surfwalker Pro 3.0

Speedo Surfwalker Pro 3.0

Simple yet effective, the Speedo Surfwalker Pro 3.0s are a pair of budget-friendly water shoes for use while swimming or snorkeling. Built using a lightweight four-way stretch mesh upper, these shoes are highly breathable and comfortable enough for a day of activity.

These shoes feature mesh inserts for maximum ventilation and water drainage as well as a quicker drying time.

If that wasn’t enough, the Surfwalker Pro 3.0s even have an S-TRAC TPR outsole that provides ample grip on wet surfaces, making them perfect for use at the pool or the beach while swimming.

Important Specifications

  • Weight: 10 ounces (283 grams)
  • Drainage Features: Mesh paneling
  • Upper Fabric: Four-way stretch mesh
  • Footwear Closure System: Slip-on

Pros

  • Affordable
  • Lightweight and highly breathable
  • Quick-drying
  • Good traction in the water
  • Easy slip-on design

Cons

  • Offers minimal protection

Who these shoes are for: Budget-conscious shoppers who need a simple water shoe for swimming or snorkeling.

 

 

11. Best Water Sandals #1: Chaco Mega Z Cloud

Chaco Mega Z Cloud

Often considered the gold standard of the water sandal world, the Chaco Mega Z Cloud is a comfortable, durable sandal for any water-based outdoor adventure. The Mega Z Cloud features thick, polyester webbing that wraps around your foot to provide the best fit possible.

As a company, Chaco is known for its fantastic footbeds, and the LUVSEAT footbed on the Mega Z Cloud is no exception. Thanks to their thick outsole and footbed, the Mega Z Cloud provide all-day comfort and excellent traction on wet terrain.

Plus, you can always get your Chaco sandals resoled or repaired for a lifetime of eco-friendly and amazing adventures.

Important Specifications

  • Weight: 17 ounces (481 grams)
  • Drainage Features: None
  • Upper Fabric: 35-millimeter polyester jacquard webbing
  • Footwear Closure System: Webbing strap with lock buckle

Pros

  • Thick webbing straps for added comfort
  • LUVSEAT footbed provides ample arch support
  • 5-millimeter lugs offer great traction
  • Can be repaired or resoled

Cons

  • Heavy
  • Offer minimal foot protection

Who these shoes are for: White water paddlers and outdoor adventurers who need a versatile sandal for a variety of activities.

 

Chaco Mega Z Cloud is also available at:

Moosejaw

Walmart

 

12. Best Water Sandals #2: Teva Hurricane Sport

Teva Hurricane Sport

A time-honored classic of the outdoor footwear world, the Teva Hurricane Sport is an iconic water sandal. Featuring quick-dry straps that are made from 100% recycled plastic, the Hurricane Sport is a high-functioning water sandal that’s good for you and the environment.

The sandals even have a nylon shank underfoot to provide maximum stability as you walk. Their outsoles are made with a Durbrasion Rubber compound that is super stick yet rugged enough to last for years.

If all of that wasn’t enough, the Hurricane Sport sandals are also made with fully vegan materials, so you can feel good about your gear.

Important Specifications

  • Weight:25 ounces (290 grams)
  • Drainage Features: None
  • Upper Fabric: Quick-drying straps made from 100% recycled plastic
  • Footwear Closure System: Velcro straps

Pros

  • Affordable
  • Recycled plastic straps
  • Built-in nylon shank for better support underfoot
  • Vegan materials

Cons

  • Not very protective
  • Bulky

Who these shoes are for: Outdoor enthusiasts who want a comfortable pair of sandals for use in and out of the water.

 

Teva Hurricane Sport is also available at: 

Backcountry

Cabelas

 

What Are Water Shoes and What Are They Used for?

two pairs of mesh shoes on a watery spot

Water shoes are a type of footwear designed specifically for use in wet environments. They are generally quite lightweight and are made to protect your feet in any situation where they will be wet for an extended period of time.

Most water shoes on the market today are created with a specific activity in mind, whether that be swimming, paddling, canyoneering, or scuba diving. However, there are some models that are quite versatile and can be used for a variety of different situations.

While modern water shoes come in different shapes and sizes, they are all essentially designed to do the same thing: protect your feet from rocks, twigs, and other debris, even if you’re spending all day in the water.

Unlike regular shoes, aqua shoes are designed to drain water. Thus, they also prevent you from having to walk around all day with water in your shoes.

Plus, water shoes usually have quite sticky outsoles, so they’re ideal for walking on wet rocks or any other terrain where you might slip because of excessive moisture.

 

Do I Need Water Shoes?

kid holding his shoes while crossing a river

Whether or not you should get water shoes depends on the type of activities you like to do. If you mainly stick to hiking on established trails, it’s unlikely that you would benefit from water shoes.

However, if you enjoy swimming, kayaking, rafting, canoeing, scuba diving, canyoneering, or hanging out at the beach, you might find that water shoes can really make a difference for you.

Water shoes are particularly important for people who spend a lot of time in wet environments and need footwear that will drain to help keep their feet dry.

Additionally, anyone who finds that they often need to scramble over wet, rocky terrain could benefit from using water shoes. Although a cut on the bottom of your foot might not seem like a big deal, those injuries are incredibly painful and can prevent you from walking normally.

Thus, wearing water shoes can be a great way to protect yourself in these environments.

 

Pros and Cons of Water Shoes

legs dangling above the water

As we’ve mentioned, water shoes are not necessarily for everyone, but they do have a whole lot of benefits for certain outdoor activities. Like any piece of outdoor gear, though, water shoes do have their advantages and disadvantages.

Here are some of the pros and cons of water shoes for you to consider:

 

Pros

  • Lightweight and very breathable footwear
  • Offer lots of foot protection from rocks, twigs, and debris
  • Drain water to help keep your feet dry and comfortable
  • Provide traction on wet terrain

 

Cons

  • Not always the most stylish footwear option
  • Can trap sand and mud, which irritates the feet
  • Don’t provide a lot of support for hiking on uneven terrain

 

Buying Advice: How to Choose

soles of surf shoes displayed

With so many different models of water shoes available on the market today, it’s imperative that you know how to choose the right pair for you. Here are some things to keep in mind as you’re shopping around:

 

Water Shoe Types

As we’ve mentioned, water shoes are often designed for a very specific activity. Each type of aqua shoe has its own unique characteristics that come with peculiar advantages and disadvantages.

 

Low-Profile Shoes

mesh shoes on sand upclose

Low-profile water shoes, as the name suggests, have a low-cut build that’s quite similar to a regular street shoe. Often called “river shoes” or “beach shoes,” low-profile shoes are ideal for kayaking or lounging around on the beach.

For the most part, low-profile water shoes will have quite a thin sole which offers some but not a lot of protection from rocks and other debris.

Since these shoes are primarily designed to be worn while on a boat (such as a kayak, raft, canoe, or sailboat) or on sandy terrain, their main purpose is not to provide a lot of protection for your feet.

Low-profile water shoes will often use a fairly traditional lacing system, much like what you’d see on a regular street shoe. They usually feature mesh at the front of the shoe to help ensure maximum breathability.

Additionally, they may have built-in drainage holes around the side of the outsole to aid in water draining and to prevent mold build-up on longer trips.

This type of footwear is ideal for kayaking or other boating activities where you don’t expect to spend a lot of time in the water, but rather need a bit of traction for occasional portages or carries. Since they have relatively thin holes and a lot of mesh, low-profile water shoes are not great for long hikes.

 

Booties

lady feet with booties style shoes stepping on rock

Booties are perhaps the most commonly used type of water shoe for technical pursuits. Made almost completely of neoprene, booties provide more warmth and comfort than any other water shoe type on the market today.

Long revered for their ability to keep your feet warm in cold water, booties are used as diving and snorkeling shoes but are also popular among white water kayakers. Booties have neoprene uppers and rubber outsoles and can feature a zip-on or a slip-on design.

While booties are exceptionally warm and comfortable, they don’t perform well in any terrain where you have to do a lot of hiking or climbing over rocks. Since they have relatively thin, flexible rubber soles, they don’t offer too much protection for your feet and won’t be appropriate for longer periods of walking.

Additionally, since neoprene is designed to keep you warm by actually trapping water next to your skin, booties do not offer any drainage system. This means that your feet will stay soggy and wet throughout the day until you can get to camp and change into dry socks.

 

Boots & Canyoneering Shoes

Astral Rassler 2.0 upclose
Astral Rassler 2.0

Water boots and canyoneering shoes are the tough guys of the water shoe world. These high-top shoes are built for durability and support in the wettest of conditions. They generally have very thick upper fabrics and highly sticky rubber that provide ample traction even on slippery rocks.

Plus, they have thick outsoles that provide maximum protection from rocks and debris, which makes them perfect for sneaking your way through narrow slot canyons.

Water boots and canyoneering shoes usually prioritize warmth over weight, so you’ll find that they’re often heavier and thicker than other alternatives.

In general, boots and canyoneering shoes will offer much more support than any other kind of water shoe. However, this makes them less practical for use while swimming or on the beach as this added support usually translates to extra bulk and weight.

 

Water Running Shoes

running shoes on ground full of pebbles

Water running shoes are a bit of a niche style of footwear. As the name suggests, they’re designed mostly for people who like to run in any weather conditions.

A crossover between a low-profile water shoe and traditional road running shoe, a water running shoe usually provides a lot of sticky rubber for added traction during your run.

However, they will provide more drainage and breathability than a standard running shoe, which makes them ideal for running through puddles and small streams.

However, since they are built with a lot of mesh, water running shoes just won’t be as durable as a more traditional running shoe. This, combined with their lack of ankle support, makes them less useful for canyoneering and hiking, but great for those wet trail runs.

 

Water Sandals

feet with water sandals stepping on a rock

A water sandal is any sort of durable open-toe footwear that’s designed for use in the water. Generally speaking, water sandals feature thick outsoles for added protection underfoot, as well as thick straps to keep the shoe attached to your feet.

Since water sandals are open-toed, however, they are not suitable for most hiking and canyoneering activities. That being said, they are the most breathable of the water shoe types in our review and are quite comfortable for longer paddling trips.

In fact, due to their thick soles and plentiful ventilation, water sandals are extremely popular among white water rafters, especially on desert trips. Plus, they’re great for use while at the beach, so long as you don’t mind some sandal tan lines.

 

Intended Use

man wearing sandals with lake view

When it comes to deciding what kind of water shoe you need, the first thing to consider is what you intend to use them for. As we’ve explained, each type of water shoe is designed for a specific activity.

While low-profile water shoes and water sandals might be good for use on boats, booties are best as snorkeling shoes or for diving. Alternatively, boot water shoes are designed for hiking and canyoneering and might be overkill for most other applications.

Thus, before you start shopping around, it’s important that you have a clear idea of precisely what you plan to use your water shoes for. If not, you might end up with water shoes that just don’t work well for your favorite activities.

 

Important Considerations

Once you decide what kind of water shoe you’re interested in, it’s time to start narrowing down your options. So, when you’re shopping for that next pair of water shoes, keep the following features in mind:

 

Warmth

Neoprene booties on sand

Even on a warm summer’s day, the water you’re paddling or swimming in can be quite cold. Our feet are one of the most temperature-sensitive parts of our body, so it’s imperative that we keep them warm at all costs.

Thankfully, water shoes can be pretty effective at insulating our feet against the cold. However, some types of water shoes are better at insulation than others.

As you can imagine, bulkier boot water shoes and canyoneering water shoes are going to have a bit more insulation on them than a low-profile water shoe. Neoprene booties, however, are the best insulating water shoes out there, so they should be your top pick if you really need to keep your feet warm.

On the other hand, water sandals and water running shoes aren’t going to do much to keep your feet warm throughout the day. These options are best reserved for those warm summer days where warmth really isn’t a priority.

 

Drainage

man's feet wearing sandals submerged in water

Since water shoes are designed to be worn in the water, most of them come with a built-in drainage system so you don’t have to spend all day walking around with water in your shoes. Water sandals, low-profile water shoes, and water running shoes are your best bet for maximum draining performance.

Shoes that drain well often don’t insulate well, and vice versa. While neoprene booties and canyoneering shoes are very warm, they generally don’t drain water away from your feet. So, if you opt to go with one of these kinds of water shoes, be aware that you’ll have wet feet throughout the day.

 

Traction

man climbing wet boulder

One of the main benefits of water shoes is that they provide extra traction when you’re walking on slippery, wet terrain. Water shoes really shine when you have to walk over wet rock, and the added traction they provide is truly invaluable in these situations.

Some types of water shoes provide more traction than others, but it really all comes down to the stickiness of the rubber used on the shoes’ outsoles. The stickier the rubber, the better the shoes will be at providing you traction on difficult terrain.

 

Comfort/Fit

woman stretching by a rocky shore

Comfort is key when it comes to footwear, and water shoes are no exception. Since we can’t tell you what is going to feel best on your feet, it’s imperative that you try your water shoes on before you wear them outside for the first time.

If your water shoes don’t fit well and don’t feel comfortable while you’re walking around the house, they certainly won’t feel any better after a long day outside.

There are no fancy features in the world that can make up for a poorly fitting shoe, so be sure you have the right size water shoe before you use them for the first time.

 

Durability

Speedo booties above the water

No one likes buying a piece of gear only to have it fall apart after a few uses. Water shoes are no exception to this rule. Thus, durability is of the utmost concern for the vast majority of us when we’re shopping for a new pair.

For the most part, highly durable water shoes will have minimal mesh in their upper fabric construction. This means that low-profile and water running shoes are going to be the least durable of all the water shoe types.

On the other hand, canyon water shoes and booties are going to be some of the most durable.

Keep in mind, though, that durability is generally a trade-off with breathability, light weight, and draining ability in the world of water shoes. You may have to compromise a bit if durability is your chief concern with your footwear.

 

Versatility

dangling legs above rocky stream

While every type of water shoe is designed for a specific purpose, there are some types of water shoes that are more versatile than others. Neoprene booties can be used for nearly any activity that doesn’t involve extensive walking, so they’re ideal for diving, swimming, snorkeling, and paddling.

Alternatively, low-profile and water running shoes usually look so much like regular shoes that you can actually wear them around town. Although this will cause their sticky rubber to wear down more quickly, the stylish look of these kinds of water shoes makes them highly versatile for a variety of situations.

 

Flexibility

hand holding Astral Brewer 2.0 on top of a kayak

The flexibility of a water shoe is a direct result of the thickness and stiffness of its outsole. While some types of water shoes, like canyoneering boots, will have very thick outsoles for extra stability and support, others like low-profile water shoes and booties will not.

While flexible shoes aren’t ideal for hiking, they are preferred for swimming and for maintaining more control over your boat. On the other hand, when you opt for flexible shoes, you will sacrifice some of the foot protection that you get from stiffer models.

 

Protection

two pairs of legs walking on a rocky shore

One of the main reasons people buy water shoes is for the protection that they afford for your feet. Water shoes are designed to protect your feet from rocky, uneven ground, but, not all models are created equal.

While some water shoes, like canyoneering boots, offer a lot of protection, others sacrifice protection for added breathability or flexibility. If protection is your main concern, boot-style water shoes will be your best bet.

Other types of water shoes will offer varying degrees of protection, with water sandals providing the least.

 

Top Water Shoe Brands

With so many different kinds of water shoes out there, it’s always nice to buy from a trusted brand. Here are some of the top water shoe manufacturers on the market today:

 

Astral

Astral logo

Astral Designs is a well-known paddling gear manufacturer that was founded by white water kayaker Philip Curry in an attempt to make the best products for outdoor athletes.

The North Carolina–based company focuses on making environmentally-friendly gear that’s the best in the industry and for outdoor enthusiasts around the world.

Although they’re perhaps best known for their top-of-the-line life jackets, Astral’s water shoes are some of the best in the business.

Since they’re primarily a paddling company, most of their water shoes are designed for that purpose, but the majority of their models are quite versatile and can be used in a variety of situations.

 

Chaco

Chaco logo

Chaco was started in 1989 by a Colorado rafting guide who had a dream to make the best footwear for outdoor adventures. Since that date over 30 years ago, Chaco has dedicated itself to making some of the world’s premier water sandals and has since expanded into a small line of shoes and boots.

All of Chaco’s sandals are built to last, and there are stories of people wearing the same pair of Chacos for decades on end. The best part of Chaco’s sandals is that they can be easily repaired, resoled, or outfitted with new straps, which helps to minimize the gear’s impact on the environment.

 

NRS

NRS logo

NRS got its start in 1972 when Bill Parks, a business professor, wanted to start a business to show his students that everything he taught in the classroom actually works in the real world. As an avid paddler, he decided to start a paddling gear shop with just $2,000 in savings and created his first catalog.

Since those humble beginnings, NRS has certainly grown. Today, it’s one of the world’s premier paddling gear retailers, producing everything from PFDs to dry suits.

Although they’re not as well known for their water shoes, NRS’s line of neoprene booties is superb and perfect for any snorkeling, diving, or paddling adventure.

 

Crocs

Crocs logo

Founded in 2002 by Lyndon Hanson and George Boedecker, Jr., Crocs is a Colorado-based company with a globally recognized brand. The company originally got its start when the founders wanted to create a foam clog that could be used as a boat shoe.

During their first boat show, the company sold all 200 pairs that they had, and since then, they have sold over 300 million pairs of shoes.

These lightweight foam shoes are wholly waterproof and quick to drain, which makes them excellent for use as water shoes. Crocs are fairly affordable and come in a variety of different shapes, sizes, and colors, so they’re a great option for infrequent water shoe users.

 

FAQ

Here are our answers to some of your most common questions about water shoes:

How do I clean and maintain water shoes?

Cleaning and maintaining water shoes is all about rinsing them off after every trip. Since dirt and debris can easily build up on water shoes, a quick rinse with fresh water every once in a while can extend their lifetime.

It’s also important to let your water shoes dry out completely at the end of each trip to prevent mold and mildew.

 

Do I need to wear socks with water shoes?

While there’s no requirement that you wear socks with your water shoes, some people find socks to be useful in particularly cold weather and water. If you’re expecting cold conditions, a thick pair of wool socks is ideal for use under your water shoes. This is particularly true when you wear booties.

However, you certainly don’t have to wear socks with your water shoes, and probably shouldn’t if you want to stay cool in the summer months.

 

Are there specific water shoes for salt water?

Although some companies might market their water shoes specifically for salt water use, you can use pretty much any shoe in salt water if you choose. The thing to remember with salt water is that it is much more abrasive and is likely to wear out your gear much faster than you’re used to.

To keep your water shoes in good working order after using them in salt water, always give them a rinse with fresh water at the end of the day.

 

Are water shoes nonslip?

Since water shoes are designed to provide lots of traction, they can be considered “nonslip.” But you should keep in mind that different types of water shoes have varying levels of traction and grip, so you should still be cautious when walking on wet, slippery terrain.

Further reading:

Boat shoes

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