Water shoes can keep you comfortable and safe while participating in fun activities such as kayaking, surfing, or fishing. They’ll save your hide because they drain water quickly and are usually made of a material that doesn’t absorb water.
Wearing water shoes is a smart call, even if you think they may be overkill. Trying to kayak in sneakers will just lead to blisters, and I’ve lost more than one flip-flop on sticky, sandy riverbanks.
On a grosser note, water shoes can protect you from critters and bacteria that might try to snack on your toes. Good traction helps keep you safe on wet and slippery surfaces, and some water shoes also have insulation, which is great for chilly waters.
Here are some factors to consider when choosing a pair of water shoes.
- Performance. You want shoes that perform well in the activities you’ll be participating in. Performance might include traction if you hike in rocky terrain or shoes that protect your ankle in loose terrain.
- Fashion. Gotta look good out there.
- Fit and comfort. This is tops for me. I don’t care how I look, but I’ve got to be comfortable.
- Support, especially if you tend toward issues such as plantar fasciitis.
- Price and value.
- Durability. Do you kayak once a year or every weekend?
- Personal preference.
With that in mind, here’s a guide to the 15 best water shoes to help get you started.
Show Table of Contents
- TL;DR: Best Water Shoes Compared
- Best Water Shoes
- 1. Astral Loyak (Both Men and Women)
- 2. Crocs LiteRide Pacer (Men and Women)
- 3. Speedo Surfknit Pro (Men and Women)
- 4. DigiHero Water Shoes (Unisex)
- 5. Salomon Tech Amphib 5 (Men and Women)
- 6. Native Shoes Jefferson Shoes (Kids)
- 7. KEEN Newport Hydro Sandal (Men and Women)
- 8. Foot Tracker Wading Boots (Men)
- 9. Bahama Vent PFG (Men and Women)
- 10. Merrell Hydro Moc (Men, Women, and Kids)
- 11. Body Glove 3T Barefoot Cinch (Men and Women)
- 12. Waverunner (Men and Women)
- 13. NRS Kicker Wetshoes (Men and Women)
- 14. WHITIN Amphibious Water Shoes (Men’s)
- 15. Chaco Z Cloud 2 Water and Sports Sandal (Men and Women)
- How to Care for Your Water Shoes
- Can you use water shoes for running and other sports?
- How do I choose the perfect size for water shoes?
- What is the difference between water shoes and aqua socks?
TL;DR: Best Water Shoes Compared
|Astral Loyak (Men, Women)||Water Crossing||Good||$$|
|Speedo Surfknot Pro (Men, Women)||Paddling||Medium||$|
|Crocs Lightride Pacer (Men, Women)||Overall Comfort||Good||$$|
|Foot Tracker Wading Boots||Anglers||Excellent||$$$|
|Keen Newport Hydro Sandal (Men, Women)||Rocky, Wet Hikes||Good||$$|
Best Water Shoes
1. Astral Loyak (Both Men and Women)
The Astral Loyak comes in styles for men and women and is a great shoe for those who do vigorous activities around water. They are made of breathable materials, so your feet don’t squish around and stay wet.
The Astral Loyak AC women’s water shoe has ripstop mesh uppers to keep debris out. It also has thermoplastic urethane reinforcements to prevent abrasion.
They are durable and have excellent traction to prevent accidents on slippery surfaces. The downside is that they take a little longer to dry than some brands, and they are available only in whole sizes – no half sizes. They also aren’t recommended for heavy use in whitewater.
The men’s style also has excellent traction and is flexible and comfortable. It has canvas uppers, an air mesh lining, and drainage holes at the toe and heel to let water escape and prevent silt from entering.
The style also takes a bit longer to dry and has no half sizes. Both men’s and women’s start at around $100, but I honestly think these are worth it based on traction, comfort, and style. These would be great to have on a river cruise because they’re stylish and comfortable even when wet.
- Excellent traction
- Keep debris out
- Not quick drying
- Not for whitewater use
2. Crocs LiteRide Pacer (Men and Women)
The Cros LiteRide Pacers are different from most Crocs you’re used to – y’know, the ones you own that are somehow coming back into style. These ones look like sneakers with drainage holes and are fashionable enough to go from the water to streetwear. Heck, they’re fashionable enough not to look like Crocs.
Both the women’s version and men’s version have light, resilient foam insoles and come in a range of colors. They are great for canoeing, boating, or walking the dog in the rain. They are budget-friendly options, costing about $35 to $40.
Reviewers of both the men’s and women’s styles say they felt comfortable wearing them. They also praised the shoe’s stylishness. The downside of these shoes is that they only come in whole sizes and require a little longer to dry than some water shoes.
- Whole sizes only
- Not quick drying
“…when we were shooting the movie, the wardrobe designer showed me these shoes — they weren’t out in the world yet. And she said, “This is a start-up, they’re making these shoes and they’re going to look completely ridiculous.” Plastic shoes with holes in them.
And I said to her, “The only thing I’m worried about is, what if these things blow up and by the time the movie comes out, they’re everywhere?” And she said, “Oh, that’s never going to happen. No one is going to buy these things.”
And then, the movie comes out, and they are all wearing Crocs, and those shoes were just becoming huge.“
See Related: Best Hiking Shorts for Men and Women
3. Speedo Surfknit Pro (Men and Women)
The Speedo Surfknit Pro has an S-Trac-designed outsole that disperses water and improves performance. It is thick enough to offer protection against rocks and sharp objects. The shoe also has a comfortable and removable hydrophobic rubber EVA insole.
Both the men’s and women’s versions are pull-on styles, which makes them easy to slip on and off and especially good for those who have trouble tying laces. The shoe dries quickly, in about two hours, and more quickly if you remove the insoles. They cost about $40, which isn’t too bad considering what you’re getting.
Some reviewers said the women’s water shoes added a little resistance to pool workouts while also improving traction. Male reviewers said they wore them for laps around the river. One downside is that the sizing seems to be slightly off.
Some reviewers say the shoe tends to run large, while others found it to run small. Another potential downside is that they look like water shoes, so fashion-conscious folks will want to bring along a pair of land shoes if they plan to do much walking in the city after their swim.
- Protects against sharp objects
- Easy slip-on
- Quick drying
- Look like water shoes
- Sizing isn’t always standard
See Related: Best Travel Sandals for Beach Destinations
4. DigiHero Water Shoes (Unisex)
DigiHero water shoes are a great budget water shoe option that come in various colors to match any swimsuit. They are good for water yoga, surfing, or pool swimming.
They also are good for traveling, because they take flatten to take up very little space. They are very quick drying and are usually dry in under two hours.
Although they are marketed as shoes, they are more like water socks, which makes them a decent option if you prefer socks or more flex in your feet. They also have a snug fit, but they start at $10, so it’s also a great budget option.
The main downside is that the soles are very thin, so they wouldn’t be appropriate for much walking on rough terrain or rocky beaches.
- Quick drying
- Thin soles
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5. Salomon Tech Amphib 5 (Men and Women)
The Salomon Tech Amphib 5 water shoes have a tough rubber sole, protect feet and provide a reliable grip on slippery decks, wet rocks, and rocky trails. They are made of quick-drying, breathable materials that keep out dirt and debris. They are excellent shoes for water sports and are fashionable enough to wear downtown afterward.
Reviewers say the women’s sizes run quite large; however, the men’s run true to size. The reviewers also give the shoes high marks for trekking around rivers. One reviewer of the men’s style who had wide toes and narrow feet said the shoe was too narrow midfoot and caused discomfort.
- Excellent traction
- Collapsible heels
- Women’s sizes run large
6. Native Shoes Jefferson Shoes (Kids)
Native Shoes Jefferson Shoes are great water shoes for kids. They come in bright, kid-friendly colors and have all-over perforations that help feet breathe. They slip on easily and clean quickly.
The EVA discourages bacteria growth. They are also sustainable because they are recyclable and a vegan option. They are a good choice for water parks, pools, and beaches.
Good Housekeeping says they are durable enough to last all summer. That all depends on what you’re doing all summer, as some reviews say that the shoes are not durable or comfortable enough for hikes or long walks.
- Great, durable kids shoe
- Easy slip-on
- Only work well for shorter walks
See Related: Essential Tips for Hiking with Kids & Toddlers
7. KEEN Newport Hydro Sandal (Men and Women)
The Keen Newport Hydro sandal is a water sandal with a closed-toe design. The shoe has a non-marking rubber outsole, so you can wear it indoors as well as outdoors. It also has multi-directional lugs for strong gripping. These are great for river crossing and rock hopping. You never know when a great hike is going to get wet, so be prepared!
Its cushioned insole is comfortable. The shoe also has Eco Anti-Odor to break down sweat and odor and rigid toe bumpers to protect your feet. The shoe has a cinch cord for tightening or loosening the fit and is suitable for most adventures.
The women’s shoes run small, so you should order a slightly larger size. The men’s run true to size. You can also order a half size, if necessary. Prices range from about $90 to $130, depending on size.
Most reviews of the shoes praise them highly, although one wearer would like a video to help them tighten or loosen the shoes. One person thought they were too heavy. One person complained of chafing when the shoes were new.
- Grips well
- Non-marking rubber sole
- Women’s sizes run small
- Some may consider them heavy
8. Foot Tracker Wading Boots (Men)
While we tend to think of water shoes as either a thin slip-on, or a water-friendly sneaker, they come in all shapes and sizes. For example, these Foot Tracker wading boots are made primarily for anglers.
Sold by Patagonia and developed in partnership with Danner (one of my favorite bootmakers), they are extremely durable and comfortable. Uppers are made of leather with nylon padding.
The outsole uses Vibram® Idrogrip, which keeps you from slipping on mixed-surface riverbeds and streams. The boots come with studs for times when you need more traction. The boots also feature perforated drains to clear water quickly.
They are pricy, running around $450 and up. However, one reviewer points out that they outlast several pairs of other brands, making them a better value in the long run.
You can also have the boots resoled through Danner. The boots also are a bit heavier than some competitors, weighing about 69 ounces. Patagonia and Danner offer a lighter-weight version, River Salt wading boots, for hikes and wet wading.
- Great for anglers
- Excellent gripping technology with optional studs
- Very pricy
See Related: Best Fishing Spots in the World
9. Bahama Vent PFG (Men and Women)
The Bahama Vent PFG is a lightweight vented casual shoe that’s great for tropical vacations and offers traction for boat, boat decks, and land use. The men’s upper is a combination of leather and canvas, while the women’s is made of breathable mesh.
The midsole provides cushioning. The sole on the men’s style also has ports for venting. You can easily slip the shoe on.
The shoes also are good for boaters who prefer socially responsible companies because they were made as part of BSR’s HERproject™, which strives to empower women. Customer reviews praise their style, fit, and comfort, but say the stitching wears quickly. They also say the shoes smell when worn without socks. Ew.
- Easy slip-on
- Socially responsible brand
- May smell after being worn
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10. Merrell Hydro Moc (Men, Women, and Kids)
The Merrell Hydro Moc is an extremely lightweight and easily packable water shoe that is comfortable with or without socks. The shoe also is durable and supportive enough for short walks. The upper is porous, which makes it a good choice for many aquatic adventures, such as pool swimming, kayaking, and boating, but not for walking on the beach.
Prices start at about $30 for kids and $60 for men’s and women’s styles. The kid’s and women’s styles come in fun colors. The men’s are a bit more basic.
Reviewers like the heel strap, which makes for a good, snug fit. They also say the shoes have great traction in rocky river crossings; however, the holes let debris in. Some reviewers say the support is not quite optimal for longer hikes.
- Good traction
- Let debris in
- Support may not be enough for long hikes
11. Body Glove 3T Barefoot Cinch (Men and Women)
The Body Glove 3T Barefoot Cinch is a great water shoe for people who prefer to be barefoot but want protection and traction. The shoes have stretchy neoprene uppers and grippy rubber soles and protect against rocks, coral, and slippery surfaces.
Their snug fit and flexibility are reminiscent of rock climbing shoes. They work best for surfing, river and ocean adventures, kayaking, and powerboarding. They have an excellent drainage system and dry quickly.
Another reviewer said that since the shoes were similar to aqua socks, you don’t need the thumb space that you typically need in athletic shoes. Some people complained of blisters on the heel.
- Stretchy neoprene uppers
- Gripper soles
- Dry quickly
- Slow to arrive when ordered online
- Some users experienced blisters on their heels
12. Waverunner (Men and Women)
Waverunner is one of the best water sneakers. The lightweight shoe has stretchy mesh materials around the foot and an anti-slip rubber sole that protects your feet from sharp rocks and other objects.
Drainage holes keep the shoe dry. They are good for hiking, swimming, and boating and are comfortable. Because they are sneakers, you can also wear them out of the water.
The downside is that small pebbles sometimes get stuck in the holes of the soles. Also, while many reviewers found them to be comfortable all day, others found the arch supports less than optimal.
- Protects feet from sharp objects
- Stay dry
- Good price point
- Debris can get stuck in the soles
13. NRS Kicker Wetshoes (Men and Women)
These shoes look like classic water shoes. Neoprene uppers have a titanium coating that provides good insulation, making them a good choice in colder weather. However, the downside is that a neoprene upper requires more time to dry than a breathable mesh upper.
The shoe also lacks drainage ports, which may give them a squishy feel. However, without holes, the shoes are less susceptible to debris getting into them. The toe box provides sufficient room for wide feet.
The shoes have a rubber outsole and are perfect on wet surfaces. They also have a 2mm shim in the soles that provide protection from sharp rocks.
They don’t perform as well on muddy surfaces, however. Reviewers liked the cuff, which you can tighten for a snug fit to keep out grit.
- Good insulation
- Rubber outsole provides traction and protects from rocks
- Keep out debris
- Requires time to dry
- Not suitable for muddy surfaces
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14. WHITIN Amphibious Water Shoes (Men’s)
WHITIN Amphibious Water Shoes are reasonably priced, fashionable, and quick drying. Removable insoles further speed up the drying. They can go from water to town easily.
They have a roomy toe box, mesh uppers, and an excellent water drainage system. They also have rubber soles for traction and a heel counter for strength and stability.
They are best for shorter hikes, boating, water sports, and places where trendy shoes are important. They’re also pretty affordable, at about $40.
Reviewers write they are comfortable and easy to put on and take off. They also praise their lightweight. Some found glue on their shoes and said they weren’t wide enough.
- Good traction and stability
- Some are reported to have excess glue on them
- Inconsistent sizing
15. Chaco Z Cloud 2 Water and Sports Sandal (Men and Women)
Chaco is a well-known brand that’s been around since the 1980s. The company is known for its social responsibility and gives 3 percent of its after-tax profits to causes that help the planet and people. The company’s customer service also is top-notch.
Chaco shoes are popular for both water and land adventures. Chaco shoes feature a single strap that loops around the big toe, foot, and ankle that you can adjust with a buckle.
The strap on the regular shoes does not adjust enough for wide feet; however, Z Cloud 2s do come in a wider width. They have a memory foam-type sole. The sandals also have non-marking rubber soles and podiatrist-certified Luvseat polyurethane footbeds.
Sandals dry more quickly than closed-toe water shoes; however, they don’t offer as much protection as full coverage water shoes in rugged terrain. Before buying sandals as your primary water shoe, consider how you’ll use them. They are great for boat trips, beach walking, wading, water sports, and short hikes.
Also, some people didn’t like the way the strap fits around their toes. Another reviewer, who suffers from plantar fasciitis, says they found the new version of these shoes to be very comfortable for all-day wear.
- Non-marking soles
- Podiatrist-certified footbeds
- Quick drying
- Socially responsible brand
- Strap pleases some but irritates others
- May not be suitable for rough terrain
How to Care for Your Water Shoes
Now that you’ve chosen your favorite water shoes, you’ll need to care for them properly to get your money’s worth. Here are a few tips:
- Rinse your shoes after each wearing with cold water.
- If the shoe has a removable sole, remove it and rinse it separately.
- If you’ve worn them for a while, washing them completely will help prevent odors. You can wash them in a sink with warm water and dish or laundry soap or in a washing machine in water no hotter than 30 degrees.
- Dry your shoes in the sun. If you have a removable sole, remove it and dry it separately. You should not dry them in a dryer.
- If your shoes do pick up odors, use a sachet or activated charcoal disk to eliminate odors. Baking soda and tea bags can also be effective.
Can you use water shoes for running and other sports?
You can sometimes use water shoes for other sports, depending on the amount of support the shoes provide your feet and arches. Some water shoes can work fine for hikes on dry land as well as water.
Running is a little more tricky. Because most water shoes are lightweight, they can be a good fit for people who sometimes run barefoot. However, most water shoes provide less cushion and support than running shoes and may not work as well for long-distance, high-performance running.
How do I choose the perfect size for water shoes?
Sizing depends on the brand and type of water shoe. Closed-toe shoes often require a size larger, especially if you are using them for hiking or water sports; however, this rule of thumb is not universally true.
To get the best fit, try shoes on in the store. If you do buy online, read the reviews and manufacturer’s instructions to see whether the shoe runs true to size, large or small.
Also, consider whether you will wear the shoes in winter when you might also need to wear thick neoprene socks. In that case, you might want to order a size larger than you typically wear.
What is the difference between water shoes and aqua socks?
Both aqua socks and water shoes provide protection for your feet in the water. Although the lines between the two have become more blurred recently, traditionally, the main difference is that water shoes have rubber soles to provide grip.
Water socks or aqua socks also are frequently used by snorkelers and surfers in the water, while water shoes are more often used on the rocky shore. People are increasingly using water shoes for kayaking and boating. Also, some minimalist water shoes have much in common with aqua socks.
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Kyle Kroeger is the Founder and Owner of ViaTravelers.com. He is a seasoned traveler and entrepreneur. Kyle started ViaTravelers.com to help travelers find their next adventure, whether it’s exploring new places or revisiting old favorites.
He’s a converted finance nerd and Excel jockey turned world wonderer (and may try to get lost on purpose). He loves listening to people’s stories from around the world as well as sharing his own experiences traveling the globe. He loves travel so much that he moved from his hometown of Minneapolis to Amsterdam with his small family to travel Europe full-time.