Best Water Shoes: Protect Your Feet From the Elements

Man walking on beach with Keens


Picking the right footwear for your adventure can be the difference between taking home fantastic memories or feet full of blisters. Water shoes are appropriate and even necessary for lots of activities, so it's naturally a diverse and sometimes confusing category. We've tested everything from soft, sock styles to protect feet from hot sand on the beach to rugged sandals designed for canoe trips with long portages. The best water shoe for kayakers would not be the best option for backpackers or casual beachgoers. You might even find that you need multiple pairs of water shoes in your adventure arsenal if you find yourself with a variety of outdoor hobbies.

One key thing to keep in mind is the importance of a good fit. Make sure you take those shoes out for a test drive before the big event. Once you've got the best water shoes picked out, the rest of the gear should be a snap.

If you need some pointers, check out the ACTIVE Reviews Team's picks for the best kayak before you hit the water or the best hiking backpacks if you're heading out on the trail.

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The Best Water Shoes - Our Top Picks

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Best Water Shoes Overall - Teva Omnium 2 Water Shoe

Teva Omnium 2 Water Shoe

SPECS

  • Best use: Mixed hiking and water adventures
  • Weight: 1 lb. 10.6 oz. per pair (men's size 10)
  • Material: EVA midsole, Nylon shank, synthetic upper
  • Support: High arch support
  • Traction: Spider Original rubber, aggressive tread
  • Additional features: Hook-and-loop closure, Microban anti-odor treatment

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The Teva Omnium 2 is a great crossover water shoe. It's comfortable and functional for just about any activity in the splash zone. Rather than hiking in boots and adding a water shoe to the weight of your pack, the Omnium does double duty. The rugged Spider rubber outsole is designed with an aggressive tread to take on slippery rocks and logs in and out of the water—just what you're looking for the next time you cross a raging river miles from the trailhead.

The light EVA midsole provides more cushion than your average water shoe for all day wear. Thoughtful details like the hook and loop closure allow for a just-right fit, while the plastic buckle leaves fiddling with wet laces behind. Made with all-vegan materials, the signature style leaves no doubt that you're on an adventure.

What We Like

  • A fully supportive shoe suitable for hiking long distances between water crossings
  • Microban anti-odor treatment
  • Grippy Spider Original rubber traction

What We Don't Like

  • Stiff straps and body can take a while to break in
  • Not designed for a quick on and off

BUY: Teva Omnium Water Shoe

Best Water Shoes for Men - NRS Arroyo Wetshoes

NRS Arroyo Wetshoes - Men's

SPECS

  • Best use: Paddling
  • Weight: Approximately 10.5 oz. per pair
  • Material: Rubber outsole, Neoprene upper and footbeds
  • Support: Very little
  • Traction: Honeycomb-molded rubber
  • Additional features: Ankle pull tabs

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The NRS Arroyo Wetshoe is an ideal candidate for your next paddle. The simple, lightweight design is cost-effective, comfy in the boat, and easy to pack. We love the 1.5 mm thick neoprene uppers which keep feet warm when cold water inevitably splashes in. Slip these babies on with the convenient front and back ankle tabs and let your feet relax in the roomy toe box while your arms do the work.

The minimalist, lightly textured rubber outsole is not intended for long portages or river walks but will get you from here to there if the need arises.

What We Like

  • 1.5mm thick neoprene for warmth
  • Roomy toe box
  • Inexpensive and lightweight

What We Don't Like

  • Offer minimal protection for uneven or sharp surfaces
  • Not ideal for trips that involve long stretches of portaging/walking

BUY: NRS Arroyo Wetshoes

Best Water Shoes for Women - Speedo Fathom AQ Water Shoe

Speedo Women's Fathom AQ Water Shoes

SPECS

  • Best use: Hybrid trainer, water aerobics/aquatic workouts
  • Weight: Not listed
  • Material: 50% synthetic, 50% H2Grip rubber outsole
  • Support: Minimal
  • Traction: H2Grip Outsole rubber compound for maximum traction
  • Additional features: Quick-drying with bottom drainage

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The Speedo Fathom AQ Water Shoe not only performs like a cross trainer on dry land, it looks like one, too. With a classic athletic shoe style, you can take these from water aerobics to your favorite café down the street without a second thought. Quick drying, hydrophobic knit uppers combined with bottom drainage won't leave you with soggy feet.

The comfy fit and light color make a great option for paddle sports as well, keeping wet feet protected from the sun and ready for action. With a snug fit, the easy slip-on design requires little to no adjusting with the drawstring "laces."

What We Like

  • Lightweight, hydrophobic knit construction
  • Bottom drainage for quicker drying
  • H2Grip outsole for traction

What We Don't Like

  • Run quite small, not available in half sizes
  • Less effective traction on wet surfaces than in the water

BUY: Speedo Fathom AQ Water Shoe

Best Water Shoes for Boating - Columbia Bahama Vent Relaxed PFG Water Shoe

Columbia Bahama Vent Relaxed PFG Water Shoe

SPECS

  • Best use: Beachwear and boating
  • Weight: 15.6 oz. per pair
  • Material: Canvas and leather upper, Techlite EVA midsole, rubber sole
  • Support: Fully structured shoe
  • Traction: Omni-Grip, high-traction rubber sole with razor siping
  • Additional features: Midsole ports for water drainage

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Columbia’s Bahama Vent Relaxed PFG Water Shoe was created with style in mind. This shoe’s boat shoe design fits right in on the dock, the beach, or the backyard. With Techlite cushioning, your feet will stay comfortable all day long. But the Omni-Grip sole with razor siping doesn't forget about function. When the catch of the day is splashing around, you won't lose your footing.

Built-in ports in the mid-sole allow for quick water drainage so you can transition smoothly from boat to beach. Like most boat-style shoes, the laces are mostly for show so you'll want to try these on for fit since there isn't a lot of room for adjustment.

What We Like

  • Comfortable, lightweight Techlite cushioning
  • Omni-Grip outsole with razor siping for superior traction
  • Casually cool boat shoe aesthetic

What We Don't Like

  • Laces are mostly for show, so little fit-adjustability
  • Fabric uppers fade with prolonged sun exposure

BUY: Columbia Bahama Vent Relaxed PFG Water Shoe

Best Water Shoes for Hiking - Salomon Amphib Bold 2

AMPHIB BOLD 2

SPECS

  • Best use: Hiking/Trail running
  • Weight: 13.8 oz. per pair
  • Material: Textile lining, welded synthetic upper, and rubber outsole
  • Support: EnergyCell EVA foam, SensiFit
  • Traction: Water Contagrip FD with flat and siped lugs
  • Additional features: Quicklace drawstring lacing system, collapsible heel, gusseted tongue, EVA sockliner

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Salomon designed the Amphib Bold 2 with running in mind, but like many hikers, we love a solid running shoe for the trail. When you check the list of features on this shoe, you'll see right away that Salomon didn't cut any corners.

The synthetic upper maximizes durability while the soft, textile lining makes for more comfortable feet. Transition this running shoe into a comfy slide by turning down the collapsible heel. The gusseted tongue is a small detail that makes a big difference—it keeps debris out of your shoe as you alternate between water and dry land. If this shoe is a good fit for your foot, the Quicklace drawstring lacing design is a great convenience for easy on and off.

However, for higher arches, the lacing system can put uncomfortable pressure on the top of the foot.

What We Like

  • Water Contagrip FD combines flat and siped lugs for max traction
  • Gusseted tongue to keep debris out of shoes
  • Collapsible heel to transform into a slide

What We Don't Like

  • Quicklace does not allow for alternate lacing strategies
  • Run narrow (like most Salomon styles)

BUY: Salomon Amphib Bold 2

Best Water Shoes for Kids - Adidas Summer Closed Toe Water Sandal

adidas Summer Closed Toe Water Sandals

SPECS

  • Best use: Multi-use
  • Weight: 4 oz. per pair
  • Material: EVA upper, textile lining
  • Support: Minimalist support, cushioned midsole
  • Traction: Textured EVA outsole
  • Additional features: Drainage vents in uppers, hook-and-loop closure

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The Adidas Summer Closed Toe Water Sandal for kids is a great unisex option for kids of all ages. The basic multi-use design will get the kiddos through every activity, from splashing puddles and rivers, to running through the sprinkler and hitting the water park with these classic Adidas stripes. Easy Velcro closures are great for little hands and the heel strap keeps shoes on small feet throughout a busy day. Closed toes will keep kids' feet protected, while a series of vents allows water freely in and out. These boots are made for jumping, stomping, dancing, and running—wet or dry.

What We Like

  • Closed toe to protect feet
  • Quick-dry openings in the upper
  • Heel strap keeps shoes in place
  • Easy Velcro closure for small children

What We Don't Like

  • Run a little small
  • Only available up to kids size 2

BUY: Adidas Summer Closed Toe Water Sandal

Best Water Shoes for Kayaking - KEEN SOLR Sandals

KEEN SOLR Sandals

SPECS

  • Best use: Watersports/Multisport
  • Weight: 1 lb. 4 oz. per pair
  • Material: Synthetic Lining, EVA Topsole and Midsole, Recycled PET plastic tubular webbing
  • Support: EVA footbed with arch support
  • Traction: Aquagrip rubber outsoles with Aqua Stop zonal siping
  • Additional features: Bungee Laces with Static lace-lock system

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The KEEN SOLR (Sea. Ocean. Lake. River.) sandal is a shoe for every kind of water. A great fit for longer kayaking or canoeing trips, it has superior traction for river walking and a comfortable, durable design for longer portages. Molded rubber guards protect your toes when you can't see exactly where your feet are going.

A snug fit and the easy drawstring closure with the Static lace-lock system will keep the SOLR sandal in place on every adventure. KEEN goes the extra mile to protect the waters you'll be recreating in by using recycled PET material for the webbing.

What We Like

  • Molded rubber guards to protect toes
  • Static lace-lock system keeps them on securely
  • Uppers made of recycled PET material

What We Don't Like

  • Fit small
  • Difficult to get on, but fitted and do not slip and slide

BUY: KEEN SOLR Sandals

Most Comfortable Water Shoes - Ryka Hydro Splash Water Shoe

Ryka Hydro Splash Water Sneakers - Women's

SPECS

  • Best use: Cross-over—water sport, water aerobics, transition from land to water
  • Weight: 2 lbs. 1.6 oz. per pair
  • Material: Quick-drying, chlorine-friendly mesh, EVA midsole
  • Support: Built-in arch support and foam heel pad
  • Traction: Sticky, rubber outsole
  • Additional features: Velcro closure

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The Ryka Hydro Splash Water Shoe is as much a sneaker as a water shoe. With a fully cushioned midsole and substantial arch support, these shoes go from water to land seamlessly and are great for long days on your feet. Cutouts in the upper and vents in the sole facilitate a quick exit for water and a drier shoe sooner. The Velcro closure is a major upgrade from many water sneakers with fussy laces that tend to come untied when wet.

Ryka designs shoes specifically for a woman's foot, so the shape and fit might be a little bit different than you're used to from an athletic shoe.

What We Like

  • Velcro closure—easy and secure
  • Fit like a sneaker with cushioned support
  • Slip-on fit with padded heel strap

What We Don't Like

  • No half sizes past size 10
  • Considerably heavier than many competitors
  • Made for women only

BUY: Ryka Hydro Splash Water Shoe

Best Non-Slip Water Shoes - Astral Loyak Water Shoe

Astral Loyak Water Shoes

SPECS

  • Best use: Kayaking, rafting, paddling
  • Weight: 12.8 oz. per pair
  • Material: Stitched Cordura nylon upper, Airmesh
  • Support: Minimalist for a low-profile fit
  • Traction: Flex-Grip G.15 SS high-friction rubber
  • Additional features: Drainage holes

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The Astral Loyak Water Shoe is a super light option with Astral's signature Flex-Grip, high-friction rubber for paddle sports. Whether you're standing in a canoe, kayak, or on a stand-up paddle board, these shoes will keep you feeling secure. With a stretchy, snug-fitting vamp, the Loyak might take a little more work to get a high-volume foot into but it won't be slipping and sliding once they're on.

The stitched Cordura nylon upper with Airmesh is quick-drying and drainage holes in the bottom allow water to flood out immediately after submersion. While this shoe can be comfortable for all-day wear while paddling, it might not be supportive enough for long stretches of walking.

What We Like

  • Abrasion-resistant Cordura upper
  • Flex grooves allow full range of motion in feet
  • Secure, snug fit
  • Simple, stylish aesthetic

What We Don't Like

  • Narrow opening, difficult to get on and off
  • Not very supportive for longer stretches of walking

BUY: Astral Loyak Water Shoe

Best Budget Water Shoe - Zhuanglin Quick Drying Aqua Water Shoe

Zhuanglin Quick Drying Aqua Water Shoe

SPECS

  • Best use: Wading, beachwear
  • Weight: 8.16 oz. per pair
  • Material: Air mesh upper, rubber sole, Solyte midsole
  • Support: Minimal
  • Traction: Water Grip outsole
  • Additional features: ComforDry sockliner for cushion and quick-drying, bungee closure

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The Zhuanglin Quick Drying Aqua Water Shoe is a basic water shoe with tons of ventilation. The mesh upper and perforated rubber sole won't hold water between activities but offer enough protection for rocky river crossings or beach walks. The vented bottoms will pick up small rocks and dirt along the way on some terrain, so this may not be the right pick for some adventures.

If you're looking for a basic water shoe for a first-time paddler or to throw in your pack for a few river crossings on a hike, these are a great light-weight, low-cost option.

What We Like

  • Tons of ventilation
  • Very affordable
  • Structured sole to protect feet

What We Don't Like

  • Incredibly ventilated bottoms will pick up small rocks
  • Sizing is a little inconsistent

BUY: Zhuanglin Quick Drying Aqua Water Shoe

What to Look for in Water Shoes


Style

With such a range of applications, the style of water shoes knows no limits. Whether you're looking for something with laces, Velcro, or a basic slip-on, you can find something to love. There is a considerable range of quick-drying synthetic fabrics, including shoes with mostly mesh uppers. Some water shoes are styled to pass for sneakers on dry land, while some are designed with more of a sandal aesthetic. Your choice between the multitude of options should take into consideration your intended use, but also your personal preferences.

Weight

If you'll be strapping your water shoes to your backpack for a multi-day trip in the backcountry, weight is likely more of a consideration than if you're using them for kayaking day trips. This is a great example of choosing the right shoe for your specific needs. Often with a lighter shoe, you're trading weight for function. A lighter shoe will often be less supportive and less durable.

Traction

Different brands have proprietary rubber and material compounds for soles with varying levels of traction. One thing to look for to increase traction is razor siping. Razor siping is a fine slicing of the outer layer of rubber, which allows the rubber to flex open as you walk and grip wet surfaces.

Support

It is quite common for water shoes to offer minimal arch support and structure. As many water shoes are designed to be worn while paddling, they aren't intended for extended periods of walking or hiking. If you are planning to wear your water shoes for a long hike with wet feet, you'll want to choose one with a more structured sole that is engineered with wet hiking in mind.

FAQs About Water Shoes


Are water shoes worth it?

For paddle sports, water shoes are a great investment. A quick-drying shoe with slip-resistant soles is going to offer more in comfort and safety than a standard shoe. For hikers, the need for water shoes depends on the distance of the hike, the amount of water exposure, and the feet that will be wearing them. Many hikers opt to hike in basic trail runners and hope that they'll dry out between river crossings. On especially wet trails, this could mean hours of hiking with wet feet. If temps will be low, wet feet can be an extremely dangerous risk, so carrying a lightweight pair of water shoes and swapping in and out for river crossings might be a necessity.They are often more of an upgrade than a requirement, but for some activities, a solid pair of water shoes can mean the difference between hypothermia and a fun weekend of memories.

Can I swim in water shoes?

The short answer is yes, you can, but often you won't want to. Most styles of water shoes are engineered for sports in and around water, but not swimming. Weight and profile are the main factors to consider when deciding whether to dive in with water shoes on. A neoprene water shoe will keep your feet warmer in cold lake, river, or ocean water, so that could be a good option. Particularly turbulent water could pose a few issues though—you might lose a shoe or the shoe could create unhelpful or potentially dangerous drag in the water.

How do you take care of water shoes?

Always dry-store your shoes in between uses. If your shoes are still wet at the end of your activity, pull out any removable insoles and let them dry completely somewhere with good ventilation. Do not leave them out in direct sunlight for extended periods of time, as this can degrade the fabric.

Depending on the materials and construction of your water shoes, they might be machine washable. Always check the manufacturer instructions for specific care instructions.

How do I prevent blisters from water shoes?

Blisters are a sign of a poor fit. The best way to prevent blisters is to find a pair of water shoes that fit snugly and comfortably on your foot. Several of the styles we've recommended are considered a "tight fit" by many users, which is often by design. Shoes are a notoriously tricky category for recommendations because there is such a variety in foot shape—so what works for us may not work for you.

Make sure to try on your new kicks before you're headed out on the water or the trail to make sure they fit. It's best to test out a new water shoe in similar conditions to what you'll actually be using them for before it's too late to bail out—especially if you plan to walk long distances or wear them all day.

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