Water Shoes Buying Guide

If you plan on kayaking and canoeing over the year, one thing you might not have thought about is footwear. In this article, we will discuss the best water shoes for kayaking and canoeing. We have some really great options for you, as well as a whole lot of tips on what to look for before making your final purchase. 

Before you choose the right water shoe, let’s cover the main purchasing factors that you should take into consideration.

Design and Style

The first thing when buying any kind of water shoe is the design and style of the shoe. Generally speaking, there are 4 different styles you can go with. The first style is the water sandal, which is pretty much just a sandal, an open toed shoe, made with rubber and other waterproof materials. These are ideal for kayaking, canoeing, and other basic water activities in the summer. 

Next, you have the classic water shoe that protects the bottom of your feet from rocky lake, river, and ocean beds. This type of water shoe is perfect for any activity where you are in and out of the water repeatedly.  

Third is the combination of hiking and water shoes. These shoes are like a hiking shoe, but also have the characteristics of water shoes. They are a brilliant hybrid, ideal for water, and typically quick drying.

Finally neoprene boots, which admittedly might be over the top for summer kayaking. When it comes to the colder days in winter where you need something to help keep your feet warm, they’re perfect.  

Material

The next consideration when purchasing water shoes is what kind of materials they are made out of. First off, all water shoes should have a durable strong rubber sole. Meaning they cope with rocks and pointed objects well, protecting your feet and wont break easily. This rubber sole should also feature a good lug pattern providing you with traction on slippery surfaces. 

Open toe water shoes feature the sole and strapping, polyester or nylon are good options for the strap. If you are going for closed water shoes, good for a mixture of hiking and water sports. It is best to choose a quick drying lightweight fabric, mesh for ventilation, and maybe some bare areas for drainage too. Whatever the case may be, you need to look for materials that can resist being wet a lot. 

The Outsole and Traction

One of the most important considerations with any type of water shoe is the traction. Wet canoe and kayak hulls are slippery, and so are rocks in any body of water. Slipping and falling is a major cause of injury when being in or near the water. Having a good traction pattern on the underside of the water shoe is highly recommended. Additionally, the outsole needs to be thick and durable, more than enough to stop sticks or sharp rocks from injuring your feet when you walk around in a lake, ocean, or river. 

Overall Durability and Protection

The next thing to look for when purchasing water shoes is to make sure that they are durable. There are many durable materials, but they all have their differences. For instance, neoprene is highly durable and can stand up to cold, moisture, and plenty of use. 

However, when it comes to durability in terms of standing up to sharp objects, rubber is what you want. If you plan on wearing your water shoes to hike as well, a durable synthetic or textile is very beneficial. Whatever material you choose the main factors are that the water shoe can stand up to heavy use, water, temperature, and some rough conditions. 

Support, Comfort, and Cushioning 

An important factor when purchasing water shoes is how well they support and cushion your feet. Classic styled water shoes are not as supportive as sandal and hiking based water shoes. Sure, they protect your feet from rocks, but they are not great in terms of cushioning or arch support. If you are looking to walk longer distances in water shoes, you need be able to walk in without your feet hurting. Having a good midsole with arch support and impact absorption is perfect for comfort. 

When in the water, you need to be able to feel the ground, having some flexibility is beneficial too. A good mix of all of these features is what you should look for when buying a water shoe. 

Speed of Drying

Another factor you should look for with any pair of water shoes is how fast they dry. Yes, water shoes are meant to get wet, but they should also dry fast. Some options, like the rubber sandals we’ve reviewed, are great because they don’t absorb water, so dry quickly. Neoprene is a brilliant option too, as they repel water very well. 

Unfortunately, hiking water shoes tend to absorb water due to the material. Good ventilation, mesh, and drainage holes shorten drying time for water shoes of this kind. 

Water Shoes FAQ

What materials are water shoes made of?

Water shoes can be made from a number of materials. Normal water shoes are usually made with a thin and breathable material that is quick drying, with rubber soles. Some water shoes are made of neoprene, like a wetsuit, which is great if you are worried about the cold. Some are even made of textile or synthetic fabrics, which are best for hiking and water. 

Why should I wear water shoes?

Water shoes are great to wear when in or on the water, when not wanting to wear a full shoe. A good water shoe is designed to dry fast, so you are comfortable; they are designed to be lightweight and breathable, helping protect your feet from rocks and debris. 

How do I clean my water shoes?

Water shoes are very easy to clean. For the most part, all you need to do is rinse them with some warm water and soap. This does depend on what material the shoes are made of, please check the instruction of you shoe.

What is the best type of water shoe for kayaking?

Generally speaking, an open-toe sandal-type water shoe will do just fine for canoeing and kayaking, especially in warm conditions. If you are worried about the cold, a sneaker or neoprene boot-style water shoe is the better option. 

Best Water Shoes For Kayaking and Canoeing: Reviews

Below are the water shoes we think are best on the market. Rating them on drying time, comfort, grip and quality.

Chaco Z2 Classic Sport Sandal

Here we have a moderately priced yet very high-quality pair of water sandals. Perfect for hot summer days on the water, they are going to get wet and will cope brilliantly. Both men’s and women’s shoes come in a wide variety of colors to suit all.
Women’s: Click here to view.
Men’s: Click here to view.

Product Highlights

The Chaco Z2 Classic Sport Sandal is made with a mixture of rubber and textile — a waterproof textile. What you need to know is that these are 100% waterproof. They won’t keep your feet dry, being open toe sandals, but the sandals themselves will never absorb water. Additionally, they dry really fast too, so getting them we is no issue.

It is a great option for summertime canoeing and kayaking, because it is an open shoe with maximum air flow. If it is hot outside, this shoe offers you breathability, as the top is open and leaves your foot exposed. 

This sport sandal is made with a ChacoGrip rubber outsole. Chaco redesigned their shoe soles, vastly improving them. Now not only are they very durable, but also offer superior traction on wet and slippery surfaces, helpful when kayaking. The interior of the shoe, has a good pattern which helps your feet stay in place, stopping them sliding around the sandals. 

The LUVSEAT PU midsole is quite comfortable and provides great arch support and impact cushioning. Both of which are important if you are going to be wearing them for an extended period. These water sandals come with a unique adjustable polyester straps and adjustable heel riser, so you can get the fit that suits you best every time. 

The Good

Chaco Z2 Classic Sport Sandal are very durable and long lasting; they provide you with good traction, both between the sandals and the ground, and between your feet and the sandals. They are the perfect option for canoeing or kayaking on a hot summer day when want some foot protection.

The Chaco Water Sandal leaves your feet open to get maximum airflow and sun. Plus, the rubber sole does not absorb water and it dries fast.

The Bad

One bad thing about the Chaco Men’s Z2 Classic Sport Sandal is that the straps can be difficult. But, once you get to grips with them they become a simple task. The straps can become slightly uncomfortable and may cause blisters, but this should stop once the sandals are broken in. Once wet it can be quite hard to adjust the straps.  Additionally, the straps are a little slow to dry.

Pros

  • Durable build
  • Adjustable
  • Great traction
  • Won’t absorb water
  • Good support and cushioning
  • Comfortable sole

Cons

  • Straps can be awkward and may initially cause blistering
  • Straps dry slower than desired

Merrell All Out Blaze Aero Sport Hiking Water Shoe

Here we are going in the opposite direction, because this is a full shoe. Merrell All Out Blaze is made for running, hiking and other outdoor activities. It’s also very quick drying, designed be used as a water shoe.  Both men’s and women’s shoes come in a wide variety of colors to suit all.
Women’s: Click here to view.
Men’s: Click here to view.

Product Highlights

The Merrell All Out Blaze Aero Sport Hiking Water Shoe is a full shoe, made with a durable synthetic upper with mesh. This water shoe is the best of its kind, and is a brilliant hybrid between water shoe and hiking trainer. The synthetic material is designed to be quick drying, so getting them wet isn’t a problem. 

The mesh is very beneficial helping your feet breathe, especially useful on summer days when running or pushing hard kayaking. Additionally, when the shoes gets wet, the water easily drains through, drying quickly, thanks to the high level of ventilation.

The Merrell All Out Blaze Aero Sport Hiking Water Shoe features a solid Vibram rubber outsole. Extremely durable and can stand up to long hikes in all conditions. They also feature a great traction pattern which helps provide good grip in the water and on slippery surfaces. These are lace-up shoes, with good all round support. 

The Blaze Aero Sport also feature a cushioned and protective midsole to help keep your feet protected from the dangers below. Plus they provide you with some general cushioning and arch support. 

The Good

A key feature of the Merrell All Out Blaze Aero Sport Hiking Water Shoe is that it does dry very quickly once it gets wet. It has a lot of cushioning, support and a great outsole, providing great grip ideal for hiking and canoeing. The water shoe also features a great grip pattern.

The Bad

If we were looking really hard to find a bad point about Merrell All Out Blaze Aero Sport it would be that it can get a little heavy when wet. But, it drys that fast that this really isn’t an issue for long.

Pros

  • Durable
  • Comfortable
  • Quick drying
  • Good traction
  • Great support and cushioning
  • Great for hiking
  • Protective

Cons

  • Heavy when wet
  • Will absorb some water

Speedo Surfwalker 3.0 Water Shoe

Here we have what most people would consider to be a basic water shoe, good for swimming in rocky areas. It works well for canoeing and kayaking. It’s much cheaper than Chaco and Merrell although, the quality is lacking especially for a popular brand such as Speedo.
Woman’s: Click here to view.
Men’s: Click here to view.

Product Highlights

The Speedo Surfwalker 3.0 Water Shoe is a good option for a variety of reasons. First off, this water shoe is made with a very stretchy upper, almost like a wetsuit, made with quick-drying materials. This means that you can put them on your feet without having any straps or laces. Due to the stretchy design, your feet should stay in place while being comfortable.

The material selected is designed to dry fast, after a few minutes out of the water they should be relatively dry.

The Speedo Surfwalker 3.0 Water Shoe is very lightweight and breathable, so much so that you might not even notice them on your feet after a few minutes. It’s a pretty good option for a hot day where you still need some protection for your feet but will mainly be in your kayak or canoe. 

The Surfwalker 3.0 Water Shoe also comes with an S-trac outsole withlots of grip. Designed to offer you maximum traction under water, on rocks, and on other slippery surfaces.

The Good

We like that the Speedo Surfwalker 3.0 Water Shoe is a classic water shoes which we are all used to. It covers the foot, helps stop sunburn, it’s lightweight and breathable, and provides your feet with protection.

The Bad

A drawback of the Speedo Surfwalker 3.0 Water Shoe is that it can degrade quicker than expected. It’s durable enough for kayaking and canoeing, but walking on gravel and sharp rocks for extended periods of time could cause it to fail prematurely.

Pros

  • Lightweight and breathable
  • Super quick drying
  • Good traction and protection 

Cons 

  • Lack of arch support
  • Limited durability

Body Glove 3T Barefoot Max Water Shoe

Here we have another water shoe; it costs little more than the Speedos above, but it also has some really neat features. It’s a water shoe which has individual toe slots, which some people absolutely love.
Woman’s: Click here to view.
Men’s: Click here to view.

Product Highlights

As we mentioned above, the Body Glove 3T Barefoot Max Water Shoe has individual toe slots, like toe socks, but shoes designed for the water. What is great about this is that the individual toe slots make you feel bare footed, which helps aid balance while on uneven terrain. 

Being able to use your toes individually for balance and grip is useful when trying to staying upright in slippery conditions, such as in or on the water. Moreover, the Body Glove 3T Barefoot Max Water Shoe comes with a synthetic rubber outsole with a great grip pattern. In terms of traction, safety and slip prevention, this is one of the very best options currently available. 

Finally, the Body Glove 3T Barefoot Max Water Shoe can be used in the water or on land. The outsole is very durable and fairly thick, so it does offer pretty decent protection from whatever is below. Now, the really neat part about this shoe is that it comes with an integrated drainage system. When they get wet, most of the water on the inside will drain out quickly. On that same note, they are also designed to dry fast, which is thanks to the thin and breathable upper section. 

The Good

The good part about the Body Glove water shoe is that it fits like a glove. It allows you to get the full range of motion with your feet, it allows for really amazing gripping and traction capabilities, it is very durable, and it dries super quick too. It’s probably one of the very best options out there right now. 

The Bad

This style of shoe is definitely not to everyone’s taste, it is a very polarising, we aren’t the biggest fan and that’s why its been penalised.
Some might find that having the toes separated into individual compartment, can be somewhat uncomfortable, and may take some getting used to. 

Pros

  • Very durable with good protection
  • Great for traction and balance
  • Features drainage and quick drying materials
  • Very snug fit

Cons 

  • Definitely not to everyone’s taste
  • Some people may not like the individual toes

NeoSport Wetsuits Premium Neoprene 3mm Low Top Pull On Boot

This is a neoprene boot, a different type of water shoe to the others. It is generally used for water sports like kayaking, canoeing, scuba diving, paddle boarding, as well as surfing. Click here to view.

Product Highlights

The NeoSport Wetsuits Premium Neoprene Pull On Boot is a good option for a cooler day, as it’s a full neoprene boot and it is thick.  It helps to keep out the cold water and the wind, keeping your feet dry and warm at all times. 

As you might have noticed, the other water shoes we looked at today all dry quick, but this is not the case here. Because the neoprene used is  waterproof, it never gets wet or absorbs water in the first place; the NeoSport Wetsuits Premium Neoprene 3mm Low Top Pull On Boot is more like a wetsuit for your feet than anything else. 

That being said, the NeoSport Wetsuits Premium Neoprene Boot is very soft and comfortable, but they typically aren’t ideal for a hot summer day, as they are not particularly breathable. 

When it comes to getting good grip in a kayak, canoe or on slippery rocks, this is an ideal option as it comes with a thick rubber outsole. Which is not only very durable, but also has a great lug pattern to provide you with traction and balance no matter how slippery a surface. These boots are quite durable and built to last even if you put them through some punishment. 

The Good

The good part about the NeoSport Premium Neoprene Pull On Boot is that it will keep your feet warm and dry in cooler conditions, plus they are durable and have good traction. 

The Bad

Although the NeoSport Premium Neoprene Pull On Boot is comfortable and flexible, you may not want to wear on a hot summers day; as they are full neoprene boots, they aren’t very breathable, and your feet probably will get hot in them. 

Pros

  • Keep feet warm
  • Keep feet dry
  • Very durable
  • Comfortable and flexible
  • Easy to put on
  • Great traction 

Cons 

  • Can be a bit heavy
  • Too hot for a summer day
  • Sizing can be irregular
  • Slower to dry

Conclusion

When it comes down to it, all the options we have looked at are ideal in their own way. Some are best for hot summer days where you just need some basic protection and traction, others better for colder conditions, and some are great if you want to do some hiking on the side. Which option you choose will be based mostly on the conditions you will be using them in, and what you want out of a water shoe. 

Hopefully this article has you select the best water shoes for you. If you have any questions, recommendations or anything else then please contact me via my contact page.

Product Review Lad

Related Articles