Water Shoes Buying Guide

If you plan on kayaking, canoeing, or hiking throughout the year, one thing you might not have thought about is footwear. When out on the water, either tackling rapids or just enjoying a nice open lake, wet shoes and soggy feet make the most enjoyable days a lot worse. In this article, we will discuss the best water shoes for kayaking and canoeing. Water shoes aren’t just made for kayaking and canoeing, for that reason we have also considered the best water shoes for hiking too.

We have some really great options for water sports both for men and for women. As well as a whole lot of tips on what to look for before making your final purchase, all in our handy, to the point buyers guide.

There is a huge range of water shoes, some from large multinational brands, some from smaller specialists, and others from brands that are not always cheap but are substandard in quality. For this reason, we have tested and reviewed to bring you the best water shoes.

**When canoeing or kayaking it is important to always wear a life vest, as safety is paramount while on the water. Unfortunately, accidents do happen. To view our life vest buyers guide and selected the best life vests click here.

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

Design and Style

The first thing when buying any shoe for water sports 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 lakes, rivers, and ocean beds. This type is perfect for any activity where you are in and out of the water repeatedly.

The third is a 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 for kayaking 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 won’t 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.

If you’re kayaking or canoeing in cold water it is advisable to purchase closed-toe shoes that have a snug fit.

The Outsole and Traction

One of the most important considerations with any type of water shoe is 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 for kayaking and hiking 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 kayaking shoes to hike as well, a durable synthetic or textile is very beneficial. Whatever material you choose the main factors are that the 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. Classically 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 to 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 pair of water shoes. 

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. Water shoes made from Neoprene are 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. 

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.

Best water shoe: Merrell All Out Blaze Aero Sport Hiking Water Shoe

Merrell All Out Blaze is the best kayaking water shoe, made for running, hiking, and other outdoor activities. It’s also very quick drying. 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 is the best of its kind and is a brilliant hybrid between water shoes and hiking trainers. 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 get wet, the water easily drains through, drying quickly, thanks to the high level of ventilation.

The Merrell All Out Blaze Aero Sport Hiking 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 a good grip in the water and on slippery surfaces. These are lace-up shoes, with good all-round support.

The Blaze Aero Sport also features 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
  • Amazing traction
  • Great support and cushioning
  • Great for hiking
  • Protective

Cons

  • Heavy when wet, but dry quickly
  • Will absorb some water

Best water sandals for kayaking: Chaco Z2 Classic Sport Sandal

Here we are going in the opposite direction because these are the best water sandals for kayaking. 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 are no issue.

It is a great option for summertime canoeing and kayaking because it is an open shoe with maximum airflow. 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 from 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 strap and adjustable heel riser, so you can get the fit that suits you best every time.

The Good

Chaco Z2 Classic Sport Sandal is very durable and long-lasting; they provide you with great 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 wanting 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

Speedo Surfwalker 3.0 Water Shoe

Here we have what most people would consider 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 kayaking 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 with lots of grip. Designed to offer you maximum traction underwater, on rocks, and on other slippery surfaces.

The Good

We like that the Speedo Surfwalker 3.0 Water Shoe is a classic water shoe that 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 shoe which is great for kayaking; it costs a 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 barefooted, 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 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 very polarising, we aren’t the biggest fan and that’s why it’s been penalized.
Some might find that having the toes separated into an 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, paddleboarding, 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 quickly, 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 a 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 summer 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 and great water shoes for kayaking and hiking. 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

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Water Shoes FAQ

What materials are water shoes made of?

Water shoes can be made from several 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 from 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. These shoes are great for kayaking, canoeing, paddleboarding, and other water sports.

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 your 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. 

Can I go kayaking barefoot

So it is perfectly fine to go kayaking or canoeing barefooted but there are many circumstances where it really isn’t advisable. It can feel more comfortable to kayak barefooted at times, your feet are free and in the fresh air. If you’re in clean clear water then go for it kayak barefooted.

It is really advisable to wear some form of footwear if there are rocky surfaces around or in where you’re kayaking. Additionally, if you kayak in the water where there are likely water-borne diseases, definitely put kayaking shoes on as you could easily cut your feet while kayaking barefooted and this cut is highly susceptible to getting infected.