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The Best Water Shoes For Kayaking Of 2021 Helpful Guide

best water shoes for kayaking

Kayaking is a great watersport for exploring new places or a relaxing float down a stream. It is really fun and great exercise. When you are out on the water you never know what might happen. Choosing the correct water shoes can make your day kayaking more comfortable and fun. If that sounds good then here are the best water shoes for kayaking available now along with a buying guide.

Best Water Sandal

KEEN Men’s Newport H2 Sandal

Best Water Shoe

Aleader Women’s Mesh Slip On Water Shoes

Best Value Water Shoe

VIFUUR Water Sports Shoes

The top 5 best water shoes for kayaking

We examined several of the most popular water shoes for kayaking.  Here are our reviews of the 5 best options available now.  We considered price, style, durability, materials, and customer reviews in our selections of the best water shoes for kayaking. We looked at sandals, shoes, aquasocks, and booties.

Best Water Sandal

KEEN Men’s Newport H2 Sandal

  • WATER-RESISTANT UPPER: Washable polyester webbing featuring quick-dry lining for active use in the water
  • TRACTION & PROTECTION: Multi-directional lugs with razor siping help provide superior grip on slippery wet terrain
  • SUPPORT & COMFORT: Lace-lock bungee capture system provides a secure fit while offering quick and easy on/off

Summary

The KEEN Men’s Newport H2 Sandals offer great comfort and fit with a thick sole. I personally have been wearing Keen sandals for years and love them. They are very comfortable once you get the correct size. The bungee lacing makes them very secure on your feet. The thick rubber sole gives great traction on wet surfaces. The closed toe design is great for protecting your toes. The sandals are 100% polyester construction which is quick drying and breathable. The design has plenty of ventilation between straps. Some users find that the stitching is not durable which is a concern given the cost of these sandals. These are also available in a women’s version here.

What We Liked
✔️ Bungee quick lace closure
✔️ Thick rubber sole with water sipping tread
✔️ Closed toe design
What We Didn’t Like
Stitching is not durable for some wearers
Small sizing. Order at least a 1/2 size larger than you normally would

Best Water Shoe

Aleader Women’s Mesh Slip On Water Shoes

  • Breathable and durable synthetic/mesh upper allow the foot to breathe
  • Solyte midsole provides an exceptionally lightweight midsole with excellent bounce-back and durability
  • Water Drain outsole provides exceptional traction in wet and slippery conditions

Summary

The Aleader Women’s Mesh Water Shoes are a water shoe good for kayaking and walking. These work great when you know you will be doing some walking as well as paddling. The soles don’t have much arch support. They aren’t good for extended hikes but are fine for walking around. The shoes have a mesh construction that is quick drying and breathable.

The insoles are mesh to allow draining. The downside is that sand and small rocks will get caught in the mesh under your foot. This will make them uncomfortable quickly in those environments. These are best suited for walking on pavement or rocky surfaces without many tiny rocks or sand. These are also available in a men’s version here.

*Note – These are similar to the Zhuanglin Quick Drying Aqua Water Shoes

What We Liked
✔️ Good traction on slippery rock surfaces
✔️ Good water drainage
✔️ More substantial than “aqua sock” water shoes but not bulky and heavy
What We Didn’t Like
Sand and small rocks get stuck in the holes in the sole
Not much arch support for walking long distances

Best Value Water Shoe

VIFUUR Water Sports Shoes

  • Recommended 1: CONVENIENCE – Smooth neck design prevents chafing when wearing our water shoes.
  • Recommended 2: COMFORTABLE FIT — Breathable and smooth fabrics with fine stretch on uppers.
  • Recommended 3: RUBBER OUTSOLE & FOOT SAFETY — Wearable and top-quality rubber sole.

Summary

The VIFUUR Water Sports Shoes are a light duty kayaking shoe. These work great when you want some protection for your feet but do not plan on walking or hiking much. They are very lightweight and made from breathable fabric with a rubber sole. They are a stretch aquasock design with no laces or other extra closures. They are great for walking around on sand at the beach. They will wear out quickly if used on rocky surfaces or pavement. They are not made for a lot of walking on hard surfaces. These shoes can be rolled up for packing.

What We Liked
✔️ Many color options to choose from
✔️ Lightweight and breathable
✔️ Non-slip rubber sole
What We Didn’t Like
Not durable if used for a lot of walking and hiking
Not good for walking on rocky surfaces

Best Water Shoe For White Water

Chaco Men’s Z2 Classic Sport Sandal

  • Double polyester jacquard webbing straps wrap around the foot
  • Toe loop for added security.
  • Injection-molded ladder lock buckle at ankle.

Summary

The Chaco Men’s Z2 Classic Sport Sandals were designed for Class 5 white water kayaking. Their strap design, featuring a toe loop, is designed to stay on your feet. They have a rubber sole that gets excellent traction on wet rocks and other surfaces. The high arch support makes them comfortable even for long walks on rough terrain.

The strap design takes a bit too get used to and some brake in is needed before they are comfortable. The toe loop does a great job keeping these sandals secured to your feet. It is also tight feeling and uncomfortable for some foot shapes. The toes are open and offer no protection from stubbing against objects in your kayak or rocks. A women’s version is also available here.

What We Liked
✔️ Good traction on rocks and wet surfaces
✔️ Very secure adjustable straps
✔️ High arch support for comfort walking and hiking
What We Didn’t Like
Open toe design
Small sizing. Order at least a 1/2 size larger than you normally would

Best Premium Water Shoe

Merrell Men’s All Out Blaze Sieve Water Shoes

  • Waxy waterproof leather fabric upper
  • Lycra neoprene stretch collar for easy on and off
  • M Select FRESH agents reduce shoe odour

Summary

The Merrell Men’s All Out Blaze Sieve Water Shoes are a great water shoe for hiking. These shoes have waterproof leather uppers with a neoprene top opening for a snug fit. They have soles with a hiking boot tread that is great for dry surfaces. They do not have good traction on smooth wet surfaces. You must use caution when walking over smooth wet rocks.

The construction is solid and durable. They are great if you plan on walking or hiking a lot before or after kayaking without changing shoes. They are also available in a women’s version here.

What We Liked
✔️ Waterproof leather upper with neoprene stretch opening
✔️ Durable construction
✔️ Sole suitable for hiking
What We Didn’t Like
Poor traction on smooth wet surfaces
Small sizing. Order at least a 1/2 size larger than you normally would

kayak paddling towards sailboat

How To Choose The Best Water Shoes For Kayaking – Buying Guide

Kayaks are a great way to enjoy being on the water.  They are great for exploring new places, whitewater rafting, or drifting along a stream somewhere. Choosing the correct footwear can make your day much more enjoyable. There are so many options out there for water shoes these days. What should you pick? The below guide will help answer all your questions about the type, fit, and use to find the best water shoes for kayaking for you.

What are water shoes and why do we need them?

Water shoes are footwear designed for use in water. They offer the bottom of your foot protection from rocks and sharp objects. They use materials that aren’t damaged by getting wet. They should be quick drying. This short video shows why water shoes make your day in the water better.

All water shoes are not the same. They are all not suited for every water activity. For kayaking, we want water shoes that will protect the bottom of our feet. We want shoes that will be comfortable pushing against foot braces in the kayak. You should also consider how far you will walk before and after kayaking. Will you need to carry your kayak across any shallow areas.

Some water shoes have soles with good traction on wet slippery surfaces. Other water shoes have soles like hiking boots that grip well on dry, and loose terrain. The soles on water shoes may be thick with high arches that are good for hiking long distances. Others have very thin soles with no arch support that gives you good feel through your feet. Foot feel can be very important for surfing or standup paddleboarding.

Types of water shoes

Sandals

Water sandals are sandals made with water safe materials. They are an open shoe design that may have open or closed toes. They are great for kayaking in warm weather with warm water when you don’t need any extra insulation. They can double as beach or pool sandals as well. Sandals can have a variety of soles that vary from very thin to thick like hiking boots. Construction can very light to heavy duty. See our guide for kayaking sandals here.

Shoes

Water shoes look like traditional shoes. They are made with quick drying materials and mesh so that water can drain. They offer more support to your feet than water sandals. They are great for days when you will be walking a lot before or after kayaking. Some water shoes are more like hiking shoes with thick soles and lots of support.

Aqua socks are a version of a water shoe that covers your whole foot like a shoe but is very thin. These use lycra spandex and mesh for the shoe and have very thin rubber soles. The soles have non-slip tread patterns. They are comfortable for walking short distances in the water and swimming. They do not offer any support for long distance walking on hard surfaces.

Booties

Water booties or wetsuit booties are neoprene boots. They provide insulation the same way as a wetsuit. They trap a layer of water next to your feet which combined with the neoprene acts as insulation. They have thin rubber soles without much arch support. They are meant to keep your feet warm submerged in water and not for long hikes. The soles have a tread pattern that works well on slippery smooth wet surfaces.

Water booties are good for kayaking on cool days with cold water temperatures. They work especially well for sit on kayaks where your feet may be in some amount of water most of the time.

Water Shoe Features

Comfort

Comfort is important for water shoes worn while kayaking. If your feet are cold, feel soggy, or rubbing against something in the shoe you won’t be comfortable. Your shoes need to be comfortable while you’re sitting in your kayak. Make sure you are comfortable with your feet against the foot braces. You need to consider walking comfort as well if you’ll be walking a lot before, after, or during kayaking.

Fit

Fit is important for water shoes. If the shoes are too big they will likely fall off in the water or will rub giving you blisters. The last thing you want to worry about if your capsize your kayak is where your shoes went. If your water shoes are too small your toes will be cramped and they won’t be comfortable.

For wetsuit booties, the fit is especially important. Wetsuits work by insulating a thin layer of water. If the fit is sloppy there is a larger layer of water that will be cold. If your trying to walk across slippery rocks, loose shoes could be disastrous. If your foot is sliding around in your shoes you won’t have a good footing on anything.

Durability

We don’t like to buy things that fall apart or break right away. When we invest in outdoor gear we want good equipment that lasts a long time. Water shoes are no different. Water shoes with thin rubber soles may last a long time if used only in the water. They may wear out fast if you walk in them a lot. If you want good durability consider where you will be using your water shoes. Pick shoes made for that purpose.

Proper care and cleaning goes a long way towards making water shoes last longer. Always rinse them with freshwater after they are used in saltwater or dirty water. Regular cleaning will keep them from developing odors. Always let them dry out before stuffing them away somewhere.

Materials

Look for water shoes made from waterproof materials. Materials that won’t be damaged by continued exposure to waters. Synthetic materials such as nylon, polyester, lycra/spandex, and neoprene work well. Leather treated with waterproofing can work as well.

Water shoes will not be waterproof meaning they won’t keep your feet dry. Quick drying and breathable are very important so that your feet dry quickly and don’t feel soggy. With wetsuit booties that work by retaining a layer of water, you will feel soggy but your feet will be warm. That is one tradeoff you have to make for cold days.

Style

Water shoes are available in many different styles. Choose a style that is suitable for what you are doing. For kayaking, we want foot protection and comfort sitting in a kayak. We may want walking comfort as well. No one wants ugly shoes, so pick a pair that looks attractive to you as well. Don’t choose your kayaking water shoes solely based on how they look. Your feet may feel miserable at the end of the day if you do.

When and where will you wear your water shoes?

Warmth

How hot or cold will it be on the day your kayaking? If it is warm out then a shoe or sandal will be perfect. If it’s cooler out and your wearing a wetsuit and spray top to kayak, then a pair of booties may be more appropriate. The colder it is, the thicker you will want to go with wetsuit booties.

Terrain

Where will you be kayaking? Do you have a lot of walking to do before or after you kayak? Do you have somewhere you can keep a regular pair of shoes to walk in? Will you need to carry your kayak across shallow water for any distance. If you need to walk in your water shoes a lot look for thick soles and good arch support. If you won’t be walking much or only in the sand then a pair of thin aqua socks or sandals may be a better choice.

Sit On Top vs Sit In Kayak

If you are using a sit in kayak with a thin set of foot braces, you may not want to wear a really wide set of shoes or sandals. If you can’t push on the braces because your water shoes are too wide you won’t be comfortable. You have less room for your feet on a sit in kayak because you are squeezed inside of it.

On a sit on top kayak you tend to have water coming in and out of the drain holes all the time. Your feet will keep getting wet. Here something that drains well and dries quick is important. Neoprene can keep your feet warm but it doesn’t dry that fast. Mesh shoes or open sandals may be a better option.

wetsuit booties sitting in sand

Water Shoes FAQ

Q: Can I use water shoes for walking and hiking?

Some water shoes are good for long distance walks and hiking. They have thick soles with good arch support. These are suitable for hiking. Water shoes with thin rubber soles and no arch support are not suitable for hiking. They will be uncomfortable. They will wear out quickly.

Q: Are water shoes washable?

Yes, they are washable. Some water shoes can be tossed in a washer. Any water shoe can be rinsed with fresh water and hand washed with soap. Read the care instructions that came with your water shoes. Proper care and cleaning will make them smell good and last longer.

Q: Can I wear water shoes swimming?

Yes, you can wear water shoes swimming. Make sure they fit good so they don’t fall off in the water. All water shoes will affect how you can kick through the water. Don’t expect them to feel natural like swimming with bare feet.

Q: Can I wear water shoes in the shower?

Yes, you can wear water shoes in the shower. Water shoes are made with waterproof materials that are not damaged by water. You can wear them anywhere your feet get wet or go underwater. Cleaning your water shoes is a great way to keep them from smelling so they last longer.

Q: Do water shoes float?

Some water shoes do float. Some do not. If you are concerned you can always do a test float to find out so that you don’t have to worry later on.

Q: What is neoprene?

Neoprene is a synthetic rubber that was first created in 1930 by a group of Dupont Scientists after purchasing the rights of a study that was done at the University of Notre Dame. It was first marketed as Duprene but changed to Neoprene in 1937 after the trademark name Duprene was dropped.

Neoprene (also polychloroprene) is a family of synthetic rubbers that are produced by polymerization of chloroprene

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neoprene#:~:text=Neoprene%20(also%20polychloroprene)%20is%20a,over%20a%20wide%20temperature%20range.

To learn more about Neoprene click here.

Q: How tight should water shoes be?

Water shoes should be snug and tight enough that they stay on your feet. You don’t want them to be washed off if you fall in the water. You do not want them to be too tight so your feet hurt. Try to find water shoes with a nice snug fit with a little room for your toes. Comfort is important for anything that you will be wearing for at least a few hours. If you’re not comfortable, you’re not having fun.

Q: Are water shoes comfortable?

Water shoes can and should be as comfortable as any other pair of shoes. There is no reason they shouldn’t be. Find the proper fit so they aren’t cramping your toes or rubbing anywhere. Your feet will be nice and happy.

Q: Can I wear water shoes in the ocean?

Yes, you can wear your water shoes in the ocean or anywhere else with saltwater. You should rinse them off with fresh water when you’re done and clean them regularly with soap. Please do not throw them away or lose them in the ocean. There is enough plastic floating around out there. We don’t need to add more while kayaking.

Q: What are aqua socks?

Aqua socks are a very thin water shoe. These use stretch material for the shoe with very thin rubber soles. The soles have non-slip tread patterns. They are comfortable for running around at the beach and pool. They do not offer any support for long distance walking on hard surfaces.

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About the author

My name is Doug Ryan. I am an adventure sports fan and an avid skier, sailor, mountain biker who also enjoys paddle boarding, kayaking, wakeboarding, waterskiing, and travel. I take any chance I can get to get out in the snow or water.  I actively run an adventure sports meetup where I get asked many questions.  I decided to start Endless Rush Outdoors as a way to share my knowledge and enthusiasm for adventure sports their gear.

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