Looking for the best water shoes to accompany you on your next aquatic adventure? Look no further! Whether you're exploring rocky shores, paddling down a river, or simply lounging by the pool, having the right footwear is essential. In this article, we'll dive into the world of water shoes, exploring the different types available and what to consider when making a purchase. We'll also provide you with a carefully curated list of the best water shoes on the market, so you can make an informed decision. Get ready to step into comfort, style, and durability - because we've got the scoop on the best water shoes around!
The Best Water Shoes Overall
(Image credit: Vivobarefoot)
Swim runners and dedicated open-water swimmers who need a water shoe that can keep up should look no further than Vivobarefoot's excellent Esc Tempest. It's our top pick for serious athletes, racers, and outdoor instructors who work in the water regularly. The Esc Tempest is a hybrid of a running shoe and wetsuit bootie, designed to help you move fast and feel protected in and out of the water.
The Tempest features a flexible yet tough sole made by Michelin, a technology typically used in hiking boots. This makes the shoe grippy even on muddy trails or wet submerged rocks. In the water, the Tempest feels light and buoyant, and on land, they dry quickly. They're comfortable to run in and have a snug sock-like ankle opening.
The Tempest is perfect for swim run racers but also excels in coasteering, canyoning, and river swimming. These shoes are vegan-friendly and made with recycled materials and ethical methods.
Read our full Vivobarefoot Esc Tempest review
(Image credit: Helly Hansen)
Sturdy, light, and super-fast to dry, the Crest water shoe from Helly Hansen is more than meets the eye. This slipper-style water shoe has an EVA midsole and a flexible rubber outsole under a breathable mesh upper that's tightly knit to keep out sand and debris. It's also overprinted on the outside to protect the mesh from abrasion.
The low-cut Crest features no straps, laces, or Velcro that could get caught while engaging in water activities. The sole is siped for excellent traction on wet and slippery surfaces like rocks or boat decks. It also offers protection from hazards like Zebra mussels, coral, and submerged junk. We recommend going a half size smaller than your usual fit for a snug feel.
Read our full Helly Hansen Crest Watermoc review
(Image credit: Olukai)
The Ki'ihele water shoe from Olukai is a cross between a meshy espadrille and a sneaker. It's breathable, easy to get into, and perfect for summer fun. The upper is made of breathable lined mesh to keep out sand and provide some protection. The drop heel can be folded down to turn the shoe into a slide. The mesh is paired with lightweight canvas and sueded microfiber. Stretchy elastic panels on both sides make it easy to put on and take off hands-free.
The dual-density polyurethane footbed features a shock-absorbing gel insert for comfort, and the fatigue-busting midsole adds extra support. The Ki'ihele has a non-marking wet grip rubber sole that provides excellent traction on boat decks, beach rocks, and more. Plus, for every pair purchased, OluKai donates a portion of proceeds to the Ama OluKai foundation, which honors the cultural heritage and Aloha spirit of Hawai'i.
Read our full Olukai Ki'hele review
When testing water shoes, it's important to try them out in different scenarios. We sampled salt water, fresh water, moving water, rough rocks, smooth rocks, sand, and more. We also tested their performance on dry land, including how well they drain and dry out. To see the results of our testing and compare different water shoe models, keep reading.
Water shoes need to perform well both above and below the water. Here, the Xero Aqua X Sport shows that it offers good traction on solid ground as well as in the water.
Scoring and Rating
Comparing water shoes can be challenging due to the wide range of styles and purposes they serve. Our rating system takes this into account and focuses on the specific characteristics and intended use of each shoe. We consider factors like fit, performance, comfort, and durability. While style is important, we prioritize performance over fashion. We tested various water shoes and only listed those that we deemed worthy. Fit is subjective, but each shoe we tested fit well and provided a comfortable experience.
To learn more about different categories of water shoes and their specific uses, continue reading below.
Hoka's Hopara water shoes offer stability and support above and below the surface.
What To Consider When Investing In A Pair Of Water Shoes
When purchasing water shoes, it's important to consider your specific needs. Here are the key factors to keep in mind:
Consider how you plan to use your water shoes. Will you be kayaking, paddleboarding, hiking, or walking on the beach? Understanding the intended purpose will help you choose the right style and features.
Proper fit is essential for comfort and safety. Water shoes should fit snugly without being too tight or loose. Consider the width, length, and adjustability features of the shoe.
Look for water shoes made from quick-drying and durable materials such as neoprene, mesh, or synthetic fabrics. These materials allow water to flow out easily, prevent waterlogging, and promote breathability.
Adequate drainage is crucial to prevent water from pooling inside the shoes. Opt for water shoes with drain holes or mesh panels that allow water to escape, ensuring faster drying and reducing discomfort.
Water shoes should provide reliable traction on wet and slippery surfaces to prevent slips and falls. Look for non-slip outsoles made of rubber or other grippy materials, and consider the tread pattern on the underside of the shoe.
Consider how well the water shoes will protect your feet based on your intended activities. Look for reinforced toes and sturdy soles that can shield your feet from sharp rocks, shells, or other hazards in the water.
Choose water shoes with sufficient cushioning and support to ensure comfort and reduce fatigue. Look for features like cushioned footbeds or midsoles that enhance shock absorption and provide arch support.
Water shoes should be able to withstand frequent exposure to water and the elements. Look for shoes with sturdy construction, reinforced stitching, and durable materials to ensure longevity.
While functionality is important, consider styles that appeal to your personal preferences. After all, if you don't like how your water shoes look, you may be less inclined to wear them.
What Are The Benefits Of Water Shoes?
Water shoes offer several advantages that distinguish them from hiking sandals and boots. These benefits include:
- Protection from sharp objects: Water shoes provide protection against rocks, coral, shells, and other sharp objects. Their reinforced soles prevent injuries that may occur with traditional sandals.
- Traction: Water shoes offer excellent traction on wet surfaces, reducing the risk of slips and falls.
- Comfort: Water shoes are designed to be comfortable, even when wet. They utilize softer fabrics that dry quickly, preventing blisters and hotspots.
- Ventilation: Water shoes are typically made from breathable, quick-drying materials. This promotes airflow and helps feet stay cool and dry after getting wet.
What Are The Different Types Of Water Shoes?
There are various water shoe styles that cater to different needs, each with its own set of features. Some popular types include:
- Slip-on water shoes: These basic water shoes are easy to put on and take off, making them affordable and convenient.
- Hiking water shoes: Designed for rugged terrain, hiking water shoes have supportive soles and durable uppers, making them suitable for varied landscapes.
- Water sport water shoes: These shoes are specifically tailored for activities like swimming, surfing, and kayaking. They typically have flexible soles and streamlined designs for easy movement in the water.
What To Look For When Buying The Best Water Shoes
If you're in the market for water shoes, consider the following factors before making a purchase:
The Best Affordable Water Shoes
(Image credit: Astral Designs)
Astral Brewer 2.0/Brewess 2.0
These aqua-loving sneakers are perfect for activities like paddling, portaging, and walking near water. With their grippy rubber sole, supportive midsole, and quick-dry mesh with hydrophobic canvas, the Brewer 2.0 (male) and Brewess 2.0 (female) set the standard for technical water shoes. They have the appearance and comfort of sneakers, but they instantly shed water and provide excellent traction on wet rocks. Even the laces are waterproof. Whether you wear them with or without socks, the built-in sockliner ensures comfort. The EVA midsole cushions your feet and protects them from rocks, while the proprietary G.15 rubber sole offers high grip without leaving marks. Drainage ports help shed water, making these shoes ideal for kayaking, canoeing, rafting, and paddleboarding. They're also great for short walks, hikes, and adventures that involve river crossings or portaging sections. The shoes are treated with silver-based Polygiene to prevent odor.
Read our full Astral Brewer 2.0/Brewess 2.0 review
(Image credit: Speedo)If you're specifically looking for a water-only shoe, Speedo's Zanpa is one of the best options. These close-fitting rubber booties are designed to protect your feet while swimming in lakes and rivers, offering a thick rubber outer material and light, springy soles. While they may not provide sufficient grip for activities like coasteering, they're perfect for situations where you need added protection when entering and exiting the water, or for walking on slippery poolside tiles.
The Zanpas are also great for adding warmth and comfort in cold water. They feature tabs on the heels for easy on and off, although it may take a bit of effort to put them on properly.
Read our full Speedo Zanpa AM review
(Image credit: Chaco)
Chaco Torrent Pro
The versatile and meshy Torrent Pro is the perfect shoe for water-based activities, as well as hiking. Designed in collaboration with the US men's white water rafting team, these shoes feature a mesh upper with welded and stitched overlays for support. The body of the shoe drains quickly through the polyester mesh and toe bumper. Drainage ports in the midsole also redirect water away from your foot. The Torrent Pro has a gender-specific midsole that provides support and comfort, making it suitable for day hikes. The non-marking outsole offers decent grip on rocks and river bottoms, although it struggles in muddy conditions. The shoe doesn't have an insole to allow for better drainage, but there's a layer of mesh between your foot and the midsole for added comfort. The laces tighten with a plastic slider, and there's extra lace tucked into an elastic loop on the tongue.
Read our full Chaco Torrent Pro review
(Image credit: Decathlon)Decathlon's unisex Aquashoes are perfect for swimming, paddling, and snorkeling in warm water. They have lightweight mesh uppers that dry quickly, and rubber soles that provide fair grip and protect your feet from sharp stones. What sets these shoes apart is that they can be worn both in and out of the water without looking like traditional water shoes. They have thick and bouncy soles that make them comfortable to walk on established paths or stand on the seabed. However, they don't offer strong grip. These shoes are great value for money and can be comfortably worn for coastal adventures or beachy holidays.
Read our full Decathlon Aquashoes 500 review
Factors to Consider When Choosing Water Shoes
Before choosing the right water shoes for your needs, here are a few factors to consider:
✔??Style and Purpose: If you plan on engaging in active water sports, opt for a more substantial sneaker-style water shoe. If you just need a shoe for casual beach use, a sock-style water shoe can be effective. For hiking or walking, look for shoes with more support and traction.
✔??Durable Materials: Since water shoes will be worn both in and out of the water, it's important to choose shoes made of durable materials to prevent them from falling apart during use.
✔??Outsole Traction: Good traction is crucial to prevent slipping and falling. Look for options with grippy rubber outsoles.
✔??Fit: Make sure your toes aren't cramped when trying on water shoes. They may fit differently from regular shoes, but they should still be snug to avoid slipping off or causing blisters when wet.
How to Choose the Best Water Shoes
Whether you're planning a beach vacation, engaging in active sports, or simply looking for comfortable water shoes, the ideal pair for you is out there. Here are different categories of water shoes and their unique features, uses, and who may benefit the most from them.
Water sandals provide minimal protection but maximum breathability. They offer enough support to keep the sole on your feet and typically have a heel strap to prevent rocks from getting between the insole and your foot.
Best Overall Water ShoesThe Salomon Techamphibian 5 is a high-performing shoe that easily drains, offers great grip, and resembles a regular shoe.
Speedo Surf Knit Pro Water Shoe
Popular Science has named the slip-on knit water shoe from Speedo as the "Best Overall". They feature a mesh upper with a water-resistant rubber insole, providing both comfort and water resistance. These lightweight shoes are also easy to dry. Good Housekeeping notes that they're sturdy, comfortable, and can be easily packed. Speedo offers sizes for men, women, and kids.
However, GearLab cautions that these shoes are thin and lack support, making them better suited for warmth, short distances, and protecting your feet and dry suit socks. Nevertheless, they are a solid choice due to their simplicity and lightweight design.
Olukai Moku Pae ($120)
Drainage: 7/10Support: 8/10Traction: 8/10Comfort: 10/10Style: 8/10Dry Time: 6/10Overall: 7.8/10
Pros: Unbeatable, long-lasting comfort. Superior water resistance and quick-drying capabilities.Cons: Takes a while to dry out, especially when wearing them.
Olukai classifies their Moku Pae as a "boat shoe" rather than a traditional water shoe. These shoes are designed to look great, feel great, and withstand getting wet. They offer incredible comfort as soon as you put them on. The no-tie laces keep your foot secure, and the shoes have a stylish look. They can be worn without socks and handle water without ruining your day. Unfortunately, they are not available in women's sizes, but Olukai offers a variety of women's styles to choose from.
Crocs Classic ($30)
Drainage: 9/10Support: 6/10Traction: 7/10Comfort: 9/10Style: 7/10Dry Time: 9/10Overall: 7.8/10
Pros: Affordable, lightweight, and comfortable.Cons: Not very durable. Can get sweaty in the sun.
Crocs Classic clogs are lightweight, buoyant, and comfortable water shoes. They are known for their unique appearance and great performance. These clogs offer good drainage, decent support, and comfortable wear. While they may not be the most durable option, they are affordable and provide excellent value for the price. Don't knock them until you've tried them!
Hoka Hopara ($135)
Drainage: 8/10Support: 9/10Traction: 9/10Comfort: 8/10Style: 6/10Dry Time: 8/10Overall: 8/10
Pros: Excellent traction for different types of terrain. Quick-drying and water-friendly materials.Cons: Sole may be too springy for some. Unique style isn't for everyone.
The Hoka Hopara is a great option for adventurous hikers who love exploring wet and challenging terrain. These shoes offer exceptional traction on various surfaces, quick drainage, and lightweight construction for maximum comfort. The durable yet flexible sole provides free movement, and the shoe offers support and protection. While the style may not appeal to everyone, the performance is impressive.
Xero Aqua X Sport ($130)
Drainage: 8/10Support: 7/10Traction: 8/10Comfort: 8/10Style: 7/10Dry Time: 9/10Overall: 7.8/10
Pros: Designed for optimal performance in water sports. Excellent grip and flexibility. Quick-draining and lightweight.Cons: May not provide sufficient protection for certain activities. Limited insulation for colder water.
The Xero Aqua X Sport water shoes are specifically designed for water sports activities. They offer excellent grip, flexibility, and quick drainage. Their lightweight construction allows for enhanced mobility in the water. These shoes perform exceptionally well for swimming, providing comfort and protection without weighing you down. They are a top choice for water-based adventures.
Remember, when choosing water shoes, consider the style, durability, outsole traction, and fit that best suit your needs.
Kane Revive ()
Drainage: 9/10Support: 6/10Traction: 8/10Comfort: 9/10Style: 7/10Dry Time: 9/10Overall: 8/10
Pros: Great support, Sustainable materials.Cons: Loose-fitting, not meant for active pursuits.
Kane Revive water shoes are both stylish and sustainable, as they are made from sugar cane. With a high level of drainage, excellent comfort, and quick dry time, these shoes are perfect for relaxation and recovery after a long day. They offer great support and traction, although they may not be the best choice for intense physical activities. Overall, Kane Revive water shoes are a wise choice for individuals looking to pamper their tired feet.
Check Price on Kane
Merrell Hydro Runner 1TRL ($120)
Drainage: 7/10Support: 8/10Traction: 9/10Comfort: 9/10Style: 6/10Dry Time: 7/10Overall: 7.7/10
Pros: Reflective for better visibility, foam liner provides added warmth.Cons: Takes a while to fully dry out.
The Merrell Hydro Runner 1TRL water shoes are designed for trail adventures. With their excellent traction and support, they provide stability on uneven terrain, whether wet or dry. The foam liner adds warmth, making them a great choice for cooler water environments. While they may take a little longer to dry completely, their reflective material ensures better visibility. As summer transitions to fall, the Merrell Hydro Runner 1TRL water shoes are a reliable option for water-related training activities.
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Xero Z-Trail EV ()
Drainage: 10/10Support: 7/10Traction: 7/10Comfort: 8/10Style: 8/10Dry Time: 7/10Overall: 8.1/10
Pros: As close as you can get to being barefoot while still having some protection underfoot.Cons: Thin sole might not be great on jagged rocks. A little floppy when swimming.
The Xero Z-Trail EV water shoes provide a barefoot-like experience while still offering underfoot protection. With their excellent drainage and decent support, they are suitable for various water activities. The style is sleek and minimalist, and they dry relatively quickly. However, the thin sole may not provide the best grip on jagged rocks. Additionally, they can be a bit floppy when swimming. If you're looking for the closest sensation to being barefoot while still having some foot protection, the Xero Z-Trail EV water shoes are a great choice.
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Teva Universal ($55)
Drainage: 10/10Support: 7/10Traction: 7/10Comfort: 8/10Style: 8/10Dry Time: 9/10Overall: 8.2/10
Pros: Stylish and versatile design. Comfortable for all-day wear. Suitable for various casual activities.Cons: Not ideal for intense water-based adventures. Limited water resistance.
If you're seeking water shoes that combine fashion and functionality, look no further than the Teva Universal. With its versatile and stylish design, these shoes are suitable for both water activities and casual wear. They offer great comfort for all-day use and have excellent drainage and quick dry time. Ideal for leisurely walks, beach outings, and light water play, the Teva Universal water shoes are a fashionable and comfortable choice. However, they may not be the best option for intense water-based adventures and have limited water resistance.
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Astral Loyak ()
Drainage: 7/10Support: 8/10Traction: 8/10Comfort: 9/10Style: 8/10Dry Time: 6/10Overall: 7.6/10
Pros: Looks like a regular shoe, has solid support.Cons: Laces could get caught on rocks, takes a while to fully dry.
The Astral Loyak water shoes offer a combination of style and support. With their regular shoe appearance, they can be worn in various settings. They provide good traction and comfort, making them suitable for outdoor activities. However, the laces could potentially get caught on rocks, and the shoes may take a bit longer to dry completely. Overall, the Astral Loyak water shoes are a reliable choice for those seeking a balance of style and support.
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Deckers X Lab X-Scape Baja ()
Drainage: 8/10Support: 7/10Traction: 7/10Comfort: 9/10Style: 9/10Dry Time: 9/10Overall: 8.2/10
Pros: Stylish and comfortable with a fast dry time.Cons: Debris can get caught inside
The Deckers X Lab X-Scape Baja water shoes excel in both style and comfort. With their sleek design, they are a fashionable choice. The shoes provide excellent comfort and have a quick dry time, making them convenient for water activities. However, it's worth noting that debris can occasionally get trapped inside. Despite this, the Deckers X Lab X-Scape Baja water shoes are highly regarded for their performance and style.
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Salomon Techamphibian ($150)
Drainage: 9/10Support: 8/10Traction: 9/10Comfort: 7/10Style: 8/10Dry Time: 9/10Overall: 8.3/10
Pros: Speed laces provide a tight fit and easy removal. Drains super fast.Cons: Rear ankle buckle leaves a tail when tightened.
The Salomon Techamphibian water shoes are the top choice for overall performance. They offer excellent support, traction, and drainage, making them ideal for various water activities. The speed laces ensure a secure fit and easy removal. The shoes dry quickly, even after submersion. However, the rear ankle buckle can leave a tail when tightened, which may be a minor inconvenience for some. With their high-performance features and athletic style, the Salomon Techamphibian water shoes are perfect for individuals who want to navigate both land and water with ease.
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Astral Loyak Water Shoe
Astral offers the stylish and versatile Loyak Water Shoe in men's, women's, and youth sizes. These shoes feature a flex-grip rubber sole with drainage holes, ensuring water and debris can flow out easily. With their comfortable design, they are perfect for various water activities, including boating, paddleboarding, and casual outings. While they may not be suitable for long hiking trips, they offer reasonable performance for light hiking in wet areas. Overall, the Astral Loyak Water Shoe is a reliable choice for individuals seeking a versatile and comfortable water shoe option.
Men’s Astral Loyak Water Shoe (astraldesigns.com)
"Their thin, neutral soles have a great ground feel that helps maintain balance and makes them fun to swim in," adds GearLab. However, these shoes are pricier than some of the competition.
DIVEIN suggests, "these are the perfect shoes for boating and water sports like paddle boarding or kayaking, or even casual outings. They could do a reasonable job with light hiking in wet areas but do not have the durability or sturdiness for long hiking trips.
Land's End Slip on Water Shoes
Best Water Shoes for the Beach
Merrell Hydro Moc Water Shoe
Suitable for men, women and kids, the Hydro Moc Water Shoe by Merrell is a reviewer favorite. People points out, they’re “great swimming shoes, as they poured out water immediately (thanks, rubber!). They held their grip when we wore them while trying to exit a rocky river bed, which thankfully protected our feet from the bottom of a lake.”
Men’s Merrell Hydro Moc Water Shoe (merrell.com)These water shoes are available in many different colors too. “Because of the porous upper, we don’t like these as much for the beach, but they’re ideal for most other aquatic or amphibious adventures. While the arch support isn’t optimal enough to encourage long distance hiking in these shoes, it is still quite good – we certainly wouldn’t scoff at seeing these on a short trail to a swimming hole,” according to DIVEIN.
Travel Leisure gives the Hydro Moc ‘Best Rubber’ honors, adding the shoes are “made of an injected EVA foam — also known as expanded rubber or foam rubber — that is commonly used to create sports equipment padding that absorbs shock.” Just keep in mind these do run big, so size down if you need to.
Salomon TECHAMPHIBIAN 5 Water Shoes
Best Water Shoe for Hiking
Body Glove Tracker Water Shoes
Best Water Shoes for Water Sports
VIFUUR Water Sports Shoes
Available in many colors and patterns, these inexpensive unisex barefoot shoes are quick-drying. “With a sock-like fit, this streamlined design allows for flexibility when you’re snorkeling or running on the beach,” notes Oprah Daily.
VIFUUR Water Sports Shoes (vifuur.com)There’s lots of colors available to suit your style. Good Housekeeping adds, they “have over 85,000 five-star reviews on Amazon, and online reviewers appreciate that they have fairly good traction, fit comfortably, dry quickly and feel extremely close to being barefoot.”
However, Today points out, “while the soles remain protective, the top material can fray a bit after many uses, so be sure to air dry them outside instead of putting them in the dryer.” Another potential drawback? These aren’t adjustable, so sizing can be a bit tricky.
In conclusion, finding the best water shoes for your needs is essential for any water-based activities, whether it's a serene beach vacation or an adventurous river expedition. With the right pair of water shoes, you can ensure comfort, safety, and style all in one. From the Speedo Surf Knit Pro Water Shoe to the Astral Loyak Water Shoe, there's a wide range of options available to cater to every preference and budget. So, don't wait any longer - dive into your next water adventure with confidence and the best water shoes at your feet!