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Sick of slipping on your back or applying plasters to your feet? Water shoes are designed to help stop all that badness.
If you’ve started looking for a good pair of water shoes (for kayaking or canoeing or even SUP) – you’ll have discovered that there are so many different brands out there for sale on the market today.
In a rush? Check out the winner: Merrell AllOut Blaze shoes, which are good all-rounders.
We wouldn’t be surprised if you were struggling to decide which ones are going to suit you best, and perhaps thought about just going without (are you mad?!). You’re probably wondering if there’s a particular style that might work better for what you want.
Because we know how difficult it can be, we hope to answer at least some of the questions you might have. Here’s our little guide, to hopefully help you out!
Top Picks: Water Shoes For Kayaking
- Merrell Men’s All Out Blaze Aero Sport (best men’s water shoe)
- Merrell Women’s All Out Blaze (best women’s water shoe)
- Chaco Women’s ZX2 Classic Athletic (best women’s sandal)
- Chaco Men’s Z2 Classic Sport (best men’s sandal)
- NRS Freestyle Wetshoe (best above ankle water shoe)
What Are Water Shoes For And How Do They Work?
Water shoes can be great for keeping your feet protected during various water sports. Because there are a few different designs, certain ones may be better suited for some activities than others.
Water shoes are designed with soles that can grip to wet or slippery surfaces. This means you can wear them in the water, without worrying about damaging them. And they will offer you an extra level of protection against slipping on rocks or the deck of your yak as you enter or exit your vessel.
They can be ideal for a range of activities, including kayaking, fishing, swimming or hydrotherapy training sessions, as they can allow you to gain better traction on wet surfaces.
We actually wrote an article on the best fishing shoes.
The fabric on water shoes is designed to be quick to dry, meaning even when you exit the water, your feet should feel comfortable. The quick drying fabric can also minimize the risk of mold or other bacteria growing on the shoes.
Before you choose a water shoe, it can be a good idea to ask yourself what type of activities you plan to do while wearing them. Are you just needing a waterproof shoe for recreational paddling or do you need a more specialized shoe for hiking or diving?
Types Of Water Shoes
- These can be ideal for general kayaking, letting you hop in and out of your yak and wade through the water. They can be either closed or open toe but have an open shoe design like a sandal.
- They can be great during the summer or in warm climates and can usually double as a beach or pool sandal.
- The Chaco men’s and women’s Z2 Classic Sports fit the bill nicely.
- These are more like regular shoes in appearance and can be ideal for when you have to cover more rugged terrain in between paddling.
- Some water shoes are designed more like hiking shoes and so will have the extra support for walking over long distances. These can be ideal for a range of weather conditions and can offer you more protection for your feet to prevent injuries.
- The AllOut Blaze from Merrell (men/women versions) stands out in this department.
- Booties are worn more like a sock and can have varying degrees of durability and foot protection. They tend to be made of neoprene material, like a wetsuit, and can be ideal for paddling in colder conditions.
- They may not be as suitable for hiking in between paddling sessions as they tend to be designed more for in the water use.
- Look no further than the NRS Freestyle Wetshoe for this above the ankle style.
Pros And Cons Of Wearing Water Shoes
- They can protect your feet against scrapes or cuts on rocks and other rough surfaces.
- They can provide you with extra traction on slippery surfaces.
- They can be versatile. You can wear them for various activities, from walking and kayaking to swimming and surfing.
- Depending on the type of material, they can help to keep your feet warm in colder conditions. Because of their breathability they can also help keep your feet cool in warmer conditions.
- Some styles may not have the correct foot support for longer hikes or other land activities.
- They can smell after long periods of wearing them (but can usually be cleaned or washed).
- Some fabrics can cause your feet to sweat.
Features To Look Out For
The features that you might find useful on your water shoes will likely depend on the activities that you plan to do. But we’ll look at some of the features that you might want to consider.
For any type of shoe, comfort is important. With a water shoe, you may find you have different comfort requirements. Even though you’ll be paddling, and may mostly be seated, you should still look for a shoe that is comfortable on your feet.
Your shoes should be the correct fit for your feet and they shouldn’t slip off or rub on any part of your foot. If they rub or slip at the beginning, the problem is only likely to get worse and could lead to blisters or cuts.
Durability will be important if you plan to use your water shoes on land as well as in water. This usually means you will be wearing them for longer periods of time.
Many water shoes are made with durable rubber soles, which can give you the grip you need and should also stand up to walking over stones or sand while you make your way from A to B.
Most water shoes will be built for durability with materials that can survive being submerged in water time and time again.
In order to maximize the life of your water shoes, it can be a good idea to rinse them after each use, particularly if you’ve been in saltwater. Allow them to dry each time before you pack them away.
While most water shoes won’t be waterproof in the sense that your feet will stay dry, some of the materials used will be waterproof. For example, some leathers can be coated in a waterproof layer which can protect the leather from water damage.
Water shoes will be safe to wear in the water, with the materials used being designed for that use. Some fabrics, such as neoprene will provide a waterproof layer but may still let water in the shoe, like a wetsuit.
Many water shoes will be made from breathable fabric. This can help the shoes dry and also help to keep your feet ventilated. Breathable fabric can be ideal for wearing in warm weather, where you don’t want your feet to overheat but you still need the protection of a shoe for safety.
You’ll find many water shoes are made using mesh fabric. This can be a good option, as it can also help the water (as well as air) to flow through, limiting the amount of water staying inside your shoe.
Having your water shoes fit securely on your feet is important, especially if you plan to paddle in whitewater or want to jump on and off of your yak. The last thing you want to do is worry about losing your shoes, particularly if they risk being swept downriver.
If you plan to swim while wearing the shoes, it’s also a good idea to make sure your shoes are securely on your feet, for the same reason.
If you plan to do more than just kayak, you may find you want a shoe that will suit various activities. For example, if you plan to camp and hike, you might want to look for a shoe that will double as a water shoe and a hiking shoe.
For this you should look for one with a sturdy, thick sole that’s designed for hiking. Walking for long distances in a thin soled shoe without the correct support for your foot could lead to injuries and long term health problems.
A closed toe shoe may be better suited for hiking on longer trips, as this can help to give you the protection you might need for your toes on uneven terrain.
The style of shoe you choose for a sit-inside kayak will likely be different from one you might wear for a sit-on-top. Depending on the size of the cockpit, you may want a shoe that will be slender enough for your feet to fit comfortably on the footrests. Or a pair that work well with a pedal kayak (if that’s your preferred style).
A more slender shoe may also be helpful in the event that you flip your kayak and have to swim.
If you are paddling in cold conditions you might be better with a neoprene water bootie, as this can help to insulate your feet against the cold water.
Kayak Water Shoes: FAQs
Can I Use Water Shoes For Walking Or Other Activities?
Yes. However, you will need to make sure they have a suitable sole that is durable enough for the type of terrain you’ll be walking on. They can be ideal for all types of activities where you may encounter water and want to keep your feet protected.
Are They Washable?
Yes, you can wash them. Different fabrics will have different requirements but rinsing them in warm water after each use will help to keep them clean and smelling fresh. For a deeper clean you can use warm soapy water. Make sure you dry them completely before you store them.
Video: How To Clean and Deodorize Neoprene Wetshoes
Are Water Shoes Comfortable? What About Chafing?
Water shoes will be comfortable if they fit your feet correctly. If you have a bad fitting shoe, you will likely encounter chafing or discomfort. When choosing your water shoes online, it can be a good idea to purchase several styles and sizes to try on at home to ensure you get the right fit. You can usually return the ones that aren’t suitable.
Can I Use Them In The Shower Or For Swimming?
Yes, they can be ideal for wearing in public showers to protect your feet from germs. They can also be used for swimming, as they can allow water to drain through them and they will be quick to dry when you come out of the water.
Do They Float If They Slip Off? I Don’t Want To Lose Them!
Many water shoes will be designed with materials that should float in the event that they come off your feet.
Top 9 Best Water Shoes For Kayaking
1: Chaco Men’s Z2 Classic Sport (best men’s sandal)
- Suitable For: FIshing, kayaking, rafting, hiking, beach trips, sightseeing, water parks.
- Thickness: 3.5 mm.
- Materials: Polyurethane midsole, rubber outsole, polyester straps.
- For Men/Women: Men.
The men’s Chaco Z2 is similar to the women’s ZX2 (further below) in that it is designed for use in Class 5 whitewater. The fully adjustable straps can allow you to get a perfect fit for your feet and should stay on even if you’re paddling in choppy conditions.
These water sandals can be ideal for hiking and casual walking, as well as for wearing during a beach vacation. They have a durable rubber lug sole that has thick 3.5 millimeter tread for maximizing traction on wet surfaces.
The polyester jacquard straps fit to your feet with a secure buckle closure for added comfort and support. The fabric straps are also quick to dry after you come out of the water. The midsole is crafted from polyurethane for durability and the footbed is podiatrist certified, giving you the support you need, as well as all day comfort.
Because of the sandal design, they can help to keep your feet cool in warm weather. This also means that when kayaking, they shouldn’t hold any water inside the shoe while you’re paddling, as the water will be allowed to pass through.
2: Merrell Men’s All Out Blaze Aero Sport (best men’s water shoe)
- Suitable For: Hiking, camping, recreational kayaking, fishing, …
- Thickness: 5 mm tread.
- Materials: Synthetic mesh upper, rubber outsole.
- For Men/Women: Men
The All Out Blaze Aero Sport water shoes are designed for a range of activities. They feature a breathable mesh lined inner, to help water pass through and also help the shoes dry more quickly.
These shoes are designed as a hiking water shoe, so they’re built to offer you maximum support and durability for walking over rugged terrain. This means they can be suitable for both land and water adventures.
The sole is a thick rubber non-slip sole that should give you the traction you need when clambering over rocks or wet ground. The closed shoe design also means you should have better protection for your feet compared to an open sandal. This could help if you have to walk over rocks.
Another feature that can be beneficial is the lace-up closure, as the laces feature Omni-Fit technology that lets you get a more secure fit. These shoes also feature a cushioned insole for more support whether you’re hiking or fishing.
We also like these because the added heel and arch support these shoes have a thermoplastic polyurethane heel counter, which can provide you with the support you need for longer hikes on land.
3: Chaco Women’s ZX2 Classic Athletic (best women’s sandal)
- Suitable For: Whitewater kayaking, recreational paddling, fishing, walking, beach trips, vacations, water parks.
- Thickness: 3 mm.
- Materials: Polyester straps, polyurethane midsole and rubber outsole.
- For Men/Women: Women.
The women’s Chaco ZX2 is a water sandal that’s designed for water sports. It features a non-marking rubber outsole, which is engineered to give you added traction on slippery surfaces, as well as the durability you need for walking on land.
The footbed is made with polyurethane that’s flexible and durable and is contoured to the shape of your foot to give you comfort and support. This could make it a good style for walking or short hikes.
One of the main features of these water shoes is the customizable straps. The webbed polyester straps can be adjusted to fit the whole of your foot, giving you a more tailored fit to reduce rubbing or blistering.
The fabric straps are made to be breathable and quick to dry. They can also be washed and repaired, adding to their longevity.
The ZX2 is also designed to be worn in Class 5 whitewater, so could be an ideal choice for kayaking in rough conditions. Because of the sandal design, it can be ideal for summer outdoor activities or wearing in warmer climates.
4: NRS Freestyle Wetshoe (best above ankle water shoe)
- Suitable For: Sit-inside kayaks, whitewater paddling.
- Thickness: 1.5 mm.
- Materials: Neoprene upper, VaporLoft lining, rubber outsole.
- For Men/Women: Both.
The NRS Freestyle is a water shoe built for kayaking. Made from neoprene, these water booties are designed to fit more like a sock with a similar feel to a wetsuit.
These can be ideal shoes if you paddle in a sit-inside kayak, as they are slender enough to fit in smaller cockpits. You may also find these water shoes more convenient for swimming if you have to perform a wet exit, compared to a more bulky style of water shoe.
Another feature that you might find useful is the fleece-like lining, which is designed to keep your feet warm in colder conditions.
They benefit from a rubber sole for traction on slippery surfaces but they may not have the support or thick sole you need if you also plan to hike.
These shoes are awesome because the tops are built to grip to your ankle, preventing water from getting in. So this could be a great shoe if you paddle all year and need to wade or swim in cold water.
5: Speedo Men’s Surfwalker 3.0
- Suitable For: Kayaking, paddle boarding, swimming, beach trips, rafting.
- Thickness: 1.5 mm.
- Materials: Neoprene and mesh upper, thermoplastic rubber (TPR) outsole.
- For Men/Women: Men.
The Speedo Surfwalker shoes feature a stretchy neoprene upper with breathable mesh panels. Because of the style of the Surfwalker, they are designed to fit snugly on your foot, much like a sock. Having a snug fit can help to prevent the shoe from chafing and causing blisters or slipping off.
These water shoes benefit from a thermoplastic rubber outsole which can give you the non-slip protection that you need when hopping in and out of a kayak.
The outsole may not have the durability for long hikes, as the shoes are not made for long journeys across land, so you may require a second pair of hiking shoes if you plan to hike.
These lightweight shoes could be ideal for a range of watersports, such as kayaking, paddle boarding or even swimming. Because of the sock-like fit, they could help to prevent sand from getting at your feet if you’re heading to the beach.
We like these because they can also be useful for wearing to and from the swimming pool, and could be helpful when the ground is too hot to stand on in bare feet.
6: Body Glove 3T Barefoot Max
- Suitable For: Swimming, paddling, beach trips.
- Thickness: 3 mm.
- Materials: Neoprene and synthetic upper, rubber outsole.
- For Men/Women: Both.
Designed to feel as close to barefoot as possible, the 3T Barefoot Max has three separate toe sections. These are flexible water shoes that allow water to enter through the gaps in the sole, giving you that barefoot feel and allowing your feet to breathe.
They feature a neoprene upper, for a snug fit, and have a velcro strap that helps to secure them to your feet. There’s also a drawstring closure at the back that helps to customize the fit.
The rubber sole can offer you protection when walking on slippery surfaces and with the three toe style, you may even find it easier to grip when crossing over uneven ground.
They can be ideal for paddling or wading into the water and because of their snug fit, they could also be good for swimming at the pool or the beach.
7: NeoSport Low Top Pull On Boot
- Suitable For: Kayaking, surfing, paddle boarding, swimming, diving, fishing.
- Thickness: 3 mm.
- Materials: Neoprene upper, rubber outsole.
- For Men/Women: Both.
The NeoSport Low Top water shoes could be a great choice for a range of watersports. Made from neoprene, they can help to keep your feet warm in cold water and could be an ideal choice for year round paddling.
Their slender fit means they can be ideally suited for smaller cockpits on sit-inside kayaks, as they are designed to take up minimal space on your foot and in your yak. They could also be ideal for whitewater paddling, as well as paddle boarding, wakeboarding, diving or swimming.
The rubber sole is flexible but durable, and benefits from a puncture resistant lining for added protection and durability. The sole can help give you the traction you need on wet surfaces and it’s designed to stand up to some land use while you make your way to and from the water.
These are great for cooler conditions! Because of the boot design and neoprene fabric, you may find your feet get warm if you wear them in pretty warm or hot weather. For warmer conditions a more breathable water shoe or sandal might be better.
8: Merrell Women’s All Out Blaze Sieve (best women’s water shoe)
- Suitable For: Camping, kayaking, hiking, sightseeing, beach trips.
- Thickness: 1 inch sole, 3 mm tread.
- Materials: Waterproof leather, neoprene and synthetic fabric upper, rubber outsole.
- For Men/Women: Women.
The All Out Blaze Sieve women’s water shoe is designed to offer you the protection and durability of a shoe with the breathability and convenience of a sandal. The closed toe design can give you the added protection against toe injuries from rocks or sharp objects.
They feature a neoprene lining at the ankle for a snug fit, as well as stretchy, adjustable cord laces. This style of lacing means you don’t have to tie them but can adjust them easily for a more comfortable fit.
The thick, rubber lug sole is designed for hiking, with 3 mm lug depth and a 1 inch heel. This means you should be able to hike over longer distances with the correct support for your feet. Because of this, these shoes can be great for camping trips or paddling trips where you plan to explore islands.
The shoes are open at sections at the sides and at the heel, which should help to keep you cool on warm days, as well as help water drain through. A great all-round option if you’re heading off on a trip where you might take part in a range of outdoor sports.
9: Sea To Summit Ultra Flex Water Booties
- Suitable For: Whitewater paddling, surfing, wakeboarding, paddleboarding, rafting, sailing.
- Thickness: 3 mm.
- Materials: Neoprene upper, rubber outsole.
- For Men/Women: Both.
The Ultra Flex booties are designed for all types of water sports and feature soft neoprene fabric. The 3 millimeter neoprene can be useful when you’re paddling in colder climates, as it can help to keep your feet warm in cold water.
The rubber sole is built for providing grip on wet and slippery surfaces but it’s not built for hiking, as it’s quite sensitive. However, this can be useful if you’re taking part in other water sports where you need to feel what’s under your feet, such as wakeboarding or surfing.
They feature a Y-pull strap at the top that straps across the top and around your heel. This can help to make sure your shoes stay on during water activities and can help to give a more comfortable fit without the fabric rubbing against your skin.
These could be ideal for either whitewater or recreational paddling (both sit-inside and sit-on-top, as well as simply wearing at the pool or beach. Because they’re lightweight, they could also be a good choice if you’re looking to take them on vacation or pack them into your camping gear.
Now that you’ve seen our guide to the various types of water shoes for kayaking, you should have a better idea of the style or type that you might need. There are so many different styles out there that you are bound to find one that will suit your needs best.
If you plan to hike or camp, a sturdy, closed shoe might be more suitable than a neoprene bootie or water sandal. But if you plan on getting out in your yak to ride the whitewater without any hikes, a neoprene bootie might be ideal for you.
Before you buy your water shoes, ask yourself if there are other activities where you’d like to wear the shoes. Factor in the conditions and the type of vessel you’ll be in and go from there.
For shoes, we really like the men’s Merrell AllOut Blaze (and the women’s version), and are well worth a look.
For casual use in warmer weather, we like sandals. Check out the Chaco Men’s Z2 Classic Sport (for women too).
If you want an above ankle dedicated wet shoe/bootie, look no further than the NRS Freestyle Wetshoe.
Once you’ve decided on the type and style, the next thing is to make sure you get a great fit. This should help you stay comfortable and keep your feet protected while you’re on the water or getting to and from it.
We’d love to hear your thoughts on water shoes, so leave us a comment. And share this with your followers to help out others who might have the same questions.
4 thoughts on “Best Water Shoes For Kayaking”
The biggest problem I have had with water footwear is finding something that doesn’t trap sand and gravel inside and is also rugged enough for rocky portages (such as in the Boundary Waters). Any grit trapped inside becomes pretty painful during a half mile of carrying a canoe or big pack and also leads to rubbed spots under straps.
I couldn’t agree more about the sand getting in shoes or sandles. Has anyone found a water shoe durable enough to hike in yet keep the sand out?
I’m trying to get over a blister right now from sand.
Why is there no mention of Astral? They have some of the best products for paddle sports that are also intended to be used in very rough terrain/rocks etc.
Thank you for the suggestion.