The Best Water Shoes

Water Shoes – The Best Water Shoes for Every Activity

Everything You Need to Know to Pick the Right Water Shoes for You

If you are a water sports enthusiast, whether kayaking, fishing, boating, hiking and beyond, water shoes are pivotal for both comfort and function.

The days of water shoes being clunky, hideous messes are long behind you. Lately, more fashionable and functional water shoes have become the standard.


water shoes

Current water shoes come with a wide array of features. From underfoot traction to water venting, to advanced cushioning and thermal protection, and even proper arch support and fit, water shoes have evolved into full-fledged shoe offerings seemingly overnight.

However, with the rise in water shoe quality has come an onslaught of water shoe options. This begs the question: what is the best water shoe for my needs? The answers may surprise you.

Selecting The Best Water Shoe

Finding the best water shoes for your needs is entirely dependent on what you plan to use them for. There are plenty of functional options out there, but for some tasks there are shoes that outperform others. Shoe A might have great traction for hiking through streams, but may fall flat when it comes to drainage. Shoe B might drain magnificently, but may lack traction on slippery surfaces. The quandary is real.

All in all, it comes down to narrowing the selections and performing ample testing. But who has the time and funds to grab a ton of water shoes and test them out on a variety of terrains to see what performed well, what lives up to the reviews, and what fell flat?

We did. And we have. Here's a summary table of our chosen options for the best water shoes on the market today.  After that you can find reviews and more about what to look for when buying water shoes.


Water shoes lined up on the beach for testing

Some of our water shoes lined up on the beach for testing


Shoes

Rating & Use

Images

Adidas Terrex ClimaCool Boat Water Shoe: Men's | Women's


(In the UK: Men's | Women's)


Rating: 5.0


Use: All around water activities

Adidas Climacool Water and Boat Shoe

KEEN Evofit One Water Sandal: Men's | Women's


(In the UK: Men's | Women's)


Rating: 4.9


Use: Hiking

Speedo Surfwalker Pro 3.0 Water Shoe: Men's | Women's


(In the UK: Men's | Women's)


Rating: 4.7


Use: Beach, Surf, Water Sports

Speedo Seaside Lace Water Shoe: Men's | Women's


(In the UK: Men's | Women's)


Rating: 4.7


Use: Swim, Boat, Pool, Kayaking, Beach

Crocs Swiftwater Mesh Sandals: Men's | Women's


(In the UK: Men's | Women's)


Rating: 4.6


Use: Swim, Beach, Light Hiking

Vibram FiveFingers V-Aqua: Men's | Women's


(In the UK: Men's | Women's)

Rating: 4.5


Use: All around

Merrell Choprock Shandal: Men's | Women's


(In the UK: Men's | Women's)

Rating: 4.5


Use: Hiking

Rating: 4.4


Use: Water sports, beach, surf

ALEADER Quick Drying Aqua Water Shoes: Men's | Women's | Kids

Rating: 4.1


Use: Swim shoes, beach shoes

Rating: 4.0


Use: Beach vacation

Our Testing Process

We bought an obscene number of water shoes of all shapes, sizes, designs, styles and functions. From this pile, we took these shoes through a few different trials and tribulations, eventually narrowing the lot down to our top nine. But what were our tests? Glad you asked.

The Ocean Test

One of our favorite places to enjoy the wonders of the Atlantic Ocean is Little Talbot Island State Park. This was a three-part process, similar to the testing for the KEEN Newport in our Best Shoes for Plantar Fasciitis guide.

First, we walked a quarter mile in deep sugar sand near the dunes of the beach area. The purpose for this was to see how well the sand “drained” out of the nooks and crannies of the shoes. We were also checking to see how well we were able to walk in these shoes in the quicksand-type terrain. Once we were done, we immediately walked into the ocean to test how well the water washed the sand out of the inside of the shoes, and how well the shoe drained of water afterwards.

Satellite image of the ocean test area for our water shoes

Ocean test area for water shoes

Satellite image of the ocean test area we used for testing out the water shoes on the beach, in the ocean, and on the sand.

Then, we walked a quarter mile in wetter, more hard-packed sand with a good number of shells. This was to test the impact of the sole, and how well it both cushioned and protected against sharper elements.

Finally, we did a hundred paces in the Atlantic itself, testing how the shoes performed when faced with resistance from water and waves. We were in up to our knees, with waves that went up to mid-thigh.

The River Test

The river test was a tough one. Luckily, further up the beach at Little Talbot State Park it turned into Big Talbot. Our travels took place on an old, rusted bike with a basket (perfect for extra storage for some of the water shoes).

Here, two and a half miles up the beach from the parking area, was where an area called Simpson Creek met the Atlantic Ocean. It was rocky and silent and perfect for testing out a large backpack full of what we thought were the best water shoes.

Satellite image of the river test area for our water shoes.

River test area for water shoes

Satellite image of the river test area we used for testing out the water shoes.  We wanted to know how they coped with rocks, branches, and hazards of the river.

Once here, we dropped the bike and tried on some shoes, walking back and forth in the rocky creek bed, up and down the shallow incline onto the sugar type sand and back again. Tromping all over the place to compare and contrast.

The Hiking Test

The last test took place on a wooded trail that separated the entrance to the state park from the beach. It was about a mile or so one-way, so we repeated the process several times with each pair of shoes. The trail was a mix of pine needles, sand, and standard trail surfaces.

While we  may have looked a bit ridiculous switching out water shoes all the time, it provides ample research for testing.

Satellite image of the hiking test area for our water shoes.

Hiking test area for water shoes

Satellite image of the hiking test area.  We wanted to see the hiking chops for each pair of water shoes.


The Best Water Shoes: Review of the Top Choices

1. Adidas Outdoor Terrex Climacool Boat and Water Shoe

The Adidas Outdoor Terrex Climacool are some slick, smart-looking water shoes. With their quick-dry setup, the Climacools are ideal for both fishing and beach-related activities. As we found out post-testing, they are also great shoes for outdoor tasks such as mowing lawns or pulling weeds.

These shoes feature fast-drying Climacool technology, while providing full cooling as well. This will ensure your feet remain comfortable throughout the day. These shoes are solid, and are the closest looking to sneakers that we tested.

Performance in our testing

These shoes performed very well across all testing. We noticed that the outsoles were not the most grippy of the bunch, however they still provided great traction across all surfaces.

The thinner outsoles proved a bit inconvenient when we started hiking through some brushy patches on the trail, and we were definitely able to feel sticks and rocks when stepping on them. But on the beach, in the river, and even in the ocean, these shoes were top-notch.

Pros and Cons of the Adidas Outdoor Terrex Climacool Boat and Water Shoe

There are plenty of awesome things about the Adidas Terrex Climacool, from an EVA tongue to heel inserts that conform to the shape of the foot, non-marking rubber soles and more. Nevertheless, there are quite a few advantages and disadvantages to realize.

Pros of the Adidas Outdoor Terrex Climacool Boat and Water Shoe

  • We were highly impressed with the level of quality for the price for these shoes
  • The shoes are very versatile for water shoes, and are ideal for both wet and dry conditions
  • They were some of the fastest drying shoes that we tested out
  • Adidas’ Climacool technology provides open mesh for advanced breathability
  • These shoes are developed with a stretchable, flexible heel for perfect fits for any feet
  • Adidas’ shoes are extremely light, and can be easily carried in a backpack

Cons of the Adidas Outdoor Terrex Climacool Boat and Water Shoe

  • We found that the outsoles had a tendency to slip on wetter, slick surfaces
  • While ideal for wet and dry conditions, they were not as comfortable in our hiking tests
Adidas Climacool Water and Boat Shoe
Our final thoughts

Like the other Adidas option on our list, the Adidas Outdoor Terrex Climacool Boat Water Shoe was a very impressive, affordable, all-around water shoe.

For those who aren’t going to be dealing with backwoods hiking in their water activities (i.e, those look at kayaking, boating, time at the beach, fishing, etc), these water shoes are a wonderful option, and were some of the best water shoes we tested from an overall perspective.

For more details read our complete review of the Adidas Terrex Boat and Water Shoe.

Check out prices, additional photos, and customer reviews on


2. KEEN Evofit One Water Sandal

The KEEN Evofit One was the most expensive option that we tested in our extensive research and tryout processes. However, it did not disappoint.

With the technical specs expected in a hiking boot, this shoe is an ideal option for those looking to get the most out of hiking or walking long distances, when they know there will be water-based obstacles to traverse.

These shoes are very comfortable, and are derived from strong moisture-wicking fabric. The KEEN Evofit One Water Sandal ticks all boxes for those on a hunt for a durable water shoe. It has extensive support and protection, and the stability to compete with expensive hiking boots when on a trek.

Performance in our testing

With a quick to dry EVOFIT synthetic upper, these shoes fared well when transitioning from in the water to out. The rubber outsole provides impressive traction when walking through a rocky riverbed, hiking on a wet trail, and even the shell-covered part when first stepping into the ocean.

However, don’t expect these shoes to be admirable performers in thick sugar sand, or to be your new pair of swimming shoes. That’s just not what they were made to do.

Pros and Cons of the KEEN Evofit One Water Sandal

As with all water shoes, the KEEN Evofit One Water Sandal has some advantages and disadvantages that need to be discussed. This is simply to ensure transparency, as we are well aware that no shoe is perfect, regardless of price point.

Pros of the KEEN Evofit One Water Sandal

  • Impressive grip with a thicker outsole, this shoe will stick like glue on slippery trails
  • This shoe is the closest in our list to a hiking boot outside the Merrell option, and it shows
  • Strong arch support, a bonus for those suffering from plantar fasciitis or those with flat feet
  • Has inbuilt odor control (called Cleansport NXT) that truly works

Cons of the KEEN Evofit One Water Sandal

  • These suckers are heavy! 2.3 pounds of heavy
  • If you are going to be wearing socks with these, you might find them to be somewhat tight
  • The removable insoles can slip around with extensive use or when jostled around too much
Our final thoughts

This shoe is rock solid, as to be expected with offerings from KEEN. With the technical specs expected in a hiking boot, this shoe is an ideal option for those looking to get the most out of hiking or walking long distances, when they know there will be water-based obstacles to traverse.

For more details read our complete review of the KEEN Evofit One Water Sandal.

Check out prices, additional photos, and customer reviews on


3. Speedo Seaside Lace Athletic Water Shoe and the Speedo Surfwalker 3.0

First, we decided to lump the two Speedo models (the Seaside lace 5.0, and the Surfwalker Pro 3.0) into the same review since these are really similar shoes, but one is laced and the other is not.  So if you have a preference for laces, or a preference for not-laces, then you can go with what you like.

The Speedo Seaside and Surfwalker Athletic Water Shoes are ideal for use in swimming pools, showers, and at the beach. If you’re on the hunt for the strongest water shoes that are budget friendly, look no further than these Speedo options.

These shoes were manufactured with a lightweight, breathable mesh upper. They also consist of rubberized soles, treaded for additional traction.

On the Seaside lace 5.0, Speedo’s patented latching system has been designed to quickly tighten with a simple, quick pull of the bungee cord strap.

Performance in our testing

These shoes had the “stickiest” rubber sole of any other shoe we tested. For this reason, they worked wonderfully in the hard-packed sand, the shells, and in the ocean, meaning they would be perfect for fording rocky rivers and any non-movable surface. However, the soles were also very thin, and felt a bit strange when hiking, leading to discomfort. They did alright in the sugar sand, though, and overall are great choices.

Pros and Cons of the Speedo Seaside Lace Athletic Water Shoe

Speedo is a well-known brand for watersports. This Seaside lace option is a stylish shoe with great grip.

Nevertheless, there are quite a few advantages and disadvantages to realize regarding the Speedo Seaside Lace 5.0 and Speedo Surfwalker Pro 3.0.

Pros of the Speedo Athletic Water Shoes

  • Unlike some alternatives, this water shoe does not absorb water
  • The Speedo has very effective traction, and is ideal on wet and slippery surfaces
  • These water shoes are water-permeable, even when completely submerged
  • The patented Speedo drainage system provides extensive drainage and quickly, keeping them from getting heavy when underwater
  • They have some of the fastest drying times of all shoes we tested
  • A breathable mesh upper and specialized rubber sole keeps these shoes ultra-lightweight
  • While there were plenty of hideous water shoes, these were in the upper tier of stylishness

Cons of the Speedo Athletic Water Shoes

  • In testing, we noted that the soles were very soft and thin. While ideal for gripping, this does not make these shoes perform well on rougher terrains, like hiking or fording streams
  • Thinner soles on the Speedo model also means they are more prone to wearing out
Our final thoughts

These are extremely versatile water shoes, and are some of the best we tested, from a manufacturer who knows water sports. If you’re on the hunt for the strongest water shoes that are budget friendly, look no further than this Speedo option.

For more details read our complete review of the Speedo Seaside Lace Athletic Water Shoe.

Check out prices, additional photos, and customer reviews on

Seaside Lace 5.0

Surfwalker Pro 3.0


4. Crocs Swiftwater Mesh Sandal

Crocs sometimes get a bad rap for their looks. It’s not warranted, and even with their strange styling, there is no denying the fact that Crocs are one of the champions of the water shoe world.

They are tough, they are lightweight, and they dry very quickly. The Crocs Swiftwater Mesh Sandal is no exception to this.

A solid water shoe, this option is great for standard water-related activities. While we would not recommend going on a ten-mile hike in these rough riders, for standard use, like walking about in the water, or exploring rocky beaches and river banks, or even relaxing on a kayak, canoe or boat, you can’t go wrong with this option. There are plenty of features in this simplistic shoe as well, from a Croslite foam cushion, to hook and loop closures and beyond.

Performance in our testing

These shoes performed very well in our testing. They were all around a wonderful choice, however the large holes in the sides proved to be a bit daunting when walking through the thick sugar sand.

The hiking experience left a bit to be desired, as the outsole is not the toughest out there. However in the riverbed, ocean, shells and more, the Crocs Swiftwater Mesh Sandal was hard to beat.

Pros and Cons of the Crocs Swiftwater Mesh Sandal

Even though the Crocs Swiftwater Mesh Sandal performed admirably across all tests, there are always going to be pros and cons of every water shoe.

This was no exception. Here are some of the advantages and disadvantages that we noted for this shoe.

Pros of the Crocs Swiftwater Mesh Sandal

  • A wraparound toe bumper (iconic Crocs) provides extensive protection from the elements
  • With a cult following, these Crocs are practical, hard-wearing and tough
  • Some of the most comfortable shoes we tested, due to the foam cushioning
  • At the low end of the price range expected for Crocs brand water shoes

Cons of the Crocs Swiftwater Mesh Sandal

  • The hook and loop straps (Velcro) will get sand caught in them immediately
  • The gaping holes in the sides of this shoe tend to let in sand and debris as well
  • These are definitely some of the least stylish of the water shoes we tested
Our final thoughts

For standard usage, like walking about in water, or exploring rocky rover banks, shell-covered wet areas and river banks, or even relaxing on a kayak, canoe or boat, you can’t go wrong with the Crocs Swiftwater Mesh Sandal.

For more details read our complete review of the Crocs Swiftwater Mesh Sandal.

Check out prices, additional photos, and customer reviews on


5. Vibram FiveFingers V-Aqua Water Shoe

Vibram initiated the toe-shoe trend with the Vibram FiveFingers line up, and they are doing so with style with the introduction of the Vibram FiveFingers V-Aqua Water Shoe. These types of shoes are wildly popular as water shoes, and for good reason: they truly work. Whether in the sand or hiking the trail or on the beach and even in the ocean, these shoes performed admirably.

Performance in our testing

These shoes are made for the beach. They did awesome in the ocean at all depths, navigated the rocky and shell-covered shoreline with ease, and we had zero issues as we splashed about in the river. However, when the time came to hike, things started fine, but we quickly realized that the outsole was not as thick as we would have liked for hiking purposes.

Pros and Cons of the Vibram FiveFingers V-Aqua Water Shoe

The Vibram FiveFingers V-Aqua is a stylish shoe with great grip. Nevertheless, there are quite a few advantages and disadvantages to realize regarding this shoe.

Pros of the Vibram FiveFingers V-Aqua Water Shoe

  • Separate toe features means that these are some of the most versatile shoes tested
  • The soles provided tremendous grip when navigating wet and rocky terrains

Cons of the Vibram FiveFingers V-Aqua Water Shoe

  • There have been reports that these shoes start to smell after extended use
  • If you aren’t a fan of the separate-toe type shoe, you’re going to want to avoid this one
  • Order a size up, as we had to return them and size up (the sizing chart is incorrect)
Our final thoughts

These are very versatile water shoes, and are some of the best we tested, from a company that truly knows water sports. If you’re on the hunt for a great pair of water shoes for water-based activities (beaches, rivers, kayaking, boating, swimming, etc), then look no further than the Vibram FiveFingers V-Aqua Water Shoe.

For more details read our complete review of the Vibram FiveFingers V-Aqua Water Shoe.

Check out prices, additional photos, and customer reviews on


6. Merrell Choprock Water Shandal

The Merrell Choprock Water Shandal is built like you’d expect a hiker-focused water shoe to be built. With quick-pull bungee lacing, these shoes were designed to tightly wrap around the foot and provide a snug fit.

The lacing system works stunningly, and the laces are what Merrell refers to as “quick-action”.

If you’re looking for a more secure fit, these laces can be tightened as well. The soles are sturdy and thick, keeping you from feeling rocks and rubble. The waterproof leather uppers provide great support without any slippage or rubbing.

Performance in our testing

These shoes performed admirably in the hiking and the river trials. The Vibram soles in the Merrell options worked great, and we felt none of the slick and sharp surfaces that these tests provided.

However, they are some of the bulkier water shoes that we tested, as they are built for hiking, similar to Keen shoes. For this reason, they didn’t do wonderfully for movement in deeper sugar sand, or when splashing through the ocean.

Pros and Cons of the Merrell Choprock Water Shandal

While definitely a high quality water shoe from a company known for manufacturing some of the strongest and most durable hiking boots around, there are some pros and cons to keep in mind regarding the Merrell Choprock.

Pros of the Merrell Choprock Water Shandal

  • These shoes were incredibly comfortable both in and out of the water
  • Putting them on and taking them off is a breeze
  • We expected them to take forever to dry. Instead, they dried out very quickly!
  • The treads on the soles provides incredible grip on every surface we tested them on
  • The lacing system is top notch, some of the best we tested
  • The stiff, thick soles make them ideal for hiking as well (think The Narrows)

Cons of the Merrell Choprock Water Shandal

  • With continuous use, the soles can quickly wear down. With this wear comes a lack of grip
  • When hiking, the openings on the shoes tend to let in dirt, sticks and rocks
Our final thoughts

These shoes fared wonderfully in the hiking tests, but got quickly waterlogged and heavy in less “solid” terrains, like sand and such. However, if you are hiking and don’t mind the occasional rub from dirt, these shoes can take you miles with comfort.

For more details read our complete review of the Merrell Choprock Shandal.

Check out prices, additional photos, and customer reviews on


7. Adidas Outdoor Terrex CC Jawpaw II Slip On

On the hunt for a minimalist water shoe option that performs just like it is expected to without frills, bells or whistles? Look no further than the Adidas Outdoor Terrex CC Jawpaw Slip On. The clean, slick look of the Jawpaw ensures that it is cool to wear. The simplistic design shouldn’t be discounted, though. It hides some incredible features that we have come to expect from Adidas (after all, they are the only brand with two shoes in our list of nine).

Performance in our testing

These shoes performed admirably in all of our testing processes, period. The breathable and quick-drying textile upper has synthetic overlays, and the drainage system of the shoe was top notch.

Adidas’ climacool technology provides extensive cooling, making the hiking process surprisingly comfortable without socks. Meanwhile, the water-focused outsole’s stealth rubber design provided extensive grip on slippery surfaces. This was our top tested all-around water shoe.

Pros and Cons of the Adidas Outdoor Terrex Jawpaw II Slip On

Even though the Adidas Outdoor Terrex CC Jawpaw II Slip On performed admirably in all tests, there are always going to be pros and cons of every shoe. This was no exception. Here are some of the advantages and disadvantages that we noted for this shoe.

Pros of the Adidas Outdoor Terrex CC Jawpaw II Slip On

  • Incredibly simple to slip on, with no laces, drawstrings, snaps or Velcro
  • While simple to slip on, these shoes did not slide around, and instead stayed firmly put
  • Strong arch support for those with plantar fasciitis, a rarity for water shoes
  • Solid grip provided extensive traction in even the slipperiest of situations
  • Minimalist design ensures that there are no “small pieces” to falter and fail over time

Cons of the Adidas Outdoor Terrex CC Jawpaw II Slip On

  • The insoles of these shoes are not fixed, one of the few we tested like this
  • Unfixed insoles can lead to slippage, and in some cases they can even come detached when removing the shoe or twisting at strange angles in water
  • These were some of the most expensive shoes we tested, especially for the material design
Our final thoughts

As stated, the Adidas Outdoor Terrex CC Jawpaw II Slip On is by far the best all-around shoe that we tested at Little Talbot Island State Park. If you are unsure as to what your water based activity will be, or if you are a true adventurer or sportsman and need a shoe for many occasions, this Adidas option is hard to beat.

For more details read our complete review of the Adidas JawPaw II Slip On.

Check out prices, additional photos, and customer reviews on


8. ALEADER Quick Drying Aqua Water Shoes

While one of the least expensive options in our list, the ALEADER Quick Drying Aqua Water Shoe is probably the perfect blend of style, function and price. It is a conventionally-styled sports shoe.

No bells and whistles, no funky shapes. It is made from a breathable mesh upper and a lightweight rubber outsole with plenty of draining.

This shoe will take you traversing wherever you may need it, and can go from dry to fully submerged without skipping a beat. The rubber sole provides impressive traction and grip when moving around in slippery conditions.

Meanwhile, the fast-drying sock liner and internal cushioning system creates a dry, cool environment for your feet. Additionally, an added section for lateral support ensures your feet stay snug when in the water.

Performance in our testing

This extremely lightweight water shoe goes where most athletic style shoes don’t dare to go. With the exception of the Adidas option further down our guide, these were the closest shoes to actual sneakers. However, they performed admirably in the ocean, riverbed, over shells, and in the sugar sand. Sand did get in our feet, though, and the hiking left a bit to be desired.

Pros and Cons of the ALEADER Quick Drying Aqua Water Shoes

While the ALEADER Quick Drying Aqua Water Shoe has a plethora of wonderful features, such as fluid flow, ComforDry sock liners, contrast stitching for a supportive fit and more, there are always going to be points of concern.

Here are some of the advantages and disadvantages we found with the ALEADER Quick Drying Aqua Water Shoe.

Pros of the ALEADER Quick Drying Aqua Water Shoes

  • Some of the best weight-to-function we found out of all shoes tested
  • Very lightweight, extremely versatile, inconspicuous as a water shoe, and quick to dry
  • Strong grip makes it one of the best possibilities for a boat shoe
  • Water drainage out the outsole was the fastest we experienced in our testing

Cons of the ALEADER Quick Drying Aqua Water Shoes

  • The uppers have larger mesh holes, which can be a bit of a burden when walking through sand
  • When hiking, we noted that these shoes were fine for shorter jaunts, but would falter in long hikes
Our final thoughts

For the price, it is hard to beat the ALEADER Quick Drying Aqua Water Shoe. It is the ideal mix of function, style, and price. An inconspicuous looking water shoe, you won’t be self-conscious when wearing these. You also won’t experience buyer’s remorse!

For more details read our complete review of the ALEADER Quick Drying Aqua Water Shoes.

Check out More Reviews and Prices for the Men's Versionthe Women's Version, or the ​Kids Version​​​ on Amazon!


9. L-Run Unisex Barefoot Swim Shoes

For being by far the most minimal shoe we tested, we were quite impressed with the performance of the L-Run Unisex Barefoot Skin Shoes. These shoes feature an upper with stretching, breathable ultra-light weight fabric for fast draining and cross ventilation, which gives excellent flexibility and comfort.

Performance in our testing

As expected, with next to no sole, the L-Run Unisex Barefoot Skin Shoes did not perform too well across shells or when hiking. However, its performance in the slippery river bed was impressive, with a thin outsole that provided ample grip. In the ocean and across sand, these shoes were unbeatable, and were the closest we had to no shoes at all. We even took them for a swim!

Pros and Cons of the L-Run Unisex Barefoot Swim Shoes

As expected with any shoe, water shoes included, there are going to be advantages and disadvantages. The L-Run Unisex Barefoot Skin Shoe was no exception. Below are some of the pros and cons we noticed about these water shoes when we were testing.

Pros of the L-Run Unisex Barefoot Skin Shoes

  • These were by far the lightest and most minimalist water shoes we tested
  • As such, they were also the most affordable water shoes, and some of the cheapest available
  • They performed extremely well in the ocean, and would make awesome pool shoes
  • The outsole, while thin and cheap, was surprisingly grippy in the river bed

Cons of the L-Run Unisex Barefoot Skin Shoes

  • These fit the price. They are inexpensively made, and will likely fall apart faster than the others
  • The lack of a thicker outsole means that these shoes did not do well when hiking or walking in shells
  • With extraneous motions, these shoes seemed like they might fall off (but they didn’t)
Our final thoughts

For being by far the most minimal, inexpensive water shoe that we tested, we were quite impressed with the performance of the L-Run Unisex Barefoot Skin Shoes. Overall, if you are looking for a cheap water shoe, you can’t go wrong with this option!

For more details read our complete review of the L-Run Unisex Barefoot Skin Shoes.


Things to Look out for in Water Shoes

There are plenty of things that you need to look out for when shopping for water shoes. Some of the most important features are size, insoles, outsoles, material composition, levels of comfort, shoe durability, and breathability. Let’s check out each one of these features, with examples of how some of our selected shoes compared in the factors.

Size

A snug fit is essential when it comes to water shoes. Water shoes have a tendency to provide extensive give when they are wet.

Snug fits also mean that the water shoe will not slide or slip off when moving around in the water. Additionally, snug fits reduce the chances of the shoes chafing.

Many manufacturers of water shoes will carry standard sizing. Most upper-scale brands will also provide wide (usually denoted with a W or D) and slim (usually denoted with an N) options for fitting. For this reason, it’s crucial to both read reviews and check sizing charts before making a purchase.

Additionally, check out how the fastening systems work on the shoe (if there are any). Also, look to whether any laces or bungee pull systems are present. These should be sufficient enough to maintain the shoe fit firmly onto the feet.

How Our Water Shoes Fared

It almost seemed as if the more minimalist structured the water shoe was in our testing, the less snug the fit was. This makes sense, as shoes with more straps and pieces of cloth and stitching would naturally cinch tighter around the foot.

The L-Run and Adidas Climacool were the least snug, while the ALEADER, Speedo and (obviously) Vibram FiveFingers V-Aqua were the most snug.

Insoles

Water shoes were never designed to be waterproof. Instead, they are meant to let some water in, so they can let some water out. Insoles of shoes for water sports are more often than not incredibly flexible. They provide cushioning and breathability, too, and are meant to be quick to dry and easy to drain.

Some water shoes feature fixed insoles. These shoes can slow down the drying time, however they are generally far more robust. They also stay put well when pulling the wet shoes off at the end of a long day in the water.

How Our Water Shoes Fared

A few of our options, like the KEEN Evofit and the Adidas Jawpaw, had removable insoles. While these were ideal for those who suffer from plantar fasciitis, they could become cumbersome and uncomfortable if they detach from the bottom part of the shoe.

Outsoles

Maybe you want your water shoe to fit like a sock. However, maybe at the same time you are looking for a solid-thick bottom to ensure your feet are protected against sharp or rocky terrain. When this is the case, thicker soles with water drainage and points for grip are perfect for hiking, shells, and rocks.

Alternatively, if you are spending most of your time solely in the water, or sitting in a boat or kayak, you can get away with lighter, more breathable, thinner and flexible outsoles. Whatever water-centric activity you are engaging in, be sure that they have a durable outsole with strong traction and grip, as well as a method to drain away water.

How Our Water Shoes Fared

The outsoles of our shoes fell into three categories: super thick and meant for hiking (KEEN, Merrell), standard for water shoes (Adidas, Speedo, ALEADER, etc), and extremely thin and lightweight (L-Run). Each of the shoes performed admirably outsole-wise in tests focused on what the shoe was meant to do.

Below is an example of the wide range of outsoles from just three of the options we tested (ALEADER, Crocs and L-Run from left to right):

ALEADER quick drying aqua sock outsole detail

Crocs Swiftwater Mesh Sandal outsole detail

L-Run unisex water shoe outsole detail

Material Composition

Water shoes are generally comprised of some kind of synthetic mesh. All of the shoes we tested were made from this mesh, as well as rubber on the outsole. The material composition is typically dependent on the type of activity in which they will be used.

Mesh water shoes allow for more water ingress, while also being wonderful for ventilating purposes. These shoes are ideal for things such as hiking, boating, kayaking, swimming, and more general activities.

How Our Water Shoes Fared

Our shoes were all synthetic mesh and rubber. However, it was interesting to see how the different shoe types worked their manufacture to the point where the shoe was perfectly built for the purpose it was meant to enhance.

For example, the ALEADER mesh was thinner and less cumbersome than the Merrell, but the Merrell’s thicker, more durable mesh made it the perfect water shoe for hiking.

Levels of Comfort

Shoes that are able to keep you comfortable whether dry or wet are crucial. You won’t be changing into your water shoes when you’re already in the water. For this reason, research the cushioning, design and materials ahead of time to get the leg up on your next water shoe purchase.

There are plenty of aspects that can lead to comfortable water shoes. From thicker rubber outsoles to cuff and heel padding, from tabs for easy taking on and taking off to padded mesh on the inside of the insole. These all work in tandem to ensure your feet are comfortable in the water, but also comfortable when on land or in the drying process.

Remember, lighter weight, quick to drain, and light soles prevent the feet from becoming heavy and waterlogged. This feeling is what can cause irritation, and lead you to feeling weighed down.

Shoe Durability

While we mentioned the importance of lightweight water shoes, you are also going to want a water shoe that is tough enough to handle various dry to wet terrains without disintegrating in a short time.

Water shoes with thicker soles last longer obviously, however it is vital to contrast durability with activity. If you’re going to be using the water shoes for swimming in the ocean, you aren’t going to want bulky soles.

Check out the materials, and peruse durability-focused reviews of the shoes from purchasers like us here at Shoe Guide. Then, determine what water shoes are perfect for your needs.

Breathability

Often times, water shoes are developed from some kind of mesh, built for breathability. These help to keep the feet cool, and to dry quickly when out of the water. Strong ventilation, whether via mesh material, or via drainage holes in the midsole and upper, provide strong water flow into and out of the shoe when submerged. This composition also provides stronger drainage once you leave the water.

Finding the Best Water Shoes for Every Situation

As seen above, there are a ton of different factors that comprise high quality water shoes. Lower quality shoes can have imperfections or issues with stitching, or worse, a flimsy, cheap feel. Additionally, there can be rougher edges on the inside. This is because most cheaper manufacturers will cut corners by omitting pads that cushion hot spots on the feet.

It is vital to get the highest quality shoe, and for this reason, the water shoe should be tailored to your specific water-based activities. Three of the most common activities are kayaking, fishing and hiking.

Water Shoes for Kayaking

When whitewater kayaking, you are going to want a water shoe that will stay on regardless of the situation. You also want a water shoe that provides the traction and protection needed to stand tall and stay in traction when standing in rocky riverbeds.

When kayaking in flatter waters, whether in lakes or during vacations, more comfortable, faster-drying water shoes will definitely do the trick.

The best water shoes for kayaking that are on our list of nine recommendations are:

Water Shoes for Fishing

If you plan on standing at a shoreline or sitting in a boat for extended timeframes, your water shoes aren’t going to need to be top-notch, rugged pieces of technology. Instead, it’s important to focus on what is the most comfortable for your feet. Are you standing in a boat fishing? If so, then you are going to want the water shoe that provided the most traction.

Higher quality shoes use tackier rubber on soles that face more aggression in movement. Some of the water shoes we tested lack the tackiness you may need for fishing or maintaining stability when on a boat.

Conversely, if you are wading in rocky rivers doing fly fishing, and it’s warm enough that you don’t want to deal with waders, water shoes work wonderfully. However, you are going to want to put a priority on foot protection and traction. This typically will include support or some kind of lacing system that will keep the shoes from slipping off, along with ample support, which can be derived from the stability of the upper.

The best water shoes for fishing that are on our list of nine recommendations are:

Water Shoes for Hiking

Water shoes are a solid option for shorter hikes, mainly due to breathability and quick drying properties. It’s vital to look for water shoes that have rugged soles and solid protection. If the shoe has an elastic heel, ensure that it is not going to stretch too much. If so, it will struggle to keep your foot in position on steeper uphill climbs.

Standard laces compared to elastic pull-tabs, or slip-on shoes with minimal lacing, provide extensive support on irregular terrains. It’s crucial to bear in mind that wet feet are far more blister prone than dry feet. The same goes for not wearing socks. For this reason, shoes that breathe well and fit well right off the bat are perfect options as water shoes for hiking.

The best water shoes for hiking that are on our list of nine recommendations are:

Frequently Asked Questions About the Best Water Shoes

Water shoes have many differences compared to standard shoes. Between their fit, their features, weight, breathability and more, there can be many questions that crop up when ensuring you select the best option. Luckily, us here at Shoe Guide have the answers.

What are water shoes and how do they differ from normal shoes?

Water shoes are a type of tough, yet very light, footwear. They are built for activities where the feet are highly likely to become wet or submerged. Typically, most water shoes are comprised of mesh or neoprene as an upper, and soles of rubber. The rubber soles are made for the purpose of strong grip in water, while also protecting the feet from the elements.

Shoes for water sports have been specially designed for a variety of water based activities, only a few of which we covered in our list above and testing processes. The light materials allow water to flow out when drying. Harder soles provide cushion, protecting the feet from rocky, wet and sharp environments and hazards.

Why should you get water shoes?

Feet are vital for support and stability, of course. It’s crucial to ensure that they remain comfortable and protected in any situation or terrain you encounter. With water as an added element of surprise, standard sports sneakers or flip flops tend to falter in water-based activities for their own reasons.

In a best case scenario, extended water time can lead to waterlogged shoes and/or blisters. In a worst case scenario, there could be a significant slip and fall situation.

Water shoes have superior traction and grip. They provide warmth and comfort, and support and protection from the elements. Additionally, they are typically lighter than standard shoes, quick to dry and even quicker to drain.

What are some of the best activities to do with water shoes?

Water shoes exist for almost any type of water shoe you can think of. That’s why it’s important to do proper due diligence with guides such as this before making a purchase decision. You don’t want to end up with a shoe that doesn’t work with the activity you will be performing.

Water shoes can provide you with the necessary comfort and stability to get the most fun out of a wide range of water-focused activities. This ranges from boating to paddle sports, surfing to diving, swimming to fishing, hiking to even trips to the waterpark.

Additionally, water shoes are highly advised (and proven through our testing) to be ideal when exploring beaches, and can even provide additional grip and traction around slippery surfaces surrounding swimming pools.

Are many water shoes slip-resistant?

Solid grip and surface traction are two of the most important features that should be considered in high quality water shoes. This is because wet environments are predictably unpredictable when traversing. The outsole of a quality water shoe will assist you in maintaining connection with the ground. For this reason, for slip resistance it’s crucial to test for the “stickiness” of the outsole.

Stronger rubber soles with additional grips, also known in some shoes as “plugs” provide ample traction on slippery, unpredictable surfaces, creek beds, waterlogged wood, boat decking, and even by the pool.

Wrapping Things Up: The Best Water Shoes

Regardless of your needs, there is a water shoe to ensure that your experience is of the highest caliber. The days of water shoes being clunky, hideous messes are long behind us all. Lately, more fashionable and functional water shoes have become the standard, like the ones we have tested for you.

We are confident that you are now armed with the knowledge and pseudo-experience to make the right decision on your next pair of water shoes. We hope you’ve enjoyed what is surely the most extensive, comprehensive guide to water shoes in existence. Have questions? Feel free to drop us a comment! And thank you for stopping by Shoe Guide!

2 Comments

  • These shoes are so comfy, but way way too big. I tried three different pairs from Amazon, and all too big. Finally had to buy in a local store at 2 sizes smaller than my normal shoe size so I could get them in time. I recommend using Amazon wardrobe to try on multiple sizes if you have time to wait. I have a wide foot, and these shoes fully accomodate my feet with no rub or tension. The sole is cushioned, but not too squishy. The fabric is breathable mesh, and ideal for barefeet.

    • Hi Annie! Thanks for commenting! But you forgot to let us know which water shoe it was that you got. Were the swim shoes or beach shoes or were the water shoes for hiking or something else? It’d be awesome if we knew, particularly since the sizing seems to be so far.

      Also, I’m not sure what Amazon wardrobe is? It sounds like something where you can order the items, try them on, and then send them back if they don’t fit? That sounds great! Not sure how they can make money with that model though… those shipping costs would really add up, I would think.

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