The dog days of summer are the perfect time for a rafting trip, a weekend trip to the lake or a trip along the coast. As you pack your bags for your next water-centric getaway, don’t forget one of the most underrated yet useful pieces of gear you can find: the water shoe.
What are water shoes?
A water shoe is a sneaker or sandal designed to maintain grip in wet or dry environments and to keep feet dry and blister-free after crossing water. Unlike sports sneakers, hiking shoes or lifestyle sandals, water shoes are specifically designed to ensure comfort and protection in both wet and dry conditions.
What should you look for in a water shoe?
A good water shoe has a few important features to look for: First, there are drainage openings, or holes in the shoe or sandal that allow water to pass through. Wet or damp feet can lead to blisters and abrasions; Water shoes are engineered to shed water quickly and combined with breathable synthetic uppers to stay dry and comfortable. You should also look for lugs that are at least 2mm or larger: strong, high-grip lugs allow you to maintain grip and balance when climbing wet or submerged rock, and also maintain traction on trails.
Are Crocs good water shoes?
The much-discussed Croc is a decent water shoe. It doesn’t have the tech of its more performance-oriented competitors like the Hoka or Keen, but it’s got plenty of drainage, is lightweight, and insanely comfortable, despite the naysayers who denounce its aesthetic appeal. If you don’t expect your Crocs clogs to perform like your technical hiking shoes and instead accept them for the lo-fi clog they are, you won’t be disappointed.
Below are the nine best water shoes to buy right now.
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Best traditional brand
Chaco’s latest iteration, the Canyonland, builds on the brand’s expertise in the water shoe category. The brand best known for its sandals branches out with this new sneaker-style shoe with full coverage. Featuring a quick-drying mesh upper with polyester webbing eyelets, synthetic overlays for added protection and structure, and a padded heel and tongue with non-absorbent foam, the Canyonlands offers traction and versatility for exploration in and out of the water.
Materials: Mesh, polyester, EVA foam, rubber
Weight: 9.98 ounces (women); 12.70 ounces (men)
Purpose of use: Water Sports, Hiking, Kayaking
Best budget water shoe
Crocs Classic clogs
- Lacks the technology of more advanced water sandals
The humble Croc is an eternally divisive but persistently popular shoe that has been used by generations as an understated entry-level water shoe. The Classic Clog is made from a proprietary resin material from Crocs, Inc – it’s lightweight, easy to clean, and buoyant. The Classic Clog features vents to repel dirt and water and a slip-on design that allows them to be removed in a snap. If you are looking for an easy to wear, great value water shoe then you have come to the right place. (Plus, it comes in a variety of colors and styles.)
Materials: Croslite (100% synthetic thermoplastic EVA)
Weight: 0.43 pounds (men’s size 12)
Purpose of use: Water sports, casual recreation
Best upgrade water shoe
Merrell Hydro Moc
One of the most iconic water shoes on the market today, the Hydro Moc by Merrell owes its popularity to its unique silhouette and superior in-water performance. Constructed of injected single-density EVA foam, the Hydro Moc’s contoured bulges provide support and comfort from land to sea (or lake or river). The molded heel with integrated strap ensures you don’t lose your shoe when cliff jumping or water jumping, and the 2mm lugs offer plenty of grip and traction on a variety of surfaces.
Available in a range of shades, this shoe will turn heads wherever you go.
Materials: Single density EVA
Weight: 15 ounces (per pair)
Purpose of use: Water sports, land to water activities, lifestyle
Best for sports
Speedo Surfwalker Rush
You’ll know the Speedo name when it comes to barely noticeable swimwear, but did you know the brand also makes performance water shoes? The Surfwalker Rush (available in both men’s and women’s) is a sleek and breathable water shoe with a hydrophobic EVA rubber sockliner and an S-TRAC engineered outsole that wicks water and improves performance.
Reviews of the Surfwalker Rush say it runs large, so be careful when ordering online: if you tend towards the smaller end of your particular size, size this shoe down for a closer fit.
Materials: Hydrophobic, quick-drying sandwich mesh upper; S-Trac outsole
Weight: ~ 8 ounces
Purpose of use: Water sports, lifestyle
Best Minimalist Design
Yalox Aqua Socks water shoes
- Not intended for walking/hiking
With over 24,000 reviews on Amazon, the Yalox Water Shoe for water shoes is what barefoot running shoes are for mainstream running styles: they’re a reduced exercise in minimalism. The Yalox shoe is made of non-slip material and features a firm grip and a soft, elastic heel.
These sock-like water shoes protect feet during water sports, and the thick rubber outsole is both breathable and flexible. Available in over 20 colors and patterns, there is a suitable Yalox for every water sports enthusiast.
Materials: Polyester spandex upper, rubber outsole
Weight: <10 ounces
Purpose of use: swimming, water sports
- Padded and comfortable
Hoka is recognized for its ability to make some of the most comfortable shoes out there, even if they’re not the most aesthetically pleasing (it’s a definite look). If you’re not afraid to deviate from the typical water shoe look and you value comfort, the Hopara is your best bet.
Built on the same platform as Hoka’s running and hiking shoes, the Hopara features a fully synthetic upper with cutouts for maximum drainage. The combination of neoprene collar and speed lacing system increases the sandal’s comfort and function, and the rubberized toe cap and 4mm lugs provide the support and protection required for outdoor water sports.
Materials: Synthetic and neoprene upper, rubber outsole
Weight: 10.10 ounces
Purpose of use: Hiking, water crossings, lifestyle
Best Rugged Design
Keen Newport H2 sandal
- Protective and comfortable
- Not a lifestyle crossover shoe
Keen has been making hybrid shoes since 2003 and over the two decades since then has established itself as a dependable, high-performing option for outdoor enthusiasts. The latest version of Keen’s most popular sandal, the Newport H2 features a high traction rubber outsole with multi-directional lugs for excellent grip, a washable polyester webbing upper for durability and comfort, and Eco Anti-Odor for natural odor control. Keen’s proprietary fit allows for plenty of room for toes to spread and prioritizes foot health and comfort on all your adventures.
Materials: Polyester, EVA insole and midsole, rubber
Weight: 14.2 ounces
Purpose of use: Hiking, kayaking, camping, water sports
Best full shoe
Salomon Crossamphibian Swift 2 water shoes
- Made from sustainable materials
- No connections for water drainage
If you’re looking for more protection for your toes during water adventures, we recommend a water sneaker instead of a sandal. Adaptable and performance-driven, this option from Salomon is built to last: each pair contains the equivalent of 1.75 plastic bottles, two cobs of corn and 10 grams of bamboo fiber, all derived from post-consumer materials. With a Contagrip outsole, a collapsible heel and a breathable upper, the Crossamphibian combines the comfort of a sandal with the performance of a sneaker.
Materials: 3D mesh/recycled and bio-based material/mesh/synthetic
Weight: 14.8 ounces
Purpose of use: Hiking, Kayaking, Multisport
Teva Hurricane XLT sandal
- Fashionable and minimal
- Offers less protection than a sneaker-style water shoe
For multitasking outdoor enthusiasts, nothing is more appealing than gear that can double the power – enabling lighter loads and increased efficiency. An exercise in merging practicality and fashion, the Hurricane XLT sandal by Teva suits everything from the river to lunch on the town. The upper webbing and inner shank are both made from durable nylon, and the compression-molded EVA midsole offers all-day comfort. These sandals from Teva are for minimalists; If you are looking for foot protection in the water, this may not be the best choice.
Materials: Synthetic nylon upper, EVA midsole, rubber outsole
Weight: 11 ounces (single shoe size 11)
Purpose of use: Multisport, hiking, lifestyle
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