Best Water Shoes Reviewed for Wicking & Protection
So you like to hit the water, getting a thrill from water-related sports activities, relaxing at the pool, or you simply like to enjoy your spare time skipping through streams? Then, you must have come to a conclusion that regular sports shoes or everyday footwear will not fit your needs when they get waterlogged; you more than likely need a good pair of water shoes for women and men. You need shoes that protect your feet and are lightweight for longterm use.
When spending a lot of time on the water it is inevitable that your feet will get wet, regular shoes, no matter the quality or brand, will deteriorate, this will not only significantly shorten the lifespan of your shoes but will also be harmful to your feet. Water shoes are specifically designed for these kinds of water activities, as they do not absorb and enclose the water. Rather the water can freely flow, without trapping or absorbing moisture. Avoid that uncomfortable feeling of wet feed and keep your feet safe from damage. Water shoes are very different than shoes made for casual daily use, so we don’t recommend trying to use your standard kicks for water polo.
- Zhuanglin Quick Drying Aqua
- Under Armour Kilchis
- Abrasion Resistant
- Crocs Swiftwater Sandal
- CrosLite Cushioning
First, let’s make clear the difference between water shoes and water sandals as these two have a different purpose. Water sandals, in general, have the same properties as a water shoe – they are designed for on-water activities, however, while water sandals offer you the same comfort and protection, they are only meant to protect the bottom of your feet, the toes are not enclosed and therefore these will not be appropriate choice when you are doing more than just an easy boat trip. Water shoes have the toe section closed off making them more like the ordinary sports shoe, enabling the wearer to endure rougher terrain as you go in and out of the water.
10 Best Water Shoes
1. Zhuanglin Quick Drying Aqua
The most important aspect of this shoe is its admirable ability to stay put on slippery and wet surfaces, this has been achieved with the Water Grip outsole of the shoe, providing the wearer security and stability during hikes.
Breathability and drying
As your feet will get wet no matter what, this shoe will provide the necessary protection against both - insufficient ventilation and moisture. The open mesh of this shoe upper guarantees good ventilation of the feet, and the holes in the sole will allow the water to leave the shoe as quickly, as it came in.
Cost and Value
This is one of the cheapest options you can have, and, to be honest, the price of this shoe is really underestimated compared to the benefits it can offer in terms of comfort and everyday use.
- Extremely light
- Very breathable
- Holes in the sole
- Versatile wear
- Dry quickly
- Sizing runs small
2. Under Armour Kilchis
You just can’t go wrong with the midsole of any Under Armour shoe; they’re carefully engineered to maximize their function in relation to the sport they’re meant for. This water shoe is no exception, including a smart draining system within the midsole that optimizes draining time without affecting the original performance qualities. The perforated footbed adds yet another layer of cushioning and contributes to the drainage.
Fixed bungee laces
The Kilchis approach includes a lacing system that is completely independent of other Under Armour shoes. The laces are placed in a fixed position with a tension system. Tying your shoes is as easy as pulling the strings and lacing them together. The tension on the laced provide further support to the upper foot and guarantee the right fit throughout the whole day.
Just like the Speedo Hydro Comfort 4.0, this shoe consists of a dedicated water build rather than a minimalist surfing shoe. The Under Armour Kilchis is possibly one of the most functional water shoes in terms of the depth and dedication of your performance, allowing you to access more functionality in comparison to slimmer and simpler water shoe approaches. A durable lifetime and UA’s guarantee assure your money is on the right pair of shoes.
- Abrasion Resistant
- Easy Lacing System
- Contoured build
- Appealing design
- Longer Break-In Time
3. Crocs Swiftwater
Crocs’ signature cushioning system, the CrosLite, has been a part of each of their products for a long time – and the Swiftwater Sandal is not an exception. The compression foam is molded by the pressure of your foot to deliver an optimal, personalized fit that comforts you throughout the whole day. The foam is highly durable and will continue to perform uniquely regardless of your weight, size, or sex.
Unlike their traditional design, the Swiftwater Sandal features a breathable mesh upper build. The mesh is water-friendly and makes the shoe easier to deal with underwater, providing slight upper foot protection from external elements. The easy-draining mesh retains no water and counts with strategic holes on the upper build to maximize draining efficiency.
Crocs products, in general, are some of the most versatile sandals/clogs. The Swiftwater promises a respectable level of performance and efficiency on water for its price. Fairly below the average value of this list, the Crocs Swiftwater delivers a very good performance-value relation. The durable materials of this pair guarantee that your money is well invested in a shoe that won’t require replacement anytime soon.
- Protects your toe
- Smoothly underwater
- Easy draining system
- Massaging dotted footbed
- Minimal cushioning
4. Speedo Zipwalker 4.0
Soaked feet are possibly one of the most annoying experiences when wearing shoes on or under water. This is why the Zipwalker 4.0 allows water to quickly escape the shoe, also counting with water-friendly materials that will dry much faster than traditional builds. When you leave the water, this shoe makes sure that the water doesn’t come with you in your shoes.
Underfoot s-trac protection
Speedo’s s-trac technology is a common feature amongst the Zipwalker series, except this year the Zipwalker 4.0 has received an updated s-trac outsole. The highly resistant and durable materials make sure that water disperses evenly on each movement, preventing slippage while providing excellent traction even while wet or moisturized. This outsole also prevents external objects from penetrating the shoe and harming your underfoot and the pool or the beach.
Speedo applies a nearly perfect combination of functionality and affordability when it comes to their Zipwalker 4.0. This series is known for their high efficiency and low cost, taking into consideration the performance-enhancing technologies and features it includes for such a low price. Needless to say, the Zipwalker 4.0 is considerably below the average value and is the best value on this list.
- Great traction
- No slippage
- 4-ways stretch upper
- Easy-drying materials
- Quick zipper closure
- Skin Irritating Zipper
5. Mohem Poseidon
These shoes are made of the well-known air mesh upper that allows the feet to be well ventilated, super light and comfortable.
In many cases, when considering to purchase water shoes, you will have only the aspect of usability of these shoes, with these, however, you do not get only the practicality of water shoes, you also get style and good look of a casual fashion sneaker with a sporty look.
Cost and Value
Falling in the same price level as a few other shoes mentioned above in this list, this shoe is surely within the lower price corner, although last, hardly the least - they do look great and for the price you can have them - it is a bargain.
- Very light
- Good everyday walking shoes
- Super flexible
- Not for rough terrain
- Little Arch Support
6. Merrell All Out Blaze Sieve
This water-resistant upper will allow the feet to dry very quickly and no water will be enclosed within the shoe, allowing the wearer to avoid unpleasant feeling or wet feet, which also might result in sore and rubbed feet and painful blisters.
This midsole is shaped so that it efficiently activates the whole foot, distributing the workload of the feet, its design will minimize the terrain’s roughness and, at the same time, will provide strong support for your feet. This midsole also offers supplementary agility thanks to the circular slugs.
Cost and Value
It would be a difficult task to find another pair of shoes that would provide the same amount of comfort and protection as these shoes provide for the price you can have them.
- Waterproof leather
- Easy on and off
- Hollowed lugs for lightness
- Promotes good reflex
- Built-in ankle protection
- Sizing issues
- Narrow fit
7. Speedo Surfwalker 3.0
S-TRAC TPR technology streamlines water away from the bottom of the outsole, providing better grip with the surface and more safety for the wearer on wet and slippery surfaces.
Air mesh upper
Air mesh upper is what can be held accountable for the quick-drying property of this shoe and the weight, making this shoe comfortable and allowing you to keep them on even when swimming.
Cost and Value
Another one of that lightweight, slip on shoes that do not seem much, but provides you with a proper protection, are light and easy to put on and can be taken everywhere, for the price you can have them and the purpose - these are a good choice.
- Stretchy upper
- Good for swimming
- Enduring sole
- Quickly drains and dries
- Not true to size
- Not suitable for hiking
8. Cudas Shasta
Protective toe and heel bumper on this sock - like embracing slip-on shoe will protect the most vulnerable parts of your feet, not making them a great hiking shoes, but perfect for boat trips and scaling rivers and waterfalls.
Anti-slip and non-marking grippy outsole
Anti-slip and non-marking grippy outsole is one of the most important aspects of every water shoe, and this will make it an excellent choice in order to feel secure on a wet or slippery surface.
Cost and Value
This shoe may not survive many seasons or super long hikes, however, it offers good protection and is very comfortable, and with the price tag hanging quite low, you would not regret this choice after they have served their time.
- Very light
- Extra toe protection
- Heel protection
- Comfortable for short hikes
- Stretchy fit
- Slow to dry
9. Adidas Climacool Boat Lace
This technology is designed to provide you with the best possible ventilation and moisture control and will increase breathability around the foot providing you far better comfort than most other shoes.
Unique drainage system
The unique drainage system implemented in this shoe consists of the perforated textile footbed and perforated outsole that will shed the water from the shoe at a maximum speed, keeping the inside of the shoe as dry as possible.
Cost and Value
Although this is a very well-known brand this shoe will not cost a lot for you, and, considering the brand, the low price will not result in a bad quality shoe, this would cost a bit less than the average water shoe on the market.
10. Columbia Drainmaker III
In this model the drainage points have been made bigger and increased in numbers, therefore increasing the speed of water drainage by 33%.
Razor siping outsole
The outsole is made of non-marking Omni grip with razor siping, therefore allowing the shoe to get a grip on wet and slippery surfaces.
Cost and Value
Although this shoe is at the (considerably) upper side of the pricing tab, you would not regret spending extra dollar on the reinforced cushioning and protection of your feet, if you enjoy active water sport.
By now you should understand the importance of choosing the right water shoe model and type for your preferences and your needs. There are many types of water shoes, there are also water shoes and water sandals, and there is a big difference between them, although some water shoes can be called sandals, you can easily spot the difference, as water shoes have the toe section closed off, therefore providing more protection for your toes, and making this type of shoe more suitable for sporting activities, while the toe section for water sandals is open making this type of shoe more appropriate for simple walks or fishing by the lake.
Water shoe price tags can vary, highly, along with their general performance or functionality. You need to know what kind of activities you will be getting yourself into, before actually buying any water shoes, this article contains the advice and best-use tips you will need to make an educated decision, so you can find the right shoes for your adventures, or the pool.
Criteria for Evaluating the Best Water Shoes
Just like in every other type of footwear, the weight is a decisive factor at the moment of making a purchase. This all depends on what you’re looking for, though. A casual beach-goer won’t mind an extra ounce or two on their shoes; however, if we’re talking about performance in any water sport, you should opt for a shoe that is as lightweight as functionally possible.
As the weight of the shoe reduces, certain qualities and performance aspects of the shoe will be reduced as well. For instance, a thin and lightweight build will prove efficient to someone looking for minimalism, but at the same time, these shoes will deliver considerably lower levels of protection.
If you’re considering any sort of performance, it’s important that you determine the aspects of such sport in which you’ll need the most assistance from your shoe. Keep in mind that you may need to reduce some aspects in order to enhance others. If your sport calls for high levels of protection, you should opt for a thicker material, which at the same time will increase the weight of your shoe.
You will typically find water shoes with bungee lace systems and thin mesh uppers, with a relatively thin sole typically comprised of EVA rubber. Some of the more favored designs mimic the feel of a sock, but companies are also making water shoes that have more of a build to them, closing in on the style and protective capabilities a shoe might have.
Of course, the more material used to build the shoe, the heavier it will be, but since water shoes are not full shoes, they don’t have every protective property and even the heaviest of them are more lightweight or flexible in comparison. Water shoes that can be used for hiking may be thicker and less flexible in comparison to what is known as a “wet shoe”, but all maintain that level of flexibility that you won’t have in a full-blown shoe.
Think; walking through water unknowing of what you will be stepping on next whether it be through rough rocks or other external hazards. Your feet are fragile and susceptible to a number of injuries and ways to become damaged if barefoot. Even navigating through a beach has its hazards.
People have been known to step on left behind objects, even needles, which has been reported washed up on beaches which are best avoided, to say the least. Not saying you will likely step onto anything in particular, but there’s plenty of things you can step on that you would be best to have a protective layer between your feet and it while doing so.
With an adequately designed, quality water shoe, you can enjoy a barefoot feel with proper drainage without the exposing your feet to the jagged surfaces of rocks and hazardous materials the bottom of your feet may come into contact with.
Good Materials for Sole Protection:
- Thick Rubber
- EVA Foam
- Composite Blends
- Molded TPU
- Vulcanized Rubber
Always keep in mind that protection is a feature that must be present in all water shoes. Regardless of the discipline, you practice and how minimalist the shoes for such activity need to be, there should always be some dedicated space and weight to the protection of your feet.
It’s a huge mistake to underestimate environments like the beach, as you never know what you’ll step on next. Some users make the mistake of thinking they don’t need any sort of protection to walk on rocks at the beach until they step on a water hedgehog or even worse – a sharp coral. Don’t get it wrong, protection is paramount at any point during beach activities; sharp corals, for example, will slice your skin open with extreme ease just by stepping on them or making brief contact.
The grip goes hand-in-hand with the protection that the sole provides as it is generated by the very material used for the outsole, which is the bottom-most portion of the shoe that comes into contact with the ground.
- Tread Profile –
The tread profile is critical, and needs to be designed where water cannot be trapped underneath, but rather have outlets to be forced outward from the bottom of the shoe with each step. This is especially important as water shoes are regularly used in moisturized or even completely wet environments where the surface is slippery.
- Outsole Pattern –
The outsole pattern is not such a critical decision; there have been (and will continue to be) thousands of manufacturers and designers that claim their outsole design is the most efficient one when it comes to preventing slippage. The truth is that any intuitive outsole pattern is enough to reduce your chances of slipping – you don’t have to break your head analyzing the patterns and reading explanations on how the shapes work. What is important is that you count with an outsole that allows multidirectional action and versatility. Certain water sports call for forceful and spontaneous movements that can easily out-force a low-quality outsole.
- Movement –
The grip of a shoe will react differently based on the direction in which your movements are directed. This also depends on the outsole pattern; in a sport like surfing, you should opt for a grip that holds you steadily together to the board as there are no lateral feet motions involved. However, a sport that calls for constant feet movements in all directions isn’t compatible with a vertical grip.
Regardless of the purpose of your shoe, it must count with a reliable and strong grip. When looking for the best water shoes, we highly recommend that you keep your eyes on two things: the outsole material and the outsole pattern. The most optimal material for anti-slipping purposes is rubber and its other synthetic variations, such as vulcanized rubber.
If this is your case, we highly recommend you to look for an omnidirectional grip. This type of outsole will allow you to perform forceful movements in any direction while remaining in absolute control of your balance.
As you can probably guess, a shoe that is meant to be near water (or submerged in it) can easily become a slipping hazard. A non-slipping grip is paramount for this kind of footwear, as any slippage can quickly become extremely dangerous in environments like the pool, a boat, a dock, and a wide variety of surfaces.
Just like with most shoes, you don’t want your feet bathing in its own perspiration. The same can be said for the water that will inevitably find its way inside your shoe easily if you completely submerge them.
For this reason, a water-sealed shoe will not work for the situations in which you would find yourself using a proper water shoe for. Let’s say you find yourself an adequately lightweight shoe that is extremely flexible, but the material that the upper is made of does not let the moisture from the inside escape effectively.
You will find yourself walking in a shoe filled with water, which is very inconvenient at the very least. This is why a water wicking or breathable shoe is just not good enough. You need ventilation and drainage.
A water shoe is more than just a shoe that you can wear under water. It’s a pair of shoes that you can efficiently use when getting involved in activities and sports near water. As you can probably guess by now, an efficient drainage system is paramount in order to achieve an efficient wear, especially if performing sports whether it’s practice or competition.
When we get into the water, some of it tends to make its way back with us stored in our shoes. This is one of the first things you want to prevent when using water shoes. The best water shoes are those that include a drainage system that clears your feet from any residual liquid once you’ve left the water.
There are two parameters that determine the quality of the draining capacity in a water shoe:
- Effectiveness –
We’ll refer to effectiveness as the ability of the drainage system to clear as much water as possible. In order to achieve an effective drain, it’s important that the perforations through which the water will escape are correctly placed in key areas of the shoe. If the draining channels were located on the upper foot. On the other hand, a channel system located in a lower position (underfoot level, for example) will make the water escape much more easily.
- Speed –
Speed, as you can probably guess, refers to the quickness with which the water will escape the shoe. The speed with which the shoe will drain the water will be determined by the size and amount of draining channels, as well as the materials of the shoe in general. This may make you think that bigger channels mean better, but in reality, the optimal size for these channels is similar to that of the drainage holes on the Crocs Classic.
Furthermore, the upper build of the shoe plays a big role in both the draining effectiveness and speed. A mesh-like material will make the shoe drain considerably faster, and it will also help ensure that as much water as possible exits the shoe.
Drainage and Drying
- Drainage Ports – These are holes either on the side of the sole or the bottom that allows water to flush out from the inside of the shoe.
- Made of open mesh primarily – This means you will have a sole (preferably with drainage ports), but the rest of the shoe would be comprised of a permeable synthetic mesh upper to allow water to pass through.
- Stay away from Leather – Leather naturally has water resistant properties, which will trap moisture inside the shoe. The only “water shoes” you should consider that are comprised of leather are those with a sandal design. Yes, there are some.
- Moisture Wicking – This goes hand-in-hand with drainage and breathability, but is independent as wicking materials work by effectively pulling moisture away from the skin, outward. Even with proper drainage, your foot’s surface will still hold moisture. This is where wicking material comes into play. Fleece works well for moisture wicking, but materials such as cotton or wool are not effective in this regard as they hold water in, and do not allow it to evaporate easily.
Not all water shoes are created equally. In fact, there are several different types of water shoes, and it may be a bit confusing to differentiate between each as the line between each is a bit blurred. Although the terms used for any given water shoe depends on who you’re asking, there are some clear lines between a few types. The most notable being those made for hiking, those made for boat use, those made for swimming pool use, rafting, etc, and those made for the beach or light land use. Although, all offer the general aspects and capabilities mentioned above (just to different degrees catered to their specific usage), and some are diverse enough to be used in any way. Let’s take a look at the water shoe types available and the specific occasions where each excels.
Some common water shoe terms
- Aqua Shoes –
This is a broad category, still, but people use the term to refer to water shoes that are made mainly for high-performance purposes, and doing such things as hiking where the user can step through rivers, but maintain the safety of their feet as they generally incorporate the most underfoot protection. They are usually worn without socks, however, some people wear socks with them. In short, they do well in and out of the water.
- Wet Shoes –
These are not very versatile and are specific to in water use. Try to venture with them on land and you’re going to have a problem. The material composition is that of a wet-suit.
- Water Sandal –
Although the term sandal is used, these are more or less a shoe, with benefits of a sandal. They are similar to the typical aqua shoe but without the toe protection.
- Boat Shoes –
Also known as deck shoes, these are what you will find, as the name suggests, people using on boats, and they are typically slip-resistant and not very efficient to swim in. They are made to walk on hard, wet surfaces without slipping. Some are made of oil-coated leather, and they are usually worn without socks.
- Fivefingers –
Fivefingers are made by a few brands, but the most notable are by Vibram. These are highly versatile shoes that can be used in many instances, from a boat deck to the beach, to the backyard pool.
- Beach Shoes –
Beach shoes is another broad term that some companies use to market sandals, slippers and other types of water-use footwear. There really is no absolute beach shoe, but if any type would be the owner of the term, the typical aqua shoe would make the cut.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Why use water shoes instead of being barefoot, or using regular shoes?
A: As mentioned previously, water shoes not only provide a safe barrier between rocks and other objects, they also provide slip protection, are much more comfortable than regular shoes, are much lighter in weight (not to mention practical), and easily drain. A quality water shoe won’t break down due or fall apart due to moisture damage, and you won’t need to worry about mold either. What are water shoes used for? Well, in short, to walk through water effectively, with a degree of protection.
Q: How many different types of water shoes are there?
A: This was also covered previously, but if you missed it, there are four main types, but countless terms are used and sometimes the line between each is blurred. The main types with easily distinguishable differences are boat shoes, water sandals, wet shoes, and aqua shoes.
Q: Will water ruin my standard shoes?
A: The easy answer is, absolutely! But, certain materials break down due to moisture more easily than others. Don’t ruin your walking shoes. Water shoes are crafted to withstand water, with material and seams that do not fall apart due to constantly being wet. That’s what they’re made for.
Q: Are water shoes good for hiking?
A: Some are. You need to make sure to get the right type. You also need to be aware that any strenuous hikes may render any water shoes useless, so we recommend easy hikes if you use a water shoe. A perfect water shoe for hiking would be the Merrell All Out Blaze Sieve, and similar types would suffice.