12 Best Water Shoes (Our Guide for 2021)

With scatters of hidden sharp rocks, spiky urchins, sticky sand, and jellyfish, lakes, rivers, and the ocean posed a risk to our sensitive soles to begin with.

Now, with sharp plastics, broken glass, and god-knows-what-else finding their way into our local bodies of water, it’s even more essential to kit yourself out with some lovely water shoes.

Water shoes allow for the free passage of water and dry incredibly quickly, making them the perfect bit of gear for watersports and river hiking.

So, to help you get the protection you need to get out for some quality time in the water, we’ve rated and reviewed 12 of the very best water shoes you can buy, and what’s more, we’ve composed an in-depth buyer’s guide and FAQ section too. Let’s go!

Ocean Calling to You?

Here’s our number one pick for a quick buy, so you can get your feet wet sooner rather than later.

OUR TOP PICK

Vibram FiveFingers Men's V-Aqua Water Shoes, Grey, 11/11.5 UK

Our number one pick is the pinnacle of water shoe technology. Made from a wool/synthetic blend, they arrive at an intersection between second-skin slippers and tough walking shoes.

The synthetic fibers help to keep them form-fitting, while wool boosts breathability and helps the passage of moisture.

Vibram is a company named for its founder who famously crafted the very first rubber-lug shoes. Needless to say, they’ve come a long way since then, and the product of their efforts is the Vibram Megagrip.

This Vibram sole has a wide surface area for gripping to slick, smooth surfaces like those at water parks or pools, and plenty of gapping to help you navigate gravelly loose-pack terrain.

The toes may be a deal-breaker for some as they’re crafted separately like the fingers of a glove. While some will find that material between their toes unbearable, independent toes do offer enhanced traction and flexibility.

They are quite a minimal design for a walking shoe, so it’s a good idea to wear them frequently for everyday activities to strengthen your feet before taking on any challenging water-strewn terrains.

Pros

  • Great wool/synthetic textile blend
  • Very grippy rubber sole
  • Great for both watersports and hiking
  • Independent toes increase traction and improve flexibility
  • Superfast drying
  • Easily adjusted
  • Comfortable

Cons

  • Not the most aesthetically pleasing shoes in the world
  • Your feet muscles need to acclimatize to them before you walk on challenging terrains
  • Pricey

EDITORS CHOICE

Beach Water Shoes Mens Womens Quick Dry Aqua Shoes Unisex Swim Shoes with Drainage Holes for Swim,Walking,Yoga,Lake,Beach,Garden,Driving,Boating(Speed Laces Black, 3.5UK)

Our second pair of sea-slippers are a much more traditional design that can be used for pretty much any activity involving water. From swimming to boating, these shoes will keep you safe and comfortable.

With a full gum rubber grip, you should be perfectly safe walking on wet surfaces and even to a certain degree, oil-slick surfaces.

The grip runs all the way around to the peak of the toes, meaning that there is optimal sole to ground connection at every point of each step.

Gum rubber is also super durable and has an exceedingly cloudish and comfortable feel underfoot which is essential when navigating those rocky shores and darkling shoals.

If you’re looking for shoes that are easy to put on and take off, these are one of the best designs on the market. They have a speed-lace design that’s loosened and tightened in seconds using a drawstring toggle.

Fully vented from the fabric upper down to the outsole, water can pass freely, and when you’re on dry land, so can air, drying them off, leaving you ready for the next stage of your adventure.

Pros

  • Affordable
  • Super comfortable
  • Gum rubber grip
  • Comfortable insole
  • Can be used for multiple water-based activities
  • Fast drying for the most part.
  • Available in a ton of different colours.

Cons

  • Can be hard to clean, especially if sand gets inside.
  • The insole doesn’t dry as quickly as the rest of the shoe

BEST VALUE

Keen Men's Newport H2 Sport Sandal, Bison Wet Sand, 10.5 UK

Our third pair certainly aren’t winning any beauty awards, but they’re as accommodating as water footwear gets!

Featuring a deep EVA footbed that molds to the shape of your foot over time, every time you wear H2 water shoes is an investment in your future comfortability.

The outsoles on the H2s are really special as well. Made from PFC and biocide-free components, they feature a similar siping to that you’d find on the tires of 4x4s to help gain traction on wet surfaces.

Not even the slickest moss-covered river rocks will be able to buck you, and what’s more, they’re completely non-marking.

They’re a fairly raised sandal and the outsole curls around to offer complete toe protection, but due to the gaps in the upper, they’re not going to be the best option for extremely treacherous terrain with possible glass or plastic shards.

That said, the open-air design makes them some of the fastest drying on the list.

Pros

  • Bungy speed lacing
  • Amazingly foot-kind EVA footbed
  • Eco outsoles are really grippy and non-marking (a definite boon for sailors)
  • Anti-odor treated
  • Incredibly fast drying
  • Raised footbed
  • Total toe protection

Cons

  • Feet are vulnerable through gaps in the upper
  • Can be quite dear

RUNNER UP

Mabove Water Shoes Womens Mens Quick Dry Barefoot Sports Aqua Shoes for Swimming Pool Beach Boating Snorkeling Diving Lake Yoga(Black SD901,11 UK,46 EU)

This pair of Mabove water shoes are very similar to the much-loved Ice Unicorn shoes in our second spot.

They feature the bungee cord speed lace toggle for quick changing or for emptying any sneaky little pebbles that creep their way in.

They also have the gum outsole that runs right to the peak of the toe for maintaining grip as your feet flex.

Each shoe has six draining holes in the outsole to ensure the passage of water quickly while preventing the entrance of any solids.

Not even sand can get through the drainage system, making these the perfect option for beach walkers, sea-swimmers, and surfers.

The outer is made of a breathable polyester and spandex blend that vents moisture and air exceptionally well while keeping the inside of the shoes firmly against your skin, preventing any rubbing that can cause painful blisters and ruin future activities.

Light as a feather and so flexible that you can literally fold them in two for packing, these are great shoes with a neutral aesthetic, perfect for taking with you on those sunny, ocean-side getaways.

Pros

  • Fast drying
  • Breathable
  • Well vented
  • Form-fitting fabrics prevent rubbing
  • Lightweight 
  • Not even sand fits through the outsole vents
  • Great price
  • Gum rubber outsole
  • Flexible
  • Bungy speed lace

Cons

  • Not suitable for particularly rugged environments

RUNNER UP

VIFUUR Water Sports Shoes Barefoot Quick-Dry Aqua Yoga Socks Slip-on for Men Women Kids Black-40/41

Coming in at number five, we have one of the most popular water shoes ever made.

Design-wise, they keep things nice and simple, so if you’re looking for something lowkey, perhaps just for swimming or yoga, these are the ones for you.

They don’t offer too much in the way of heavy-duty protection, but the non-slip outsoles and toe guards are firm enough to completely eliminate any pain felt from walking on rocks, and they’ll probably serve as pretty good protection against weever fish spines too.

Another polyester and spandex blend, these are the most sock-like and form-fitting of all the water shoes on our list.

They have a very nice feel underfoot, and the smooth upper is gentle on your skin, so you can say goodbye to blisters.

They can run a little small as they’re a laceless slip-on design, so it might be worth ordering two pairs to get the sizing right and returning the ones that don’t fit.

Otherwise, we can’t really fault these water shoes. They’re well priced, tried and tested, available in a plethora of different colours, and extremely versatile.

Pros

  • Good textile blend
  • Easy on your feet
  • Very effective non-slip grip
  • Slip-on design
  • Available in tons of awesome colours
  • Extremely flexible
  • Fast drying
  • Sock-style fit
  • Best budget pick on our list

Cons

  • Not heavy-duty enough for hiking
  • Machine washing may fast-track disrepair

RUNNER UP

ZHR Mens Water Shoes Quick Dry Aqua Shoes for Swim Beach Surf Outdoor Navy Red UK10

This ZHR design has the most innovative grip pattern of any of the water shoes on our list, so if you’re looking to tackle some horrendously slippy terrain such as algae-covered rock pools or wet tiles, these are your safest bet.

Made from anti-slip rubber lugs shaped strategically to provide extra grip on pressure points across the base of your foot, these outsoles will keep you on your feet and raring to go.

They feature the same speed lace bungee cord system as many of our other picks so you can don and doff them with hardly any effort at all whether they’re wet or dry.

The outer material is made from a strong synthetic fiber, and the inner material is a mesh fabric that provides a completely breathable enclosure for your feet.

After the Keen H2 water shoes in our third spot, these are the most comfortable.

The synthetic insole provides plenty enough cushion for traversing even the pointiest, sole-shredding terrains; however, this liner can slow down the drying process a little.

Highly versatile, durable, and super grippy, these ZHR water shoes are the perfect alternative to our pricey Vibram shoes in the number one spot.

Pros

  • Innovative grip pattern
  • Reinforced toe treads
  • Available in lots of different colours
  • Breathable mesh inner
  • Machine washable
  • Similar to Vibram water shoes but much cheaper
  • Bungy speed laces
  • Very comfortable insole

Cons

  • Not as fast drying as some of our other picks

RUNNER UP

Merrell Men's Hydro MOC Water Shoe, Black, 11.5 UK

These Croc-style water shoes have pretty bold aesthetics, so they’re pretty polarizing, but if you can get over their somewhat garish look, they’ll send your feet to watery heaven.

Much like standard Crocs have holes to maximize breathability, Hydro Mocs have a great deal more to facilitate maximum drainage and quick-drying.

Combine that with their EVA footbed and you’ve got a comfortable design indeed. The holes do leave you a little exposed to cold air and UV rays, so if it’s sunny, make sure you apply suncream to your feet.

These are the easiest of all 12 pairs of water shoes on our list to clean. Their foam structure can simply be rinsed off or if necessary dunked in some warm soapy water and then rinsed.

They’re finding popular use as dock shoes, so if you’ve got a long sailing trip ahead of you and you’re worried about being on your feet for long hours, these will keep you feeling fresh.

Due to their looser fit, they’re not suitable for swimming excursions, but for walks on the beach or getting about poolside, they’re the ultimate water shoe. Just slip them on and you’re ready to go in comfort and safety.

Pros

  • Mega comfortable EVA footbeds
  • Incredibly easy to clean
  • Holes provide instant drainage
  • Super breathable
  • Lightweight
  • Available in loads of jazzy marbled colours
  • Grippy octopus-style outsole

Cons

  • Not a suited to watersports
  • Not the prettiest of shoes

RUNNER UP

Merrell Men'S Waterpro Maipo 2 Water Shoes, Black, 11 Uk

This pair of Merrell Water Shoes are the ultimate river hiking design ready to carry you vast distances in challenging terrain.

Coated in a breathable mesh, you’ll have constant airflow to your hard-working feet no matter how intensive you like your walks or trail runs.

The midsole contains strategically placed shock pads to keep you comfortable while jumping or running on hard surfaces, and the Vibram TC5+ outsole is incredibly well designed.

It’s highly durable, and the grip pattern is more than aggressive enough to tackle the toughest of surface-types, but unfortunately, it’s a synthetic rubber, so there’s your carbon footprint to consider as well as your own.

Due to the specialism as a walking water shoe, it should be mentioned that they’re a little too heavy for swimming, and we wouldn’t recommend them for most water sports either.

They’ll be great for activities like kayaking, but for any kind of boarding, they might feel a little bit awkward.

Featuring an omni-fit speed lacing toggle system, stabilizing synthetic overlays, removable EVA water treated insoles, and fantastic drainage, these water shoes are going to let you conquer the path less traveled and some routes that shouldn’t be considered paths at all.

Pros

  • Perfect for river hiking and trail running
  • Very supportive and comfortable
  • Shock pads in midsole reduce impacts
  • Vibram designed outsole
  • Can be used for regular hiking
  • Highly breathable mesh upper
  • Toe protection
  • Speed lace system
  • Incredibly lightweight for hiking shoes
  • Lovely EVA insole

Cons

  • Not great for beach, swimming, or board sports
  • Can be pricey

RUNNER UP

Beach Water Shoes Mens Womens Quick Dry Aqua Shoes Unisex Swim Shoes with Drainage Holes for Swim,Walking,Yoga,Lake,Beach,Garden,Driving,Boating(Black, 7UK)

Aqua Shield’s water shoe design is as innovative as it is comfortable. Rather than the tightening toggle being at the tongue of the shoe, it’s situated at the ankle. As your foot doesn’t flex so much in that area, it offers a consistently snug fit.

The outsole is made of gum rubber, so they’re incredibly grippy, but they have a very mild traction pattern, so they’re not particularly suited to river hiking, but they’re ideal for watersports, poolside activities, and beach holidays.

They grip very well to surf wax, so if you’re planning on shredding some waves this summer, these are a really great budget choice.

The outer material is a tough, but breathable synthetic, and the interior is lined with a plush soft fabric that feels great on the skin even after a good soak. In addition, they’re machine washable, so maintenance is a doddle.

It’s important that you get the right fit with this design. If you’ve got pretty narrow feet, it’s best to go a size lower to ensure they fit close to the skin.

If they’re a little too large, the insoles can shift around when they’re wet.

Pros

  • Very flexible
  • Dry off quickly
  • Nice neutral look
  • Very comfortable
  • Machine washable
  • Perfect for watersports, beach, swimming, and poolside
  • Innovative heel toggle tightening
  • Best price on our list

Cons

  • The insole is glued rather than sewed, so it can loosen and shift after a while
  • May need to go down a size
  • Not for hiking

RUNNER UP

Lakeland Active Men's Eden Aquasport Water Shoes - Black/Hot Lime - 9 UK

Our tenth pick follows the same general principles as our minimal ninth choice.

With a tightening toggle located at the heel, they stay snug to your foot, so you can challenge yourself in the waves without worrying about losing a shoe.

The fabrics are incredibly soft to the touch. Half the upper is a four-way stretch mesh fabric construct to maximize breathability, water passage, and ensure that these shoes are totally true to size. They’re actually made of neoprene, the fabric wetsuits are made out of.

This means that when they’re submerged, they’ll trap a thin layer of water around your foot that gently heats and offers a bit of thermal protection from the icy touch of wild water.

Machine washable, highly flexible, and lightweight, these water shoes will suit watersports such as surfing and kayaking, but they’re not heavy-duty enough to tackle running or hiking.

Unfortunately,  the outsole isn’t crafted from natural rubber, but synthetic rubber. It still provides a good amount of traction on slippery surfaces.

The issue is that the vulcanization process of synthetic rubber is a contributor to global warming. Synthetic rubber also doesn’t have quite the tensile strength as natural rubber.

Pros

  • Flexible
  • Look great
  • Lots of fantastic colour combinations
  • Elasticated ankle fastener toggle
  • Very comfortable
  • Neoprene offers thermal protection
  • Vented upper for breathability and water transfer
  • Machine washable
  • Affordable
  • Grippy sole

Cons

  • Synthetic rubber sole

RUNNER UP

Men Women Water Shoes Quick Dry Adult Beach Swim Barefoot Lightweight Aqua Shoes for Swim Surf Exercise (ZB3015 White, 6.5UK)

Here we have some shoes that are geared towards both water activities and certain dry land exercise such as hit sessions on the mat, yoga, or weight training.

Once you’ve trained your foot muscles to work well in the barefoot-style shoe, you may even enjoy donning them for the odd run.

The gum rubber outsoles are reinforced to provide optimal support and protection without diminishing that articulate feel that water shoes should provide.

The grips are also loaded with 11 drainage holes for speedy water passage and an efficient drying process.

These are so comfortable underfoot, so easy to put on and take off, that they’re commonly used as full-time replacements for house slippers.

The inner is constructed from polyester and spandex, and apart from the sporty rubber patterning, is completely vented for maximum breathability.

With a frontal speed lace bungee toggle tightening system and finger loops on both the tongue and the ankle, these water shoes are convenient as they come, and they’re well priced too. Hurray!

Pros

  • Great price
  • Lots of nice colours available
  • Fully vented polyester and spandex upper
  • Reinforced gum rubber grip
  • Amazingly comfortable
  • They’re very versatile
  • 11 drainage holes vent water efficiently
  • Raised toe protection
  • Speed lace toggle system and two finger loops
  • Available in half sizes

Cons

  • They have a particularly flat heel that may take some getting used to

RUNNER UP

Sixspace Barefoot Water Shoes Men Women Lightweight Ladies Aqua Aerobics Shoes for Swim Running Surfing Driving Diving Kayaking Beach Yoga, Rose, 5 UK

Our final pair of water-walkers are a form-fitting slipper design made of polyester and elastane.

They have no liner to maximize ventilation, and due to their featherweight, they offer an incredibly naked feel. You may even forget you’re wearing them.

The natural rubber outsole is nice and thick for a ‘barefoot’ shoe, offering sufficient protection from rocks, sharp fragments of plastic, glass or shells, and even sea urchins. They’re fully vented too. Once you’re done with water for the day, so are they.

Unfortunately, they’re not machine washable, and should only ever be rinsed with running water, but if you don’t mind having to hose them down every once in a while, these water shoes won’t disappoint.

As there is no lace securing system, you’re better off buying a size smaller than you are just to ensure they fit close to your skin.

Don’t worry about them being too small because they have a decent amount of stretch to them thanks to the elastane.

Suitable applications for the Sixspace Water Shoe are myriad. They’re perfect for watersports of all kinds, boating, swimming, beach walks, river trekking thanks to the thick sole, snorkeling...you name it.

Pros

  • Super lightweight
  • Very versatile
  • Available in a large range of colors, with or without finger loops
  • Nice thick sole with decent grip pattern
  • Great for light river hiking and watersport
  • Easily rinse cleaned
  • Well vented
  • Comfortable
  • Laceless design
  • Good price

Cons

  • They can let a little bit of sand in
  • Rounded toe can be a little restrictive
  • Not machine washable

Best Water Shoes Buying Guide

There’s a lot of variety in the water shoe market at the minute which means you have some thinking to do before you hit the beach.

Let’s discuss some key considerations that will help you narrow your options down.

Intended Activities

Perhaps before you’ve even come up with a budget, you need to think about how you wish to use your water shoes as that will largely determine how much you’ll need to spend.

Not all water shoes are created equal. Some are quite versatile, others are specialist shoes designed for one or two activities exclusively.

Watersports and Beachwear

For beach walking and swimming, a lightweight water shoe is essential. They tend to look like a mix between socks and shoes, and they have very thin, flat outsoles.

They should offer you plenty of protection against pebbles, sharp rocks, and troublesome sea life, but they’re not supportive or protective enough for hiking or trail running.

These kinds of water shoes will work great for watersports such as surfing, wakeboarding, bodyboarding, and jet skiing.

Hiking and Trail Running

For running or hiking water shoes, you should be looking for a much more traditional shoe design such as a lightweight walking boot.

They'll have comfortable and supportive midsoles and have much thicker outsoles with aggressive tread patterns.

The only difference between them and normal walking shoes is their vented soles and incredible breathability.

Versatile

As you’ve seen from our list, there are some water shoes that seem to sit between these two designs. These are the most versatile as they can be used for both slipper and walking shoe activities.

While many people profess their love for these middling designs as running shoes, you will need to let your feet acclimate to them before you undertake any strenuous activity.

Jumping straight into hard-surface cardio exercise wearing these may damage your muscles and joints.

Budget

Coming up with some sort of budget is a fantastic idea! It will help guide you to the right section of the market, speeding up the whole experience exponentially.

Water shoes are often priced according to size, so you’ll need to take that into consideration when you’re coming up with your budget.

Fit

By far the most important factor of water shoes is their fit. They need to feel like a second skin to prevent the lining from rubbing against your feet when they’re wet causing blisters and general soreness.

You’ll also need to consider your own foot shape before finally settling on a pair as some will be designed for narrower feet and some for wider. 

The securing system is the most important part of the fitting process.

Speed Lace System

Water shoes often feature a speed lace system that’s easily tightened or loosened using a toggle.

This kind of lacing is incredibly practical and makes donning and doffing a total breeze.

It also means that you can buy them in your normal foot size as they’re adjustable.

Slip-On

Slip-on water shoes will normally require you to buy down a size as they have no securing systems.

A smaller size ensures they stay firmly on your feet as you splash it up. The last thing you want after wiping out is discovering your shoes belong to the waves now.

Elasticated Ankle

Another common securing system is an elasticated ankle adjusted via a toggle above the heel.

These are normally minimal designs that give you a comfortable slipper feeling. You may also need to buy down a size with these kinds of water shoes as well.

Breathability and Flexibility

So, if water shoes need to be so close to the skin, won’t they be somewhat stifling and uncomfortable? Well, if they’re made from appropriate textiles, no, you should be perfectly comfortable at all times, wet or dry, on sand or hard surfaces.

The reason a good pair of water shoes don’t feel suffocating on your feet is that they’re made out of breathable and flexible materials.

Breathable materials allow for the passage of air and vapor, keeping your feet feeling fresh as a daisy and reducing buildups of sweat.

This is also a huge part of the fast drying process employed by any water shoe worth its salt. Breathable fabrics include cotton, polyester, rayon, wool, and nylon.

It’s important to note that some water shoes, especially slipper-style designs, will use non-breathable fabrics such as neoprene as it keeps you warm in cold water.

What you then have to look for is whether they feature mesh fabrics. Meshed fabrics can help boost the airflow to your feet.

The flexibility of a material will almost always be provided by some form of elastane. This is what keeps your water shoes so snug without causing feelings of restriction.

Elastane isn’t breathable in itself, which is why it needs to be paired with other materials. 

Outsole Vents

The vents in your outsoles allow the free passage of water in and out of your shoe.

The more vents your outsole has, the faster it will drain water and start the drying process. These vents need to be extremely small to prevent sand and other debris from penetrating your outsole and reaching the inside of your shoe.

Machine Washability

Although water shoes seem like they’re well suited for a good spin in the washing machine, a lot of them actually don’t fare too well in there.

In fact, even those that claim to be machine washable will probably wear much faster if you do.

To protect your machine washable water shoes, it’s best to first put them into a mesh fabric bag. This protects them from the rough and tumble without hampering the cleaning process.

Frequently Asked Questions

Should water shoes be tight or loose?

Water shoes need to be fairly tight to prevent them from coming off in the water or rubbing against your feet when wet.

Can you hike in water shoes?

As long as they’re designed for hiking, yes. They’ll have thick outsoles with aggressive treads, Thicker uppers, and shock-absorbing midsoles. Hiking water shoes look very similar to typical water shoes.

Can you wear water shoes in the ocean?

Yes, you can! That’s exactly what a lot of them are designed for.

Do you need water shoes for tubing?

Ideally, yes, but tennis shoes will also provide adequate protection, although they may not be grippy enough.

Final Thoughts

There you have it, river rovers, sea soakers, and lake loungers, twelve awesome water shoes for keeping your feet in top shape as you venture out on your next littoral expedition.

Shopping for the perfect pair for you can be a daunting task, but follow the advice set forth in our buyer’s guide, and you’ll find some in no time.

Get your bags packed. It’s time for an adventure!

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