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Top Canoeing & Kayaking Shoes for Every Budget and Style
One of my favorite parts of going canoeing, kayaking and paddle boarding is that you do not need to bring too much gear for your trip. However, this means that what you do bring matters, and a good pair of kayaking shoes acts as the foundation for every successful paddle trip.
Inside of a kayak or canoe, you are likely to stay relatively dry. However, we all know that paddle trips can end up involving unplanned portaging, swimming or heavy lifting. For these rather spontaneous moments in the water, having the right pair of water shoes is crucial. In this guide, we have researched multiple different materials, fits and styles to help you decide which kayaking shoes fit your needs as a paddler.
But first, why wear water shoes for kayaking at all?
Many outdoors people often question whether you need to wear shoes while paddle boarding and kayaking. Doesn’t barefoot paddling create a closer connection to nature? What can a pair of water shoes offer that my other athletic shoes can’t?
While these musings have good intentions, the consequences of wearing ill-fitting water shoes while paddling can be quite drastic. Wearing water shoes protects your feet from all of the types of terrain you may encounter on your trip (such as sharp rocks and roots). On both land and water, proper-fitting water shoes offer support, stability and traction needed to embrace the great outdoors.
That being said, take a look below to see the multiple styles of water shoes and how finding the right kayaking shoes doesn’t have to break your bank.
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3 Types of Water Shoes for Kayaking & Paddling
Water shoes will look like your typical athletic shoe, but are made out of waterproof and breathable material. Since they are built with more support, water shoes are an ideal choice if your trip includes hiking between paddling sites or includes diverse terrain.
If you are planning a backcountry paddle trip, have to portage, or want to explore trails while camping, water shoes offer the proper coverage and durability required for rugged adventures.
Water Booties are an excellent choice if you are paddling in a slim or compact kayak. They are usually made out of neoprene, a wetsuit-like material, that makes the booties a slim and lightweight option for outdoor adventuring.
While water booties are an awesome choice for paddling in small vessels and colder climates, they do not provide as much protection for your feet as water shoes and water sandals. So, if you are paddling in a rocky area or want to hike between paddle trips, water booties may not be the best option.
Water Sandals are similar to water shoes, but usually have less material covering the foot. However, less material does not mean less support and structure. This type of shoe has open and closed-toe options which makes it ideal for any type of paddle trip.
Water Sandals are well-suited for all types of paddle trips, especially those in warm or mild climates. If you are new to kayaking or like to have your feet free, water sandals provide the perfect balance between breathability and durability.
What to Look for in Canoeing & Kayaking Shoes for Paddling
Wearing durable water shoes becomes increasingly important as your paddle trips become more challenging. When canoeing or kayaking, simply wearing flip flops or crocs will not give you the proper support for activities both inside and outside the boat.
When purchasing water shoes for kayaking, it is best to look for a design that supports the entire foot and ankle. This can come in the form of an ankle or toe strap, a thick rubber sole and possible shoelaces or velcro. By having these components, your feet can move freely yet have enough structure to avoid injury.
- Rubber Sole
- Grip Texture
- Textile and Synthetic Fabrics
Flexibility in water shoes compliments the need for durability described above. While sound structure is important, water shoes are meant to allow your feet to move freely. When you are out on the water, things can change pretty rapidly. You have to be able to easily adapt to changing tides, currents and water levels.
The best water shoes for kayaking understand the need for this versatility and use materials that allow your feet to stay grounded and moving. Materials such as neoprene and mesh are commonly used in water shoes because they are quick-drying and lightweight. As a result, you don’t have to worry about waterlogged kayaking shoes slowing you down.
- Textile and Synthetic Materials
Although water shoes may look similar to regular sandals, they are specifically designed to handle water and other natural elements. Whether you are a novice paddler or an expert, purchasing water shoes with proper weather-resistant materials is a must. Otherwise, your shoes will easily deteriorate, which can be even more dangerous than wearing no shoes at all.
Some kayaking shoes use rubber and leather to achieve a waterproof sandal. These types of water shoes are great for multi-day trips in moderate climates. If you are paddling in colder temperatures and want added insulation, look for water shoes made out of neoprene, a wetsuit-like material.
Comfort, Fit and Style
Who says water shoes can’t be fashionable! In this market, there is a wide variety of fits and styles of water shoes. While looking through the various colors and patterns of water shoes is thrilling, it is important to look at the construction of the shoe to see if it fits your needs as a paddler.
Some water shoes cover your toes while others leave them exposed; both choices are fine, but take into consideration the type of terrain you may encounter on your trip. For backcountry paddling or trips with portages, having shoes that cover your toes may be a better option. Whereas kayakers exploring warm or tropical climates may want a lighter and more open shoe design.
Along with the open versus closed-toe design, kayaking shoes can have traditional shoelaces, bungee lacing or slip on and off. For quick and easy access, slip-on water shoes check all of the boxes and are usually made out of neoprene (an added bonus)! However, if your trip may involve portaging, hiking or climbing, it is best to choose a pair of water shoes with some type of laces or ankle strap.
- Mesh or Synthetic Fabric
- Velcro, Slip-On or Shoelaces
- Open-Toe or Closed-Toe Options
A good pair of water shoes does not have to be overly expensive. Most of the time, the difference in price comes from the type of materials used in shoe construction. For example, water shoes made with vegan leather tend to be pricer than shoes made from synthetic fabrics and textiles.
If you are an avid paddler, purchasing water shoes should be seen as an investment for all of your future trips. Once you decide on your desired style and fit, water shoes will last you a long period of time (and are usually the only shoes I bring on my own paddle trips).
However, if you are new to kayaking or don’t frequently go paddling, water shoes do not have to be a major investment. There are plenty of inexpensive options below to get you started on the right foot.
For the sake of convenience and clarity, the dollar sign symbols below will indicate the price of the kayaking shoes in this guide. Price should never be an obstacle for getting outside! Below, you will find a range of water shoes best for canoeing, kayaking and paddling that we have determined as the best buys in 2021.
- $= $20.00-$49.00
- $$= $50.00-$79.00
Our main goal with this guide is to help you make an informed decision on the best water shoes for your own activities, budget, and style. Here are our top picks:
Best Kayaking Shoes for Every Budget & Style
Best Overall Water Shoe for Kayaking
- Price: $$-$$$
- Materials: Vegan-friendly leather construction
- Notable Features: Rubber sole, adjustable ankle strap with polyester jacquard webbing for a customized fit
- Pros: Lightweight, completely weatherproof and easily adjustable, great for a variety of paddle trips
- Cons: Expensive, not much toe protection
If you are looking for a versatile water shoe, there is nothing that can beat the Chaco Z2 Classic Sport. Whether you are an avid paddler or are looking for the perfect beach-day shoe, Chacos are an excellent option.
These water shoes have a thick rubber sole which protects the bottom of your feet from rocks, sticks and anything else you may encounter on your trip. Besides this protection, these shoes have an open and airy top so your feet can move freely. The ankle and toe straps are easily adjustable (and give an awesome tan line if your’re under the sun).
The bottom line? The Chaco Z2 Classic Sport is the best water shoe for an all-around day on the water. Chacos has mastered the balance between stability and flexibility so your feet feel supported yet free throughout your entire outdoor adventure.
CHECK REVIEWS & PRICES FOR THE CHACO ZX2 CLASSIC SPORT:
Best for Backcountry Trips
- Price: $$$
- Materials: Mesh, 100% fabric with a synthetic sole
- Notable Features: Mesh lining with odor-preventing technology, cushioned with a protective UniFly midsole
- Pros: Breathable mesh sides, high durability
- Cons: Takes longer to dry, expensive
When you are up to your knees in mud portaging a canoe, you want a water shoe that can support your feet and help you maintain control. The Merrill All Out Blaze Aero Sport is an awesome water shoe designed to help you on the most rugged of paddle trips.
The best part of the Merrill All Out Blaze Aero Sport is the combination of mesh paneling and a synthetic sole. These elements allow for air and water to move through the shoe while still allowing for great traction on wet surfaces.
So if you have a backcountry adventure ahead of you, you may want to test out the Merrill All Out Blaze Aero Sport. From hiking along the shoreline to far-out paddling, these shoes offer the durability needed to enjoy some intense paddle trips.
CHECK REVIEWS & PRICES FOR THE MERRILL ALL OUT BLAZE:
Best for Cold Climate Paddling
- Price: $
- Materials: 100% neoprene
- Notable Features: No-slip grip, maximum breathability and quick-drying
- Pros: Inexpensive, easy on-off design
- Cons: Secure fit relies on neoprene (no laces or straps)
If you are new to paddling and do not want to spend too much money on a pair of water shoes, you need to look no further than the Speedo Surfwalker 3.0 Water Shoe. With easy on-off access, these neoprene water shoes will fit you like a glove.
Being made out of neoprene, you can expect great insulation from cold temperatures and a quick drying time once out of the water. With kayaking shoes like the Speedo Surfwalker 3.0 Water Shoe, you really get the best of both worlds. The tight-fitting neoprene provides a secure yet lightweight skin for your feet that allows for a full range of motion.
For easy paddle trips, especially in colder climates, the Speedo Surfwalker 3.0 Water Shoe is a great option. Although the sole of this shoe is not as robust as others on this guide, it is one of the best water shoes for kayaking, especially for kids.
CHECK REVIEWS & PRICES FOR THE SPEEDO SURFWALKER 3.0 WATER SHOE:
Best for Paddle Boarding
- Price: $
- Materials: Quick-dry materials
- Notable Features: Three toe design, ultra-grip outsole provides maximum traction, slip-on
- Pros: Inexpensive, quick-drying
- Cons: Is not the best fit for flat fleet, few color choices
Although you can wear the Body Glove 3T Barefoot Max Water Shoe for any outdoor occasion, these shoes really shine in the areas of paddle boarding, wake boarding and windsurfing. Since the Body Glove 3T Barefoot Max Water Shoe has awesome traction and individual toe grips, it is great for any water activity that involves a board.
This quick-drying water shoe is perfect for the adventurous outdoors person. The Body Glove 3T Barefoot Max Water Shoe is durable enough to handle some harsh conditions yet hugs the ankle in a comfortable way.
What does having secure support mean in a water shoe? It means that you have the freedom to own the ocean (or any waterway of your choice). The Body Glove 3T Barefoot Max Water Shoe is definitely the right choice for an adventurous spirit looking for an inexpensive pair of water shoes for kayaking and paddling.
CHECK REVIEWS & PRICES FOR THE BODY GLOVE 3T BAREFOOT MAX:
Best for Stability
- Price: $$
- Materials: Neoprene
- Notable Features: High-traction rubber sole for support and traction, zipper on the back for easy on-off
- Pros: Inexpensive, highly protective, great traction
- Cons: High-rise fit restricts foot motion
While this neoprene masterpiece may look intimidating, it is one of the best water shoes for kayaking and other water sports. The NRS Freestyle Wetshoes offers support in a stylish way so you can show off those killer paddle board moves while staying safe.
The NRS Freestyle Wetshoes is a great choice for avid paddlers, especially if you are paddling in a colder climate. The dual action of neoprene and synthetic materials makes these kayaking shoes completely weatherproof while still having some give.
Reaching the mid-calf, these shoes could be difficult to take on and off. However, the NRS Freestyle Wetshoes has a secret zipper in the back that creates easy on-off access. You can go from water play to relaxing on the beach in no time!
CHECK REVIEWS & PRICES FOR THE NRS FREESTYLE WETSHOE:
Best for Warm Weather Adventures
- Price: $$-$$$
- Materials: ChacoGrip rubber and fabric
- Notable Features: Double-strapped polyester jacquard webbing for a customized fit, antimicrobial application for odor control
- Pros: Stable rubber sole and shock absorbing heel
- Cons: Expensive, little toe protection
Chacos kayaking shoes have nearly perfected the art of stylish activewear. The Chaco ZX2 Classic Athletic Water Shoe is another great option for avid paddlers and novices alike. With an adjustable ankle and toe strap, the Chaco ZX2 Classic Athletic Water Shoe is one of the most comfortable water shoes on the market.
This versatile water shoe is best for canoeing and kayaking, but can work in a multitude of terrains. Durable yet flexible, the Chaco ZX2 Classic Athletic Water Shoe has all of the right elements for an epic pair of water shoes. Best of all, the two-toned straps come in a variety of colors and designs. Who says water shoes can’t be fashionable?
CHECK REVIEWS & PRICES FOR THE CHACO ZX2 CLASSIC ATHLETIC WATER SHOE:
Best for Rocky Shores
- Price: $
- Materials: Neoprene
- Notable Features: Hardened sole for puncture-resistant protection, easy on-off, non-marking traction sole
- Pros: Inexpensive, quick drying
- Cons: Tight wetsuit fit, few color choices
If you are looking for an inexpensive water shoe for kayaking with great traction, than the NeoSport Wetsuits Premium Neoprene 3mm Low Top Pull-On Boot has got you covered. The shoe’s puncture-proof sole is great for more rugged trails.
Unlike other water shoes in this guide, the NeoSport Wetsuits Premium Neoprene 3mm Low Top Pull-On Boot is an easy on-off shoe that comes above the ankle line. This offers extra security from possible water leaking in.
You really can’t go wrong with purchasing a pair of water shoes like the NeoSport Wetsuits Premium Neoprene 3mm Low Top Pull-On Boot. The company’s attention to design is simplistic yet well thought-out and will do the trick for ay type of paddle excursion.
CHECK REVIEWS & PRICES FOR THE NEOSPORT WETSUIT PULL-ON BOOT:
Best for Paddling Trips with Portaging
- Price: $
- Materials: Mesh
- Notable Features: Lightweight midsole with optimum cushioning, open mesh for breathability
- Pros: Durable yet flexible fit, lace up
- Cons: Does not dry very quickly
Lace up those shoes! The ALEADER Mesh Slip-On is a wonderful inexpensive option for paddlers who also want to explore other terrain. One of our favorite parts of kayaking is the possibility of discovering new environments and terrains. So, when you happen upon a hidden island you want to explore, the ALEADER Mesh Slip-On will help you stay safe and in control.
The mesh paneling on these kayaking shoes makes them breathable and light weight. This makes ALEADER Mesh Slip-On a great choice for longer paddle trips where your feet need to breathe. The added sock liner also helps create a cool and dry environment for you toes.
If you are looking for a water shoe that resembles an athletic shoe, the ALEADER Mesh Slip-On is defiantly one to check out. It has more structure and durability than water sandals and water booties, which makes it great for the unplanned- yet most memorable- paddle stops.
CHECK REVIEWS & PRICES FOR THE ALEADER MESH SLIP=ON:
Best for Foot Support & Security
- Price: $$-$$$
- Materials: Rubber and fabric
- Notable Features: Puncture-resistant rubber sole, adjustable fit tightening strap, easy slip-on
- Pros: Great support, hard sole and breathable sides
- Cons: Expensive, wearing wet can cause irritation
No need to worry about stubbing your toes in these trusty water shoes. The KEEN Evofit One Water Sandal is one of the best kayaking shoes for intermediate kayakers who are ready to make an investment in kayak gear.
The KEEN Evofit One Water Sandal has a great balance between durability and breathability. With open paneling along the sides, your feet have room to move and breathe, but the closed-toe protection is key for more challenging paddling.
With some mesh and the open paneling, the KEEN Evofit One Water Sandal won’t get waterlogged and has a moderate drying time.
It is an all-around good water sandal for kayakers and excels in the areas of support and security. If you have flat feet or weak foot muscles, the KEEN Evofit One Water Sandal has additional cushioning to keep your feet happy all journey long.
CHECK REVIEWS & PRICES FOR THE KEEN EVOFIT ONE WATER SANDAL:
Best Closed-Toe Kayaking Shoe
- Price: $$-$$$
- Materials: Mesh and rubber
- Notable Features: Closed-toe sandal with multiple drainage ports and quick-dry mesh lining, shock-absorbing heel
- Pros: Bungee lacing, great toe protection, breathable sides
- Cons: Expensive, little room water flow
Besides Chacos, Teva is one of the top companies to make water shoes for kayaking and paddling. While we love open-toe options, the Teva Omnium Closed Toe Water Shoe is another great choice for any type of paddle trip.
The Teva Omnium Closed-Toe Water Shoe’s bungee lacing creates easy on-off access and is adjustable. Secure around the ankle, these kayaking shoes will not come off in the water or on land. With open panels on the side, these shoes will not get weighed down with water and are extremely breathable.
With extra cushioning and special attention to a shock absorbing heel, these shoes are ready to be taken to the rugged outdoors. If you are interested in hiking or walking in addition to kayaking, the Teva Omnium Closed Toe Water Water Shoe is a great pair of shoes to through in your day pack!
CHECK REVIEWS & PRICES FOR THE TEVA OMNIUM CLOSED-TOE WATER SHOE:
Best Water Shoes to Wear for Kayaking and Paddling
If there is one thing you take away from this guide, it is that wearing the right water shoes for your body is one of the best ways to have a safe and rewarding paddle trip. Our feet come in all different shapes and sizes, so it is important to find a pair that fits your individual needs.
Hopefully, the guide above provided some clarity on what to look for when purchasing kayaking shoes, and makes you excited to get out on the water.
FAQ’s for Wearing Water Shoes While Kayaking
Will wearing wet water shoes cause chaffing and irritation?
Water shoes are designed to get wet and dry quickly. Because of this, your feet should not stay wet for very long after being submerged in water (yay!). If your kayaking shoes fit your feet correctly, chaffing and irritation should not be an issue. You can fit your water shoes correctly by adjusting the straps around your ankles, heel and toes to make sure they are snug and supportive.
Can I wash my water shoes?
Absolutely! While washing your water shoes between trips is not necessary, rinsing them with warm water will help get rid of unwanted smells, dirt and grime that you may have picked up along your epic journey.
Will my water shoes float if they come off in the water?
While different types of kayaking shoes are made up of different materials, most shoes are designed to float if they come loose in the water. Water booties and water shoes may fill up with water if they come loose from your feet, but there is plenty of time to snatch them from the water before they start sink.
How often should I replace my water shoes?
Like most shoes, water shoes do need to be replaced after being worn for long periods of time. One way to tell if it is time to get a new pair of kayaking shoes is if the tread on the bottom of the shoe is worn down so you can no longer see the pattern designed for gripping wet surfaces. If you are able to easily bend your water shoes in half, that is also a sign that it is time for a new pair of shoes (water booties are an exception here).
Are water shoes unisex?
No, most companies have separate water shoes to fit the proportions of men and women’s feet. Within men and women’s options, factors such as arch support, flexibility and comfort should be things that you are looking for when purchasing any type of water shoe.
What to Pack for Kayaking and Paddling
- Swimsuit: Wearing a swimsuit is essential for being out on the water! When canoeing and kayaking, chances are you are going to get wet, so best to be prepared! Click here to compare men’s and women’s styles and prices for our favorite swimsuits.
- Sunglasses: Being out on the water is beautiful, but the water can really reflect light! Make sure to bring a pair of sunglasses and croakies to keep them from falling off.
- Hat: It’s best to keep the sun off of your head to keep you cool. Whether you prefer a nice bucket hat or a vintage baseball cap, keeping cool will ensure an awesome trip.
- Water Bottle: Keeping hydrated is no joke! Paddling is a great way to exercise and relax, but that means it takes a lot of energy too! Make sure to drink plenty of water throughout your trip with these cool water bottles.
- Sunscreen and Bug Spray: Don’t let the elements stop you from having an amazing paddle! I recommend bringing sunscreen and bug spray in the boat with you to ward off any pests and sunburns.
Now that you have the right pair of kayaking shoes, the possibilities for your outdoor adventures are limitless. Don’t know where to start? Check out our kayaking destinations page to explore some awesome paddling options.
Related Links to the Best Water Shoes for Kayaking & Paddling
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