Best Water Shoes for Kayaking

August 29, 2017

Best Water Shoes for Kayaking
Table of Contents

When you prepare to go kayaking, you probably don’t put much thought into the shoes you'll bring for your trip. But, as anyone who has kayaked before will say, picking shoes poorly suited for the adventure can make the day less fun and more frustrating. Cold feet could be just the start, you could spend the rest of the day with squishy shoes and even end up with blisters.

Fortunately, there are water shoes that are ideal for kayaking. Here are some things to consider when choosing your shoes to make sure you get the pair that’s right for you:

Water Temperature

When you are kayaking, you will get in and out of the boat quite a lot, and if you are kayaking in cold water, you are going to want good, warm shoes. Many water shoes are made of neoprene, a material that is similar to rubber but not as durable as polyurethane. Shoes made from neoprene are ideal for colder waters, where they stay warm and can keep your feet protected.

If you are kayaking in very cold water, you need to be careful to avoid getting hypothermia in your feet. A good neoprene shoe, about 4 mm thick, will serve you very well in this situation and keep your feet warm.

Neoprene is also excellent at draining water, meaning that if you are in a warmer area, the shoes will stay relatively cool on your feet.


No matter where you go kayaking, you will have to take the terrain into consideration, both for the trip itself and for the footwear you’ll bring. If you are kayaking in a rocky, rough area, you’ll need to make sure the shoes you buy are up to the challenge!

If you’re walking over rough terrain with jagged rocks, you’ll need a shoe with a thick sole that can take the edge off the impact. If you are in a muddy terrain, you’ll need a shoe that dries quickly and drains water well. For smooth surfaces, you’ll want a good tread so you don’t slip. And no matter where you go, you’ll want closed toe to keep your toes protected.


A shoe should not weigh you down, even when filled with water! Typical sneakers do not drain water well, so when they fill, they can get much heavier than they otherwise would be. In a boat, this may not be a huge issue, but any time you get in or out, that extra weight can really takes its toll!

Shoe Height

If your kayaking trip goes through muddy terrain, or you expect it to be cold, you may want to get a shoe that is higher than a typical sneaker, more akin to a boot. You can even get shoes that stretch all the way up to your knee if you want. The higher the shoe, the more protection from the cold and the elements, but you’ll need to make sure they have a good snug fit, because water will pool and not drain properly if they are too loose. Speaking of...

Good Fit

You’re going to want your kayaking shoes to be more snug than the shoes you wear for typical, day-to-day use. You don’t want them so tight that they cut off circulation, but you do not want them to let water pour in from the sides either. You want tight enough to prevent dirt from getting in.

You should be able to flex your foot easily in the shoe, but you don’t want anything too loose around them. Think of the water shoe more like a larger sock and you have the right idea.


Water shoes do not always resemble wet suit shoes or the booty style you may remember. You can get nice water shoes that look like sneakers, even up close. The sneaker-style may not be quite as good as the booty style or neoprene water shoes, but they will be vastly superior to a typical sneaker in muddy and wet terrain.

No Cotton Socks!

When you settle on a pair of shoes, make sure you do not wear cotton socks underneath! Cotton absorbs water but does not dry quickly, nor does it keep your feet warm. Best to go barefoot, or get a water sock to go with your shoes.

If you take the topics described in this article to heart when you plan your kayaking trip, you will be able to settle on a pair of shoes that is perfect for your needs. They will be warm, comfortable, snug, and protective. You’ll be ready to enjoy kayaking in no time!