What makes the best kayak shoes? Stay tuned because we are about to share our favorite kayaking shoes.
When people prepare to go kayaking, the last thing many of us think about, unless we kayak often or are professionals, is what kind of kayaking shoes we will need. Many people assume regular shoes and socks are fine—and these are, but normal socks and shoes often leave you with an uncomfortable, wet feeling as you drive home at the end of the day. Wearing kayaking shoes that were specifically made for the activity—ones that let your feet breathe and expel water while still protecting your skin and body—can make a world of difference when you’re out on the water, and afterward.
While it can be tough to worry about your shoes as you’re eager to get onto the water and you’re excited for the adventure that the day promises, like every other aspect of your trip, planning and thinking ahead for your feet is essential. If you’re camping or taking a kayaking trip especially, you’ll need to consider how to protect your feet as you walk across sharp rocks, while also ensuring that the shoes will dry out and you won’t be stuck with wet shoes and wet socks for days.
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There’s a plethora of kayaking shoes on the market that are designed specifically to help make your kayaking adventures the best and most comfortable they can be. Depending on your lifestyle and needs, there are perfect ones out there for you. You’ll be able to find kayak shoes that fit well, dry fast, keep your feet warm, and stay on, no matter what you do as you’re wearing them. This article explores the best kayak shoes that are available, their features and what they offer, and why you need kayaking shoes in the first place.
Kayaking shoes offer your feet the comfort and stability they need not just for kayaking itself, but also for all the activities you perform outside of the kayak. As you’re walking on the beach or a path to the water, you’ll need sturdy shoes, and as you enter the water, you need something that will protect your feet as you walk among sharp rocks and pebbles.
Kayak shoes should offer you several benefits that regular sneakers or other water shoes don’t. The best kayak shoes should:
- Offer comfort and stability
- Won’t come apart in the toe area
- Dry quickly
- Have rubber traction
- Include a closed toe
The most important things to look for are kayak shoes that won’t come apart and won’t slip off, and water shoes that will offer you protection and traction. One of the worst things that could happen while kayaking is getting injured or losing your shoes and having to go barefoot. All kayak shoes should dry quickly, allowing you to make the trip back home in comfort, or to continue on your trip without the sogginess that normal tennis shoes or sneakers will leave you in.
Kayaking shoes should also have a closed toe, and traction is important for wet and slippery rocks. Sneakers often do not protect against slipping on rocks. Hiking boots are a great option for traction, but they will not dry out as easily as kayaking shoes will.
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When you wear shoes that a re specifically made for the activity you’re doing, you will experience more comfort and fewer slips or accidents. Some people wear socks with their kayak shoes for added comfort or warmth, but you don’t necessarily need to consider this unless you will be entering really cold waters.
Things to Consider When Seeking the Best Water Shoes for Kayaking
Given that there are so many different kinds of kayaking shoes on the market, you have many choices to consider as you pick out the best ones for you. There are certain things you should keep in mind, however, so you don’t end up wasting money on a shoe that doesn’t fit you or doesn’t fit the type of activity you will be doing. Things you should consider include:
Best Material for Kayaking Shoes
The material that is typically used for kayaking shoes is neoprene rubber. It’s the same material that is used for wetsuits; it is very sturdy, dries quickly, and will keep warmth trapped inside shoes. Not only does this material protect your feet, but it’ll ensure you stay warm and healthy as well.
Related: What to Wear Kayaking
A lot of kayaking shoes blend neoprene with titanium, to provide ultimate protection and durability. The soles will always be made of rubber, so you can walk on rocky shores. There are some strap-on shoes that are made of the same material, however, if you end up in the water, these straps can get caught on the rudder system of your kayak and can trap you. If you aren’t an expert kayaker, it’s best to stay away from strap-on shoes.
Weight of Kayaking Shoes
You also don’t want to end up with a shoe that gets really weighed down with water. This will make mobility harder for you and make it more difficult to get your vessel out of the water. The best shoes for kayaking are lightweight and won’t bog you down; they are made so they don’t trap water inside them. If your kayaking shoes were made properly, they should feel as if you’re not even wearing shoes at all.
Style of Kayaking Shoes
Some kayaking shoes look and feel like tennis shoes, and others come up to your calf and look more like boots. You can also find kayak shoes that are called “booties,” which are more like socks, and are great if you’re planning on staying in the kayak for most of your trip and won’t be walking much. There are also shoes that strap or slip on and look a lot like Crocs; if you aren’t planning on doing any exploring and you know the area you’ll be at has a beach or smooth ground, this style will be fine.
As you’re planning your trip and looking into shoes, keep in mind what activities you will be doing. Will you kayak the whole time? Or are you kayaking to a trail head? Are you planning on exploring the beach? Trips that involve a lot of walking require kayak shoes that look like tennis shoes or boots; trips where you’re in the kayak the whole time will be fine with bootie or Croc style shoes.
An important factor you should consider as you pick out shoes is what the temperature of the water will be. If the water will be freezing or it’s a cooler season, you’ll need something that will keep your feet and your legs warm. You’ll also need something that will dry out especially quickly. Depending on where you live or what body of water you’re kayaking in, it may not matter whether it’s summer; water can potentially always be achingly cold and keeping yourself warm and healthy is extremely important.
Hypothermia can happen quickly on the water and can cause serious problems for both you and those who you are kayaking with, whether you’re kayaking just for the day or are embarking on a longer trip. Kayaking shoes that cover your feet and your whole ankle, or kayak shoes that are more like boots and go halfway up your calves, are best to help prevent hypothermia.
Related: Best River Kayak
If you are kayaking in warmer waters or during a warmer season, it’s important to get water shoes for kayaking that will allow your feet to breathe. Proper kayak shoes should help keep your feet warm while in the water, and also dry quickly and let your feet stay warm and dry out of the water.
Size is a very important consideration as you are picking out the proper footwear for your kayaking adventure. Since kayaking shoes get wet, they do tend to shrink and become tight. Think of how wetsuits get tight, and how hard they can be to peel off when you’re done using them; kayaking shoes are the same way.
You don’t want kayaking shoes that will become too snug and cut off circulation to your feet when they get wet. Conversely, you also don’t want ones that are too loose; many kayaking shoes create suction when the water absorbs, and the shoes encompasses your foot. If the shoe is fitted too loosely, this can cause skin irritation and blisters. You also want kayaking shoes that are stable when you’re sloshing around in the water or on rocks, but you don’t want to worry about them coming off each time you lift your foot.
Because they tend to shrink in water, many kayaking shoes are actually bigger than what they say. No one wants to have to peel them off when they’re done kayaking, and companies understand this. Get a size that’s between what you’re comfortable with and looser than what you’re used to; remember that what they feel like when dry will be different than what they feel like when wet. It’s best to get a half-size or full size up from what you’re used to.
The Best Kayak Shoes: Our Top Picks
- Comfortable fit
- Anti-slip outsole
- Ultimate protection
Manufactured by WateLves, these shoes are made for a flexible and comfortable fit with smooth fabrics. An anti-slip rubber sole protects your feet as you step on rock and stone, and the neck is designed to prevent chafing. They are ultra-lightweight as well, and are compressible for easy packing. You can wear them for leisure, while participating in sports, traveling, and participating in other activities such as hiking and enjoying water parks. With a new model structure and a stationary opening in the rubber outsole, the shoes give you great protection no matter what you’re planning on doing.
- Rubber sole
- Quick dry
- Elastic straps
- Easy on and off
- Spandex fabric
Manufactured by Putu, these shoes feature spandex for a comfortable feel and lightweight fabric. They are made to dry quickly, with fast draining and cross ventilation, which helps your feet stay warm both in and out of the water. The anti-slip camo rubber sole has several holes along the bottom to ensure proper water flow. It’s also very easy to pull these shoes on and take them off; there’s a pull tap at the heel. One tug, and they’re on or off. With elastic straps, you don’t have to worry about tying your shoes, and can adjust the shoe to the width of your foot quickly by tugging on the straps. These shoes are great for many activities, including swimming, sailing, boating, and participating in water sports, on top of kayaking. Putu aims to help people enjoy their vacations and their activities more easily.
- Rubber sole
- Durable air mesh
- Quick-dry fabric
- Solyte midsole
- ComforDry sockliner
- Lateral contrast stitching support system
With Aleader’s shoes, you can go anywhere and do anything. These durable water shoes for kayaking help drain all the water from around your feet, while also providing support and comfort. The shoe has air mesh along the upper part and a mesh hole on the sole, which provides superior breathability and allows for quick drying. The unique Solyte midsole provides an exceptionally lightweight midsole that’s durable and supports bounce-back. The outsole supports water drainage and helps with traction in wet and slippery conditions. Aleader also has a unique ComforDry sockliner; instead of having to wear socks that just get wet, these shoes have a built-in liner that helps cushion your foot and creates a cooler, drier, and healthier shoe environment.
Aleader aims to provide you with an amphibious shoe that goes where other athletic shoes can’t. The engineered mesh along the shoe offers breathability, while its lateral support system locks down the foot for stay-put performance both in and out of the water. That way, you never have to worry about your shoe coming off. FluidFlow technology also allows water to freely drain so your shoe is never waterlogged. Its rubber pods are strategically placed in high wear areas along the rubber sole, so you get additional traction as you walk along slippery rocks.
- Rubber sole
- Durable air mesh
- Water Drain outsole
- Solyte midsole
- ComforDry sockliner
- FluidFlow technology
With Aleader, men can go anywhere and do anything as well. This is an all-purpose amphibious shoe that allows optimum breathability with its air mesh along the upper part of the foot and a hole on the sole. These, along with the FluidFlow technology, provide quick drying to your feet and help drain water faster so you don’t have to worry about waterlogged shoes. The lateral contrast stitching support system offers a secure fit so your shoe won’t come off, and the WaterDrain outsole provides exceptional traction in any wet and slippery conditions.
If you choose Aleader, you get a durable shoe that dries quickly and will provide traction. You won’t be logged down and also don’t have to worry about your shoe coming off. Whether you’re a man or a woman, Aleader offers shoes that go where other athletic shoes don’t dare to tread.
- Recessed stitching
- Reduced thickness
- Flex grooves
- Drainage with holes in toes and heel
- Rubber Compounds
Astral Loyak’s water shoe is great for boating, traveling, and doing anything in or around water. Its unique Hydrophobic Canvas along the top of the shoe connects to the outsole rubber with recessed stitching, and holes at both the toe and the heel allow water to escape so your shoe drains quickly and stays dry. Reduced thickness and flex grooves ensure that your shoe has the maximum flexibility and comfort possible. Astral Lovak’s unique rubber formula for its sole provides excellent traction, and the shoe is made with balance geometry, so your foot is naturally balanced and supported. The company is dedicated to providing the most beautiful and highest performing products possible, so that your water activities are fun and safe.
- Protective tall heel
- Vulcanized rubber sole
- 2mm nylon II neoprene
- Glued and blind stitched
The Mares low cut tropic boot is perfect for kayaking, snorkeling, warm water scuba diving, and to wear around slippery pool decks or along rocky beaches. The vulcanized rubber sole provides excellent traction, and the foot pocket is 2mm nylon II neoprene. These boots were made light, so they don’t weigh you down. Plus, they offer excellent drainage while protecting your feet and allowing breathability. Easy to wash, easy to dry, and easy to wear, Mares boots are great water shoes for kayaking.
- Select thickness
- Durable glued and sewn construction
- Puncture resistant sole
- #10 heavy duty zipper
- WEB—Water Entry Barrier
Neo-Sport’s wetsuit boots are made for kayaking, for the beach, boating, swimming, and exploring anything and everything that involves mud and water. You have the option to select the thickness of your boot, depending on what type of activity you are planning on doing or what type of water you will be entering. The 3mm boot is great for warm water, the 5mm boot best for moderate water, and the 7mm boot is made for cold water.
These multi-purpose wetsuit boots provide thermal protection and foot support for all your water activities. Its WEB water entry barrier prevents water from flowing into the boot, and the heavy-duty zipper also prevents water from leaking in. The zipper also allows you to take the boot on and off very easily, which is important for wetsuit material. With Neo-Sport, you don’t have to worry about your shoe ever coming off during your activity, and you can choose which boot is best for your plans.
Important Features of Kayaking Shoes
Beyond size, material, and weight, there are some aspects of kayaking shoes that are unique and that you may also want to consider. Footwear ranges from neoprene wet suit booties, to “wellies,” to dedicated paddling shoes. If you’re kayaking, whether you’re casually going out for the day, embarking on a tour, or encountering white water, you should consider your comfort. Will you need support for your feet? How will your heels be resting? How well will your shoes brace against bulk heads and foot pegs? You also need to ensure that your footwear has plenty of flex.
Things you will want to look for specifically when shopping for kayaking shoes are:
- A rubber sole that provides excellent traction
- Support for the heel and arch
- Breathable mesh
- Airflow within the shoe, often provided by mesh or small holes; this flow will keep your feet warm in water and will dry them quickly when out
- The ability for water to flow in and out and not bog down your shoe
- Quick dry capabilities
- Easy to take on and off
- Long lasting; won’t fall apart
If you find a shoe that has many, or all, of these features, and is a comfortable size and fit, you’ll have a great shoe that you can perform all kinds of activities with. Unlike sneakers and tennis shoes, kayaking shoes will drain, have breathability, and will be very lightweight. They should also offer excellent traction against wet surfaces. For these reasons, don’t just wear your old sneakers for your kayaking trip; invest in water shoes for kayaking.
Other Clothing Items to Consider when Kayaking
On top of shoes, other clothing you will want to consider as you plan to kayak are:
- Insulating layers such as wool or fleece
- Outer layers such as windbreakers and jackets
- A wet suit, especially in cold air/cold water conditions
- Waterproof clothing
- Pogies and mittens
- Lightweight gloves that protect against abrasion and exposure
Gloves are another very important clothing item that people tend to overlook. Gloves will not only protect your hands from scratches, the wind, and the cold, but they will also ensure your grip on your paddles. Lightweight gloves are best, however wool gloves also perform well even as they get wet. Neoprene or polypropylene gloves keep the hands warm when wet and dries in no time. There are also pogies and mittens available that can fit over your entire hand and the paddle shaft as well, which helps ensure that both your hands and your paddles will be drier.
The most important thing when you embark on a kayaking trip is to dress for both the air and the water. Take care to layer and protect yourself throughout your whole body as well as your feet. Hypothermia is a serious threat, and by making sure you are fully prepared with what you’re wearing, you will stay safe. Remember the 100-degree rule: If the combined air and water temperature is 100 degrees or less, it’s best to take caution and wear a wet suit. Wearing all the right things will keep you warm and dry and help provide a safer and more enjoyable kayaking experience.
The Range of Activities for Kayak Shoes
Kayaking shoes are made to be comfortable and made to feel as if you’re barely wearing shoes at all, while still protecting your skin. This makes them perfect for a wide range of activities that extend beyond just kayaking.
Other activities you can wear your kayaking shoes for include:
- Body building/working out
- Doing Zumba
- Aqua sports
- Walking on the beach
- Walking at the pool
- Riding your bike
- Hiking waterfalls or slippery surfaces
- Attending water parks
- Enjoying cruises
- Doing yoga
- Boating and sailing
Conclusion: The Best Kayak Shoes For You
While it may seem like you can kayak in any type of shoe, one of the most important things to consider as you’re planning for a kayaking trip, besides the rest of your clothes, is what will be on your feet. How will your shoes stay on? Will they dry quickly? If you’re in freezing water, can you guarantee that your shoes will help keep you warm?
These are all valuable questions to ask yourself as you’re planning and packing for your kayaking trip, whether you’re embarking on a week-long trip or just getting away for the day. Nothing ruins a trip quite like losing your shoes or having soaking wet feet all day. Not only can this make you miserable, but also can lend to illnesses such as hypothermia.
The best kayaking shoes are flexible and durable, stay on no matter what, keep your feet warm, and dry quickly. Once you find the perfect and reliable pair of kayaking shoes for your activities and your lifestyle, you can also branch out and wear kayaking shoes for other activities, such as boating, walking around beaches or pools, or participating in sports or workouts such as Zumba and yoga. Overall, a great pair of water shoes can be a great addition for your life and should be at the top of the list for what to pack for your next kayaking trip.