Water shoes have come a long way. From what was once an unattractive, impractical type of footwear has evolved into a multi-functional combination of sneaker and sandal that looks good enough to wear almost everywhere.
There’s also more options available than ever for quality water shoes, but we’ve narrowed it down to the top of the top: best water shoes for women, the Aleader Mesh Slip-On ; for men, the Merrell All Out Blaze Aero Sports Hiking Water Shoe
We’ve also added a unisex shoe to the mix – the OOFOS Oahh Slide Sandal We’ll give a brief review of all of our top picks, provide some buying hints, as well as some things to keep in mind when looking for the water shoe that’s right for you.
- What are water shoes and some important buying tips you should know
- The 3 best water shoes for women
- The 3 best water shoes for men
- Best unisex water shoes
- The benefits and drawbacks of wearing water shoes
What are water shoes and some important buying tips you should know
If the outdoors is your game, today’s water shoes have you covered – from fishing to boating to kayaking and sailing. But there’s more: today’s models are even good for hiking and, not to forget, water fitness activities such as water aerobics.
Why water shoes? Let us count the ways:
- They offer excellent foot and toe protection as well as superb traction, which is essential if you’re going to use them around water.
- Their versatility. As already mentioned, modern water shoes are practical – and comfortable – for almost any activity. Need a comfortable pair of casual shoes to wear during weekend shopping? Want something to wear besides regular sandals (and, don’t do it, regular running shoes) for your next kayaking adventure?
- They fit like an athletic shoe.
What exactly is a water shoe?
Let’s backtrack just a second and define “water shoe.” Let’s start by describing what they’re not, which is a sandal. Almost all true water shoes have a closed toe for toe protection and an upper that covers most of the top of your foot. What also sets water shoes apart from sandals (which can be used in water) is the superior traction that they provide.
Essential Water Shoe Buying Tips
We’ll give you some recommendations for water shoes to buy a bit later but finding the right pair for you depends on you and the types of activities you enjoy. Some things to consider are irregular or imperfect stitching (don’t buy), a flimsy feel (don’t buy), and rough edges inside due to manufacturers cutting corners and leaving out pads that help cushion your feet (don’t buy).
Here’s a guide that will help you find the right water shoe for three typical outdoor activities: kayaking, hiking, and fishing.
Kayaking, especially whitewater kayaking, can present a variety of scenarios – from calm, smooth water, to sudden rapids. It’s important to have a shoe that will stay on in any situation while providing proper protection and traction. For calmer flatwater kayaking or vacation fun, a comfortable, quick-drying shoe will do the trick.
Yes, water shoes are good for hiking, particularly short hikes because the best shoes are quick-drying, offer protection, as well as breathability. A rugged sole is necessary for hiking, and make sure the heel – particularly if made of elastic – doesn’t stretch too loosely and pull your foot out of position on hills. Regular laces will provide better support on irregular terrain than slip-on shoes or shoes with elastic pull-tab laces. Another thing to consider is the wear and tear on your feet that comes with hiking, and wet feet will be more prone to blisters. Look for a shoe that breathes well and is a good fit right from the start to avoid these issues.
Fancy, high-tech water shoes aren’t a necessity for fishing – but you do need a pair that provides maximum comfort, especially if you’re going to spend a lot of time standing. Look for tackier rubber on the soles, and solid traction and foot protection if you’re going to be standing in shallow water while you fish. Keep in mind the lacing system, as well. The last thing you want is for the shoe to slip off while you’re in the water.
Best Water Shoes for Women
They call them ‘water shoes, ’ but that doesn’t address the overall functionality of the Aleader Women’s Mesh Slip-Ons. Why? Because they’re comfortable for daily walking or travel walking when you don’t want to keep slipping them off in between water activities, for starters. The bottom line is that they’re just plain comfortable – period.
But there are plenty of other reasons why these shoes belong on the list of “Best Water Shoes for 2017.’ Some would argue that they’re the best overall – men’s or women’s – and that’s due to many factors: including that they retain a strong fit even when the material expands. They have a superior gripping sole that eliminates any worry of slipping. And they have a lightweight mesh upper that makes it easy for your foot to breathe.
When it comes to the best shoes for water aerobics, the Aleader Mesh Slip-On also rank up there with the best because of their comfort, their fit, and their Water Grain outsole that makes any slippery surface manageable. Because of their snug fit, they keep out sand and debris that might otherwise get inside your shoe and drive you crazy until you take it off.
But let’s get back to the original point, i.e., the claim that these water shoes are good for much more than, yes, water. Their superior ventilation means you can wear them for longer periods of time (including longer than Aleader’s men’s version) and they’re just as comfortable as your daily footwear. They also simply look good with a vibrant appearance; you can get away with wearing them for a wide range of activities because of their attractiveness. Finally, they’re durable enough to take on more rugged activities, such as hiking. Simply put, they’re great all-around water shoes.
- Exceptional comfort plus appearance make them suitable for many activities, including daily wear.
- Superior traction
- They tend to run a bit on the small side.
If there’s one thing you can say about Speedo, it’s that they know water. That’s why it’s no surprise that their Hydro Comfort 4.0 line ranks among the best water shoes for women. Check this out: They come with drainage channels on the sides of the sole that drain water effectively while keeping sand and stones out.
The Hydro Comfort 4.0 looks like a typical tennis shoe, so it’s no surprise that it’s durable enough and provide enough support for more strenuous activities. That’s why they’ll rank among the best water shoes for hiking, and they’re also great for kayaking and fishing. Some of their other features include:
- A breathable upper that dries quickly
- An open hair mesh paneling that’s made up of a single layer
- A handy pull tab on the heel that makes them easy to pull on and off
- A removable, perforated insole
- A quick-fit toggle feature to help secure the laces
- A non-marking rubber outsole
- Mesh paneling keeps out everything but water
- Lightweight yet durable
- Made of high-quality materials
- They run small
- The thin sole doesn’t provide as much arch support as some water shoes
Back to the good folks at Aleader. They’ve got another quality item to add to the list of best water shoes for women with their Quick Drying Aqua Water Shoes – but that’s not a big surprise because they’ve made a commitment to performance and lifestyle footwear that appeals to men, women, and children. Indeed, you could include these shoes on a list of best shoes for the beach, best water shoes for hiking, and so on.
What’s not to like about this shoe? Its mesh upper is soft, breathable and quick-drying, while its shock-absorbing water sole is lightweight and slip-resistant. It slips on and off your foot comfortably but remains snug when you’re using it. And don’t forget its “ComforDry” sock liner that creates a cool, dry, healthy shoe environment with excellent cushioning.
As mentioned, these shoes are designed for multi-functional use. They’re great if you’re leaving the beach and walking somewhere without having to change your shoes, they’re perfectly suitable for fishing and hiking, and even as gym exercise shoes.
- Quick drying
- Air mesh upper allows your foot to breathe
- The laces are more decorative than functional
Best Water Shoes for Men
This is another shoe that may be found on several “best of” lists, including the best hiking shoes for men (as its name suggests). The All Out Blaze Aero Sport is designed to “get you to the top” in a hurry because it’s ideal for speed hiking and will handle any water obstacle in your way.
This shoe has a variety of features that make it ideal for both wet and dry land. Its Vibram outsole and water-channeling design will give you stable footing on wet surfaces, while its Neoprene lining is quick-drying and features an adjustable bungee cord lock-lace system to help you transition in and out of the water with ease. And it includes a Unifly midsole that helps protect you from the terrain, while its heel provides added stability.
Its overall fit is designed to allow you to wallop the terrain without sacrificing balance or agility. You’ll enjoy a fluid, natural motion that responds to every contour.
You’ll even be a hit with your hiking mates with the All Out Blaze Aero Sport. Why? Because it’s breathable mesh lining is treated with M-Select FRESH technologies that prevent foot odor. If you’ve ever walked in wet shoes, you no doubt understand the agony of foot odor.
- Omni-Fit lacing system provides a precise, glove-like grip
- It’s ideal for all types of terrain
- Odor-free technology
- There aren’t a lot of cons with this shoe, though some reviewers say the toe is a little wide.
Men’s, women’s – Speedo simply knows how to make high-quality water shoes. Like the women’s 4.0 version, the Men’s Hydro Comfort 4.0 is fit for a wide range of outdoor activities in a wide range of environments. Best water shoes for the beach? The Men’s Hydro Comfort 4.0 ranks right up there. Best water shoes for a tropical environment like Hawaii? You can’t go wrong with them there, either. In fact, this shoe is trendy in Hawaii where you could be hanging out at the beach but also hiking through a rain forest or checking out waterfalls. In other words, they’re multifunctional and great for all-day wear.
The Men’s Hydro Comfort 4.0 comes with a high-quality rubber outsole that provides superior grip in slippery, water environments but also combines comfort and durability. It also has a breathable upper and a lightweight midsole with port drainage on each side. Other features include pull tabs on the heels for easy on and off and a quick-fit toggle to secure laces.
- Superior-gripping outsole
- Take longer to dry than some water shoes
If you’re shopping for the best shoes for water aerobics, look no further than the Aleader Men’s Mesh Slip On. With superior arch support and a lightweight Solyte, this shoe keeps you stable and comfortable during your water workout.
While the shoe is noticeably lightweight, it would be a mistake to question its durability. Instead, you can expect it to hold up under the most strenuous conditions and repetitive pounding. You’ll also appreciate the Aleader Mesh Slip On’s air mesh upper that allows your foot to breathe when you’re working up a sweat.
This shoe’s ComforDry sock liner provides superior cushioning as well as a cooler, drier environment for your foot. And its Water Grip outsole gives you excellent traction in any wet and slippery condition.
- Great for activities such as water aerobics
- Sock liner provides optimal cushioning
- Size may run big
- Durability has been an issue
Best Unisex Water Shoes
One of the great things about the OOFOS Slide Sandal is what it can do for you after a long day on your feet and after a tough workout. You know the feeling; you just want to get out of those shoes as quickly as possible and let your feet breathe. But if still need something on your feet – like for running errands or going someplace after your workout – the Slide Sandals are ideal. If need be, they’re also good for everyday wear.
OOFOS uses a Flexible OOfoam technology with excellent arch support and which conforms to the shape of your foot. The folks at OOFOS stand by their claim that their OOfoam support absorbs more impact than standard types of foam used in footwear. At the least, it enables you to wear Slide Sandals for long periods of time without sacrificing comfort while also reducing fatigue. If you’re someone who suffers from plantar fasciitis, you’ll love the arch support the sandal provides.
Another great feature of Ooahh slide sandals is that you can just toss them in the washing machine when they get dirty. They’ll come out looking new and will be none the worse for wear.
- Great for after work and after working out
- Excellent arch support
- Some reviewers say they run on the narrow side
The Benefits of wearing Water Shoes
We’ve discussed the many attributes of water shoes, but they’re worth repeating:
Most water shoes provide the same kind of traction found on top-quality hiking boots and hiking shoes. Simply put, their design allows for superior traction on wet, slippery surfaces (such as rocks) found around rivers, lakes, and other bodies of waters.
The closed toe design of water shoes helps prevent scrapes, stubbed toes, and the never-nice pain of torn and ripped-off toenails.
Top of the foot protection
Another advantage that water shoes have is that most of them offer better top-of-the-foot protection than sandals. This protection is particularly important if you’re walking through different types of terrain.
You know what it’s like to get a sneaker or other type of casual shoe wet: you get that “squishy” feeling that seems to last forever. But water shoes don’t hold and absorb water, but drain quickly and are made in a way that prevents the fabric from absorbing water.
We’ve talked at length about the versatility of water shoes, but they truly are good for many outdoor (and indoor) occasions. When you think about it, there’s something to be said for a shoe that you can wear during vacation shopping trips and then “ramp” things up with a journey onto hiking trails.
Yes, there’s a lot to love about water shoes, but that’s not to say they don’t have their limitations. For one, they’re not as easy to slip in and out of as sandals. But, at the same time, they’re no harder to put on and take off than an athletic sneaker. If you’re worried about having to take them off several times a day, however, then maybe a sandal is a better choice for you.
As far as hiking, water shoes provide the support and traction that you need, but they’re not a true hiking “shoe” or boot, either. If your main activity is hiking, and taking long hikes, at that, then you’re better off with footwear specifically made for the task. It’s the difference between taking a three-mile hike and 20-mile hike. With the latter, there’s no sense sacrificing the ultimate support and comfort.
One other thing about water shoes: they’re typically more expensive than water sandals. But, again, that price tag includes many advantages that you won’t get with a sandal.
As we said at the beginning, water shoes have evolved in a good way over the years. Today’s shoes offer you a wide range of uses – all while providing the kind of protection and traction you need in a variety of conditions. And once you try them, we think you’ll never go back to any other kind of footwear that can handle, or not handle, a wet environment.
What are your experiences with water shoes or another type of footwear suitable for water activities? We’d love to hear from you. Send us your comments or questions, and we’ll be sure to respond.