Proper footwear is as important for kayaking as a wetsuit or sunscreen. And if you do know this, then you are probably looking for the best kayak water shoes.
Well, you are in the right place since we’ve decided to make a roundup of the 7 best shoes to wear during your kayaking trip! Not only that, but we’ve prepared a handy buyer’s guide that hopefully will help you choose the right kayaking shoes.
With that being said, let’s get started without further ado!
7 Best Kayak Water Shoes
Merrell Men’s All-Out Blaze Aero Water Shoe
The All-Out Blaze Aero water shoes by Merrell should be a good option for you if you are looking for a comfy and supportive shoe.
These water shoes have a thick and supportive outsole. The 5mm outsole lugs of this model make it seem that it will maintain a great grip on wet surfaces. The cushioning in the All-Out Blaze Aero shoes also seems to be great, although this will matter more to kayakers who are going to have a stroll before or after their paddling trip.
The upper in the All-Out Blaze Aero shoes features a breathable mesh, which is going to be excellent for warmer days. This mesh is going to get wet from contact with water, but this shoe overall seems to dry pretty quickly, even though it has quite a closed design.
- Protective design.
- Supportive and breathable.
- Great grip.
- Seem to run half a size bigger than you’d expect.
Chaco Men’s Z2 Classic Sport Sandal
These sport sandals are excellent if you don’t want your feet to be encased in clunky footwear. Not only that, but these sandals also will provide a good grip thanks to their 3.5mm rubber outsole lugs.
The Z2 sport sandals are also durable, particularly thanks to their PU midsole and polyester upper wraps. And, of course, the outsole is made from rubber to provide both durability and good grip with the ground.
These sandals are going to be unparalleled in terms of breathability and drying speed thanks to their open design. With that being said, these sandals won’t provide a whole lot of foot protection, so they definitely aren’t for whitewater or other active styles of kayaking.
Plus, keep in mind that these sandals have perhaps too much arch support. Whether this will be a problem for you will be a matter of preference and how your feet are built. If you’ll be using them for just paddling though, you may not notice this.
- Provide unparalleled breathability.
- Ultra-quick drying.
- Little to no foot protection.
- The arch support may be too much for you.
Chaco Women’s Zx2 Classic Athletic Sandal
The Zx2 Classic sandals by Chaco are pretty similar to the Z2 sandals we’ve just overviewed, but there a couple of differences that make them quite different.
Well, first off, these sandals are designed for women, so the sizing may be a little bit different.
Secondly, the lug height here is only 3 mm, which is not catastrophically shorter than in the men’s Z2, but it may make a noticeable difference in how easily these sandals allow water out from under them.
The strap design is also a little bit different, but the straps are again made from polyester, so they should be durable. The design similarities also apply to the midsole – which is made from PU – and to the rubber outsole.
Finally, just like the men’s Z2 sandals, these sandals are the best for calmer kayak activities. The arguably excessive amount of foot support is also here, but it again probably won’t be noticeable while onboard.
- Excellent breathability.
- Very fast drying.
- Poor foot protection.
- Possibly excessive arch support.
Merrell Women’s All-Out Blaze Sieve Water Shoe
The All-Out Blaze Sieve is a more quick-drying and breathable alternative to the All-Out Blaze Aero shoe we overviewed in the beginning. And yeah, this model is for women.
As you could have probably noticed, this model has perforations on the side and a huge heel opening in the rear, which somewhat decreases the shoe’s protection but increases the breathability and the quickness of drying.
With shorter 3mm outsole lugs, the Blaze Sieve probably won’t have an as good grip as the Blaze Aero, but the tread openings should still be enough to allow water to escape from under the shoe.
The upper in these shoes is a little bit different as well – it’s made from a waxy & waterproof leather and stretchable Lycra neoprene. In contrast with the synthetic upper of the Merrell All-Out Blaze Aero shoes, these shoes may dry quicker and be a little comfier.
Finally, you may also like the bungee-style laces in these shoes, though this will be only a matter of preference since the Blaze Aero’s classic laces are perfectly alright.
- Supportive and protective design.
- Good breathability and quick drying.
- Seem to run half size a smaller.
NRS Freestyle Wetshoe
If you are after warmth, then these may be those best kayak water shoes for you.
The NRS Freestyle wetshoe features a fleece-like water-repellent lining that keeps the cold water away from your feet and allows you to stay comfy during the trip. What also contributes to the comfort of these wetshoes is their stretchy and soft neoprene build.
The NRS Freestyle wetshoe has a very thin outsole which provides increased freedom of movement for the feet, albeit with the tradeoff of decreased protection. With that being said, the outsoles do have protective rubber on the toe and heel for some extra comfort and a little bit of grip.
Also, these water shoes definitely aren’t for hiking + kayaking trips – they aren’t supportive enough for walking. They also are a bit difficult to put on, though their stretchiness makes things a little bit better.
- Water-repellent lining.
- Warm and comfy.
- Great freedom of movement in the feet.
- Definitely not for hiking + kayaking trips.
- Difficult to put on and take off.
NRS Women’s Paddle Wetshoe
The Paddle Wetshoe is very similar to the Freestyle wetshoe, but there are three crucial differences that set them apart.
First, this shoe is designed for women, which implies some sizing differences.
Secondly, the Paddle water shoe doesn’t have the protective toe and heel inserts of the Freestyle, which shouldn’t make that big of a difference but may still somewhat impact the performance of these shoes.
And finally, the Paddle wetshoe has a zipper to make putting it on and taking off easier. The zipper indeed is a welcome feature in this shoe!
Other than that, you are getting virtually identical comfort and warmth from these shoes as from the Freestyle since the overall build is very similar in the two NRS models. In the end, if you think that the benefits described above are what you need, then these shoes may be those best kayak water shoes.
- Water-repellent lining.
- Easy to put on thanks to a zipper.
- Warm and comfy.
- Lacks support for walking.
NRS Boundary Dry Boots
These are the ultimate water shoes (or should we say boots) for cold-weather kayaking trips. In particular, these shoes are probably going to be great if you need protection while standing in water.
The NRS Boundary dry boots are very tall, and you need to be almost knee-deep in water to get yourself wet. While the tall design of these boots does sacrifice comfort to some extent, the water protection in them is unparalleled.
The Boundary dry boots are also quite supportive and grippy – with a 6mm thick rubber outsole, these boots may also be used on rough surfaces. Not only that, with the outsole extending quite high up the sides of the boots, you shouldn’t ever feel that grip is lacking with this pair.
Not everybody really needs the benefits of these boots, and they may be overkill for some people. But if you do need over-the-top water and cold protection, then this may be the very best footwear to wear during a cold-weather kayaking trip.
- Waterproof and warm.
- High-traction outsole.
- Fairly protective.
- Not the comfiest on the list.
Things to Look for in the Best Kayak Water Shoes
Now, how do you exactly choose the best kayak water shoes for your next trip? Well, let’s have a look at what does matter in water shoes!
First, consider how the shoes deal with the water – do they allow it into the shoes to then easily let it out, or do they keep the water out altogether?
For cold-weather kayaking, we suggest that you use waterproof shoes that do not let any water in. As we discussed in our post on kayaking safety tips, heat is lost in cold water 25 times faster than in cold air. This means that you would want to protect your feet from the water in cold weather.
On warmer days, you don’t really need to wear waterproof shoes, unless you don’t want your feet to get wet. Waterproof shoes usually have poor breathability, so such a shoe on a hot day will make your feet a sweaty mess.
If your water shoe design allows some water in, then it also needs to be able to easily let it out.
Some water shoes have perforations to allow the water out. How quickly the water will leave the shoes will depend on the number and size of the perforations. Needless to say, a large number of big perforations is going to let water out quicker.
The placement of the perforations is also important. Shoes with holes on the upper and the sides will have decent water draining, but shoes that have perforated soles may be the quickest to let water out.
The perforations also affect the breathability of the shoes – a shoe with a bigger number of holes is going to be more breathable.
With that being said, when used on land, perforated water shoes tend to let in sand and small stones. This won’t necessarily be a problem while kayaking, but if you are intending to use perforated shoes for hiking or strolling as well, keep in mind that they may let in debris lying on the ground.
Quickness of drying
The more perforated a shoe is, the quicker it’s going to dry. However, the number of perforations isn’t the only thing that affects the quickness of drying. The material the shoes are made from also plays a role.
Water shoe manufacturers have 2 main approaches:
- Use waterproof materials that don’t get soaked in water and thus don’t need drying.
- Use materials that soak water but then let it out very quickly.
The first approach applies to waterproof shoes, of course.
Either approach can allow shoes to dry out very quickly, but you need to make a choice. We discussed the benefits and downsides of fully waterproof shoes as well, so you should already have enough information to select those best kayak water shoes.
Easiness of cleaning
You should also pay close attention to the desired shoes’ design. Here, easiness of cleaning is very important, especially with perforated water shoes.
Those perforations have all sorts of nooks and crannies that dirt and small stones could get stuck in. Most of the mess will probably be easy to remove, but some stones and dirt may not want to come out easily.
Overall, the simpler the design of the water shoes, the easier they will be clean. Not only that, but some water shoes have removable insoles that allow for easier access to all the holes that dirt may have gotten into.
Shoes with a seamless build are also going to be easier to clean.
The best kayak water shoes should also maintain grip with the surface of your kayak when wet. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to assess the grip of a shoe until you try it on, but there is one thing that could help you make the right choice.
Pay attention to the outsole of the shoe – particularly, to its tread pattern. A slip-resistant shoe will have deeper treads that are set farther apart from each other. The logic behind this is simple – the water needs to be able to get out from under the shoe to prevent a phenomenon called hydroplaning.
You may be familiar to hydroplaning if you are a driver – hydroplaning happens when a water layer occurs between the car’s wheels and the road. When hydroplaning, a car does not respond to control inputs from the driver.
This is more or less the same for footwear. Thus, to ensure a good grip, pick kayak water shoes with deep treads that are set far apart.
Fit is key in any kind of shoe, and water shoes are no exception.
Of course, you do want to pick the right shoe size. However, we would like to draw your attention to another feature that can make or break a shoe’s fit.
Pay attention to whether the desired kayak water shoes have laces for fit adjustment. Some water shoes may alternatively have stretchy sock-like uppers that self-adjust to fit you. Velcro straps may also be used in some water shoes, but we suggest that you avoid them – Velcro tends to be not very durable, and water may make it worse.
Stretchy shoes may have the edge over shoes with laces when it comes to snugness, but you do need to select the perfect size so that the shoes fit you as intended. If unsure about the sizing, you may just go for laced water shoes. These may not be as snug and comfy, but you’ll have the option of fit adjustment.
Comfort & protection
Finally, we have comfort & protection, things that are very important when walking or running but arguably not as important when kayaking.
When looking for a water shoe to stroll on a beach, you may want to look for the following features, depending on your needs:
- Thick and supportive outsole, even with the tradeoff of comfort and flexibility.
- Thinner outsole with plenty of flexibility.
You don’t really need comfort or foot support while kayaking – the grip, water protection, and warmth are much more important. With that being said, if you will be hiking as well or just want some increased comfort, then you may also pay attention to the features mentioned above.
There you have our roundup of the best kayak water shoes!
Do make sure to pick the proper shoe for your preferences and the specifics of your kayaking trips. Don’t rush it, do in-depth research, and try to understand your needs.
We also suggest that you have a look at our dressing guide on kayaking. We discuss a few important points there related to kayak clothing in general.
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