The world's most in-depth and scientific reviews of gear

Best Water Shoes for Men of 2021

Photo: Dan Scott
By Dan Scott ⋅ Review Editor
Wednesday December 23, 2020
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Seeking the best water shoes? After researching 60+ top models on the market in 2021, we purchased 10 of them to test side-by-side. We got our feet wet while paddling, swimming, and canyoneering throughout the Pacific Northwest and Colorado Front Range. We rigorously tested through a wide range of water sports, with many different testers. While testing in real-life use, we evaluate key performance metrics to see which shoe will keep your feet warm, comfortable, and happy, whatever the water temperature. Take a gander at our in-depth, hands-on review that's built for everybody. Whether you're trying out water sports for the first time or you're already a pro, we've got the top recommendations.

Top 10 Product Ratings

Displaying 1 - 5 of 10
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Awards Editors' Choice Award Best Buy Award Top Pick Award Top Pick Award  
Price $119.95 at Amazon$75.00 at Amazon$90.00 at REI
Compare at 2 sellers
$59.95 at Backcountry
Compare at 3 sellers
$125 List
Overall Score Sort Icon
80
79
75
73
72
Star Rating
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Pros Extremely versatile, adjustable, excellent balance of support and flexibilityProtective midsole and toe, incredibly sticky rubber, versatileHigh traction, flexible, snug fit, great drainage, stylishComfortable, warm, great traction on wet rockExcellent drainage, durable, extremely sticky rubber, comfortable
Cons Not the stickiest rubber, not the most durableWeak mesh impairs durabilityNot warm, not durableLittle support on rough terrain, no drainageLaces are a bit too short, sheds dye from inner, not as warm as other booties
Bottom Line These comfortable and versatile shoes are excellent in and out of the waterWhile not the most durable, this shoe is crazy sticky and feels great in most conditionsThoughtful design creates a snug but adjustable fit and high performance around water and even around townThese booties provide stellar warmth and comfort while boatingWhile not as warm as other booties, this shoe is a well-designed, functional boot that's great for whitewater
Rating Categories Astral TR1 Junction Terrex Summer.RDY Voyager Sp... Astral Loyak NRS Paddle Wetshoe Astral Hiyak
Comfort (25%)
9
8
9
7
7
Traction (25%)
7
10
9
9
10
Warmth (15%)
9
8
6
9
5
Versatility (15%)
9
8
6
3
4
Sensitivity (10%)
7
6
9
9
9
Durability (10%)
6
4
3
6
7
Specs Astral TR1 Junction Terrex Summer.RDY... Astral Loyak NRS Paddle Wetshoe Astral Hiyak
Measured Weight (per pair, in lbs) 1.6 lbs 1.6 lbs 1.1 lbs 1.9 lbs 1.4 lbs
Size Tested (US Men's) 13 13 13 12 13
Drainage Features Front/side holes, top mesh Mesh upper, side holes Front/back/side holes, top mesh None Front/back holes
Removeable Insole Yes Yes Yes No Insole Yes
Available Widths Regular Regular Regular Regular Regular
Footwear Closure Lace Lace Lace Zipper Lace with velcro keeper
Upper Materials Hydrophobic canvas with TPU Climacool mesh Hydrophobic canvas and Airmesh 3 mm neoprene Canvas/nylon
Midsole EVA EVA EVA None EVA
Outsole G15 Stealth rubber Siped G15 Rubber Siped G.ss
Relative Fit Wide toebox, high volume midfoot and heel Wide toebox, medium volume heel and midfoot Wide toebox, medium volume midfoot and heel Wide toebox, and stretches to accomodate a wide variety of foot shapes Wide toebox, medium volume midfoot and heel

Best Overall Water Shoes


Astral TR1 Junction


Astral TR1 Junction
Editors' Choice Award

$119.95
at Amazon
See It

80
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Comfort - 25% 9
  • Traction - 25% 7
  • Warmth - 15% 9
  • Versatility - 15% 9
  • Sensitivity - 10% 7
  • Durability - 10% 6
Weight per pair: 1.6 lb | Drainage: Front/side holes, top mesh
Versatility
Adjusts to fit insulation well
Excellent balance of support and flexibility
Good but not best in class traction
Could be more durable

The Astral TR1 Junction is a superb do-it-all shoe. We happily used it for more activities than any other shoe during testing. Its comfortable interior is highly adjustable, making it great whether you're going barefoot or stuffing in multiple socks under your drysuit. Their G15 outsoles balance traction on soft and hard surfaces better than any other water shoe we tested and the moderately stiff midsole provides excellent foot protection and support while also providing good proprioception on rough terrain.

While these shoes are great for most water activities you can throw at them, they aren't quite as warm as paddling booties, like the NRS Paddle Wetshoe, while their outsoles struggle to stick to the slickest rocks. If you need a purpose-built shoe for more narrow usage, look below. But for those looking for a single shoe that can perform great in any water sport, theTR1 Junction is our highest recommendation.

Read review: Astral TR1 Junction

Best Bang for Your Buck


Adidas Terrex Summer.RDY Voyager Speed


Adidas Terrex Summer.RDY Voyager Speed
Best Buy Award

$75.00
(6% off)
at Amazon
See It

79
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Comfort - 25% 8
  • Traction - 25% 10
  • Warmth - 15% 8
  • Versatility - 15% 8
  • Sensitivity - 10% 6
  • Durability - 10% 4
Weight per pair: 1.6 lbs | Drainage: Side holes, top mesh
Protective
Excellent traction
Versatile
Not durable
Sensitivity

In terms of performance to price ratio, we were blown away by the Adidas Terrex Summer.RDY Voyager. For a price much lower than most similar water shoes, you get some of the stickiest rubber in existence, stellar drainage, and lots of protection for your foot. These are very much a lighter, airier shoe that works quite well for when you need to be safe in the water but also want excellent drainage and comfort.

While we loved their drainage and fast-drying materials, the mostly mesh upper makes the Voyager prone to scrapes and tears. These shoes just aren't able to handle abrasive environments and, therefore, not suitable for canyoneering. That said, their airy uppers and supportive soles make them great for a whole host of activities, both in and out of the water. All in all, these are a screaming deal for a shoe that can nearly do it all.

Read review: Adidas Terrex Summer.RDY Voyager

Best on a Tight Budget


NRS Kicker Remix


NRS Kicker Remix
Best Buy Award

$49.95
at Backcountry
See It

67
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Comfort - 25% 5
  • Traction - 25% 9
  • Warmth - 15% 8
  • Versatility - 15% 3
  • Sensitivity - 10% 9
  • Durability - 10% 6
Weight per pair: 1.8 lbs | Drainage: none
Sticky
High sensitivity
Comfortable
Swims well
Hard to keep secure on feet
Minimal foot protection
Low performance on dry land

We acknowledge that some people are just looking for a great water shoe for boating on a shoestring budget. If that describes you, look no further than the NRS Kicker Remix. The thick neoprene uppers are comfortable and keep your feet toasty warm. The thin but very sticky outsole is excellent on wet rock and provides good proprioception to balance on rough terrain.

While they work well for kayaking, these booties are too thin-soled to do a lot of walking. They also tend to slip around unless your feet fit them well, as they lack laces to fine-tune the fit. Both of these things are not an issue if you only need a shoe to keep your feet warm in a boat, protect your drysuit socks, and keep your feet protected at the put-in and takeout. For the price, these make a very decent boating shoe.

Read review: NRS Kicker Remix

Best for Stylish Performance


Astral Loyak


75
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Comfort - 25% 9
  • Traction - 25% 9
  • Warmth - 15% 6
  • Versatility - 15% 6
  • Sensitivity - 10% 9
  • Durability - 10% 3
Weight per pair: 1.1 lbs | Drainage: Front/back/side holes, top mesh
Excellent traction
Flexibility
Nice fit
Drains efficiently
Looks great
Warmth
Durability

Don't be fooled by the casual, stylish looks of the Astral Loyak. These are high-performing water shoes with a well-designed, sock-like fit, superb drainage, and sticky, siped outsoles. They are super comfortable on foot, whether in the water or on land. Their thin, neutral soles have great ground-feel that helps maintain balance and make them fun to swim in.

While they perform well in the water, they are less durable than other shoes we tested and not entirely as adjustable as higher-performing models that allow for more insulation on cold days. That said, they offer excellent value for anyone looking for a paddling or river walking shoe that also works well as a shoe for hanging around camp, traveling, or going from water to watering hole.

Read review: Astral Loyak

Best for Paddling


NRS Paddle Wetshoe


NRS Paddle Wetshoe
Top Pick Award

$59.95
at Backcountry
See It

73
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Comfort - 25% 7
  • Traction - 25% 9
  • Warmth - 15% 9
  • Versatility - 15% 3
  • Sensitivity - 10% 9
  • Durability - 10% 6
Weight per pair: 1.9 lbs | Drainage: none
Comfort
Warmth
Excellent traction on wet rock
Minimal support on land
Lacks drainage, dries slowly

Specifically designed for paddling, the NRS Paddle Wetshoes offer a super stretchy neoprene upper and a fleece interior, providing superb fit and warmth even on super cold days. Their sticky rubber kept us stable when moving over slick, wet rock in the river. With a low-drag upper and excellent ankle flexion, these are fun to wear in the water.

However, that flexibility and warmth come at the expense of on-land performance. The thin, flexible soles don't provide enough support for lots of walking, and the lack of drainage that makes these so warm ends up retaining water on land, leading to soggy, uncomfortable feet. These booties are more or less a one-trick pony: for any activity in which you expect to be on the water most of the time, they will keep your feet happy and ready to go once you get back to shore.

Read review: NRS Paddle Wetshoe


We tested water shoes in all sorts of environments, from big rivers...
We tested water shoes in all sorts of environments, from big rivers to steep, narrow slot canyons, to find the best.
Photo: Dan Scott, Ellen Daugherty

Why You Should Trust Us


This review is led by Dan Scott, an avid packrafter and canyoneer. Dan has spent years paddling and rafting rivers across the Western United States, from the Grand Canyon to the Main Salmon. With a passion for rivers, Dan has descended canyons worldwide, from Spain and Austria to Utah and the Pacific Northwest, with multiple first and solo descents in both high and low flow canyons. Dan is also a Ph.D. river scientist who spends much of his work time collecting data on and around rivers.

For this review, we spent a ton of time splashing around in the drink. To evaluate how these shoes measured up, we spent over two months in the super-wet Pacific Northwest paddling, river walking, running, hiking, and canyoneering. We also waded up and down frigid, snowmelt streams in the Colorado Rockies. We often used a tried-and-true method of shoe testing in which we wore different shoes on each foot, making it easy to figure out which foot was happier and which shoe was higher performing. Throughout this testing, we kept in mind what paddlers, canyoneers, and water-loving folks like about their shoes, often asking friends for their take on things. Rigorous testing, a variety of testing environments and activities, and thoughtful evaluation allow us to make detailed and dependable recommendations for which products will work best for you.

Related: How We Tested Water Shoes

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Analysis and Test Results


We tested these shoes in various environments and activities, determining which shoes work best on and off the water and for a variety of purposes. Below, we delve into the six key metrics that we used to define water shoe performance. As you read through, think about how you use water shoes and which metrics are most important to you.


Value


The value proposition (what you get for the price) depends on the activity. For paddlers, you can get a stellar bootie like the NRS Kicker Remix for half the price of most other water shoes, but don't expect it to perform well for much else. For a little more, you can get a more versatile kayaking shoe like the Adidas Voyager or Astral Loyak, but that only makes sense if you need that versatility. For canyoneers, the higher cost gets you durability and really sticky rubber. While many moderately priced shoes like the NRS Vibe will work alright for canyoneering, it's probably cheaper to get a burlier model in the long run, as it will likely last 2-3 times as long.

Hiking, boating, or even heading off to work, the Loyaks fit in and...
Hiking, boating, or even heading off to work, the Loyaks fit in and perform nicely.
Photo: Dan Scott

For more general water sports use, price often buys comfort, effective drainage, and a leg up in durability compared to other shoes, as exemplified by the Astral TR1 Junction. For a fair bit less, you can snag a shoe like the Astral Loyak, which sacrifices some versatility and durability while still providing an excellent shoe. In general, you need to know what you'll use a water shoe for in order to get a good value.

Our lead tester jammed his feet in this crack during a slick, tricky...
Our lead tester jammed his feet in this crack during a slick, tricky downclimb next to a waterfall. A slip here would have been pretty gnarly, but the Tr1 Junction protected his feet comfortably and stuck well.
Photo: Dan Scott

Comfort


Comfort is often the most essential aspect of a water shoe. In wet environments, you're subjecting your feet to harsh conditions, and uncomfortable shoes only compound that harshness. Unlike many other shoes, though, water shoes need to keep you comfortable both on and off the water.


We spent long days walking over various surfaces both in and out of the water to see how well these shoes supported and protected our feet over rough terrain. We definitely preferred the protection and stability of burlier shoes like the Astral TR1 Junction for long walks over river cobbles or scrambles through boulder fields while carrying our boat. Soft booties like the NRS Paddle or NRS Kicker Remix didn't support our feet as well, and as a result, got uncomfortable after long walks. That said, the NRS Paddle is hands down the comfiest shoes we tested on the water, with a soft fleece lining that made them feel like slippers.

This shoe&#039;s sock-like comfort is great on the water, but the thin...
This shoe's sock-like comfort is great on the water, but the thin soles aren't a whole lot better than bare feet when walking on river cobbles.
Photo: Dan Scott

A water shoe needs to drain properly to perform well during longer periods off the water. While drainage negatively impacts warmth, it's essential to manage moisture and avoid immersion-related injuries on longer trips. Shoes with lots of drainage, like the Astral Loyak, Adidas Voyager, or NRS Vibe, ejected water quickly once we stepped on land, then dried out fast. Surprisingly, we found that mostly mesh, airy-feeling shoes like the Salomon Crossamphibian Swift 2 or Teva Terra Float Churn It Up only drained marginally faster than more protective shoes like the Astral TR1 Junction.

Shoes with light, airy uppers drain well and dry fast, but sometimes...
Shoes with light, airy uppers drain well and dry fast, but sometimes do so with a sacrifice to durability.
Photo: Ellen Daugherty

Whether you're swimming a rapid, stubbing your feet in murky shallows, or jamming them between boulders while wading, flowing water can do a number on your feet. To evaluate the protection each shoe provided, we looked at the stiffness of uppers and midsoles. While not super burly, the Astral TR1 Junction provided a good balance of all-around comfort and foot protection, especially stepping over uneven terrain.

For cramming our feet in cracks on wet downclimbs while...
For cramming our feet in cracks on wet downclimbs while canyoneering, we preferred stiff, protective shoes. However, that protection comes with major sacrifices for sensitivity and swimming performance.
Photo: Ellen Daugherty

Traction


Traction can mean the difference between an uneventful trip and a major injury. In whitewater, shoes need to be able to grip confidently to wet rocks during portages or rescues. In canyons, traction can mean the difference between a controlled downclimb and an unintended slide. On wet hikes and runs, traction keeps your feet on the ground and your face off it.


An excellent all-around performer, the Astral TR1 Junction balanced hard and soft surface traction better than any other shoe in our review.

Hard Surfaces

On hard surfaces, like the logs and rocks you might encounter on the banks of a river, soft, sticky rubber is key. The Adidas Voyager, with its Stealth rubber outsoles, and the Astral Hiyak, with its G.ss rubber, stick equally well to wet, slick rock. In fact, these shoes stick better than any other shoes we tested. This stickiest rubber tends to be a bit less durable than harder, less sticky rubbers, but we tend to find that uppers wear out faster than lugs wear down in wet environments.

On this slick rappel, our lead tester appreciated having super...
On this slick rappel, our lead tester appreciated having super sticky and protective shoes.
Photo: Dan Scott

Close behind, the NRS Paddle, NRS Kicker Remix, and Astral Loyak all stuck just as well to wet rock and logs. A more flexible sole allows feet to wrap around logs, maintaining a bit more balance.

The thin, flexible soles wrap easily around uneven surfaces.
The thin, flexible soles wrap easily around uneven surfaces.
Photo: Dan Scott

The Astral TR1 Junctions lagged slightly behind these super sticky shoes, but not enough to make them a liability for canyoneering or boating.

Soft Surfaces

With their super deep, aggressive, and widely spaced lugs, the Merrell Choprocks dug deep into mud and dirt, although their hard surface traction was relatively poor due to having low surface area contact. Additionally, the TR1 Junction also had deep, aggressive lugs that kept us upright on muddy trails, better than most shoes we tested.

The super aggressive lugs of the Merrell Choprocks bite hard into...
The super aggressive lugs of the Merrell Choprocks bite hard into mud and dirt, but don't get much rubber in contact with rock.
Photo: Dan Scott

Close behind, we liked the Salomon Crossamphibian Swift 2 as a trail running shoe, where it performed well on dirt and sand. However, it's worth noting that the Crossamphibian performed worse than all other shoes in this review for grip on hard surfaces, like wet rocks or logs.

We had fun confidently striding through creeks in the Crossamphibian...
We had fun confidently striding through creeks in the Crossamphibian Swift 2 while on a run.
Photo: Ellen Daugherty

Warmth


Water saps energy away from your body rapidly, and much of the water people like to play in is much colder than normal body temperature. Water shoes need to either have plenty of insulation to work without thick socks or be adjustable enough to accommodate lots of added insulation without feeling cramped.


In our testing, we immediately loved shoes that had lots of built-in warmth for extremely cold days. The fleece-lined NRS Paddle packs on lots of insulation and has no drainage, so they limit water movement through the shoe to keep feet warm even in frigid water.

With an air temperature in the 40s (F) and frigid water, this was a...
With an air temperature in the 40s (F) and frigid water, this was a pretty cold morning. The NRS Paddle booties are perfect for these conditions, keeping our feet nice and warm.
Photo: Dan Scott

On the other hand, it can be nice to have a comfortable water shoe on warm days or on land (i.e., drains well) and allows you to stay warm on cold days. For that to happen effectively, shoes need to have a roomy toebox, adjustable midfoot, and, ideally, a removable insole. Due to its well-designed lacing and roomy fit, we found the Astral TR1 Junction to be remarkably comfortable with both bare feet and three layers of socks. The NRS Vibe and Adidas Voyager are close seconds in this regard, with nicely adjustable lacing. However, the Vibe does not have an easily removable insole, making stuffing in lots of insulation somewhat tricky.

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Versatility


Shoes provide much more value when they can work for several different activities, instead of being overly specialized. While we like super-specialized shoes for the most demanding adventures, most of the time, we just want a shoe that will keep up regardless of what we decide to do.


A significant reason we awarded the Astral TR1 Junction the top honors is due to its versatility. Through our testing, it became our go-to shoe for water sports as well as things like running and mountain biking, which speaks to its superb design and performance. Another high-performing paddling shoe, the Astral Loyak, also did well in this metric due to its comfort and super low weight, making it easy to bring it along on trips.

We loved having both comfortable and sticky footwear, as we splashed...
We loved having both comfortable and sticky footwear, as we splashed through puddles and ponds on this hike.
Photo: Ellen Daugherty

For water shoes, versatility means performing well both on land and on the water. Good drainage, found on shoes like the NRS Vibe or Adidas Voyager makes this easy. Those shoes are comfortable and adjustable enough for paddling but also work great on land, drying quickly and keeping feet happy with plenty of support.

Shown here on the right, the NRS Vibes can smoothly transition from...
Shown here on the right, the NRS Vibes can smoothly transition from boating to hanging out at the bar.
Photo: Dan Scott

We valued shoes that we could use for multiple sports. With plenty of support and cushioning, the Salomon Crossamphibian Swift 2 turned out to be a great cross between a water shoe and a running shoe. While its poor hard surface traction would make us hesitate to use it for paddling, it would work well on a rafting trip, especially when spending a lot of time doing side hikes or hanging around at camp. We also liked the Astral TR1 Junction for running and hiking, although it has a more flat-soled, minimal drop-height feel more reminiscent of minimalist running shoes.

Our lead tester went to extremes in a huge variety of water sports...
Our lead tester went to extremes in a huge variety of water sports to test these shoes and relay exactly what you're getting into with each pair.
Photo: Ellen Daugherty

Sensitivity


Sensitivity is key when walking over rough terrain. Because water shoes often have to get over terrains like river cobbles, sandy beaches, and logs, it's key that they provide good ground feel. Feeling the ground beneath your feet translates to better awareness of body position and balance and can mean the difference between being upright and being flat on your back. High sensitivity, though, generally translates to lower comfort when hiking longer distances.


To evaluate how well we could feel the ground and react to uneven terrain, we walked over varied surfaces during our testing. Neoprene booties like the NRS Paddle and NRS Kicker Remix feature thin but stiff soles that provide excellent ground feel - perfect for short jaunts over boulders to scout rapids or get to a put-in. Due to their low drag and uninhibited ankle flexion, these shoes, along with the super low-profile Astral Loyak, also felt great while swimming.

These flexible soles have excellent ground feel.
These flexible soles have excellent ground feel.
Photo: Dan Scott

For more amphibious activities, where walking is as important as being in or on the water, we found that multiple shoes offered decent sensitivity while also providing adequate foot protection, unlike more flexible shoes. The Adidas Voyager and Astral TR1 Junction have moderate stiffness, but with enough cushioning, they give decent ground feel and still maintain a relatively low profile underwater.

The Junctions feature an easily flexed sole that provides good...
The Junctions feature an easily flexed sole that provides good proprioception for walking on uneven surfaces.
Photo: Dan Scott

Durability


Swimming rapids, running along beaches, and canyoneering all do a number on your shoes. Durable materials and smart construction keep your shoes going on long trips and, in the case of canyoneering, can be essential if you like shoes that last more than a day or two.


While we couldn't test these shoes to failure during our test period, we looked for materials and construction that indicated either durability or the lack thereof. The Astral Hiyak scores well for durability, with minimal mesh and lots of extra reinforcement. Our lead tester has tortured these shoes in canyons that would eat flimsier shoes in a matter of hours. However, if you don't need high performance in canyons, shoes like the Astral TR1 Junction and NRS Vibe held up well during our testing due to their durable upper materials and quality construction.

Rappel-assisted slides abrade shoe uppers, making tough materials a...
Rappel-assisted slides abrade shoe uppers, making tough materials a necessity for canyoneering shoes.
Photo: Ellen Daugherty

For boating-focused shoes, we were impressed by the reinforcements that made the NRS Paddle more than just a neoprene sock bonded to an outsole. Like its little sibling, the NRS Kicker Remix, it held up well during our testing. We subjected the Astral TR1 Junction to a lot of hard use, only to find mainly cosmetic damage at the end of our test period.

The rubber reinforcements and zipper on these booties held up well...
The rubber reinforcements and zipper on these booties held up well during our test period.
Photo: Ellen Daugherty

While it didn't do well in most respects, we found the Merrell Choprock Shandal to be surprisingly durable throughout our testing. Although it's mostly a sandal, it has the burly outsole of a hiking boot, and its thick, stiff upper material seems to take a lot of abuse, although it doesn't really keep that abuse from reaching your feet.

Through mud and rocks, these are some pretty tough shandals.
Through mud and rocks, these are some pretty tough shandals.
Photo: Dan Scott

Conclusion


Water shoes make time spent on rivers, lakes, and wet places much more fun. We bought and rigorously tested top models to see how well they kept feet happy, performed in various environments, and held up to both demanding water sports and the lounging around that usually follows. Water shoes can make or break your experience paddling or canyoneering. We hope this independent review can steer you towards a shoe that will fit your watery adventures' style and needs.

Dan Scott