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

How We Tested Water Shoes for Women

By Monica Nigon ⋅ Review Editor
Friday February 14, 2020

We thoroughly evaluated these shoes on boating and adventuring days on the Arkansas River of Colorado. They were worn on early-winter trips that involved half-frozen trails, braving mud and slippery inclines. We also took these pairs on a 24-day expedition on the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon. On this trip, the shoes were tested for their performance while rafting, canyoneering, scrambling, and hiking. We also wore them for more casual activities like lounging around camp and at work. We made sure to compare the shoes directly side-by-side, sometimes wearing two different models at a time.

We tested shoes side-by-side for direct comparison.
We tested shoes side-by-side for direct comparison.

Comfort


While comfort can depend on its fit for your particular foot, we evaluated the shoes for how comfortable they were on both the water and dry land activities. We took into account the general snugness, how well they cushioned the foot, their protectiveness over rough terrain, how well they drained, and how adjustable they were.

We tested for how securely they stayed on foot in the water and while walking. On land, we took into account how supportive and cushioned the shoe was and how much they shielded our feet from fatigue and obstacles on rough terrain.

The Vibe is a great shoe on the water and on dry land. They won our Best Buy Award  showing above-average durability and versatility.
The Vibe is a great shoe on the water and on dry land. They won our Best Buy Award, showing above-average durability and versatility.

Traction


We tested the shoes on any surface you're likely to encounter in water activities, including wet rocks, mossy logs, a wet raft, and a creek-formed canyon. They were also put to the test on side hikes involving sand and mud, as well as a hard-packed boat ramp. The commitment to testing each shoe thoroughly resulted in a couple of embarrassing wipeouts.

We wore the two different models at once, being sure to involve immediate side-by-side comparisons. This did result in some teasing from other people on our Grand Canyon trip.

The siped rubber tread stuck to slippery rock and a wet raft with confidence.
The siped rubber tread stuck to slippery rock and a wet raft with confidence.

Versatility


Most of us want to be able to use our shoes for more than just one specific activity. For this metric, we made sure to test the shoes in as many environments as possible. These included whitewater rafting, creek walking, hiking, navigating sandy beaches on the Colorado River to set up camp, and lounging.

For a high score on versatility, we wanted to reach for the shoes in as many environments as possible. We took into account how much we trusted their traction for the chosen activity as well as how ridiculous, in our opinion, we might look walking around town.

The Pros were great on a hike  on the water  and lounging around camp.
The Pros were great on a hike, on the water, and lounging around camp.

Warmth


For this metric, we took into account the shoe's construction materials as well as its adjustability for adding insulative layers on your feet. For a shoe to score high on warmth, it had to be adjustable enough to add layers like wool socks, neoprene, or a drysuit without compromising comfort. We also scored a product higher if it was equally comfortable with bare feet, allowing for good ventilation and draining.

The Loyaks allowed for adding wool socks and a drysuit on a cold winter boating mission  but it was tight. They did drain efficiently to avoid pruny feet and discomfort.
The Loyaks allowed for adding wool socks and a drysuit on a cold winter boating mission, but it was tight. They did drain efficiently to avoid pruny feet and discomfort.

Durability


Our testing period doesn't allow for exhaustive durability testing, but we did our best to put them through the mill in challenging environments nonetheless. We evaluate any clear issues during our testing, but mostly we used our years of experience in water sports to estimate how they might break down over time.

We looked for fraying, separation between the outsole and uppers, and failure of the lacing. We also took into account the quality of the stitching, glue, and materials.

The thin mesh uppers would be unlikely to take a sharp stick or rock without perforation  in our opinion.
The thin mesh uppers would be unlikely to take a sharp stick or rock without perforation, in our opinion.

Sensitivity


Your shoes should allow you to feel inconsistencies in the surface beneath your feet and be flexible enough to bend over rocks, roots, and boats. Sensitivity aids in balance and proprioception, avoiding accidents and injuries. We walked around on both wet and dry ground and noted how the ground felt beneath our feet. Flexibility of the outsole was taken into account, too.

These shoes are akin to a neoprene bootie when it comes to sensitivity and flexibility. This allows them to pack down small as well.
These shoes are akin to a neoprene bootie when it comes to sensitivity and flexibility. This allows them to pack down small as well.