Reviews You Can Rely On

10 Best Water Shoes of 2024

We've put top water shoes from Astral, Speedo, NRS, and more to find the best options to keep your feet protected during long days on the water
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Best Water Shoes Review
Credit: Dan Scott

Our Top Picks

By Monica Nigon, Dan Scott, and Jacob Clark  ⋅  May 7, 2024

The Best Water Shoes for 2024

Are you seeking a protective water shoe? Over the last four years, we've tested over 17 options of the top men's water shoes and best women's water shoes, selecting a few top contenders that stand out among the rest to highlight in this roundup. A desire to keep your feet protected during long days on the water is a need we understand. We used over 15 comparative tests to assess comfort, traction, warmth, versatility, sensitivity, and durability in the field. We wore different shoes on each foot to see how the performance compared while swimming, kayaking, paddle boarding, and canyoneering. After purchasing each pair, we have gathered the necessary details and data to help you find the best water shoe for your adventures.

We've tested a variety of footwear, including the best men's sandals and the best women's sandals, which might be a good alternative to water shoes. We also have recommendations for the best paddling gear, including vater vessels like the best stand up paddle boards and top-rated kayaks, and our favorite paddles to go along with them.

Editor's Note: On May 7, 2024, we added new value options.

Related: Best Water Shoes for Men
Related: Best Water Shoes for Women

Best Men's Water Shoes

Astral Brewer 2.0

Adaptable for thicker insulative layers
Lots of uses
Stable construction
Flexible yet supportive
A little slippery
Lacks durability
Drainage Features Holes in fronts and backs of midsoles
Measured Weight (per pair, US size 10) 1.2 lbs
Removeable Insole? No
Footwear Closure Lace
Upper Materials Canvas, mesh
The Astral Brewer 2.0 performs on land and water. A cozy and adaptable construction makes it flexible enough to accommodate additional insulation layers for outdoor conditions. Of all the models tested, it is an all-terrain warrior. One staff member wore these on a 6-day rafting trip on the Colorado River and then hiked from the river to the rim of the Grand Canyon in them! The tread sticks well on uneven and technical terrain and offers the protection you'd expect from a top performer. The sole is responsive yet flexible, providing an excellent balance of sensitivity and protection. If you often go from the water to the land in your adventures, this is our top recommendation and one you must check out.

While these shoes are excellent for most water-related activities, they aren't as warm as paddling booties with heavy insulation. On the slick, slippery ground, the smaller lugs wouldn't grip as well as other models tested, but they did well on rocky and sharp surfaces. Caveats aside, the Brewer 2.0 is still our favorite because its design works well in and out of the water. It scored very similarly to the Astral Loyak, which we highly recommend. If you prioritize traction above all else, check out the Astral Hiyak.

Some different angles from our test day in the tide pool zone, including a shot of the entire suite of water shoes we tested side-by-side that day.
Credit: Jacob Clark

Best Women's Water Shoes

Xtratuf Riptide - Women's

Great traction
Cinch mechanism
Good protection
Takes longer to dry
High price
Drainage Features Mesh on upper
Measured Weight (lb per pair, US size 8) 0.94
Removeable Insole? Yes
Footwear Closure Drawcord
Available Widths Medium
Our favorite women's water shoe from this round of testing is the Xtratuf Riptide. You might be familiar with this brand's iconic boots used on fishing boats. These water sneakers feature the same chevron-patterned sole, which provides excellent traction on wet surfaces like river rocks or raft tubes. We love the cinch cord in place of regular shoelaces; these are even hip enough to wear around town. We found they're stretchy enough to wear with socks underneath if you need some extra warmth, and you can remove the insole for even more space and to shorten the drying time.

Though we love this shoe's traction and great durability, it's not the most sensitive, meaning it's harder to navigate things like underwater rocks and roots. Overall, though, we love the Riptide and crowned it the top women's water shoe in this year's lineup. If you're looking for another versatile favorite, the Chaco Canyonland is great for water excursions and hiking, along with the Astral Brewess 2.0, which is the women's version of the Astral's Brewer 2.0, a favorite in our men's review.

Testing the Riptide in various water settings, from stream crossings to canoeing.
Credit: Monica Nigon

Best Men's Bang for the Buck

Speedo Surf Knit Pro

Great flexibility and sensitivity
Fast to get on and off
Very comfortable without socks
Little protection against sharp terrain
Very little insulation in cold water
Drainage Features Top Mesh
Measured Weight (per pair, US size 10) 1.18 lbs
Removeable Insole? Yes
Footwear Closure Slip-on
Upper Materials Mesh
Several inexpensive, slip-on water shoes were tested, and the Speedo Surf Knit Pro stood out for its comfort and excellent feel. Unlike lace-up shoes, these water shoes are easy to take on and off. They performed significantly better on trails and pavement compared to the other budget-friendly models, the DLGJPA and DOUSSPRT. While the DLGJPA and DOUSSPRT drained quickly and felt lightweight due to holes in the soles, these features made them less suitable for trails or walking for extended periods. Additionally, these holed soles limit their usefulness as everyday shoes, as your feet would get wet in even the slightest puddles or damp conditions. The Speedo Surf Knit Pro, however, prevents water from seeping in through the bottom while providing a good sense of the ground beneath your feet.

While the Surf Knit performed well on short hikes, it's not for rugged terrain. Unlike sturdier water shoes designed for challenging hikes, like the Astral Brewer or Loyak, the Surf Knit offers less protection from sharp objects on the trail. For instance, testers felt twigs through the soles when walking on logs. This thin sole provides a more barefoot feel when wading in water, but it comes at the cost of reduced protection. Additionally, the Surf Knit's suitability for everyday wear is limited. On the bright side, the Surf Knit is a great choice for beach activities and paddleboarding due to its affordability and sensitivity. It excels as a budget-friendly option for situations where feeling the ground and surfaces underfoot is a priority.

Walking on submerged rocks on Lake Tahoe with the Surf Knit Pro.
Credit: Chris McNamara

Best Women's Bang for the Buck

DLGJPA Lightweight Quick Drying - Women's

Quick drying
Less durable
Small debris can enter through drainage holes
Drainage Features Mesh on upper, drainage holes on sole
Measured Weight (lb per pair, US size 8) 0.44
Removeable Insole? No
Footwear Closure Drawcord
Available Widths Medium
Our favorite budget option for women is the DLGJPA Lightweight shoe. This comfortable water slipper has a cinch closure and dries quickly in the sun, even in humid climates. It's lightweight and can handle short hikes quite decently. We tested the men's DLGJPA as well and it scored similarly.

However, durability is lacking, as one might expect from a budget shoe of this caliber. The thin mesh showed some fraying after our test period, so take care when encountering sharp sticks or rocks. The larger mesh openings are also prone to taking on small rocks or sand, and we also noted that these are not as supportive as some of the more structured shoes in our tests. The cinch elastic stretches out after some use, too. However, if you need water shoes for light-duty use, the DLGJPA will fit the bill. If you want more performance for a low price, see the NRS Kicker Wetshoe - Women's, which is not an everyday shoe but performs pretty well during water activities for a good price.

water shoes - the dlgjpa shoes are comfortable, but there are better options for...
The DLGJPA shoes are comfortable, but there are better options for traction in situations like this.
Credit: Monica Nigon

Best Water Shoe for Paddling

NRS Paddle Wetshoe

All-day comfort
Neoprene offers warmth
Great traction
Lacks support
Slow drying and lacks drainage
Drainage Features None
Measured Weight (per pair, US size 10) 1.70 lbs
Removeable Insole? No
Footwear Closure Zipper, velcro
Upper Materials 3 mm neoprene
The NRS Paddle Wetshoe is a favorite of our male paddling reviewers. This neoprene bootie features a fleece interior coupled with a stretchy neoprene upper. It offers a snug fit that provides warmth on a barefoot, making it a great option for water-based activities like swimming, kayaking, or stand-up paddle boarding. The super sticky rubber suctions onto rocks, adding confidence to shoreline movement. Whether you're hanging out on your boat or jumping out of it to explore rocky outcroppings, this is our favorite for paddling.

While neoprene booties provide flexibility and warmth in the water, they come at the expense of performance on land. If you plan long walks, it does not offer much support or protection. Additionally, the neoprene design takes a while to dry out and offers no drainage. If you seek a neoprene bootie built for the water, the NRS Paddle Wetshoe is not to be missed. If you don't love the hightop design, it comes in the low cut NRS Kicker Wetshoe, which scored slightly lower but is less expensive and easier to get on and off.

Read more: NRS Paddle Wetshoe - Men's review

The Paddle Wetshoe on our coastal beach testing day.
Credit: Jacob Clark

Best Stylish Performance for Men

Astral Loyak

Flexible design
Sticky traction
Great drainage
Comfortable fit
Not warm
Durability issues noted
Drainage Features Front/back/side holes, top mesh
Measured Weight (per pair, US size 10) 0.95 lbs
Removeable Insole? Yes
Footwear Closure Lace
Upper Materials Hydrophobic canvas and Airmesh
The Astral Loyak is the king of functionality from the water to the after-party. In addition to being high-performing in the water, it also looks great for casual social events. In the water, they offer a glove-like fit with superb drainage. The flex-grip outsole sticks well to all surfaces, including slippery rocks, and offers enough support for strolls on the beach or around the town. The thin, neutral soles offer a sensitive yet protective experience, which translates to better balance on uneven surfaces with excellent swimming performance.

While it's highly functional from the water to town outings, there are a few drawbacks. It is not as adjustable as other high-performing shoes and offers little insulation. It's also difficult to layer more than a thin wool sock underneath. If you're looking for a water shoe that'll perform in the water and transition to the street after a fun day, the Loyak is exactly what you're looking for. If you want more hiking prowess from your water shoe, Astral's Brewer 2.0 can offer that.

We have tested the Loyak over four years in a wide variety of activities, from pack rafting to canyoneering and stream hiking.
Credit: Dan Scott

Best Minimalist Performance for Woman

Astral Loyak - Women's

Fantastic traction
Minimalist and low-profile
Comfortable and snug fit
Versatile use
Durability is subpar
Not very warm
Drainage Features Outsole is draining
Measured Weight (lb per pair, US size 8) 0.87
Removeable Insole? Yes
Footwear Closure Laces
Available Widths Medium
The Astral Loyak - Women's is lightweight, high-performing and looks great. The bomber outsole offers some of the best traction we've tested, with a flexible design that does well on slippery rocks and uneven surfaces. We tested it while swimming, boating, and exploring on land, where it performed excellently. It has a unique, stylish look for food and drinks around a campfire or beachside bar. While this contender has the look and feel of a shoe, it performs like a neoprene bootie.

While the Loyak boasts many pluses, it has its drawbacks. Given the canvas uppers and snug fit, it's not a very warm boot. It's also hard to layer an insulative sock, so they are limited to only warmer days on the water. There was also noticeable wear after just a few months of testing. We love the stylish look and performance of the women's Loyak. It does well in the water, out of the water, and around town.

Read more: Astral Loyak - Women's review

Testing the Loyaks on rafting trips and beyond.
Credit: Monica Nigon

How We Test Water Shoes

At GearLab, we have been reviewing water shoes for over four years. We've spent 12 hours researching over 100 pairs and selected 17 pairs to purchase and test hands-on for both men and women. Our testing team has traveled nationwide, testing on their water-focused escapades. From the Pacific Northwest to the coast of California, to the raging rivers of the Grand Canyon, we've tested each pair in all kinds of conditions and weather. We've waded up and down frigid meltwater streams, sauntered along on sandy beaches, stumbled over mossy shorelines, and tested them in an 18-foot gear boat. We wore different shoes on each foot to observe how they compared in performance. We dissected the construction and features while subjecting them to over 15 objective and comparative tests. Using this information, we could decipher the pros and cons of each product. We also tested on various boats, from stand-up paddle boards to kayaks. Finally, we handed out shoes to fellow water lovers to gather their input to help select award winners and provide expert recommendations. Read more about how we test water shoes.

We used six performance metrics in our testing of water shoes:
  • Comfort (25%)
  • Traction (25%)
  • Warmth (15%)
  • Versatility (15%)
  • Sensitivity (10%)
  • Durability (10%)

Measuring drying times of water shoes with our moisture meter.
Credit: Chris McNamara

Why Trust GearLab

Our review team consists of three water-loving adventurers who spend most of their time on the water. Dan Scott is a devoted pack rafter who also loves canyoneering. He has spent years rafting and canoeing rivers from the Grand Canyon to the Main Salmon in the Western United States. Dan has made numerous first and solo descents in high-flow and low-flow canyons. His travels took him from the USA to Spain and Austria. He is also a river scientist with a Ph.D. and spends much of his time gathering information about and around rivers. Jacob Clark is a passionate kayaker and ocean enthusiast. Jacob has spent lots of time guiding in and around the oceans of Santa Barbara, canoeing on the Colorado River, and kayaking through the rivers formed by glacial runoff in California. In charge of the women's review is Monica Nigon. Monica is an enthusiastic whitewater raft guide and paddling instructor who works on Colorado's Arkansas River. She learned to paddle a canoe and kayak on Minnesota's lakes and rivers. As a seasoned boater, she has taken numerous rafting adventures around the globe, from day trips in New Zealand to extended expeditions in the Grand Canyon.

Our testers went to the extremes, testing water shoes in the world's...
Our testers went to the extremes, testing water shoes in the world's grandest canyons.
Testing water shoes often means wading through some very cold water.
Testing water shoes often means wading through some very cold water.
While boating, we were a different shoe on each foot to assess...
While boating, we were a different shoe on each foot to assess comparable performance.

How to Pick the Best Water Shoes for You

Footwear can be tough for the most amphibious humans who can't get enough water. While sandals offer breathability on a hot day, they may not swim well or stay on your feet. Regular shoes will easily become water-laden, taking hours to drain, leaving your feet water-logged and wrinkled. Water shoes are designed to get wet while keeping your feet dry and warm. So, what do you need to know before purchasing a pair? In this article, we dive into the different types of water shoes you'll find on the market and the attributes to consider before you purchase your next pair. While exploring this section, be sure to recognize what you will be using your water shoes for and the weather and climate where you'll be exploring. Let's get started.

water shoes - depending on what you plan to use your water shoe for, there are a...
Depending on what you plan to use your water shoe for, there are a few considerations you need to explore.
Credit: Spencer Knutson

Why Should You Buy a Water Shoe?

Water shoes are closed-toe shoes designed to protect your feet while recreating on water bodies. They are designed to breathe, keep your feet cool on hot days, and drain to keep your feet from sitting in soggy shoes. The special rubber and outsole will give you confidence on slippery surfaces, while the water's insulating properties will help warm your feet. Whether you love to boat, spend days on the beach, snorkel, or surf, a solid water shoe is a must-have addition to any water lover's gear closet. Water shoes offer safety and comfort on slippery surfaces, with better performance than sandals or hiking boots. So whether you're snorkeling at your favorite reef, exploring a new canyon, or adventuring in your favorite watercraft, a pair of water shoes is always a good purchase.

So when is a water shoe not a good choice? Any time you're on or around the water, a water shoe will offer the best performance of any other type of shoe. However, a sandal may be a good fit if you're walking alongside the water and not in it. Or if you are running or hiking through a few streams without your feet being wet all the time, consider a solid pair of trail running shoes or one of our favorite hiking boots.

water shoes - there are many types of water shoes on the market. to start your...
There are many types of water shoes on the market. To start your research you first must decide on the type that works best for your needs.
Credit: Monica Nigon

Men's Water Shoes

Our men's water shoe review goes deeper on the shoes we love and how each one in the lineup compares to the others. See the overall scores in the charts below.

Women's Water Shoes

We did a dedicated women's water shoe review to outline our favorite women's models. That review contains more specs and features of each shoe. See the women's scores for the shoes we tested below.

Types of Water Shoes

The first step to purchasing a solid water shoe is understanding the types you'll find on the market. Before we dive deeper into this section, take a moment to consider what you're buying your water shoes for, the weather you'll likely encounter, and any features that you need to best suit your adventures. Understanding your needs will help you narrow your search for the best shoe.

Neoprene Booties

A bootie may be best if you love swimming or surfing or immerse your feet in cold water for long periods. Constructed of neoprene, this type of water shoe is comfortable and warm. They're designed to fit snugly, like a glove. The neoprene will absorb and hold water in its porous fabric. When your body warms the water in the fabric, it acts like an insulation. These boots are incredibly comfortable as they are lightweight and flexible, designed to aid efficient swimming. They also have an outsole designed to stick to smooth surfaces, like the face of a surfboard or stand-up paddle board. The thicker outsole also offers insulation underfoot for cold days on the water. While these boots are an excellent choice for play in the water and on boats, they are not the most durable. As a result, if you're planning on doing a lot of water-based hiking, consider a shoe with a thicker and more supportive outsole instead.

water shoes - a neoprene bootie slips over your bare foot, offering excellent...
A neoprene bootie slips over your bare foot, offering excellent warmth for paddling in cold water. Consider a bootie if you spend most of your time in a boat or in the water.
Credit: Jacob Clark

Low-Profile Paddling Shoes

The low-profile paddling shoe may look like a regular shoe with water-specific features that offer more support and drainage than a neoprene bootie. It is more protective and stable, making it a versatile choice for going from water to land-based activities. It is constructed with a low-profile and minimalist design that is flexible and sensitive. The thin soles make it ideal for situations where you need to fit inside a small boat, like a kayak. It also has an outsole protective enough to perform on land.

The outsole typically lacks long or burly lugs and is made of smooth rubber. This allows for more surface area contact and better traction on soft, slippery, or smooth surfaces. The uppers typically feature a construction that maximizes drainage, such as a mesh upper or holes in the outsole's perimeter so it dries quickly. You'll find that most of these low-profile paddling shoes are low-cut for better flexibility.

water shoes - a low-profile shoe offers excellent sensitivity for moving easily...
A low-profile shoe offers excellent sensitivity for moving easily around a boat and getting in and out of the water.
Credit: Monica Nigon

Water-Focused Running or Hiking Shoes

Another category is the water shoe built for running or hiking. People who like to swim and run or find themselves hiking in a swampy or water-logged environment may want to look for this type of shoe. This category is a hybrid between regular running and traditional paddling shoes. It features more support than a paddling shoe and better drainage than a runner or hiker. It also has a thinner outsole than a runner to retain sensitivity while providing higher support.

water shoes - fall runs in the pacific northwest might be a situation where you...
Fall runs in the Pacific Northwest might be a situation where you seek out a shoe built to take on watery-logged trails and streets.
Credit: Ellen Daugherty

Boots and Canyoneering Shoes

In this review, we don't focus on this genre of shoes, but it's an important one to consider if you find yourself in the depths of the Earth, canyoneering. This type is usually burlier than a padding shoe with thicker and more durable uppers. The mid-heigh cut offers more protection in slots, prioritizing warmth over drainage. Sticky and durable rubber ensures the shoe can handle rough and wet terrain. These features equate to a more durable design for sliding, rappelling, scrambling, boulder-hopping, and jumping. With super sticky outsoles, many people who explore canyons look for these approach shoes.

water shoes - our testing team took to the depths of canyons to see how different...
Our testing team took to the depths of canyons to see how different water shoes performed in some of the most extreme of conditions.
Credit: Ellen Daugherty

Wading Boots

Wading boots are another genre we don't cover in this review but should be considered. This type of boot is designed to help you move confidently over slipper rocks and river bottoms. The outsoles feature felt or studded soles to prevent falls. Bulky and warm, it is a great option for the fisherman or river explorer who might spend lots of time wading through the water.

Attributes to Consider

Along with determining what type of water shoe you need, there are attributes for each shoe type to consider before your purchase. Depending on how and where you will be using your new pair of water shoes, there are a few construction details that you'll want to consider while you search for your perfect pair.

water shoes - whether you're pack rafting down a river or exploring rocky...
Whether you're pack rafting down a river or exploring rocky shorelines, there are some key attributes to consider in a water shoe before your purchase.
Credit: Ellen Daugherty


Are you planning on recreating in cold weather most of the year? Then, you'll want to look for a shoe that offers insulation. Cold or frozen feet aren't only annoying while exploring but can be dangerous. Neoprene booties are a great choice as the neoprene insulates when wet. As you move, the heat your foot generates is captured, ultimately creating a warming effect. However, if you find your feet in cold water most of the day, you may benefit from adding a water sandal to the water bootie, which provides another barrier from the cold. If you're a fairweather recreator who sees cold weather on the odd day of the year, a neoprene bootie is all you need.

water shoes - if you find yourself in cold water all day long, a warm water shoe...
If you find yourself in cold water all day long, a warm water shoe is a consideration that needs to be taken seriously.
Credit: Spencer Knutson

Type of Traction

Slipping on mossy rocks is exactly what we want to avoid when purchasing a water shoe. Therefore, it's important to consider the different types of traction patterns and rubber used. Water shoes are designed to stick to surfaces like the bottom of your wet boat, mossy rocks, slick sandstone, or slippery logs.

water shoes - these neoprene boots, outfitted with a sticky outsole, offer...
These neoprene boots, outfitted with a sticky outsole, offer excellent traction on even the slipperiest ocean-side logs.
Credit: Jacob Clark

We've noticed that shoes built for smooth surfaces have smaller lugs, soft rubber, and razor sipes (or tiny slits). Shoes built for soft surfaces tend to have heavier, more protective rubber, stiff soles, and larger lugs. These softer rubbers do better at conforming to different surfaces sticking better but offer less protection. Heavier rubbers, built for soft surfaces, don't conform as easily and don't stick well to slippery surfaces, but they offer more protection from sharp objects or surfaces underfoot. Given their stiffness, they are also more responsive on soft surfaces.

You should consider these traction attributes depending on where you plan to recreate. Unless you spend all your time on the beach or in a muddy river, we recommend looking for a shoe with softer soles built for smooth surfaces instead of soft surfaces. Shoes with a softer rubber are more versatile, offering performance on boats and surfboards or while scrambling over wet rocks on a canyoneering adventure.


How protective does your water shoe need to be? Will you be hiking for long days in wet canyons or just wearing them out on the beach? A stiffer, more protective shoe is best for long days over rocky surfaces, while a more flexible, less protective shoe offers more sensitivity and better swimming performance. If you're into boat sports or won't be on your feet as much, a less protective, more flexible shoe is better than a rigid, more protective shoe. But if you like to spend your days hiking along waterbodies, seek out a more rigid and protective outsole.

water shoes - protective shoes are imperative for slick rappels like these, but...
Protective shoes are imperative for slick rappels like these, but they're also helpful for seashore walks and uneven terrain.
Credit: Dan Scott

Fitting a Water Shoe

A water shoe is unlike your normal street shoe or one you use for running. Before choosing a size, you must consider how you will use it. If you plan on simply sliding your bare foot inside, feel free to purchase your regular street shoe size. However, if you are a glutton for cold adventures, you'll want a thick pair of neoprene socks to supplement the insulating properties of your water shoe. Therefore, you should consider sizing up a full size as a warm neoprene sock can add 4-5 millimeters of thickness to your foot. Sizing up will keep your feet warmer and more comfortable on your adventures. Additionally, many water shoes have a removable insole that will get you a little more top-to-bottom room if removed.

water shoes - we test the shoes' fit to determine which has a little extra room...
We test the shoes' fit to determine which has a little extra room for layering insulative layers. These are essential considerations that might limit or expand the versatility of your water shoe.
Credit: Ethan Kaandorp

Durable Construction

You've probably noticed that some water shoes are constructed for durability while others are minimalistic and light. Considering how you will use your shoe will help you determine how durable it needs to be. If you primarily find yourself boating, a simple low-profile kayaking boot with a neoprene and mesh construction will do the trick. If you're boating, you probably won't walk around too often on sharp surfaces. However, if you love to wade through rivers or add the occasional canyoneering trip to your itinerary, look for a boot with thick upper construction and a thicker outsole, as it will take the impact of crunching over sharp surfaces.

water shoes - we've spent years putting water shoes to the test in some of the...
We've spent years putting water shoes to the test in some of the most gear-thrashing environments. We hope our experiences riding the rapids of the Grand Canyon and exploring seaside beaches has helped you find exactly what you are looking for.
Credit: Spencer Knutson


Whether a fairweather beach-goer or a white water kayaker, a high-quality water shoe will make your day much more enjoyable. Now that you've started your research and know what to consider, you're on your way to finding the best water shoe for your needs. We hope that the hours of work we've put into testing each product and the advice for buying have helped you with your amphibious ambitions.

Monica Nigon, Dan Scott, and Jacob Clark