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The Best Water Shoes of 2024

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Humanity hasn’t always needed water shoes for protection. But let’s face it: Most of us in this era will never again develop tough-as-leather feet like our shoeless ancestors, who could travel miles across nasty terrain with bare feet. Today, our feet have delicate, sensitive soles that feel every piece of gravel in the grass, every shell in the sand, every fish hook in the foot, and every tree branch in the toe.

Our water shoe review covers function, but also fashion. Water shoes are a key piece of gear today for almost all environments and water sports. They protect our feet from sharp coral, slippery rocks, broken glass in the muck, numbing cold, mosquitoes, and sunburn. They help us stick to paddleboards, run on the beach, wade fishing flats, portage kayaks, cruise the resort pool, and grip slippery rocks.

Lead tester Nathan Ward is a lifelong adventurer, writer, photographer, and Emmy award-winning filmmaker who has paddled his fair share of rivers across the globe. He tested a wide range of water shoes in the heat and saltwater of the Caribbean and the icy snowmelt rivers of the Colorado Rockies.

Some shoes he didn’t like and threw in the trash bin from the start. But, those covered here are some of the best water shoes out there. We tested them for support, sticky grip, style, sand protection, adjustability, drainability, durability, and wearability in different environments.

Step into our best overall water shoes of the year and peruse the list below for a pair of hoof covers that pique your curiosity. At the end of the list, check out our helpful comparison chart, comprehensive buyer’s guide, and FAQ section to answer any lingering questions. 

The Best Water Shoes of 2024

Best Overall Water Shoes

  • Height
    Just below the ankle bone
  • Material
    Canvas and Mesh
  • Adjustment
    Excellent/ Traditional laces
  • Shoe Sole
    G.15 Rubber + Flex Grip Outsole – both proprietary to Astral
  • Dry Weight (single shoe)
    7.8 oz./222 g
  • What’s Cool About It
    Versatility – water, travel, airport hours, other sports

  • Looks like a sneaker, not a water shoe

  • Very grippy on wet rocks

  • Versatile for water, town or sports

  • Dries fast

  • Comfortable

  • Good for side hikes – down Havana’s Malecon or the Grand Canyon


  • Don’t protect the ankle

  • Can be hard to wash all the sand out of them

Best Budget Water Shoes

  • Height
    Below the ankle bone
  • Upper Material
    Breathable
  • Adjustment
    None /Slip on
  • Shoe Sole
    S-Trac
  • Dry Weight (single shoe)
    10.6 oz./301 g
  • What’s Cool About It
    Casual around pool or at a restaurant

  • Easy

  • Stylish

  • Sun and slip protection

  • Packable


  • White soles. Or not. Depends on your style.

Best Water Shoes for Running

  • Height
    Just below the ankle bone
  • Upper material
    Open mesh
  • Adjustment
    Excellent; stretchable laces with plastic toggle lock
  • Shoe sole
    5mm thick; FeelTrue rubber with lugs
  • Dry weight (single shoe)
    7.5 oz./213 g
  • What’s Cool About It
    Born from the barefoot running movement

  • Adjust fit with elastic laces

  • Drains and dries quickly

  • Snug fit

  • Packable

Best Water Shoes for Cold Temps

  • Height
    Mid-Shin
  • Upper Material
    3mm Terraprene with titanium adhesive
  • Adjustment
    Some/YKK side zipper, Velcro strap over the top of the ankle
  • Shoe Sole
    3mm rubber, backed up with 5mm insole and 2mm plastic shim for additional protection
  • Dry Weight (single shoe)
    13.2 oz./374 g
  • What’s Cool About It
    Warmth, protection, height

  • Straps to customize fit

  • Toe and heel protection

  • Fairly low profile means work well inside boats

  • Easy on/off

  • Good zipper

  • Keeps sand out


  • Sole is not very thick so it flexes easily

  • No half sizes

  • Toebox is extra-wide

  • Too warm for hot areas

Best of the Rest

  • Height
    Below the ankle bone
  • Upper material
    30% recycled mesh
  • Adjustment
    Excellent/3 adjustable Velcro straps
  • Shoe sole
    “Spider Rubber”
  • Dry weight (single shoe)
    14.8 oz./420 g
  • What’s Cool About It
    The most protection for your feet

  • Sneaker style

  • Thick soles = foot protection

  • Toe protection

  • Adjustable

  • Recycled materials

  • Vegan


  • Take some adjustments to make them comfortable

  • Bulky

  • Heavier

  • Feet won’t dry quickly

  • Height
    Below the ankle bone
  • Upper Material
    10% “Bloom” performance foam
  • Adjustment
    None/Slip on
  • Shoe Sole
    Same as upper/It looks like all one pour
  • Dry Weight (single shoe)
    8 oz./223 g
  • What’s Cool About It
    So weird they are cool

  • Fun colors

  • Easy on and off

  • Comfortable


  • They are pretty weird

  • The fit is somewhat sloppy

  • Height
    Just below the ankle bone
  • Upper Material
    Hydrophobic canvas
  • Adjustment
    Excellent/Traditional Laces
  • Shoe Sole
    G.15 Rubber + Flex Grip Outsole – both proprietary to Astral
  • Dry Weight (single shoe)
    7.4 o/209 g
  • What’s Cool About It
    Minimal shoe that is built well

  • Minimal profile

  • Drains in the toe and heel

  • Removable insole so you can wash all the sand out

  • Flexible = you can feel the ground

  • Packs down small


  • Not many cons, but just not as much protection as the Brewer 2.0.

  • Sizing runs big

  • Height
    Just below the ankle bone
  • Upper Material
    Stretchy elastic
  • Adjustment
    None/Slip on
  • Shoe Sole
    Thin rubber
  • Dry Weight (single shoe)
    5 oz.142 g
  • What’s Cool About It
    Very minimal, inexpensive

  • Takes up very little space in your pack


  • Not much protection for your foot

  • Sloppy fit

  • May not last multiple trips

Water Shoes Comparison Chart

Water Shoes Price Height Adjustment Shoe Sole What’s Cool About It
Astral Brewer 2.0 $125 Just below the ankle bone Excellent/ Traditional laces G.15 Rubber + Flex Grip Outsole – both proprietary to Astral Versatility – water, travel, airport hours, other sports
Speedo Surf Knit Pro $45 Below the ankle bone None /Slip on S-Trac Casual around pool or at a restaurant
Xero Aqua X Sport $130 Just below the ankle bone Excellent; stretchable laces with plastic toggle lock 5mm thick — FeelTrue rubber with lugs Born from the barefoot running movement
NRS Paddle Wetshoe $70 Mid-Shin Some/YKK side zipper, Velcro strap over the top of the ankle 3mm rubber, backed up with 5mm insole and 2mm plastic shim for additional protection Warmth, protection, height
Teva Outflow Universal $110 Below the ankle bone Excellent/3 adjustable Velcro straps “Spider Rubber” The most protection for your feet
Merrell Hydro Moc $60 Below the ankle bone None/Slip on Same as upper/It looks like all one pour So weird they are cool
Astral Loyak $95 Just below the ankle bone Excellent/Traditional Laces G.15 Rubber + Flex Grip Outsole — both proprietary to Astral Minimal shoe that is built well
Athmile Water Sock $10 Just below the ankle bone None/Slip on Thin rubber Very minimal, inexpensive

How We Tested Water Shoes

Choosing which shoes to select for the best water shoes today represents a tricky challenge. Nearly every footwear company out there offers a “water shoe.” Some of these are legitimate shoes that can be used for all sports. Some are nothing more than a simple sock with non-slip rubber on the bottom.

We chose mainstream footwear companies we have used for years, with the Xera Aqua X Sport being the exception. We added this shoe because the barefoot running movement is real and areas near water are often ideal for running. 

Nathan Ward headed up this test, first packing all the shoes for a trip to the Caribbean and then testing them on the shores of the Arkansas River in Salida, Colo. Nathan is a lifelong adventurer who has kayaked rivers in the Himalayas, wade-fished Rocky Mountain rivers and tropical flats, paddled SUPs on oceans/inlets/lakes/rivers, snorkeled rivers, gingerly crunched over sea urchins, and spent too many hours on the decks of swimming pools watching his son swim back and forth.

He is also a lifelong writer, photographer, and Emmy Award-winning filmmaker devoted to conservation, river restoration, and wildlife protection. He has worn out more than one pair of Astral Brewers in his adventures and work. This guide represents the best water shoes on the market, and if you’re looking for women’s-specific choices, check out our guide to the Best Water Shoes for Women. 

Buyer’s Guide: How to Choose the Best Water Shoes

Given the thousands of types of water shoes available, this is a tough question. However, the most simple answer is often the best. Where will you use your water shoes the most, and how often? 

For example, will you use them primarily at the resort or the pool, where you need a water shoe to protect your feet from hot sand, sun, and slipping? Then, the Speedo Surf Knit Pro may be the best shoe for you. 

However, if you plan on paddling or swimming whitewater and tackling tough rocky side hikes on a multiday rafting trip, the Teva Outflow Universal, the Astral Brewer 2.0, or Astral Loyak will be your best choice. If you’re surfing or paddling cold rivers or waves, the NRS Paddle Wetshoe will be ideal. 

Close your eyes, visualize where you will spend most of your water time, and imagine what features will make you the most happy. One of the shoes in this review will work well for you.

Use Types

Building on the concept above, different water shoes are best suited for different uses. The most common of these are adventure, lifestyle, and cold. And fashion, of course. Don’t forget fashion.

Sometimes these categories can be combined for a broader range of uses. Regardless of use, every water shoe should protect your feet, stay on, and help prevent you from slipping on wet or slimy surfaces.

Adventure

When we picture water adventures, we think of paddling sups, running whitewater in a raft or a kayak, jogging on the beach, hiking routes that combine trails and water crossings, or wading over sharp coral to fly fish. Your feet need support, protection from rocks, and shoes that stay on if you are washed through a churning whitewater rapid or pinwheeled in the waves. Adventure shoes include the Xero Aqua X Sport, the Astral Brewer 2.0, and the Teva Outflow Universal

Casual/Lifestyle

Casual water shoes are oriented more toward lifestyle pursuits like walking in small lapping waves, strolling around town near the river while you look for a delicious bagel, crossing the gravel between the parking lot and the beach, and stepping across sun-baked hot concrete and sand. You can wear these shoes at the beach, the water park, and the restaurant afterward.

They will not necessarily stay on in waves, running rivers, or any action-oriented water activity. You often find single casual water shoes washed up alone on the edges of lakes, rivers, and beaches. 

Why not just wear flip-flops? We love flip-flops, but water shoes definitely stay on better than flip-flops, offer a degree of sun protection, and have soles designed to prevent slipping. The Speedo Surf Knit Pro and Merrell Hydro Moc fit this lifestyle category. 

Cold Water/Cold Temps

To pursue cold water sports, you need a water shoe that will help keep your feet as warm as possible. This often means a neoprene shoe or a more sustainable option like the Terraprene in the NRS Paddle Wetshoe. Many companies sell low neoprene booties or socks, but for better protection and performance, you want a cold water shoe that covers your ankle completely and is tall enough to be tucked under the legs of your wetsuit.

You also want them to zip on the side so you can put them off and take them off easier, as well as a small tab to cover the zipper so it doesn’t cut into your wetsuit. NRS has specialized in cold water for decades, and its Paddle Wetshoe is the most recent version of a long line of paddling booties.

Another option would be to use a neoprene NRS Wetsock under your adventure water shoe. If you do this, you must buy an adventure water shoe big enough to fit the neoprene sock. The downside is that the larger shoe size will decrease your warm-weather performance when not wearing the neoprene sock. There are always trade-offs when trying to combine equipment for very different conditions.

Fit and Sizing

All the water shoes reviewed offer fairly wide toeboxes, although none of them come in a wide option. Wide toeboxes are popular because you can spread your toes out. However, sand and water sometimes collect or pool in a wide toebox. The NRS Paddle Wetshoe offers a very wide toebox.

Many water shoes do not come in half sizes, so most of the time you need to order the half size larger. For example, if you normally wear a 10.5 regular shoe, order an 11 water shoe. If you are pursuing more active adventures, look for a shoe that comes in half sizes so you can get the best fit.

In this review, the Astral Brewer 2.0, Xero Aqua X Sport, and the Teval Outflow Universal all come in half sizes. You may want to order the Merrell Hydro Moc half a size down because the fit is fairly loose. The Astral Loyak runs big, and they don’t come in half sizes, so order half-size down. And finally, the Speedo Surf Knit Pro is built with a stretchy fabric on top so the material will stretch out to the width of your foot.

Weight and Packability

The shoes that offer the most protection also weigh more. Look at the NRS Paddle Wetshoe, the Athmile Water Sock, and the Teva Outflow Universal. Shoes with less protection often weigh less. The exception here is the Speedo Surf Knit Pro, which weighs quite a bit for a casual water shoe because it’s built with a fairly thick sole for additional protection. 

Most of these water shoes squish flat so you can throw a rubber band around them and stuff them in your suitcase or pack where they will take up very little room. The exception is the Teva Outflow Universal because it is built more like a supportive sneaker. If you’re trying to pack minimally, wear this on the plane while traveling.

The weight, packability, and performance winner is the Astral Brewer 2.0, which is lightweight and doesn’t take up much room. 

Outsoles (Tread)

Regardless of what type of water shoe is best for you, a non-negotiable feature is a shoe sole that protects your feet from rocks, hot sand, slippery algae, fish hooks, broken shells, coral, limestone caves, burning concrete, and all the other environmental dangers that can damage the sensitive bottoms of your feet. While some things like very slippery rocks and broken glass may best every water shoe rubber sole, the shoe soles in this review all do a very good job. 

Some companies focus on the rubber more. For example, earlier versions of the Astral Brewer used the proven nonslip Stealth climbing shoe rubber. Over time, Astral developed its own proprietary rubber, which it calls the G.15 Rubber and that it used in the Astral Brewer 2.0. It’s durable, grippy on wet surfaces, and doesn’t mark up the floor.

Another take on a protective outsole is the NRS Paddle Wetshoe, which uses a thin but sticky sole combined with a 5mm inner sole, a 2mm plastic shim, and additional protection on the heels, Achilles area, and toes. The end result is a flexible water shoe that also protects your feet. 

Support and Comfort

Many water shoes are not very comfortable for long periods, as they’re designed to be worn only for the time you are in the water. As a result, many do not offer much, or any, arch support. The manufacturers know most water shoes are designed to be worn directly on a bare foot without the cushion of a sock, so water shoes are often lined with a material soft on bare skin. If you want some arch support, look to the Astral Brewer 2.0 and the Teva Outflow Universal. 

Sustainability

As we all know, creating sustainable products is a huge challenge. Shoes are made with materials, glues, and compounds designed to protect your feet, not break down easily once they wear out. This is an unfortunate reality, but several of the companies manufacturing the water shoes profiled here are making a sincere effort to design products more sustainably. We’ve mentioned many of these sustainability initiatives above and you can read about them in much more detail on each manufacturer’s website. 

To highlight a few sustainability initiatives:

Could they all do more? Of course. Can they all do more and still stay in business? We don’t know. However, every dollar bill is a vote, so when choosing shoes, you can make an impact by deciding how to spend yours.

If sustainability is an important consideration for you, spend yours on companies that aggressively pursue sustainable materials and processes, both before making shoes and after the shoes have worn out.

FAQ

Most water shoes aren’t designed to be worn all day, but switched out with bare feet and everyday shoes. If you do want to wear them all day, choose one of the shoes with a more contoured sole and some arch support like the Astral Brewer 2.0 or Teva Outflow Universal.

If you’ll be adventuring in your water shoes, your feet need support, protection from rocks, and shoes that stay on if you are washed through a churning whitewater rapid or pinwheeled in the waves. Adventure shoes include the Xero Aqua X Sport, the Astral Brewer 2.0 and the Teva Outflow Universal fit this bill.

For adventure water shoes, find shoes offered in the more exact half sizes. Otherwise, size up.

The best water shoe for you will be determined by the water activity you do the most.

These could be fighting words, but we need to add a couple more words to the question. Are water shoes better than flip-flops in the water? Absolutely. Flip-flops float off your feet.

We tested the best camera bags with options for every budget. Top picks include Salomon, Astral, Merrell and more!

Free your feet and the rest will follow. From trail to town and everything in between, we found the best sandals for women.



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