From blisters to slipping, wearing the wrong pair of shoes, like sneakers, can make kayaking uncomfortable and dangerous. If you are ready to switch to more appropriate kayaking footwear, you have come to the right place. We’ve compiled the best shoes for kayak, one of which is highly recommended by long-time kayakers because of its superior comfort, fit, superb traction, and breathability. Keep scrolling to discover the best shoes for kayaking.
What to Consider When Buying Shoes for Kayak?
Before buying kayak shoes, you should consider factors such as grip, support, fit, weather resistance, and comfort. The following pointers will help you select a good pair of water shoes for your next kayaking adventure.
Types of Kayaking Shoes
You are not limited to one type of kayaking shoe; you have four options to choose from. The majority of these are designed not only for kayaking but also for other water sports and outdoor activities.
Boots are different from other shoes. They feature the following attributes that make them durable, waterproof, and keep your feet warm:
- High-temperature and grippy rubber sole
- Heavy-duty or reinforced design
- Neoprene upper layers
Booties are the best choice if you’re planning a whitewater kayaking adventure where temperatures reach low degrees Celsius. All in all, booties are specially designed with kayaking comfort in mind.
Sandals for kayaking are the complete opposite of boots. Instead of completely covering your feet, it has an open design, much like a pair of flip-flops. However, sandals for kayaking have several adjustable velcro straps to secure your feet. Since sandals offer superior breathability, they are best when kayaking in calm waters and warm weather.
Water socks are entirely different from sandals and boots for kayaking. Like the socks you wear regularly, water socks snuggly hug your feet, and depending on the design, they can be high-cut or low-cut. Some can also be ankle-high.
So what’s the difference? Rather than fabric or cotton, water socks use neoprene, a material that traps a thin layer of water between the socks and feet, trapping heat from your body. Moreover, water socks typically feature a closure system (mostly velcro) and thin anti-slip bottom.
Water socks offer a similar barefoot paddling experience but with extra protection and warmth.
Being “socks,” these shoes for kayak do not offer as much protection and traction as boots and sandals.
Water shoes look like your regular pair of sneakers. However, it has add-on features that make them suitable for water-related activities. One of which is its tiny drainage holes located at the bottom of the shoe. It also has a lightweight foam outsole and quick-drying materials.
The best water shoes for kayaking have a hydrophobic mesh upper for extra traction and stability even on slippery surfaces, better protection against sharp rocks, and maximum aeration.
You also have some closure options when finding the perfect shoes for kayaking. They include velcro, zippers, laces, and bungee lacing.
- Velcro: This closure is similar to the hook and loop fasteners you use around the home to bundle cables together. It has two strips – one with tiny hooks and another with tiny loops. It gives a tight and secure grip without requiring you to adjust constantly. Plus, you can easily get kayak shoes with velcro on and off.
- Zippers: Another popular option is a water sport shoe with zippers. A heavy-duty zipper often has a waterproof design, so you won’t have wet socks from them leaking when you’re out in the waves. Unlike velcro, you can’t adjust the fit. You can quickly get your shoes on and off.
- Laces: Laces on your kayak shoes are the same as regular shoes. You tie the shoelaces together to create a tight and secure fit.
- Bungee Lacing: This type of lacing keeps shoes snugly in place. Since it’s made from a stretchable cord, it bends and twists to fit any foot size or shape. The bungee laces are adjustable, too, so you can customize the tightness of your shoe with a few simple pulls.
You’ll want to look for footwear made from neoprene or polyester mesh for kayaking. These materials offer superior air ventilation, are lightweight, and are comfortable to wear. Neoprene protects against heat loss, while mesh provides breathability. Both materials are easy to clean.
Traction / Grip
Kayaking requires a lot of agility and shifting around on slippery surfaces. So, it’s critical to have shoes with traction that you can rely on. That’s why rubber soles are essential on kayaking shoes. They provide the grip that helps you stay steady and balanced while out on the water — even in wet conditions. Furthermore, these soles protect your feet from sharp rocks and other potential hazards.
What Are the Best Kayak Shoes?
The best kayak shoes you can get are the Newport H2 Closed Toe Water Sandals from KEEN. This footwear is versatile, durable, and comfortable to wear. You can even wear them regularly. Here are choices for the best kayak shoes.
1. KEEN Men’s Newport H2 Closed Toe Water Sandals
KEEN Men’s Newport H2 Closed ToeWater Sandals boast some impressive features. The most notable one is these sandals are incredibly versatile. You can use them as water shoes or a more traditional sandy-day sandal. Other features include the following:
- Their patented toe guard prevents stubbed toes.
- Bungee lacing system offers a faster way to wear and remove the shoes
- They are also incredibly comfortable with an ergonomic footbed, arch support, and durable rubber sole.
Unfortunately, they are pricier than some other options.
2. Crocs Men’s Swiftwater Mesh Deck Sandals
These shoes are not your ordinary Crocs clogs. It features a more subtle design with a sturdy, off-road outsole with channels that help disperse water. Its lightweight and breathable mesh upper is comfortable and quick drying, making them ideal for splashing around in the water. Plus, they provide excellent arch support so your feet can stay comfortable while you paddle the day away.
Unfortunately, some users report that these sandals run a bit small, so it might be best to order a size or two.
3. L-RUN Athletic Hiking Water Shoes
If you prefer water shoes over sandals, the L-RUN Athletic Hiking Water Shoes are our pick for the best water shoes for kayaking. It boasts light and breathable materials, and if you hate paddling while your feet are drenched in water, you’ll appreciate its soft outsole with drainage holes.
The downside of these shoes is that they run a bit narrow. Order a half size up if you want to get these shoes for kayaking.
4. Merrell Women’s Core Hydro Moc Water Shoes
Merrel is known for their traditional hiking shoes, particularly their Moab collection. But the brand has expanded to footwear for water activities. One of the most popular is the Core Hydro Moc Water Shoe.
Rocking a clog-like style reminiscence of Crocs, these water-friendly shoes made from EVA foam upper feature a convenient slip-on design. Thanks to its articulated heel with strap, you’ll always get a snug and comfortable fit. Plus, it is extra comfortable because it has a contoured arch for support. However, these shoes can run small in size and do not have drainage holes.
5. NeoSport Wetsuits Pull On Boots
If you prefer boots over sandals or shoes, check out the NeoSport Wetsuits Pull-on Boots. This footwear is a mix of water socks and boots, offering you the best of both worlds. Thanks to the double-layer neoprene, you get protection for your feet and much-needed traction. There is also a hardened insert sole, which is extra tough against puncture.
What makes the NeoSport Wetsuits Pull-on Boots shine is that it’s easy to slide your feet in and out. Plus, the sizing is true to fit. However, half sizes are not available.
6. HIITAVE Barefoot Water Shoes
HIITAVE Barefoot Water Shoes is the perfect choice for kayakers that prefer shoes with a bungee lacing system. Its snug fit is not the only thing you’ll love about these shoes; it also has a breathable, quick-drying, and flexible fabric. On top of that, you get a fantastic grip wherever you find yourself in your kayak adventure.
But some people report durability issues after frequent water exposure. Move a size up if you want increased longevity from your purchase.
7. Astral Hiyak Outdoor Minimalist Boots
If you don’t like the closure-free design of the NeoSport Wetsuits Pull-on Boots, the perfect alternative is the Astral Hiyak Outdoor Minimalist Boots. Not only does it have laces, but you also get a velcro strap. And, if you are not a fan of arched support and have wide feet, these shoes for kayak have a level footbed and a wider toe box.
Other features of these shoes include:
- Their deep lugs provide unparalleled traction.
- Drain-through footbeds ensure quick draining of water or mud from your feet.
We only had a gripe with its thin sole, which can be troublesome and uncomfortable if you also plan to wear them for hiking. Nevertheless, this is one of the best paddle board shoes.
8. ALEADER Men’s Quick Drying Aqua Water Shoes
If you are after a more minimalist look than the HIITAVE, ALEADER’s water shoes are a great alternative. The design resembles a pair of sneakers but with significant upgrades to make it suitable for kayaking. Plus, it offers full coverage protection for your feet. Other features you’ll love are:
- Drain holes.
- Bungee lace system.
- Quick-drying and breathable mesh upper
- Non-slip traction
Unfortunately, the drainage holes are too big that if you walk on an area with small rocks, you’ll most certainly get them stuck in the holes. Additionally, there are reports of reduced durability after extensive wear.
9. Body Glove Men’s 3T Barefoot Cinch Water Shoes
Rather than having a lace system upfront, Body Glove’s 3T Barefoot Cinch Water Shoes have the strap at the back. This can be the perfect solution to avoid laces getting in the way when paddling. However, there is a tradeoff. It doesn’t drain well, and there’s too much chaffing. We only recommend it for weekend paddlers.
These (Water) Shoes Are Meant for Paddling
Ordinary sneakers are not made for water activities. If you want to enjoy paddling, treat yourself to the best shoes for kayak. Hopefully, you’ll find the right one in our top choices.