Top 10 Best Water Shoes for Hiking • (2020 Buyer’s Guide)

There’s nothing quite like a refreshing hike. That feeling you get when you finish navigating a new path or conquering a new mountain trail is what brings you back for more. Do you know what can ruin a great hike? The wrong shoes. The right footwear is essential to avoid unforeseen complications such as blisters while enjoying nature.

In today’s article, I share our top 10 best water shoes for hiking. Both men and women will find excellent choices for foot protection here. At the end of our reviews, there’s a bonus buyer’s guide to choosing the right water shoe for your hike.

I love hiking mountain trails, especially when there are mountain lakes along the way. One of my favorite places to hike is Lake Tahoe in the summer. The heavenly view from the top of Mt. Tallac is one everyone should have the pleasure of experiencing.

One of the greatest advantages of water shoes for hiking in places like Tahoe is they turn you into an amphibian who can jump freely between rock, water, and good ol’ dirt.

Now, let’s get started…

Model Features & Highlights

#1 KEEN Clearwater CNX (Men’s and Women’s Versions)

 Our #1 Pick for Rivers, Slippery Rocks, Waterfalls, and Mountain Hikes 

  • Lightweight and form-fitting which equals less drag when hiking through water
  • No trapped stones or other types of sediment
  • Comfortable enough for long hikes of 10 miles or more
  • Thinner soles than the bulkier KEEN Newport H2
  • Extreme toe protection

#2 Merrell All Out Blaze Sieve (Men’s and Women’s Versions)

 Our #1 Pick for Rugged Terrain and Rocks 

  • Premium durable materials that’ll stand the test of time
  • Superior toe protection
  • Suitable for all terrains including rocks and rivers
  • Cushioned midsole w/ Vibram outsole
  • Soft neoprene neck prevent blisters and chafing around the ankle
  • Secure lacing system ensures they won’t fall off during strenuous activity and stream crossings

#3 RAX Slip-Resistant (Men’s and Women’s Versions)

 The Most Versatile Shoe w/ Moderate Arch Support 

  • Hollow insole and double-slope design provides superior drainage
  • Extra cushioned EVA midsole for better arch support and comfort during longer hikes
  • Slip-resistant outsole and extra grip for slippery rocks/surfaces
  • Versatile, since they look like normal shoes and cover your entire foot

#4 Zhuanglin Quick-Drying (Men’s and Women’s Versions)

 Our #1 Budget Pick 

  • They give you the most bang for your buck
  • Suitable for long hikes with stream crossings and/or other wet elements
  • Super lightweight with rapid drainage throughout
  • Open mesh uppers prevent sweaty feet and increase airflow
  • The soft-rubber sole (comparable to Vibram) grips even the most slippery surfaces

#5 MOERDENG (Unisex)

 Our #1 Pick for Wide Feet and Short Hikes to Water Activities 

  • Superb traction on slippery surfaces such as mossy rocks behind waterfalls
  • Perfect for short hikes around rivers and over rocks
  • Super lightweight with all-around excellent drainage
  • Uppers promote constant airflow and are quick-drying
  • Very easy on the wallet
  • Suitable for people with wide feet

#6 PAGE ONE (Unisex)

 Our #1 Lightweight Water Shoes with Arch Support Pick 

  • Exceptional at blocking gravel and small stones from entering the shoe
  • Inner foam arch support and extra toe protection provided by individual toe guards
  • Super quick-drying and lightweight
  • Perfect for island vacations with light hiking

#7 KEEN Newport H2 (Men’s and Women’s Versions)

 More Rugged than the Clearwater CNX 

  • Thick rugged soles to tackle even the roughest terrains without putting too much strain on your feet
  • Footbed anti-odor protection and quick-drying uppers
  • Complete toe protection and additional arch support
  • Versatile enough for daily use

#8 MAYZERO Wide-Toe (Unisex)

 Our #2 Budget Pick 

  • Non-slip rubber outsole with strategically placed drainage holes
  • Wide toe box with individual toe guards provides added wiggle room and toe protection
  • Soft, breathable honeycomb midsole for added comfort and better drainage
  • Ultra-breathable and flexible uppers that hug all types of feet

#9 DOUSSPRT Quick-Drying (Men’s and Women’s Versions)

 Our #3 Budget Pick 

  • Perfect for hiking/swimming excursions such as chilling at a waterfall during your next Caribbean vacation
  • Anti-slip outsoles are ideal for hiking over slippery rocks
  • One of the best and most affordable water shoes for hikes with larger rocks and stream crossings along the way

#10 SITAILE (Unisex)

 Our #1 Most Affordable Pick for All Terrains 

  • Tons of colors to choose from at a super affordable price
  • No need to worry about small stones and/or gravel entering drainage holes in the bottom of the shoe
  • Reliable anti-slip rubber outsole grips even the most slippery surfaces
  • An extra layer of toe protection for added peace of mind while hiking over rocks
  • The open-mesh upper provides ample airflow while hiking

What did you think of our top 10? We had a great time putting this list together for you, and trust me, we dug deep to find the best options!

Individual Reviews

In this section, we’ll take a closer look at each of our top 10 picks to give you the best chance of choosing the right pair. In each individual review, I provide a quick overview of the shoe along with the pros and cons of owning each pair. I also provide a list of potential uses for each shoe. By the end, you’ll know without a doubt which pair (or pairs) will serve you best.

#1 KEEN Clearwater CNX – The Best Overall Water Shoe for Hiking

The KEEN Clearwater CNX is the Swiss Army knife of water shoes and is actually a hiking sandal/water shoe hybrid. The main reason we chose the Clearwater CNX over the Merrell All Out Blaze Sieve is that it’s a lighter shoe. The Clearwater stays true around your foot and won’t weigh you down or drag water.

This shoe also provides superior toe protection and will last longer than other shoes on our list. KEEN owners often love their KEENs so much that they wear them for every activity. As far as hiking, the Clearwater is suitable for all types of hiking, even long hikes since you don’t have to worry about friction blisters forming.

You also get complete toe protection and a sole that won’t allow any pebbles or gravel to get trapped beneath your foot.

 Uses: Mountain Hikes, Stream Crossings, Biking, Short-Distance Trail Running, Everyday, Suitable for All Terrains, Rivers, Lakes, Slippery Rocks 

Cons
  • Higher upfront cost
  • Less fashionable than other options
  • Thinner sole than the KEEN Newport H2
  • Heavier than lightweight aqua shoes
Pros
  • Durable – will last you for years
  • Anti-odor anatomic footbed w/ microbe shield
  • Superior toe protection
  • 100% leather materials
  • Men’s and women’s options available
  • Extremely comfortable, won’t give you blisters
  • Super versatile

#2 Merrell All Out Blaze Sieve – Our #1 Pick for Hiking on Rocks and Rugged Terrain

The All Out Blaze Sieve by Merrell provides the most complete foot protection of all the picks in our top 10. It also has one of the thickest soles for added arch support. A common complaint with traditional water shoes is people feel jagged rocks poking through the sole. With the All Out Blaze, you get extra cushioning in the Vibram outsole to tackle even the roughest terrain.

These are like gloves for your feet that’ll keep you sure-footed on slippery rocks, during stream crossings, and while viewing the waterfall you had previously only seen in dreams. The best part is they dry quickly, despite packing in more fabric than other shoes on our list.

My favorite feature is the soft neoprene neck that prevents blisters around the ankle and ensures comfort during longer hikes. I envision myself hiking high up into the mountains and jumping into pristine lakes like a creature in the wild with these.

 Uses: All Hikes, Stream Crossings, Biking, Everyday, Rocky Terrains, River, Lake, Slippery Rocks 

Cons
  • Higher upfront cost
  • Could get too heavy for extended swimming
  • Less airflow in the uppers
Pros
  • The most rugged water shoe on our list
  • Vibram outsole is suitable for all terrains
  • Made with premium leather and neoprene
  • Ultimate all-around foot protection
  • Extremely comfortable and suitable for long hikes
  • Perfect for jungle and tropical hikes
  • Superb traction on slippery rocks

#3 RAX – Perfect for Everyday Use

RAX is the first option on our list that looks more like an actual shoe than a sandal. This is one of the main reasons we love the RAX shoe so much. RAX is the perfect all-around water shoe that you can also wear in the street. I have no problem with wearing this shoe to a casual dinner or out to the bar while on vacay.

One of our favorite features is the slip-resistant sole with extra grip for added traction. The triangles in the midsole are actually drainage holes that quickly drain water away from your feet. The quick lace-up system allows you to effortlessly slip them on and off, yet tighten them easily during your hike.

Overall, the RAX shoe deserves the #3 spot on our list because of its versatility and uniqueness.

 Uses: Hiking Trails, Stream Crossings, Biking, Everyday, Walking, Short Runs/Jogs, Slippery Rocks, Waterfalls, Lakes 

Cons
  • Not great for long strenuous hikes
  • Feet can get cold without socks depending on the climate
  • Less durable than KEEN or Merrell
Pros
  • Maximum versatility
  • Superior double-slope drainage
  • The heavy-duty grip in the outsole
  • Rubber/TPU toe protection
  • Thicker soles for added arch support
  • Super lightweight and airy
  • Quick-drying

#4 Zhuanglin – Our #1 Budget Pick

The Zhuanglin aqua shoe is an excellent choice for people who are taking a weekend vacation or love to go on light hikes with stream crossings. This lightweight shoe is super affordable and provides drainage from every angle. You’ll never have to worry about water pooling in these or getting raisin feet, which also makes them great for family adventures to the water park.

The larger holes in the outsole ensure rapid drainage. You’ll feel like you’re walking on air when you strap these on before a hike. For people who are fans of barefoot hiking and don’t require much arch support, these are more than suitable. Lastly, the design has the appearance of a normal sneaker, which makes these great for a casual night out while on vacation.

Overall, for the price, these are a steal and will come in handy for short to moderate hikes on most terrains.

 Uses: Light Trail Hiking, Stream Crossings, Biking, Everyday, Short Runs/Jogs, Island Vacations 

Cons
  • The larger drainage holes in the outsole can trap gravel
  • Minimal arch support
  • No toe protection
  • Not great for hiking through mud
Pros
  • Soft-rubber outsole provides ample grip on slippery surfaces such as river rocks
  • Very easy on the wallet
  • Extremely quick-drying materials
  • Comfortable with or without socks
  • Durable materials, especially for the price
  • Lightweight and easy to pack for an adventure or vacation

#5 MOERDENG – Our #1 Pick for Hikers with Wide Feet

Now for one of my personal favorite types of water shoe. What I love about this type is the stretchy material in the toe box and the individual grooves in the sole. You can really get a sure grip on any surface with this type of water shoe and feel the Earth beneath your feet.

Depending on how much sole you like beneath your feet, these may or may not be up your alley. For people who love to hike barefoot, yet protect their feet against sharp objects, these are perfect. You also avoid problems with gravel or gritty mud getting inside the shoe since the drainage holes in the bottom are smaller.

Overall, these are great for short hikes to waterfalls, mountain lakes, and other scenic spots with swimming involved. The beauty of these is you don’t have to take them off while you’re swimming. I like having that peace of mind of knowing that nothing will cut my feet while I’m swimming in a new spot. For example, there are swimming holes in the lava in Hawaii that these are perfect for.

 Uses: Light Hiking, Stream Crossings, Waterfalls, Mountain Lakes, Biking, Water Sports, Rivers, Rocks 

Cons
  • No ankle or arch support
  • Not suitable for rugged terrain with needles and jagged rocks
Pros
  • Lightweight materials make them excellent for swimming
  • Ample drainage at the sides and bottom of the shoe
  • Great for people with wide feet
  • Toe protection
  • Easy to get the sand off when dry or wet
  • Easy to roll up to save space in your luggage
  • Unisex

#6 PAGE ONE – Our #1 Lightweight Water Shoe Pick w/ Arch Support

The PAGE ONE shoes are similar to the MOERDENG model, however, they come with arch support and have a slightly different design. If you plan to go biking, these are more suitable than the MOERDENG model. If you look closely, you can see that the lacing system and the material in the uppers are also different. The lacing system in this shoe allows you to keep the shoe very snug on your foot during more extreme activities and hikes.

Inside the shoe, you’ll find a foam insert for added arch support. This is a difficult feature to find in this type of water shoe, and it’s one of the main reasons we included this model in our top 10. The price is also more than reasonable at only a couple dollars more than the MOERDENG.

 Uses: Hiking, Yoga, Diving, Wakeboarding, Rivers, Lakes, Slippery Rocks 

Cons
  • Not great for rugged trails
  • Minimal support for long hikes
Pros
  • Foam insert for arch support
  • Secure lacing system
  • Good for people with wide feet
  • Money-back guarantee
  • Unisex
  • Super lightweight and easy to pack
  • Complete toe protection
  • Extremely quick-drying and solid airflow (no sweaty feet)

#7 KEEN Newport H2 – Our #1 Pick for Hiking Along Rivers

If you prefer a hiking sandal with a thicker sole than the Clearwater CNX and better all-around support, the Newport H2 is perfect for you. It provides everything the Clearwater model provides plus more. This also means the Newport H2 weighs more than the CNX. It won’t be as easy to lift your feet through the water when fully submerged.

The main advantage is you won’t feel rugged terrain beneath your feet, and you’ll turn into a superhero on the rocks who can leap from rock to rock without worry. I know I love to do this when I’m enjoying one of my favorite hikes near the North Carolina/South Carolina border at Whitewater Falls.

The uppers in the Newport H2 cover more of your foot than the Clearwater, and the toe guard provides even more protection against injuries caused by accidental bumps. You also get additional arch support.

The Newport H2 is our #1 pick for rivers because trudging through muck or gunk is easy-peasy with these.

 Uses: All Types of Hiking, Stream Crossings, Waterfalls, Mountain Lakes, Everyday, Slippery Rocks, Rivers 

Cons
  • Heavier than traditional water shoes
  • Not the most stylish appearance
Pros
  • KEEN quality and build holds up for years of hardcore use
  • Extremely quick-drying
  • Ready to tackle even the most rugged terrain
  • Amazingly comfortable, you won’t want to take them off
  • Razor-siped outsole for superior traction on all surfaces
  • Machine-washable
  • Anti-odor protection
  • The best toe protection
  • Men’s and women’s versions

#8 MAYZERO Wide-Toe – Our #2 Budget Pick

The MAYZERO shoe is similar to the PAGE ONE model without the added foam pad for arch support. They also cost a bit less than the PAGE ONE. Overall, the MAYZERO model is a solid budget pick for people who prefer this type of water shoe and desire reliable traction on slippery rocks.

One of the greatest advantages of this shoe is the wide-toe design that accommodates hikers with wide feet or those who prefer extra wiggle room in the toe box. Even if your feet aren’t wide, the stretchy fabric stays snug to prevent the shoe from sliding around while you hike.

Keep in mind, this type of shoe is suitable for short hikes and lighter terrain than the more rugged hiking sandal/water shoe hybrids on our list can tackle. Consider these a great option to pack for a vacation or for a short wet hike to a waterfall or lake. Once you arrive at your picturesque destination, these are great for swimming as well.

 Uses: Light Hiking, Cycling, Rivers, Lakes, Waterfalls, Slippery Rocks 

Cons
  • Not suitable for long strenuous hikes
  • No arch and ankle support
Pros
  • Wide toe box
  • Super-low price
  • Individual toe guards
  • Great for a wide variety of activities
  • Extremely soft, breathable, and lightweight
  • Honeycomb midsole for additional drainage and comfort
  • Strategically-placed drainage holes in the outsole

#9 DOUSSPRT – Our #3 Budget Pick

The DOUSSPRT shoe is very similar to the Zhuanglin model, except the holes in the outsole are smaller, and the mesh uppers are less open. If you were turned off by the thought of gravel getting trapped in the Zhuanglin model, the DOUSSPRT does a better job of keeping those pesky pebbles at bay.

The uppers are stretchy and verified to accommodate husbands with wide feet. For the price, these get the job done and more. What I like the most is their appearance makes them super versatile. If I want to slip these on to go out for a quick casual bite to eat, they fit the bill.

It’s a luxury to travel with fewer pairs of shoes and sandals while enjoying your vacation. Fewer possessions to worry about equals a more relaxed mind which equals a better overall vacation.

 Uses: Light Hiking, Stream Crossings, Biking, Everyday, Island Vacations, Tubing 

Cons
  • Larger drainage holes in outsole may trap gravel
  • Feet can get cold depending on the climate
  • There are better options on the list for rugged hikes
Pros
  • Extremely versatile and lightweight
  • More stylish than most other models
  • They accommodate wide feet
  • Rugged enough to run in
  • They fit like a glove (won’t slip around while hiking)
  • Ample airflow (dry in minutes)
  • Men’s and women’s versions available

#10 SITAILE – Our #1 Budget Pick for Rocky Terrain and Rivers

Last but not least is the SITAILE shoe. What I like most about this model is the rugged design. You get a sturdy water shoe that’s great for rivers, rocks and other rugged terrains for a very affordable price. Also, if you don’t like the model pictured above, there are several other types and color schemes to suit your taste.

You may have noticed the thicker outsoles. This particular shoe has deeper grooves in the sole to grip even the most slippery surfaces during your hike. The great part is the soles remain ultra-flexible despite the bulkier design compared to other more traditional aqua shoes.

You also get added toe protection and more of a boot feel without sacrificing drainage throughout the most important parts of the shoe. Overall, I’m a huge fan of the SITAILE for hiking over rocks, along rivers, around waterfalls and tackling stream crossings.

 Uses: All Types of Hiking, Stream Crossings, Waterfalls, Tubing, Mountain Lakes, Everyday, Slippery Rocks, Rivers, Lakes 

Cons
  • Heavier than super-lightweight aqua shoes or socks
  • No arch support
  • Will show wear with heavy use in rough conditions
Pros
  • More rugged than traditional water shoes
  • Tons of colors/varieties to choose from
  • Deeper grooves in the outsole to grip even the most slippery rocks
  • Added toe and heel protection
  • Foldable for easy packing
  • Extremely quick-drying
  • Won’t collect sand

How to Choose the Best Water Shoe for Hiking: 2020 Buyer’s Guide

In this buyer’s guide, we’ll go over exactly what to look for when choosing your shoes and how we arrived at our top 10 picks. We put a lot of time into investigating all the water shoes available online and feel extremely confident that these are the top 10 available for hiking in 2020 and beyond.

#1) Toe Box and Toe Protection

One of the advantages of water shoes, in general, is they’re stretchy and accommodate all foot widths. If you need a wide toe box, the MAYZERO water shoes and similar models are perfect for you.

As for toe protection, it’s a top consideration when purchasing water shoes for hiking. Since you’ll be hiking over rocks and walking along uneven surfaces below the water, you want to ensure you have adequate toe protection. The KEEN hiking sandal/water shoe hybrids provide ultimate all-around toe protection, which is one of the reasons I put them at the top of our list.

The Merrell All Out Blaze will also protect your toes as well as several other varieties in our top 10. Be sure to consider where you’ll be hiking before you select your shoe.

#2) Upper Material

water shoe mesh uppers

Another important ingredient is the upper material. I prefer the full-mesh upper for swimming while the leather uppers provide better support while engaged in more strenuous hikes. Similar to toe protection, it’s important to know where you’ll be hiking and the type of terrain you plan to hike on to select the best uppers.

If you’re going to be swimming a lot, aim for full-mesh uppers. If you’re going hiking along rivers and through the water, choose leather uppers or more durable materials to protect against injuries caused by accidental bumping while you’re feet are submerged underwater.

#3) Outsole

The outsole is the most important part of the shoe. You may have noticed that all of the outsoles in our top 10 provide adequate grip, yet they vary in thickness. When hiking in water shoes, it’s important to acknowledge that traditional water shoes aren’t the best for hiking on jagged surfaces since the rubber tends to be thinner.

KEEN and Merrell hiking sandal/water shoe hybrids are best for people who don’t want to feel the rocks beneath their feet. The KEEN Newport H2 has the thickest outsole of them all and is the most comfortable for hiking longer distances with stream crossings and jagged rocks.

#4) Drainage

aqua shoe drainage holes

There are several types of drainage in each water shoe. While I do love water shoes with larger drainage holes in the outsole, you want to consider the type of terrain you’ll be hiking on since stones can get trapped in large drainage holes.

Wide-toe water shoes with small drainage holes are perfect for people who like to hike barefoot and feel the Earth beneath their feet. The beauty of this type of shoe is it’s also lightweight enough for elongated swimming sessions. The clunkier hiking sandals won’t be as comfortable for swimming longer periods.

Be sure to check the drainage holes in the soles before you make your final decision.

#5) Arch Support

If you have high arches or Plantar fasciitis, most water shoes won’t be comfortable for long-distance hikes. It’s best to stick with KEEN or Merrell brands to give yourself the best chance of avoiding foot pain during a long hike.

The PAGE ONE shoe is a great budget option for people who desire arch support in a traditional water shoe. The RAX model is also a better choice for people with high arches than most of the other shoes on the list.

#6) Price

Prices do vary. Expect to get what you pay for in terms of the time they last. KEEN and Merrell will cost you more upfront, but they will stand the test of time and last you the longest. Most KEEN owners report years of heavy use without any problems, and they almost always come back for more.

If you only need water shoes for an occasional vacation or hike, the budget picks on our list are solid options for you. We made sure to only include shoes that’ll give you your money’s worth and not fall apart on you. In fact, most current owners reported being surprised by how sturdy even the most affordable shoes on our list are.

#7) Comfort

The most comfortable picks on our list are KEEN and Merrell varieties, which is another reason they cost more. You’ll feel like you’re walking on air and love the feel of the soft neoprene against your skin. This doesn’t mean that the other shoes on our list are uncomfortable.

We loathe the thought of blisters just as much as you. We made sure to read what current owners are saying to ensure we only included shoes that won’t give you blisters along your hike.

When hiking in tropical climates, you really want to be careful about blisters because the bacteria are different in tropical climates which can lead to nasty infections. Always travel with band-aids and antibiotic ointment in case of blisters forming.

#8) Suitable Activities

What do you plan to use your water shoes for besides hiking? This is a question to ask yourself before you buy. If you plan to wear them while walking, dining, and engaging in other leisure activities, you might want to stick with the styles that look like normal shoes.

The DOUSSPRT model is a perfect example of a shoe that you can wear anywhere. The RAX model is another good example of a shoe you can walk around town in while on vacation. You may also find yourself on a boat tour taking photos, and these shoes are great for those types of activities.

#9) Laces

You may have noticed that all the best water shoes for hiking have laces. Why? Because you need all the support you can get while engaged in a hike. Slip-on and velcro models are better suited for other types of less strenuous activities.

#10) Terrain

Lastly, the terrain is a key consideration. Are you going to be hiking on sand, gravel, slippery rocks, lava, pavement, etc.? Knowing what type of terrain you’ll be hiking on makes the buying decision a lot easier. For example, if you’re going on an adventure vacation in Belize with river hiking and cave exploring, the KEEN and Merrell sandals are excellent options.

If you plan to explore waterfalls in the Dominican Republic, the more traditional water shoes are better for swimming in the pools. For light hikes and walking, the traditional water shoes with small drainage holes work well.

Final Thoughts

Now you’re a certified water shoe guru! I’m a huge water shoe fan, mainly because they’ve come a long way since the ones that were available when I was a kid. I remember when the only water shoes available were the slip-on versions that were very cheaply made. Those fell apart the first day.

The picks in our top 10 will get the job done and more. I bet you love your new waterproof hiking shoes so much that you find all types of uses for them. Who doesn’t love the thought of protecting their feet while letting their feet breathe from every angle?

On your next trip, you’ll feel more prepared than ever before to tackle any terrain and jump freely between water and dry land. Believe me, it’ll make your next adventure 100% better knowing that your feet are safe and blister-free! Good luck on your next hike!

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