Enjoying the great outdoors comfortably is one of life’s greatest treasures. Footwear has come a long way over the past decade, and now we have more choices for protecting our feet than ever before. In today’s article, I share our top 10 best water shoes for kayaking, boating, fishing, and more, along with our super awesome buyer’s guide. By the end, you’ll know for sure which pair (or pairs) is the perfect choice for your next voyage.
Choosing the right pair of water shoes for kayaking is different than for the beach or hiking. That’s why we created (and continue to create) Top 10 lists for different groups of similar activities. I personally spent hours putting together this list after investigating a long list of water shoes.
In the chart below, I list the most suitable activity beneath each shoe. I also highlight the reasons I chose these 10 pairs to fill out our top 10.
After the chart, we’ll take an even closer look at each pair in the Individual Reviews section. After the reviews, I share our detailed buyer’s guide that’ll help you thoroughly understand how to choose the best water shoes for kayaking and the other activities included in this guide.
What did you think of our top 10 picks? Are you ready to check out the individual reviews?
In this section, we’ll dive deeper into the features of each shoe. I provide a quick overview of each model, the best uses, and the pros and cons of owning each pair. Let’s start with our top pick for kayaking.
#1 UBFEN – Our #1 Pick for Kayaking
After hours of researching water shoes for kayaking, we chose the UBFEN model as our #1 pick. This shoe checks all the boxes for a successful kayaking adventure. What we like most are the super-light uppers and additional heel protection in the outsole.
The convex grip pattern ensures a firm hold on even the most slippery surfaces. If you plan to walk through muck or unknown terrain to launch your kayak, the UBFEN shoe is perfect for protecting your feet while passing over gunk and potentially sharp or jagged objects.
Outside of awesome gunk protection, you get a secure lacing system and soft-neck design that won’t chafe your ankles. Overall, there’s a lot to love about the UBFEN shoe.
Best Uses: Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Biking, Swimming, Windsurfing, Paddle Boarding, Fishing, Diving
- Minimal ankle and arch support
- Not great for long walks
- Additional heel protection in the outsole protects against injuries caused by bumping
- Individual toe guards and a wide toe box for ideal comfort
- Extremely lightweight materials, you won’t know you’re wearing them
- Secure lacing system
- Bend them in any direction to pack them
- Tons of varieties to choose from for men and women
#2 SIMARI – Our #1 Pick for Rafting
The SIMARI shoe is our #1 pick for rafting. The big-hole mesh upper material increases drainage speed while keeping your feet drier on the raft. The lacing system is one of the top highlights because it increases the support you get on each side of your foot. You don’t have to worry about these slipping off when you secure them snugly against your foot. Then, when you want to relax outside the water, it’s as easy as quickly loosening the lace.
Another reason we chose this model for rafting is the smart outsole grip pattern for enhanced traction. Mossy rocks along the river are easy to tackle with this shoe. The individual toe guards come up higher to protect your toes against common injuries caused by accidental bumping against rocks. Overall, the SIMARI water shoe is one of the best currently on the market for a wide variety of activities.
Best Uses: Rafting, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Biking, Swimming, Sailing, Paddleboarding, Climbing, Diving, Fishing
- Minimal arch support
- Could use more padding around the neck
- Superior traction compared to most other water shoes on the market
- Extremely quick-drying uppers
- Added support on the sides of the foot
- Ready for a wide range of activities from water sports to casual strolls
- Soft EVA midsole for additional shock absorption
- Enough color options to suit anyone’s taste
#3 Barerun Aqua Socks – Our #1 Lightweight Water Shoe Pick for Kayaking
If you’re an aqua sock type of person, the Barerun aqua sock is the best available for water sports such as kayaking and canoeing. What makes them superior? The sole provides more protection than most other aqua socks on the market. You also get a ton of different color schemes and patterns to choose from.
We love the uppers. There’s mesh in all the right places for adequate drainage with additional fabric to protect your toes and heels while kayaking. Another advantage is how easily they slip on and off. If you’re the kind of person who prefers slip-on water shoes, the Barerun aqua sock is a solid option.
Lastly, you can’t beat the price for what you get in return.
Best Uses: Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Sailing, Cycling, Fishing, Windsurfing, Paddleboarding
- No arch and ankle support
- Not made for long walks on hard pavement
- Not great for wide feet
- Not as durable as the other shoes in our top 10
- The lightest shoe on our list
- They fit like socks
- Smooth neck material prevents chafing around the ankle
- Thick enough sole to protect your feet while crossing over rocky terrain
- Excellent airflow through the uppers prevent sweaty feet
- Enough color options for everyone to love
- Easy to wash and quick to dry once you’re out of the water
#4 Hiitave – Our #2 Pick for Kayaking
If you’re on the hunt for a more attractive water shoe that’s possible to pass off as a normal shoe, the Hiitave is a solid option. While it does have the appearance of a normal shoe, that doesn’t mean it’s any less suitable for kayaking. The mesh uppers provide ample airflow and allow water to flow through unimpeded while launching your kayak.
The anti-slip outsole is exceptional at gripping slippery rocks and protecting your feet while they’re submerged underwater. Another thing we love about this shoe is the evenly dispersed drainage holes in the sole that eliminate the need to worry about water pooling inside the shoe.
You also get more support from this shoe while walking than traditional water shoes offer. Finally, we’re impressed by the materials, especially at this price point.
Best Uses: Kayaking, Canoeing, Sailing, Cycling, Fishing, Windsurfing, Paddleboarding, Water Aerobics, Rafting
- No arch support
- No individual toe guards
- They fit like a glove: more comfortable than similar models
- Get the most bang for your buck
- Easy to wash and lighting fast to dry
- Perfect for a wide variety of uses including walking or running errands
- The outsole protects your foot against sharp objects and provides a surer grip on slippery surfaces
#5 RocSoc – The Best Shoe for Water and Land
The RocSoc is a unique water shoe that offers additional protection in all the right places without sacrificing breathability. The big-hole mesh uppers keep your feet cool and ensure they dry quickly once you’re out of the water. In other words, you don’t have to worry about getting the dreaded raisin feet.
The padding around the ankle is a nice touch and a difficult feature to find in water shoes. There are more lace holes for a more secure fit. One of the features we love most is the rubber toe cap that protects against potential injuries caused by accidental bumping.
The thick sole provides more arch support, which makes them ideal for walking. The final feature we want to highlight is the horizontal drainage slits in the sole. This clever design element makes it nearly impossible for gravel and small stones to sneak up through the sole into the shoe.
Best Uses: Kayaking, Canoeing, Sailing, Cycling, Fishing, Boating, Rafting, Walking
- The mesh is more prone to getting caught on objects
- More comfortable and better for walking than most other aqua shoes
- Suitable for wide feet
- Lightweight and easy to stow in a backpack or suitcase
- The drainage slits in the sole and big-hole mesh uppers keep your feet dry
- Extra cushioning in the sole for enhanced arch support
- The padded neck won’t dig into your ankle like inferior water shoes
- A more stylish appearance
- Satisfaction guaranteed or return them for a full refund
#6 Coolloog – Our #1 Pick for Canoeing
The Coolloog aqua shoe is a superb choice for protecting your feet in and out of the water. The durable rubber outsole rises up just enough on all sides to protect your foot against sharp objects and common injuries that can result from accidental bumps. We love how the uppers block debris from entering the shoe while launching a canoe.
The individual toe guards and rubber heel protection are noteworthy features. We also like the wider toe box that allows for more play during strenuous activities such as rafting. Lastly, the configuration of the drainage holes in the sole assures even drainage and no pooling inside the shoe while you’re having a blast on the water.
Best Uses: Kayaking, Canoeing, Fishing, Slippery Surfaces, Boating, Jet Skiing, Paddle Boarding, Windsurfing, Parasailing, Yoga
- Not intended for long walks on rough terrain
- Not the best choice for long walks in general
- All-around toe, heel, and sole protection
- Superior anti-slip sole grips even the most slippery surfaces
- Super lightweight and easy to pack
- Strategically placed drainage holes for even drainage
- An additional foam insert for arch support
- The lacing system makes adjustments quick and easy
#7 Alibress – Our #1 Pick for Boating
The Alibress shoe is an excellent option for boating. There are both men’s and women’s versions available in several different colors to suit everyone’s taste. What we love most about this shoe is the rapid drainage through the outsole. You’ll never have to worry about water pooling inside the shoe, and wading in shallow water is no biggie with these on your feet. Once you’re back on the boat, the water instantly drains.
Aside from the awesome drainage, another highlight is the design of the shoe. It’s perfect for casual dining or strolls while you’re away from the boat. No need to bring extra shoes when you have these on board.
You also get the advantage of a thicker sole than traditional water shoes that’s more comfortable for walking. The last feature we like is the soft neck material that ensures you won’t experience chafing around the ankle.
Best Uses: Boating, Walking, Fishing, Casual, Kayaking, Canoeing
- Less airflow than other models in our top 10
- Less toe protection than models with individual toe guards
- Minimal heel protection
- Rapid drainage through the bottom of the shoe
- Suitable for casual dining, walking, and sightseeing while on vacation
- Breathable, lightweight uppers are quick to dry
- Anti-slip outsole for sure-footing on slippery surfaces
- More lightweight than they look
- Great for walking over rocks and jagged surfaces
#8 Wonesion – Our #1 Pick for Paddle Boarding
The key to choosing the best water shoes for paddleboarding is to look for the most lightweight option that provides the most grip with enough freedom in the toe box. Since paddleboarding requires balance, you need to be able to clench down on the board with your toes.
The Wonesion shoe is the perfect fit. It features a wide toe box with individual toe guards that give your toes the freedom they need. The convex pattern in the outsole provides a surer grip than similar models. We also like how the heel of the shoe is super lightweight.
The lacing system keeps the shoe snug when you need a tighter fit, and it’s easy to loosen once you’re off the board. The final reason we chose this shoe for paddleboarding is the bright colors. If you happen to take a spill and need assistance, the bright highlights in the shoe make you easier to spot.
Best Uses: Paddleboarding, Windsurfing, Parasailing, Fishing, Rafting, Kayaking, Canoeing, Boating
- No ankle or arch support
- Not intended for long walks or hikes
- A convex grip pattern for better traction on your paddleboard
- A wider toe box for more freedom and a better grip
- Super lightweight uppers
- Superior drainage throughout the shoe with drainage holes in the sole
- Bright colors make you easier to spot
- Secure lacing system that’s easy to adjust
#9 DLGJPA – Our #1 Pick for Fishing
The DLGJPA water shoe is our #1 pick for fishing. The key feature that separates this model from the others in our top 10 is the larger drainage holes throughout the sole. Since you won’t need to worry much about gravel or tiny rocks getting into your shoe while fishing, we love the rapid drainage this shoe provides.
On top of that, the shoe has the appearance of a normal shoe. It’s also a lot more comfortable to walk in than water shoes with thinner soles. Another solid feature is the honeycomb cushioned insole. The insole offers drainage, additional comfort, and an extra layer of protection to block debris from entering.
With this shoe, you get the best of both worlds: comfort and drainage. The final feature we want to highlight is the wider lacing system that keeps the shoe snug against your foot while wading in shallow water or swimming.
Best Uses: Fishing, Boating, Sailing, Walking, Canoeing, Kayaking, Casual
- No toe or heel guards
- The sole can trap stones (it’s easy to push them out)
- There are other models in our top 10 with better traction
- Full-mesh, quick-drying uppers for maximum breathability
- A more attractive design than most other water shoes
- Comfortable enough to walk in and wear for long periods
- A wider lacing system for a snugger fit when needed
- Larger drainage holes for rapid drainage
- Men’s and women’s versions are available
#10 ALEADER – Our #2 Pick for Boating and Fishing
The Aleader shoe is another excellent option for both boating and fishing. The one feature that sets this shoe apart from the DLGJPA is the soft neck material. If you’re concerned about chafing around the ankle or prefer that extra comfort, this shoe is a better option for you. There are men’s and women’s versions available.
Aside from providing a softer feel around the ankle, the neck material also stays closer to your skin. If you plan to walk on the beach, this shoe does a better job of keeping sand out. The mesh upper in this shoe has larger holes for more airflow. Plus, the same size drainage holes as the DLGJPA for rapid drainage.
Overall, the Aleader is a great all-around water shoe to wear while fishing, boating, and walking around on vacation or while off the boat for casual dining and other activities.
Best Uses: Fishing, Boating, Walking, Canoeing, Sailing, Casual, Rocky Surfaces, Hydrofit Water Exercises, Water Aerobics
- Outsoles can trap gravel
- No individual toe guards or heel guard
- Extra-soft neck material prevents chafing around the ankle
- Large drainage holes provide rapid drainage and prevent pooling inside the shoe
- Quick-drying mesh uppers prevent sweaty feet
- Comfortable enough for walking and casual dining
- Lightweight and perfect to bring on vacation
- Durable anti-slip sole for a sure grip on slippery rocks
- More cushion than most other water shoes
How to Choose the Best Water Shoes for Kayaking, Boating, and Fishing: 2020 Buyer’s Guide
In this guide, we’ll go over how we arrived at our top 10 picks and what to look for when selecting the best water shoes for kayaking and the other activities mentioned throughout our guide. We’ve put in many hours to group activities that pair well together in each of our guides.
Through our research, we’ve realized just how many different water shoe models are currently available and how difficult it can be to choose the right pair. We’re confident that after reading our guides and following our top 10 charts, you’ll know for sure which pair(s) are the best for you and your family.
Now, let’s go over each key consideration.
Choosing the right materials is 100% related to the activities you plan to do in your water shoes. Since kayaking, rafting, canoeing, and paddleboarding are more strenuous than the other activities in our guide, it’s best to select a pair of shoes with ample protection around the perimeter of the outsole and lightweight uppers.
If you plan to go fishing, boating, or lounge around water, the final options in our top 10 are better picks since they’re more comfortable to wear for long periods and while walking. You can also get away with wearing water shoes that look like normal shoes for casual dining or other casual activities while on vacation.
Similar to materials, grip comes into play when you plan to go paddleboarding, sailing, boating, kayaking, rafting, and some types of fishing. We prefer water shoes with individual toe guards since they give you enough freedom to clamp down with your toes.
You may have also noticed the convex grip pattern in several models above. The convex pattern is excellent for gripping all types of slippery surfaces and keeping your feet in place while enjoying water sports such as paddle boarding. The toe and heel guards provide extra protection when you launch your kayak or canoe.
You may not require as much grip while boating as you would for paddleboarding or other more strenuous activities. Be sure to consider the activities you plan to do in order to select the proper outsole/grip.
All of the water shoes in our top 10 provide ample and rapid drainage. The primary consideration to make is the type of terrain you plan to tackle. If you intend to do a lot of walking on gravel or small stones, it’s best to stick with water shoes that have smaller drainage holes.
While it’s not terribly difficult to poke the rocks out of larger drainage holes, you may want to avoid it altogether. There’s also the chance of scratching a floor if you forget to poke out the stones before going inside.
Take a minute to consider the terrain and how much you plan to submerge the shoe before you buy.
Weight is another important factor since you don’t want to notice you’re wearing shoes while doing water sports or swimming. The last thing you want is to feel weighed down by your shoe while enjoying your favorite activity. Weight is one of the reasons we chose the UBFEN shoe as our #1 pick for kayaking. It provides a very secure grip, yet the uppers are virtually weightless.
Our top picks for boating and fishing won’t feel as lightweight in the water as our top picks for rafting, kayaking, canoeing, and paddleboarding. If you plan to do a lot of swimming or stream crossings, stick with the lightest weight water shoes that protect the soles of your feet against sharp objects and on jagged surfaces.
#5) Toe Box
Do you have wide feet? Water shoes with individual toe guards have more room in the toe box, yet the material is stretchy enough to stay snug on narrow feet as well. Sometimes people with wide feet go a half size or full size up to ensure there’s enough play in the toe box, while people with narrow feet stay true to size.
Depending on the activities you plan to do in your water shoes, protection plays a major role. If you intend to do a lot of stream crossings, step in gunk while you launching your kayak, or cross over other slippery/jagged surfaces, shoes with toe guards and extra rubber in the heel are ideal for you.
The toe and heel guards protect your feet in case of accidental bumps against unknown objects below the surface of the water. Your mind will feel at ease knowing that your feet are protected each time you step on a mossy rock or into the water.
If you plan to stay mostly on a boat or out of the water, toe and heel guards may be unnecessary.
Sizing is where a lot of people go wrong when they order water shoes. Since you most likely won’t be wearing socks, it’s a wise idea to stay true to size. If you have wide feet, you may want to size up.
The best way to determine your size before you buy is to check recent feedback for sizing information or the Q&A section on the product page to see the seller’s recommendation. The last thing you want is the wrong size water shoe a day before your vacation starts.
#8) Lacing System
You may or may not require a lacing system. We recommend water shoes with laces for kayaking, swimming, canoeing, rafting, and paddleboarding. For boating, sailing, and fishing, you may be fine with slip-on water shoes or models with a velcro strap.
The good news is most lacing systems are easy to adjust on the fly. You don’t have to completely stop what you’re doing to loosen or tighten the shoe.
I hope you had as much fun reading our guide as we had creating it! We’re confident that our top 10 best water shoes for kayaking, boating, fishing and other activities included in our guide are the best possible choices on the market.
Plus, if you decide a different shoe is the one for you, you have our helpful buyer’s guide to lead you in the right direction. Wherever your adventures lead you, keep your feet comfortable and protected!