More often than not, we’ve seen newbies stepping in their kayaks with their Nike sneakers or leather boots. Now let’s get this clear, ruining 100-dollar worth shoes or more in the water should be considered a crime!
And even if you use an old pair, they’re not designed to hold up to wet conditions, so you’ll only be left with crumbling shoes. That’s, of course, after spending hours walking on a wet sponge and ending up with a fungal infection due to all the water your feet have been swimming in.
Forget about all this pain and take a look at our list of the best shoes for kayaking this year. We gathered the top-selling products that’ll keep your feet dry and comfortable in one spot. So, let’s get started!
At a Glance:
- Merrell All Out Blaze - Most Versatile
- Vibram Signa - Best for Warm-water Paddlers
- Aleader Women's Quick Drying Aqua - Best for Women
- NeoSport Paddle Low Top Boots - Best for Cold-water Paddlers
- Sea to Summit Ultra Flex Booties - Most Comfortable
The 5 Best Shoes for Kayaking
We’ve been literally in your shoes before, so we think we have a good idea about what you need. Read our reviews to decide which of the following is going to be your next water buddy.
1. Merrell All Out Blaze - Most Versatile
Starting with a trusted brand in the world of footwear, Merrell made the ideal pair for kayaking and all the outdoor activities that come with it. Swimming, hiking, camping, fishing, rock climbing, and all water sports are no obstacle for this model.
Made of a mixture of oily waterproof leather and neoprene, these are the type of shoes you can wear on land and in water because of their unparalleled durability. They’re not waterproof, yet they shed water quickly, and the fact that they’re covered with synthetic mesh accelerate this process and let the shoes breathe.
The rubber soles are flexible and rugged. They have good traction on rocks and an excellent grip to protect you from slipping on mossy rocks or muddy bottoms.
The midsoles are also equipped with a UniFly foam bed, which guarantees unlimited comfort. For one thing, they act as a firm cushion beneath your feet for stability. For another, they absorb terrain shocks for improved balance.
Still not impressed? Merrell outfitted the model with odor-preventing technology to guarantee a healthy environment for your feet. It simply prevents microbial growth and consequently protects your feet from blisters and fungal infections.
They come in nine beautiful models and offer a snug fit without being tight at all, owing to their bungee lacing system.
The model is pricey when compared to the rest of our choices, yet it’s still an excellent investment for a pair that can last forever.
What We Like:
- Study neoprene and leather construction
- Odor-preventing technology
- Bungee laces for a great fit
- Cushioned UniFly midsole
- Flexible and robust outsole
What We Don’t Like:
- Sand can get inside
- Heavy when wet
If your activities aren’t limited to paddling, Merrell All Out Blaze will be your feet’s best friend in any situation. With unbeatable materials, breathable mesh, robust soles, and many bells and whistles, this model is a successful bargain.
2. Vibram Signa - Best for Warm-water Paddlers
For warm conditions and short outings, Vibram Signa will feel like a dream. Who wants to go paddling with thick shoes when the temperature is above 40 degrees Celsius and humidity is soaring?
This unique pair boasts a foot-like design with toe pockets to get your toes into and have a natural feeling similar to walking barefoot. Since the material is stretchy, the shoes fit like a glove, but sometimes they can be restricting.
The upper part is very thin without being too fragile. Made from a synthetic material together with abrasion-resistant polyester mesh, the top is super comfortable. It allows for the air to flow in so that your feet won’t sweat on hot sunny days.
The rubber soles are slip-resistant and have several drainage holes. Although they allow the water to flow through the shoe and drain quickly, there’s a fat chance you’ll get sand and small stones inside if you walk on a rough surface.
The entire shoes are flexible to the feet’s natural movements, and they look very sleek. Nevertheless, their lightness can be a double-edged weapon.
Sure, they’ll give you a break in hot weather and let you feel the water’s temperature, which is a nice feeling. Nevertheless, you’ll also feel everything you put your feet on, whether it’s sand, rocks, or the flat deck of your yak, which can be painful sometimes.
What We Like:
- Unique design
- Thin and light materials for hot weather
- Drainage holes to avoid water retention
- Great ventilation
What We Don’t Like:
- Not the toughest
- Tight fit
- Sand can get inside
- Soles not thick enough to withstand harsh terrains
Vibram Signa is the least bulky footwear you can find on the market for warm-water paddling. It’ll make you feel confident sitting in your kayak with its unique design and the extra comfort it provides.
3. Aleader Women's Quick Drying Aqua - Best for Women
Aleader includes women in their line of designs with Quick Drying Aqua that surprisingly dries really quickly!
Featuring hydroponic engineered mesh on the top and drainage holes in the outsole, the shoes dry in a matter of minutes. You won’t feel weighed down even if you dunk your feet in the water because they let the water out and allow the air to pass through the fabric.
However, this isn’t the only area where this pair shines. The midsole provides the needed cushioning you need when stepping on a hard surface, and the flex grooves allow for full mobility and flexibility as the fabric stretches under the pressure of walking.
One more interesting feature is the ComforDry sockliner, which helps absorb moisture to keep the feet dry and blister-free. On top of that, the water grain outsoles will protect you from slipping on wet surfaces. Besides, it’ll be your life-saver when walking on harsh terrains.
Apart from the technical features, the shoes fit well, though the sizes tend to run small. That means you may need to order a size one step larger. Moreover, the designs are so beautiful that many paddlers will stop in their tracks to ask you about them.
What We Like:
- Bright and colorful designs for women
- Stays light when wet
- Sturdy soles
- Breathable mesh and drainage holes
- Soft cushioning
What We Don’t Like:
- Discoloring and rusting around the eyelets in saltwater
- Sizes run small
- Allows for rock and sand to enter
For ladies, Aleader gave extra attention to design and functionality. With an effective drainage system, flexible anti-slip soles, and a multitude of beautiful colors, these are the best kayaking shoes for women.
4. NeoSport Paddle Low Top Boots - Best for Cold-water Paddlers
Designed to keep your feet warm when paddling in the winter months, this model is everything opposite to Vibram Signa.
As the manufacturers state, these boots won’t keep your feet dry, but they’ll be warm on them even if the worst-case scenario happens. That’s because they incorporate neoprene on the upper part without mesh, so they’ll seal your feet entirely from the battling winter air, but they’ll still get soaked if they meet water.
The thick neoprene, together with the hand-sewn and glued seams, render the shoes ultimately durable and comfortable.
On the lower part, the rubber soles are soft and flexible but provided with hardened inserts to be puncture-proof. They have excellent traction and would never show a sign of wear in or out of the water, which means they’re great for kayaking, walking, beach strolling, hiking, and many other sports.
What’s more, they are easy to put on and take off, owing to their hook-and-loop straps and durable side zippers. They fit as they should be without restricting your feet in any particular area, so you’re guaranteed many hours of comfort, warmth, and enjoyment.
The only downside of this pair is that they’d feel like a sauna in hot weather. Furthermore, they tend to hold water inside, so you have to drain them manually. However, unlike other breathable models, they keep the fine sand and small stones out since there are no drainage holes.
What We Like:
- Durable and warm materials for cold weather
- Amazing flexibility
- Easy on and off
- Keeps the sand and debris out
- Puncture-proof soles
What We Don’t Like:
- Not suitable for hot weather
- Retains water
Coldwater can be your worst enemy when kayaking, so a pair of warm and water-safe boots is all you need. If that’s your case, NeoSport Paddle water shoes are your best pick.
5. Sea to Summit Ultra Flex Booties - Most Comfortable
Ultra Flex will provide you with all the features you need when paddling, but above all, they’ll help you maintain warm and comfortable feet.
These durable neoprene shoes become a part of your feet the moment you wear them. Their flexible fit allows you to flex and curl your toes effortlessly, and the Velcro strap system ensures that they’re attached to your feet securely and won’t slip.
The stitching lines are optimized so that the whole insides are smooth to prevent the uncomfortable rubbing against your feet. You can wear them with no socks and have no wounds or burning chafes.
The footbed is squishy without compromising support, and the outsoles provide excellent traction on slippery rocks. However, it’s not suitable for stepping on sharp rocks and gravels, as the sole is quite soft.
Like NeoSport, this model is suitable for cold-water kayaking as it retains heat. It doesn’t have breathable mesh or drainage holes for water, yet it dries quickly once drained by hand. And to further ease this process, it’s easy to put on and pull off.
What We Like:
- Durable neoprene construction
- Snuggly fit with extra flexibility
- Secure Y-pull velcro straps
- Soft stitching to prevent chafing
- Easy on and off
What We Don’t Like:
- Keeps water inside
- Soles aren’t so durable
Ultra Flex has everything to make it the most comfortable kayaking shoes. Your feet will feel cozy like never before with this stretchy and warm footwear.
How to Choose Kayaking Shoes - Buyer’s Guide
Now, let’s get to the hard part. There are no “kayaking shoes” per se, But there are water shoes that can be used while kayaking. To be able to point out the best pair for the activity at hand, we provide you with everything you need to know before pulling the trigger.
Type of Shoes
Water shoes come in many shapes. The type you choose for kayaking depends on the weather, the water you kayak in, and the amount of protection you need. Hence, they can be classified into:
This type looks like sneakers but for water sports. They’re widely chosen by recreational and fishing paddlers for the amount of comfort and flexibility they provide. Owing to their light and breathable designs, they’re preferred in hot-water kayaking.
Should you paddle in rough waters and your yak capsize more than often, you’ll find that low-cut kayaking shoes are the most comfortable to swim with, and they dry in a matter of minutes.
Nevertheless, they’re not your safest option as they can give you chilly feet in the cold months. Also, they won’t block debris and small rocks from going inside if you dip your feet in a deep muddy surface.
Ankle-high shoes are especially ideal for paddlers who hop on and off their vessels often, as they’re comfortable both in water and on land. Their thick soles offer better support and protection.
Like low-cut shoes, they shed water quickly, so they won’t tie you down, but they’re more suitable for warmer conditions.
These are what kayakers like to wear in winter when the water is freezing. While the previously-mentioned types dry quickly, boots don’t get wet in the first place. They block water, sand, mud, rocks, and pretty much anything from reaching your feet, so they provide maximum protection.
They’re best suited for surf kayakers or those who portage their vessels in muddy and rocky areas where the pass to their yak is dangerous. Some of them even have extra padding around the toes and midfoot to protect you from injuries.
These may not be waterproof, but they don’t hold water either. Hence, they’re ideal for long paddling days where the weather is hot, and you’re 100% sure that the biggest problem you’ll face is some water splashes. That’s because they offer zero protection when walking on rocky terrains or slippery surfaces.
Type of Kayak
Before picking a pair of kayaking shoes, check the size of the yak’s cockpit and the foothold. Sit-in kayaks can have smaller footrests than SOT ones. Choose the pair that won’t restrict your feet’s movement in this tiny space.
Moreover, consider whether your yak is the paddling or pedaling type. The latter may require shoes with harder soles so that you won’t feel the pedals directly on your skin, which can be painful after a while.
Most kayaking shoes are made of neoprene, owing to its lightness, flexibility, and powerful non-slip properties. It’s not waterproof, but it doesn’t hold water for long too, so it’ll cool your feet, but won’t let them freeze to death. It also comes in a wide range of thicknesses that fit all kinds of weather.
Some shoes are made of a mix of neoprene and other reinforcing materials like titanium. These are more durable and hold up well to rough terrains. Others use synthetic mesh on the top or other breathable materials to let the air in and water out to keep your feet dry and comfortable regardless of the weather.
Any of these materials will be okay. However, it’s advisable that you stay away from cotton as it soaks wet quickly and takes ages to dry.
Furthermore, paddlers with experience under their belt recommend that if you’re in doubt about which material thickness to choose, always go for the warmer. It’s easier to take off your shoes and cool your feet down rather than warm them with thin shoes.
It goes by logic that you should buy the most fitting shoes, but why are we stressing on this point? Because water is slippery. If your shoes are even one size up than your usual, you’ll probably have an accident that could have been avoided easily.
The best kayaking shoes are neither too tight nor too large. They shouldn’t be overly snug because water will weigh them down at some point, and you’ll end up with cramps.
On the other hand, too big shoes are more of a catastrophe. Apart from the fact that you can lose them, they’ll let the water pool inside and restrict your movements. They’ll also be impossible to swim with if you trip into the water.
The right size is the one that leaves no space between your feet and the material but lets you flex your toes comfortably.
Usually, when we buy shoes, we overlook their soles’ quality, but that can be a life-or-death feature in kayaking shoes.
Think about where you portage your yak or the type of activity you’re going to do. Some people combine paddling and hiking in one sport. You shouldn’t expect your thin-soled shoes to cover you in such a situation. They’ll cause you to get tired quickly and eventually cause injury.
Furthermore, sometimes you’ll have to cross wet mossy surfaces or walk on jagged rocks to reach your yak. Hence, opt for the sturdiest and most comfortable soles you can find to support your feet and absorb the impact of rocks and other obstructions.
Frequently Asked Questions
By this point, you should have a clear idea about kayaking shoes and their essential features. If you still got a few questions, check the ones below. You may find your answer.
What Shoes do You Wear Kayaking?
That depends on the weather and the area in which you’re sailing. We’d prefer a pair of water booties for chilly and rocky areas as they’ll keep us warm and comfortable besides blocking gravel and sand from getting in between our feet and the shoes. On the other hand, a pair of water sandals would be a light and dry solution for kayaking in hot weather.
Can You Wear Sneakers When Kayaking?
Basically, yes, you can. If they’re a type of sneakers that can withstand water and have breathable mesh to dry quickly, they’ll be okay. Just make sure they don’t trap water inside, or else they’ll be extremely uncomfortable and unhealthy for your feet.
Can I Use Kayaking Shoes for Walking or Other Activities?
Kayaking shoes are essentially water shoes designed for many sports like swimming, scuba diving, and snorkeling. Some are outfitted with durable soles for hiking and camping in rough areas as well. However, they’re not suitable for some activities, like running and playing soccer.
Are Kayaking Shoes Washable?
Yes! Kayaking shoes don’t have problems with hot water or soap. That’s, of course, if you’re thinking about vigorous washing. Nevertheless, it’s advisable to dry them thoroughly before storing or using them again.
Searching for the best shoes for kayaking can be a daunting task if you don’t know the type you need or conditions in which you’re going to use them. Hopefully, our guide has made the process much easier.
Comfort, safety, and durability are the fixed features you should make sure to find when buying paddling shoes, and they’re present in all the products we reviewed. However, you should look for additional features that suit your own situation.
For example, if you plan to hike or camp, you need a versatile and durable pair like Merrell All Out Blaze.
When paddling in hot weather, you should wear the lightest water shoes available that provide reliable performance in the water without being restricting. For such a situation, Vibram Singa fits the bill.
Finally, suppose you have to pass a jagged surface to reach your yak, or you’ll be rowing your boat in a below two degree Celsius weather, then you should go for NeoSport Paddle booties.