The 2 Best Water Shoes For Kayaking (2018)

Kayaking can be fun, but when you find yourself in the middle of nowhere, you need to protect your feet. Let’s look at top-rated recommended shoes for kayaking and what to look out for when shopping for one.

After looking around and seeing what others have to say, we think the ALEADER Water Shoes for men and for women are the best shoes to wear for most people while kayaking.

What you wear when you go kayaking is important to both the health of your feet and its safety. You may very well find yourself walking on many types of environment, from simple concrete to gravel and sand or shallow water where it’s difficult to see what you step on. We want shoes that not only protect you from sharp objects but can also let your feet to breathe and be able to dry off on its own when it gets soaked. The shoes should also be able to brace against bulkheads and foot pegs and be comfortable for both on and off the water.

Reviews of the Best Kayaking Shoes

Our Top Pick: ALEADER Water Shoes (Men sizes) (Women sizes)

The ALEADER water shoes are provably quick-dry, suitable for most types of terrain, and stretchy for all types of feet. The shoes use an open mesh-like fabric design that provides holes all around for high breathability and airflow to drain water and dry your feet as you are on the go. At first glance, the holes found on the bottom side of the soles seem somewhat big and alarming for sticks to poke through, but the midsole and insole have holes small enough to prevent sticks from getting inside. Some reviewers have tried testing the ALEADER shoes by walking on and carrying their kayaks over beaver dams. The mid and inner soles are also perforated just enough to help further drain water quickly from within the shoes.

The shoes have laces that aren’t used to tie your shoes, but rather provide the top-end flexibility for wider feet and ankles to fit through. The laces are elastic, as is with the rest of the shoes, and help keep the top-end firmly closed to prevent the shoes from slipping off during the fun times. The underneath of the shoes is also made of a foam material which ultimately makes the shoes float on water if they ever somehow come off. The foam material also provides much-needed grip and traction when walking on rocks submerged in water or above the water. The tip of the shoes (toe area) and the back (heel area) also use special traction design for the extra grip for tiptoeing around. They are comfortable and easy to clean and have our vote of confidence as one of the best stylish runners-looking water shoes for kayaking or any water-related activities.

One drawback is because of the holes underneath the shoes, small sticks and stones can get stuck underneath and would need to be removed by hand. The shoes might find better use on docks or when you’re in the kayak, but they can hold its own very well when you step on a beaver’s dam or walk through mud.

The Upgrade: Merrell All Out Blaze Sieve Water Shoes (Men sizes) (Women sizes)

The Merrell All Out Blaze Sieve water shoes is an all-day, all-terrain water shoe that works well on both water and land. The midsoles are shock absorbent and sit on top of outsoles that are built to protect you from the terrains. They have a great amount of grip but does not have as much drainage underneath the feet as the ALEADER water shoes. The drainage is still amazing, with fewer large holes on the sides of the All Out Blaze Sieve. You can walk around in town all day, and the shoes can take care good care of you. It has an amazing padded footbed and can provide the traction kayakers may need when stepping onto a variety of terrains.

It uses a quick lace-up bungee system that makes for quick and easy adjustments and proper fitting. The lace can be tightened for firmer fit or loosened for those with wider feet. The collar is also made with stretch lycra neoprene material that helps with putting on and taking off the shoes. Plenty of detailed stitching all around. The waxy waterproof nubuck leather looks stylish, providing extra comfort and durability to the shoes for long-term use. The shoes are also antimicrobial treated to prevent malodor. One of the things we love about the shoes is the addition of the toe bumper. When you think back to the last time you stubbed your toe, it was not a pleasant feeling. The toe bumpers on the shoe add some degree of protection, but we wouldn’t recommend kicking rocks.

They feel like rugged sandals and comfortable hiking shoes and would do well to walk on slippery terrains, and generally anywhere in the water when you really need to rely on your shoes to protect your feet.

How We Picked

There are 5 considerations for the ideal pair of water shoes for kayaking:

  • They are indeed waterproof: The shoes had to be made of some material that is waterproof. Not to be confused with water resistance as the last thing we want during a long hours kayaking trip are waterlogged shoes that hold water within the material.
  • The shoes have excellent drainage: Water inevitably will get in our shoes during kayaking trips. Whether it is by stepping into water or getting splashed, we want to find a pair of shoes with excellent drainage to get rid of water and let the feet dry off. Shoes that form puddles inside are no good for the health of our feet.
  • Comes with a highly breathable and high airflow design: The worst thing that can happen to our feet is to develop a fungal infection from being wet too long, which is why it’s important for the shoes to be able to let the feet dry off through a high airflow design. Most shoes use mesh-like designs with holes along the sides and top for breathability as you move around.
  • They can withstand different types of terrain: For the more serious kayaker who find themselves miles away from known civilization, shoes that can walk on all types of terrain is essential. One thing we keep in mind is that if a shoe has big holes for drainage, whether sticks and stones can poke through to our feet and potentially injure us. Shoes must withstand mud, dirt, sand, and rocks.
  • The shoes can withstand slippery conditions: Having a grip is vital for safety. The last thing we want is to slip and hurt ourselves during our kayaking trips. Shoes must have some degree of grip on the base of the soles and can withstand walking and climbing wet rocks.

Types of Water Shoes

There are three types of water shoe designs:

  • Sandals: These shoes can be great for both drainage and drying of the feet. They tend to have more holes along the sides, with a solid sole to provide a comfortable, protective footbed. There are two drawbacks to sandals: 1) They do expose the feet more to terrain and the sun, so beware stepping around in bushy areas, tall grass, and stick-ridden environments, and 2) They may not be entirely comfortable for long-distance walking. The shoes work well for kayaking for long hours, but for those who explore the unexplored, you may opt for shoes with fewer holes for more protection.
  • Runners: Running shoes are great for mobility and long-distance. They have a protective foot base and recent waterproof running shoes tend to have mesh fabric construct to drain water quickly from all around. There are two drawbacks to runners: 1) They might not drain or dry as quickly as sandals or may not breathe as well so malodor can occur, and 2) Water can get pool within the shoes if drainage design is poor.
  • Boots: Boots can prevent any water from entering the shoes. They walk well, tend to have great grip even in slippery situations, and can keep your feet dry. However, when it comes to kayaking, boots may not be the best especially when you step in deeper water. If water does get in, it might spell trouble for your feet’s health and demand that the water is frequently dumped by taking off the boots.

When it comes to kayaking, we believe runners and sandals make the best type of water shoes. They both can come with soft soles (more in tune with the terrain) and hard soles (protective footbed), have good drainage and breathability for long hours of kayaking and can withstand much of the terrain typical recreational, fishing, and touring kayakers may find themselves in when entering or exiting their kayaks.

When deciding which is right for you, walking distance and the type of terrain you may encounter are important considerations to make before buying any pair of shoes.

The Competition

Zhuanglin Shoes (Men sizes) (Women sizes): The shoes provide excellent comfort and cover from different environments. They are very popular and could be a runner-up candidate for water shoes. The rubber soles are solid and durable, and they can be used for all-day walking. We just weren’t too much of a fan for the collar, as they are very thin and could have had more cushion built in. They are also a little too flimsy for our taste.

Northside Burke II Shoes (Men sizes) (Women sizes): these shoes are great for recreational kayaking trips and can be used for beach wear or for enjoying the outdoors. The strap that holds the back of the feet can get irritated when you walk a longer distance. However, it’s difficult to argue against the breathability and drainage of these shoes.

CIOR Fatiny Shoes: These shoes are very protective and very durable in design and material. You can use it in pretty much any terrain, and can reliably grip even the slipperiest of wet rocks. They can be tight, especially for users with wider feet as there isn’t much flexibility built in the top area or collar of the shoes. Drainage is there but is much slower than most shoes. Breathability could be better, too.