Kayaking is a great sport that allows you to work up a sweat while out on the water. The only thing that isn’t so awesome about kayaking is ruining perfectly good athletic shoes by getting them wet. Kayaking requires shoes to work both on dry land as well as in the water.
A lot of kayakers simply put on a pair of old sneakers and some wool socks and hit the water. The problem with this is those shoes quickly break down because they aren’t designed to be in the water.
Top Kayak Shoes Comparison Chart
Other kayakers prefer to wear the shoes designed for scuba activities, neoprene booties. While these will definitely keep your feet warm in cool waters, they tend to trap water inside keeping your feet wet for hours. Wet feet over a long period of time can cause a whole host of issues with your feet and set you up for serious infections.
Best Kayaking Shoes Buying Guide
There is another option, aquatic athletic shoes. These shoes are designed to go both on the road and in the water. The drain, dry quickly and keep you moving. These type of shoes, when worn with waterproof socks, are the ultimate in performance for any serious kayaker.
Aquatic shoes have a few key features that traditional shoes lack. They typically are covered in mesh and have a thin rubber sole. These water shoes are good when you are in the pool or playing around on the beach, but may not be ideal for the times when you plan on kayaking.
Athletic Aquatic shoes are not the typical water shoes that you see at the beach either. These shoes are designed to help you hike in and out of tough to reach kayaking spots, without damaging your feet. Here are the key features you need to look for when picking a kayaking shoe.
The athletic design of the shoe can be somewhat flexible. If you know that your main activity on land when kayaking is going to be loading and unloading your boat, you can probably settle for a lower performance shoe. However, if you plan on doing any hiking while you kayak you will definitely want a shoe that is going to adapt well to being wet, then hiking or walking out into the wilderness.
Water-resistant shoes are not the same as water draining shoes.
- Water-resistant shoes are designed to repel water away from the surface, but once submerged they are going to stay wet.
- Water shoes that feature water draining are designed to get wet! They have special draining technology built right into them to make sure that the water drains from the shoe as fast as possible. These shoes are also designed to dry out faster than other shoes.
Good water shoes are going to feature a few key design elements that you need.
- Sole drain ports
- Mesh top or sides for easy drying
- Removable footbed
- Non-slip rubber
- Flexible textiles like bungee, leather, neoprene
- Side port drainage
This is probably one of the most underlooked at elements of best kayaking shoes. The traction your shoes provide you could ultimately end up saving your life, limbs or brain!
The places that you put in your kayak are not always the most user-friendly. Sometimes there are wet mossy rocks, slick moldy docks, and other gooey surfaces that you will need to walk over to get your kayak in or out of the water. Making sure you can do so safely, without a slip or a fall is paramount to safety.
Likewise, if you plan on exiting your kayak and doing some hiking, you will want some shoes that are going to provide you adequate traction for your treck. Check out the grip tech on your shoes before you buy them!
Because you will be using your kayaking shoes in the water, there are a few things that you need to think about. Water causes the fibers in textiles to expand and drying causes the fibers to contract. This is why you will often see apparel that gets wet frequently break down over time. Textiles that have natural stretch to them will have a longer life to them because they will respond better to the swelling and shrinking of the constant soaking and drying process.
Chemically treated water and salt water will have a much harsher effect on your kayaking shoes than fresh water. If you use your kayaking shoes at the pool or in the ocean, make sure to rinse them very well after each use. This will prolong the life of the textiles used to make the shoe and lead to a longer lifespan of the metal components.
Mud and gunk are an inevitability when kayaking. You will step offshore and right into a sinking sand of gunk. If you get your shoes especially nasty, make sure to clean them thoroughly after the kayaking trip. Many times these sands, muds, and algae can cause chemical reactions that will speed up the breakdown of the materials in your kayaking shoes. Getting them to rinse clear after a dirty trip is going to help you ensure your shoes see a longer life.
Best Kayaking Shoe Reviews
Now you know what you want out of a kayaking shoe. Let’s take a look at some of the best kayaking shoes that this season has to offer and see which one is going to be the right fit for you.
Ryka Hydro sport has designed these water shoes for sports that include some water immersion AND for cross-training. This shoe features an anti-slip lace lock designed to help keep the shoe in place. There is also a webbing around the mid-foot cage to provide medial and lateral support to the foot. All of the foot support provided from this shoe would make it an ideal shoe for any kayaker that plans to do a lot of land activity in addition to their kayaking.
While the laces do feature an anti-slip lace lock, if the lace lock is lost the laces do come undone very easily making the shoes a bit cumbersome to keep tied. They can run a little small so be prepared to try them on in a store before you buy them. Also, with extreme water use, like with water aerobics, the soles may come out. This shouldn’t be a problem if you plan to use them for kayaking.
The best part about these shoes is the mesh upper and side walls and the drains in the soles of the shoes. These shoes are designed to dry quickly which makes them ideal for kayakers who want to quickly exit their boat and explore the scenery around them. The extra sticky rubber on the shoe’s sole should make it nonslip and safe for you to explore even on rocky surfaces.
- Anti-Slip Lace Lock
- Sole Drains
- Mesh Upper and Side Walls
- Runs Small
- Insoles Come out
The Merell Waterpro shoe features a synthetic leather and mesh upper with lycra and neoprene stretch color for easy on and off. The shoe features a Hydro draining ventilated footbed that is designed to easily drain any water that gets into the shoe making it perfect for any kayaker. This shoe is also equipped with an anti-friction lining to stop any friction burns or blisters from occurring when walking in the shoe whether it’s wet or dry. Another addition to this shoe is the rear foot stabilizer which will help lock the heel of the shoe in place preventing any slipping.
The lacing system on the Merell shoe can take a little bit of getting used too, because the laces go through the lateral support strings rather than traditional eyelets. This provides your shoe with additional made sole and lateral stabilization making it perfect for hiking though it does make lacing it up a little tricky.
The shoes can run a little narrow so if you have wider feet they may not be the best shoe for you. They have a synthetic toe bumper and a synthetic sole that is designed with anti-slip technology making them perfect for the kayaker that wants to hike directly after getting out of the water. These are great kayaking shoes for their versatility and comfort.
- Hydro Draining Ventilated Footbed
- Anti-Friction Lining
- Rear Foot Stabilizer
- Lacing System Takes Getting Used Too
- Run Narrow
The Clorts amphibious shoes for women are designed to be used both in and out of the water. These shoes feature a bungee lace locking system and a fast lacing buckle to make sure that your shoes stay in place. They do have fairly high heels on the back so you will need to adjust the heel buckle in order to ensure that it does not rub on your heels.
These shoes are designed to be used and abused with the shock observing EVA in the midsole. The outsoles are skid-proof and designed to be used on slippery surfaces making them ideal for kayakers who will be hiking directly from their landing destinations.
The shoes do run a bit small so make sure you follow the sizing instructions from the manufacturer or try them on in person first. The shoes could be your new favorite pair of kayaking shoes once you get the size right.
- Fast Lacing Buckle
- Anti-Hydrolysis Mesh
- Shock Absorbing EVA Midsole
- Skid Proof Outsole
- Runs Small
- May Rub Heal
Deeply discounted right now on Amazon (like 75% off as of my writing this review), we’d consider this water shoe to be the best value right now given the price cut and what you’re getting. This multi-purpose shoe takes a backseat to no one for its construction durability and ingenious design. It’s a closed toe shoe that provides safety for your toes while hiking, camping, beach and outdoor walking, but also it was designed with kayaking in mind. The shock-absorbing EVA midsole gives you a really lightweight cushion with excellent bounce-back qualities. If you’re not into water-logged, and sloshy shoes, you’ll appreciate the Clorts WT05. It’s quick-drying and has a super easy fast lacing buckle. It also offers superior arch support. Honestly, for the price, you can’t do a whole lot better! Seriously!
- Fast Lacing Buckle
- Anti-Hydrolysis Mesh
- Shock Absorbing EVA Midsole
- Skid Proof Outsole
- PRICE, PRICE, PRICE
- Runs Small
- May Rub Heal
These are actually my hands down favorite shoe on the list! I couldn’t put it number one since there are others on my “ahem” … “team” here at sportconsumer.com! Having said that, they’re not the cheapest priced option on our list and that may put them out of reach for some. Unlike some other brands, Columbia is head and shoulders above any of them (except maybe Merrell). I own so much Columbia stuff I can’t count it all! The Drainmaker IV’s are full of features like Techlikte midsole, extra cushioning and a technically advanced “high energy return” sole construction system. The water is drainable through the air-flow ports around the midsole, and they’re made of a combo of mesh and synthetic textile. The sole is rubber and non-marking.
To me, they feel exceptionally light and I can easily wear them for any Summer activity (though I jealously guard them for my canoe trips). Yes, you heard it – I’m a canoe freak and don’t even own a kayak …. for now!
- Best name in the industry
- Water Drainage Channel
- Versatile …. ish!
- Fairly pricey
- Though versatile, many owners (not me) have complained that they are not as versatile as the Drainmaker 3D and they will give you blisters without socks if you use them for hiking, etc. and they let in small stones in your feet!
The Maya Trail sandal is designed to be used both in and out of the water. The bungee cord design allows you to adjust the smugness of the sandal to meet your foot with and the openness on the science allows water to train quickly. There are no drains on the soles of these shoes because of the open air design. It would be difficult to get water trapped inside the sandals.
The outsole is a multidirectional pattern for wet and dry services. It is designed for maximum traction on both services making it ideal for kayakers everywhere. Because this is a sandal, it is not going to provide the same level of foot support that an athletic water shoe would provide. Make sure if you choose a sandal over an athletic water shoe you will not be doing the same level of activity that you would in an athletic type of shoe.
The sandals do have a limit in their level of adjustability. Many other water shoes have multiple points of adjustment allowing you to customize the feel on your foot. The Maya sandal does only have the bungee cord adjustment making it feel a bit limited in comparison to other water shoe models. This shoe may run a little bit larger than other shoes so be prepared to try them on in-store or order a half size down
- Sandal Style Construction
- Bungee Lacing System
- Open-Air Design
- May Run a Little Large
- Limited Adjustability
The Aleader Women’s Water Shoe is what I’m considering at this very moment for my wife as we prepare for next Summer’s canoe trip (yes, I love kayaking, but my canoe trip is sacred tradition). It’s really a wilderness paddling/trekking shoe. One of the key issues is that when you’re canoeing or kayaking for any distance (especially on a multi-day journey) you’re inevitably going to get your feet wet. That is a cause for concern if not taken care of QUICKLY. It leads to chills and extreme discomfort, and your “vacation” quickly becomes an arduous task to be endured and certainly not enjoyed! The Aleader shoe will deal with that problem as well as any shoe, and for a price you can live with! Its breathable Eva/RB outsole, soft cushioning, and articulated flex grooves allow for natural range of motion and maximum comfort. The durable, breathable air mesh cover allows your feet to breathe well. And since these shoes are durable, you can rest assured that your feet will stay comfortable for as long as you own them. There’s also a hole on the sole that contributes to overall breathability and quick drying.
The midsole is really very lightweight. When you step in water, your shoes are likely going to take in a lot of water, which means they are going to get heavy. That’s why you need water shoes that are lightweight, so that you can enjoy your time in the water. The ComforDry sockliner offers awesome cushioning performance that ensures the shoe environment stays cool, dry and healthy.
The water grain outsole gives these shoes awesome traction in slippery and wet conditions. There’s always a huge chance of slipping when you are in the water, or on a wet surface. Underwater rocks are your biggest enemy, so you’ll need an aquatic ally when walking on them. You know we’ve got you covered with the Aleader Women’s Quck Drying Aqua Shoe.
- Drainage Channels
- Rubber Anti-Slip Soles great for underwater traction
- GREAT price
- The only thing we can think of is perhaps the issue of durability in backwoods hiking over the long term. There’s no leather or tough nylon
The Wake Athletic Water Shoe from adidas is designed to used both in and out of the water. They have a lightweight midsole with built-in side port drainage to help get water out of the shoe quickly. The upper part of the shoe is made from lightweight, breathable mesh. The shoe features a lateral support system for some more active pursuits while the draining system is very efficient. adidas has made this shoe with its “FluidFlow” technology that increases the rate of water drainage from previous adidas models. adidas has also place rubber pods in high wear areas to extend longevity of the shoe, and the lacing system locks down your foot like no other.
It’s not all roses though; the inside of the shoe may cause some discomfort with stitching that chafes your foot in various places.
For a kayaker who plans on kayaking occasionally and doing most of their activities before they get in the water this would be the perfect kayaking shoe. They offer great support and enough drainage so that they don’t ruin the shoe while drying out in between kayaking activities.
- Quick Drying Breathable Mesh Upper
- Side Port Drainage
- Toggle Fit lacing
- May Not Dry Quickly
- a Little Slippery
The Merrell All Out Baze is a high-end sandal featuring a bungee ties system to help you secure the sandal in place and limit slip. The top color of the sandal is made with neoprene and helps you slide on the sandal. There are mesh and neoprene ports all around the sandal to help prevent water from being locked into the sandal.
While this is a water sandal there are no sole drains featured on the sandal and drainage when fully immersed can be slow. This may not be a problem in your kayak but could be problematic when going from your kayak to the land.
The traction on these shoes are very good when they are dry the Vibram TC 5+ outsole does not do much for traction on wet surfaces. Be careful when working on slippery rocks with the Merrell sandals.
These are nice mix of synthetic and natural fibers all designed to give with the swelling and release of water so they should hold up pretty nice when getting wet and drying out. It would be perfect for a kayaker who does not plan to do much walking out of the kayak.
- Bungee Laces
- Neoprene Stretch Color
- Highly Breathable
- Can Be Prone to Slipping
- No Sole Drains
Merrell Men’s Waterpro Maipo Water Shoe
Conclusion & Recommendations
Ultimately choosing the best kayaking shoe will depend on your primary activities before and after kayaking. Really the time spent in the boat is not going to affect what type of shoe you should have other than knowing that your shoe will protect you from your feet petals and other discomforts that can be found in the inside of a kayak.
If you are looking for something that’s going to give you the best hiking ability after kayaking the Columbia or the Ryko are going to be the most solid performing shoe outside of the water.
If you’re less worried about what is going to happen outside of the water and just want to shoe that will stand up to getting wet and drying out the simple design of the Merrell all-out blaze is going to be great. You also can’t go wrong with the Clorts.
All of the shoes that we reviewed here are going to be great for kayaking. Tweaking the needs of the shoe to your individual kayaking style will give you your greatest amount of satisfaction for your purchase. Make sure you consider what you’re going to be doing before and after you get into your kayak so that way your shoe can live up to those performance standards. Get out there, hike, kayak and stay active.