Water shoes are often a curiosity for newcomers, as they defy most of the rules for sneakers, despite a similar appearance. Unlike the average sneaker, water shoes have a mesh design that allows them to get wet without taking days to dry. They can be worn on beaches or in the wilderness with equal comfort and protection.
Whether you’re a water or hiking enthusiast, or just want to keep your toddler’s feet protected at the beach, you’ll want the best water shoes your money can buy. Below you’ll find the models we recommend for men, women, and kids of all ages.
Best Water Shoes for Men
When spending a lot of time outdoors, you need a shoe that’s both comfortable and durable. Merrill’s 65239 water shoes top the list with every detail focused on giving you the best bang for your money. These shoes are available in a wide range of colors and sizes from 7 D(M) to 14 D(M).
The water-shedding leather tops are perfect for forging creeks, while the synthetic soles have a UniFly™ midsole for maximum shock and terrain absorption. This allows you to hike for miles in comfort while those wearing other water shoes wish they have a pair of Merrells after a short distance. With a 3mm lug depth and neoprene stretch collar, these are the best water shoes for men for the price.
If there’s a downside to these shoes, it’s the sizing. Be sure to test them for fit before going hiking in case you need to exchange them for a different size. Also, because of the large ventilation holes on the sides, larger debris such as beach shells may get inside the shoe. While the Merrells are definitely the best water shoe for hiking, you may want to look at the Aleader below if beach use is your number one priority.
Otherwise, the shoes have proven invaluable to their owners through tough terrains in exotic locations such as Belize and Hawai’i. They have also proven useful on the beach and in more casual tasks such as washing the car. It is strongly suggested you wear them a day or two before embarking on a rough journey to break them in.
When looking for a water shoe that can be used for sports, it’s tough to compete with Aleader. Available in sizes 7 D(M) to 14 D(M) US, these shoes have a solyte midsole that provides superior durability without adding extra weight.
The open hydrophobic engineered upper mesh is both durable and designed to give the foot plenty of breathability. Mesh-lined holes in the rubber sole provide faster drying time and even more breathability, while the ComforDry sockliner adds cushioning and a drier, healthier shoe. The Water Grip outsole provides traction on most slippery surfaces, allowing you to traverse streams or pool perimeters with ease. While these shoes are designed for slip-on use, a lateral locking system helps to ensure your feet don’t slip out easily.
Unfortunately, while the open nature of the bottom improves drying times, it also allows more sand to sneak into the shoes when compared with closed-sole designs. Compared to similar designs, they attract far less sand, but any open-sole design will have this problem. Otherwise, these shoes have proven to hold up under a wide variety of environments, and are an excellent choice for water aerobics, boating, or sports such as kayaking and whitewater rafting. They’re a little too “lightweight” for hiking use so go with the Merrell shoes above if that’s what you’re into.
Best Water Shoes for Women
Merrell understands that men and women are built differently and have created a women’s version of their popular Blaze Sieve shoes with those differences in mind. The 64980 is available in women’s sizes ranging from 5 B(M) to 11 B(M) US, with a 1-inch heel and 3mm lug depth to better fit women’s feet. The synthetic sole includes the same Unifly midsole to improve cushioning and flexibility, while the open design of the water proof leather upper shoe provides protection and superior water shedding capabilities. Finally, a neoprene stretch collar allows for an easier time putting on these shoes without compromising the fit.
As with many water shoes, be sure to test fit before going out on a hike, as you may need a slightly larger or smaller size for the perfect fit. Once you have that fit, however, these shoes make a perfect partner for most of your outdoor needs. They remain comfortable even after long hikes, and can be used to forge creeks and even swim in without any problems. And while they won’t protect against everything, the amount of sticks or rocks that manage to get in is far less than with similar shoes.
If you want the best womens’ water shoes, then sometimes you need to specialize. Rykä, a company devoted to women’s athletic footwear, proves this with their Hydro Sport water shoes. Beginning with a flexible rubber sole that includes a water drainage system and sticky rubber for extra traction on wet surfaces, these shoes are made for a wide variety of terrain and aquatic sports.
The synthetic mesh upper portion is complimented by a webbed midfoot cage designed for superior medial and lateral support while all materials are made chlorine resistant to add to the shoes’ durability. A removable, perforated nitracel footbed adds cushioning, while the narrower heel, increased instep volume, and roomier forefoot make the fit perfect for the shape of a woman’s feet. This high-performance hybrid water shoe is available in sizes ranging from 5 B(M) to 12 B(M) US and is easy to put on and remove so you can spend more time enjoying the water.
While many people prefer to remove the insoles to speed up drying, the overall design allows for a fast drying time even with them still in place. They hold up well when doing mixed sports, such as triathalons or relays that involve both running, swimming, canoeing, or other sports. The design is one that has been employed by Rykä for much of their 25 years with little change, although the current model does not offer elastic laces. This has proven a hindrance to some of its owners, as the locking mechanism doesn’t hold up as well as a stretching lace in some more involved swimming events. Be sure to look for some elastic laces if you plan to use these aggressively in the water.
Best Water Shoes for Toddlers and Kids
It’s fairly obvious but if you want the best water shoes for kids, you should go to the best kids’ shoe company. Stride Rite has been in the business of making kids’ shoes since 1919, and that experience shows with the Made 2 Play Phibian. These hybrid sneaker/sandal/water shoes are available in sizes 4 M to 10 Medium US for toddlers, 1 M to 13 M US for kids, and 4 M to 5 M for bigger kids, making this a shoe that can be worn from ages 1 to 12.
The Phibian is 100% Vegan (I wouldn’t recommend eating them though), employing synthetic materials and rubber pods on the outsole for improved grip on wet surfaces. A secure hook and loop closure prevent the laces from coming undone during even the most strenuous play, and the shoes dry quickly after a bout of swimming. Best of all, these shoes are machine washable, so you never have to worry about odors or stains.
The wide variety of colors available make these shoes attractive to kids of all ages and tastes. Parents love the quick drying times and easy washability, while the patterns stay resilient with heavy use. Meanwhile, children love the ability to play on both land and in the water without getting yelled at. Be careful to test the shoes before sending your children out to play, or it could result in irritation or even blisters.
Merrell’s Hydro water sandal is a great child’s alternative to their adult line. With shoes sized for toddlers to big kids, the Hydro is perfect for a wide variety of activities. The shoe includes a rubber sole, protective rubber toe guard, vented upper shoe, and adjustable hook-and-loop closure. Decorative bungee lacing add to the attraction.
Great for family hikes, water parks, lakes, beaches, and pools, these Merrell water shoes are as good as they get for all around use. Your little one will love how comfortable they are and may not want to take them off after play time is over. Many parents who previously purchased Keens for their kids have switched over to Merrell once they realize the quality is even better.
As for negatives, some have reported that sizing of the Merrell’s run a bit large but if the pair end up being a bit too big, returns are generally hassle-free (or you can simply wait a bit until they grow into them). Also, they are a bit heavier than some other water shoes but this also means more comfort and protection.