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a group photo of the best water shoes we tested in 2024, sitting on a log and rock next to the water.

Out of all the water shoes we tested, these are our top picks for 2024. Photo: Steve Andrews/The Inertia

The Inertia

The best way to enjoy the water, without a doubt, is barefoot. Sun on your back, sand between your toes, the whole nine yards. But for the water-borne adventurer, chances are good that you won’t find yourself on a white sandy beach every time. Hopefully, you have those priceless barefoot moments on the beach. But for most other instances — whether that’s whitewater adventures, exploring by the lake, or scrambling along a craggy coastline — a solid pair of water shoes will do you some good.

However, there is a wide spectrum of footwear claiming to be water shoes. Some are better suited to your individual purpose than others. Luckily, you found this handy guide. We at The Inertia take our time by the water seriously and understand that a good pair of water shoes will result in more efficient travel across shorelines, rivers, and lakebeds. Not to mention, you’ll avoid numerous accidents and have more enjoyable adventures overall.

So here’s our guide to the best water shoes on the market today.  To compare the features and specifications of the water shoes listed below, refer to our comparison table. For a detailed guide on what to look for when buying water shoes, check out our buyer’s guide.

The Best Water Shoes

Best Overall Water Shoes: Salomon Techamphibian
Runner Up: Best Overall Water Shoes: Danner Rivercomber
Best Budget Water Shoes:  Crocs Classic
Best Water Shoes for Hiking: Hoka Hopara
Best Water Shoes for Swimming: Xero Aqua X Sport
Best Recovery Water Shoes: Kane Revive

Best Overall Water Shoes

Salomon Techamphibian ($110)

a product photo of the salomon techamphibian water shoe, which won our pick for the best overall water shoes

Upper Material: Synthetic
Sole: Rubber
Closure: Quick-pull lace
Pros: Speed laces provide a tight fit and easy removal. Drains super fast.
Cons: Rear ankle buckle leaves a tail when tightened.

The Salomon Techamphibians got our nod for the best overall water shoes. They provide excellent support on uneven terrain and have great traction underneath with Salomon’s proprietary outsoles. They also drain quickly. They are reliable shoes both inside and outside the water.

The rear buckle helps keep the foot in place while also preventing water from collecting. However, for skinny ankles, it might not be enough support. These shoes offer high performance and are well-known in trail running and hiking circles. But they are also comfortable enough to wear around when not in training mode. They sport a look that resembles athletic shoes, meaning they can still function for everyday use without looking too silly.

For people needing to move fast over varied surfaces that include water, the Salomon Techamphibians are a winner. Read our full review here

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Runner Up: Best All-Around Water Shoes 

Danner Rivercomber ($160)danner rivercomber water shoes

Upper Material: Nylon
Sole: Vibram Rivercomber
Closure: Laces
Pros: Lightweight, grippy sole
Cons: Pricey

Danner is more well-known for its hiking boots and trail-ready footwear. But when we heard of its water shoe offering, The Rivercomber, we had faith that the shoes would live up to their land-borne brethren. And sure enough, Danner made a quality pair of shoes that will hold their own on land yet shine underwater. The shoes are lightweight and quick-drying at 22 ounces for a pair. But they are still rigid enough to provide support on wet rocks and uneven terrain. The Vibram outsole provides exceptional grip on wet surfaces thanks to a pattern meant to push water away. And since their soles are non-marking, Rivercombers works great as boat shoes as well.

Rivercombers were also nearly a contender for the top spot, but we gave the edge to Salomon’s Techamphibians due to their price point. However, Rivercombers are still an excellent choice for a water shoe. They work well in a variety of situations, offering comfort, stability, and quick-drying materials that will last.

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Best Budget Water Shoes

Crocs Classic ($50)

a product shot of the crocs classic clogs for our review of the best water shoes

Upper Material: Croslite (oil-based)
Sole: Croslite (oil-based)
Closure:  Slip on
Pros: Affordable, lightweight, and comfortable.
Cons: Not very durable. Can get sweaty in the sun.

Crocs. People either love ’em or hate ’em, and the haters usually haven’t tried ’em. So take it from us — Crocs Classic clogs are still well-performing water shoes. And in a case of “what’s old is new again,” they seem to be back in style across the world.

These clogs are lightweight, buoyant, easy-draining, and remarkably comfortable. And with a price tag that could have you buying a few pairs for less than a night out on the town, it’s a worthy investment. All we have to say is this: Before you knock ’em, try ’em.

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Best Water Shoes for Hiking

Hoka Hopara ($135)

a product shot of the hoka hopara, which was our pick for the best water shoes for hiking

Upper Material: Synthetic/Neoprene
Sole: Rubber
Closure: No-tie laces
Pros: Excellent traction for different types of terrain. Quick-drying and water-friendly materials.
Cons: Sole may be too springy for some. Unique style isn’t for everyone.

If you’re an adventurous hiker who loves exploring wet and challenging terrain, Hoka Hoparas are the perfect companion. These shoes offer exceptional traction on various surfaces, allowing you to navigate through unpredictable trails with ease. Their lightweight and breathable design ensures maximum comfort and ample drainage. We found their soles to be durable yet flexible.

Hoka Hoparas are water shoes that look like water shoes, so their versatility is a bit limited. They aren’t going to impress at a post-paddle cookout. But if you value performance over style, then you’ll be impressed with the function and fit of Hoparas.

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Best Water Shoes for Swimming

Xero Aqua X Sport ($130)

our pick for the best water shoes for swimming was the xero aqua x sport, shown here in a product photo.

Upper Material: Polyurethane
Sole: Rubber
Closure: Quick-pull laces
Pros: Designed for optimal performance in water sports. Excellent grip and flexibility. Quick-draining and lightweight.
Cons: May not provide sufficient protection for certain activities. Limited insulation for colder water.

If you need extra mobility in the water without sacrificing good traction, Xero Aqua X Sport water shoes are the ideal choice. These shoes are specifically designed to excel in water sports activities. The upshot is excellent grip, flexibility, and quick drainage.

Their lightweight and flexible construction is a hallmark of Xero Shoes’ design philosophy.  The enhanced maneuverability allowed us to push our limits when testing. We also found these shoes performed great when we had to swim, as they didn’t bog us down with heavy material underneath. When it came time to stand up, the shoes had plenty of sole to protect the feet while still providing ground feedback.

Out of the water, they felt supportive and comfortable despite the low profile. We probably wouldn’t want to take them on any huge hikes. But if a scramble was necessary to get down to the waterline, these wouldn’t put up too much of a fuss about it. Running was also surprisingly comfortable, both on the road and on the trail. However, near the water is where they truly shine.

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Best Recovery Water Shoes

Kane Revive ($75)

kane revive for our review of the best water shoes

Upper Material: Sugarcane-based foam
Sole: Sugarcane-based foam
Closure:  Slip-on
Pros: Great support, Sustainable materials.
Cons: Loose-fitting, not meant for active pursuits.

Kane is an aptly named company. Its shoes are made from sugar cane, a resilient and hearty plant that is as renewable as it comes. It’s hard to tell the difference between Kane’s foam and its petroleum-based counterpart. That makes us ask the question, “Why don’t more companies do this?” The brand’s flagship offering, the Revives, have the potential to be a game-changer for people wanting to baby their feet.

The footbed was among the most comfortable we tried. Little bumps on the insole help stimulate circulation. And with a plentiful hole pattern to help with breathability and drainage, it’s the perfect option after a big day. The Revives are like more athletic versions of Crocs with better traction. We wouldn’t choose the Revives for big missions as the uppers aren’t the most supportive.  But Kane doesn’t pretend they are anything but recovery shoes. In that case, the Revives are a wise choice for tired feet.

Check Price on Kane 

Water Shoes: Best of the Rest

Best Casual Water Shoes

Olukai Moku Pae ($120)

a product shot of the Olukai Moku Pae water shoes, our pick for the most comfortable water shoes.

Upper Material: Engineered mesh
Sole: Rubber
Closure: No-tie laces
Pros: Unbeatable, long-lasting comfort. Superior water resistance and quick-drying capabilities.
Cons: Takes a while to dry out, especially when wearing them.

We should probably mention right off the bat that Olukai classifies its Moku Paes as “boat shoes” and not water shoes in the traditional sense of the word. They are meant to handle light splashes more than full submersion. If you want shoes that look great, feel great, and can withstand getting wet from time to time, these might be the right choice for you.

These shoes felt comfortable immediately. The no-tie laces still keep the foot secure and have a look that calls to mind the sax solo of Gerry Rafferty’s “Baker Street.”  Whether or not you’re a Yacht Rock aficionado is beside the point, the comfort you feel with these shoes on will have you vibing. No, they aren’t performance shoes. But quality footwear you can rock without socks and get wet without ruining your day? Absolutely.

Unfortunately, they’re not available in women’s models, but Olukai does have a plenty of women’s styles to choose from.

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Best Water Shoes for Cold Water

Merrell Hydro Runner 1TRL ($120)

a product shot against a white background of the merrell hydro runner rfl 1trl best water shoes

Upper Material: EVA
Sole: Rubber
Closure: Slip-on
Pros: Reflective for better visibility, foam liner provides added warmth.
Cons: Takes a while to fully dry out

While there is never one shoe to rule them all, the Hydro Runners do a pretty darn good job of covering as many bases as possible.

The outsoles have enough traction to stay put in most situations, wet or dry. With a foam liner, we found these shoes to be ideal for situations involving chilly water. The construction isn’t neoprene but feels remarkably similar, and provides enough insulation to keep feet warm when wet. The result is that Hydro Runners are an excellent choice for shoulder-season adventures.  As another bonus, the lining has reflective material to help you stay visible even if the rest of you is covered in mud from head-to-toe.

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Teva Universal ($55)

a product shot of the teva original universal, which won our pick for the best open toe water shoe.

Upper Material: Recycled polyester
Sole: Rubber
Closure: Velcro strap
Pros: Stylish and versatile design. Comfortable for all-day wear. Suitable for various casual activities.
Cons: Not ideal for intense water-based adventures. Limited water resistance.

If you’re looking for water shoes that seamlessly blend fashion and functionality, you can’t go wrong with Teva’s Universals. With a stylish, versatile, time-tested design, they transition effortlessly from water activities to casual wear. That gives them added versatility over other water shoes we tested. With a thick spongey sole, they provide all-day comfort, making them suitable for leisurely walks, beach outings, and light water play. The straps are well-suited to keep the foot secure if needing to cross a river or handle uneven terrain. And the end-of-summer tan lines these provide are a badge of honor in some circles.

They are one of the classics for good reason — they work as they should and feel great.

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Xero Z-Trail EV ($80)

a product shot of the xero z-trail ev water sandals for our review of the best water shoes

Upper Material: Polyester
Sole: Rubber
Closure: Strap
Pros: Almost as close as you can get to being barefoot while still having some protection underfoot.
Cons: Thin sole might not be great on jagged rocks. A little floppy when swimming.

For those who wish they could be barefoot but need protection underneath, here’s a great solution: Xero Z-Trail EV water shoes. These sandals boast a strap system that resembles Teva’s classic over-the-toe design. What sets them apart are the thin soles that still provide adequate traction but allow you to feel the surface you stand on. The natural response helps your brain navigate uneven terrain much more easily, according to Xero. Anecdotally, I found this also to be true — when walking on a rocky underwater coastline, I felt much more stable than while wearing thicker-soled options.

They aren’t great for heavy activity. But they are more stable than most sandals, thanks to the supportive straps. Speaking of straps, they don’t dry out super fast. That said, the soles were dry as soon as I got out of the water. If you like maximum foot freedom but the situation requires a little protection, these might be what you’re looking for.

But if you’re seeking even less under your sole, Xero’s Aqua Clouds takes the minimalism to the next level. They aren’t great for moving fast, but they are the next best thing to being barefoot while also protecting your precious feet from a rocky bottom.

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Astral Loyak ($95)

a product shot of the astral loyak water shoes

Upper Material: Canvas
Sole: Rubber
Closure: Laces
Pros: Looks like a regular shoe, has solid support
Cons: Laces could get caught on rocks, takes a while to fully dry

These were the first pair of Astral shoes that I’ve tried and I’m now a fan. They are comfortable and have great cushion and support, enough for me to feel good using these to work out or to up the activity meter to push myself. The Loyaks also happen to be some of the most “normal” looking water shoes we tested. I felt I could wear these shoes in a variety of situations beyond romping around in the water.

With a traditional lace system, they can get a good snug fit that lasts, whereas other water shoes with their stretchy material didn’t seem to work as well in that arena. The toes have drainage holes to get the water out quickly, but I will say that the drying time was much less than the “abnormal” looking water shoes with proper channels. Astral recommends removing the insole to dry them out. That definitely helps at the end of the day, but if you’re trudging around from the beach to the supermarket, that may get a bit annoying. Still, if you want a shoe that works well in town and underwater, this could be an ideal choice.

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Deckers X Lab X-Scape Baja ($69)

our pick among the best water shoes was the deckers x lab scape baja

Upper Material: Sugarcane-based EVA
Sole: Sugarcane-based EVA
Closure: Slip-on/lace
Pros: Stylish and comfortable with a fast dry time
Cons: Debris can get caught inside

These brand-new water shoes from Deckers X Lab won serious style points from us. They are one of a small number of water shoes we tested that can look good anywhere. With a massive foam outsole, they are oh-so comfortable and squishy — even more so than other foam-based contenders like Crocs and Kane Revives.

While they have ample drainage holes, the holes themselves weren’t as large as in some other shoes we tested. That means some debris, such as sand, got caught inside. So getting wet (and drying out) isn’t a problem, but getting stuff trapped inside was a concern. For that reason, they aren’t great beach shoes, but they work great on a boat or by the pool. Either way, the pros far outnumber the cons. For comfort and style, the X-Scape Bajas were some of our favorites.

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VivoBarefoot Ultra III JJF($129)

The Ultra III water shoes by VivoBarefoot

Upper Material: EVA
Sole: Rubber
Closure: Quick pull lace
Pros: Lightweight, thin yet durable sole
Cons: Sand gets stuck in the bottom

John John Florence spends a lot of time in the water. He also spends a lot of time on the water, cruising the ocean in his sailboat. So, for him to sign onto VivoBarefoot as a sponsor is a pretty big deal, considering he could probably just make his own brand and call it a day. But his partnership is a testament to the quality of craftsmanship that VivoBarefoot puts into its footwear, and the brand’s Ultra III JJF shoes are no different. They allow for easy grip on wet surfaces and fast drainage.

They also sport a responsive, thin, barefoot-style outsole that allows your foot to respond to what’s underneath it. We loved this in most conditions. However, when the sand is soft, it does get stuck between the foot and the insole. This was true of most shoe-style water shoes that weren’t sandals, and you just have to accept that if you want the support of a shoe.

Check Price on VivoBarefoot 

Water Shoes Comparison Table

Water Shoes Price Upper Material Sole Closure System
Salomon Techamphibian $110 Synthetic Rubber Speed laces, back buckle
Danner Rivercomber $160 Nylon Vibram Rivercomber Laces
Crocs Classic $50 Oil-based Croslite Oil-based Croslite Rubber heel strap
Hoka Hopara $135 Synthetic/neoprene Rubber Speed laces
Xero Aqua X Sport $130 Polyurethane Rubber Speed laces
Kane Revive $75 Sugarcane-based foam Sugarcane-based foam Slip-on
Olukai Moku Pae $120 Engineered mesh Rubber No-tie laces
Merrell Hydro Runner 1TRL $120 EVA Rubber Slip-on
Teva Universal $55 Recycled polyester Rubber Velcro straps
Xero Z-Trail EV $80 Polyester Rubber Velcro straps
Astral Loyak $95 Canvas Rubber Laces
Deckers X Lab X-Scape Baja $69 Sugarcane-based EVA Sugarcane-based EVA Laces
VivoBarefoot Ultra III JJF $129 EVA Rubber Quick pull lace

How We Tested The Best Water Shoes

The obvious way to test water shoes is — you guessed it — by wearing them in the water. But there’s a bit more to it than that. Water shoes are multifunctional tools.  So, we exposed our testing models to any and all scenarios where water shoes could be of use. That covered everything from salt water to fresh water, moving water, rough rocks, smooth rocks, sand, and whatever else might be lying beneath the surface. We also brought them onto dry land to see and feel how they drain and dry — with and without the sun beating down overhead.

Wearing the Xero Aqua X Sport water shoe on a rocky shoreline for our test of the best water shoes.

Water shoes need to perform well both above and below the water. Here, the Xero Aqua X Sports demonstrate good traction on solid ground. Photo: Steve Andrews / The Inertia

Comparing Water Shoes 

Since the concept of water shoes spans a broad spectrum of footwear, it’s hard to make apples-to-apples comparisons. We took this into account when testing, focusing more on the specific characteristics of each shoe than on how well it stacked up against others.

We tested a wide variety and only listed what we felt was a worthy purchase. Our lead tester, Steve Andrews, wears a size ten men’s shoe with a medium-width foot. We didn’t comment on the fit too much since foot shapes vary so widely from person to person. But each of the water shoes we tested fit well, and none were too large or too snug.

To explore different categories of water shoes and the various uses for each, keep reading below.

An underwater image of the Hoka Hopara water shoes on top of rocks in a creekbed.

Hoka’s Hopara water shoes provided stability and support above and below the surface. Photo: Steve Andrews/The Inertia

Water Shoes Buyer’s Guide

Whether you’re planning a beach vacation, a hike with 27 stream crossings, or just looking for the best water shoes to keep your feet safe and comfortable, the ideal pair is out there. Here are several categories of water shoes and their unique features, uses, and who may benefit the most from them.

Water Sandals

Water sandals provide minimum protection but maximum breathability. They often have thinner soles, which may be problematic if you’re logging big miles. Support is also minimal, although within the category there are different strap styles. Flip-flops don’t count here. The key is for the sole of the sandal to remain close to the foot at all times with the use of a heel strap, helping to keep rocks from getting in between the insole and the bottom of your foot.

Best Overall Water Shoes
Best Overall Water Shoes

The Salomon Techamphibian 5 is a high-performing shoe that drains easily, has great grip, and can even double as a casual shoe.

Price: $110

Buy Now

Water Sneakers

Water sneakers are designed to look and feel like regular athletic shoes but are built with quick-drying, water-resistant materials. They’re great for more active pursuits such as water hiking or trail running in wet conditions. These are often the most comfortable options. But comfort comes at a cost. It takes that comfy material a bit longer to dry out! Drainage can be a key factor here. If you’re going in and out of the water often you’ll want something that drains easily, which is why some of the shoes in this category have a bit of a, shall we say, “unique” design.

an underwater photograph of a man swimming underwater wearing the xero aqua x water shoes

Shoes and swimming do go together, after all. Photo: Steve Andrews/The Inertia

Wet Shoes

These types of water shoes are meant to be worn underwater more often than not. Some of them are even designed for swimming around. Often, they are form-fitting, so you don’t kick them off while swimming. They may also have neoprene to keep your feet warmer in colder water but aren’t as thick as a traditional wetsuit bootie.

What Are Water Shoes Best For?

Swimming and Snorkeling

Water shoes protect feet from sharp objects and rough surfaces, making them ideal for swimming or snorkeling. Those who frequently engage in these activities, especially in natural bodies of water, can greatly benefit from water shoes.

Water Sports

Being active near the water is a good enough reason to invest in a good pair of water shoes.  Water shoes provide grip on slippery surfaces and protect the feet from potential injury. Water sneakers, in particular, offer the needed balance between protection, comfort, and style.

an underwater photo of a man walking on rocks while testing Astral water shoes.

The rugged coastline of the PNW made for some excellent testing conditions. Photo: Steve Andrews/The Inertia

Hiking and Trekking

For individuals whose hikes take them into rainy environments or involve crossing streams and rivers, water shoes can provide better traction and help feet dry out quicker.

Keep in mind that choosing the best water shoes largely depends on your specific needs and the activities you plan to engage in. Understanding the various categories of water shoes and their uses can help you make an informed decision.

Editor’s Note: Looking for women’s options? Check out The Best Women’s Water Shoes.  And if your adventures are a little more terrestrial, peep The Best Hiking Boots. For more gear reviews and features on The Inertia, click here.

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