If you’re anything like us, you love aquatic adventures. Whether your jam is trekking across rivers, rafting through canyons, stand-up paddling, or splashing around in tidepools, ordinary shoes aren’t going to get the job done. You’ll want a pair of shoes that drain well, dry quickly, and offer protection underfoot. Cue water shoes.
We spent a few months on the island of Oahu and then on the Colorado River, trying out some of the top water shoes in the business. Here are eleven of our favorite pairs.
If you want to learn more about how these water shoes line up against one another, take a look at our Comparison Table. Or, if you’re curious about what to look for in a solid pair of water shoes, check out our Buyer’s Guide.
The Best Women’s Water Shoes of 2024
Best Overall Women’s Water Shoe: Astral Brewess 2.0
Best Budget Women’s Water Shoe: Body Glove Horizon Water Shoes
Warmest Women’s Water Shoe: NRS Arroyo Wetshoe
Best Women’s Water Shoe For Hiking: Merrell Wildwood Aerosport
Most Comfortable Women’s Water Shoe: Merrell Hydro Moc
Best Sandal Style Women’s Water Shoe: Teva Hurricane XL2
Best Overall Women’s Water Shoe
Pros: Built-in sock liners, cool aesthetic
Cons: Not quick to slip in and out of
Weight: 14.7 oz
Outsole: G.15 rubber
Astral has been a favorite among raft guides for years, and the Brewess 2.0 is proof of why. The Brewess 2.0 looks like an ordinary sneaker but is designed for the water.
It has mesh uppers and drainage and ventilation holes in the fronts and the backs of the midsoles that effectively drain out water. Where some water shoes rub, the Brewess has built-in sock liners that aren’t noticeable, save for the fact that they prevent rubbing. The rubber outsoles provide good traction and just enough support to wear for short hikes. Our tester loved that she could wear these shoes all day on the water and then slip into a pair of jeans and sport them for a night on the town. The Astral Brewess 2.0 sits at the top of our list thanks to its versatility and comfort.CHECK PRICE ON REI
Best Budget Women’s Water Shoe
Pros: Low profile, easy to take on/off
Cons: No support and minimal protection
Weight: 12.63 oz
The Body Glove Horizon Water Shoes are the most low-profile shoes on our list. They essentially only cover the soles of your feet with a little bit of mesh up top, which is both a pro and con. If you need shoes that prevent the bottom of your feet from getting scraped without getting in the way, these are a good option. We found that they worked well for surfing or standup paddling, but fair warning, you may be called a kook.
On the flip side, these shoes offer no support and minimal protection, so if you’re planning on hiking or walking on a treacherous surface, you’ll want to look elsewhere. The Horizon Water Shoes were easy to slide in and out of and comfortable enough to forget you’re wearing them.
Warmest Women’s Water Shoe
Pros: Neoprene, stretchy
Cons: Runs a little big
Weight: 8 oz
Upper: 1.5 mm neoprene
Sole: 1.8 mm rubber
Added warmth and protection wrapped up into one compact shoe? Sign us up. The NRS Arroyo Wetshoe is constructed from 1.5 mm neoprene, which adds a bit of warmth for chilly rivers or seas — a game changer. These shoes are on the narrow side, so they work well for rafting, kayaking, paddling, or exploring tidepools. They’re also super packable, which is nice.
Our tester particularly enjoyed wearing these for stand-up paddling and SUP surfing. The 1.8 mm rubber outsole isn’t wildly protective but adds just enough support to keep your feet safe from abrasions. These shoes are super stretchy, making them easy to take on and off and cozy and comfortable to wear. To top it off, they have an ankle pull table to make it even easier to slide them on and off. Our tester found these shoes to run a smidge big, so you may consider ordering a size down if you want a snugger fit.CHECK PRICE ON REI
Best Women’s Water Shoe For Hiking
Pros: Great ventilation, enough support to hike in
Cons: Rubs on longer hikes
Weight: 17.64 oz
Upper: Synthetic and mesh
Merrell thought of everything with its Wildwood Aerosport shoes. Designed for hitting the trails during summertime, these shoes are essentially lightweight hiking numbers with lots of drainage and ventilation thanks to a breezy synthetic mesh upper.
The Aerosports are cushy, supportive, and have great traction on both wet and dry surfaces. Our tester felt that if she was doing a hike of any length, she would prefer to wear socks with these for a little added protection against rubbing/chafing. But on short hikes and aquatic adventures, it was a non-issue. The quick lace system is easy to adjust and even has room to tuck in the extra string so it doesn’t drag while you walk.CHECK PRICE ON Backcountry
Most Comfortable Women’s Water Shoe
Pros: Super lightweight, breathable
Cons: Not the most secure fit, look a little dorky
Weight: 6.17 oz
Upper: EVA foam
The Merrell Hydro Mocs are hands down the most comfortable water shoes on our list. In fact, they’re some of the most comfortable shoes we’ve ever worn. If you’re familiar with Crocs, the Hydro Moc is similar but with even more ventilation and an even lighter feel.
The Hydro Mocs are great for splashing around, but the fit isn’t the most secure, so if you’re crossing a river with any amount of current, you’ll want to be careful that they don’t slip off.
Available in a bunch of fun colors, these shoes look a little silly, but they sure do feel good. And believe it or not, Croc-style shoes have been making a comeback in recent years, becoming trendy and, in a sense, fashionable.CHECK PRICE ON REI
Best Sandal Style Women’s Water Shoe
Pros: Extra padding on the heel strap, hook-and-loop closure straps
Cons: Require a break in period
Weight: 15.6 oz
Upper: REPREVE recycled polyester
The Teva Hurricane XL2 Hiking Sandals were originally designed for hiking, but they double nicely as water shoes. They have grippy rubber outsoles that ensure adequate traction on slippery surfaces. They also boast quick-drying Velcro-style straps that are easy to adjust and take on and off.
Like a lot of good shoes, the Hurricane XL2s take a little time to break in and tend to rub a bit in the beginning, especially when wet — you’ll want to spend some time breaking them in before embarking on a big trip. Available in a range of fun colors, these are a good option if you plan on hiking in areas with lots of stream crossings or simply want to splash around in the water while keeping the soles of your feet protected.CHECK PRICE ON REI
Best of the Rest
Pros: Durable, adjustable straps provide custom fit, work well for hiking too
Cons: Heavy, not the best fit for narrow feet
Weight: 21.2 oz
Upper: Polyester Webbing
Outsole: Non-marking ChacoGrip rubber
Although the Chaco Z/1 Classics are traditionally thought of as hiking/walking shoes, the company was born on the river, and their shoes are designed for submersion. The Z/1 sandals are made from just eight component parts, so they have a simple yet effective design.
The continuous strap design is adjustable, allowing for a custom fit. But our tester has narrow feet and found that she had to cinch the straps super tight to get them to fit, resulting in some drag from the extra strap. And once grit and dirt get packed down where the straps run into the sole, it becomes much more difficult to dial in the fit.
The outsoles are thick and heavy but provide reliable traction and grip on both wet and dry surfaces. We have hiked in these sandals, cruised town, played in tidepools, and rafted down rivers and found that they are durable and perform well in a wide range of conditions.CHECK PRICE ON REI
Pros: Wide toe box, zero drop, dry quickly, speed laces allow for easy adjustments
Cons: Not a lot of support
Weight: 14.4 oz
Upper: Synthetic mesh/polyurethane
Outsole: FeelTrue rubber
Designed with minimalism in mind, the Xero Aqua X Sport waters shoes feature a wide toe box and zero drop heel that allow your feet to move naturally. And at 14.4 oz, they are lightweight to boot!
The Aqua X Sports fit snuggly, and the speed laces allow for quick and easy adjustments. The rubber soles are super grippy, so you know you won’t be sliding around, but the midsoles don’t provide a ton of support for lengthier adventures. Thanks to the mesh upper, nonabsorbent tongue, and toe guard drainage holes, these shoes dry out quickly, which is exactly what we want in a water shoe.
The Aqua X Sport provides a barefoot feel and experience while keeping feet nice and covered. If you prefer ultra-minimalistic water shoes with an open design, the Xero Aqua Cloud Sandals are worth a look as well.CHECK PRICE ON REI
Pros: Super durable, zero-drop design, made from recycled materials
Cons: Straps rub during prolonged wear
Weight: 14.6 oz
Upper: Postconsumer recycled polyester
Outsole: Flex Grip with G.ss rubber
The Astral Webber Sandals are great multi-purpose hiking sandals and water shoes. The webbing and straps are made from recycled personal flotation devices (PFDs) and they sport PFD-grade buckles, so they’re extra strong and durable. The straps are adjustable, so it’s easy to create a custom fit.
The zero-drop footbed and wide toebox promote a natural stride, and the rubber outsoles have a reliable grip. Our tester wore these sandals on a 16-day rafting trip and found they worked well for time on the river as well as for hikes along the way. The only issue she had was some rubbing along the straps after multiple days on the river. We really love the aesthetic of the sandals and the way they complete an outfit, even when you’re nowhere near water.CHECK PRICE ON REI
Pros: Footbed cradles your feet, easy to clean
Cons: Take time to break in, heavy
Weight: 22.4 oz
Upper: Birko-Flor Futura
Outsole: Light polyurethane sole (PU)
Birkenstock has a reputation for making comfy and stylish slides, but who knew they made hiking/water shoes as well? The Birkenstock Kalahari sandals sport three Velcro-style straps, allowing for quick and easy sizing adjustments. The footbed cradles your foot, and the PU lining feels soft underfoot.
These sandals do feel a bit stiff at first, but they get more comfortable with each wear. The soles are grippy and work well for water adventures as well as hitting the trails for a short hike. The Kalahari sandals are easy to spray down after a muddy day of adventures, keeping them looking shiny new for next time. If you’re looking for a lighter-weight option, the Birkenstock Boston Essentials is a less secure shoe, but is lightweight and comfortable.
Pros: Collapsible heels, excellent traction
Cons: Quick lace system is difficult to adjust
Weight: 17.6 oz
Outsole: Contragrip FD
If you’re looking for a more rugged water shoe with maximum traction, the Techamphibian 5 Water Shoe may be your huckleberry. Techamphibians are closed-toe style water shoes with incredible grip for hikes, creek crossings, and aquatic adventures.
The shoes sport synthetic mesh throughout that works well to drain water and dries quickly. The Techamphibians feature a quick lace system, but it’s a little difficult to work through the toggle, making it a bit more work to adjust. A design feature we love is the collapsible heels that allow you to slip into the shoes easily when you don’t need an off-road mode. These shoes feel a bit stiff underfoot — we think they will get better with time, but they aren’t the most comfortable shoes out of the gates.CHECK PRICE ON Backcountry
Best Women’s Water Shoes Comparison Table
|Astral Brewess 2.0
|Body Glove Horizon Water Shoes
|NRS Arroyo Wetshoe
|1.5 mm neoprene
|1.8 mm rubber
|Merrell Wildwood Aerosport
|Synthetic and mesh
|Merrell Hydro Moc
|Teva Hurricane XL2
|REPREVE recycled polyester
|Chaco Z/1 Classic
|Non-marking ChacoGrip rubber
|Xero Aqua X Sport
|Astral Webber Sandals
|Postconsumer recyled polyester
|Flex Grip G.ss rubber
|Light polyurethane sole (PU)
|Salomon Techamphibian 5 Water Shoe
How We Tested the Best Women’s Water Shoes
Our tester lives in Oahu, Hawaii, where she regularly hikes on trails that include mud, multiple creek crossings, and waterfalls. She also spends a lot of time on a standup paddleboard, often crossing rough and rocky terrain to enter the water. Oahu also has lots of tidepools that are even more fun to explore with extra protection on your feet.
In addition to testing on Oahu, our tester spent 16 days river rafting the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon where she had ample opportunity to put her top picks of these shoes to the ultimate test. An avid water woman, our tester knows a thing or two about playing in the water in the great outdoors.
Women’s Water Shoes Buyer’s Guide
Water Shoes: A Broad Category
There is no hard and fast definition of a water shoe. But in general, they are footwear designed to transition well from land to water and back again. They are great for folks who live an amphibious lifestyle and want a little protection and traction on their feet for aquatic pursuits. Traditionally, water shoes have closed toes, but we’ve expanded our list to include some open-toe and sandal-style options as well. We believe there is a time and a place for both.
Choosing Water Shoes Based on Activity
Before purchasing water shoes, you’ll want to consider how you plan on using them. If you expect to do a lot of hiking in your water shoes, then you’ll want a pair with a sturdy outsole that covers the toes and provides support and traction on a wide array of surfaces. If you need water shoes for hanging at the beach or lake, you’ll want a less bulky shoe with a little less support. If you expect to be river rafting, paddling, or kayaking in your shoes, you most likely will want a blend of a streamlined yet supportive and protective design. If you will be wearing your water shoes in a colder region, you’ll want a water shoe with some neoprene for added warmth.
Water Shoes Should Fit!
Like all shoes, the fit of your water shoes is extremely important. You’ll want a snug fit — tight but not too tight. When your water shoes get wet, they may stretch a little, so a snug fit will help them stay on once you enter the water. A tighter fit also helps minimize friction points and rubbing, which in turn will help prevent chaffing and blisters.
Water Shoes: Performance Considerations
Although everyone has different priorities when it comes to water shoes, there are some general features to look for. A solid pair of water shoes has good traction, a ventilation/drainage system, is comfortable, and offers some degree of protection. It’s also worthwhile to consider the closure system and whether or not the water shoes provide added warmth.
You will undoubtedly be wearing your water shoes in a wet and potentially slippery environment. As such, you’ll want to make sure your water shoes have reliable grip and traction. If you plan on being active in your water shoes, look for a rubber sole that’s super grippy with deep lugs and intense tread patterns that provide traction on sand, mud, loose dirt, and other slippery surfaces.
As you’ll likely be spending a fair amount of time getting your water shoes wet, you’ll want to make sure they have multiple drainage points to ensure the moisture drains out and you’re not walking around in sloshy, squishy kicks once you exit the water. Most water shoes feature a mesh upper — the more mesh, the more drainage capacity your water shoe is going to have.
When you get your shoes wet, there is an increased chance of rubbing/chaffing. Most times, when you’re wearing water shoes, you won’t be wearing any socks, so you really want to make sure your water shoes are made of a soft material with strategically placed seams. Good drainage will also help prevent rubbing and blisters. It’s also worthwhile to consider if you plan on doing any type of hiking in your water shoes, in which case you may want some support underfoot.
Different types of closure systems include laces (quick and regular), Velcro-style straps, adjustable straps, buckles, or slide on/off. Our tester enjoyed Velcro-style and quick lace systems for the ease of taking the shoes on/off and for quick adjustments. But regular laces and adjustable straps can allow for an even more custom fit, so it ultimately comes down to personal preference. Consider how you’ll be using the shoes and what will be the best fit for you.
If your adventures will be taking you to particularly cold waterways, you’ll want some warmth from your water shoes. In that case, you should opt for some form of neoprene construction like the NRS Arroyo Wetshoe. These types of water shoes aren’t usually designed for hiking, but they’re good for rafting, kayaking, paddling, and surfing.
Some water shoes are closed-toed with thick soles and offer lots of protection. Others are open-toed or thin and flexible. If you will be doing lots of hiking, you’ll want a stiffer, closed-toed shoe that will keep your feet covered. If you’ll be at the beach or doing water sports, a shoe that sacrifices some protection to be thinner and more flexible should get the job done. Sandal-style water shoes tend to be a best-of-both-world option — they have lots of support and protection underfoot but are open.
Editor’s Note: Time to show your piggies some love. Don’t miss our Gear Guides for Best Women’s Hiking Shoes, Best Women’s Hiking Boots, or Best Hiking Socks. For even more gear reviews and features on The Inertia, click here.