Love them, hate them, wear them with a leash, without a leash, for traction, warmth, or both, if you surf anywhere other than the tropics, chances are you’ve needed to turn to surf booties at some point. Every fall it seems there’s a chorus of moans as the water temp dips just low enough to warrant digging out the wetsuit booties from where they’ve been hiding all summer, and a collective rush on all the surf shops when everyone realizes how full of holes last season’s pair of booties have become.
Surf booties get a pretty bad rap as far as surf equipment goes. Surfers complain that they look kooky, make it harder to grip your board, and are uncomfortable, and while the first might be true (depending on who you ask), the second two don’t have to be. Wetsuit manufacturers have responded to surfers’ general distaste for booties by investing time and effort to make booties totally awesome and well worth the investment with different materials and useful features. Read on for our top picks, and for more info like buying advice on sizing down, neoprene thickness, and different toe styles, check out our Comparison Table and Buyer’s Guide.
The Best Surf Booties of 2023
Pros: Low environmental impact, Patagonia warranty, great grip and a nice tight fit.
Cons: A bit tighter than some may prefer.
Fit: True to size. Medium width, low volume.
Style: Internal split toe.
The R3 Yulex Split toe is 85 percent Yulex natural rubber and fair trade certified – no other pair of booties on the market is that friendly to the environment or the people making them. Under the hood, this boot’s got some serious features. Including a z-strap with super sturdy webbing, arch support, and an incredible fit. The internal split toe also does a great job of allowing for more mobility in your big piggie without sacrificing warmth. No noticeable sacrifice in board feel, no “folding,” and all-around a very solid option with minimal environmental impact.
The great fit is in part due to the lower-volume of the bootie – these guys really wrap onto your foot, especially in the arch area, which is great for boardfeel and eliminating slippage. The footbed is of medium-width, but the low volume may be uncomfortable for those with wider feet. For higher-volume options, see below. Due to Patagonia’s unique wetsuit-rating system, The R3 is equivalent to a 3mm bootie, R4 booties are 5mm, and R5 are 7mm.
Pros: Warm, comfy, and great board-feel.
Cons: Narrow fit.
Fit: Size down one half size. Narrower with medium volume.
Style: Split toe.
Whereas most bootie manufacturers aim to make their booties feel like socks rather than shoes, Vans said screw that and made its booties as much like its legendary skate shoes as possible. And just like those skate shoes, they work. These are warm and comfortable booties with great board feel and proven durability. The booties are a bit on the narrower side, with medium volume, and were some of the most difficult to get on in this test (in part due to the less-flexible rubber-dip seal that makes these booties super watertight) but the tight fit translated to incredible responsiveness and board-feel.
Read the full review here.
Surf Boot 2 Hi 3mm
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Surf Boot 2 Hi 5mm
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Best Shoe-Style Bootie
Pros: Very warm and cozy, great warranty. Rugged sole.
Cons: Can feel more like a shoe than a sock – a pro or a con depending on your preference.
Fit: Size down one half or one full size. Medium width, medium volume.
Style: Split toe. Also available in round toe (3mm/5mm).
Xcel knows what it’s doing when it comes to neoprene, and its booties are no exception. The Xcel Drylock is the brand’s warmest, top-of-the-line bootie, and during my time working at a surf shop, we sold more Drylocks than any other booties combined. With thick fleece lining and the first bootie I’d seen incorporate a gusseted collar to keep water out, Drylock booties will keep you warm.
They are a particularly structured bootie, with more of a shoe rather than a sock feel, but with a good fit, your surf performance will not be hindered, and the rugged tread sticks to wax like none other, and is great for scrambling over wet rocks without slipping. There have been some reports of durability issues with the heel loop actually tearing off of the bootie, but Xcel has a great neoprene warranty, just hold on to that receipt in case anything happens.
3mm Split Toe:
5mm Split Toe:
Best Budget Bootie
Pros: About as good of a price as you can find in the surf bootie market.
Cons: Lacks a “premium” feel. Flatlock-stitched seams.
Fit: Size down one half size. Medium width, medium volume.
Style: Split toe. Also available in round toe (3mm/5mm).
When it comes to bang for your buck, you can’t go wrong with Quiksilver’s Everyday Sessions booties. They’re decently warm (though lack a cozy interior lining like many options on this list), have a connected split toe, a heel loop, arch strap, and comfortable fit – in other words, they cover the basics of what makes a good surf bootie without going above and beyond in any category.
The biggest downside are the flatlock-stitched seams, which are durable against major failure over time, but will allow a bit more leakage than might be desired right off the bat as “flatlock” seams are stitched all the way through the rubber. If that doesn’t matter to you, and what does matter is finding a pair of booties that cost less than $80, the buck stops here, literally.
3mm Split Toe:CHECK PRICE ON Evo CHECK PRICE ON AMAZON
5mm Round/Split Toe:CHECK PRICE ON Evo CHECK PRICE ON AMAZON
Best of the Rest
Pros: Cozy Flashbomb lining, ankle strap to help keep out water. Great boardfeel with a thin sole.
Cons: No heel loop.
Fit: True to size. Medium width, lower volume, but not as tight as Patagonia.
Style: Internal split toe (5mm also available in round toe)
For those who are worried the Patagonia booties will be too tight on their feet, we present the Rip Curl Flashbomb Booties. They’re a similar sock-like style to the Patagonia R3s, with an arch strap to prevent heel lift, and a slightly roomier fit. The Flashbomb lining is super cozy and dries fast – great for preventing bootie-funk – and the ankle strap is a useful feature for keeping your boots from filling with water. Similar to the Patagonia R3s, they have a low-volume, high-performance fit, albeit with a lot less squeeze, so we could see them being a great choice for wider feet. The sole of the bootie is nice and thin, allowing for great board feel.
The lack of a heel-loop is not our favorite, as we’ve found booties without heel loops, combined with cold and clumsy fingers or simply laziness, can lead to ripped booties in the long run. However, that has yet to happen with our Flashbomb booties, and won’t as long as we remember to be careful.
Flashbomb 3mm:CHECK PRICE ON Cleanline Surf CHECK PRICE ON AMAZON
Flashbomb 5mm:CHECK PRICE ON AMAZON Check Price on Cleanline Surf
Pros: Warm, but also light and stretchy.
Cons: Could be a little tighter on the upper foot area, mitigated by the foot strap.
Fit: Size down one full size. Medium width, higher volume.
Style: Split toe. Also available in round toe (3mm/5mm).
O’Neill boots keep your feet warm. Full stop. With O’Neill’s humble beginnings in the cold-water paradise of Santa Cruz, warmth has always been a priority with the brand, but so has comfort. The Psycho Tech booties are made of O’Neill’s Technobutter 3, which feels silky soft on the inside and stretches with any movement as well as working wonders to retain warmth. They fit a bit on the looser side, a boon for those with wider feet. If you want a pair of classic surf booties with unparalleled warmth and comfort, the buck stops here.
Psycho Tech ST 3mm
Psycho Tech ST 5mm
Pyscho Tech RT 7mmCheck Price on Evo CHECK PRICE ON AMAZON
Pros: Great board-feel and game-changing “heat mold” system.
Cons: Not the warmest 3mm booties, and a bit high-volume for my feet.
Fit: Size down one full size or more. Wider, high volume.
Style: Internal split toe.
Solite claims to have changed the game with their heat-moldable soles, and to be honest, they have. With just 25 minutes and some hot water, you can have a pair of custom-molded booties. To be honest, the heat mold isn’t necessary, our tester just let his naturally stretch to fit his feet, and after a couple of sessions of having toes jammed up in the front, they fit perfectly.
two years ago, Solite’s booties were at the top of our list. Last year, Solite debuted their 2.0 version of the Custom and Custom Pro booties, and these things are packed with features like heat booster socks which help improve the fit and add an extra layer of warmth inside the boot, a three-point arch strap, a new sole design that they claim is more barefoot-feeling, and an upgraded lining.
That being said, we’re not as stoked on Solite’s 2.0 as the original version. There’s a lot more volume in the boot which, for our tester, a skinny-footed surfer, resulted in a fair bit of slippage. This was fixed by cinching the straps tightly, but what he was so excited about with the first version of Solites was how they started way too tight, but stretched out over time into a perfect fit. Perhaps we should have sized down even more.
|Patagonia R3 Yulex||$109||Internal split toe||True to size||Medium width, low volume.|
|Vans Surf Boot 2 Hi V||$90||Split Toe or round toe||True to size||Narrower, low-mid volume.|
|Xcel Drylock||$95||Split toe or round toe||Size down half or full size||Medium width, medium volume.|
|Quiksilver Everyday Sessions||$55||Split Toe||Size down one half size||Medium width, medium volume.|
|Rip Curl Flashbomb||$85||Internal split toe (round toe in 5mm)||True to size||Medium width, low volume.|
|O’Neill Psycho Tech||$90||Split toe or round toe||Size down one full size||Medium width, high volume.|
|Solite Custom Pro 2.o||$95||Internal split toe||Size down one full size||Wider, high volume.|
How We Tested
Gear Editor Will Sileo led the testing for this review at his home break of Ocean Beach, San Francisco. Growing up in such a cold-water paradise, he’s worn a lot of different booties in his time as a surfer, and over the past three years, has gotten his hands on (or should we say feet in) a wide variety of the latest and greatest surf booties from the top manufacturers in the surf biz. The booties were all tested in 3mm, as available, for accurate comparison, and tested in waters up and down the West Coast from Los Angeles to Portland.
Fit is the most important variable, and that means different things for different people. We’ve done our best to indicate how each bootie fits – high volume will be better for wider feet, and low volume will be better for skinny feet – though it’s always best to err on the side of tighter rather than looser (within reason) to preserve a tight, high-performance fit. In general, it’s a good rule of thumb to size down, and for each option we’ve indicated how much our tester sized down from his usual shoe size, if at all. You should also take into consideration whether you prefer round toe, split toe, or internal split toe booties, more of a “sock,” or more of a “shoe”-style bootie, and other features like heel loops, arch-straps, and more, all discussed in the following section.
Wetsuit Booties Buyer’s Guide
Wetsuit Bootie Thickness
Most booties come in either 3mm or 5mm, with some going up to 7mm or higher. Thicker booties means less board-feel, but more warmth, a good trade off if your feet are going to be unfeeling bricks of ice in 3mm booties. If you run cold, your extremities will often be the limiting factor on how long you can stay in the water, so it can be worth going for a thicker bootie. Our tester was surfing in the San Francisco Bay Area, and 3mm booties do just fine as a year-round option, though it can be nice to have a pair of 5mm boots for cold spells or dawn patrols.
If you’re looking for your first pair of booties and aren’t sure what you need, think about where you live, what seasons you’ll be surfing, and reference a local water temperature chart online for comparison. For most of California, 3mm is probably fine, though as you venture further and further north of the Bay Area, 5mm becomes increasingly popular for winter surfing. For Oregon and the Pacific Northwest, except for mid-summer, you’ll probably want a pair of 5mm. Mid-Atlantic and Northeast winters warrant 5mm as well. Iceland? Now you’re in the 7mm-range.
Round Toe, Split Toe, or (Gasp) Internal Split Toe Booties?
For us, this is an easy one. Internal split toe all the freakin’ way. But for those who haven’t tried all three options from various brands and came to that conclusion themselves, let us break it down for you. Round toe booties are by far the most comfortable, and by far the biggest hinderance to your surfing. Without some sort of separation between your first and second toes, your foot can slide all over inside that bootie, especially problematic for shortboarding. Split toe booties are the least comfortable, but don’t suffer from the same foot slip. However, they do suffer from catching-your-leash-in-between-your-toes syndrome, unless they have a connected split toe, like Xcel’s Drylock or O’Neill’s Psycho Tech, above. Internal split toe booties promise the best of both worlds. The comfort of the round toe with the control of a split toe. They don’t always live up to that hype, but the ones on this list do, unless indicated otherwise.
Socks or Shoes?
Nowadays, booties tend to lean one way or the other. Some, like the Vans Surf Boot and the Xcel Drylock act more like shoes, with a sturdy, less flexible sole. It makes a certain amount of sense, you skateboard in shoes, why not surf in them? Others, like the Rip Curl Flashbomb and the Manera Magma go for more of a sock-style fit with less volume and a thinner sole that tends to wrap the arch a bit more for a barefoot feel, which also makes a certain amount of sense – you don’t surf in shoes, so why start now?
How Should Surf Booties Fit?
Fit is all-important when it comes to surf booties. Feet are weird, vary a lot from person-to-person, and there is nothing worse that a poorly-fitting surf bootie. Too big and they’re worse than worthless, making you a worse surfer (but at least you’ve got an excuse!). It’s always better to have a little less room than you’d like to start out (see below), but go too small and your feet just hurt. Our tester’s feet are long, skinny, and have finger toes. As a result, he wants a bootie that is low-volume but will stretch a decent bit to accommodate his toes. Someone with wider feet might want a higher-volume bootie so they can order a small enough size for the length of their foot but still have enough room from side to side. We’ve done our best to indicate the volume of each bootie included here.
Should I Downsize my Surf Booties?
Short answer: Yes. Long answer, it depends on the brand, but a straight one size down from your normal shoe size normally does the trick. Being made of neoprene and rubber, booties are destined to stretch, so when trying on booties, shoot for the mildly uncomfortable option rather than the ‘just right’ fit. You want as little room as possible in there, any extra material and you’ll be prone to slippage or tripping during your pop up.
What Features Do I Want in a Surf Bootie?
Arch straps are great — they go over the top of your foot to prevent your heel from lifting up inside the bootie. In a perfectly fitting pair of booties, an arch strap isn’t necessary, but always is a plus. A heel loop is another great feature that helps to get the booties on and off without busting through the heel (been there), and a thermal lining (found on most higher-end booties) will help yours dry out faster and feels awesome too. A cool new feature that only some brands have adopted is a gusseted collar at the top of the boot that seals onto the calf to help prevent water from flowing in.
Editor’s Note: For more gear reviews and features on The Inertia, click here.