As anyone who ever waded in a rocky river or stumbled on a slippery boat knows, sometimes we could use a little extra traction and protection to better enjoy the great outdoors. Fortunately, whether your hobby consists of boating or running along the beach, there are plenty of water shoes to fit the bill. Until recently, we were limited to a few often wildly utilitarian water shoe options, however, that’s all changed.
There are hundreds of amphibious shoes out there to cater to a panoply of outdoor water sports and personal preferences. While more rigorous activity may call for greater ankle support, other more technical activities could benefit from top notch traction. There are also plenty of stylish options to wear casually around town between trips. Without further ado, here are our picks for the best water shoes you can buy.
OluKai ‘Eleu Trainer ($110)
OluKai produces some of the most capable and stylish water shoes on the market and the ‘Eleu Trainer is our pick for best overall option. A series of flexible furrows along the sole enables the sneaker to flex with your foot and grab the trailhead while the anatomical footbeds add plenty of absorption to save your knees. The sole bulges along the edge to extend the shoe base for greater stability and impact resistance.
Lightweight, hydrophobic materials keep your feet dry without weighing you down and the overall design is functional without veering too far to the #DadSwag side of the water shoe spectrum. As is the case with other OluKai products, a percentage of the proceeds from each purchase funds a water safety and first-aid lifeguard initiative for kids in Hawaii.
OluKai Nohea Moku ($95)
Let’s be honest, if you’re only occasionally venturing on jaunts that require a pair of water shoes, going all-in on a dedicated pair of amphibious kicks may be a bit excessive. With this in mind, OluKai created the Nohea Moku, a stylish and competent water shoe for the casual, fashion-forward outdoor “enthusiast.” The bulk of water shoes on the market look a little suspect, to say the least, worn with a pair of khakis or jeans. On the other hand, the Nohea Mokus boast an inconspicuous, low-profile build and a traditional straight-lace tie-up that fits in at the office and the trailhead.
That said, these shoes may look more glamp than most but they still hold their own with some of the best water shoes out there. The lightweight, flexible air-mesh enables easy drainage, drying, and breathability while razor-siping along the rubber sole prevents slips and slides. As an added bonus, the footbeds are removable and washable to minimize bacterial growth.
Speedo Surf Knit ($24)
Speedo has been producing swimwear and swim-related products for more than a century, so it’s really no surprise the company knows a thing or two about amphibious shoes. The Speedo Surf Knit has a simple, wide-pocket mesh build for an unparalleled, “barely there” breathability and its large vents also allow the shoe to purge water naturally.
The patented S-Trac along the sole looks more like a series of tire treads than a traditional outsole. This system is designed to stream water away from the shoe for added traction and improved surface contact. Look, this shoe isn’t meant for soggy trail runs or more intense water sports but if you’re in the market for a budget water shoe capable of handling a beach workout, the Speedo Surf Knit is a solid bet.
Keen Newport H2 ($50)
Sandals aren’t for everyone but the Keen Newport H2 features a series of wide gills along the side to help you keep your cool on midsummer hikes. Its footbed has even been engineered to provide extra support for a welcome ergonomic touch. The sole features a multi-directional tread pattern to efficiently expel water and razor siping improves the traction in a host of environments.
The polyester webbing is washable to keep your kicks fresh even after soggy treks and the incorporated Aegis Microbe Shield is designed to reduce bacterial growth and minimize unsavory shoe stank. It is, of course, a sandal, so this model certainly lacks the ankle support necessary for more technical water sports. However, the Newport H2 is a great option for balmy hikes and fits in at a barbecue without raising any eyebrows.
NRS Men’s Kicker Remix ($45)
When it comes to superior traction, the NRS Men’s Kicker Remix is our top pick. While these shoes may not necessarily be the best or most convenient option for the trailhead or the pool, paddling and other water sport enthusiasts will feel and appreciate the difference. A series of alternating, studded crescents along the sole grip even the wettest surfaces and the entire shoe rolls with the natural contour of your steps to add pressure and grip as needed.
The Kicker Remix has uppers and insoles designed with thick Terraprene neoprene as well as a lightweight layer of titanium to insulate your feet in cooler conditions. The spacious NRS toe box packs in a little wiggle room to keep your toes from feeling cramped, while the snug uppers and single-pull lace keeps the shoe high and tight around your ankle. The oversized rubber edge adds a wide base to this all around solid water shoe and also helps reduce impact during those inevitable toe stubs.
If you’re in the market for a new stand-up paddleboard, we’ve recently curated a list of the choicest SUPs we’ve seen.