Disclosure: Man Makes Fire is reader-supported. When you buy gear using retail links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission that helps pay for our work. Learn more.
The best water shoes are robust and versatile enough to wade in a river, trek across a sandy beach, ride in a whitewater raft, grip a slippery boat deck and hit the water park.
The best water shoes provide support, traction, and fast drainage — and there are a lot of varieties to choose from.
The best water shoe for you will depend on your own level of activity and what you’re really looking for. In our top 15 water shoes for 2020, we recommend the best water shoes for snorkeling, the best water shoes for beaches, for kayaking, for paddle boarding, rafting, and even running. We include water shoe recommendations for men, women, and kids.
However, what you won’t see in this guide are cheap knockoffs. The problem with cheap knockoffs is that they tend to unravel or come unglued. When you finally get a chance to get outside and have fun, the last thing you want is to lose a great day because your water shoes failed to do their job. On the other hand, if you’re looking for durable and well designed water shoes, you’re in the right place. We only recommend high quality gear designed by companies we trust.
Our most recommended water shoes will handle everything from water parks to creek crossings, sail boating, jet skiing, rafting, fishing, river tubing and even some light hot-weather hiking. In addition, the best water shoes tend to have lots of breathable mesh and are made with hydrophobic materials that repel water and dry fast. They are built to last.
15 Best Water Shoes 2020
1. Columbia Drainmaker IV Water Shoe
Best all-purpose water shoe
The Columbia Drainmaker IV Water Shoe does just about everything right. Its upper has plenty of breathable mesh that provides good ventilation in hot weather — and it dries quickly. The insole is full of drain holes, plus the inside base and sides of the Drainmaker IV include drain holes, too. As its name suggests, this water shoe drains water fast. The Techlite midsole offers great cushion, so much so that we actually like wearing the Drainmaker IV around the house and in town. The exterior sole is a tough and grippy rubber, capable of scrambling over dry trails and wet rocks alike.
As for looks, at a casual glance, the Drainmaker IV looks like a lightweight outdoor/trail shoe. Because the overall design is so versatile, the Columbia Drainmaker IV is our favorite water shoe for camping — and Columbia makes sizes for the entire family. The fit is spot on. You can wear these with a pair of socks just fine, but when you wear it barefoot, the heel and ankle area snug up surprisingly well, even when the shoe is soaked. Check out our full Drainmaker IV review or start shopping for your size. One more thing: The Columbia Drainmaker IV price-to-value ratio is outstanding. Highly recommended.
The Chaco Torrent Pro was designed by professional whitewater athletes who are getting in and out of the water frequently, but that doesn’t mean everyone can’t benefit from the Torrent Pro. You a surprisingly grippy sole and a fast-draining shoe with closed-toe protection and a nimble design. In fact, the Chaco Torrent Pro is so good for anyone who wants to play in and out of the water, that it very nearly edged out the more trail-friendly Columbia Drainmaker IV for the number one spot in this year’s guide. Let’s put it this way: We’d rather walk a mile in the Drainmakers but we’d rather play in the water with the Torrent Pros. And if you want to swim, too? The edge definitely goes to the Chaco Torrent Pros for swimming.
Our top pick for the best stand-up paddle boarding water shoe goes to the NRS Arroyo Wetshoe. All NRS gear is created and tested extensively by whitewater rafters, kayakers, and paddle boarders who know exactly what they need for long days on the water. The Arroyo blends a simple water sock-like design with a flat sole that’s designed to help you maintain your balance and control on wet and moving surfaces like the deck of your SUP. But that’s not all, they’re trim and fit into kayaks with ease. Plus, they are inexpensive and the price-to-value ratio is outstanding.
The new Merrell Choprock is perfect for scrambling around rocky river banks and beaches. We like the burly rubber toe bumper. The integrated webbing loops for lacing gives you an adjustable, secure and stable fit. The midsole has channels for fast water drainage, and the Vibram Megagrip outsole offers great overall traction. If you want an even lighter and airier version, try the Merrell Choprock Sandal version.
5. Adidas Terrex Climacool JawPaw Slip On Water Shoe
Best water shoe for snorkeling
The Adidas Terrex Climacool JawPaw Slip On Water Shoe is more like a burly water sock. The uppers use Adidas Climacool mesh for drainage, drying and breathability. The outsole is perforated, too, for fast drainage. The Traxion outsole offers decent traction, but the JawPaw shines best in the water: When we want to swim or go in for some relaxing snorkeling, we appreciate a trim and slim overall construction most.
The North Face has been turning out a lot of great trail shoes lately, and the company’s water-focused take hits all the critical features you need in a great water shoe. You get a quick-drying, lightweight antimicrobial, anti-odor upper with a rugged TPU overlay toe cap. The midsole features drain holes while the outsole is siped and uses The North Face’s proprietary EXTS outsole traction system. We particularly like the easy-on heel and tongue finger loops.
More rugged water sock than water shoe, the NRS Kicker Remix pairs a warm 3 mm Terraprene neoprene upper to keep your feet warm in cold water. Better yet, NRS gives you a naturally shaped, roomy toe box. We especially like the 3 mm rubber sole, which gives you great traction and protection from rocks — the protection isn’t as good as you’ll find in bigger water shoes, but compared to most water socks, it’s excellent. Of course, the Kicker Remix is aimed at whitewater kayakers and rafters, but it’s great for all sorts of water sports. Oh, one more thing: With this sort of design, the Kicker Remix isn’t really about draining water and drying out. Get the Kicker Remix if you plan to get wet and stay wet.
The Astral Loyak M’s (men’s) or W’s (women’s) are a super low-volume water shoe with a hydrophobic canvas upper that screams urban style. They definitely have a casual, low-key look but dig a little deeper and they’re surprisingly technical. The flexible rubber outsole has Razor Siping, which creates slits of extra surface area that help provide traction on slick surfaces. It has drain vents, a stretch mesh forefoot and durable canvas uppers. Did we say the Astral Loyak is flexible? The Loyak is super flexible and ultra-packable, which makes it a particularly great water shoe for travel.
Best street-ready water shoe . . . with serious outdoor cred
The NRS Vibe Water Shoe blends an urban style sensibility with more outdoor-ready features than looks would imply. The NRS Vibe features a sticky rubber sole that’s been siped for extra traction on slick rocks. The upper is made from tough, quick-drying Cordura nylon while the toe-box and tongue are woven with a highly breathable fabric for hot-day ventilation. Meanwhile, drainage ports in the instep help clear water with each step. On the inside, NRS uses low-profile seams and a cushy non-absorbent EVA forum footbed for barefoot comfort.
10. Adidas Outdoor Terrex Voyager SUMMER.RDY Speed Water Shoe
Best water shoe for running and rocky beaches
The Adidas Outdoor Terrex Voyager SUMMER.RDY Speed Water Shoes use sticky “Stealth Rubber” that came from Five Ten’s rock climbing shoes, giving them excellent traction. These lightweight and airy amphibious hiking shoes cover hot, dry ground just as well as wet river beds. The mesh upper helps drain and dry, but the midsole features drain ports. A TPU weld over the toe gives you rock kicking and toe-dragging protection.
The L.L.Bean Rocky Coast Multisport Shoes use a durable mesh upper that dries quickly. For fast draining, L.L.Bean added holes in the midsole. The classic lacing system lets you dial in the fit. L.L.Bean also added in an eco friendly anti-odor tech to help prevent bacterial growth.
The Under Armour Kilchis water shoes feature a non-slip Michelin rubber outsole for excellent traction on slick surfaces. You also get midsole drainage holes and a highly breathable quick-dry upper. A TPU overlay helps protect the toes from scuffs. The fixed bungie lacing system makes on/off a breeze.
Speedo has been producing slim and trim sock-like water shoes for years, most notably the popular Surfwalker Pro 3.0. The new Speedo Sulfwalker Pro Mesh Water Shoes keep a sock-like upper but beef up the sole just a bit. The result is all the goodness of Speedo’s trim water shoes, which are fantastic for water park and beach play, but you get a better sole for walking to your destination.
Coolest water shoe made from sustainable materials
The Salomon Crossamphibian Swift 2 Water Shoe has an interesting hybrid sort of design: It has a pull-on style with a stretchy mesh upper that seals out most sand and debris while the bottom is more like a running shoe sole. You can even step into it and collapse the heel for quick trips, yet it’s also great for scrambling in and out of the water. You get great overall foot and toe protection. If you’ve been looking for lightweight slip-on simplicity that also has laces for lock-down control . . . with full-coverage mesh and a real sole, the Crossamphibian Swift 2 should be on your shortlist.
The Adidas Terrex Summer.rdy Boat Water Shoe is a pretty straightforward sneaker-like boat shoe: The sole is relatively flat to help it grip slippery flat surfaces. Drain holes in the sole let you squish out water fast while the Climacool mesh upper dries quickly. They’re best used for boating, walking, and more casual water play.
Simms is best known for its outstanding fishing waders and wading boots, but the company’s new Flyweight Wet Wading Shoe is the most rugged water shoe we’ve seen in a long time. They are basically the bottom half of the Flyweight Wading Boots, which are in our guide to the best wading boots. If you want a stable wading platform that can eat up miles of rocky river banks, the Simms Flyweight Wet Wading Shoes are for you.