This photo shows the Columbia Drainmaker IV water shoe on beach getting hit by a small wave.
Chris Maxcer

Columbia Drainmaker IV Review: ‘Awesome Grip’

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The Columbia Drainmaker IV is a great all-around water shoe capable of handling a wide variety of water sports and outdoor activities. If your feet are going to get wet, it’s hard to go wrong with the versatile Columbia Drainmaker IV water shoe. In fact, it’s one of the best water shoes for 2019.

Columbia has been refining its Drainmaker shoes for years, and the Drainmaker IV is nearly perfect. It has many large drain ports in the sole at both the heel and forefoot. The removable insole provides decent cushion and it, too, is full of holes. The sides and upper are made out of an open mesh material, which again, lets the shoe drain as well as dry quickly.

Columbia Drainmaker IV Review: Overall Design

What we like most about the Drainmaker IV is the overall design — it looks more like an outdoor trail running shoe than a boat shoe, river sandal or aqua sock. This lets it fit a variety of uses. I’ve worn Drainmakers on the beach, in rivers, lakes, camping, hiking, boating and rafting.

This photo shows the men's Columbia Drainmaker IV water shoe on a sandy ocean beach.
The Columbia Drainmaker IV water shoe looks like a trail runner but is designed to get wet and dry fast.

The Drainmaker IV Omni-Grip non-marking outsole is pretty fantastic. It has razor siping, which are tiny cuts in the rubber. The siping on the Drainmaker sole is basically the same technique used by tire companies to increase traction on slick and icy roads. It works. The Drainmaker soles are surprisingly grippy on wet rocks. I’ve worn the previous generation Drainmaker III in multiple river drainages with slick rocks, and it always performed very well. The new Drainmaker IV is just as good — and I believe it might be even a bit better due to the new denser tread design.

You can wear the Columbia Drainmaker IV with or without socks and it still looks great, which is one reason why we appreciate it more than other types of water shoes or river sandals.

The laces are traditional, and we like that, too. You can ratchet them down if you’re scrambling around a rocky trail. Plus, if they eventually break, they’re easy to replace.

This photo shows the soles of the Columbia Drainmaker IV water shoes.
The Columbia Drainmaker IV soles offer excellent grip on wet rocks.

What about fit?

The Drainmaker IV fits true to size. Because of the full lace design, you can loosen or tighten the shoe to accommodate fit without or without socks, wet or dry.

Are the Columbia Drainmaker IV water shoes comfortable? Very. They fit and feel much like a regular athletic shoe.

Shop the Columbia Drainmaker IV at Zappos and get free shipping!

The Unintentional ‘Rogue Wave’ Test

This photo shows a tidal pool area and lava rock at Sharks Cove in Hawaii.
Picture a wave 4 feet high surging over the center of this photo. It rolled three adults and one child over the sharp lava rock. The author was able to stay upright while holding another child — in no small part due to the awesome Columbia Drainmaker IV water shoes offering a protected grip on the lava rock.

While on vacation in Hawaii, I wore the Drainmaker IV pretty much everywhere — to the beach, on sandy beaches, while snorkeling, on trails and on concrete. On one day while exploring tidal pools at the normally placid Sharks Cove, four adults and three kids were hammered by a rogue wave. A few swells hit a rocky barrier 80 yards away, then swirled and headed inland to the tidal pools. Within seconds,  seven extra feet of saltwater flooded the tidal pools and covered dry lava rock — a surge 40 yards wide. It was massive and scary. Three adults and one child were rolled across sharp lava rock by the final largest wave. I was holding a child in my arms, heading to safety, when it hit me from behind, above my waist.

I managed to stumble forward, scrambling with the wave, feet wide and moving, and kept upright — but there’s no way I would have been able to stay on my feet had I been wearing flip flops. The three adults who went down were all wearing robust Chaco sandals. I’m sure I would have gone down had I been wearing Chacos, too. The point is, the Columbia Drainmaker IV water shoes offer excellent stability, awesome grip and full-coverage protection for your feet. I appreciated the Drainmakers before the rogue wave, but now I’m hardcore fan.

Columbia Drainmaker IV: The Verdict

This photo shows water pouring out of the Columbia Drainmaker IV water shoes soles.
The drain holes work very well!

Long term, the previous generation Drainmaker III held up very well — I abused them for two summer seasons. No tears. I expect the Drainmaker IV water shoes to hold up similarly well, if not better. The mesh upper seems a bit thicker and more durable than before. Plus, the new (more traditional) lacing system should be even stronger.

All in all, the Columbia Drainmaker IV is a versatile water shoe that drains fast, dries fast and provides good ventilation on hot summer days. Very highly recommended.

Get the Gear:

Check Shipping/Pricing: Amazon | Bass Pro Shops | Columbia | MoosejawZappos

Columbia Drainmaker IV
Drains water fast
Full-coverage protection for feet
Awesome grip
No real cons
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