Best Water Shoes: The Ultimate Buyers Guide

Best Water Shoes for Women

The Ultimate Water Shoe Guide

 

When you’re walking in murky water, sometimes it’s best not to know exactly what’s under your feet. The only thing you need to know is that your little piggies are well protected from whatever lies below. That’s where owning a great pair of water shoes comes in handy!  

The right pair of water shoes (aka swim shoes, aqua shoes, pool shoes) will give you the freedom to go wherever you want go—whether that’s hiking the Napali coast (Kauai, Hawaii), rafting down the Colorado River, or just lying on a beach reading your favorite novel. As we will discuss, there are several “musts” you should consider when purchasing your next pair of water shoes: your aquatic shoes should be easy to clean, quick to dry, and should provide the traction you need, for starters. And of course, your kix should look great too!

What you put on your feet is highly personal. Just like other types of footwear, water shoes should appeal to the heart as much as to the senses. You want to feel good with your aquatic footwear and be able to use them even when you don’t plan on getting wet.  

This guide looks at the best pair of water shoes for women. We know—you’re itching to see which pairs made the top of our list. However, we want you to consider these six things BEFORE you purchase your next pair of water shoes:

  1. Quality In, Quality Out

 

Most modern water shoes are designed with traditional as well other synthetic materials. When you are out hiking through mountain trails that zigzag across rivers or streams, you need a pair of breathable water shoes that provide ventilation for your feet and an outsole that can absorb all the shocks. In contrast, when you are in the pool or the ocean, you will appreciate lightweight materials that allow for effortless underwater movement.

Irrespective of the terrain, all water shoes should share one common trait -- the materials for water shoes should drain quickly and not absorb the water. Shoes that retain water will stay wet for longer. We have done dry time testing and discovered that some materials actually took 3-4 days to dry.

Shocked? We were, too. This is way too long for a high quality water shoe (or for any shoe for that matter). Dry times that span multiple days will set up a moist environment that facilitates yeast and bacterial growth. Inevitably mold will form, contributing to stinky shoes, smelly feet, and the potential for foot fungus! Yuck!

When looking for your next pair of water shoes, carefully examine the materials the manufacturers use. Viakix has done a lot of testing to ensure that the materials we use ventilate and dry quickly. Furthermore, our light water shoes will keep your feet protected without weighing you down.

Putting the ‘Ahhhhhh’ Back into Water Shoes

Most water shoes don’t have all the extra padding that you will find with regular street sneakers. However, a great pair of water shoes will not require you to make a tradeoff between function and comfort. A well-constructed pair of aquatic shoes will give you the comfort you need—from the sole to the upper materials—so that you can focus on your water activities.

At Viakix, we build our water shoes and sandals from the bottom up and always use high quality outsoles to ensure that you have enough support and comfort, without sacrificing the weight that you need for your water sports.   Our amphibious shoes have high-quality rubber soles and extremely tough construction, making them excellent for hiking through rivers or for your next water aerobics class.

The key to great fitting water shoes is that they should fit snug, but not so tight that they become uncomfortable to wear. The right fit will ensure that your shoes stay on your feet in the roughest of waves and will not float off to sea! The binding around your ankles should keep your feet engaged in the water shoe, thereby reducing the degree to which your foot slides around when wet.  

As mentioned above, the best water shoes should feel airy and light. Our customers often comment that they feel like they are not wearing any shoes when wearing our Viakix. Maybe we should start making underwear too?

Don’t Be a Wet Blanket!

Anyone who has taken off a drenched T-shirt can imagine the extra effort required to remove ordinary sneakers that become soaked. Beyond the extra two pounds of water that are sloshing around your feet, your wet shoelaces become completely knotted and impossible to untie.

 

Fortunately, water shoes manufacturers have thought about this little detail. And some manufacturers have thought a little harder about this than others. Great aquatic footwear will have stretchable upper meshes that serve two main functions: first, the mesh allows for water to drain when land bound, and second, the mesh material makes it much easier to remove when you are ready to take off your kix.  

Are They Dry Yet?

Before we move forward, we feel it’s our duty to dispel one myth about water shoes—your aquatic footwear is NOT waterproof. Said another way, water shoes are not designed to be impervious to water. Waterproof materials tend to be very stiff and are not comfortable when walking for long periods of time [hint: think of going for a long hike in your rain boots!]. And you certainly do not want to walk through deep water with waterproof footwear.

Water shoes, on the other hand, are water RESISTANT. At least the good ones are. These shoes are designed with meshes that allow air to circulate through the shoe when drying. The same mesh that helps keep the sand and mud from entering the shoe provides that airy feeling when above the surface. Some options even come with drainage holes in the outsole to provide for superior drying functionality.

 

But how exactly doe these shoes get dry so quickly? It has to do with the materials used, most of which are made out of synthetic fibers. Unlike natural fibers like cotton, synthetic fibers do a great job at repelling water. This is why many water shoes use non-absorbing materials like nylon and polyester. Nylon does a great job at keeping the water out and the dry time down to the minimum.

A good pair of water shoes should dry within 24 hours in a well-ventilated area. If you plan to stick your pool shoes in the locker for the evening, do not expect to come back the next day and find a completely dry pair.

So, to summarize:

Synthetic Fibers + Airy Mesh + Good Ventilation = Quick Drying Water Shoes!

“Fashion is what you’re offered four times a year by designers. And style is what you choose.” Lauren Hutton

It wasn’t too long ago that water shoes came in one style: black and ugly! Old style shoes had awful soles, no arch support, and made you feel like you were wearing thick rubber bags tied around your feet. Fortunately, we are no longer living in the 80s and 90s.

 

Today, options abound; however, buying water shoes still generally requires a sacrifice. Too often, footwear manufacturers choose to focus on function or fashion—emphasis on the “or.” Simply put, it’s hard to find a quality pair of shoes that combines both. And it is for this simple reason that we decided to start Viakix!  

When we started Viakix we had one goal in mind: to develop America's most fashionable outdoor footwear. As a small company, we take pride in the design and craftsmanship of each and every water shoe that we sell. Our Viakix models are designed to appease the aesthetic senses while still meeting the high performance requirements of our customers. We want our customers to be able to transition from a day at the pool to an evening with friends—without having to change their shoes.

While number five on our water shoe buying guide list, we believe it’s important to look hip at the pool, on the beach, or kayaking with friends. Just as essential, you shouldn’t ever have to sacrifice function.

Overall Foot Protection

It’s as simple as this: you never know what you might encounter underwater. For this reason, you want to make sure that you’re investing in a shoe that provides maximum protection. This means durable material that will provide safety from bumps, rocks, and other sharp surfaces that could injure your feet. It’s important to keep in mind that not all water shoes are created equal. In other words, some provide more protection from sharp objects than others.

As such, you’ll want to find a shoe that’s durable inside and out; this will absorb unwanted shocks for your feet and give you the freedom to enjoy your waterfront activities without unnecessary pain.

Of course, the best protection also includes durable traction that keeps you upright both on land and underwater. This is designed to prevent slippage and boost your protection while wearing. In general, the more traction, the better, especially if you plan on using your shoes extensively.

Versatility

 

These days, you can upgrade the quality of your shoe simply by choosing a more amphibious option. After all, who says that your water shoe should only be used in moist environments? The best shoes give you the versatility you need for a wide range of outdoor activities. From kayaking to rock-climbing, the right shoe enables you to do your thing—no matter what it happens to be.

For this reason, make sure to consider the versatility of your options before buying. Do you anticipate doing more than just waterside activities? If so, get a shoe that gives you the best chance of success in a broader range of domains. Not only will this help save money on shoes, but it will also give you more value in your specific purchase, helping you maximize utility and benefiting your budget at the same time.

You’ll want to remember, however, that water shoes—no matter how amphibious—shouldn’t be considered substitutes for proper active shoes for athletes and other individuals spending tons of time hiking the trails or running tracks. As such, be sure to understand the limitations of your desired model so that you can get the most out of it upon purchase.

The Price Is Right

Finally, the last consideration before buying your next pair of water shoes is price. While there are many things in life that are absolutely priceless, water shoes, unfortunately, do not fit in this category.

Depending upon your needs, water shoes can vary pretty significantly in price. On the upper end, you can easily shell out over $100 for a pair of water kix. These tend to be for the hardcore, thrill-seeking folks who love to trail run through deep rivers, climb over large boulders, or kayak only when there are whitecaps abound. However, for those of you who are looking for a great quality shoe that can be used at the beach or pool, you should not have to take out a second mortgage to buy a pair.

 

Stylish, durable water shoes made with high quality mesh will typically run between $25-$55 per pair. Anything over this amount, in our humble opinion, is not worth the investment. We would rather you spend the extra money so that you don’t have any hiccups during your next vacation or outing.  

Frequently Asked Questions

 

Before we jump into our best water shoe picks, let’s go over a few questions you might have when buying your next pair. Hopefully this section will give you a more complete idea of what water shoes can and cannot do.

Q: Why should I own a pair of water shoes?

A:  Hopefully, since you are reading our guide, you’ve already come to the conclusion that water shoes are pretty awesome. But just in case you are not 100% there, let us answer this question for you.

Water shoes have a few unique advantages over your standard shoes. First, water shoes provide the necessary protection for your feet while walking in uncharted waters. Aqua shoes with good outsoles will provide a barrier between the bottom of your foot and that sharp rock or broken shell that is precariously sitting at the bottom of the river or lake. Ever step on something that was moving on the bottom of the ocean or lake? Enough said! More than that, they are quick-drying and won’t get ruined by a bit of water or sand. Sand proof water shoes are a great way to take any beach vacation to the next level!

Things that go "bump" in the water

 

Water shoes also provide additional traction while in the water. This is particularly important for those who are getting their exercise through water aerobics. The bottom of pools can be slippery and having solid rubber traction makes all the difference for a great workout. Sole grips work to provide the friction needed to keep you upright—and safe.

In short, there’s really no reason NOT to buy a pair of water shoes if you plan to be by the water for any extended period of time. Don’t be a hero. Simply find a pair that works for you, increasing your safety and the level of success/enjoyment you’ll be able to get from your activities.

Q: Can I wear my water shoes for non-water related activities?

A:  Well, it depends. If you choose to wear those hideous black rubber socks on your feet, then the answer is: “Sure, but why would you want to?” You will only embarrass yourself and shame those around you (okay, maybe it’s not that bad, but you get the poin). Pragmatic water shoes stand out like a sore thumb and will certainly make you the center of attention.  

Figure 1 What not to wear out with friends

However, if you choose water shoes that have some style and personality, then you can easily wear your shoes out for a walk, a trip to the store, or just hanging out with some friends and family. It really depends on your budget and how much you are willing to invest into a pair of water shoes.

Q: Can I use water shoes for hiking?

A:  Good question – I’m glad you asked! The short answer is yes, but the longer answer takes a little finesse. That is, it will depend on your hike distance and whether you will be trudging through wet conditions.

Fortunately, we’ve had quite a bit of experience hiking in our Viakix and can shed further light on this question. On a recent trip to Hawaii, we took our Viakix out on a four-mile hike—up steep mountain sides, across thick mud patches, and through running streams to see the performance and comfort of our shoes.

America's Best Water Shoe in Action

 

We are happy to report that all our Viakix testers said that their water shoes made the grade and remained comfortable for the entire hike. Our hikers did mention, however, that given how wet and muddy the conditions were, they thought 4 miles was about the right distance for their hike.

For flat terrain hikes, with no water, go ahead and wear your water shoes for as long as you need, so long as they have great outsole and fit well.    

Q: Will my feet get wet wearing water shoes?

A:  Yes, by design, your feet WILL get wet. However, your feet will be well protected from the elements and will be comfortable while submerged. Remember water shoes are water resistant (e.g. repel water) and not waterproof (e.g. impervious to water).

If you are still convinced that you need water shoes that are waterproof, try taking your rain boots into the ocean on your next trip to the beach [Only kidding—please don’t try this!]

Whether or not you wish to wear socks is up to you. If you plan on submerging your feet, you’ll likely want to avoid additional layers if necessary, as this will delay the drying process and keep your feet totally wet for hours. If you’re simply going for a hike, however, socks may provide necessary cushion from some unwanted shocks, with the drainage system of your shoe keeping inside shoe moisture to a minimum.

Q: Ok, water shoes sound great – are there any situations where you would not wear them?

A:  Like most products, water shoes are best suited for certain times of the year. During cold weather, for instance, the same permeable mesh that made your water shoes comfortable to wear and quick to dry will not provide much insulation. For this reason, you’ll find it best to go back to those standard sneakers for your winter walks!

We also suggest that you don’t wear your water shoes to a formal party or event, but hopefully that’s pretty obvious to you. Beyond that, enjoy your water shoes for any aquatic adventure.

Q: Which water shoe is right for rafting or kayaking?

A:  For most rafting or kayaking adventures, choose a water shoe that is made of high-quality materials, feels comfortable, and appeals to your heart’s desire. A great water shoe should allow you to move easily through the water, while also keeping the sand and dirt out, which is an important factor when rafting or kayaking. It only takes a few grains of sand or dirt to cause rubbing and irritation—so be careful and prepare accordingly.

The best water shoes for kayaking

 

On the other hand, if you are planning a whitewater rafting trip, we recommend you choose a water shoe that offers a high-level of protection and traction.

The Best Water Shoes Out There Today

 

Enough with the small talk—it’s time to take a look at the best water shoes money can buy. Now that you’ve been prepped on what makes a good water shoe, let’s take a look at some of the best options on the market today!

We spent hours researching and reviewing the top water shoes out there. As we were going through our exhaustive review, we realized how hard it was to choose just one water shoe, given the multi-purpose nature of this footwear category. Instead, our selection committee determined to break down the best water shoes into three distinct categories: The Basic Water Shoe, The Fashionable Water Shoe, and the Heavy Duty Water Shoe. For each category we selected a winner and a “runner up” to give you a more comprehensive look at your options.

CATEGORY: THE BASICS (JUST COVER MY FEET!)

The Winner 

SPEEDO SURFWALKER PRO 2

What’s to Love: Very lightweight; the price
What’s not to Love:  Plain appearance; not for prolonged hikes

 

These Surfwalker water shoes by Speedos exemplify the basic, just cover-my-feet motto. The Surfwalker will get the job done if you are looking for a simple walk on the beach, getting your feet wet in the river, or taking a dip in the country lake. This model is breathable, and its mesh inserts can be removed quickly for faster drying (this certainly comes in handy for that week at the beach!). The rubber outsoles of these aquatic shoes are made of TPR (a type of rubber) and then combined with a multi stretch upper, which provides a snug fit around your feet.  

At just 10 ounces, Surfwaker shoes are extremely lightweight and will not hold you back when you’re treading through the water. But don't expect these water shoes to last you multiple seasons, especially if you wear the Surfwalkers on long hiking trips or take them over hot summer pavement. And definitely do not expect to get a lot of high-fives from your friends when wearing these shoes!

The Runner up

DREAMCITY WOMEN'S WATER SHOES

What’s to Love: Functionality, price
What’s not to Love:  
Style

 

In the market for a low-priced, highly functional water shoe that will cover all your basic needs? The Dreamcity Women’s Water Shoe will do it all! This shoe is constructed from 90% fabric, with a breathable upper mesh that allows for ventilation and quick-drying functionality. Additionally, the shoe boasts a water grip outsole that increases traction and reduces the likelihood of danger or accident when navigating wet or treacherous terrain. Making things even better is the ComforDry sockliner, which helps keep the shoe dry and your feet comfortable; when combined with the Solyte midsole, this gives the shoe that extra durability and spring that you want in an athletic shoe. If you’re looking for cheap, quality water shoes with arch support, you simply can’t go wrong with this basic option!

CATEGORY: THE FASHIONABLE WATER SANDAL

The Winner 

VIAKIX Napali Sandals for Women

What’s to Love: The style, the comfort, the adjustability
What’s not to Love:  Only available in four colors 

 

Let us assure you: there’s no bias in selecting our very own Viakix as the most stylish water sandals on the market today. These shoes provide the protection you need in all aquatic environments while offering that trendy flair perfect for everyday wear. We’ve designed our Viakix water sandals to be sleek yet supportive with maximum breathability. This gives you the comfort. But we didn’t stop there. We also wanted our footwear to be ultra-comfortable so that you can take our sandals on long walks or on all terrain hikes.

These shoes feature an ergonomic outsole that’s bolstered by a shank stabilizer for extra arch support. This makes it the perfect option for all-day wear at the beach or on the hiking trail! Designed as a walking sandal, the Napali sandal for women will keep you covered even when you don’t plan on getting wet.

We currently offer this model in four different colors, including beige, black, blue, and grey. Choose your favorite color or buy them all!

The Runner up 

Ryka Women’s Hydro Sport Water Shoe

What’s to Love:  Style, functionality 
What’s not to Love:  
Price

 

This 100% mesh model comes at a mid-range price point despite being one of the most functional models on the market. Made specifically for women in mind, this is one of the best supportive water shoes for all kinds of waterside activities. A multi-purpose drainage system helps keep the shoe dry no matter what you’re doing, and the model comes chlorine friendly for days at the pool.

What’s more, with a rubber sole and a webbing midfoot cage, this Ryka model provides incredible arch support for all-day wear. The outsole is made of sticky rubber that enhances traction and gives you more flexibility when trying out waterside activities. Best of all, the shoe comes in a variety of exciting color combinations and a sleek design that will have your friends marveling!

“Make a splash” by trying out these water shoes for yourself!

CATEGORY:  THE HEAVY DUTY WATER SHOE

The Winner 

Women’s DrainPro XT Water Shoes

 

What’s to Love: Durable water sandal, versatility
What’s not to Love:  
Price

This superior model from Aleader has everything you could ever want (and more) in a water shoe. Designed with a cushioned EVA midsole to absorb shock, it’s an excellent choice for those seeking additional arch support. Just as important, it comes with an open and breathable upper made of textile that allows for ventilation—keeping your foot and your shoe dry.

A webbing midfoot cage offers you additional lateral support for those tough climbs and treks. Combine this with incredible traction that comes with an innovative anti-slip sole, and you’ve got a shoe that simply refuses to be compared. These shoes are also quick-drying, with several strategically-placed holes in the bottom of the sole to ensure water drainage.

What’s more, because the shoe relies on a bungee lace system, it’s one of the most adjustable on the market. This means that you never have to worry about or sacrifice comfort for the sake of functionality. Crafted with the best of technology, this is one shoe that will stand up to the heavy duty tests you throw at it. Try it out for yourself if you’re looking for a high-powered option sure to get the job done! 

The Runner up

MERRELL AERO HIKING WATER SHOE

What’s to Love: Heavy duty, durability
What’s not to Love:  Price

 

Clocking in at the number two spot for the heavy duty, multipurpose water shoe is Merrell’s Aero Hiking Water Shoe. Merrell’s amphibious shoe was built with the adventurous thrill seeker in mind. These shoes will make it a breeze to go through any terrain–whether you are looking to hike rocky paths, climb large boulders, or take them with you on a white water rafting trip. To put it another way, they are the Swiss Army knife of water shoes and can truly help you navigate a world of different terrains. Merrell included breathable mesh in the upper portion of the model to allow your feet to air out quickly, thus preventing irritation and blistering when wet. A molded TPU outsole increases performance and protection of your feet, no matter which aquatic environment you tackle.

Normally these shoes sell for north of $100. However, you can frequently find them on sale. While the Aero price is on the high side, if you need that added protection during your water adventures, think of them as your footwear insurance policy.

The Bottom Line

 

Well, there you have it—our top picks for best water shoes. Now that you’ve digested our buying guide, we trust that you are among the top one percent of your class when it comes to purchasing water shoes. We hope this guide gives you all the tools you need to make the right purchase for you. Remember: look for shoes that are comfortable, durable, and will provide the right level of traction. Your purchase should give your feet the breathability they require, while providing a wide range of motion required for subterranean environments. What’s more, by following the information in this guide, you’ll certainly be able to find a pair of shoes that fits your fashion sense!

The options we provided you should give you a variety to choose from, depending upon your specific aquatic needs. Whether you want to buy water shoes for swimming, water aerobics, kayaking, stand up boarding, rafting, or to enjoy on your next vacation cruise, our top picks definitely have you covered.  

So don’t wait! Make sure to use this guide to find the right pair of water shoes for you!

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