America's Best Water Shoes

Best Water Shoes for 2017: The Ultimate Buyers Guide - Viakix

Best Water Shoes for 2017: The Ultimate Buyers Guide

by Walter Hutz

Best Water Shoes for 2017:  The Ultimate Buyers Guide

When you’re walking in that murky water, it’s sometimes best not to know exactly what’s under your feet.  The only thing you want to know is that your little piggies are well protected from the peril that lies beneath the surface.  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 allow you the freedom to go where you want to go – whether you’re hiking on 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.  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 feel that they could be used beyond your aquatic adventures.  

This guide looks at the best pair of water shoes for women and men in 2017.  And we know that you are just itching to see which pairs made the top of our list.  However, we want you to consider these 6 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 ocean, you will appreciate lightweight materials that allow for effortless movement while submerged below the surface. 

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 the water will stay wet for longer.  We have done dry time testing and discovered that some materials actually took 3-4 days to dry.  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 bacterial and yeast will thrive in.  Inevitably mold will form, contributing to stinky shoes, smelly feet and the potential for a foot fungus!  Yuck!

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

  1. 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 too 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 amount 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?

  1. Don’t be a wet blanket!

Anyone who has taken off a drenched tee shirt can imagine the extra effort required to remove ordinary sneakers that become soaked.  Beyond the extra 2 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. 

  1. 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 times [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.  Your aquatic shoe brethren are made 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.

Now here’s the inside scoop for how water shoes dry so quickly – most of the materials used in water shoes 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!

  1. “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 felt like you were wearing thick rubber bags tied around your feet.   Fortunately, we are no longer living in the 80s and 90s. 

 

Today, there are more options abound, however there is still a sacrifice that is being made.  Too often, footwear manufacturers are choosing to focus on function or fashion.  But not 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 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. 

Now, where were we?  Oh yes…we were talking about stylish water shoes.  Sorry got off on a little bit of a tangent…..

While #5 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.  And you don’t need to sacrifice function. 

  1. 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 in price pretty significantly.  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 only kayak 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 and yet 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 towards your next dream vacation.    

Frequently Asked Questions

Before we jump into our 2017 best water shoe picks, we wanted to run through a few questions that we thought may still be lingering.  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 me 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 – eeeewww!  Enough said!

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. 

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

A:  Well that will depend.  If you choose to wear those hideous black rubber socks on your feet, then the answer is a straight out, “NO! PLEASE DO NOT WEAR YOUR WATER SHOES FOR NON-WATER ACTIVITIES”!  You will only embarrass yourself and shame those around you.   

What not to wear out with friends

However, if you choose water shoes that have some style and flare, 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. 

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 4-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!]

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

A:  Ok, I have to dig pretty deep to answer this.  During cold weather, the same permeable mesh that made your water shoes comfortable to wear and quick to dry will not provide much insulation.  So you are best to return back to your (boring) sneakers for those winter walks!

We also suggest that you don’t wear your water shoes to a formal party, but hopefully that’s pretty obvious to you.  Beyond that, enjoy your water shoes in 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, but also keep 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.    

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 for 2017

You’ve been very patient thus far and we will not keep you in suspense any longer. 

We spent hours researching and reviewing the top water shoes on the market today.  This was not an easy exercise by any stretch of the imagination and required 119 cups of coffee to complete.   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 breakout the best water shoes by three distinct categories:  The Basic Water Shoe, The Fashionable Water Shoe, and the Heavy Duty Water Shoe.   And for each category we selected a winner and a “runner up” (second place). 

CATEGORY:  THE BASICS (JUST COVER MY FEET!)

Œ  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 water shoes by Speedos are the basic, just cover-my-feet brand of water shoes.  The Surfwalker will get the job done if you are looking for a walk on the beach, getting your feet wet in the river, or taking a dip in the country lake.  The Surfwalker is breathable and the mesh inserts can be removed quickly for faster drying. 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, these 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 wearing them on the hot summer pavement. And definitely do not expect to get a lot of high-fives from your friends when wearing these shoes! [Purchase Now]

  The Runner up

 ALEADER MENS SLIP ON WATER SHOES
What’s to Love: The price, very lightweight
What’s not to Love:  
Durability

 

 These lightweight water shoes by Aleader will provide the protection you need in its simple, slip-on styling.  The contoured outsole provides a modest amount of comfort for a walk through the waterpark, a stroll on the deck of the ocean liner, or during your favorite water aerobics class.  The simple mesh upper material provides a conforming fit and does a great job keeping out small rocks and other debris.  The composite outsole will provide full foot protection during your aquatic hikes.  At a sub-$30 price point, these water shoes provide ample value for those looking for a more straight-up water shoe.   [Purchase Now]

CATEGORY:  THE FASHIONABLE WATER SHOE

Œ  The Winner 

VIAKIX MENS WAVE WALKERS
What’s to Love: The style, the comfort
What’s not to Love:  Only available in four colors 

Ok, I know what you are thinking and, no, we are not ashamed to pick our Viakix as the most fashionable water shoe on the market.  These stylish water shoes provide the protection you need in all aquatic environments while providing the aesthetic chops to wear out for a weekend errand or for a day at the mall.  We’ve designed our Viakix water shoes to be sleek yet supportive with maximum breathability.  We wanted our customers to feel comfortable to go from the swimming pool right to downtown shopping without having to change their shoes.  But we didn’t stop there.  We also wanted our footwear to be ultra-comfortable so that you can take our kix on long walks or on all terrain hikes.  The cushiony outsoles, combined with high quality mesh, gives your feet a day at the spa every time you wear them.  

We currently have 4 different color choices for women and 3 for men; with plans to add additional colorways in the future.  [Purchase on Viakix.com]

  The Runner up 

DREAMCITY MEN'S WATER SHOES
What’s to Love:  Air mesh upper, drainage sock-liner 
What’s not to Love:  
Durability, comfort after long usage

 

Dreamcity's water shoe comes in second on our list for the most fashionable water shoe.  At first glance, this water shoe looks like a regular sneaker, but has a secret identity as an amphibious shoe.  The upper mesh allows your feet to breathe while still providing you the needed protection in your aquatic adventures.   While still not a Viakix, the Dreamcity water shoes are an attractive pair that are a great addition to our shoe closet.   [Purchase Now]

CATEGORY:  THE HEAVY DUTY WATER SHOE

Œ  The Winner 

KEEN MEN'S NEWPORT H2 WATER SANDAL
What’s to Love:  Durable water sandal, versatility
What’s not to Love:  
Heavy, the price

Coming in the number one spot for the heavy duty, multipurpose water shoe is Keen’s Newport H2 Water Sandal. All though technically more of a water sandal, we would be a little remiss if we didn’t acknowledge the sleek looking, multipurpose H2 Sandal.   For those looking to explore the tropical islands off the beaten path or do some off-road hiking, these sandals will not let you down.  The H2 sandal is built with an aggressive style that combines a heavy duty, but flexible outsole with the support you need.  However, Keen didn’t skimp or sacrifice on the comfort of these sandals.   The washable polyester webbing upper will protect your feet, provide a constant flow of air, and will allow your wet sandals to quickly dry.   At 1lb 12 oz, these sandals are heavier than you average water shoe, but will also stand up to the heaviest of use.  

Here’s the bad news.  These sandals will set you back a near $100.  Unfortunately, these sandals do not come cheap and will be out of range for many water shoe seekers.  But, if you are out hiking a rocky trail or rafting in rapids, you will be glad to have these all-terrain sandals around your feet.     [Purchase Now]

  The Runner up

MERRELL AERO HIKING WATER SHOE
What’s to Love: Heavy duty, durability
What’s not to Love:  The price

 

 Clocking in in the number two spot for the heavy duty, multipurpose water shoe is Merrell’s Aero Hiking Water Shoe.  Merrell’s amphibious shoe was built for 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.  These shoes will be your Swiss Army knife of water shoes.  Merrell included breathable mesh in the upper portion of the water shoe 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.  [Purchase Now]

 

The Final Wrap

Well, there you have it – our top picks for best water shoes of 2017.  Now that you’ve digested our buying guide, we trust that you are among the top 1% of your class when it comes to purchasing water shoes.  We hope you leave here a little more educated, a little more knowledgeable and a little more armed to make the right decision when selecting your next aqua footwear.  Remember, look for shoes that will be 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 you require in the subterranean environments.  And, of course, purchase a pair of water shoes that appeals to your fashion senses! 

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 should have you covered.  

So, go ahead -- treat your feet to the best shoes for water and outdoor activities and tackle any aquatic challenge with ease.

 




Walter Hutz
Walter Hutz

Author