Splashing through puddles, creek crossing, and getting your toes wet are all part of the joy of hiking in varied terrain. But there’s little worse than squelching along a trail with pools of water in your shoes. Athletes foot isn’t so much fun either, and it won’t do the lifespan of your hiking boots any favours.
That’s why, when it comes to water sports and wet hikes, we recommend treating your feet to a pair of lightweight and breathable water hiking shoes. Not only will the best hiking water shoes allow the water to return to the rivers where it belongs, they also provide the traction you need for negotiating tricky surfaces. Additionally, a secure fit prevents your foot from sliding around inside the shoe like a bar of soap. What’s more, a breathable hiking water shoe allows air flow and your feet to breath, reducing that horrible bad-cheese smell! Best of all, many water shoes look like regular sports sneakers or hiking sandals, making them just as suitable for adventures in the outdoors as they are for everyday use!
- What are water shoes?
- When are water shoes used?
- Features of the best water shoes for hiking
- Best water shoes for women
- Best water shoes for men
- Best water shoes for kids
Summary of the best water shoes for hiking and river fun in 2022
So, which are the best water shoes for hiking? Well, that’s a good question and your outdoor-loving friends at Cool of the Wild have set out to answer it. This following list contains our recommendation for the best hiking water shoes for men and women in 2022.
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|Vivobarefoot Ultra Bloom II||Women's (also available in men's)||Quick release||$$$$|
|Keen Drift Creek H2 Sandal||Women's (also available in men's)||Quick release||$$|
|Teva Hurricane Drift Sandals||Women's (also available in men's)||Hook and loop closure||$|
|Astral Brewess 2.0 Water Shoes||Women's||Laces||$$$|
|Teva Evo Water Shoe||Women's||Laces||$$|
|Chaco Outcross Evo 2 Hiking Shoe||Women's||Quick release||$$|
|Hoka One One Hopara Multisport Sandals||Men's (also available in women's)||Quick release||$$$|
|Merrell All Out Blaze Sieve Water Shoe||Men's||Quick release||$$|
|Clorts Lightweight Walking Sneaker Sandal||Men's||Quick release||$|
|Salomon Crossamphibian Swift Trail Running Shoe||Men's||Laces||$|
|Columbia Drainmaker IV Water Shoe||Men's||Laces||$|
|Vivobarefoot Ultra Bloom Kids||Kids||Velcro||$$|
|Merrell Hydro Lagoon Kids’ Water Shoes||Kids||Quick release||$|
|KEEN Kids’ Seacamp II CNX Sandals||Kids||Velcro and quick release||$|
What are water shoes?
Water shoes are amphibians of the footwear world. They provide the functionality of a regular shoe or sneaker but with extra special powers that mean they also perform well in the water! It’s important to note that water shoes are NOT waterproof. On the contrary. They actively let water inside the shoe. And the best water shoes and river shoes will drain water right out again before you’ve even taken another step.
When are water shoes used?
If you’re a multi-activity adventurer then water shoes are a super useful addition to your outdoor wardrobe. But they’re also great for those who spend a lot of time doing watersports. Water shoes and river shoes are used in the following scenarios:
- River crossings when hiking
- Hiking along creeks or wet valleys
- Stand up paddle boarding
- Exploring rocky beaches
Features of the best water shoes for hiking
It’s all very well having shoes that drain well, or dry quickly, but if they don’t provide good traction and protection then you may as well just wear socks!
The best river shoes and water shoes for hiking should have the following properties:
Ideally, the soles of water shoes and river shoes should be comparable to that of hiking shoes or sandals. They should provide excellent grip on even the most slippery surfaces and are usually made of rubber.
Easy to get on an off
Many people use water shoes for only a short time. A river crossing, or through a particularly wet section of trail. Then they swap back into more substantial hiking shoes. So the best water shoes for hiking, specifically, should have quick-release laces or buckles to make changing in and out of them as easy as possible.
One of the most important functions of water shoes and river shoes is that they drain water out quickly and easily. Many have mesh sides that also help to keep dirt and rocks out. And some have drainage ports or holes.
Once the water has drained out of the shoes, it’s key that the fabric and inner sole of the shoes dry quickly. Otherwise, there’s the danger of getting blisters from the damp fabric rubbing on your bare feet. Plus, damp shoes can start to squeak as you walk if they don’t dry quickly. Pretty annoying!
This may be an obvious and essential feature of any kind of footwear, but when fabric becomes wet comfort levels can go out of the window very quickly. Ensure that the water shoes you choose are mega comfortable when dry, and if they are made of quick drying fabric then they should also stay comfy when wet.
If you plan to use your water shoes for hiking any kind of significant distance, then they should be as supportive as any lightweight hiking shoes or walking sandals. Look for good structure and support around the ankle and the arch of the foot. If you only plan on using water shoes for short river crossings or when sitting in your canoe, support is less important.
Even if you only plan to wear your water shoes for short river crossings, or on boating trips, having your toes protected is still super important. It only takes one wrong step in deep water to stub your toes on unseen rocks. So, look for water shoes and river shoes with covered toes to keep them tootsies safe!
Best water shoes for women
If you’re looking for an eco-friendly water shoe which performs over a variety of terrains then the Vivobarefoot Ultra III Bloom is what you need. These vegan-friendly shoes are the adult version of the Ultra Bloom Kids’ below, and are made of the same BLOOM foam that contains algae removed from waterways. The soles provide excellent traction, even when transitioning from wet to dry surfaces, without adding extra thickness underfoot. The result is that you feel like you’re not wearing shoes at all!
Unlike the kids’ version, these river shoes are secured to your feet with a quick release toggle system making them feel even more secure around the natural form of your feet.
- Grippy sole
- Lightweight and flexible design
- Available in Men’s and Women’s versions
- Not supportive enough for some hikers
- High Price tag
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The Keen Drift Creek H2 Sandals are arguably one of the best water shoes for hiking if you’re looking for something stylish as well as functional. They are available in both men’s and women’s sizes with plenty of colour combinations to choose from. Plus, the overall design of the sandals is much more suited to everyday wear than other options on our list, making the Drift Creek’s a highly versatile sandal for all kinds of summer adventures.
Performance-wise, the grippy soles deal with wet and slippery surfaces brilliantly and the EVA insole provides excellent support through the arches for hiking. Additionally, the uppers are super comfortable against bare feet, even when wet. They also dry very quickly, boast an elasticated lace-lock bungee system, and the all important iconic Keen toe bumper provides protection against unseen underwater obstacles and trail debris.
- Great protection
- Very comfortable
- Quick drying
- Easy toggle system
- Good grip
- Bungee cord is on the long side
- Sizing is on the large side
A hiking-friendly alternative to your favourite pair of flip-flops, the Teva Hurricane Drift Sandals combine a secure fit, with all-day comfort, and excellent airflow. This open-toe sandal features a 4-piece strap system that holds the shoe in place whilst walking. An EVA foam footbed provides support and flexibility throughout the length of the foot while a grippy rubber outer sole offers enough traction for wet and rocky terrain. For extra comfort and stability on uneven terrain, hook-and-loop closures let you fit the sandals to the shape of your foot. And, because each of the closures is adjustable, the Teva Hurricane Drift are a practical choice for hikers with wide feet or high arches.
We also like that these are super lightweight, 270g a pair (woman’s version), and buoyant enough to float on water. Plus, because the whole of the upper straps are constructed with EVA foam, these outdoor sandals dry in an instant making them ideal for water sports as well as summer hiking.
- Adjustable fit
- No protection from trail debris
The Astral Brewess 2.0 is a stylish closed shoe alternative to a classic water sandal. With the appearance of casual pumps, the Astral Brewess 2.0 is made with a water-resistant upper and breathable mesh panels which allow both sweat and water to run out.
This higher-priced shoe is a very comfortable compromise between a full-on sports shoe and a casual sneaker. It’s worth noting, however, that although they are fitted with side drainage ports, they will not drain water anywhere near as quickly as the Keen and Clorts water shoes. Similarly, the non-slip rubber sole provides enough grip for light hiking, river crossings, scrambling, and stand up paddle boarding. However, they’re certainly not designed for mountaineering, climbing, or even trail running. Despite this, we still think the versatility and stylish design make the Astral Brewess 2.0 one of the best woman’s water shoes on the market, particularly for anyone travelling with limited luggage space.
- Stylish design
- Offers breathability and water drainage holes
- Not made for heavy-duty hiking
The Teva Evo Water Shoe is another stylish woman’s water shoe which is halfway between sporty and fashionable. Like the Astral water shoe, the Teva Evo features a non-slip rubber sole with a multi-directional tread. While this may not be sufficient for rock scrambling it provides sufficient stability on dirt tracks and slippery surfaces. The breathable mesh upper makes the Teva Evo suitable to use on summer hikes, too. Although the closed shoe design won’t offer as much ventilation as an open-sided shoe, it is far superior at keeping out small stones and water debris. Likewise, the mid-sized toe cap will help to protect your feet from the dreaded stubbed toe. This makes the Teva Evo water shoe a smart choice for canyoning and rocky trails.
- Suitable for everyday use
- Affordable price
- Decent toe protection
- Not the most heavy-duty sole
The Outcross Evo 2 Hiking Shoe is one of the best lightweight hybrid water shoes for women. The durable PU LUVSEAT is specifically designed to meet the need of a woman’s foot and provide maximum comfort whilst hiking. Made from a combination of synthetic leather, which moulds to the heel, and jacquard polyester webbing, the Outcross Evo 2 allows refreshing airflow as well as water drainage. Meanwhile, the inner lining is quick drying and comfortable to wear with or without a sock.
When it comes to practicality, the quick release bungee laces make them super easy to take on and off. They also provide the secure fitting that you need for hopping from rock to rock. The Outcross Evo 2 water shoes offer a good grip on wet and varied surfaces due to the 3 mm lugs and non-slip outer sole which is made from 25% recycled rubber. Best of all, for accident-prone hikers, the Chaco Outcross Evo 2 feature a decent sized top-cap and mudguard.
- Suitable for water sports as well as trail walking
- Decent non-slip outer sole
- Partially made from recycled materials
- Attractive and available in a range of colours
- Higher price tag
- Does not offer a lot of support
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Best water shoes for men
The Hoka One One Hopara Multisport Sandals are a more beefy and trail-ready option up from the Keen Drift Creek H2 Sandals. They offer the same level of toe protection and sandal-like construction for easy water flushing and drainage. However, the Hopora’s are a step up in terms of their sole construction, grip and support through the midsole.
With the classic Hoka One One bumper style midsole for extra bounce and comfort, these bad boys are ready for anything. From hiking tough trails in wet but warm weather to days on the river, the neoprene and synthetic uppers combined with a rubber and EVA sole have your feet well and truly covered.
- Excellent protection
- Very comfortable and bouncy
- Quick drying
- Toggle system ties back
- Great grip
- Laces can stretch out with use
- The back strap could be more durable
True to their reputation for producing high-quality outdoor gear, Merrell has created the versatile All Out Blaze Sieve Water Shoe. Somewhere between a hiking shoe and sandal, this is one of the most practical and durable men’s hiking water shoes on the market. Made from a combination of waterproof leather and stretchy Lycra neoprene, these shoes are both durable and flexible. And best of all, it takes very little time to wear them in. The easy-release bungee laces provide a secure fit but also lets you slip the shoes on and off easily.
When it comes to taking on tricky terrain, the Vibram outsole with 3mm lug depth provides sufficient grip for hiking or light scrambling. Meanwhile, the hollow lugs and open-heel allow water to drain and for your feet to breath on sweaty summer hikes. It is worth noting, however, that these holes will allow small stones and twigs to enter.
- Very comfortable
- Quick to take on/off
- Thick sole provides comfort even on rocky trails
- Very good breathability
- Stones can enter through the drainage holes
- Open-heel may not be as supportive as a regular hiking shoe
- Not the best on slippery surfaces
This Lightweight Walking Sneaker from Clorts is one of the best water shoes out there for amphibious hiking. That said, its versatile design makes it suitable for anything from water sports to camping or walking the dog on a dewy morning. Instead of side drainage holes, Clorts have integrated screened drainage ports into the outsole of the shoes. In case that’s not enough, these athletic shoes allow water to escape through the breathable quick-drying mesh and lower ankle. When it comes to comfort, the bungee laces and adjustable lace-locks make for a flexible and secure fit. Meanwhile, Clorts claim that their cushioned EVA midsole provides a cloudlike walking experience. Aside from that, the built-in sock liner lets you comfortably wear this walking sneaker shoe sock-free.
- Secure fit
- Lightweight and breathable
- Good water drainage
- Versatile usage
- Affordable price
- None that we can find
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The Crossamphibian Swift Trail Running Shoe from Salomon is the slip-proof and breathable companion that you need for a beachside or rainy-day run. The combination of an EVA midsole and sensifit lacing system provide a comfortable custom fit. Plus, the collapsible heel lets you alternate between a slip-on shoe and a closed shoe. The shoe is made from a quick-drying and lightweight synthetic fabric with a mesh-upper. This allows for air-flow and water drainage without allowing debris to enter. Most importantly, the premium wet traction contra grip also provides enough grip to keep you out of the water while stand up paddle boarding or hiking on slippery surfaces.
Considering Saloman’s reputation for producing high-quality outdoor gear, not to mention the 2-year warranty which comes with the Crossamphibian Swift Trail Running Shoe, we think that this men’s hiking water shoe comes with a very reasonable price tag.
- Anti-debris breathable mesh and collapsible heel
- Comfortable and secure fit
- Good grip
- Reasonable price
- 2-year limited warranty
- Doesn’t run true to size
The Columbia Drainmaker IV Water Shoe is exactly what you need for trails which have you dipping your feet in and out of the water. Not only is the open-mesh upper extremely breathable but it’s also super-fast drying. For water drainage and extra airflow, the midsole is fitted with drainable ports. Additionally, the Drainmaker IV features an Omni-grip rubber sole which provides a decent amount of traction on trails and wet surfaces. Other useful features include a protective toe cap and removable inner sole. Due to its closed shoe design, the Drainmaker IV water shoe will prevent large stones and debris from getting under your feet whilst walking, however, small stones and sand/dust may still find their way inside.
- Good water drainage and breathability
- Toe protection
- Suitable for everyday use
- Small stones and dust/sand can get trapped inside
Best water shoes for kids
There are a ton of kids’ water shoes out there. Most of them are designed with time in the water or at the beach in mind. They protect those tiny tootsies from rough rocks when exploring the rock pools and minimise the risk of stepping on unknown things below the water when playing in the sea, lake or river.
As with adult water shoes, the best water shoes for kids who are likely to be doing a bit more walking than playing in the river, are those with great grip, support and comfort. The below list of water shoes for kids offer different things but all are suited to the amphibian existence of shoes that perform as well on dry land as they do in the water.
If you love the idea of your kids roaming barefoot but would rather not risk them treading on nasties, then slip their feet into some Vivobarefoot Ultra Bloom shoes and relax! With ultra thin yet highly durable and grippy soles, these vegan water shoes are the closest thing to wearing no shoes without actually not wearing any. Like all Vivobarefoot footwear, they promote natural movement and functionality for the wearer making the body work as it should, without artificial support.
For water wear, the perforated uppers allow air and water to move freely in and out. Plus, the molded shoes contain BLOOM foam made from algae which is removed from waterways. Good for your feet and good for the planet.
- Barefoot style
- Highly durable sole
- Easy to use velcro strap
- Thin soles may not be for everyone
- Not many colour choices
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With mesh and leather uppers that allow water and air to freely move through the shoe, the Merrell Hydro Lagoon Kids’ Water Shoes are ideal for kiddies who spend more time in the water than out of it! The complete coverage over the feet provide a little more warmth than the other kids’ water shoes on our list making them well suited to cooler water exploration. But these versatile and great value river shoes also offer protection and grip around the soles and toes that is comparable to the Keen Seacamp.
Additionally, like the Vivobarefoot Ultra Bloom, these lightweight water shoes have a 0mm heel to toe drop that makes them feel like you’re running barefoot and wild!
- Easy to adjust toggle laces
- Excellent grip and protection
- Barefoot feel
- Warmer in cold water
- Not many colour options
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The ever popular KEEN Kids’ Seacamp II CNX Sandals are one of the best water shoes for kids who like to do it all! Boasting grippy rubber soles and the signature Keen bumper, you can rest assured that tender toes will be well protected. But they also provide excellent support and security around the ankles and arches without making your tots and tiddlers feel like they’re wearing restrictive shoes.
Parents and carers will love the combo of quick-secure toggle laces and a velcro strap to make getting them on and off super easy. The result? More time for jumping in that deep muddy puddle!
There’s also a toddlers’ version for those wanting to encourage multi-adventure exploration as early as possible.
- Great protection
- Loads of colour options
- Easy buckle / toggle system
- Good grip
- Velcro straps can be troublesome in sand!
Whether you’re after some river walking shoes for serious aqueous exploration, water shoes for river crossings or simply some comfortable and supportive water shoes for hiking, boating and general outdoor wear, our list of the best water shoes should have your precious feet covered.
Happy splashing around, happy explorers!