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 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 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 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 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
Summary of the best water shoes for hiking
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 2019.
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|Vivobarefoot Primus Trail Swimrun||Women's (also available in men's)||Quick release||$$$$|
|Clorts Closed Toe Water Shoe||Women's||Quick release||$|
|Keen Terradora Ethos Water Shoes||Women's||Quick release||$$|
|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||$$|
|Merrell All Out Blaze Sieve Water Shoe||Men's||Quick release||$$|
|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||$|
|OluKai 'Eleu Trainer Water Shoes||Men's||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 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 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 water shoes for hiking and water-based adventures should have the following properties:
Ideally, the soles of water 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 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 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 Primus Trail Swimrun is what you need. These vegan-friendly shoes are made with a rubber sole and 3-mm lugs. This provides excellent traction, even when transitioning from wet to dry surfaces, without weighing down your feet. Actually, at under 300g, these are some of the lightest water shoes for hiking available. Meanwhile, the side mesh provides breathability and quick drainage but, because it’s made from recycled plastic bottles, it’s also another tick for sustainability!
- Grippy sole
- Lightweight and Flexible design
- Available in Men’s and Women’s versions
- Not supportive enough for some hikers
- High Price tag
This Amphibious Athletic Water Shoe from Clorts is a quick drying addition to a watery hiking trail. Constructed from a combination of PU leather and air-mesh this closed toe water shoe offers your feet both protection and breathability whilst hiking. The rubber sole features shock absorbent and skid-proof rubber which minimises the risk of injury whilst simultaneously offering increased comfort. Meanwhile, the side drainage holes make these shoes a practical choice for river crossings and water sports. Another useful feature is the removable actifresh innersole which keeps the shoes smelling fresh. This also gives walkers the option to personalise the fit of the shoe.
- Breathable and quick drying
- Drainage holes
- Removable inner sole
- Mid-range price
- Fit can be a bit snug
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These multi-terrain walking shoes are specifically designed for women’s feet, making them one of the best women’s water shoes for hiking. Not only are the Terradora Ethos Water Shoes from Keen quick drying, lightweight, and water repellent, but the quick-release laces make them super quick to take on and off. Likewise, the secure bungee laces and EVA padded sole make the Keen Terradorra Ethos Water Shoes comfortable companions on a puddle-filled morning run.
Although these shoes will not keep your toes dry when wading, they will allow the water to escape through drainage holes so you can continue your walk squelch-free. You shouldn’t need to worry too much about forgetting the blister plasters either. These water shoes are made from a soft and flexible synthetic fabric, and the foam insoles provide a decent amount of support. The rubber sole, with multi-directional grip patterns, also provides the stability you need for slippery surfaces.
Best of all, the Terradora Ethos Water Shoes are available at an affordable price and in a choice of purple or black that is suitable for regular everyday use. Overall, the higher price tag is worth paying for, especially for keen walkers or those looking for a versatile sports shoe.
- Specifically designed for women
- Very lightweight
- Comfortable sole
- Versatile usage
- Expensive at full price
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
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
Originally designed for Hawaiian Lifeguards, the Eleu Trainer Water shoe from OluKai is vegan-friendly, lightweight, highly breathable and more than capable of tackling tough terrains and slippery surfaces. Its sticky-rubber outsole is designed to grip to both wet and dry surfaces.
When it comes to practicality, the Eleu water shoe features a flexible sole with rounded edges and a natural foot-like traction pattern so that movement is not restricted. Not only do these men’s hiking water shoes provide the barefoot feel that you need for surfing and water sports, but the moulded toe-cap, breathable tongue, and reinforced heels also provide protection from inconveniently placed rocks and unseen obstacles. The removable dual-density EVA footbed also allows for water drainage and air-flow.
OluKai may not be the best-known outdoors brand but they certainly know how to make a very versatile and high-quality sports shoe. The Eleu Trainer Water Shoe is certainly not the cheapest item on our list either but you’ll be able to use them for just about anything from kayaking and stand up paddle to trail walking and scrambling.
- Quick-drying and breathable
- High-quality structure and materials
- Very comfortable
- Washable footbed
- Expensive at full price