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What Shoes to Wear When Kayaking – Our Experts Have Got Your Back!

What Shoes to Wear When Kayaking
Written by Jessica Herron
Last Update: August 14, 2023

Many people are actually not aware that there are shoes designed very specifically for water adventures such as kayaking. The choice of these shoes over a normal pair can actually be quite important with regards to comfortability, prevention of injuries, and general ease. It’s important to know what your options are in the footwear department for kayaking so that you can get the most out of your day with the least amount of problems.

Appropriate Shoes for Kayaking

Kayaking obviously involves a fair amount of exposure to water and as such often times your shoes will get soaked during the course of your day. If you are wearing a normal pair of sneakers or sports shoes this can become a problem as they tend to hold a lot of water that weighs you down. In addition, it can be very unhealthy for your feet to be in soaked for hours at a time while encased in non-breathable footwear. You want to get yourself a pair of water kicks when kayaking. The appropriate outfit when kayaking will make your experience more comfortable as well as spare your normal shoes from damaging lengths of exposure to water.

What Are Water Shoes and Their Types?

Water shoes

Water shoes look a lot like normal shoes but they are made out of a far more breathable material. They are also designed to filter out water that gets trapped inside the shoe. The outer layer is water resistant so your feet will be less likely to get wet at all, but if they do, the water will drain easily and the shoes will dry again very quickly, sparing you the discomfort of wet feet and socks for a prolonged period of time.


Water boots are a step up from water shoes and are geared to the more serious water adventurer. You can get light boots made of neoprene that are designed for dryness and comfort but do not offer much protection from harsh rocks etc. You also get heavy boots. These are designed to keep your feet as dry as possible but also offer a lot of grip and protection for you when you are scaling shore rocks, carrying your kayak through some land-based overgrowth, or wading the shallows in the presence of sharp debris. Many of us who do tour kayaking along canoe and kayak trails over long distances that involve a bit of walking, hiking, and shallow drudging, opt for heavy duty water boots to get the best edge with regards to grip and protection. These boots are also designed to dry very quickly.


These are undoubtedly the most convenient and completely breathable option. There is no “inside” to hold water and weigh you down, and the soles are not absorbent so you get very little weigh-down and record drying time. You can purchase rugged sandals that have tough soles for those who plan to be walking over rocks and so forth. The most common type however are the light-soled kayaking sandals. They are very easy to slip on and off, and you barely notice they’re there at all.

Pros and Cons to Wearing Water Shoes


  • You get added protection against sharp rocks and objects
  • Your shoes dry quickly
  • The shoes will last much longer than a normal pair of shoes exposed to the same conditions
  • They offer warmth when kayaking in cold conditions
  • They don’t hold water so you won’t be weighed down
  • There is a massive variety to choose from


  • It can be difficult for woman to find a good fit
  • Some types of shoes will shrink in a dryer and need to be left to dry naturally
  • Shoes that are designed with mesh tend to allow grit and small stones through the mesh holes in to the shoe making it a bit uncomfortable at times.
  • Certain kinds do not offer the best arch support
  • Some cheaper pairs can wear fairly quickly

Things to Consider When Buying Kayaking Shoes

Pay close attention to your intended activity and ensure that the water shoes you buy are suitable for any use. Do not buy light sandals if you intend to tour across areas with jagged rocks and shallows that require getting out of your kayak frequently.

Ensure that the pair you buy is a good fit because you will likely spend quite a lot of time in them as you will do when wearing a fishing wader. Bad fits lead to discomfort which could eventually spoil your whole trip.

Prioritize quality over quantity. If you engage in more than one kind of water activity try to buy good quality and a versatile pair of water shoes that can suit all your needs instead of buying multiple cheaper pairs aimed at one specific situation or activity.

Try to wash your shoes after every use and hang them out to drip-dry. Ensuring they are washed each time will prevent them from starting to smell bad, which they will eventually do if not maintained well. Letting them drip dry will ensure your dryer does not shrink or damage them in any way.

Having the right kayaking footwear for the job is quite important and will certainly add to the level of enjoyment or discomfort depending on if you have the right gear. There is undoubtedly a good pair of water shoes for kayaking out there for everyone’s needs that suit a variety of situations and demands. It’s best to leave those all-stars in the closet and pack on a pair of neoprene water shoes when kayaking. Also, don’t forget to carry a quality GPS device for tracking your navigation in the waters. Trust me, you will thank me later!

About the author

Jessica Herron

Hi! This is Jessica. I can be your virtual outdoor buddy, lol! My friends call me a devotee of adventure. I believe, as any outdoor enthusiast does, adventures are all about the thrill. My love consists of a mix of fishing and camping in the wild, if you ask (what thrills you most?). So, I could be of help (through my articles on this website) to any adventure seeker as long as backpacking, survival, camping, hiking, and fishing are concerned. Are you planning to take a trip to the wild next weekend? Maybe, you already are in the middle of a journey. No matter where you are, my words are on the air!

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