Best Kayaking Shoes

Updated July 2021
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and all opinions about the products are our own. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

30 Models Considered
30 Hours Researched
3 Experts Interviewed
75 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Buying guide for best kayaking shoes

Whether you’re riding the calm waters of a lake or the majestic swells of an ocean, kayaking is a fantastic pastime. Because of the wide variety of coastlines you may launch from — and the inherent hazards you may encounter at each one — you need a good pair of kayaking shoes that can handle a variety of terrains.

Kayaking shoes are specifically designed to protect the bottoms of your feet and prevent falls on slippery surfaces. A decent kayaking shoe should also be comfortable. A large part of that comfort is how quickly the shoe dries after becoming wet. When choosing a pair of kayaking shoes, you’ll encounter a wide variety of choices, colors, and patterns. Which should you select?

In this buying guide, we examine these considerations as well as various kayaking shoe features, sizing issues, and price ranges.

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When choosing a pair of kayaking shoes, foot protection and comfort are two of the biggest factors you should consider.

Key considerations

Durability

As a kayaker, you may find yourself wading through unknown waters and walking over different types of terrain. Kayaking can really put your shoes through their paces, so to speak. The sole of a kayaking shoe needs to protect your foot and stay intact when exposed to gravel, rocks, and other sharp objects on land and in the water. Shoes with thicker soles tend to be more durable and comfortable, but the sole isn’t your only concern: the upper part of the shoe should also be able to withstand some abuse.

Sizing

A proper shoe fit in is key to your safety and comfort when kayaking. Most sellers offer kayaking shoes in sizes for both men and women. Check the manufacturer’s sizing chart to determine the correct size for your feet, and bear in mind that sizing charts may vary from one maker to the next.

Comfort

Don’t forget to think about your comfort when selecting kayaking shoes. After all, it wouldn’t be much fun spending three hours paddling around a lake or river with uncomfortable feet. The best kayaking shoes are soft and secure with few gaps. Although they should fit well, they shouldn’t be too tight. In short, a good kayaking shoe is like a second skin that keeps your foot from moving around within the shoe, which could lead to chafing.

Drying time

As mentioned, the speed at which kayaking shoes dry is closely tied to comfort. Kayaking shoes are often made of material that dries quickly. There may be holes in the soles where excess water can drain. This helps limit the “sloshing” effect that you might experience when wearing sneakers in wet conditions

Shoe weight

While a heavier kayaking shoe may offer more insulation and protection from terrain, it can also tire you out more quickly. A lightweight shoe is easier to wear for extended periods of time, but the tradeoff is that it offers less protection and insulation. Therefore, you’ll want to carefully consider how you will be using your kayaking shoes and what you need the most from them.

Fashion

The majority of kayaking shoes come in a fun variety of colors and styles. Finding the perfect color and style should be fairly easy for all but the pickiest of shoppers.

Easy on and off

You should be able to easily slip a kayaking shoe on and off your foot. That said, once the shoe is on your foot, it should stay put until you intentionally remove it. The right fit will help with this, but straps or laces can also help to cinch a shoe and secure it.

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Did you know?
Drainage holes in a kayaking shoe prevent water from collecting in the shoe and also allow it to dry faster.
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Features

Upper

The upper part of a kayaking shoe may be made from a variety of materials including polyester, spandex, neoprene, or a combination of materials. Whatever material you choose, make sure it’s flexible, breathable, and durable. Some kayaking shoes feature multiple layers of material to help keep your feet warm in cold water.

Sole

Generally constructed from rubber, the sole of a kayaking shoe should be nonslip, protective, and comfortable. The best sole is thick enough to cushion your foot while shielding it from all manner of terrain, from sand to concrete to sharp vegetation. Note that a thinner sole, although more lightweight, may not protect your foot as well.

As mentioned, some soles have drainage holes that help remove water from the shoe.

Insole

Some kayaking shoes have removable insoles, which can be a mixed blessing. On the plus side, a removable insert can result in a shoe that dries quickly. However, some people find that removable inserts move around too much and can easily fall out of the shoe.

Straps and laces

While relatively rare, some kayaking shoes have straps or laces that help tighten the shoe to the foot. Like insoles, there are benefits and drawbacks to this. Some users feel that straps and laces provide them with a better sense of security. Others find that security is offset by the worry that dangling straps or laces could snag on rocks or other hazards, creating even more of a problem.

"Never wear cotton socks with kayaking shoes. They take a long time to dry and will likely draw heat away from your feet."
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Kayaking shoe prices

Prices for kayaking shoes start around $10 and top out at $30 to $35. Shoe size often determines how much you end up paying for the shoes.

Inexpensive: Around the $10 mark, you will find kayaking shoes with thinner soles and uppers. These are best reserved for use in sandy areas with little rough terrain and warm water.

Mid-range: For $20 to $25, you’ll find all-purpose water shoes that can be used on a variety of terrains. They offer better quality on both the top and bottom, with thicker soles for protection and comfort.

Expensive: For $25 and above, you will find kayaking shoes made of thicker material. These shoes provide good insulation and are designed to last for numerous seasons. Some kayaking shoes in this range have titanium-reinforced soles for strength.

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Did you know?
While rubber is the primary material used in the soles of kayaking shoes, some are reinforced with titanium or synthetic mesh.
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Tips

  • Examine the neck area on the upper shoe. To reduce chafing, choose a kayaking shoe with a smooth neck.
  • Keep arch support in mind. If you have trouble with your arches, select a kayaking shoe with added cushioning specifically designed for arch support.
  • Note that drainage holes can let in sand and debris. However, some kayaking shoes are specially designed to minimize this problem.
  • Note that open toes make you vulnerable to injury. Rocks and other hazards in the water could harm a foot that’s not completely covered.
  • Keep shoe height in mind. While ankle-height kayaking shoes are the most common, two other popular shoe designs include low-cut shoes (best for sunny weather and warm water) and knee-high shoes (best for cold-water kayaking).
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Tailor the thickness of your kayaking shoes to water temperature. If you primarily kayak in cold water, opt for thicker shoes. If you kayak in warm water, thinner shoes will allow your feet to breathe.

FAQ

Q. How do I know what size kayaking shoe to buy?
A.
The right size will fit your foot like a glove, and it won’t be too tight. Finding the right fit is important for both comfort and safety reasons. Start by consulting the seller’s sizing chart, and keep in mind that sizing varies depending on the manufacturer.


Q. What is the best way to wash kayaking shoes?
A.
With so much exposure to foot sweat, water, and debris, kayaking shoes can become a bit funky over time. To keep them from developing an odor, your best bet is to immediately rinse them with clean water, inside and out, after use. If you notice an odor, try scrubbing the shoes lightly with warm water and mild soap. You could also try soaking the shoes in something like Revivex, which is specifically designed to eliminate odors from items such as shoes.

Some kayaking shoes can be washed in a washing machine, but you should definitely check with the manufacturer before trying this. Never dry kayaking shoes in a clothes dryer, as the high heat can shrink them. Instead, allow them to air dry. You can speed up this process by stuffing towels or newspaper in the shoes to soak up moisture.


Q. What is the best kayaking shoe material?
A.
Neoprene, a synthetic rubber found in the majority of wetsuits, is one of the best materials you will find in a kayaking shoe. Neoprene is comfortable and supportive, and it can help to insulate your feet from the cold. The material remains flexible over a range of temperatures and can withstand an assortment of weather and water conditions.

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