10 Best Kayak Shoes – Keep Your Feet Warm And Dry In 2022

Whether you’re hiking, diving, or boating, every outdoor activity is a lot more enjoyable and safe when you have the right gear to match the occasion. The same goes for kayaking.

You already have a kayak, a paddle, and a well-fitting PFD. But what about your feet, though?

Have you ever thought about getting the best kayaking shoes?

Ruining a good pair of sneakers in the water should be considered a crime. There are so many great shoes for kayaking you could wear instead – so stick around and learn more about your alternatives!

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At A Glance – Here Are Our Picks For Top Kayak Shoes

  • Overall Best:  Level Six River 2.0 Neoprene Boots
    “Highly adjustable fit, protective features from heel to toe, and long-lasting design – Level Six River 2.0 is, without a doubt, the ultimate kayaking shoe.”
  • Runner Up:  Kokatat Portage Neoprene Kayak Water Shoes
    “The narrow toe box aside, Kokatat’s Portage is a reliable, well-made pair of water shoes – especially for whitewater and sea kayakers.”
  • Budget-Friendly::  Crocs Swiftwater Kayak Shoes/Sandals
    “Not everyone’s a fan of Crocs – but you’d be silly to miss out on a pair of comfortable and affordable sandals like these.”
  • Top Pick For Men:  Kokatat Men’s Scout Boot
    “If you prefer simple, easy-to-put-on pair of shoes, from one guy to another – the Kokatat Scout Boots are just what you need.”
  • Top Rated Women’s Kayaking Shoe:  Mishansha Water Shoe
    “It might resemble an everyday sneaker, but don’t let that fool you – Mishansha delivered one heck of a water shoe for women with this one.”
  • Heavy-Duty::  NRS ATB Neoprene Kayak Shoes
    “The NRS ATB is the work-boot among kayaking shoes – designed for paddlers who wants something genuinely rugged and heavy-duty.”
  • Maximum Protection::  NRS Men’s Kicker Remix Wetshoe
    “NRS’s Kicker Remix combines insulation, traction, and “armor” patches in a low-profile water shoe – perfect for protecting your feet.”
  • Best Full-Length:  Kokatat Nomad Neoprene Kayak Shoes
    “Sometimes you just need more protection than the regular, low-cut water shoe can offer – and that’s where Kokatat’s knee-high Nomad shoes enter the stage.”
  • Great For Cold Weather:  NRS Boundary Boots
    “Thick, rugged, and purpose-built for harsh weather conditions, these knee-high kayaking shoes won’t let you down – no matter how rough things get out there.”
  • Best Sandals:  Astral Men’s PFD Sandals
    “I’m not big on sandals – but these bad boys left me amazed enough to make me change my mind. That speaks volumes about how well they’re made.”

In A Hurry? The Winner After 40 Hours Of Research;

Winner

Level Six River 2.0 Neoprene Kayaking Boots

Why is it better?

  • Features hardened vulcanized rubber soles and toe caps for improved tensile strength and overall durability and protection at key points 
  • The neoprene upper is 2.5 millimeters thick, providing a decent amount of warmth and comfort without getting too hot in the summer  
  • The fit can be customized using the top-of-foot Velcro strap and the bungee-collared top that can be adjusted in the back 
  • Provides a good level of traction and protection but remains flexible and comfortable 
  • Has pull tabs on the front and back, making the shoe easy to put on and take off – even when wet  
  • The shoes are reasonably priced, which makes them an even better bang for your buck

Choosing The Best Kayak Shoes: Things You Need To Consider 

Man wearing kayaking shoes pushing green kayak into water

You probably want to jump straight to the answer of what shoes do you wear kayaking, right?

I think it’s better to start with shoes you shouldn’t wear, though. Once you eliminate the no-goes, it’s much easier to focus on the right choices.

So, if you came here wondering can you wear flip-flops while kayaking, the answer is – no, you can’t. The same goes for kayaking barefoot – unless you’re okay with ditching socks and shoes, and the weather is nice, that is.

Regular sneakers are a no-go for water sports, too, by the way.

The only real answer as to what shoes do you wear kayaking is simple – the best kayak shoes.

No kayaking shoe will be perfect in every way – but I’m going to show you how to pick one that’s perfect for you. That’s what matters the most.

Types Of Kayaking Shoes 

You could argue that any shoe you decide to wear kayaking will, technically speaking, become a kayaking shoe. Then again, I think we can all agree that your tennis shoes wouldn’t be a good fit for the job. 

You want something that works well in water. 

And that brings me to the best types of footwear for kayaking

  • Sandals – If you’re looking for something lightweight, typically inexpensive, and relatively versatile that will keep your feet cool, then sandals made for water activities are your best bet. They’re a definite step up from flip-flops and a great choice if you don’t usually kayak in extreme environments. 
  • Water Shoes – These are a popular choice among recreational kayakers since water shoes tend to be lightweight, quick-drying, and closed-toed – which offers a bit more protection. That said, they don’t usually offer much insulation-wise and can’t stand up to tougher terrain – which is why they’re not recommended for serious paddlers. 
  • Water Booties – Water booties, also known as wet suit-style boots, promise quite a bit of insulation and all-day comfort, which makes them suitable for colder weather.
  • Paddling Boots – These are pretty much the “gold standard” among whitewater and sea kayakers – and for a good reason, too. Paddling boots are characterized by a taller upper – extending further up the leg – and thicker, more protective soles. 

Double-Check The Size 

yellow tape measure

Get kayaking shoes that are too big, and they’ll slip right off your feet. Even worse, they’ll make it flat out impossible to swim. Get shoes that are too small, and you’ll end up with cramps and blisters.

I know that ordering shoes online without getting to try them on isn’t ideal. The trick’s as simple as measuring your feet and using a manufacturer’s size chart, though.

Some models run small; others run large. That’s why it’s best to go by exact measurements and try the shoes on before you hit the water.

Bonus Tip

If you’re getting kayak shoes for winter, order a size bigger than you’d typically wear. That way, you’ll ensure that there’s enough room for regular socks or built-in dry socks found on kayak drysuits

How Should Kayak Shoes Fit?

How to Measure Your Foot Size at Home [Perfect Width & Length 2021]

Nailing the right size and fit is crucial in several ways. It ensures that no water and debris get in, that you don’t get cramps or blisters, and that the shoes don’t slip off in the water.

The best water shoes for kayaking won’t “feel” the same way your everyday shoes do. The best way to describe the fit and feel of a pair of kayaking shoes is snug and fit like a glove.

That’s not to say that they should feel tight and constricting; far from it. They should fit you like a sock – not too tight, but not too loose, either.

You should be able to stretch the toes and flex your foot comfortably, without any loose material – almost as if you’re not wearing any shoes at all. 

Materials: Neoprene, Neoprene – And More Neoprene

Neoprene is the most common material for making shoes for kayaking; you’ll notice that as soon as you start going through my kayak shoes reviews.

That’s because neoprene is light, flexible, quick-drying, and available in various thickness levels. It also keeps your feet warm – and that’s always a plus.

Neoprene is the definition of what the best kayaking shoes should be made of, simple as that.

You might find kayaking shoes made from a combination of neoprene and reinforcing materials, boned with titanium adhesive. These products are often recommended for rougher terrains and portaging, given their durability.

Others may feature a synthetic mesh on top to ensure breathability while keeping the water out of the shoes. Now and then, you’ll even find kayaking shoes made from Lycra and polyester. 

Whatever you end up choosing, I recommend checking if the shoes have drainage holes to allow for faster drying. Otherwise, your feet could potentially spend the whole day in a pair of waterlogged shoes – which, as I’m sure you can imagine, is less than ideal. 

Caring For Your Shoes

Check out the video below on how to care for neoprene material kayaking shoes

How To: Clean and Deodorize Neoprene Wetshoes

Season: Weather & Temperature

graphic depicting the changing weather systems

When you start looking at the best water shoes for kayaking, you’ll notice that the material’s thickness varies. That’s because they’re designed to be used in different seasons – and you should choose kayaking shoes based on the weather and water temperature you’ll kayak in.

  • Kayaking shoes designed for warm weather will be made of thinner neoprene, mesh fabric, or a sandal-style rubber design, focusing on lightweight design and breathability.
  • Paddling boots designed for colder weather feature thick neoprene – 4 millimeters or more – and will have a higher, above-the-ankle cut to provide additional warmth and protection.

You’ll have to add at least one layer of socks underneath, but thicker neoprene does wonders insulation-wise.

Ultimate Guide to Neoprene Gloves & Boots for Cold Water

It would be best to get different kayaking shoes for different seasons and weather conditions – but that’s not always an option. So, if you have to pick one pair of shoes for kayaking, go with something thicker.

Remember that even the best kayaking shoes likely won’t keep your feet dry; very few models will. That’s not how they work. Instead, these shoes work similarly to a kayak wetsuit – keeping your feet warm rather than dry. 

Terrain: How Good Is The Traction?

Man wearing a kayaking boots carries kayak on shoulder

Perhaps you’re not used to checking the soles on everyday shoes – but with kayak shoes, the traction provided by the rubber soles can make a life-or-death difference.

That might sound like an over-exaggeration, but think about it:

Wading through mud, making your way over jagged and wet rocks, stomping through marshes, strolling along sandy beaches – all so that you can launch the kayak.

Kayakers often find themselves in slippery terrain, huh?

My point is that there are plenty of “opportunities” to slip and fall. That’s why, when choosing the best shoes for kayaking, you want thick soles with a good traction pattern – shoes that will offer a solid non-slip grip on various slippery-when-wet surfaces. 

Your shoes need to be able to handle sand, mud, fine shingle, and rocks – things you’ll typically encounter when you get to the water – while still performing well on dry land. And that’s a tough balance to strike with a single pair of shoes. 

The key factors to consider here are: 

  • Grip and traction the shoes provide on a variety of terrains – including slicker surfaces like logs and rocks, as well as mud, sand, and dirt 
  • The flexibility of the sole, which helps maximize surface area contact and ensures the shoes can conform to uneven terrain while also being suitable for swimming and kayak control  
  • The thickness of the soles, which ensures that your feet will be well protected against sharp objects, both in the water and on dry land 

So, consider the type of terrain you’re most likely to kayak in and choose the best kayak shoes based on that.

Frequently Asked Questions On Shoes For Kayaking

What are the best shoes to wear while kayaking?

The best shoes to wear while kayaking have a few things in common – they typically have to be comfortable, quick-drying, and lightweight. In addition, they must provide the necessary level of protection, insulation – and, finally, traction on slippery surfaces. 

Of course, there are additional features that may contribute to a better kayaking experience, but these are the basic requirements. 

With that said, the best types of footwear for kayaking are water shoes, sandals, water booties – and, of course, proper paddling boots. 


Do you need special shoes for kayaking?

Since kayaking requires you to be in wet – and, often, slippery – environments, the main features to look for should be water resistance and traction. So, no, you shouldn’t be using your “regular shoes”, running shoes or type of sneakers – let alone hiking boots. Opt for shoes designed explicitly for water activities; they’re the safest, most comfortable option.


Are Crocs good for kayaking?

Crocs are practical for many reasons – and seem to be the go-to choice when it comes to beach shoes. On that note, Crocs have many features that make them suitable for kayaking – including the quick-drying holes that let the water drain out and prevent it from weighing you down.


Should you wash kayaking shoes?

Yes, you definitely should wash your kayaking shoes. Sure, you’ll spend a lot of your time in the water, but that doesn’t automatically mean your shoes will remain clean. You should clean them regularly – using regular soap and water – to prevent the growth of bad bacteria. And don’t forget to let them dry thoroughly, of course.


Top 10 Best Shoes For Kayaking Reviewed & Recommended

How We Tested & Rated Our Top Picks 

The following kayaking shoes were all tested and rated based on an identical set of criteria: 

  • Durability: The score is based on the quality of construction, materials, stitching, zipper, and soles, how the shoes will stand up to different environmental factors – and how long they will last. 
  • Protection: The score is based on how well the shoe – and its features – can protect the wearer in different environments, like cold water and rough terrain. 
  • Comfort/Fit: The score is based on whether the shoe runs “true to size,” how well it can support the foot, how comfortable it is to wear when dry and wet, and whether it features drainage holes for quick drying. 
  • Tread/Traction: The score is based on how the shoe performed in a number of kayaking settings and scenarios – such as getting in and out of the ‘yak, portaging, trekking to and from the water, and while in the kayak – and each shoe’s assessed for grip, flexibility, and shock absorbing abilities. 
  • Value For Money: The score is based on the RRP (Recommended Retail Price) and the evaluation of price against the overall value, features, and performance of each shoe. 

Each pair of shoes was then graded on a scale of 1 to 10 – with 1 being the lowest and 10 the highest grade, reserved for shoes that excelled within the given category. 

Best Water Shoes For Men

Kokatat Men’s Scout Boot

If you’d like to go zipper-less while still sticking to the ankle-high cut, then the Kokatat Scout Boots might be worth considering.

These feature a 3-millimeter neoprene upper – a suitable thickness for warm to moderate water temperatures – but instead of zippers, they feature Velcro hook-and-loop instep straps. Besides the convenience, these straps also ensure a more secure, adjustable fit.

As with other models in the similar price range as the Scout Boots, you can count on insulating properties and puncture-resistance. 

The soles, which are made of vulcanized rubber, provide a fair amount of traction, even in wet, slippery conditions. What’s more, they feature rubber toe caps and heel counters for additional protection – much like Kokatat’s Portage shoes.

But, unfortunately, much like the Portage model, they seem to struggle with sizing: 

If you plan on wearing any layers underneath, you should probably go up a size. Otherwise, the shoes might end up being too small.

Technical Specs

  • Materials: Neoprene upper
  • Thickness: 3-millimeter thickness
  • Cut: Ankle-high cut
  • For: Men’s water shoes

Pros

  • Light neoprene upper works in warm to moderate weather
  • The soles grip well on wet surfaces
  • Toe caps and heel counters for additional protection
  • Convenient Velcro strap for adjusting the fit

Cons

  • You’ll have to go up a size to accommodate extra layers
  • The soles are somewhat light and flexible for rough terrain

If you want simple, easy-to-put-on shoes – and you mostly kayak in warm to moderate weather conditions – the Kokatat Scout Boots may be the best paddling boots for you.

Best Heavy-Duty Paddling Boots

NRS ATB Neoprene Kayak Shoes

NRS’ ATB kayak shoes are the definition of ruggedness. I’d go as far as to say that they’re the closest thing to hiking boots that kayaking shoes could get – although they have got some serious competition in the Level Six 2.0 River Boots. 

But I’ll get to that later.   

The ATB shoes feature a 5-millimeter neoprene upper, which does an excellent job keeping your feet warm. Coupled with 7-millimeter neoprene insoles that provide added comfort underfoot Plus, they include side zippers and wide Velcro straps to ensure a tight fit while leaving room for adjustability.

The actual ruggedness comes from the thick, work boot-like soles and 2-millimeter plastic shims. They provide traction on slippery surfaces and protection on rough terrain, so they work just as well for kayaking and portaging.

That’s where they differ from the Kokatat Men’s Scout Boots. The Kokatat ones have thinner soles, whereas these feature robust soles that provide extra protection and support.

That is a matter of preference, though: 

Some like more direct contact with the terrain and choose boots with a thinner sole, while others prefer a sturdier, thicker sole that feels more protective and secure.

That does add to their overall bulkiness, though. If you want lightweight and low-profile paddling boots, NRS’ ATB is not it.

Technical Specs

  • Materials: Neoprene upper
  • Thickness: 5-millimeter thickness
  • Cut: Ankle-high cut
  • For: Men’s water shoes

Pros

  • Convenient zippers and instep straps
  • Heavy-duty soles provide all-terrain traction
  • Plastic shins for protection
  • Swim fin tabs on the heels

Cons

  • The rugged soles add a lot of bulk to the shoes
  • There are no drainage holes
  • They might dry slower due to the extra thickness

If you’re a kayaker who wants something genuinely rugged and heavy-duty – the paddling boot equivalent of a work boot – the NRS ATB kayak shoes could be the best possible choice for you.

Best Full-Length Kayaking Shoes

Kokatat Nomad Neoprene Kayak Shoes

The Kokatat Nomad kayak shoes stand out from what you’ve seen so far – mainly because they are, in fact, knee-high paddling boots.

They’re obviously different from the previous two models in the sense that they go higher up the leg – but they have some similarities, too. When you compare the soles, they are pretty similar in terms of thickness and performance. 

So, the focus here wasn’t on improving protection in that aspect; it was on keeping your feet dry and warm more effortlessly.

They feature a 3-millimeter double-lined neoprene upper, so they’re not the thickest option you’ll see today. Still, the 19-inch height and waterproof design make these warm enough, even in the more challenging conditions, especially when paired with thicker socks.

The soles are pretty tough and ensure a solid grip on slick terrain – and feature rubber toe caps and heel counters for protection. So, in that regard, these are similar to another model made by Kokatat – the Portage. 

I have a couple of minor complaints, starting with the slightly longer laces that might get caught on something when you’re in the water. Also, I found the stitches around the ankles to be rigid, which makes putting them on and taking them off harder than expected. 

Technical Specs

  • Materials: Neoprene upper
  • Thickness: 3-millimeter thickness
  • Cut: Knee-high cut
  • For: Unisex water shoes

Pros

  • The 19-inch high, double-lined upper is waterproof
  • Neoprene-covered lacing system for a secure fit
  • Sturdy soles with rubber toe caps and heel counters
  • Good traction on slick surfaces

Cons

  • The relatively long laces might catch on things in the water
  • Not the most affordable paddling boots
  • Rigid ankle stitches make them hard to put on

If you want knee-high, waterproof paddling boots – and don’t mind that they cost a pretty penny – you might want to consider Kokatat’s versatile Nomad kayak shoes.

Best Paddling Boots For Cold Weather

NRS Boundary Boots

These NRS Boundary paddling boots, given their 15-inch, knee-high cut, are a hard-to-beat pick if you want superior protection regardless of weather and terrain:

The 5-millimeter neoprene upper is quite thick, meaning you can wear the NRS boots in most conditions and stay warm – especially with a pair of thermal socks.

The rubber outsole is on the thicker side, too. Made with a 7-millimeter rubber material, coupled with a 2-millimeter plastic shim, provide maximum protection against rough surfaces while ensuring excellent traction.

Looking at them side-by-side with the Kokatat Nomad Boots – which also boast a knee-high cut – you can tell that the top of the shoes differs a bit. Kokatat’s boots feature a convenient one-hand lacing system, both at the bottom and the top. 

The NRS Boundary has the same lacing system on the bottom – whereas the top “customization system” works a bit differently. You can see a boot cuff at the very top of the shoe, meaning that they can be adjusted using buckles.

And while they seem “unwieldy,” the adjustable buckles and instep straps ensure a secure and comfortable fit.

One notable downside is the limited breathability. Things might get sweaty in warmer weather – but at least they won’t allow any water inside the shoe.  

Technical Specs

  • Materials: Neoprene upper
  • Thickness: 5-millimeter thickness
  • Cut: Knee-high cut
  • For: Unisex water shoes

Pros

  • Thick neoprene upper and high cut ensure warmth in cold water conditions
  • Extra-thick rubber soles offer superior traction
  • Plastic shims maximize protection
  • Convenient straps for a secure-but-comfy fit

Cons

  • Not the most affordable option
  • Limited breathability may be an issue in warmer weather
  • The sizing chart is off and can be confusing

The NRS Boundary paddling boots were purpose-built to handle the toughest of kayaking adventures; heavily muddy portages, harsh terrain, and colder weather. Thick and rugged, these shoes won’t fail you no matter the conditions.

Best Water Shoes For Women

Mishansha Water Shoe

At a glance, Mishansha water shoes could almost pass as a pair of regular, everyday sneakers. I mean, they even come with laces and pull tabs.

Take a closer look, and you’ll find all the features of a reliable water shoe: 

The upper is made from stretchy, salt-resistant Lycra material, complete with an elastic pull-tie for an adjustable, secure fit and cross ventilation for improved breathability. The anti-slip soles, made from thick rubber, are every bit as impressive, featuring holes for faster draining.

They wouldn’t fit those who have a wider foot, though. I feel like they might be too narrow for you – even though they run a size bigger length-wise. 

Another thing that’s worth mentioning is that, compared to the boots and water shoes I talked about so far, these ones don’t come up nearly as high up the leg; they reach the ankle – which means that the protection they offer against water won’t be on the same level. 

They’re not designed for harsh conditions or colder weather and can’t keep water from coming in from the top – that much is clear at a glance. I bet you’re glad that they feature those draining holes, huh?

Technical Specs

  • Materials: Lycra upper
  • Thickness: Not specified 
  • Cut: Low-top cut
  • For: Unisex water shoes

Pros

  • Low-cut shoes that look and feel like a regular sneaker
  • Salt-resistant upper material with cross ventilation
  • Rubber soles feature quick-dry drainage holes
  • Elastic straps for quick adjustments
  • Pull tabs for getting them on and off

Cons

  • Not the most comfortable choice for wide feet

One area where the Mishansha water shoes stand out is their exceptional breathability. Not only does the upper feature cross-ventilation, but the soles have quick-dry drainage holes, too.

Top Kayak Shoe For Protection

NRS Mens Kicker Remix Wetshoes

The 3-millimeter upper, made from a neoprene and titanium laminate, paired with the relatively thin but “sticky” rubber outsoles, make the NRS Kicker Remix one of the best water shoes for men:

They provide an excellent combination of insulation, traction, and protection to a paddler’s feet, all while maintaining a comfortable, low-profile design. You’ll also find the “armor” patches along the upper for additional protection against sharp rocks. 

While similar in “performance” to Mishansha’s shoes, these don’t feature a lacing system. Some might view that as an advantage – but remember that you won’t be able to adjust the fit. Instead, these will rely solely on the stretchiness of the upper material to ensure comfort.

I wouldn’t recommend them to those who do a lot of portaging, though. The rubber soles are way too thin for longer walks. Another potential downside is that there’s no real way to fine-tune the fit other than the drawcord around the ankles.

But if you need kayak shoes that will keep your feet warm and protected at put-in and take-out spots, these will work.

Technical Specs

  • Materials: Neoprene and titanium laminate upper
  • Thickness: 3-millimeter thickness
  • Cut: Low-top cut
  • For: Men’s water shoes

Pros

  • Patterned rubber outsoles offer traction without “collecting” rocks
  • Features armor patches along the upper
  • Roomy, non-restricting fit
  • A draw cord for tightening around the ankle

Cons

  • The rubber soles are too thin for longer portages
  • There’s no way to fine-tune the shoe’s fit
  • Lack of drainage may be an issue

The NRS Kicker Remix is one of the best water shoes for men who want a low-profile design but still require substantial insulation and protection when paddling.

Best Sandals For Kayaking

 Astral Men’s PFD Sandals

I’ll be completely honest with you – I’m not much of a sandals guy myself. That said, I do know a good pair of men’s sandals when I see one – and the Astral Men’s PFD Sandals definitely fit that description. 

Seriously, these bad boys left me impressed: 

For one, they boast a proper, shoe-like fit, featuring adjustable heel and top straps, buckles, and recycled webbing and upper, which are accompanied by the roomy toebox and a zero-drop level footbed along with a closed-cell EVA foam midsole. 

The footbed is antimicrobial, by the way, and stinky feet won’t be an issue with these – and that’s not something I can say about many other kayaking shoes. 

And on the soles, you’ll find Astral’s signature low-durometer sticky rubber that nails the balance between grip, flexibility, and abrasion resistance.  

In short, they deliver lots of adjustability fit-wise, protection against the sun and sharp objects – a feature that actually sets them apart from their cousin, Astral’s Webber sandals – and a whole lot of traction and grip in demanding environments. 

The price could be a bit too steep for some wallets, though: 

These are sandals, and, as far as sandals go, they’re pretty expensive – especially compared to a more affordable option, like the Crocs Swiftwater sandals. 

Technical Specs

  • Materials: Polyester canvas and FlexGrip rubber outsoles
  • Thickness: Not specified 
  • Cut: Open-toe sandals 
  • For: Men’s water shoes

Pros

  • The roomy toe box and EVA foam midsole ensure comfort 
  • Heel and top straps with buckles for adjusting the fit 
  • The zero-drop level footbed has antimicrobial properties 
  • The sticky rubber outsoles perform well in demanding environments 
  • They run true to size

Cons

  • The price tag’s a bit too steep for a pair of sandals 
  • The open-toe design means your toes are left exposed

The Astral PFD Sandals are beyond impressive – and that means something coming from a guy who, up until recently, flat-out refused to wear sandals.

Best Budget-Friendly Kayak Shoes

Crocs Swiftwater Kayak Shoes/Sandals

When you hear the name “Crocs,” I’m sure your mind jumps straight to the brand’s well-known – and, let’s be real, often criticized fashion-wise – pair of classic clogs made of some sort of foam. That’s not the kind of Crocs I’ll be talking about here, though. 

The Swiftwater sandals are a whole different breed of Crocs. You can tell that these were made for more than just a walk on a beach. And as surprised as I am to admit this, they are actually a pretty decent choice for water-based activities: 

The large openings on the sides and at the heel allow for water, rocks, and other debris you pick up along the way to escape while delivering a decent amount of grip on slick surfaces. 

Even more so, the comfort they provide is insane: 

The combination of lightweight design, Croslite material, and soft mesh upper means there is no break-in period – and you can wear them for hours on end without worrying about blisters. 

I should point out that the soles are a bit stiff for my taste, and they definitely wouldn’t be my first choice for long-distance portaging, especially not when there are models like Kokatat’s Portage. 

But these don’t claim to be full-on athletic shoes, anyway. 

So, if you’re after a reasonably priced, comfy pair of sandals for kayaking, Crocs is the brand to turn to – because comfort on a budget is what they do best. 

Technical Specs

  • Materials: Synthetic mesh upper and rubber outsole 
  • Thickness: Not specified 
  • Cut: Closed-toe sandal 
  • For: Men’s water shoes

Pros

  • The closed-toe design offers more protection than regular sandals 
  • Comfortable and lightweight design with no break-in period 
  • Large openings on the sides make draining a lot easier 
  • They run true to size 
  • A reasonably priced option for paddlers on a budget

Cons

  • The soles may be a bit too stiff for some  
  • Not suitable for longer portaging or extreme terrain 

I get that Crocs aren’t the most popular sandals out there, but I have to give credit where credit’s due – and these genuinely are a comfortable and affordable option. 

Runner-Up Best Kayaking Shoes

 Kokatat Portage Neoprene Kayak Water Shoes

If these seemed a bit familiar at a glance, don’t worry, you’re not imagining things. Kokatat made these water shoes following virtually the same design patterns of their Seeker model – but with a few notable upgrades, of course. 

So, while Kokatat’s Portage shoes may look a lot like the “Seekers,” look closer, and you’ll see a definite difference in construction: 

The 3-millimeter thick neoprene pull-on booties feature much thicker, heavy-duty soles for better traction – something that the previous model, the Seeker, lacked. 

The addition of the medium-weight traction outsole, combined with the fiberboard insole, makes walks on challenging terrains – like river’s edge – not only safer but more comfortable, too. 

I like the addition of the hidden internal lacing system – especially compared to Kokatat Nomad’s longer laces that tend to get caught on things. 

And with glued blind stitch construction, I’m fairly certain that durability won’t be an issue, either.

The tricky part, I guess, is getting the size right. I found that they run small – and to add to it, the toebox is quite narrow, which makes the shoes harder to put on. That’s why I suggest going up a size – especially if you plan on wearing socks as a base layer. 

Technical Specs

  • Materials: Neoprene and vulcanized rubber 
  • Thickness: 3-millimeter thickness
  • Cut: Ankle-high cut 
  • For: Unisex water shoes 

Pros

  • The soles are thick enough for walking on uneven ground 
  • The internal lacing system minimizes the risk of snagging 
  • Vulcanized rubber toe caps and heel counters for protection 
  • Low-profile design with a medium-weight sole

Cons

  • The toe box is quite narrow, and the sizing runs small 
  • They’re a bit more expensive than my top pick 
  • They can be pretty hard to put on compared to some other models

If it weren’t for the extremely narrow toebox and a slightly higher price tag, these would’ve been my top pick. That said, Kokatat’s Portage is still one heck of a kayaking shoe. 

Overall Best Kayak Shoes

Level Six River 2.0 Neoprene Boots

Sometimes you just have to save the best for last, am I right? 

Level Six earns a spot in this round-up with their fully redesigned and updated River Boot 2.0 – a neoprene boot fitted with vulcanized rubber soles and toe caps, complete with the 2.5-millimeter Kevlar neoprene upper. 

The anti-slip rubber sole is incredibly grippy and tough on land – but surprisingly enough, it remains flexible and doesn’t make you feel like you’re “out of touch” with your kayak. 

The soles alone give these a definite edge over the average water shoe – because while they’re built for water activities, the traction and protection they offer are more akin to what you’d find in hiking shoes. 

To top it off, they look, feel – and perform – like a long-lasting, well-made pair of shoes you could be wearing for years to come.  

The fit and comfort of these bad boys are every bit as impressive: 

The shoes boast a bungee-collared top and Velcro strap, so you can adjust the fit to your liking – and I found them pretty easy to put on and take off (yes, even when they’re wet), which is a plus in my book. 

These are technically men’s shoes, so if you are a woman, expect them to run big – but go down a size, and these should fit you just fine. 

Technical Specs

  • Materials: Neoprene upper and vulcanized rubber soles
  • Thickness: 2.5-millimeter thickness
  • Cut: Low-top cut 
  • For: Men’s water shoes

Pros

  • Updated design with vulcanized rubber soles and toe caps 
  • Bungee-collared top and Velcro strap for adjusting the fit 
  • Easy to put on thanks to the front and rear pull tabs 
  • Flexible soles that still offer traction and protection 
  • Can also be worn by women

Cons

  • The toebox runs a bit narrow, which can be an issue for those with wider feet
  • There aren’t any drainage holes on the shoes

The Level Six 2.0 Neoprene Boots may be designed for water activities – but the quality and the level of protection and traction they provide are more akin to a pair of hiking shoes.

Best Shoes For Kayaking: A Quick Side-By-Side Comparison 

You have ten pairs of shoes suitable for kayaking in front of you; I’m guessing that’s not an easy choice to make. 

One thing I figured could help you weigh your options and reach a final decision regarding which shoes to get is a quick, side-by-side comparison of the designs, notable features, advantages – and, of course, disadvantages – of each pair. 

With that said, let’s go over this comparison chart together and do a quick recap: 

Top Pick For Men
Kokatat Men's Scout Boot
Heavy-Duty
NRS ATB Neoprene Kayak Shoes
Best Full-Length
Kokatat Nomad Neoprene Kayak Shoes
Great For Cold Weather
NRS Boundary Boot
Top Rated Womens
Mishansha Water Shoe
Maximum Protection
NRS Men's Kicker Remix Wetshoes
Best Sandals
Astral Men's PFD Sandals
Budget-Friendly
Crocs Men's Swiftwater Sandals
Runner Up
KOKATAT Portage Paddling Booty
Overall Best:
Level Six River Boot 2.0
Product
Product
Kokatat Men's Scout Boot
NRS ATB Neoprene Kayak Shoes
Kokatat Nomad Neoprene Kayak Shoes
NRS Boundary Boot
Mishansha Water Shoe
NRS Men's Kicker Remix Wetshoes
Astral Men's PFD Sandals
Crocs Men's Swiftwater Sandals
KOKATAT Portage Paddling Booty
Level Six River Boot 2.0
Our Rating
Our Rating
8.6/10
8.9/10
8.4/10
8.8/10
8.4/10
8.6/10
8.6/10
8.6/10
8.7/10
9/10
Durability
Durability
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Protection
Protection
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Tread/Traction
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Value For Money
Value For Money
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Materials:
Materials:
Neoprene upper
Neoprene upper
Neoprene upper
Neoprene upper
Lycra upper
Neoprene and titanium laminate upper
Polyester canvas and FlexGrip rubber outsoles
Synthetic mesh upper and rubber outsole
Neoprene and vulcanized rubber 
Neoprene upper and vulcanized rubber soles
Thicknessge
Thicknessge
3-millimeter thickness
5-millimeter thickness
3-millimeter thickness
5-millimeter thickness
Not specified 
3-millimeter thickness
Not specified 
Not specified 
3-millimeter thickness
2.5-millimeter thickness
Cut
Cut
Ankle-high cut
Ankle-high cut
Knee-high cut
Knee-high cut
Low-top cut
Low-top cut
Open-toe sandals
Closed-toe sandal 
Ankle-high cut
Low-top cut 
Suitable For
Suitable For
Men, Women
Men
Unisex
Unisex
Unisex
Men
Men
Men
Unisex water shoes
Men’s water shoes

Best Kayak Water Shoes: The Winning Water Shoe Is? 

best kayak shoes

Remember what I said about how no kayak shoe is perfect? Well, as I’m getting ready to wrap this round-up of best kayaking shoes up, I feel like it’s important to clarify what I meant:

There’s no such thing as the universally best shoes for kayaking; we all have preferences in that regard, after all. Some do come close to perfection, though – the Level Six River 2.0 Neoprene Boots are one such example.

The River 2.0 is without a doubt the finest kayaking shoe we tested; with its flexible fit, protective features from heel to toe, long-lasting construction, and reasonable price tag, it’s no surprise that it’s our top pick.

Photo of author

Sam OBrien

Hi there, I'm Sam. As the founder of WaterSportsWhiz.com, I've dedicated myself to educating people on all things water-based – kayaking, paddle boarding, fishing, surfing, kite-boarding and diving. I love nothing more than spending my days on the water with friends and family. And when I'm not out enjoying the waves, you can find me playing with my son or nerding out over the latest gadgets and games.