10 Best Kayak Shoes – Keep Your Feet Warm And Dry In 2021

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 kayak 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!

In A Hurry? After 40 Hours Of Research; The Winner of Best Kayaking Shoes Is

1. Mares 2mm Neoprene Boot

NeoSport Premium Neoprene Boots

Our Rating: ★★★★★

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Why is it better?

  • The neoprene upper is available in three different thickness levels – 3, 5, and 7 millimeters
  • The 5-millimeter thickness is a perfect choice for all-weather protection
  • Unisex model and ankle-high cut make these a pretty much universal fit
  • Features side zippers that make the shoes more comfortable to put on and take off
  • The zippers are reinforced with water-entry barriers to prevent water from getting into the shoes
  • Textured rubber sole thats flexible while also ensuring excellent traction and grip on slippery surfaces
  • This model runs true to size 

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. 

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 kayak 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 best 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 kayak 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 kayak shoes made from Lycra and polyester. 

Bonus Tip:

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 kayak shoes based on the weather and water temperature you’ll kayak in.

Kayak 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 kayak 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 shoes 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 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’s 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.

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

Top 10 Best Shoes For Kayaking Reviewed & Recommended 

1. Mares 2mm Neoprene Boot

Mares 2mm Neoprene Boot

  • Best Kayak Ever
  • Rating: ★★★★☆
  • Price: ★★★★★
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Mares’ neoprene kayak shoes have a somewhat straightforward design. What you see is what you get:

A 2-millimeter neoprene upper, flexible sole, ankle-high cut, and convenient pull-on design; that would be the Mares kayak shoe in a nutshell.

Sure, the 2-millimeter thickness of the upper doesn’t sound promising when it comes to keeping your feet warm. But who said these were meant for winter weather, anyway?

What they’re meant to do is protect your feet at put-in and take-out spots – and given the rubber outsole, they do that very well. What’s more, they’re textured to provide excellent traction and grip and feature additional protection around the heels.

I noticed that they run a bit large, so keep that in mind when choosing your size.

Technical Specs 

  • Neoprene upper
  • 2-millimeter thickness
  • Ankle-high cut
  • Unisex water shoesy

Pros

  • Lightweight and bendy design to ensure all-day comfort
  • Easy to put on, ankle-high cut
  • Textured rubber soles provide excellent traction
  • Added protection on the heels
  • You can wear them with diving fins

Cons

  • The kayak shoes run a size larger
  • They don’t drain well and may not dry fast enough

As long as you don’t plan on kayaking in cold waters, Mares’ neoprene boots might be a great choice – reliable but straightforward shoes that do what they’re designed to do – a popular choice with surf kayakers

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2. NeoSport Premium Neoprene Boots

NeoSport Premium Neoprene Boots

  • Overall Best Kayak Shoes
  • Rating: ★★★★★ 
  • Price: ★★★★★ 
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One of the main differences between my top pick and these NeoSport paddling boots is that the latter has a slightly higher cut.  

The particular NeoSport model I have here features a 5-millimeter neoprene upper – a perfect fit for moderate water temperatures. However, it also comes in 3- and 7-millimeter thick options, so you can choose what works best for your paddling environment.

Another notable feature is the zipper; NeoSport’s paddling boots were designed for convenience and easy to put on. Moreover, they feature water-entry barriers that’ll prevent water from getting in through the zippers.

The zippers could turn out to be a “weak link, though.” I’m not sure if they could stand up to the wear and tear of more demanding paddling trips, but only time will tell.

Technical Specs

  • Neoprene upper
  • 5-millimeter thickness
  • Ankle-high cut
  • Unisex water shoes

Pros

  • Paddlers can choose from three thickness levels
  • Convenient zippers for putting them on
  • Water-entry zipper barriers prevent water from getting in
  • Textured soles for a better grip

Cons

  • The side zippers might be prone to wear and tear
  • Thinner soles make walking on rocky shores uncomfortable
  • No way to drain the water

NeoSport Premium is an outstanding all-weather kayaking shoe and is available in three thickness levels! If you can’t decide what thickness you need, maybe get all three?

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3. Kokatat Men’s Scout Boot

Kokatat Men's Scout Boot
  • Best Water Shoes For Men
  • Rating: ★★★★☆ 
  • Price: ★★★★☆
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If you’d like to go zipper-less while still sticking to a design similar to the NeoSport kayak shoes I showed you previously, 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.

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 added protection.

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

  • Neoprene upper
  • 3-millimeter thickness
  • Ankle-high cut
  • 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.

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4. NRS ATB Neoprene Kayak Shoes

NRS ATB Neoprene Kayak Shoes

  • Best Heavy-Duty Paddling Boots
  • Rating: ★★★★★ 
  • Price: ★★★★☆ 
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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 kayak shoes could ever get.

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

Technical Specs

  • Neoprene upper
  • 5-millimeter thickness
  • Ankle-high cut
  • 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 workboot – the NRS ATB kayak shoes could be the best possible choice for you.

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5. Kokatat Nomad Neoprene Kayak Shoes

Kokatat Nomad Neoprene Kayak Shoes
  • Best Full-Length Kayaking Shoes
  • Rating: ★★★★☆ 
  • Price: ★★★★☆ 
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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 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.

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

  • Neoprene upper
  • 3-millimeter thickness
  • Knee-high cut
  • 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.

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6. NeoSport Paddle Low Top Boots

NeoSport Paddle Low Top Boots
  • Best Kayak Shoes For Warm Water
  • Rating: ★★★★☆ 
  • Price: ★★★★☆ 
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If the NeoSport paddling boots I showed you earlier are overkill for the conditions you’d kayak in, may I suggest these low-top boots from the same brand?

The upper is made from thinner, 2-millimeter neoprene, and their low-cut design makes them a far more comfortable choice for warmer weather. That said, I wish they were more breathable – that would’ve made these shoes perfect for summer.

Another advantage is that they’re easy to put on and take off, as they come with hook-and-loop Velcro straps and cinch shock cords.

The soles come with hardened inserts to ensure puncture-resistance and feature a pattern that provides decent traction. I found the soles a bit thin, but that’s mainly an issue on hard, uneven surfaces.  

Technical Specs

  • Neoprene upper
  • 2-millimeter thickness
  • Low-top cut
  • Unisex water shoes

Pros

  • Thin neoprene upper and low cut for warmer climates
  • The aggressive pattern ensures excellent traction
  • Rubber outsoles with hardened inserts for puncture-resistance
  • Hook-and-loop adjustment strap and cinch shock cord

Cons

  • The sizing is a bit off
  • Some might find the soles too thin on hard, uneven surfaces
  • The shoes have somewhat limited breathability

NeoSport low-top paddling boots are a safe choice for those who live in warmer climates – the thinner neoprene upper provides just the right amount of insulation for the occasion.

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7. NRS Boundary Boots

NRS Boundary Boots
  • Best Paddling Boots For Cold Weather
  • Rating: ★★★★★ 
  • Price: ★★★★☆ 
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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 7-millimeter of rubber material, coupled with a 2-millimeter plastic shim, provide maximum protection against rough surfaces while ensuring excellent traction.

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

  • Neoprene upper
  • 5-millimeter thickness
  • Knee-high cut
  • 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

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8. Mishansha Water Shoe

Mishansha Water Shoe
  • Best Water Shoes For Women
  • Rating: ★★★★☆ 
  • Price: ★★★★☆ 
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At a glance, Mishansha water shoes could almost pass as a pair of regular, every day 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.  

Technical Specs

  • Lycra upper
  • Low-top cut
  • Unisex water shoes

Pros

  • Low cut shoes that looks and feels 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.

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9. WateLves Water Shoes

WateLves Water Shoes
  • Best Budget-Friendly Kayak Shoes
  • Rating: ★★★★☆ 
  • Price: ★★★★★ 
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Next up is WateLves’ pair of affordable water shoes characterized by an extremely lightweight and flexible, sock-like fit and excellent breathability.

The upper is made from a fine-stretch fabric – a combination of polyester and spandex – and paired with an anti-slip rubber sole. Also, if you’re all about style, you’re going to love the sheer number of color and design options offered by WateLves.

Unfortunately, the level of insulation and protection the WateLves kayak shoes offer is average, at best.

You can use them during the summer months, and they’re comfortable enough for all-day wear – but the upper feels relatively thin and flimsy, and they offer minimal support, even on shorter walks.

Then again, they cost next to nothing, making them perfect for kayakers on a tight budget.  

Technical Specs

  • 92% polyester and 8% spandex upper
  • Low-top cut
  • Unisex water shoes

Pros

  • Fine-stretch fabric upper keeps them light and flexible
  • Form-fitting, comfortable design that fits like a sock
  • Available in a lot of fun designs and color options
  • Budget-friendly water shoes

Cons

  • The shoes are only suitable for warm weather
  • Offers very little support to the foot while walking
  • The removable inserts feel a bit cheap

If you want shoes that are colorful, super-cute, and lightweight enough to give you that barefoot feeling, WateLves could be the best kayak shoes for you!

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10. NRS Mens Kicker Remix Wetshoe

NRS Mens Kicker Remix Wetshoe
  • Best Kayak Shoes For Protection
  • Rating: ★★★★☆ 
  • Price: ★★★★☆ 
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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. 

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

  • Neoprene and titanium laminate upper
  • 3-millimeter thickness
  • Low-top cut
  • 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. 

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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 kayak 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 NeoSport Premium Neoprene Boots are one such example.

There are three available thickness levels, zippers with water-entry barriers and textured soles; these paddling boots offer a blend of all-weather protection, comfort, and convenient design in a reasonably priced package.