While there is nothing to stop you going barefoot or wearing everyday sneakers when you paddle your kayak, you’ll be more comfortable if you choose shoes specially made for watersports – also don’t forget to dress properly.
Kayaking shoes will keep your feet warm, provide you with a better grip on wet surfaces, protect the soles of your feet from rocks, and should also drain and dry quickly. They are often washable so you can keep them looking (and smelling!) good.
Kayak Shoes Materials
Why can’t you wear regular sneakers? The main reason is they aren’t made for wearing in the wet. Most soak up water, dry slowly, and may even deteriorate if they frequently get wet. They aren’t made for wearing in wet conditions and could actually make your paddling trip less enjoyable. They also tend to be slippery when wet.
Kayaking shoes are usually made from neoprene, which is the same material as wetsuits. They can also help keep your feet warm, which is good news if you are paddling in the winter. They usually have rubber soles too, which gives you a better grip as well as safeguarding your feet from sharp rocks. That’s an especially important consideration if you launch your kayak from rocky shores.
There are several different designs for kayak shoes, including ankle boots and low-cut shoes. Kayaking booties are great for winter but maybe too warm and restrictive for summer use. Because of this, if you paddle all year long, you may need to have two pairs of shoes.
Here are our five favorite kayaking shoes.
1. PENGCHENG Kayaking Shoes
Sportswear, and especially sports shoes, is often very expensive. That’s okay and could even be justifiable if you are a sports professional or someone who takes their sports seriously. But, if you are on a budget or are just a casual sportsperson, high price tags can have you running for the hills. PENGCHENG Sports Shoes are ideal for summer kayaking, suitable for men and women, and are very budget-friendly.
- Flat, minimalist design
- Durable, flexible sole
- Low-cut ankles for increased mobility
- Quick draining and drying Lycra uppers
- Adjustable fit
- Unisex design
- Tongue and heel tabs for easy fitting and removal
- Available in 44 different colors
These simple watersports shoes are ideal for warm water kayaking. They’ll protect your feet as you walk down to the water but won’t make you feel hot or uncomfortable. They are so soft and light you’ll probably forget you are wearing them. Rinse them out and then leave them to dry after using. With no heavy neoprene, they will dry quickly and won’t take up much space in your kit bag.
- Very light
- Comfortable fit
- Very budget-friendly
- Will not keep your feet warm
- No ankle protection
If all you want to do is protect your feet from rocks and slips on warm, sunny days, these shoes are an excellent buy. Flexible, light, and comfortable, PENGCHENG Men’s/Women’s Water Sports Shoes are great for summertime paddling.
2. Cressi Anti Slip Kayaking Boots
When the water temperature starts to drop, the only material that will keep your feet warm, even when they are wet, is neoprene. That’s the stuff that wetsuits are made from. These Cressi Anti-Slip Sole Boots have zippers to make them easy to put on and take off and will keep your ankles and feet warm on even a very cold day of paddling.
- 3mm neoprene construction
- Chunk zip for easy use
- Non-slip hardwearing rubber sole
- Rubber heel and toe for added durability
- Unisex design
Combined with a dry suit or wetsuit, these kayaking boots will help keep your feet toasty warm on even very cold days. Neoprene doesn’t keep water out. Instead, it traps a thin layer of water next to your skin, which quickly warms up and provides an additional layer of insulation. If cold feet are your paddling nemesis, these Cressi Boots will help.
- Easy to put on and take off
- Very warm
- Hardwearing, grippy soles
- Less likely to slip when on wet docks or rocks
- Too warm for summer use
Cressi Anti Slip Sole Boots will keep your feet warm and also protect your feet from even very rocky ground. If you anticipate walking on rocks or just want to keep your feet warm on cold days, these are the kayak shoes for you. They are especially useful for paddlers who have to wade out to launch their kayaks.
3. Neo Sport Premium Neoprene Wetsuit Boots
When it comes to neoprene kayaking shoes, the thicker the material, the warmer your feet will be. Thicker neoprene means more insulation. Neo Sport Wetsuit Boots are available in three thicknesses – 3mm, 5mm, and 7mm, so you can choose the best ones for your foot-warming needs.
- Strong glued and sewn construction
- Heavy-duty zipper for easy fitting and removal
- Unisex design
- Thick, non-slip, puncture-resistant soles
- Water entry barrier behind the zip to keep water out
- High traction soles
While there is nothing especially cutting edge about these neoprene kayaking shoes, they will definitely keep your feet warm on even the coldest day, especially if you choose the 5mm or 7mm-thick models. They are built to last and will keep your feet warm and protected even if you have to traverse rugged rocks to launch your kayak. If you are a fair-weather paddler who launches their kayak from dry slipways, these booties would probably be overkill. But, for adventurous winter paddling, these boots are all-but essential.
- Very warm
- Ideal for rough, harsh environments
- Very hardwearing
- Lots of protection for your feet
- Chunky design
- Not really suitable for warm weather paddling
If you don’t want sharp rocks or cold water ruining your kayaking adventures, these are the watersports boots for you. Not sure which thickness to buy? 5mm is probably the best choice for most water conditions.
4. SEAC Pro HD 6mm Neoprene Wetsuit Boots with Side Zipper
If you are a very adventurous kayaker, you may find that you have to do a fair bit of walking on your paddling trips – especially if you are off the beaten track and exploring uncharted waters. Shallow rivers, rocky bottoms, and obstacles such as reefs may force you out of your kayak. You’ll need to walk your boat through hazards that could otherwise damage your hull. If you are wearing these SEAC Pro HD Neoprene Wetsuit Boots, you’ll be able to overcome any kind of hazard with ease, and while keeping your feet protected and warm the whole time.
- Rigid, molded, puncture-proof sole
- Deep tread pattern for better grip
- 6mm neoprene for superior warmth
- Chunky zip for easy use
- Unisex design
- Reinforced rubber heel and toe cap
- Water entry barrier to help keep your feet dry
These neoprene booties are tough! Scrambling over rocks won’t damage them, and they’ll keep your feet warm and safe no matter what is underfoot. They’ll also protect your ankles. They are overkill for easy, summer paddles in warm water. Still, if your kayaking trips take you out into rugged, challenging environments, these boots will make sure your feet stay comfortable and warm.
- Robust design
- Non-slip soles
- Comfortable for walking and paddling
- Thick neoprene for warmth and protection
- Non-standard sizing can make it harder to get the perfect fit
The SEAC Pro are ideal for kayakers heading for colder waters and rugged terrain. If you anticipate having to cross rocky outcrops or even walk over rocks to get your kayak to the water’s edge, these booties are for you.
5. Vibram Men’s Five Fingers V-Aqua Water Shoe
Vibram Five Fingers look unusual. They are designed to separate your toes and are a lot like wearing gloves on your feet. They are popular with “functional” exercisers, and Five Finger now makes a shoe specifically for watersports: The V-Aqua Water Shoe. With their minimalist design, these shoes are very light, flexible, and comfortable. They provide plenty of grip and also protect the soles of your feet against rocks.
- Hardwearing non-slip Vibram rubber soles
- Textile and synthetic uppers
- Heel and metatarsal strap for a snug fit
- Silicon prints inside the shoe prevent unwanted movement, even when wet
- Low profile to help keep your feet cool
- Available in three colors
- Also available for women
The Vibram Water Shoes allow you to feel like you are barefoot while protecting you from sharp, rough surfaces. That means you don’t lose feeling in your feet, as you may if you are wearing thick-soled sneakers or chunky wetsuit booties. They’re an excellent option for warm weather paddling, although putting them on takes practice as you’ll need to be able to hold your toes apart.
- Very grippy soles
- Snug fit for maximum sensitivity
- Light and flexible
- Machine washable
- Some people find the individual toe design uncomfortable
The Vibram Men’s Five Fingers Shoes look and feel unlike any other type of kayaking footwear. They are made to make you feel like you are barefoot – something no other shoe manages to do. They won’t do much for your feet in cold water but, on a warm day, they are a great choice for kayaking footwear.
Picking The Right Technical Paddler Shoes
It’s a mistake to set off in your kayak if you aren’t wearing shoes. Just because you launched from a smooth, dry slipway or dock doesn’t mean that’s where you’ll end up! Kayaking shoes aren’t just for keeping your feet warm in winter. Instead, they protect the soles of your feet from sharp rocks and other hazards that may be impossible to navigate with just bare feet.
In cold weather, neoprene booties are arguably your best choice of footwear but, in warmer waters, minimalist shoes designed for kayaking are best. They’ll provide you with the protection you need without making your feet hot and sweaty.