What Shoes to Wear for Kayaking?

Kayaking is a great exercise and a great way to spend time with your friends. However, it does require quite a long list of gear. At the very least, you would need a kayak, paddle, lifejacket, bilge pump, dry bag, and appropriate clothing. Among all that, one thing that tends to get overlooked is your footwear. What shoes can you wear for kayaking?

What Shoes to Wear for Kayaking?

Generally, most people wear water shoes for kayaking as water shoes are waterproof and will stay on your feet to protect them against sharp objects such as rocks and seashells. Paddling boots work great for kayaking in cold weather, and water sandals with fastening straps that can stay on your feet is great for kayaking in hot weather.

There are so many choices when it comes to shoes for kayaking. Not only does it depend on your personal preference, but it also depends on the weather conditions you are expecting. Let’s go over these choices in detail and look at their pros and cons. By the end of this article, you should be able to make an informed choice on what shoes to wear for your next kayaking trip.

To understand how to choose the best water shoes for kayaking, it is important to think about the types of demand kayaking would place on your footwear. In general, these are the criteria you would want to consider for your kayaking shoes:

  • Waterproof ability: You do not want your shoes to get soaked
  • Draining ability: You do not want your shoes to get waterlogged
  • Ability to fasten to your feet: You do not want to lose your shoes
  • Protection: You do not want your feet to get hurt
  • Traction: You do not want to slip
  • Warmth: You do not want to get cold


Waterproofing is a basic requirement for any kayaking shoes. When you go on a kayaking trip, your shoes are going to come into contact with water one way or another. The last thing you would want is for them to get soaking wet. This means no regular sneakers or running shoes. You want something waterproof.

While sometimes it is possible to keep your feet dry for the entirety of your kayaking trip, other times it is just unavoidable that water will get into your shoes, especially when you swim in water or tread through water. In that case, you would want your shoes to have a good draining system to empty out the water. Look for shoes with holes in the uppers, midsoles, or outsoles that can facilitate drainage.

Another important requirement is the ability of the shoes to stay on your feet no matter what, especially when you are in the water. You do not want your shoes to come loose in the water, or they are going to end up lying at the bottom of the sea. That means no flip flops. Yes, they are very comfy and breezy, perfect for a hot summer day on the water. Unfortunately, they are strapless and come off your feet far too easily.

Also Read: 8 Reasons why you need a pair of waterproof shoes


Protection is also important. On a kayaking trip, you are likely to walk near sharp objects like rocks or seashells. If your feet are exposed, they can easily get cut. A better option is to wear shoes that cover your entire feet. Boots that cover at least part of your calves would be even better.


Traction is another thing you should consider. The last thing you want is to slip when walking on seaweed-covered wet rocks. Look for shoes with rubber outsoles and slip-resistant tread patterns. The more grippy the outsole, the better it is.

Keep Your Feet Warm

Last but not least, if you are kayaking in cold weather, you need shoes that will keep your feet warm. Look for shoes made from materials that are good insulators. A good option is neoprene boots, especially the tall type that covers your entire calves to keep them warm.

And above it all, you want shoes that are comfortable. You are going to be wearing your shoes for the entire kayaking trip that could last hours. Wear them at home for a few hours to make sure they don’t hurt your feet after prolonged wear.

Water Shoes for Kayaking

In theory, you could just wear a pair of canvas sneakers or even flip flops for kayaking, they are not recommended. At the very least you would want something that is waterproof and can stay on your feet in all situations. Water shoes are specifically designed to be worn for water sports like kayaking. They are a great choice for kayaking.

Water shoes come with uppers that are made from waterproof materials such as polyester. As a result, unlike regular shoes, water shoes will not soak up water even if they are submerged in water for a long time.

Water shoes also provide an effective draining system. They typically have a mesh or percolated upper that allows water to drain away after you step out of water. Holes built into the midsoles or outsoles further aid drainage.

The upshot is that, in contrast to regular shoes that become soaked and waterlogged after you step out of the water, water shoes are able to quickly dry themselves.

Water shoes also cover up your whole feet, forming a protective layer against rocks, cockles, seashells, and other sharp items you are likely to encounter in kayaking. Some even come with built-in toe shields that protect you against stubbed toes – especially handy if you plan on wading through water with low visibility.

When it comes to traction, water shoes typically have rubber outsoles that feature specially designed anti-slip tread patterns. They offer a good grip on slippery surfaces such as wet docks, seaweed-covered rocks, or ice-covered piers.

While all water shoes are designed to stay on your feet, some are better at it than others. Slip-ons are more prone to slip off accidentally. Instead, look for water shoes that are fastened with elastic laces for maximum security.

Water shoes tend to be soft and flexible. They typically have mesh uppers that are very breathable. All in all, they will keep your feet comfortable even after hours of wear.

Related: Best Water Shoes for Various Water Sports and Activities

Paddling Boot For Kayaking

As we have seen, water shoes are great for kayaking. However, if you are planning to kayak in cold weather, water shoes will probably not be able to keep your feet warm. You want something that is insulated and covers more of your leg. In other words, you want paddling boots.

Paddling booties are typically made of neoprene, which is a great insulator. They would have no problem keeping your feet warm even in freezing conditions. Some paddling booties are ankle length while others are knee-length, tall enough to cover your entire calves to keep cold water away.

For extra warmth, layer neoprene boots on top of neoprene socks that are designed for water sports.

Neoprene is also waterproof, so your feet will not be getting soaked by freezing water.

Neoprene is a tough material that offers excellent abrasion resistance and good tear resistance. These neoprene boots are tough enough to protect your feet and calves from getting cut up by sharp rocks or trenchant seashells.

Paddling boots are usually equipped with thick rubber outsoles that provide good traction. That way, you don’t have to worry about slipping on wet rocks.

Water Sandals for Kayaking

For hot weather kayaking, many people prefer sandals over shoes because sandals are breezy and great at keeping feet cool. If you opt for sandals, go with water sandals instead of regular sandals.

Water sandals are specialized sandals designed for water sports. They differ from regular sandals in 2 main ways:

  • Water sandals are equipped with extra thick midsoles and outsoles that allow you to walk on rocky terrains without hurting your soles.
  • Water sandals are designed to offer superior traction on wet and slippery surfaces.

And obviously, water sandal is waterproof and will not become waterlogged. It also comes with one or multiple straps to ensure it won’t come off your foot accidentally.

The main disadvantage of water sandals is its lack of protection. It leaves a large part of your feet exposed. There is nothing to stop the exposed part from getting cut up by a sharp edge. Water sandals are also open-toe, so they will not save you from stubbing your toes on some underwater rock either.

But other than that, water sandals are a good choice of footwear for kayaking. They are also cheaper than water shoes and paddling boots.

Related: Difference Between Water Shoes and Water Sandals

What Shoes Do People Wear for Kayaking?

Most people wear water shoes for kayaking as water shoes are waterproof and will stay on your feet to protect them against sharp objects such as rocks and seashells. Paddling boots work great for kayaking in cold weather, and water sandals with fastening straps that can stay on your feet is great for kayaking in hot weather.