A man getting ready to paddle

Tips for Choosing the Best Water Sandals

Warm-weather adventures go hand in hand with shoes that can handle getting splashed or all-out soaked—while you keep on going. From casual SUPing to hardcore sailing, here’s what to look for in water sandals and shoes that are up for all sorts of H2O action.

Best for Paddling

CASUAL PADDLERS often opt to go shoe-free on the water, but, hey, you still need to get your SUP or boat to that lake, river, or ocean. And going barefoot doesn’t feel too awesome on gravel, rocky coastline, or hot pavement. For footwear, think light, and easy to stash, rinse off, and get on and off, such as the the Waimea H2 or Drift Creek sandal.

FOR MORE EXTREME PADDLING, such as whitewater kayaking and rafting, features that offer foot support and protection become more important. Think about how much you’ll push against foot braces or wedge your foot into the side of the raft for leverage. A snug-fitting sandal, like the SOLR sandal for women and men, is a good rafting choice that will stay on your feet in wild waters and technical maneuvering. If you capsize, the last thing you want to look for is a lost shoe. And, with rafting or portaging while kayaking, you also need to consider the underwater terrain. The Clearwater and Whisper sandals are good overall choices, with good ground feel for finding your footing. 

Best for Fishing

What to wear depends on whether you’ll be in a boat or wading in a creek or river. On a boat, the KEEN Aquagrip outsole on the SOLR sandal can help prevent slipping when bracing your feet to haul in that biggest catch. Meanwhile, siping and lugs will help you make your way around river beds. Some fly fishers prefer the comfort of the Newport sandal to wading boots.

Best for Sailing/Boating

Non-marking outsoles (all KEEN sandals are non-marking) and razor siping are the features to look for in boat shoes. Razor siping in outsoles works just like your tires—it helps expel water from beneath, preventing slipping on wet surfaces, such as a boat deck or dock.

Best for Creek/Coastal Hikes

Lugs for traction, razor siping, quick-dry materials, and toe protection—these are the must-haves for adventuring in and around water. Rubber outsoles with lugs and razor siping keep you steady on slippery terrain, while quick-dry uppers help prevent blisters and discomfort due to hiking with wet feet. The sandal that checks off all the boxes: Newport H2

Best for the Beach

Barefoot in the sand is definitely the way to go. But days at the beach often involve walking to boardwalks and lunch spots. Giving yourself a little extra cushioning will keep your feet peachy. The Waimea sandal could be an option to consider, and the Rose sandal is happy to go dressier for dinner, too.

RELATED: Which Kids' Water Sandals?

RELATED: Which water sandals to pack for Hawaii

Planning a trip and need help finding the right shoe? Chat with a KEEN Fitter.

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