Best Water Shoes for Paddle Boarding: In-Depth 2020 Buyer’s Guide

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When you paddle board, you may not consider shoes an essential piece of gear, but if you’re paddling on a river or lake that’s filled with sharp rocks and debris, or you have a long walk back to your vehicle, then you need the best water shoes for paddle boarding. These shoes are durable, made out of waterproof material, and will keep your feet nice and comfortable on your board and on land.

Since there are so many different styles and models to choose from, determining which pair will work for you in terms of comfort, fit, and durability can be a challenge, especially if you’re a paddle board newbie. I’ve reviewed several pairs of these popular shoes, narrowing it down to five pairs that have what it takes to handle challenging terrain. Below, you’ll find my comparison chart, which lists each model, their best features, and how they rated.

Water Shoes for Paddle Boarding Comparison Chart

ProductColorsMaterialSizesRating
UBFEN Water Shoes

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24Lycra blend12
L-RUN Unisex Water Shoes

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45Polyester6
Jointly Creating Water Shoes

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32Polyester13
Body Glove Men's 3T

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2Neoprene7
Ning Meng Water Shoes

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43Polyester12

UBFEN Men’s & Women’s Water Shoes


Our Rating: (5/5)

These unisex water shoes consist of stretchy, smooth upper material that makes it easier to take the shoes off or put them on. The sole is designed to handle challenging terrain while providing ultimate protection. On the soles, you’ll find convex dots that are designed to enhance traction by providing improved friction when walking. The small drainage holes in the bottom of the soles are designed to allow water to easily drain out of the interior of the shoes, but the holes are not large enough to allow rocks or debris in.

The anti-collision toes will protect the feet from impact during use. Despite their durability, the shoes offer a lightweight design that reduces user fatigue, while allowing you to move around freely. These shoes are perfect for your next paddle boarding adventure, but they can also be used for kayaking, windsurfing, fishing, jogging, hiking, and so much more.

Pros

  • Lightweight
  • Extra toe protection
  • Drainage system
  • Stretchy uppers

Cons

  • Does not provide much arch support

Conclusion

These water shoes earned a high rating in many areas, including comfort, durability, and drainage efficiency. Their versatile design allows you to wear them for all types of watersports, hiking, and during your next camping adventure. These unisex shoes are also available in twenty-four color options and a variety of sizes, so you should have no trouble selecting shoes that suit your paddle boarding needs and your style.

L-RUN Unisex Water Shoes


Our Rating: (4.5/5)

The stretchy polyester uppers are fast-drying and form-fitting. The highly breathable design will keep your feet comfortable and dry, preventing skin irritation and fungal infections. The thick rubber soles are flexible, yet durable enough for use on land when you’re hiking, camping out, or making the journey back from the water’s edge to your awaiting vehicle. Unlike some competing models, these water shoes offer excellent arch support, promoting comfort and longer use. The soles of shoes do not have drainage holes, which can be problematic if you find yourself paddling around in the ocean or on a fast-moving river, or any other type of water conditions in which you’ll find your feet soaked from time to time. The lack of drainage holes can allow water to flush the interior and sit until you take the shoes off and empty the water.

Pros

  • Lightweight
  • Flexible
  • Thick rubber soles for land use
  • Stretchy polyester uppers

Cons

  • Soles do not have drainage holes
  • Only six size options available

Conclusion

While the shoes lack drainage holes, the breathable design combined with the fast-drying material will help to keep your feet nice and dry during your next paddling adventure. However, if you normally take on challenging water conditions, such as white water or ocean boarding, then you may need to pass these shoes by in favor of water shoes that are equipped with an efficient drainage system.

Jointly Creating Water Shoes


Our Rating: (4.5/5)

These water shoes by Jointly Creating are flexible, lightweight, soft, and comfortable. The anti-slip sole provides the type of traction you need when you’re walking across a rocky beach or dealing with a slick paddle board. The uppers are made out of fast-drying material, while the small drainage holes work to efficiently drain the interior of the shoes, keeping your feet dry, while minimizing skin irritation. Aside from paddle boarding, these shoes can be used for swimming, boating, fishing, surfing, diving, paddle board yoga, and hiking.

Pros

  • Flexible soles
  • Drainage holes
  • Fast-drying uppers
  • Comfortable

Cons

  • Shoes run a size small

Conclusion

These shoes come equipped with soles that are tough enough to handle rocky terrain, cold water temperatures, slick surfaces, hiking, and more. If you’re looking for a pair of supportive water shoes that are designed to handle a variety of both water and land conditions, then these durable shoes are a great choice and one that won’t hit your wallet too hard.

Body Glove Men’s 3T Barefoot Max Water Shoe


Our Rating: (4.5/5)

These are one of the leading water shoes on the market for a variety of reasons. The shoes feature a low-profile, zero heel lift, and an ultra-grip sole that provides total ground feel and maximum traction. The design includes three individual toe pockets that provide extra protection for the smaller toes and improved dexterity. The quick-drying materials and the integrated drainage system will allow air and water to move throughout the interior of the shoes freely. This increased airflow ensures the shoes dry out as quickly as possible. For a secure fit, the shoes are equipped with an adjustable Velcro strap and an outsole tread that’s designed to displace water. The shoe’s reduced sole height improves grip and the natural balance while offering your feet total protection from the elements.

Pros

  • Three individual toe pockets
  • Adjustable Velcro strap
  • Integrated drainage system
  • Increase airflow
  • Fast-drying materials

Cons

  • Price
  • Only two color options available

Conclusion

The shoes give you the best of both worlds by providing a design that makes it feel like you’re not wearing shoes at all, yet keeping your feet well-protected from the elements and dangerous terrain. The shoe’s lower profile allows you to wear them anywhere, whether it’s on your paddle board, in a kayak, or on a hike. The ergonomic fit and durable design reinforce natural body posture and stability. The unique design and comfortable fit make these shoes one of the best-selling water shoes on the market, providing ultimate protection and the type of comfort you need when you’re out on the water or on dry land.

Ning Meng Water Shoes


Our Rating: (4/5)

Ning Meng is known for its flexible, durable water shoes that offer the type of breathability and fast-drying design that you need when you’re spending a day on your board. The flexible, lightweight design promotes user comfort by protecting the feet from dangerous terrain and keeping the feet as dry as possible, even in choppy water conditions. The anti-slip rubber soles provide top of the line protection against sharp rocks, debris, and difficult terrain. They can be worn both in the water and on dry land, so you won’t have to switch shoes when you hike back to your vehicle at the end of a long day on your board.

Pros

  • Flexible
  • Durable
  • Fast-drying material
  • Anti-slip sole

Cons

  • Runs half a size small

Conclusion

If you’re on a tight budget, these shoes still offer the type of durability and high-traction soles that you’ll need on your board. These shoes can be worn on hikes or in the water. Their versatility and durable lightweight design make them perfect for a variety of applications including paddle boarding, kayaking, swimming, hiking, and surfing.

Water Shoes for Paddle Boarding Buyer’s Guide

It may seem unnecessary to wear shoes when you’re on your paddle board, but they will actually come in quite handy, especially if you’re paddling on a rough river, have your car parked a mile or two away, or the river bottom consists of sharp rocks and driftwood. Shoes may not feel as comfortable to some as being barefoot is, but they can do wonders to improve your traction when you’re handling choppy waters. Additionally, if you have storage space on your board, you don’t have to keep your shoes on at all times. But like any other type of shoe, the key to finding the right pair is choosing shoes that will work for your specific paddling and outdoor activity needs.

When you’re purchasing a pair of shoes for paddle boarding, there are several factors that you’ll want to consider, such as comfort, traction, material type, and fit. Each of these characteristics will have a major impact on how durable the shoes are and what you can expect in terms of comfort and quality.

In general, shoes that are designed for paddle boarding will feature a narrow, sleek design, so they should work for most paddle board sizes, whether you prefer to use a long narrow board, or a short wide one. These shoes are often made out of stretchy, fast-drying material that can help protect your feet from skin irritation, while also preventing fungal infections, which can occur if your feet are constantly kept in a wet environment. A breathable design is a must, as is a durable, supportive rubber sole which can provide the type of traction you need when you’re dealing with a slippery board in choppy waters.

Now, let’s take a closer look at the different features these shoes have to offer, how these shoes can improve your performance on your board, and what you can expect in terms of comfort and durability.

Sole

The sole’s design is what will dictate the grip. Some models will come with holes in the sole, which will allow water to drain out, while others will come equipped with a studded design that will help to maximize grip. If you’re paddling on a river with a rocky shore then you should look for shoes that offer top of the line traction. Rocks can be sharp and slippery, so this type of improved traction will prevent you from slipping and falling as you make your way back to your car.

Material Type

shoes

You’ll be wearing these shoes in wet conditions. Because of this, it’s important that you choose a pair that are made out of fast-drying material. Many types of synthetic fabrics are designed to dry quickly and will not retain water. You should avoid natural materials such as cotton since it will absorb and retain water, keeping your skin constantly wet. This can weigh you down and can cause skin irritation. Water shoes are typically made out of the following materials:

Neoprene is the most expensive option, but also the most comfortable, breathable, and durable. It also has a reputation for its fast-drying abilities, but Lycra tends to dry out the fastest. Polyester is not quite as durable as neoprene or Lycra, but it’s the most affordable material.

Slip-Ons

Slip-on water shoes make it easy to take these shoes off or put them on, quickly. These shoes may also come with a zipper or pull tab, both of which will help you slip these shoes on or off quickly. There are other styles of water shoes that are designed for boarding use, but a slip on style is often the best choice and the most versatile. Some will come equipped with an adjustable strap, while others won’t. You may also find slip-ons that come with a unique lacing system that can be adjusted via a pull tab. These shoes can help to improve security when you’re in the water, preventing the shoes from flying off your feet, should you fall or you’re trying to make it back to dry land in difficult water conditions.

Comfort

Comfortable shoes allow you to board longer, without dealing with blisters, a cramped interior, or a lack of arch support. Just because these shoes are meant to be worn in the water doesn’t mean that they have to be uncomfortable. These shoes should have plenty of padding for foot and arch support. If you’re walking on tough terrain such as a rocky shore, then the padding and sole should work together to keep your feet comfortable and well-protected.

Choose Based on Environment

Whether you’re paddling in the ocean or on a calm lake, the shoes you choose should protect your feet from freezing water temperatures. Choose shoes based on where you’ll be paddling and the time of year. If you’re paddling during the summer months, then a pair of highly breathable shoes complete with mesh panels will keep your feet nice and cool. If you’re paddling during the colder months, shoes that offer more insulation will be the best option.

Closed Toe

Closed toe shoes are perfect for year-round use. These shoes feature a design that’s a cross between running shoes and sandals and they’re a great choice for rough terrain or sandy beaches. The closed-toe water shoe provides some of the benefits of a sandal but features a lacing system, padded collar, and mesh lining. The strap design crosses over the foot to encase the heel, providing a more secure fit than what you would get wearing traditional water sandals.

Active

If you’re interested in a more sporty look and improved versatility, then this style is the perfect option. Wear them when you’re in the water, then use them to go backpacking or hiking. Many active water shoes are just as supportive and comfortable as traditional running shoes. They’re typically made out of synthetic materials that are fast drying and durable.

Barefoot

If you’re looking for ultimate comfort and a lightweight design, then barefoot water shoes are exactly what you’re looking for. There are some styles of barefoot shoes that are not made out of quick-drying materials and don’t come equipped with holes in the sole for water drainage like paddle boarding barefoot shoes do. Make sure you check out the type of material the shoes are made out of before you buy.

Versatility

If you want to protect your feet both when you’re on your board or when you’re on dry land, then look for shoes that are specifically designed for both. These shoes may have a more rigid sole, with less flex, but they’ll allow you to transition from in the water to dry land, without having to switch to your usual hiking shoes. Shoes that offer this level of protection may come with a higher price tag, but the convenience and versatility are often worth it.

Shoes or No Shoes?

There will be times when you’ll want to avoid wearing any type of shoe on your board. Going shoeless will be important if you’re working out on your board and doing some stretching. When you’re working out on your board, you’ll want your feet to come in direct contact with the surface of the board since this will help improve your balance.

Additionally, if you enjoy paddling out to a faraway spot to go for a swim, then you may want to leave your shoes behind, especially if you have a small board. With a larger paddle board size, you can secure your shoes on the surface of the board via a bungee system, which will keep your shoes safe and dry as you take a dip.

Price

Most water shoes are surprisingly affordable, so you should have no trouble finding a pair that will work with your budget and boarding needs. Of course, there are some best-selling name brand shoes that will be available at a higher price, but these are the shoes that are designed to last and come equipped with the best soles and a more comfortable design. If you don’t find yourself boarding often, then go for a low-priced pair that provide the type of support you need, without costing you an arm and a leg. If you’re someone who has to wear the latest in paddle boarding gear, then many of the name brand pairs on the market offer shoes that are stylish, durable, and functional.

Other Buying Tips

Since these shoes are available in so many different styles, making the final choice can be a tough decision. But style aside, functionality will be the top priority.

A pair of paddle board shoes should:

  • Have some flex in the sole in order to allow you to quickly shift your feet on the deck of the board
  • Have drainage holes which will prevent your feet from sitting in water
  • Be made out of fast-drying material, which can prevent skin irritation
  • Be specifically designed to get wet and come equipped with good ventilation.
  • Fit your feet like a glove
  • Not be too loose or too tight since both issues can have a negative impact on your comfort and movements.
  • Come with a sole that offers plenty of traction
  • Have antimicrobial features that will prevent mold growth, fungus, and odors, especially if you normally spend the entire day out on the lake or you board often.

Final Thoughts

The best water shoes for paddle boarding are designed for total submersion, should be made out of fast-drying materials, and should drain quickly so your feet don’t remain in a wet environment for long. You’ll also want shoes that offer a flexible, durable sole which will protect your feet and not hinder your movements when you’re paddling.

This buyer’s guide and the included product recommendations are designed to help you make an informed decision when you’re shopping online for your next pair of water shoes. When it comes to shopping for the right shoes for paddle boarding, there’s really no bad choice, as long as the shoes meet your boarding needs. The shoes you choose can also depend on how much you use your board and how much you’re willing to spend. Each of the shoes that made it onto my list offers the perfect fit, a durable comfortable design, and are available at a price that won’t break the bank.