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Buying Guide For The 9 Best Shoes For Kayaking

Embark on your kayaking adventures with the perfect water kayaking shoes suitable for water conditions, weather conditions, and more!

We have the best kayaking shoes to round out your kayaking gear and maximize the kayaking tips you have been wanting to try on your next adventure.

Choose the best kayaking gear with this guide to the 9 best shoes for your next kayak trip!

9 Best Shoes for Kayaking

1. NRS Paddle Wet shoes : Best Overall

Key Takeaways

  • Very comfortable to use
  • Excellent for all-around use
  • Heat-reflecting adhesive to keep you warm

Design

With an ankle-cut height and a 3 mm thickness, the NRS paddle is an excellent all-around water shoes for kayaking choice.

It’s made of Terraprene Neoprene, with a heat-reflecting titanium adhesive. These water kayaking shoes also have 5 mm neoprene insoles and 3 mm rubber outsoles.

To keep the shoe securely in place, it has a gusset-backed YKK zipper, making it easy to put your shoes on and take them off.

NRS Paddle For Men And Women

Functionality

The NRS paddle is a durable shoe that can be used for cool water as it has great heat retention.

However, it is not meant for extremely cold weather, especially because water can get inside the shoe and may need to be drained out.

This makes these kayaking shoes excellent for all-around use in most kayaking conditions.

They are also comfortable enough to wear in the summer, and you can wear these water shoes over a drysuit or socks in the winter.

The snug top will keep sand and rocks out of your kayaking shoes while portaging [R] and will not accidentally snag on anything when getting in and out of the cockpit.

Its design gives these shoes great traction for walking on docks and rocky shores while protecting your feet from injuries.

With the elastic support bands, you will experience improved stability. The soft fleece-like VaporLoft lining will also repel water and use the quick-drying function.

Extra padding around the ankles helps cushion your feet while you are seated in your kayak.

Verified users have given the NRS Paddle an excellent 4.5-star rating for its quality, durability, and versatility.

Is the NRS Paddle for You?

If you are looking for kayaking shoes that are versatile and can be used in most kayaking conditions, the NRS Paddle is the one for you.

It offers all of the features that most kayakers look for, though it is not meant for extremely cold climates.

Pros

  • Very warm
  • Keeps large debris out
  • Comfortable with extra cushioning
  • Quick-drying
  • Rubber outsoles are durable
  • Sizes for men and women

Cons

  • Water can get inside if you put the shoes deep in water, but the comfort will remain.
Our Pick
NRS Men's Paddle Wetshoes


  • High-top, low-profile design provides outstanding warmth and protection without bulk
  • Wide opening with gusset-backed YKK zip entry makes them easy to put on and take off
  • 3mm Terraprene neoprene with heat-reflecting titanium adhesive keep feet warm
  • Soft, fleece-like VaporLoft lining repels water and dries instantly for superior warmth and comfort
  • 3mm-thick high-traction soles, paired with 5mm-thick neoprene insoles, protect feet from rocks and roots
  • Rubber outsoles wrap up around the heel and toe for extra protection


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2. Kokatat Scout High Top 3mm Neoprene Shoe: Best Value

Key Takeaways

  • Rubber toe cap for extra protection
  • Good on slippery terrain
  • Great grip

Design

The Kotakat Scout is an excellent pair of ankle-cut kayaking shoes. It is made from Neoprene with a rubber toe cap and heel counter, as well as vulcanized rubber outsoles.

Similar to the other shoes in this list, it also has a 3 mm thickness for its soles. Even better, this Neoprene is double-lined to give you ample warmth and protection.

Functionality

These kayaking shoes are excellent for hopping in and out of slippery terrain. They will give you a good amount of traction and keep you from falling and sliding.

They are also made to be used for using your kayak on a whitewater adventure, so expect to get a snug fit, while still getting a lightweight shoe.

Because of all these pros, it has received high ratings and has been tested by users on whitewater kayaking, proving its quality and durability.

Is the Kotakat Scout for You?

If you have pretty small or average-sized feet and need ankle-height kayaking shoes for walking on slippery terrain, the Kotakat Scout will work well for you.

Note that their sizes tend to be small, especially if you have wider feet, so be careful of getting the right size for you.

Pros

  • Flexible
  • Comfortable
  • Easy to adjust around the ankle
  • Excellent grip

Cons

  • Sizes tend to run small
Kokatat Men's Scout Boot in Your Choice of Size


  • neoprene
  • Lightweight, zipper-less boot for water sport activities
  • Features a hook and loop adjustment strap
  • Toe cap and heel counter with excellent traction
  • Has a vulcanized rubber outsole
  • Durable glued blind stitch construction


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3. NRS Kicker Remix: Best Budget

Key Takeaways

  • Easy to put on and take off
  • Keeps you warm despite the low-cut design
  • Excellent grip for slippery surfaces

Design

The NRS Kicker Remix has a 3 mm Neoprene fabric fitted with a rubber sole. Its low-cut and low-bulk design also makes this one of the most comfortable water shoes available on the market.

It uses a Terraprene Neoprene upper and sole, just like the material seen on other NRS kayaking shoes. A titanium reflective adhesive serves to keep your feet warm.

The rubber outsole is a thick and tough material meant to protect you against rocks. This material and the soles are also patterned to give you excellent traction on slippery surfaces.

The soles use 2 mm plastic shims to further give you protection against sharp objects.

Functionality

Its different materials and design will give you superior insulation, traction, and protection from the elements.

The NRS Kicker Remix is one of the best shoes for keeping your feet warm and safe from sharp and slippery rocks.

The toe box is roomy enough, even for wider feet. The stretchy rubber bands give you lateral stability, while armor patches guard the top portion of your feet.

Shoe-top drawcords keep these securely on your feet while still being easy enough to put on and take off.

The only complaint it has received is it retains water when wading through pools that surpass the shoe’s height. This requires you to take the shoes off to drain it out.

Overall, these shoes have received a 3.7-star rating.

Is the NRS Kicker Remix for You?

If you are looking for low-cut shoes that will keep your feet protected and warm while retaining their comfort and grip, the NRS Kicker Remix is one of the best kayaking shoes for you.

Sizing

SizeEuropeUKJP
Youth (6-10 yrs)437.5323.5
Youth (6-10 yrs)538.5424
Youth (6-10 yrs)639.5524.5
Men’s740.5625
Men’s841.5726
Men’s942.5827
Men’s1044928
Men’s11451028.5
Men’s1246.51129.5
Men’s1347.51230
Men’s14481330.5
sizes for NRS Kicker Remix model

ProsĀ 

  • Good insulation
  • Patterned rubber sole for good traction
  • 2 mm plastic shims for protection
  • Shoe-top drawcords for a convenient and secure fit
  • Thick rubber outsole for protection

Cons 

  • Requires draining of water

NRS Freestyle

Key Takeaways

  • Made specifically for technical kayakers
  • Flexible
  • Not the best traction

Design

The NRS Freestyle is another set of water shoes from NRS with an ankle-cut height.

It has a Terraprene Neoprene insole, VaporLoft lining, and rubber outsoles. Its thickness is the same as the NRS Paddle at 3 mm.

Functionality

The difference between the NRS Paddle and NRS Freestyle is the latter is made specifically for technical kayakers, giving the shoes more flexibility.

However, note that these kayaking shoes can be slippery when used to walk over mossy or smooth rocks, as it is not designed to give you a lot of traction.

It has received a 4.6-star rating from its users, who commend the NRS Freestyle for its excellent fit and comfortable feel.

Is the NRS Freestyle for You?

If you need an all-around kayaking shoe to keep you moderately protected while still giving you enough flexibility, the NRS Freestyle is the best kayaking shoes for you.

Pros 

  • Flexible
  • Durable
  • Excellent value

Cons 

  • Can be slippery for mossy or smooth rocks

NRS Boundary Water

Key Takeaways

  • Best for cold weather
  • Knee-height kayaking shoes
  • Excellent for rough terrain

Design

The NRS Boundary Water has a knee-high design with a mukluk style [R]. it is made from neoprene, with a 7 mm rubber material soles and footbed.

It also has 2 mm plastic material mid-soles and a 5 mm Neoprene upper layer with a GlideSkin cuff. The insoles are made from thick neoprene material, for your comfort.

A convenient arch buckle strap secures the shoe in place and keeps any water and debris out.

Functionality

Its height and choice of materials make these boots suitable for cold weather. It is also waterproof, keeping your feet warm.

The combination of the materials makes the NRS Boundary comfortable, warm, and breathable. These are the kayaking shoes for the more adventurous kayaker.

Users have given this a 4-star rating for its excellent construction and quality.

Is the NRS Boundary Water for You?

If you are planning to go kayaking in cold climates and environments, the NRS Boundary Water is the best kayaking shoes for you.

They will keep you warm and comfortable and are excellent for wading through cold water and rough terrain.

However, these shoes are built for men, so sizing may be difficult for women.

Pros 

  • Resistant to abrasion
  • Durable
  • Fits well
  • Waterproof
  • Keeps feet warm
  • Thick Neoprene

Cons 

  • Sizing may be challenging for women

Kotakat Nomad

Key Takeaways

  • Excellent for wading in frigid water
  • Waterproof
  • Double-lined neoprene for extra durability

Design

The Kotakat Nomad is a pair of knee-high kayaking shoes that are double-lined with neoprene. It has a waterproof gaiter, neoprene cuff, blind-stitched seams, and a rubber outsole.

Just like the other products here, it has a 3 mm thickness for its neoprene sole.

Functionality

Because of their height and double-lined neoprene, these shoes are perfect for wading through very cold water. They will keep your feet warm and effectively keep water out.

It is extremely durable while remaining flexible enough for comfortable use.

Note it has a tight ankle opening to keep it waterproof, so it will take you a few uses to break them in.

Is the Kotakat Nomad for You?

If you need waterproof shoes for cold water kayaking, the Kotakat Nomad is an excellent option for you. Rest assured, these shoes will keep your feet warm and dry at all times.

Pros 

  • Warm and comfortable
  • Durable
  • Flexible

Cons 

  • Takes a few wears to break-in

Keen Newport H2 Sandal

Key Takeaways

  • Excellent for trekking and kayaking
  • Offers fantastic foot support
  • Machine washable

Design

The Keen Newport H2 Sandal was originally designed to be used for hiking. However, it actually makes an excellent kayaking shoe because of the upper and outer sole materials it uses.

This is a sturdy sandal for serious or extreme adventurers, offering you many fantastic features that will make it difficult for you to pass up this shoe.

You can also expect to get nothing but the best quality from this brand.

It is made from polyester webbing with a lace fit locking system.

The rubber sole has a siped pattern with multidirectional lugs for great traction. Inside, it uses an EVA foam and a metatomical footbed for your comfort.

Functionality

The upper portion of the Keen Newport H2 Sandal is made from polyester webbing with a quick-drying function that can even be machine washed when it becomes too dirty from your adventures.

The lace fit capture system is easily adjustable, even when on the go. This allows you to get the perfect first for your feet.

The outer sole is a non-marking, razor siped pattern that ensures you get the best grip on wet or slippery surfaces. It even has multi-directional lugs that can work on any surface you may encounter.

The midsole uses EVA foam for cushioning and padding. The footbed has a metatomical shape that helps support your foot so you can easily wear these shoes for both trekking, kayaking, or casual use.

With its quick-dry lining, your feet will always remain dry from water or sweat. Moreover, you will be protected from any bumps, rocks, or pebbles.

Is the Keen Newport H2 Sandal for You?

If you are the type to go hiking and kayaking, the Keen Newport H2 Sandal is the best pair of shoes for you.

It is both versatile and comfortable, ensuring that when you wear this pair of shoes, it will fit as snug as a glove.

Pros 

  • Thick rubber soles
  • Moisture-wicking lining
  • Great grip
  • Comfortable footbed
  • Quick-drying

Cons 

  • Runs small
  • Pricey

Crocs Swiftwater Mesh Deck Sandals

Key Takeaways

  • Available for men, women, and kids
  • Versatile for cool or warm weather
  • Dual-use drainage holes and vents

Design

Crocs is a well-known shoe brand for casual wear. However, did you know that they also make a model that actually makes a great pair of kayaking shoes and shoes for water sports?

These shoes are designed to allow the wearer to use these shoes both in and out of the water. They are comfortable and provide you with enough support for a variety of activities.

The Crocs Swiftwater Mesh Deck Sandals uses the Caroline material of Crocs, which is used for the sole.

The mesh upper is fastened to your foot with a hook and loop strap, allowing this pair of kayak shoes to fit you like a glove.

Functionality

The toe is raised to give you the best protection. The sides of the foot also have holes that can serve a dual purpose.

In the water, these holes act as drainage holes. On dry land, these holes act as vents to ensure the shoe remains breathable.

This makes the Crocs Swiftwater an excellent pair for warm weather and various weather conditions. Your feet will remain protected from rocks and wet surfaces.

These pair of water shoes are very flexible and lightweight. The pull tab on its heel lets you easily put them on or hang them up to dry.

Moreover, the act to give you the right arch support. This is a welcome feature if you plan to use these shoes for walking, too.

With cushioning, shock-absorbent material, your feet will remain happy and comfortable for hours.

In terms of traction, these shoes are made to be worn on almost all surfaces, giving you versatility.

Its style comes in multiple sizes for men, women, and children, so the whole family can go out and enjoy a day out doing water sports.

Is the Crocs Swiftwater Mesh Deck Sandals for You?

If you are on the lookout for a multi-purpose, low-cut kayaking shoe, the Crocs Swiftwater is the model you need.

They can be used for a variety of environments, including warm weather, and are equipped with all the features you need in kayak shoes.

Pros 

  • Vent/drainage holes
  • Great support for your feet
  • Adjustable strap
  • Lightweight and versatile

Cons 

  • May cause sweating
  • Sizes run quite big

NRS Vibe Water Shoes

Key Takeaways

  • Drainage ports to keep your feet dry
  • Extremely comfortable to wear
  • Can be used on all types of water

Design

These are designed to look like sneakers while offering you all the functionality of a kayaking shoe. So whether you are in or out of the water, you are sure to look great and feel great.

It is made of tough, water-resistant Cordura nylon that can stand up to the constant water exposure you are sure to encounter. This material also allows this kayaking shoe to breathe well and dry quickly.

Functionality

The NRS Vibe Water Shoes are the best kayaking shoes for any kind of paddling. You can use it on flatware, whitewater, or sea kayaking.

It has a siped external design to make sure you enjoy solid footing while portaging, entering or exiting your kayak, or exploring your surroundings.

The non-absorbent EVA foam used for the footbed and seamless interior make the NRS Vibe one of the most comfortable kayaking shoe models available.

The bottoms also have drainage ports that naturally shed water to ensure your feet do not get soggy.

Users have given this kayaking shoe a rating of 4 out of 5 stars for its design and quality.

Is the NRS Vibe Water Shoes for You?

If you are looking for a stylish kayaking shoe that you can wear both in and out of the water, the NRS Vibe Water Shoes are the pair for you.

These sneaker-like shoes look like a normal pair of well-designed sneakers while giving you all the functionality you would need when kayaking.

They are also a great option for warm weather neoprene kayak shoes.

Pros 

  • Looks great
  • Tough 1000D Cordura nylon
  • Breathable and durable
  • Comfortable footbed
  • Siped rubber soles for great traction

Cons 

  • Not for cold water or weather

How Do I Choose the Best Kayak Shoes?

Protection

The main purpose of a kayak shoe is to protect your feet in your adventure. Thus, your most important consideration must be the protective features of the kayak water shoes, such as:

  • Sole thickness
  • Waterproofing/water resistance
  • Protective toe cap
  • Upper foot protection from impact injuries

Temperature

You need to know what weather you are likely to encounter in your kayaking trip. This will affect the features you should look for in kayak shoes.

For cold weather, a thick neoprene material or waterproof shoe (4mm or thicker) is ideal. For warm water, you will need shoes that have good airflows, such as neoprene upper, mesh, or rubber sandal.

Stay away from cotton because it will draw heat away from your body and take too long to dry.

When in doubt, get kayaking shoes that are warmer than you are expecting because it is easier to cool down than warm up your feet.

Waterproofing

Waterproofing [R] may or may not be a necessary feature for you. This will depend on the climate.

If you are expecting to kayak in cold weather, you need a waterproof material. Without it, your feet and toes will become numb [R] due to the constant exposure to cold water, preventing you from kayaking.

They’re also great if you want dry feet for better maneuverability and traction [R] on the kayak. Moreover, moisture-wicking [R] linings prevent the buildup of bacteria, fungi, and smelly feet. [R]

For the best waterproofing, make sure the closure system of the water shoe is easy to handle and will keep water out.

Breathability

Breathability allows more air to go into your kayaking shoe and is the opposite of heat retention or insulation.

This is what you should look for in a warm-water shoe for kayaking. The hotter the climate, the more breathable you will want your shoes.

Some shoes will make you sacrifice waterproofing for breathability, as water can usually go into the air pockets inside your shoe. This is why breathable shoes are typically made from mesh and other light materials.

However, some shoes offer great breathability while remaining waterproof, though they are more difficult to find. For example, Gore-Tex is a membrane that allows air in but keeps water out.

It works by letting smaller molecules of water in its gas or vapor form to exit the shoe while keeping the bigger molecules of water in its liquid form out.

Breathability is essential because our bodies produce more heat the more we exert ourselves, especially in a physically demanding activity like kayaking.

Moreover, our feet play a key role in regulating our body temperature, so it is important to keep them cool to prevent overheating your whole body. [R]

So if we add the natural heat our bodies and feet produce when kayaking to the heat that is caused by external conditions such as a hot climate, not only are we more likely to overheat, we are also likely to get irritation and excessive sweating in our feet.

Excessive sweating of the feet will also cause its own problems. [R] It can lead to slippery shoes and loss of traction.

Moreover, it will give you smelly feet as it creates an environment that is ideal for the growth of bacteria and fungi.

So unless you are going to a cold climate, the best kayaking shoes for you should have good breathability.

Terrain

As a kayaker, you may find yourself climbing over jagged rocks, walking through mud and dirt, or over debris and sand.

So before choosing a water shoe, you must examine the terrain of the places where you intend to use them to determine the right level of protection and appropriate protective features that you will need from your footwear.

For example, a beach shoe is meant for walking on sand. Thus, they will offer minimal protection when walking on rocks and branches.

Here are some tips you should keep in mind.

  • Note that the rougher the terrain, the thicker the sole has to be to protect your feet from getting punctured or from hurting.
  • Use shoes that will minimize abrasion so they are comfortable.
  • Avoid soft meshes and fabrics, as these can easily get ripped up.
  • Prioritize shoes made with a grippy material for walking on a lot of slick or wet surfaces.
  • In case of doubt, choose water shoes for kayaking that will give you more protection than you are expecting to need.
  • When traveling around a terrain that requires a lot of walking, choose shoes that are comfortable to wear for that purpose.

Shoe Design

Height and Heel

There are three standard sizes for the height of kayaking shoes: knee-high (high), angle-high (mid), and low-top (low).

Knee-high kayaking shoes 

Knee-high kayaking shoes are typically used in situations that require the highest level of protection. This will likely be in cold climates or extremely rough environments.

Their primary function is to keep heat in. They are also required to be waterproof. For this, your shoes must have a snug fit to prevent water from entering.

However, they are heavier and bulkier, reducing their versatility. They may not be appropriate in a small kayak, too.

Ankle-high shoes

Ankle-high shoes offer a middle ground between the other two types of water shoes. They offer enough protection for most, depending on the model you choose for the climate you will encounter.

They reach your ankles, giving you better protection (but less mobility) than low-top shoes. These are the ideal shoes for beginners and for kayaking in general, when under neutral circumstances.

Low-top or low-cut shoes 

Low-top or low-cut shoes are meant for hot climates that require only the highest level of breathability and comfort.

They are also the most versatile, flexible, and comfortable out of these three kayaking shoes.

However, this comes with the least amount of protection. They are usually made of a combination of neoprene and breathable fabric, such as mesh.

Fit and Size

As with any shoe purchase, it is important to get a good fit and size for you.

A good way to tell if you got the right fit and size is to see if you can still comfortably flex your foot inside, including your toes.

Also, remember that neoprene expands and becomes more flexible in the water.

When buying online, measure your feet, and compare your measurements with those in the size chart.

Remember that various brands may have incremental differences in their sizing. A lot of models are also for men, so finding the right size for women can be challenging.

Moreover, read the kayak shoe rating or reviews from verified users and see if they liked the way it fit their feet.

Materials

Kayaking shoes can be made from a combination of materials. The most popular material is neoprene. 

Neoprene kayak shoes will give you excellent flexibility while offering good heat retention. This makes it ideal for cool, but not the coldest, conditions.

For hot days, kayaking sandals or a water shoe made from synthetic mesh are excellent choices as they offer good breathability. However, they are not for rough terrain and are not waterproof.

We also recommend rubber soles,  as it will give you stability and protection.

Verdict

NRS Paddle: Best Overall

The NRS Paddle has all the features you can want in your kayaking shoe, at an excellent price. They are versatile and can be used in most, saved for the most extreme, weather conditions.

We love the choice of material and waterproof feature that is handy in all kayaking trips.

Kotakat Scout: Best Value

The Kotakat Scout gives you the protection of knee-height kayaking shoes without the price tag that comes with it.

They are durable and suitable for cold weather and rough conditions, making them an excellent value choice.

NRS Kicker Remix: Best Budget

At a few dollars cheaper comes the NRS Kicker Remix. They look great and feel great, with the only negative being the requirement of manual draining. If you are on a budget, this is the shoe for you!

Conclusion

Each shoe in this guide has received the highest rating and is made with high-quality material and design.

We hope you enjoyed our buying guide to the 9 best shoes for kayaking. Have fun on your next kayak adventure!

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