What makes a kayaking shoe different to typical water shoes or everyday shoes? Kayaking shoes typically are made of neoprene, are flexible, and are perfect for helping you maneuver in and out of your kayak. No matter if you’re a beginner kayaker or have been paddling for a while, proper footwear is key to a comfortable experience. But with so many different types of shoes on the market, how do you know what the best kayaking shoes are for you?

Here at The Adventure Junkies, we’re obsessed with the finer details and discovering the best gear on the market. In this guide, we’ll walk you through how to choose the perfect pair for your climate and ability. We’ll also show you our top picks for kayaking shoes of the year.

 

 

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THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO FIND THE BEST KAYAKING SHOES

PICTURE
KAYAKING SHOES
BEST USE
CUT
THICKNESS
PRICE
RATING
PICTURE
KAYAKING SHOES
BEST USE
CUT
THICKNESS
PRICE
RATING
Kokatat Scout Boots
Overall
Ankle
3 mm
$$
4.9
Sea to Summit Blitz
Overall
Ankle
3 mm
$$
4.8
NRS Paddle Wetshoe
Overall
Ankle
3 mm
$$
4.5
NRS Freestyle
Overall
Ankle
3 mm
$$
4.3
O'Neill Freaksneak
Budget
Low
2 mm
$
4.6
Sea to Summit Ultra Flex
Budget
Low
3 mm
$
4.7
NeoSport Low Top
Budget
Low
2 mm
$
4.3
NRS Boundary
Cold Water
Knee
5 mm
$$$
4.7
Stohlquist Tideline Boots
Cold Water
Ankle
5 mm
$$
4.3
Kokatat Nomad Paddling Boots
Cold Water
Knee
3 mm
$$$
4.4

 

 

KAYAKING SHOES 101

 

4 THINGS TO CONSIDER TO FIND THE BEST KAYAKING SHOES

 

1. TEMPERATURE

Kayaking shoes come in a range of thicknesses and materials that are largely tailored to the temperature of water you’ll be kayaking in. Cold water kayakers will want a thick neoprene or waterproof shoe, while those in warm water will need something with airflow to keep feet from overheating.

In general, cold water kayaking shoes will have thick neoprene, 4 mm and up, and might be cut above the ankle for extra warmth and protection. Warm water kayaking shoes will likely be made of thinner neoprene, mesh, or a rubber sandal style. In an article about kayaking clothing from Paddling.com, they advise kayakers to never wear cotton (this includes socks) while kayaking because it draws heat away from the body and takes too long to dry.

The temperature you’ll be paddling in should be one of the biggest considerations you look for when choosing the best kayaking shoes. When in doubt, get something that’s a little warmer than is necessary because it’s easier to cool down feet than warm them up when kayaking.

Dress correctly, and you can even explore the wild waters of Antarctica from the comforts of a kayak like Antonio and Amanda from The Adventure Junkies have done.

 

2. TERRAIN

Will you be scampering up jagged rocks? Wading through mud? Treading through pebbles and sand? Or stomping through marshes? Each terrain you explore on your kayak excursion dictates the type of kayaking shoe you’ll want — especially if you’re hopping in and out of your kayak often. By the way, did you know there’s a proper way to get into a kayak? Check out our guide that explains how to climb inside your kayak with ease.

You’ll want a kayaking shoe with a thick sole if you’re going to be walking over jagged rocks, tread for smooth surfaces, and a tall, closed-shoe if you’re walking through sand or pebbles to prevent blisters.

Kayakers often find themselves in slippery situations. The combination of moss, water, and wet rocks near bodies of water can create a catastrophe for adventurers. Fortunately, BC Forest Safety has a guide on navigating through this slippery terrain safely and with ease. Wearing sturdy shoes is essential.

Consider where you’ll be kayaking most of the time and choose your shoes based on that. If you’re kayaking around variable terrain, then opt for an overall shoe that suits the average temperature.

 

3. SHOE HEIGHT

Kayaking shoes typically come in three heights, low-cut, ankle, and knee height.

Low-cut shoes work best in warm weather and offer a lot of comfort and flexibility. These are best if you’re looking for minimal protection while hopping in and out of a kayak. They’re often made of mesh or thin neoprene, meaning it’s easy to cool your feet off with a quick dunk into the water.

Ankle high kayaking shoes are a little bit warmer and offer more support than low-cut shoes. These are typically found in overall kayaking shoes as they’re versatile and tend to come with thicker soles. They’re easy to put on, pack, and wear.

Knee high shoes are loved by cold-water kayakers who need extra warmth or waterproof shoes when wading in and out of the water. Surf kayakers, who are no strangers to getting wet, also tend to gravitate towards these. Knee high shoes should be very snug to prevent water pooling inside because this can be dangerous and restrict movement if the kayak capsizes or the kayaking falls into the water.

 

4. FIT

Your kayaking shoes should be more snug than the shoes you wear in everyday life, especially if it’s made of neoprene. Think of it as fitting more like a glove or a sock. Too tight, and you might have foot cramps after just a few hours of paddling. Too loose, and you risk having water pooling inside, debris coming in, and getting blisters. A bulky shoe might also not be compatible with the inside of your hull if you have a kayak with small footholds.

You should be able to flex your foot, including your toes, comfortably, but not have any loose material. Keep in mind that neoprene expands and becomes more flexible in water.

 

ideal shoes for kayaking

Photo by istockphoto.com/portfolio/karenfoleyphotography

 

KAYAKING SHOES REVIEWS

 

1. BEST KAYAKING SHOES FOR OVERALL USE

KOKATAT SCOUT BOOTS

Check out the latest price on:
Amazon

BEST FOR: Kayakers hopping in and out near slippery terrain

WOMEN’S VERSION: N/A

CUT: Ankle

AVERAGE THICKNESS: 3 mm

MATERIALS: Neoprene, rubber toe cap, vulcanized rubber outers

PROS: Flexible, comfortable, easy to adjust around the ankle, great grip

CONS: Tends to run small, especially for wider feet

 

 

 

SEA TO SUMMIT BLITZ

Check out the latest price on:
Amazon | REI

BEST FOR: Versatile kayakers who also fish, wade, and walk across wet surfaces

WOMEN’S VERSION: N/A

CUT: Ankle

AVERAGE THICKNESS: 3 mm

MATERIALS: Velcro strap, neoprene, thick rubber sole

PROS: Warm, durable, easy to adjust, stylish

CONS: Rubber sole too smooth to walk along moss or algae

 

 

 

NRS PADDLE WETSHOE

Check out the latest price on:
Amazon | REI

BEST FOR: Kayakers in cool water wanting a great all-around kayaking shoe

WOMEN’S VERSION: NRS Paddle Wetshoe 

CUT: Ankle

AVERAGE THICKNESS: 3 mm

MATERIALS: Neoprene, gusset-backed YKK zipper, neoprene insole, rubber outsole

PROS: Very warm, durable, comfortable, keeps out gravel and sand

CONS: Water can pool inside and needs to be drained

 

 

 

NRS FREESTYLE

Check out the latest price on:
Amazon | REI

BEST FOR: Kayakers with tight hulls that need agility and flexibility

WOMEN’S VERSION: N/A

CUT: Ankle

AVERAGE THICKNESS: 3 (mm)

MATERIALS: Terraprene neoprene, VaporLoft lining, rubber outsoles

PROS: Made specifically for technical kayakers, flexible, durable, great value

CONS: Tread can be a bit slippery for mossy or smooth rocks

 

 

 

 

2. BEST KAYAKING SHOES FOR BUDGET

O’NEILL FREAKSNEAK

Check out the latest price on:
Amazon | REI

BEST FOR: Stylish kayakers who want something different from the typical kayaking shoe

WOMEN’S VERSION: N/A

CUT: Low

AVERAGE THICKNESS: 2 mm

MATERIALS: FilterTech mesh, 2 mm fluid foam, rubber outsole

PROS: Could be mistaken for an everyday shoe, comfortable, quick drying

CONS: Not the best for technical kayaking or walking through slippery terrain

 

 

 

SEA TO SUMMIT ULTRA FLEX

Check out the latest price on:
Amazon | REI

BEST FOR: Warm water kayakers needing flexibility and traction

WOMEN’S VERSION: N/A

CUT: Low

AVERAGE THICKNESS: 3 (mm)

MATERIALS: Neoprene, rubber outsoles, Velcro Y strap

PROS: Extremely flexible and perfect for all types of kayaking, breathable, durable

CONS: Sole might be too thin for jagged rocks

 

 

 

NEOSPORT LOW TOP

Check out the latest price on:
Amazon

BEST FOR: Kayakers wanting a durable low cut pair of shoes at a great price

WOMEN’S VERSION: N/A

CUT: Low

AVERAGE THICKNESS: 2 mm

MATERIALS: Neoprene, rubber outsoles, Velcro strap, elastic cinch cord

PROS: Easy to slip on and off, flexible, stylish, multiple cinch points, great quality for price point

CONS: Thin sole makes these shoes not ideal for jagged surfaces

 

 

 

 

3. BEST KAYAKING SHOES FOR COLD WATER

NRS BOUNDARY

Check out the latest price on:
Amazon | REI

BEST FOR: Kayakers wading through cold water and rough terrain

WOMEN’S VERSION: N/A

CUT: Knee

AVERAGE THICKNESS: 5 mm

MATERIALS: Neoprene upper, thick neoprene insoles, plastic shim, buckle strap at the calf

PROS: Waterproof, sturdy, comfortable, warm, versatile

CONS: Sizing can be confusing as this model is unisex

 

 

 

STOHLQUIST TIDELINE BOOTS

Check out the latest price on:
Amazon

BEST FOR: Cold water kayakers wanting a reliable all-around kayaking shoe

WOMEN’S VERSION: Stohlquist Tideline Boots

CUT: Ankle

AVERAGE THICKNESS: 5 mm

MATERIALS: Neoprene upper, vulcanized rubber outer, YKK non-corrosive zipper, rubber toe and heel caps

PROS: Great traction, easy to fit with wetsuit, warm

CONS: Runs small and can be too tight around the lower shin

 

 

 

KOKATAT NOMAD PADDLING BOOTS

Check out the latest price on:
Amazon | REI

BEST FOR: Cold water kayakers wading through frigid water

WOMEN’S VERSION: N/A

CUT: Knee

AVERAGE THICKNESS: 3 mm

MATERIALS: Double lined neoprene, waterproof gaiter, neoprene cuff, blind-stitched seams, rubber outsole

PROS: Warm, durable, compatible with cold weather outer gear, flexible

CONS: Takes a few wears to break in due to tight ankle opening

Top 10 Best Kayaking Shoes of 2017 – Best Kayaking Clothes for Men and Women – Kayaking Outfits for Summer and Winter – What to Wear When Kayaking Outdoors
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