What Shoes To Wear Kayaking?

Nothing beats a summer day when you’re out on the water, and kayaking is a great sport to keep fit and explore the outdoors. However, for your safety when you’re out kayaking, you need your feet to be protected from the elements and any terrain you might encounter on your trip.

If you’re a seasoned kayaker, then it is likely that you already have your essentials, but for those who are new to kayaking or are simply curious: what shoes do you wear kayaking?

In this article, I cover what shoes to wear kayaking alongside what options to avoid wearing when kayaking, so that the next time you’re planning a kayaking trip you can make an informed decision on which shoes are the best for you.  

So, let’s get started.

Best Types of Shoes for Kayaking

Wetsuit Boots 

Wetsuit boots are my favorite option to go kayaking in as they are practical for an array of different water sports such as surfing, kayaking, and coasteering. Once you have a pair of wetsuit boots, then, these essential, versatile shoes prepare you for a variety of different hobbies.  

A good pair of wetsuit boots not only work to keep you warmer when you are in the water but also protect your feet from being cut should you stand on a rock or something sharp.

They are very comfortable to wear, and you can choose the level of thickness of wetsuit boots depending on the season that you are in, such as 3mm, 5mm, 7mm, and 8mm.

The thicker you go the warmer your feet will be, and you’ll be surprised by how much more enjoyable water sports are when your feet aren’t freezing cold! 

Water Shoes   

A great pair of shoes to wear kayaking is water-specific shoes. These shoes are incredibly practical and are specifically designed for being in and around water.

The material that they are made out of is a durable mesh that allows the foot to breathe, whilst the rubber outsole provides excellent traction in wet and slippery conditions when you are kayaking.   

The open mesh on the upper part of the shoe alongside the holes on the sole allows the shoes to dry quickly and enhances breathability, which is particularly useful on those hot summer days when a tight shoe is the last thing that you want to be wearing!


Sandals are an excellent option for warm weather kayaking. They come in a wide variety of different materials, from neoprene to synthetic materials.

A few essential features to keep an eye out for in a good pair of sandals include a grippy sole for slippery, rocky terrain, a close fit that will prevent them from slipping off your feet, and a shoe design that allows the water to drain through the shoe so that your feet remain as dry as possible whilst you’re kayaking.  

Old Sneakers 

If you’re just getting into kayaking as a hobby, then old sneakers should suffice. Provided that the laces are done up securely and the sneakers aren’t too bulky, then they should provide a relatively good amount of protection for your feet.

However, it is worth mentioning that because trainers are generally not as warm as materials such as neoprene, as soon as you get your feet wet, the likelihood of them becoming cold quickly is high.

Alongside this, you might find that trainers weigh you down when you swim, so if you’re not confident in the water, this could be something to keep in mind when making your choice.   

Shoe Options to Avoid Kayaking 


You might think the easiest option when kayaking is to wear no shoes at all, but under no circumstances should you head out kayaking barefoot.

For instance, just imagine that you capsize, or need to land your kayak at the nearest opportunity. If you don’t have suitable shoes on, in the case of an emergency, you are instantly at a disadvantage.  

Alongside this, even just getting to and from where you’re landing your kayak will be uncomfortable and is dangerous, as you could end up cutting the bottoms of your feet, particularly if the terrain is rocky. This will significantly hinder your kayaking trip and you won’t have fun if your feet are in pain from bleeding!


When it comes to kayaking, any type of sandal that will easily slip off your feet when you’re swimming, such as flip-flops, is not a good option.

For instance, say that you have capsized and need to wade your way back to shore. In this instance, navigating rocky terrain will be an uncomfortable challenge with shoes that slip off your feet, and that’s if your shoes haven’t already been washed away by the tide.  

Alongside this, shoes that leave the entire upper half of your foot exposed are not protective enough, particularly when it comes to capsizing. You need to wear practical shoes and be prepared for every eventuality.  

Regular/Walking boots

Regular or walking boots are another shoe option to avoid when kayaking. This is because they become extremely heavy when they are wet, will weigh you down, and could even prohibit your ability to swim should you capsize.

Although you will be able to scramble over rocks with your kayak with ease in walking boots, they are not at all suitable for being in the water. If you’re not a strong swimmer, this could easily escalate to a dangerous situation, so it is better to avoid wearing any kind of shoe that will limit your movement in the water.  

In Summary  

As I’ve explored, there are a variety of shoes that you can wear kayaking and some that you should avoid for your safety when you’re out on the water.

I hope this article has provided you with some inspiration if you’re stuck on what shoes to wear kayaking. Next time you’re headed out on a kayaking trip, why not give one of these options a try? Most importantly, be safe and have fun!

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