The Best Women's Water Shoes for Your Next Beach Vacation
Whether you're windsurfing, kayaking, or simply walking along the shore, you'll need sturdy footwear that's equipped to protect your feet from water, rocks, and everything in between, which is why water shoes are a must-have for these outdoor activities.
We chatted with Merrell product manager Jon Sanregret and designer Drew Engle for some insight into what to look for in a good pair of water shoes. "In water footwear, we often use terms like 'non-wicking' and 'hydrophobic' upper materials, meaning the top of the shoe will repel water," Sanregret says. "In the outsole, you often want flexible rubber material to help adapt to what you're standing on under the water and then 'siping' or 'razor siping' as an outsole feature to help provide added grip on wet surfaces."
If you're looking for a quality pair that'll meet all your needs, we recommend the Aleader Women's Quick-drying Aqua Water Shoes. These durable and breathable kicks are easy to pack thanks to their lightweight construction, while also remaining comfortable. If you're more interested in sandal- or sock-style water shoes, read on for our full list of the best water shoes.
- Best Overall: Aleader Women's Quick-drying Aqua Water Shoes at Amazon
- Best Style: Sea Star Beachwear Slingback Espadrille Water Shoes at Amazon
- Most Versatile: Lands' End Women's Water Shoes at Lands' End
- Best Traction: Ryka Women's Hydro Sport Water Shoes at Ryka
- Best Slingback: Keen Uneek Water Shoes at Zappos
- Best Water Sock: Sand Socks Vincere Low-top Socks at Amazon
- Best Sandal: Merrell Breakwater Strap Shoes at Merrell
- Best Quick-drying: DLGJPA Women's Water Shoes at Amazon
- Best Breathable: JBU Mermaid III Water Shoes at Amazon
- Best Sporty: DOUSSPRT Women's Water Shoes at Amazon
T+L's Top Picks
Best Overall: Aleader Women's Quick-drying Aqua Water Shoes
Best Style: Sea Star Beachwear Slingback Espadrille Water Shoes
Most Versatile: Lands' End Women's Water Shoes
Best Traction: Ryka Women's Hydro Sport Water Shoes
Best Slingback: Keen Uneek Water Shoes
Best Water Sock: Sand Socks Vincere Low-top Socks
Best Sandal: Merrell Breakwater Strap Shoes
Best Quick-drying: DLGJPA Women's Water Shoes
Best Breathable: JBU Mermaid III Water Shoes
Best Sporty: DOUSSPRT Women's Water Shoes
Tips for Buying Water Shoes
Drainage Is Key
Go for water shoes that don't hold onto water — it'll ensure they remain comfortable and lightweight throughout the day. As mentioned earlier, look for terms such as non-wicking and hydrophobic. "We've been doing studies around quick dry and drainage for our performance shoes, and one of the leading features we're focusing on is non-wicking materials [like cotton]," Sanregret says. "It sounds obvious, but if a shoe does a great job of not absorbing water, it often does a great job of drying quickly and staying lightweight after getting wet."
Shop for Your Adventure
You may be shopping for shoes to wear in the water as opposed to dry land, but that doesn't mean you should forget about your individual footwear requirements. "I would recommend shoppers assess what their day-to-day support and comfort needs are," Sanregret says. "Everyone has different levels of needs when it comes to footwear, so I would warn against 'unstructured' or minimal support in a water shoe if you're going to be on your feet all day and you typically don't wear that type of product in your day-to-day activities." In other words, if you're simply looking for a pair to wear to the beach or other leisurely setting, any comfortable pair will do just fine. If you need a pair for hiking, sports, or other physical activity that requires long-term comfort and support, you'll want to look for options that provide features like traction and ankle support.
Buy Multiple Pairs
If you spend a lot of time in or near water on your travels, it might be worth having multiple pairs — for example, a more durable, supportive pair for hikes, a more minimal pair for lounging on the beach, a sock for playing sand volleyball or other sports. "It's always enticing to purchase a 'do everything' shoe," Sanregret says, "but we've often talked about your footwear closet like a bag of golf clubs: each pair of shoes, sandals, or boots is like a specific golf club, all designed with different jobs depending on the scenario you find yourself in. The more specific we can get on performing a job well, the less likely that it will work for other things."
Why Trust Travel + Leisure
Travel + Leisure writers are travel and shopping experts who choose products for readers based on testing, customer recommendations, and their own personal experience. In this article, Dobrina Zhekova and Hillary Maglin researched dozens of water shoes and got professional insight from Merrell product manager Jon Sanregret and designer Drew Engle to compile a comprehensive list of the best water shoes for women.
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