The Best Women's Water Shoes for Your Next Beach Vacation

Our top pick, the Aleader Quick-drying Aqua Water Shoes, are durable and lightweight.

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Three women's water shoes
Photo: Courtesy of Retailers as Credited

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.

T+L's Top Picks

Best Overall: Aleader Women's Quick-drying Aqua Water Shoes

womens aleader water shoes
Courtesy of Amazon

Why We Love It: These shoes have great traction for traversing various wet surfaces, they're easy to slip on and off, and they're very lightweight.

What to Consider: The unique hole-filled uppers may let tiny pieces of rocks and shells in.

It's hard to pinpoint the most impressive thing about these water shoes considering they're so lightweight, comfortable, flexible, and sturdy. You can wear them while rafting, stand-up paddleboarding, or even walking along sea cliffs because they have excellent grip capabilities and won't slip. Planning to wear them on an extra hot day? The quick-drying shoes are designed with a breathable mesh upper that encourages airflow and prevents your foot from overheating or the shoe from holding onto water. Your feet will stay comfortable for hours in these thanks to ample cushioning throughout the footbed. These water shoes are the whole package — they even come in 23 colors ranging from neutral black to minty teal. Jamie Hergenrader, Editorial Director of commerce content at T+L, has owned this pair for four years. "They're easy to slip on and off, and they're really comfortable," she says. "They don't rub or chafe when wet, and they're not too heavy to wear for a day spent going in and out of the water because the mesh upper allows water and sand to flow out easily." As a bonus, they look just like sneakers. When you're at the beach, simply throw on a swimsuit cover-up and these shoes, and you can easily transition from the beach to the bar, shopping, or other activity.

Sizes: 6 to 10 | Material: Mesh, polyethylene

Best Style: Sea Star Beachwear Slingback Espadrille Water Shoes

Sea Star Beachwear Slingback Espadrille Water Shoes
Courtesy of Amazon

Why We Love It: You can wear them everywhere and they don't stand out as water shoes.

What to Consider: They're ideal mostly for walks on the beach or days by the pool — these aren't suitable for more intensive outdoor adventures.

These shoes combine the casual, vacation-worthy look of an espadrille and the functionality of a water shoe, so you can wear them just about everywhere on your next warm-weather trip from the beach to the pool to sailing. They're crafted from quick-drying fabric and feature an elastic slingback strap for a secure fit. They even provide an element of style thanks to their cross straps. They're also super lightweight, so they're the perfect shoes to pack in your luggage.

Sizes: 6 to 11 | Material: Neoprene, rubber

Most Versatile: Lands' End Women's Water Shoes

Navy water shoes
Courtesy of Lands' End

Why We Love It: Pull tabs on the tongue make getting them on and off that much easier.

What to Consider: The fit is adjusted with velcro straps, which offer a less precise fit than laces would.

We love that these water shoes look a lot like your standard pair of sneakers, so you can wear them on and off the beach. The mesh upper will keep tiny stones and grains out while the cushioned insole offers plenty of comfort. Buyers will also appreciate the odor control of this pair, and the pull tabs on the tongues make for easy on-off. The shoes come in both regular and wide sizing.

Sizes: 6 to 11 | Material: Spandex, rubber

Related: The Most Comfortable Hiking Boots for Women

Best Traction: Ryka Women's Hydro Sport Water Shoes

Ryka Womens Hydro Sports Water Shoes
Courtesy of Amazon

Why We Love It: They look and feel more like waterproof sneakers than traditional, soft water shoes.

What to Consider: The sole has openings for water drainage, so small rocks may find their way inside.

Perfect for cross-training and water aerobics, these shoes are quick to dry and have a chlorine-resistant upper. However, they're durable enough to take on ocean and river water, too. The flexible-yet-sturdy soles feature a water drainage system and sticky rubber which offers superior traction on a variety of terrains. They also have a supportive, removable footbed, and are available in over a dozen colors and prints. This style also has ample toe protection, which "can be good in more rugged environments or where you plan to do more hiking," Merrell designer Drew Engle says.

Sizes: 5 to 12 | Material: Rubber, mesh, synthetic materials

Best Slingback: Keen Uneek Water Shoes

Army green water sandals
Courtesy of Zappos

Why We Love It: They're incredibly airy and breathable, so your feet won't overheat or sweat in them.

What to Consider: They require more breaking in than other pairs.

These lightweight, sandal-style water shoes feature a quick-drying braided upper with a bungee-lacing closure for a secure and comfy fit. The microfiber footbed offers excellent support, and the high-traction rubber soles deliver on stability regardless of the terrain. The slingback also ensures the shoes stay on your feet better than standard sandals. In fact, they're so versatile, stylish, and comfy, you'll likely find yourself wearing them on days when water activities aren't even on the agenda.

Sizes: 5 to 11 | Material: Polyester, nylon, rubber

Best Water Sock: Sand Socks Vincere Low-top Socks

Black water booties

Why We Love It: They offer a breezy, barefoot feel — but they also protect your feet from debris and hot sand.

What to Consider: They lack some of the support that you would get from a pair of shoes.

With these aqua socks, you can practice any beach sport without worrying about searing hot sand underfoot. But because they're made from durable, quick-drying fabric, they can also be worn as light protection in water. On particularly hot days, they'll keep your feet cool, and they don't restrict or hinder movement. Engle even notes that low-abrasion materials directly against the foot, as seen in Sand Socks, makes for a reliable pair of water shoes. For such a reasonable price, you might just want these in all 15 colors and prints.

Sizes: XXS to XXL | Material: Lycra, neoprene

Related: The Best Sandals for Women That Are Incredibly Comfortable to Walk In

Best Sandal: Merrell Breakwater Strap Shoes

Grey, purple, and light blue water shoes
Courtesy of Merrell

Why We Love It: They're some of the most supportive sandals for both ankles and arches.

What to Consider: Velcro straps don't give you as precise or tight of a fit as laces can.

If you're looking for something more open and airy than a sneaker-style pair of water shoes, go for these cooling sandals from Merrell. While they expose the feet more than typical water shoes, the Breakwaters feature a thick, stable sole that's contoured to the shape of your feet. They offer impressive comfort and support thanks to sturdy ankle straps, ample arch support, and a foam footbed, and their velcro straps are made for quick, easy adjustment to the perfect fit.

Sizes: 5 to 11 | Material: Rubber, textile

Best Quick-drying: DLGJPA Women's Water Shoes

Blue mesh water shoes
Courtesy of Amazon

Why We Love It: They're versatile and sturdy enough to wear for land activities as well as ones in the water.

What to Consider: Water drainage holes in the soles allow small rocks inside.

These lightweight water shoes are both comfortable on the feet and easy to pack. A mesh upper allows them to dry quickly and remain breathable, while an anti-slip rubber sole gives the wearer security on any surface. The shoes feature pull tabs on both the tongue and heel of each shoe, making them easy to slip on or off even when they're wet. Because of their support and durability, they work just as well for jogging and cycling as they do for water activities. They come in 28 colors ranging from neutrals to neons.

Sizes: 6 to 11 | Material: Rubber, mesh, elastic

Best Breathable: JBU Mermaid III Water Shoes

JBU Mermaid III Water Shoes
Courtesy of Amazon

Why We Love It: They look sleek and stylish on the feet as opposed to large and bulky.

What to Consider: They don't offer much arch support as they're fairly minimal.

These sleek, slip-on shoes are the perfect accessory for all your favorite water sports. The shoes are treated with an antimicrobial coating, which prevents odors, and they have drainage ports in the footbed to allow excess water to escape and keep debris out. We especially love the single velcro strap, breathability, and sock-like appearance on the feet. They're available in four stylish colors, including teal and navy blue.

Sizes: 6 to 11 | Material: Vinyl, synthetic materials

Best Sporty: DOUSSPRT Women's Water Shoes

DOUSSPRT Women's Water Shoes
Courtesy of Amazon

Why We Love It: They could double as running shoes if need be.

What to Consider: Rocks can get stuck in the holes in the outsole.

These mesh shoes look like your typical casual sneakers (and are available in a variety of fun colors), but they'll actually keep your feet impressively dry, whether you're on the beach, by the pool, or even just washing the car. They're durable yet airy and breathable, and they shed moisture quickly for your convenience. Plus, a drawstring closure provides a secure, adjustable fit.

Sizes: 5.5 to 11 | Material: Rubber, mesh

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.

Up Next: The Best Women's Rain Jackets for Traveling

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