10 Best Water Hiking Shoes (Buyer's Guide)

Author: Jovana Subić. Updated: .

You don’t want to avoid but cross all those rivers, canyons, streams, and creeks. This guide is just for you: hikers gone amphibian. We’ll show you the best water hiking shoes on the market and which features to look for when buying water hiking shoes. 

 

How we review water hiking shoes 

We’ve all been there: trying to find a perfect shoe and finding only a few of them listed on top-10 lists, without transparent reasoning, but highly backed with behind-the-screen promotions. That’s why we’ve created the CoreScore. 

After we’ve gathered and read reviews from 13 hiking experts and 225 users, thanks to the CoreScore, we were able to rate water hiking shoes on a 0-100 scale and rank them: based on ratings, popularity, price, discounts, etc. You can even filter them to match your criteria!

Ranking of the 10 best water hiking shoes

Based on 245 user ratings 14 expert reviews

Here is a list of all 12 water hiking shoes, where you can sort by “best rated” and apply filters.

7 features to look for in water hiking shoes

Water hiking demands a certain shoe feature set because of the specific hiking conditions. Otherwise, people would just pun on their Crocs and set out for an amphibian adventure.  

To be on the safe, comfortable, and responsible side, it’s recommended to look for this feature set in water hiking shoes: 

  1. Comfort - Always #1 when buying new footwear. This is important in order to avoid discomfort and injuries, especially if you plan to build up the mileage in these shoes.   
  2. Traction - An excellent grip is a must when it comes to slippery surfaces.
  3. Water drainage - While some might think that water hiking shoes should be waterproof, it’s just the opposite. They need to allow the water to get back to where it came from. This means that shoes usually have drainage holes or large mesh areas: they allow the water to leave the shoe and prevent the dirt and rocks from getting in the shoe. 
  4. Quick-drying - It’s important that, once the water leaves the shoe, your feet and shoes start drying out as soon as possible. Inner sole and upper materials are responsible for this: they are usually made of quick-drying synthetic materials. This feature prevents frostbites when water hiking through really cold waters. 
  5. Toe cap - These shoes should keep your toes safe from debris and rocks. Toe caps come in different shapes and sizes and are in charge of this. 
  6. Lightweight - So you move with ease, both when dry and wet. 
  7. Secure fit - Your feet should not slide around in the shoe! 

Of course, if you have any specific requirements (e.g. stability features, cushioning) regarding your foot condition, don’t put them on the side. 

 

4 things to pay attention to when buying water hiking shoes 

If this is your first hiking shoe, there are certain things that need your attention so that the hiking shoe is your perfect fit. 

 

4 things to pay attention to when buying water hiking shoes

Duration of your hiking trip

Water hiking shoes aren’t made for long multi-day hiking trips with heavy backpacks and demanding terrain. However, you can use them on your short hikes - whether it’s a 200meter creek crossing or canyon-exploring that lasts a whole day. Keep in mind that, the longer the water hike, the better support you need. This means you should look for more stability features and cushioning. 

Weight of your backpack 

Same rule applies as for the duration of your hiking trip. We bring heavier backpacks on longer hikes. Water hiking shoes aren’t meant to support you in these adventures completely, only up to a degree. That’s why, if possible, change your hiking shoes, use the regular ones while you’re on (dry) land. If you know you’ll be carrying a heavier backpack, look for stability features and cushioning. 

Your arch type

Depending on your arch type, your feet might need different stability features. High arches usually ask for neutral shoes, medium arches ask for neutral or stability shoes, and low arches (flat feet) ask for motion control shoes. We’ve covered this in-depth in the next chapter. 

How the shoe fits

To make sure you choose the good-fitting shoe, follow these steps:
1. Go shopping in the afternoon. Your feet are swollen then, which happens regularly on hikes
2. Try the shoe on and check for pressure points. The shoe should feel snug, but not restricting.
3. Use the ramp and walk up and down. Crossing water is rarely monotonous, usually, the terrain is dynamic with a lot of obstacles, ups, and downs. Your heel should not rise more than a ¼ of an inch. Your toes should not hit the front of the shoe when going downhill. 

 

Arch type and stability features 

The type of your arch matters because it offers guidelines for choosing the adequate shoe type. Whether it’s a neutral, stability, or motion control shoe - they all offer different stability features that your feet need when hiking. 

Things you can do: look at your used hiking shoes and compare how the outsoles have been worn with the “Shoe wear” section below. 

There is also another way to discover your arch type and it’s called a wet test. 

You should: wet the sole of your foot (ideally both of them, one at a time), then stand on a piece of paper while allowing the moisture from your feet to sink into the paper, and step off. Look at the shape of your footprint and compare it to the ones shown below.  

If you’re not confident about this test or feel your feet need more attention, consult a podiatrist. They look at your barefoot movement, pronation, tibia rotation, and heel deviation - which gives them a complete picture of your feet. 

 

Expert advice for water hiking shoes 

  1. If you know you’ll be crossing waters with a lot of tiny rocks or debris, look for water hiking shoes without drainage holes. If the holes are placed on the upper part of your shoes, they might let unwanted materials into your shoes. You don’t want to waste time getting the debris out of your shoes or getting blisters because of them. 
  2. As soon as you’re done with crossing waters or with your hike, take your shoes off. Clean them and let them dry at an airy or sunny spot. If your shoes have removable insoles, the shoes will dry even quicker if the insoles are taken out. 
  3. In most cases, you can clean your water hiking shoes with hot water and baking soda. But, always check for brand-recommended advice - cleaning process, special detergents, etc. 
  4. When hiking on mixed terrain, it’s better to take your water hiking shoes with you and use them only when crossing water. That’s why it’s important for them to be lightweight, so you can hang them on your backpack and keep pushing further, without feeling them wearing you down. 

The best water hiking shoes in every category

Now, are you ready to buy water hiking shoes?

Author
Jovana Subić
Jovana Subić

Jovana is into all things outdoor - skyrunning, trail running, rock climbing, hiking, mountain biking, kayaking. She uses every opportunity to trade walls and concrete for forests and trails, which made her a hard-core remote work devotee. Whether it's a vertical kilometer or an ultra, she enjoys the surroundings and fantasizes about donuts. With a background in physics and engineering management, as well as photography and creative writing, she combines both technical and creative aspects to do her best.

jovana@runrepeat.com