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The best water shoes for grip and protection

Water shoes can provide grip, warmth and protection when you’re swimming or taking part in water sports. Here are eight options worth considering

Compilation of water shoes

From giving you grip on slippery surfaces to protecting your feet on rough ground, water shoes perform many different functions.

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While we’d typically go for cold water swimming socks for proper swim training in chilly waters, water shoes are handy bits of kit to have with you if you’re wild swimming, taking part in other watersports or enjoying a more leisurely dip.

Made from soft neoprene and moulded plastic, many water shoes are comfortable to wear for long periods of time and should help add some warmth in cooler water, though how much will depend on the design.

Here are some of the best water shoes you can buy online, with picks based on in-depth research, industry knowledge and analysis of user reviews.

The best water shoes to buy

Brighton Water Shoes

Brighton Water Shoes
  • Made of neoprene
  • Available in UK sizes 3/4 – 12/13
  • Has a thin rubber sole and flexible cuff

This tester does a lot of open-water swimming and lives in fear of stepping on a weever fish (google them!), so these lightweight slip-on shoes with thin rubber sole made us very happy.

Perfect for walking to the water across rough ground, stones or sharp sand, they were also easy to swim in and, thanks to the flexible cuff, stayed put.

There are three bright colours to choose from (yellow, orange and blue) and sizing runs from a UK 3/4 to a UK 12/13.

Verdict: Fun, lightweight solution to a common open-water swimming problem!

Score: 88%

Helly Hansen Crest Watermoc

Helly Hansen Crest Watermoc shoe on a green background
  • Made of synthetic fabric and rubber
  • Extra grippy sole designed for slippery surfaces
  • Has pull tab for helping to get them on

For fuss-free design and smart aesthetics, take a look at Helly Hansen’s Crest Watermoc shoes.

The tread on the outsoles is designed to provide extra grip on slippery surfaces, while there’s also a carefully engineered upper with a low-cut ankle that’s said to optimise comfort.

These shoes are designed to be simple to slip on, thanks to the convenient pull tab at the heel. They’re also lightweight for ease of movement, and Helly Hansen says they’re breathable, too – perfect for warmer weather lengthy swim sessions.

Vivobarefoot Ultra III Bloom

Vivobarefoot Ultra III Bloom on a green background
  • Made from algae
  • Features open upper and thick sole
  • Innovative design

Created with sustainability in mind, these water shoes are vegan-friendly and are made with algae in the form of BLOOM® foam, which eliminates harmful algae blooms from waterways.

As for the design, you’ll get an open-honeycomb-style upper to let water pass through, making it easier to wade and swim. There’s also a wide footprint to help your feet spread out for extra balance.

Also, the shoes’ flexibility is said to give you the feeling of swimming barefoot, so can expect to have good manoeuvrability in the water.

Speedo Zanpa

Speedo Zanpa water shoe on a green background
  • Features a textile lining
  • Has a subtle vanilla scent
  • Recyclable

Launched back in 1928 with the creation of the world’s first non-wool swimsuit, Speedo has more than 90 years of expertise behind it. These are the brand’s Zanpa water shoes.

Standout features include the textile lining, which is built for comfort, and subtle vanilla fragrance – an unusual but welcome addition.

The plastic used for these water shoes is completely free from PVC and is recyclable, so they’re a sustainable choice too.

Again, you’ll get an integrated pull-tab at the back for slipping these shoes on and off.

Tropic Feel Jungle Night

Tropicfeel Jungle Night shoes on a green background
  • Has a thick sole
  • Uses a quick-dry technology
  • Made from recycled plastic bottles

Featuring a thicker sole and more substantial build than the other water shoes on our list, Tropicfeel’s Jungle Night trainers are designed to work well on a wide range of terrain.

They come with quick-dry technology and you can wear them without socks, making it easy to transition between swimming and exploring by foot.

This model is also said to be lightweight, breathable and machine washable, so it’s a practical option, too.

As an added bonus, one fifth of the upper and outsole is made from recycled materials and seven recycled plastic bottles make their way into every pair.

Choose from a range of different colours, including sand, grey and black.

Lakeland Active Eden Aquasport 

Lakeland Active Eden Aquasport Water Shoes on a green background
  • Made from neoprene
  • Features mesh panels
  • Designed to have grippy sole

If you’re after simple, classic construction, try these water shoes from Lakeland Active. Designed to sit closely to your feet, they’re made from soft neoprene with four-way stretch.

While plastic aqua shoes have holes for water flow, this pair comes with mesh panels, which should allow for efficient drainage when you step onto dry land.

The grippy sole and adjustable ankle toggle complete the package.

Gill Aquatech 

Nevisport Gill Adults Aquatech Water Shoe on a green background
  • Has adjustable ankle strap
  • Uses 3mm double-lined neoprene
  • Made with blind-stitched seams

An adjustable ankle strap and grippy wraparound rubber sole set this pair of shoes apart from others on this list.

They’re made with 3mm-thick, double-lined neoprene for comfort, and have blind-stitched seams to keep your feet dry if you’re in shallow water.

Plus, the toe, heel and bridge are all reinforced to support your feet as you move.

They’re a versatile pick, but are perhaps not the best choice for actual swim training due to the high ankle.

Subea Elasticated Aqua Shoes

Subea Elasticated Aquashoes on a green background
  • Budget-friendly
  • Has tudded soles
  • Includes 3mm EVA insole

With a price tag under £15, Subea’s aqua shoes are a fantastic budget-friendly option. They come with studded soles, which are designed to help keep you stable on slippery ground, while a 3mm EVA insole is included for extra comfort.

These water shoes are also made using eco-friendly practices, according to the brand. Instead of dying textiles, which uses lots of water and creates waste, the manufacturers create coloured components by adding pigments directly into the yarn. Plus, 12% of the soles are made from recycled polystyrene.

Subea Aqua Shoes 100

Subea Aquashoes 100 on a green background
  • Affordable
  • Has mesh upper
  • Features include studded soles and pull tab

Coming in at less than £10, Subea’s Aquashoes 100 are yet another affordable option for anyone on a budget or looking for their first pair of swim shoes.

The fuss-free design includes a mesh upper, studded soles for grip and a handy pull-tab at the back. Subea has made an attempt to introduce some eco-friendly practices into its manufacturing process, with 12% of these shoes’ soles made with recycled materials.

Whether it’s for beach adventures, water sports, or casual strolls, investing in high-quality water shoes can elevate the overall experience and safeguard foot health.

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If you’re looking for more swimming gear, why not check out the best triathlon wetsuits for all budgets?