I am an avid boater, jet skier, scuba diver and snorkeler. Nothing makes me happier than being around the water doing any of those things. Since I do it so often, my water shoes take a real beating. Since it’s about time for a new pair for the upcoming season, I think it’s time to examine the 10 best water shoes for snorkeling.
The 10 best water shoes for snorkeling are:
- Body Glove 3T Barefoot Cinch Water Shoe
- Mares Neoprene 2mm Snorkeling Dive Boot
- Cressi Neoprene 3mm dive boots
- Speedo Water Shoe Surfwalker Pro 3.0
- Adidas Outdoor Terrex CC Jawpaw II
- Nike Aqua Sock 360
- BPS 3mm Neoprene Watersports Dive Shoes
- BareRun Barefoot Quick-Dry Water Sports Shoes
- L-RUN Unisex Water Shoes
- Seavenger Atlantis 3mm Neoprene Aqua Shoes
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As with any “best of” articles, this is my opinion only. You may have others that you prefer. There are really many good brands out there.
In the interest of convenience, I will also provide you with pricing (where available) and an Amazon link where the shoes can be purchased. If you have a local store, trying them on is always a good idea.
But first, is there really any need for water shoes?
Do You Need Water Shoes for Snorkeling?
I am a purist. When I see the word “need” my gut reaction is always “need them? No. Could I use them? Sure” The only thing you truly “need” to snorkel is a snorkel and a mask. Everything else is there for comfort or safety.
Comfort and Safety
In this instance, water shoes meet both parameters. They are about both comfort and safety when snorkeling.
I often wear water shoes when I snorkel or just for a day on a boat. But how important they are depends, in large part, on where you’re snorkeling. My wife has only just started wearing them after years of blisters on her feet. When a random person on the internet suggests something, it carries more weight than when your significant other nags you about it. Go figure.
I snorkel primarily in the Caribbean and Mexico, depending on my travel plans for the year. Entrances can be nice, soft, sandy beaches or more rocky terrain unless we are entering from a boat. In either event, once I’m actually in the water, there will undoubtedly be rocks just waiting to be stepped on. I try to step around, and a wave takes me right onto one.
There are also multiple varieties of sea creatures along the bottom in many areas. Sea urchins, stingrays, starfish and more. To reduce risk of injury (to them or you), you “shuffle” your feet along the waterline to alert them you’re coming.
This shuffle is much more comfortable with water shoes on.
My final reason for personally wearing water shoes is heat related. Sand gets hot when exposed to direct sunlight all day. I really don’t like burning my feet entering or exiting my water, or on a walk back to a hotel pool after snorkeling nearby. Fins rub off sunscreen, so you can get sunburned feet after you’re finished unless you reapply or wear shoes.
Other concerns are also location dependent. Perhaps you are doing a tour that will include some island exploring or making ceviche. Having those water shoes on allows you to go from water to land and back in safety and comfort. Concrete gets much hotter than sand.
If you’re snorkeling a lake, rather than an ocean or sea, you face a lot of the same safety risks. No, you probably won’t step on a sea urchin or slice your foot open on coral, but I’d bet that lake shoreline has rocks on it. I’ll also bet there are various forms of human-caused trash and other potential hazards to those feet.
Stepping on a broken bottle is just as dangerous to your feet as a piece of coral. Why risk it? While on this topic, keep your tetanus shots up to date.
If you’re taking a boat to your snorkel destination, regardless of location, the shoes will also improve your traction while onboard. Just another safety feature they offer. If you’ve ever been on a wet boat and bouncing around on the waves or surf, you know exactly what I’m talking about.
However, water shoes can be inconvenient, depending on the type of fins you wear. So, let’s talk about fin types and water shoes, shall we?
Fin Type and Water Shoes
If you snorkel frequently or even if you’re just a beginner, you should know there are two (2) basic fin types to choose from. One is a closed foot fin and the other is an open foot fin. This refers to the area around the heel. Each will have different requirements to consider.
Though there are other fins types, including snorkel specific shorter fins and travel fins, they really don’t fit into this conversation, and so we won’t include them at this time.
Closed Foot Fins. As you can probably tell from the name, this fin has a closed foot. By that, I mean the fin ends in a shoe-like configuration that goes over the entire foot.
Why would I need water shoes if my fin covers my foot, you might ask? I’m glad you did.
Walking into the surf or lake, particularly with currents and waves, with fins on is extremely difficult. You tend to fall over a LOT. Though funny as heck to your friends, it’s probably not what you’re into. And it’s dangerous on a boat because you could strike various sharp objects if you fall.
The ways to avoid this issue are to enter the water backward (awkward at best) or to put on your fins once you’re already in the water. I do this often even with water shoes on if the boat is rocking.
Assuming that’s the choice you make, you are still entering the water barefoot. You are still risking rocks, shells and critters under those feet. Same goes with entering/exiting a boat or stopping to sightsee on the beach or a local island.
Few people spend a day of snorkeling only in the water. Most are in and out frequently through the course of the adventure. Anyone who has cruised knows about the combo expeditions: a catamaran ride, a couple of snorkel stops, lunch on a beach and transportation back to the ship.
So, with closed foot fins, the shoe options become interesting. First, as the fin foot should fit fairly tight, you will need to consider very thin beach shoes if you intend to place the fins over them. You could consider water socks, but they aren’t much help getting to and from the water.
A better suggestion would be to purchase water shoes that have a loop at the end. Then, you can simply attach the shoes to a carabiner on your snorkel vest or secure them in an attached bag, if you have one.
Then, you enter the water with your water shoes on. When deep enough, sit down and remove the water shoes, attaching them to your vest. You can put on your fins and begin enjoying your day. When leaving the water, obviously just reverse the steps.
Open Foot Fins. I am a scuba diver. I prefer the open foot fin for diving, so I use the same fins for snorkeling. My strap is adjustable. I see no real point in having 2 different pairs. I do occasionally borrow smaller fins instead of bringing my larger, heavier scuba fins.
An open foot fin is the fin most people traditionally think of, with the band that circles behind the ankle, just above the heel, securing the fin to the foot.
Water shoes with open foot fins are much easier to manage (Can you wear water shoes with fins?) (Can you wear water shoes with fins?). Again, you still want a fairly tight pair, to make sure the fins fit snugly over them. The last thing you want is for the fin to be too loose and you end up losing it while out and about.
For some, the strap can chafe or irritate. In that instance, I suggest you consider a shoe with a higher profile, maybe something more “boot” like. There are water shoes and water boots that offer this as an option. They do a great job preventing rubbing and irritation.
Another nice feature some water shoes offer are rubberized ridges along the back portion of the shoe, extending from the ankle to the heel. These are awesome when wearing open foot fins as they help hold the strap in place, reducing the risk of losing the fin.
To put open foot fins on over your water shoes is significantly easier than doing the same with closed foot fins.
Walk into the water as you would normally do. Sit down when you’re comfortably deep. Put your toes into the fin and wrap the strap around the boot. Secure the strap on the other side. Reverse those directions when leaving the water. Honestly, couldn’t be much simpler than that.
With all that information in mind, let’s look at my list of the 10 best water shoes for snorkeling.
My 10 Best Water Shoes for Snorkeling
Though from a purely functional standpoint, water shoes are water shoes, I would be less than honest if I didn’t admit there is a difference in style and fashion between women’s and men’s shoes. Where I can, I will offer information on each. The following listings are all from Amazon.
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1. Body Glove 3T Barefoot Cinch Water Shoe (Amazon) This is one of the 3-toed versions of the Body Glove shoe. It gives you a right next to barefoot feel, while still protecting those insoles from harm or damage.
The 3-toed design keeps the large and second toe separated from the smaller 3 toes in individualized pockets. This allows those toes, most utilized in balance, to curl independently.
The shoe offers a nice, stretchy upper fabric, elastic shock lace with an adjustable flap and ultra-grip soles. The Integrated Drainage System (IDS®) allows for water to flow from the upper portion and through the outsole, which improves air circulation.
Available in several colors and multiple sizes at Amazon.com in men’s sizes. These shoes are definitely good looking enough to be considered unisex. The Body Glove Water Shoe has a 44 of 5-star rating, based on 279 reviews.
2. Mares Neoprene 2mm Snorkeling Dive Boot. This an ankle boot design, which reduces chafing in the Achilles area that can occur from straps or ill-fitting full foot fins.
The uppers are neoprene, which sheds water like a duck and the bottom are a rubber grip soft sole. The soles, sides and Achilles areas are all ribbed. This improves traction and helps keep open foot fin straps firmly in place. They also offer the rear loop design for ease of use.
Available primarily in black and unisex in design. Available at Amazon.com, the Mares neoprene snorkeling dive boot has a 4.6 of 5-star rating, based on 1,354 reviews.
3. Cressi Neoprene 3mm dive boots. Fairly comparable to the Mares in terms of style and function.
The uppers consist of a 3mm neoprene, with a rubberized soft grip sole. While the soles are ribbed, like the Mares boot, the Achilles area is not. Instead, there is a roughly ¼” protrusion that the strap goes under, holding the open foot fin strap in place.
Cressi is a very well known, name brand in scuba diving, snorkeling and other water-related sports.
Available only in black, with many different sizes. Unisex in design. The Cressi neoprene 3mm dive boot can be found on Amazon.com, amongst other sites.
4. Speedo Water Shoe Surfwalker Pro 3.0. Technically, this is a man’s shoe. That is how it is marketed, but some of the color combinations could easily be unisex, not to mention all-black is definitely not a man-only thing.
The Speedo has a 100% neoprene upper, with mesh insets for quick dry action, and a S-trac rubberized outer sole, for good traction and durability. Inside the shoe, there is a cushioned insole, keeping your feet comfy while navigating rocky terrain.
Available in 4 designs/colors and a variety of sizes. Remember, this shoe is in men’s sizes. Ladies, please adjust the size down about 2 sizes if order for yourself. You can check latest Amazon price here.
5. Adidas Outdoor Terrex CC Jawpaw II Slip-On. Ok, again this is marketed as a “man’s shoe”. Honestly, I don’t know why manufacturers assume women aren’t interested in functionality. Anyway, I digress. The Adidas is another slip-on lightweight water shoe. It features a synthetic textile upper with a Stealth® rubber outsole for traction and protection.
The Adidas also has front and rear loops, making putting them on much easier and, again, providing a way to connect them with your snorkel vest.
They feature a perforated midsole and outer sole for excellent water drainage. One thing I don’t care for on these is the seam across the top of the shoe. If your fins are properly fitted, this seam could produce hot spots and pressure points on the top of your foot.
6. Nike Aqua Sock 360. Nike markets this as a “men’s slipper”. I don’t know why, but they do. This is a pleasingly simply looking water shoe.
It is constructed of a lightweight mesh upper and strategically placed rubber pods on the outsole for protection and traction.
It offers a rubberized TBU heel clip or “bump” to help keep those open foot fin straps in place. I don’t like the fact there is no loop of any kind in the front or back of the shoe. I also think it’s rather overpriced. However, some out there may feel the Nike name makes it worth the steeper price tag.
The Nike Aqua Sock 360 comes in multiple colors, styles and sizes on Amazon.com.
7. BPS 3mm Neoprene Watersports Dive Shoes. The BPS neoprene dive shoe is another good choice, though there are features I don’t care for.
The uppers are a strong 3mm neoprene material, with vulcanized rubber outsoles for optimum grip on slipper surfaces and good sole protection.
What I really like about this shoe is it is made by a smaller, family owned business and they offer a 12-month money-back guarantee. What I don’t care for is the lock-lace and Velcro closure system on the top of the shoe. The lock-lace is fine and, in fact, is my preferred closure system. I am concerned the Velcro closure may interfere with good fin fit.
Comes in black only, but with multiples sizes available. Priced at $25.00 to $35.00 on Amazon.com. The BPS 3mm Neoprene Watersports Dive Shoe is sold on Amazon and specialty shops everywhere. Be aware, sizes shown on the site are in Men’s sizes.
8. BareRun Barefoot Quick-Dry Water Sports Shoes. These shoes are pretty darn good for the price! They are constructed of polyester tops, for quick-drying action and sturdy, treaded rubber bottoms for protection, durability and traction.
They offer the “loop” at the back, which helps with both putting them on and securing them to your snorkel vest, as previously mentioned. There is also a “loop” at the tongue area, for additional help.
These feature a nice smooth neck design to reduce chafing and are available in a wide variety of shapes and sizes. Find these on Amazon.com. The Barerun Barefoot Quick-Dry Water Sports shoe is a good choice.
9. L-RUN Unisex Water Shoes. This is another fairly inexpensive water shoe. The price is outstanding, but it does lack some of the durability I personally look for in a good water shoe.
The shoe has an easy slip on/off design, lightweight breathable stretch upper, front and rear loops and a “rubber material” sole. This is where my hesitation lies.
There is no significant tread of any type whatsoever. Though this shoe will protect your feet from heat and is probably great in many situations, I would hate to step on a piece of coral wearing it.
That being said, the L-RUN Unisex Water Shoe is available on Amazon in so many colors, styles and sizes, there is no way you won’t find something to like.
10. Seavenger Atlantis 3mm Neoprene Aqua Shoes. Another diving boot. Honestly, dive boots work great under fins whether you’re snorkeling or down 100 feet.
What I like about these boots is the fairly low profile. They come just barely above the ankle, which helps with comfort and heat. They have a 3mm neoprene upper and a vulcanized rubber sole.
What I don’t like is (1) the rubber sole has no significant tread to help with traction and protection; (2) they “slip-on” with a zipper up the back. That doesn’t sound like a big deal, but a strap, going across a zipper, going across my Achilles tendon does not sound like a recipe for a comfortable long day snorkeling.
The unisex Seavenger Atlantis 3mm Neoprene Aqua Shoe comes in 5 different colors/styles. There are multiple sizes to select from on Amazon, with sizes listed in both women’s and men’s for convenience.
Those are my personal top 10 best water shoes for snorkeling.
Did you notice anything missing? There isn’t a single pair of water socks on the list. This is not an error; it is an intentional omission. No flip flops or sandals are mentioned.
Water socks are thinner than water shoes. Rather than a sole, many have a simple light coating of a vaguely rubberized material swiped across the bottom of the slipper.
Water socks may be fine under full foot fins, but the lack of thicker protection and traction doesn’t lend them well to snorkeling, in my opinion.
I have nothing against water socks. They may be perfect if you go straight to a boat, snorkel and then return. You can find our recommended ones on our Snorkeling Gear page.
Another intentional omission are sneaker type water shoes. Again, I have several pair and LOVE them for riding our jet skis and when we go boating. They feature ribbed soles, good heavy traction and a lock lace at the top of the foot.
They are rugged, attractive and outstanding at what they do. But that shoelace design and top of foot lock lace does not fit under fins, regarding of the style.
My final intentional omission are sandals and flip flops. They have a place in your beach fun. Well, my wife’s beach fun at least; I don’t like them at all. They are more than adequate for walking around, particularly on the boardwalk or pier.
However, that open style is a magnet for sand, grit and other irritants. I don’t want my feet hurting at the end of my great day in the sun. So, I considered none of that style.
Neither type can be worn with fins, both can cause you to trip while wearing on a boat, and don’t stay on well while walking across rocky outcroppings.
Best water shoes for the beach
As a bonus, since you’ve read this far, let me give you a few of my favorite water shoes for boating, jet skiing, and walking on the beach.
Bare Run Quick Dry Water Shoes on Amazon.com. This is a different style than the shoes I referenced earlier. This slip-on style features elastic lacings across the top of the foot and is secured with a strong lock-lace, also on top of the foot. The elastic lacings allow for the show to be adjusted to various widths.
The uppers have a nice mesh base, for great breathability and water release. The bottoms are a treaded rubber with excellent protection against small stones or other unexpected hazards.
Honestly, it’s just a nice comfortable shoe at a very reasonable price. With its unisex design, tons of colors, styles and sizes, this one shoe can outfit an entire family.
Sea to Summit Ultraflex Water Bootie (Amazon) Another real winner in my personal book. This is a great looking, comfortable, versatile water shoe.
It has a 3mm neoprene upper and a flexible and sensitive rubber sole, for traction and protection. It is secured with a Y pull and a “hook and loop” system. Honestly, it is pretty much a Velcro strap running across the top of the foot.
Very easy to put on and take off, comfortable and flexible, it’s a win-win in my overall category.
I hope you’ve enjoyed rummaging through my top 10 best water shoes for snorkeling. I also hope I’ve convinced you of the value involved in wearing a good set of water shoes, even though they may seem unnecessary at times.
No one’s day at the beach was ever ruined by protecting their feet, and I guarantee yours won’t be either. As I’ve gotten older, my feet have become more sensitive to injuries.
Tiptoeing across the rocks, slicing your foot open on coral, stepping on an urchin or ray, any of these things can and do happen. The minor inconvenience of carrying an extra pair of shoes with you while snorkeling pales in comparison to the potential alternatives.
See you in the water!