The best open water swimming shoes will protect your feet in the water whether you’re a keen sea swimmer or just fancy a dip in your local lido. From aquatic sandals to neoprene booties, there’s a pair to suit every swimmer.

If you’re getting into open water swimming for fitness or fancy a spot of wild swimming in your local river, you don’t need much kit to get started – but a good pair of water shoes is an essential for protecting your feet while you swim and explore through the seasons. Our top seven picks of the best open water swimming shoes for men and women are ideal for keeping your feet warm in chilly weather, and offer good grip when you’re getting in and out of the water.

There’s a surprising range of designs of water shoes on the market, from lightweight slipper-style shoes ideal for swimming longer distances to tougher sandals and trainer-like ‘shandals’ that you can also walk in or wear for water sports, and that will protect the soles of your feet on rockier ground. You’ll also find some warm, high-cut neoprene booties included in our top seven picks – these are ideal for keeping feet cosy on winter swims and surf trips.

decathlon swim shoe open water swimming

There are roughly two categories of swim shoe on the market – booties and shoes. The former are snug-fitting, and are pulled on rather than laced up. They’re usually lightweight and are designed for wearing in the water, keeping you warmer (they’re often made of heat-trapping neoprene) without you noticing much weight as you move, so they’re ideal for swimmers who are covering longer distances. The latter are more like walking trainers or sandals, and have proper soles with good grip. These are ideal for getting in and out of wild swims where you might need to walk on rocks, pebbles or uneven ground, or if you don’t know what you might be standing on under the water’s surface. The compromise is that these designs tend to weigh more, and are less suitable for proper swimming, as you’ll be able to feel that you’re wearing them in the water. They will also double up as aquatic outdoor shoes for other adventures in and out of the water, so if you’re into a range of water sports or want a design you can also wear for sailing, a shoe style will give you more bang for your buck.

The good news is that most open water swimming shoes are budget-friendly, with prices starting from just £10, and they’re such a versatile bit of kit that they’re well worth investing in if you like to get active by or in the water. This guide includes the best water shoes for both men and women – some water shoes, especially simple booties, are unisex designs, while trainer-like shoes tend to be available in male or female sizes. Fit is important – try your new shoes or booties on in person and check they feel comfortable, with no tightness or rubbing. If they’re adjustable, you should be able to cinch or lace them tightly for a snug fit that won’t come off in the water.

Note: Where products have been tested by our editorial team, we have given them a star rating.


speedo open water swimming shoe

Speedo Zanpa water shoe

Speedo’s Zanpa is a brilliant (and budget-friendly) pick if you’re after a shoe you can wear for more casual wild swims, on the beach or to the lido. These soft rubber slipper-style shoes are comfy and forgiving to wear, but still boast springy soles that offer some grip. Tabs on the heels make them easier to slip on and off than some less forgiving neoprene styles. These water shoes aren’t tough enough to work for coasteering or rock pooling, where you need really solid grip, but will stop you slipping on wet surfaces and will offer protection if you’re swimming in a lake or a river where you aren’t sure what’s underfoot. The Zanpas also trap in some heat, so they’re a nice addition to chillier wild swims in spring and autumn. Our only criticism? The Zanpa could do with some drainage holes, to help them dry out once you’re back on land.

Weight: 300g
Colours available: black, pink, purple
Main material: rubber
Gender: available for men and women

Pros: this low-cut bootie traps in heat well, feels light and comfortable to wear, offers some grip and comes at an affordable price point
Cons: the pink or purple colourways won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, the grip is limited and best suited to less challenging terrain, there’s no drainage to speak of

Price From £10 (RRP £21) $13.60

Buy Speedo Zanpa from speedo.com
Buy Speedo Zanpa from swiminn.com
Buy Speedo Zanpa from amazon.co.uk


Note: We may earn a commission when you buy through links on our site, at no extra cost to you. This doesn’t affect our editorial independence.

tested fice stars, vibram 5 finger swimming shoe for cold water

Vibram FiveFingers V-Aqua outdoor swim shoes

Ok, so these glove-like swim shoes may look a bit odd with their separate toe sections, but there’s good reason to choose a minimalist design like the V-Aqua– they give the wearer better balance and feel as close as possible to going barefoot, but with that crucial added protection. The V-Aquas are also delightfully lightweight at just 112g per shoe, and have a flexible but tough sole that offers good protection even on rock. Perforations in the insole plus a synthetic mesh upper help the shoe to drain and dry quickly. There’s a reason you see lots of triathletes wearing Vibrams’ designs – this versatile shoe offers the flexibility and light weight of a swimming bootie but with far superior grip. In chilly winter conditions you may want to swap to a high-cut boot for more warmth, though. These are one of the best open water swimming shoes you can get.

Weight: 112g
Colours available: black/grey/blue
Main material: polyester
Gender: available for men and women

Pros Great flexible fit, drains easily, good grip for such a lightweight option.
Cons Not everyone will find separate toe boxes comfortable, a high-cut boot may be better for winter

Price From £65 (RRP £90) $88.43

Buy V Aqua from amazon.co.uk


decathlon swimming shoe in blue

Decathlon Subea Rip Tab Aquashoe

Searching for the perfect summer swim shoe? Decathlon’s unisex Aquashoe is a great casual all-rounder for sunny swimming holidays. These slim shoes look rather like trainers and have enough grip to tackle walking on pavements and groomed trails and as well as in and around the water, and you won’t feel stones underfoot on a river bed. The soles aren’t tough enough to tackle proper hikes or coasteering adventures, though, and there’s no arch support, so these trainers are better suited to casual walking. Once you do get them wet, the Aquashoes are quick to dry thanks to their lightweight mesh uppers, and are lightweight enough that you don’t really notice they’re on your feet as you swim, unlike other wet-to-dry trainer designs. This shoe’s breathability and quick-drying mesh make it ideal for packing for swimming, snorkelling and hiking holidays. These are highly rated as a best budget buy in our collection of best open water swimming shoes.

Weight: 250g
Colours available: blue, navy
Main material: polyester
Gender: available for men and women

Pros: Easily adjustable for a comfortable but stay-put fit, quick to dry, can be worn as a casual trainer
Cons: Limited grip on slick surfaces, the flat soles don’t offer much support if you do need to walk in them

Price £17.99 (RRP £17.99) $24.47

Buy Subea Rip Tab Aquashoe from Decathlon.com


Vivo Barefoot tempest open water swimming shoe five star rating

Vivo Barefoot Esc Tempest

Vivo Barefoot call the Esc Tempest ‘the ultimate amphibious trail shoe’, and we’d agree – this clever design is ideal for swim-hikers, swim-runners and coasteering lovers who are in and out of the water all day and need a shoe that can keep up. This flexible trainer can tackle both land and sea with aplomb – it’s light, slim-fitting and warm enough to feel comfortable when you swim, and back on land it’s got grippy soles that feel as good as your favourite trainers to walk in, so you can hike or even run in them easily. The upper material looks solid but incorporates mesh to help wick away sweat on land and dry fast after a swim. The mesh, lining and laces are constructed using recycled plastic waste from the oceans, for extra eco brownie points. These are awarded five stars and are amongst the best open water swimming shoes you can get.

Weight: 342g
Colours available: black, grey
Main material: rubber
Gender: available for men and women

Pros: grip is as good as a pair of running trainers, comfortable and slim-fitting in the water, made with recycled materials
Cons: heavier than a light swim-only bootie, on the expensive side – casual swimmers can pick something cheaper

Price £100 (RRP £160) $136.04

Buy Vivobarefoot Esc Tempest from sportsshoes.com


salomon tech amphibian swimming and water activity shoe

Salomon Tech Amphib 4

One water shoe to rule them all? Salomon’s Tech Amphib 4 is designed to be a multi-adventure trainer that you can wear in and out of the water. This is one of the more expensive designs in our round-up, but that does reflect the fact that this is a proper, well-constructed shoe rather than a simple swim sock. A rugged sole offers great grip even on wet or seaweed-clad rocks, a rubber toe box protects your feet from knocks and bumps and mesh inserts help the shoe to dry fast and keep your feet cool in hot weather. We also like that you can choose to pop the heel up or down, so you can wear the Amphib 4 as a trainer or as a sandal, and that this design is made using recycled materials. It’s worth noting that the Amphibs fit on the narrow side, so swimmers with wide feet may need to pick a different design. All in all, if you want a shoe you can walk, swim, sail and clamber about in all summer, this is a good pick.

Weight: 286g
Colours available: Navy/black/olive
Main material: Textile/rubber
Gender: available for men and women

Pros: Double up as summer walking or sailing sandals or shoes, smart looks and neutral colourways make them easy to wear anywhere, great grip.
Cons: Won’t suit swimmers with wide feet, too bulky and heavy if you’re swimming for fitness.

Price From £45 (RRP £60) $61.22

Buy Salomon Tech Amphib 4 from Salomon.com

Buy Salomon Tech Amphib 4 from Nevisport.com

Buy Salomon Tech Amphib 4 from Sport Shoes.com


neoprene zone 3 swimming bootie for cold water swimming and surfing

Zone 3 Neoprene Heat-Tech Socks

If you swim outdoors regularly you’ll know that keeping your hands and feet warm once the temperature drops is very useful for staying in the water comfortably for longer. Zone 3’s Heat-Tech socks are designed specifically for swimmers, using 3.5mm of neoprene to keep your feet cosy, plus a titanium lining that reflects body heat to further trap in warmth. These socks are easy to tuck under a wetsuit or to wear alone with a swimsuit, and are so lightweight you won’t notice you have them on as you swim. They’re stretchier and easier to pull on and off than some neoprene socks we tested, and also have non-slip grippy pads on the bottom, which work well on wet poolside surfaces. A quality choice for dedicated open water swimmers looking for something to help them stay warm year-round.

Weight: 60g
Colours available: black
Main material: neoprene
Gender: unisex

Pros: Good heat-trapping abilities for toasty feet, comfortable and easy to pull on and off, lightweight.
Cons: limited grip out of the water, some reviewers report that the seams don’t last forever

Price From £35 (RRP £39) $47.62

Buy Zone 3 Neoprene Heat Tech Swim Sock from wiggle.co.uk


dhb neoprene bootie, for open water swimming and surfing

DHB Hydron 2.0 Swim Bootie

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it – this neoprene bootie from DHB is a sleek, simple and fuss-free choice. 3mm of neoprene will keep your feet comfortably warm in any season, and the bottom of the Hydron boots has a non-slip printed sole that offers some grip on wet surfaces when you’re getting in and out of the water, too. You’ll definitely feel rocks or sharp stones through the bottom of these flexible booties, but they’re not really designed for walking any distance in – they come into their own once you’re in the water, adding no extra weight and hardly any drag but some welcome added warmth as you move. Ideal for regular swimmers who want to keep going for longer in the sea or the local lido without feeling a chill once winter comes.

Weight: 75g
Colours available: black
Main material: neoprene
Gender: unisex

Pros: These booties offer welcome warmth for very little weight, and work well for cold winter dips
Cons: The sole offers limited protection from uneven ground, and like most neoprene booties, it takes a bit of wiggling to get the booties on and off, especially with cold fingers!

Price £27 (RRP £27) $36.73

Buy DHB Hydron 2.0 Swim Bootie from Wiggle.co.uk

 


What we look for in the best open water swimming shoes

  • Grip: Good grip is essential if you’re planning on wearing your new water shoes or sandals on rocks or on wet terrain. Look for a design with a tough rubber sole that has deep ‘lugs’ or indentations that grip the ground as you walk. A solid rubber toe cap is also a good choice for protecting your toes when you’re on rockier ground, or when walking immersed in water. If you choose a neoprene bootie, check that it at least has a thin but grippy built-in sole.
  • Fit: It’s important to get the right fit in a swim shoe, both so it stays put in the water and to check you can walk in it comfortably on dry land. Neoprene booties should feel like a second skin once on, with no gaps or tightness anywhere. Trainer-style shoes should ideally be adjustable with a strap or bungee, with no rubbing at the toes or the heels.
  • Material: Water shoes are usually either made of neoprene, which is warm, light and flexible, or a combination of a textile or mesh upper and a rubber sole. Rubber soles offer the best grip, and we like shoes that use mesh as it’s breathable and tends to dry quickly.
  • Ethical materials: A few of the shoes in our round-up are made using recycled materials, and we always recommend choosing a more ethically-created design, such as those that incorporate plastic waste. While neoprene is a great warm material for swimmers and surfers, it’s a petroleum-based material so it isn’t a sustainable choice.
  • Looks: While looks aren’t the most important factor when buying a swim shoe, if you do pick an aquatic trainer that doubles up as a walking shoe, it makes sense to pick a style that you like the looks of. Some multi-adventure shoes look just like sporty trainers and can go anywhere from sea shore to city street, so you’ll get more wear for your money.

read more about open water swimming gear in our other articles across Yachting World and sister sites.

 


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