Do you wear shoes for kayaking?

While we all have an idea of what to wear when kayaking, and when on the water in general, one of the lesser known things is what we should wear on our feet, and whether we need anything on them at all. Today we’ll be looking at whether you need to wear footwear whilst kayaking, as well as what the different footwear options you could go for are.

Do you need to wear footwear?

Whilst the short answer to this question is no, it’s not really a good idea to not wear any kind of footwear when kayaking. Although many people choose to kayak without any footwear on, this does leave you more at risk of being exposed to the elements, especially if the weather isn’t good.

Barefoot kayaking is popular, especially with the barefoot trend becoming increasingly popular, but this isn’t the safest idea as it leaves your feet more vulnerable to cuts and gashes, as well as slippery rocks. The main reason people go for this is that they like feeling the sand and water on their feet – it’s not worth it in most instances.

The most important thing to consider is the situation you find yourself in. If you’re just going for a little paddle near the beach, there’s less of a need to wear high-spec footwear but in most other instances it’s best to come prepared just in case there’s a risk of injury. It’s always a mood killer!

What are the best footwear options for kayaking?

If you do decide that you want to wear something on your feet whilst kayaking, then there are a few different options available to you. These naturally vary in style and price point but having something is better than nothing, as we touched on before.

Aqua socks

Aqua socks are a popular choice for many kayakers. They provide excellent grip and provide kayakers with a good level of protection against the elements, even if they aren’t the best-looking pieces of footwear. At the end of the day, it isn’t a fashion show and if looking less than trendy keeps you safe, it’s a good trade-off.

One of the biggest benefits of aqua socks, aside from them being good against the elements, is that they are fairly lightweight and aren’t super bulky, meaning they’re good for kayaking trips where you’ll need to pack and travel light. They’re also usually fast-drying, meaning they don’t hold water for long after use.


They’re probably the least fashionable item you’ll ever buy but does that really matter? These sandals aren’t your run-of-the-mill sandals and are worlds away from Birkenstocks or Crocks – these are sandals that are designed to be heavy-duty and fulfill a more active/sports-centric need.

They dry fast because they aren’t fully sealed and so don’t retain water for long at all. The trade-off here is that they don’t protect you much from the water so aren’t suited to ice-cold water and for use in the colder months. That being said, they’re super versatile and can be worn in other instances too.

Skin shoes

Skin shoes, or barefoot shoes, are a fairly recent phenomenon and are a direct result of the barefoot trend that’s absolutely everywhere at the moment, aiming to help people reconnect with their old habit of walking without shoes. They’re super lightweight and are designed to be comfortable without leaving feet too exposed to the elements.

The biggest benefit of these shoes is that they’re ultra-lightweight and fast drying, as well as being gripped and so are suited to the rocky shoes that many kayakers frequent. They aren’t very warm and aren’t always the most durable but can be an alternative option for kayakers wanting to try something new and interesting.

Neoprene boots

Probably the standard when it comes to professional and semi-professional kayaking, when you see a hardcore kayaker going about their business it’s highly likely that they’re wearing some form of neoprene shoes or boots. They act like an extension of a wetsuit, helping keep the wearer warm and insulated.

Neoprene shoes are quite bulky and not always the most comfortable, and so aren’t suited to excursions that cross land and water, but are the industry standard and something you should have if you’re serious about your kayaking.

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