What Shoes To Wear Kayaking?

Kayaking is a fantastic sport for getting into the great outdoors. It is also a wonderful way to get fit while enjoying yourself.

Besides this, many kayak fishermen are around, so it is a popular way to experience new fishing haunts in the middle of a lake.

While deciding what to wear when kayaking and purchasing clothes to cover most conditions, one clothing area is often overlooked.

man kayaking

Footwear is an oversight, and many resort to regular shoes. However, these are not the best shoes for kayaking. In our guide, you can learn the right kayaking attire for your body and feet.

What Should a Beginner Wear Kayaking?

When you begin kayaking, you need some essential kayaking gear, and knowing what to wear is vital.

Personal Flotation Device: You need always to wear one of these if you end up swimming unexpectedly. It has to fit comfortably, and you need to be sure wearing your PFD doesn’t restrict you or slip.

Here’s what you should have for a warm-weather, warm-water outing:

It is always said to dress for the water temperature rather than the air temperature, as this can be many degrees below the air temperature. You can end up wearing a wetsuit or drysuit.

  • Dress using layers, particularly on top. Make sure not to wear cotton as this remains wet and dries slowly.
  • Dress for sun protection, no matter how cloudy it appears. The sun reflects off the water, and you’ll face lots of sun exposure. Wearing UPF-rated clothing is advisable.
  • Any clothing layer next to the skin should wick moisture away, such as quick-drying nylon or polyester. Wool dries slower yet can insulate you even if wet.
  • Wear synthetic abrasion-resistant fabrics to protect and stand up to wear and tear of sand, water, and areas of your kayak.
  • Short- or long-sleeve rashguard top
  • Suitable footwear
  • Hat and Lightweight fleece jacket
  • Rain jacket and pants, though these can be carried in your dry bag ready. (Find the Best Hiking Pants)
  • Paddle: You want your paddle to be designed for your size to paddle well

Can You Kayak Barefoot?

The answer is yes; you can kayak barefoot. It can often be more fun paddling without kayak shoes or sandals. The key reason this is done is to stop the water from soaking your kayak and wetting your shoes.

There are good points and bad points of kayaking barefoot. Hiking or walking to the edge of the water across rocks is near impossible without suitable footwear. You need to wear good shoes to prevent injury, and thus, suitable kayak shoes are the ultimate solution. (Read How Long Does It Take To Break In Birkenstocks)

What Should I Wear When I Go Kayaking?

Here are the three areas of what to wear on your feet when new to kayaking. The first two can keep your feet warm in cold water and help keep your feet dry from water splashing on your kayak.

barefoot on a kayak

Water Shoes

You can wear regular footwear, yet these will hold large amounts of water. With this, your feet get cold, they become heavy, and shoes begin to rub.

Water shoes are made to avoid this and feature water-resistant materials. Water shoes have water repellency to shed water and built-in drainage systems to get water from inside the shoe.

You can be all-day kayaking, and your feet won’t get wet. Yet, these will keep you warm around your feet in these situations as your legs and feet won’t be moving much.

This type of shoe is more popular for recreational paddling and kayak fishing. They are comfortable on and off the water. (Find the Best Water Shoes for Men)


Kayaking boots are more niche options as they’re designed for someone getting on and off their kayak frequently. The boots come with rugged soles for climbing wet rocks and added protection around the toes and midfoot.

You can also find lightweight neoprene boots besides heavy-duty boots. For just paddling, neoprene boots are ideal, and you can wear socks underneath and have these boots as the outer layer on your feet. (Read Do You Wear Anything Under A Wetsuit)

Boots will be a great choice in cold weather paddling as they are warmer in cold conditions than regular shoes. You can add neoprene socks rather than normal sock materials as these perform better when wet.


Sandals aren’t waterproof; they don’t hold water at all. Sandals are great for long days of recreational paddling. You can slip them on and slip them off when on your kayak. If you are swimming, you can easily kick off your flip-flops as you jump off your kayak.

It is also possible to find more rugged water sandals with a durable sole and protect you more when walking. As they are breathable, they will be ideal for warmer weather when you expect to get wet most of the time.

The right shoes for paddling make or break a day on the water. You need to make sure they dry quickly, stay light, and are comfortable in all paddling conditions.

Can I Wear Sneakers Kayaking?

It is possible to wear sneakers when kayaking. When dry, they are comfortable and offer traction when walking on rough ground. However, once wet, they might not be comfortable inside as they won’t be waterproof.

Depending on the style of sneakers, you may have some breathable synthetic materials, yet water won’t drain, and the soles inside will remain wet. (Find the Best Rock Climbing Shoes for Beginners)

Water shoes are good for most conditions as they possess features you need for comfortable kayaking. They have rubber toe protection, grip on the soles, and water drainage.

Water shoes can be part of a wet suit and might be designed to easily put on and take off your foot. Some have a durable sole made for walking over rocks and use outside your kayak and inside to give you the best shoe possible for kayaking.

What Shoes To Wear Kayaking

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