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The Best River Shoes For Kayaking, Rafting & More

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Even though the weather is getting cooler, that doesn't mean we want to stop heading out to the river or the lake for things like kayaking, rafting, and hiking through waterfalls. In fact, some of the best times to go out on the water are in the fall — but because it gets chillier, you'll need to consider better footwear than water sandals or flip flops. That's when outdoor apparel options like river shoes (also called water shoes or water boots) come in handy, and are a must-have before you go out on the lake or river. The cold water of the lake can leave your feet chilly and your grip a little more unstable, so it's imperative you find a solid pair of river shoes that do two necessary things: dry quickly when out of water, and provide incredibly sturdy traction on wet rocks or surfaces. There are also two different types of river shoes for your consideration: a lightweight neoprene or mesh option that is best for intense activities like kayaking when you're getting extra-wet, and a sturdy soled option that look more like sneakers but dry almost instantly. We rounded up the best river shoes for your next adventure:

1. Our Top Pick


Level Six River Boots 2.0 - REI, $55.00

These river boots by Level Six can be worn by anyone (although if you wear a women's size, you should go down one size) and feature a few smart attributes that make them our top pick. Of course, the two most important specs are the neoprene outer fabric that dries quickly and keeps feet warm, as well as the vulcanized rubber outsoles that offer superior traction on both wet and dry surfaces. Additionally, there's drainage holes, bungee-collared cuffs that make for an adjustable fit, and a rubber toe cap to protect your feet. They're also easy to take on and off, and one reviewer writes: "Bought these river shoes for a recent multi-day rafting expedition - they were very comfortable with and without light socks (water was cold) and had good traction as well."

2. The Best Options for Days On The River or Lake


Xero X Aqua X Water Shoes, Men - REI, $96.93

These water shoes can handle a day out kayaking or rafting, but they're also sturdy enough to wear all day long — even on dry land. The upper is made from mesh that sheds water, there's toe guard drainage holes, and the inner lining is also made from quick-drying materials for added comfort. The sole is a sturdy rubber, and you can even remove the 2mm insoles should you want more of that 'barefoot feel' on a lake or river.


Astral Loyak Water Shoes, Women - REI, $95.00

These comfortable shoes from Astral will work all day long — from walking through the creek to dipping your toe in the river, they'll provide grip and traction on any surface you come across. The hydrophobic canvas uppers have drainage holes, and also help prevent sand and silt from staying inside, while the rubber soles and sturdy laces provide the stability you require. Reviewers even say these shoes are solid enough to go hiking with, but many note to go up a half size when placing your order.

3. The Best Options for Water Sports on the River


BodyGlove Dynamo Rapid 2.0 Water Shoes, Men - Amazon, $32.95

Best suited for days kayaking and rafting, these BodyGlove shoes are made from fast-drying neoprene and mesh that have an integrated draining system, making it nearly impossible for water to stay in these shoes for long. The collapsible heel allows you to put them on and take them off almost instantly, and the laces ensure a perfectly comfortable fit. It's also a great price, coming in at under $40.


NRS Kicker Wetshoes, Women - REI, $52.95

Neoprene is a great fabric for river shoes because it dries quickly but also helps to keep feet insulated, making them the perfect choice for colder water. These shoes from NRS are made with neoprene and keep you warmer when you need them to. The patterned rubber soles (made from recycled tires, no less) are 3mm thick for an extra-durable grip. One reviewer writes: "Just what I was looking for to take on an Arkansas river float. Good traction on the rocks. Feet stayed warmer in the cool water."

4. The Best Option for Cold Waters


Neosport Neoprene Wetsuit Boots - Amazon, $38.99+

These Neosport boots are puncture-resistant and heavily insulated with noeprene, making them the perfect option for cold water days spent kayak fishing or floating down a lake. They're zip-up so no squeezing into these shoes, but they also provide protection behind the zipper to prevent water from getting through. They have thick rubber soles, and one five-star reviewer sums it up the best: "I needed a pair of shoes for a couple weeks of field work in the marshes of Louisiana, and I don't think I could have asked for something better than these. They successfully (1) stayed on my feet, even when walking knee-deep in mud, (2) were comfortable in and out of the water, (3) had good traction on the boat, and (4) dried completely by the next day for use again." If you wear women's sizes, make sure to size down.

READ MORE: The 7 Best Water Shoes for Rivers, Lakes, and Pools