Most of us snorkelers have been in that situation where we ask ourselves whether or not to consider water shoes. Now, even though they’re not exactly a necessary addition to our gear, there’s more to them than one might think. Keeping our feet protected, which is their main purpose, could make a huge difference in how enjoyable snorkeling actually is. In order to observe the marine life in peace, one shouldn’t be distracted from annoying or itchy wounds.
This being said, we’re still amazed by how many people don’t bother to get themselves a pair. They definitely don’t need to be expensive and they’re so comfortable! But we get it. You go on a holiday, you get yourself a snorkel set and you can’t wait to explore the magic of the underwater world. Yes, we really get that and we’ve been there.
In this article we cover the advantages of water shoes, followed by our best “bang for your buck” product. Just a quick reminder: If you wear snorkel fins, you’re already protecting your feet, which is great! Water shoes are probably not a necessity for you at this point, even though some fins support these shoes. We cover that topic further down below.
Advantages Of Water Shoes
1. Protecting Your Feet
Rocks, Glass And Shells
It sounds obvious, but protecting your feet is more important than you could be thinking. Tourists aren’t always cautious about polluting the ocean. They could leave behind empty bottles, cans, or other sharp objects. But that’s not all. Sharp edgy rocks or empty shells could leave a big wound if you’re not paying attention to where you’re standing.
Stings From Fish Or Jellyfish
Another thing to notice is stings. Some fish or jellyfish are capable to sting you. Since we don’t always pay attention to what’s happening behind us, every piece of protection could make a huge difference. Stings can be extremely annoying. In the worst case they could even make you decide to skip snorkeling for a few days. Not exactly what we call a fun experience.
Stings Or Scratches From Plants
Did you know that some underwater plants are able to sting you too? There sure are a couple of them, like stinging seaweed for example. Sometimes we just don’t know what’s living on the ocean floor. Even though we usually try to not stand on any plants or whatever marine life is down there, you just can’t be totally sure. Besides stinging, some plants have sharp edges which can easily damage our skin.
Tip: If you have kids, consider water shoes for them too. They can be very playful, and not saying attention to all the circumstances. More info can be found in our “snorkeling with kids guide“.
2. Protecting Feet From Sunburns
Again, this seems like an obvious argument. But who hasn’t been in that situation where we managed to get a sunburn on our feet. Even though we use sunscreen, it wears off pretty fast when snorkeling. The skin on top of our feet is thin, and therefore easy to damage. For a proper protection we need to rub them in with sunscreen multiple times per day. How many times do we see people enjoying the shade of an umbrella, not noticing that their feet are sticking out in the bright open sunshine.
The problem is, that once your feet manage to get a sunburn, water shoes will hurt them even more. They won’t be fun to put on, and even walking will cause a lot of irritation. Try to prevent this situation from happening in the first place! Use a powerful sunscreen, wear water shoes when entering the water, and you should be able to enjoy your holiday to it’s fullest. More information can be found in our article about UV protection for snorkelers and swimmers.
3. Walking On Hot Surfaces
An important thing to be aware of, is that around 3 pm the sun can be high up in the sky, sending a great amount of heat. Not only sand, but stones and rocks can heat up quickly too. 3 pm is the time of the day when we want to have fun and explore. Especially kids. You remember that feeling when you leave your towel for a quick swim or walk, and you need to run towards the water to cool down? Well, water shoes will make this a breeze for you!
Or how about combining snorkeling with a small hike. Many snorkel locations offer some kind of trail to hike through, in order to reach that perfect destination. Going from water to land, and then back into the water can be a hassle, especially if everything feels extremely hot. Water shoes are more than a luxury in these conditions.
4. More Grip
Snorkeling is often combined with walking, either towards that perfect snorkel location or just a small hike through shallow watery areas. Please be aware that stones can be extremely slippery, especially if algae managed to grow on them. In order to avoid falling down or slipping away, water shoes provide more grip. Their soles are often manufactured with a certain profile that assists you when moving around. Just like hiking shoes.
We share our best pick for gear further down below. One of the most important things to look for is a light weight rubber sole that will last for quite a while. The soles will show some wear over time, so keep an eye on that. In order for maximum grip you could decide to grab a new pair once in a while, depending on how often you use them.
5. Keeping Feet Warm
Now this is not necessarily an important thing if the water temperature is comfortable. However, it’s important to enjoy snorkeling without that freezing sensation. Cold feet could result in a sensation of feeling cold in general, even though your body temperature is still stable.
If you’re the kind of person who quits swimming or snorkeling because of a cold water temperature, having warm feet could be just what you need. Warm feet are a delight and will allow for a longer adventure. Sure, if you wear fins you’ll be just fine, but not everybody wears them the entire time.
Water shoes are available in many different fabrics. If you prefer really warm feet it’s best to go for a neoprene fabric. The small layer of water between your foot and the shoe will provide a warm sensation. They work just like a wetsuit (here’s a link to my snorkel wetsuits review).
6. Support Open-Heel Fins
Some people prefer to wear open-heel fins. These kinds of fins have an open back, and are tightened around the heel by using a strap. More information can be found in our snorkel fins review.
Open-heel fins fit best when wearing either socks or water shoes. The main advantage of this combination is to keep your feet warm. If you snorkel in cold water, this could be something to consider.
These fins are also very user-friendly. It’s easy to put them on and off whilst keeping your shoes on. This comes in handy when you combine snorkeling and walking (changing location) frequently.
Choosing The Right Water Shoes
When it comes to fabric we’d advise you to opt for neoprene. Just like snorkel gloves, a 3mm think neoprene shoe will definitely keep your feet warm whenever the water temperature is low. Neoprene allows for an elastic fit, which makes it easy to put them on or take them off. If you take good care of your shoes, they should last for a long time. Because of their perfect fit, handling your open-heel fins will be an easy task.
In order to enjoy your shoes for quite a while, consider to get a rubber sole. Most water shoes are delivered this way. Make sure to select a pair that comes with a good amount of grip.
Just like regular shoes, water shoes can be damaged. The toe area is often damaged first because this is where a lot of tension builds up. If you plan to do a lot of walking, try to find a pair that comes with a protective toe cap.
Comfort can be a personal thing. If you go for a neoprene shoe, you’ll be just fine. They feel extremely comfortable if you make sure to select the correct size. Keep in mind that some water shoes are available in both “short” and “long” versions. By that we mean that some cover just the feet, whilst others cover both the feet and the ankle. It depends on what you prefer, or what you’re used to wear in daily life.
This is more important than you might think. We’ve probably all been in that situation where we walk in wet shoes. And yes, it could take ages for them to dry. If you prefer to keep your shoes on, opting for a quick-dry pair is definitely a luxury!
Water shoes are available in all kinds of price categories. You can get them for just a few bucks if you’re on a tight budget. If however you have a little money to spend, it’s always a good idea to select a neoprene version. The one we showcase below will cost you around 25 bucks for the pair. In our opinion it’s not necessary to buy the most expensive ones out there. Think of it this way: If you buy a decent pair, you’ll be able to enjoy them much longer, which could be a “best bang for your buck” strategy.
Our “Best Bang For Your Buck” Pick
For about 25 bucks, these shoes are our “best bang for your buck” pick. They’re a neoprene fabric, contain a sole with efficient grip, the toe area is protected and the brand Cressi is reliable. They’re also available in a “high” version which covers the ankle. You get to select sizes for men and women.
If you’re interested, you can find their latest price at Amazon here.
Do You Need Water Shoes For Snorkeling?
You don’t need water shoes for snorkeling, however, we’d strongly recommend to wear a pair. They come with a lot of advantages that make snorkeling a breeze. We cover shoes and more (necessary and luxury) gadgets in our article about gifts for snorkelers.
Water shoes are more than just a luxury. If you don’t wear fins, we’d advise you to get a decent pair in order to enjoy snorkeling to it’s fullest. Not only do you minimize the risk of injuries, but you also get to enjoy that sudden snorkel hike. Furthermore, warm feet could be a big advantage for some of us.
We always wear them whenever we’re not wearing fins. A decent pair could last for years if you take good care. When it comes to cleaning we’d advise this article.