The Best Shoes for Paddle Boarding

As we gently slide our paddleboards onto the surface of the water, imagine the day ahead filled with adventure, tranquility and some sun-soaked fun. To heighten this experience and protect your feet from sand, rocks or the chill of winter waters, the right shoes for paddle boarding are essential gear on your checklist. We've come up with recommendations for the best shoes for paddle boarding. Let's dive in!

When paddle boarding at the beach during the summer, comfort and quick-drying features are the stars. The Keen water sandals, specifically known for their stability and exceptional foot protection, are a wonderful choice. Think of them as your beach buddies, keeping your feet breezy, comfortable, and free from sand irritation, all while providing sturdy non-slip traction.

best shoes for paddle boardingOur favorite shoes for paddle boarding include neoprene booties, Keen river sandals and Vibram Five Finger V-Aqua shoes.

Our go-to shoes for paddle boarding

John’s favorite shoes are his Keen Newport Closed Toe Leather Sandals. He wears them anytime we are out on a river or lake with our paddle boards. He also routinely hikes in them since we will invariably run across a stream and he likes to be able to walk into the water and splash water all over to cool himself down. With their toe cap, Keens provide excellent protection for your feet and keep your toesies safe. John has a very wide foot. Keens are wonderful for people with wide feet.

Julie has small narrow feet. She loves her big, bulky (on her) Women’s Newport H2 Sandal’s for when we are at the river. They are very protective and when she is standing and paddle boarding, they are wide, so they provide her better balance. If she is planning to sit down paddle board, then she prefers her Vibram Five Fingers V-Aqua Water Shoes ( They provide her feet lots of protection, offer excellent traction, prevent sand from easily getting into her shoe and bothering her and are great for climbing rocks and dealing with just about any terrain while she is getting her paddle board in and out of the water.

Winter beach paddle boarding calls for a bit more foot warmth. This is where the Neosport 3mm neoprene dive boot leaps. The boot’s warm embrace keeps your feet toasty, even in frigid conditions, making it the best shoe for paddle boarding in winter. Bouncy waves, here we come!

One of our favorite lakes is Salmon Lake. It can be pretty busy in the summer, but in the fall and early spring it is gorgeous. Last year we camped in Lakes Basin, CA and spent a wonderful day paddle boarding on Salmon Lake while there was snow on the ground. The water was freezing, but we just stayed close to shore and enjoyed a fabulous, relaxing day paddling the entire shoreline and having a nap on our boards after our floating lunch at the little island in the middle.

On windy cold days and when the water is particularly cold, I find my neoprene scuba/kayak booties are the best shoes for paddle boarding while paddling so my feet never get cold. Even while wet, my feet are never cold with my booties on.

The best shoes if you are planning to paddle on a river in warm weather

Paddling along rivers is a different kettle of fish altogether, with the rocky underfoot being a significant concern. We won’t let the kids get anywhere near the river without their keen water sandals and we set an example by wearing our own. Unlike Teva’s or other water sandals, Keen Whisper Sandals and Keen Newport H2 sandals are the best shoes for paddle boarding because they are designed to guard against sharp rocks and tricky terrain.

They have a very secure fit and good traction help you navigate those riverbeds with the confidence of a seasoned explorer. Their only downside is that you can get pebbles or sand in on the footbed which can be difficult to get out. However, we have found the toe and foot protection is worth the hassle of removing sand and small pebbles.

All of the Keen sandals come in a wide variety of colors and sizes.  They all have a wonderful, rugged, stable foot bed for paddle boarding as well as getting your board to and from the water.  The washable polyester webbing is quick drying which we love since we are in and out of the water. 

Julie has small, narrow, sensitive feet and she loves that she can hike, paddle board and have adventures all day without getting blisters or having sore feet.  John has wide feet and large ankles.  He has a hard time finding comfortable shoes.  He loves his Keen Newport leather sandals and wears them the majority of the time both in and out of the water. 

We often will paddle down a river before getting off our board to explore around and even jump off the rocks before hiking back up to where we started.  We can do all of the above as a family without having to deal with bashed up toes, blisters or other injuries.

Shop Keen Water Sandals on Amazon

The best shoes for paddle boarding on a lake in warm weather

john paddle boarding wearing keensJohn (wearing his Keens) and Wookie Paddle Boarding on Fuller Lake, CA on a nice summer day in July.

When it comes to lake paddle boarding, especially those lakes that you have to hike a ways with your paddle board before inflating and floating you need something rugged.

Remember that lake bottoms can have slippery rocks as well as mud, goo and sand. We have saved our kids countless gashes and they still have all of their toes due to their Keen water sandals. They stay on and they protect even little feet.

We often will paddle to the far side of a mountain lake before getting off our board to explore around and even jump off the rocks.

If you are one of those people (like us) that likes to go explore whatever islands may be present in the middle of the lake or you like to paddle up a finger of the lake and get off your board to jump off some rocks into the water, it is good to have a good water shoe that drains, is quick drying and has a rugged sole.

For this we recommend Keen Newport H2 Sandals. These shoes, provide exceptional grip, keeping you stable both in and out of water. Sheer summer lake pleasure at its best!

The best shoes if you are planning to paddle on the ocean or in the surf

If you plan to be paddle boarding in the ocean, then your best shoes for paddle boarding will be either your Keen Water Sandals or your NeoSport Neoprene Boots.

It really depends on how cold the water is and your tolerance for cold feet. Julie does not like to have cold feet, however on hot sunny days she loves to play in the surf with her Keen water sandals on. They are super stable for when she is standing on her board. They also protect her feet when she is skirting rocks and tidepools.

If it is a chilly day and she is planning to sit on her board and tour the kelp fields looking for otters and enjoying the sea life in Monterey Bay, she will grab her NeoSport Hyperflex Low Top Boots so she is comfortable and her feet stay warm even it if is windy.  Neosport has a wide range of dive booties that are perfect for paddling in.  

Shop NeoSport Neoprene Booties on Amazon

The best shoes for paddle boarding in the winter

If you’re paddling on a river in winter, we like NeoSport Dive Boots. They come in both low top of high top depending on whether you want to keep sand out.

We prefer high top to keep the sand out in the winter, but the low top in the summer when we are up at freezing high mountain lakes.

We really appreciate NeoSport’s sturdy build and insulating warmth, your feet will be on a luxurious winter retreat, while you smoothly paddle through icy river currents.

For paddle boarding we always get a dive boot with a sole, not a dive sock since you need a rugged sole to protect your feet while you are transporting your board or if you get off your board mid paddle to have a look around on foot.

NeoSport even has a low top boot that looks like a Van’s style shoe that our son loves!

Winter paddle boarding on a lake? Imagine snow blanketing the ground and the cool serenity of the placid lake in winter. For such conditions, there’s nothing better than the warm and secure Neosport 3mm neoprene dive boot. It’s like having a pair of woolly socks that keep your feet warm both in and out of the water. If it is really cold you can even pair them with neoprene tights like these.

Now imagine paddle boarding in warmer conditions, but the water is still really cold. In these situations we will sometimes wear a neoprene bootie or we will go with our Keens. It really depends on how cold the water is and how much walking/hiking we have to do to get to where we are paddle boarding.

This October Julie and John were up at Mammoth, CA. There are several high mountain lakes in the area. They started by inflating their paddle boards and touring Lake Mamie before portaging with their paddle boards the short distance between Lake Mamie and Lake Mary.

In the afternoon, the wind kicked up and the lake started being shaded by the surrounding mountains. Julie’s Vibram Five Fingers V-Aqua Toe shoes were wet and her feet got really cold. So did John’s feet clad in their Keen H2 Newport Sandals. Even though their feet were out of the water and the rest of their body was still warm, their feet got cold due to the wind and shade. While they both love their Keen’s and Vibram Five Fingers, they both wished that they had brought their NeoSport Neoprene Wetsuit Boots on that day.

The best shoes for paddle boarding if you like Crocs

Do you just love Crocs? If so, Merrell’s Hydro Moc water shoes are perfect for those who prioritize comfort over everything else. They are also environmentally friendly and dry in a jiffy.

But if you're someone who's likely to find themselves in unfriendly terrains, these might not provide enough traction. However, Merrell’s Hydro Runner Water Shoes and their Wildwood Aerosport Water Shoes provide excellent traction, foot protection and they dry rapidly.

Shop Merrell Hydro Moc's and Merrell Water Shoes on Amazon

Pros and cons of the best shoes for paddle boarding

Each of these shoe options has its pros and cons.

The Keen water sandals, with their swift-drying feature, are fantastic for paddle boarding in the heat. However, they might not insulate your feet enough in colder conditions.

Vibram Five Finger V-Aqua shoes are champions in terms of stability due to their superior grip. They are super comfortable and great for walking in but don’t provide much protection in situations where your feet could slide between rocks and get crunched. They dry rapidly and have holes so water escapes quickly, but they might not provide the warmth you need for chilling winter paddle boarding sessions.

Boots like the Neosport provide unmatched warmth and comfort, ready to tackle cold water conditions. However, you might find them a little bulky if you're used to lighter footwear like sandals or shoes. Additionally, your foot will stay wet the entire time you are wearing them and they may be too hot in the summer.

All of these options can be taken off and stowed once you are on your paddle board and paddling around, but some people prefer to paddle with their shoes on since it may feel more stable or just because they like it better.

Our recommendations based on the scenarios we have discussed

There is no one perfect choice when it comes to the best shoes for paddle boarding.  So, considering the environments you plan to paddle board in, how do you choose?

If you're paddle boarding mostly in the summer around beaches and lakes, consider picking up either the Keen water sandals, Merrell water shoes or the Vibram V-Aqua amphibious shoes.

For the adventurous river explorer, get yourself a pair of Keen water sandals. They provide essential security and solid footing while traversing rocky river banks or beds.

Do you find yourself paddle boarding throughout the year, braving cold waters in winter? Do you like paddle boarding in the surf? Then, the NeoSport neoprene water boots have got your feet covered—literally!

But what if you enjoy both standing and sitting during your paddle boarding sessions? Well, the Keen sport sandals are then your go-to in the summer, offering immense comfort no matter your paddleboarding style. If it is cold then choose the one of the NeoSport low top neoprene boots.

If you have a narrower foot, prefer to wear a proper water shoe that is fast draining and drying shoe or love Crocs, then a Merrell water shoe may be the best choice.

Final thoughts

julie feet keens paddle board

We hope with these recommendations you will get the perfect paddle boarding shoe so that all of tyour paddle boarding experiences transform from good to unforgettable. Protecting your feet and ensuring your comfort means you can focus on savoring every splash, every ray of sunshine or every patch of snow while on your paddleboard.

So, embark on that paddleboarding adventure, and don't let the wrong shoes ruin your trip's comfort and fun! With these fantastic options, you're sure to find your ideal paddleboard shoes, embodying the sentiments of "Best choice, comfortable, warm, stable, secure, non-slip, good traction, best shoe for paddle boarding, more fun, and easier". Happy paddling!

We hope to see you out on the water!

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