You’re heading out for some fun at the beach… or maybe you’re just heading to the grocery store, but your child has an affinity for jumping in puddles.
Either way, if you’re like me, you’re probably tired of the smelly, stinky, and ruined shoes that result after they’ve been soaked through by your little explorer.
Thankfully, some shoes have been created with just this problem in mind. But buying waterproof shoes is a little more complicated than just picking up a new pair of sneakers.
There are several things to consider, and we’ve got everything you need to know right here.
Read on to learn about how to pick the best water shoes — and which ones may be best for your little one.
What Are Water Shoes?
“Water shoes” refers to a category of waterproof footwear designed to be worn in or around the water.
The shoes are referred to as “waterproof,” but this terminology refers to the fact that the material from which they are made can withstand submersion in water. They’re not waterproof in the sense that they keep water out of the shoes.
Why Does My Child Need Water Shoes?
The primary function of this kind of footwear is to keep the feet safe and comfortable while walking on surfaces that have the potential to be sharp, painful, and even dangerous. Water shoes allow children (and adults) to experience everything the outdoors has to offer while preventing injury to the feet.
Areas with water — typically lakes, rivers, and oceans — are filled with potential dangers to a barefoot child:
- Sharp rocks.
- Slippery rocks.
- Jagged shells.
- Stinging sea creatures.
- Broken glass or other trash.
- Hot sand.
Wearing water shoes can provide your child with a barrier between their tender feet and hazards located in or around water.
Not only do they contribute to safety, but they also ensure your child’s comfort. Even though the seaweed on the bottom of the lake poses no real threat, it can feel strange and deter children from even entering the water.
They can also keep your child safe at the local pool. They’re typically manufactured with rubber bottoms that prevent slipping on the pool deck or changing area.
And finally, while water shoes are intended for a very specific use (in or around water), many a mom has figured out that they’re a great all-around shoe for their active children.
Can’t I Just Use Regular Shoes?
You may be tempted to save money by simply allowing your child to wear an old or inexpensive pair of shoes or sandals in the water to protect their feet. This can be problematic for the following reasons.
Wearing footwear that wasn’t designed for water use can also result in injury. Material that wasn’t manufactured to be worn while wet can rub against the feet, causing blisters and discomfort.
Finally, putting regular shoes in the water has the potential to ruin them. They’re not made from bacteria- and mold-resistant material, which means they can get smelly after being submerged in water, and eventually break down.
What Types of Are There?
Water-friendly footwear comes in many different designs (source):
- Aqua Socks or Wet Shoes: Basically a skin-tight neoprene foot covering, this option offers slip resistance, warmth, and keeps the sand out, preventing it from rubbing between your child’s shoe and their sensitive skin. However, because of the thinness of the sole, these don’t offer as much protection from the elements underfoot. This option is primarily used by on-the-water enthusiasts (think kayakers, canoers, jet-skiers) but might not be the most practical for a little one who’s needing protection from rough terrain.
- Water Shoes: These look like typical shoes but are made of plastic, mesh, or some other material that will dry quickly and allow the foot to breathe. They have a thick sole to provide protection, and usually, have a reinforced plastic or rubber toe to keep your little one from hurting themselves on unseen underwater obstacles. It also helps to keep the sand out of the front of the shoe.
- Water Sandals: These are constructed much like water shoes but without the reinforced toe. They keep feet cooler during hot summer months but allow more sand to enter the shoe and offer less toe protection. Still, they’re made from waterproof and breathable materials, so you know that they’ll hold up in water, and keep little feet healthy in the process.
What Do I Need to Look For?
When buying water shoes for your child, consider the following:
- Primary Use: Where will your child be using their water shoes? If you’re on a beach in sunny California, aqua socks may be perfect for protecting their feet from the hot sand. If you’re wading in a Midwest river, you’ll likely want full-protection shoes to keep them from stubbing their toes on underwater rocks. And if you’re hanging out by the lake in the mountains, water sandals may be just right, offering underfoot protection but allowing the water to flow easily through their toes.
- Material: You have a variety of materials to choose from. Straight-up plastic won’t absorb water at all and will dry practically immediately. But it can rub against your little one’s skin or feel hot since they aren’t breathable. Mesh is another option. Regardless, skip any shoe made of leather as these won’t hold up in water.
- Independence: Do you have a child who insists on putting everything on by themselves? Or do you have a baby, and you’re the one dressing them? Water sandals are the easiest to put on — and if you’re looking for ease, choose a sandal with simple velcro straps.
- Sole Thickness: If you think your child will be using water shoes as an everyday shoe, or if you’ll be using them in locales with sharp or uneven terrain, choose shoes that have a thick, solid sole for maximum protection. However, if you’re dealing with an early walker who’s still getting the hang of things, you might want to choose something less bulky and clunky to help them keep their balance.
The Best Kids Water Shoes of 2018
Every mom loves a kid product that does its job and can hold its own even after months of hard wear and tear. Water shoes should be rugged, functional, and serve their purpose — which is to let your kids enjoy themselves safely. With that in mind, here are our top 10 picks in 2018 that are as safe as they are practical:
1. Fresko Toddler Water Shoes with Toes
Welcome to the best of all worlds: waterproof upper, skin-tight protection from sand, and a skid-proof sole that’s thin enough to feel the ground beneath but thick enough to offer protection. All of this is packaged in a water sock with extra toe protection.
The neoprene upper is water resistant and quick-dry, and its elastic fit with velcro closures make them easy to put on for both you and your toddler.
These will give your child the protection they need without feeling too bulky, and they’re versatile enough to wear in a number of different environments.
- They’re sturdy yet still flexible for maximum fun and adventure time.
- They fit snug around the ankle to keep out sand.
- They offer toe protection.
- They’re machine washable for when you get back home.
- The foot is fully covered, which may make it hot to wear.
- Some reviewers complained about durability.
2. Norocos Lightweight Aqua Socks
Lightweight so they won’t interfere with your child’s budding walking skills, the protective yet thin rubber sole of these socks will allow your child to feel the ground so they can keep their balance.
And with the uppers made from a blend of polyester and spandex, they’re elastic enough to cling to their feet and not fall off. But even if they do, don’t worry — they float for easy recovery.
These aqua socks are available in a wide range of designs, so you’re sure to find one that will fit your little one’s personality.
And because they’re so colorful and cute, you probably won’t have any trouble convincing your toddler to wear them, either.
- Elastic construction makes putting them on simple.
- They have a rubber sole for protection.
- They’re thin, so they won’t interfere with early walking.
- They dry quickly, so you can pack them up in a cinch after use.
- There’s no adjustable closure.
- They’re not thick, making them less suitable for rough terrain.
- Some reviewers did not find them durable.
3. iPlay Baby Swim Shoes
These are made of quick-dry neoprene combined with breathable mesh on the uppers, allowing the air to circulate properly around your child’s foot — even when wet.
The bottoms are made of rubber along with a non-skid sole to ensure traction, keeping your child’s foot protected and preventing accidents on the most slippery of surfaces.
They come in several different colors, and the elasticity of the shoe along with a built-in pull tab helps with easy off-and-on.
- They come in many different colors.
- There’s a handy loop for easy pull-on.
- They have a protective sole.
- They’re made of quick-dry material that won’t go moldy or smelly.
- It’s difficult to get the right fit.
- They run a little large.
- There is no adjustable closure to ensure proper fit.
4. PediPed Flex Canyon Water Sandal
These water sandals not only come in wide toddler sizes, but they also come in gender-specific colors so you can buy cute ones just for your little boy or girl.
They have a neoprene lining that will help stave off the stink that can come with wet shoes, and also contribute to quick drying.
They were developed with your child’s foot health and comfort in mind — in fact, they’re approved by the American Podiatric Medical Association for promoting healthy foot development.
Further, the rugged, flexible sole will make sure your child’s feet are protected wherever they go.
- They’re available in wide sizes.
- They have a flexible neoprene lining.
- They’re designed for healthy foot development.
- They are a little costly.
- Some reviewers complained about rubbing.
- These would not work well on the beach with sand.
5. Teva Tidepool Water Sandal
This hybrid option from high-quality brand Teva blends the comfort of a sandal with some toe protection. Because let’s be honest: kids aren’t exactly the most careful people on the planet.
With these, they’ll be spared the pain of a stubbed toe while still allowing their feet to breathe.
They’re constructed from a synthetic waterproof material that dries quickly and has a velcro closure so you can make them as tight (or as loose) as you need to fit properly.
To cap it off, they’ve got a thick, rubber sole for maximum traction and safety while walking.
- It has a thick, protective sole.
- Constructed from a quick-dry water resistant material.
- It has an easy to use velcro closure.
- Closed toe is soft (not hard plastic or rubber).
- Some reviewers found the toe peeked out of one of the cutouts.
- These shoes are on the pricier side.
6. SUIEK Infant Swim Shoes
These shoes are great for your little one who’s just learning to walk. The thinner soles provide protection against hot sand and some of the more uncomfortable ground obstacles without having a thick, bulky sole that can hinder an early walker.
They’re constructed of waterproof neoprene, meaning they’ll stretch to insert the foot but retract to stay firmly in place.
But in the event your little one removes them or tosses them into the water to play, they’ll float, so you won’t lose them.
- They’re waterproof.
- Comfortable for early walkers.
- They protect from hot sand.
- These shoes float so you won’t have to go deep diving to find them if they come off.
- No adjustable closures.
- The sole is not thick, so it’s not suitable for rocky terrain.
- You’ll use these for only a limited period; they’re best for small babies but will be outgrown quickly.
7. Minnow Aqua Water Swim Shoes
These adorable shoes will keep your sweet baby’s feet safe and comfy. They’re designed to be skin-tight, which keeps irritating sand out — out of their shoes and out of your house!
The bottom of the fully-neoprene shoe also has non-skid traction to keep them from falling.
These were designed on the beaches of Australia and made to help parents protect their kids’ feet from hot sand and sharp shells.
For a baby that’s still getting the hang of walking, they’re a great option to enjoy protection while still being able to feel the sand underneath their toes.
- Great for early walkers.
- These are not bulky.
- They have a non-skid surface.
- Great at keeping irritating and abrasive sand out.
- They’re inappropriate for concrete.
- The sizing is a little complicated.
- Not appropriate for older toddlers.
8. Aquakiks Water Shoes
These cuties are light enough for the beach yet rugged enough to prevent foot injury.
The rubber sole will keep your child’s feet protected, and the fitted uppers will keep the sand out — unlike sandals or other designs. You can make sure they fit properly with the adjustable closure, and the high-quality material is odorless.
Reviewers agree that they dry very quickly, and the traction on the bottom is designed with water play in mind, so your child is safe.
- They have good traction.
- Quick drying.
- They have an adjustable closure to ensure a snug fit.
- Some reviewers found them too tight around the ankle.
- They tend to run a little small.
- They do not offer toe protection.
9. Stride Rite Phibian Sneakers
If you have a hard time keeping your active boy confined to either the splash pad or the playground, these shoes will let him run between both without worry.
They have an anti-microbial lining that will prevent the growth of bacteria and keep them from smelling if they get wet.
They’re also designed just like a regular shoe, so they have proper arch and ankle support, but are constructed out of rubber (along with quick-dry synthetic fabric), so they have the functionality of an athletic shoe and the durability of a water shoe.
The rubber sole and closed toe also mean that your kiddo’s feet and toes are adequately protected.
- They can be easily washed by hosing them off.
- They won’t smell when wet.
- They come in many different colors.
- They’re very versatile, so you’ll get a lot of wear out of them.
- Sand could cause rubbing if it gets in the shoes.
- These would not be well suited for the beach.
10. Keen Newport H2 Sandals
Keens have long been the powerhouse of the water shoe industry, and they have a solid reputation for a reason.
Not only do they provide thick protection on both the sole and the toe, but the bottom of the shoe is built more like an athletic shoe or boot for exceptional traction.
Each shoe is adjustable up top with both an elastic lace and a velcro closure, and the quick-dry fabric has built-in odor controlling technology.
What’s more, these shoes offer unparalleled anatomical support with a removable footbed, keeping your child comfy even if they’ve been running all day.
Finally, they come in every color of the rainbow, meaning you can choose your kiddo’s personal fave, or choose black or tan as a unisex option that can be used for hand-me-downs later.
- They’re adjustable for a good fit.
- They have odor-controlling technology.
- Thick, sporty soles will last through all your kid’s adventures.
- Durable, so you get your money’s worth.
- They don’t come in half sizes.
- They are a little pricey.
My favorite is Keens water shoes. That’s what my kids have always used.
Not only are they versatile (so I don’t have to buy multiple pairs of shoes each summer), but they hold up well and keep my kids’ feet safe — both the bottoms and the toes.
And with the velcro and elastic closures, they’re easy enough for my kids to put on independently but secure enough that they won’t fall off.
What terrain will your kids’ water shoes be exploring this season?