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Types of Water Shoes

Shoes, shoes, shoes - everywhere there are shoes. Except where we need them the most - in the water and for all water sports and swim fitness. The helmets for cycling have taken hold and yet for the swimming pool, all too often, I see no shoes. I love the water, from boating to snorkeling, to my beloved hot tub to all forms of swim fitness from water aerobics, aqua Zumba, aquatic kick boxing and of course my invention, the innovative swim board called the EZ Swimmer®. It saddens me to see a swimming pool empty, it makes me cringe when I see people walking on the swimming pool deck without shoes.

Remember the days of camping and getting your old sneakers wet and soggy? Remember soggy sneakers were preferable to no shoes at all? Times have changed and the options for water shoes have expanded. Because there are a myriad of options in the marketplace, what shoe do you need when is now the question. Journey with us as we explore the many types of water sports, many types of swim fitness and the many new water shoes on the market. Hear the pros and cons, see videos of people putting the shoes on and hear some very knowledgeable reviews. Learn what a swim slipper is and how it functions. See the Vibram Five Finger shoes and learn two tips to help put these very cool "toed" water shoes on. See the latest in deck shoes with all the many vibrant colors. Learn what to look for in choosing water aerobics shoes.

The Many Names of Water Shoes

The names of water shoes are too numerous to even begin to list but I will attempt. There is Teva - a brand name, swim slipper - a type, minimal water shoe - similar to the swim slipper, tech amphibian is my favorite name - it says it all doesn't it? Of course a sandal is open toed - that is about the only straight forward name that is historically commonplace. The classic deck shoe or boat shoe called top-sider. All the other names are relatively new and oh, I forgot my favorite the Five Fingers which is really five toes!

Barbie with Outdoor Sports - Kayaking

Barbie with outdoor sports - kayaking

Barbie with outdoor sports - kayaking

What I Love About Water Shoes

I love being outdoors and the waterfront. Yet when my feet hit the water I will cringe. I don't like the feel of mud between my toes. I don't care for developing calluses on the bottom of my feet. I wish to play, run and romp not near the water's edge, in the water's edge.

Walking along a beach, throwing sticks in a lake, wading next to the boat are things my body likes to do but my feet do not.

Water shoes even old soggy sneakers are my protector.

No, I am not the poolside diva - I want to be moving. But even the poolside dive needs to choose the right shoe.

The types of water shoesrange by the various activities and include but are not limited to:

Various Types of Water Shoes for the Active Lifestyle

  • Scuba sock and shoes
  • Boat Shoes - sail boating, motor boating
  • Kayak Shoes
  • Beach Shoes
  • Swim Fitness of all kinds:
  • Vertical swim fitness - everything from water aerobics to aqua kickboxing, aqua Zumba and more!
  • Horizontal swim fitness - full immersion swimming, Aquajogger®, lap swimmming with a kick board.
  • Diagonal swim fitness with flotation equipment such as cuddle core with EZ Swimmer®

Barbie Spa

Barbie Spa in Shanghai via

Barbie Spa in Shanghai via

Spa Shoes - Purely Recreational

Other Types of Water Shoes - Spa Types and More

  • Shower Shoes
  • Relaxation
  • Swimming Pool Deck Shoes - I like to call these "diva shoes" - shoes simply for pool side sun tanning purposes only. This would also include yachting the much loved cruise ships.

Water Shoes and Performance

Not all water shoes are created the same. If you are seeking water aerobics shoes, you need to look for a performance shoe that will give you the same sort of support as an athletic shoe. What to look for is the larger sole. You want a thicker sole than the beach shoe or swim slipper. The water aerobics shoe needs to be very similar in look and performance as your athletic gym shoe with a substantial sole.

Teva Water Shoes

Black Water Shoe

Black Water Shoe

Teva Correct Pronounication

It is pronounced "teh'-vah," not "tee-vah.

Etymology of the Name Teva

Etymology of the Name Teva is derived a word in Hebrew.

The word "teva" is the Hebrew word for "nature".

Teva - High Performance Water Shoe

If you understand the etymology of this great water shoe, you will have a better understanding of what the shoe is all about. The word "teva" is the Hebrew word for nature. It is pronounced "teh'-vah," not "tee-vah.

These shoes are great at protecting your feet and providing traction. For many, they offer the best value and versatility in the water shoe industry.

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Look for the newer shoes with pull on loops. Also, check out the video for Teva's Gnarkosi water shoe.

Teva Shoe

Teva Gnarkosi

Vibram Fivefingers Shoes

Vibram water shoes with toes

Vibram water shoes with toes

How to Put on Your Vibrams

"Anyway, to summarize: powder for easy slippage and the screwdriver to spare your poor finger. Short and sweet."

How Real People Put Vibram Five Finger KSO Barefoot Shoes

Vibram - Tip - One Size Smaller

The water is a different environment. In order to have the most comfortable water shoe with the Vibram, it is recommended to go one shoe size smaller.

KSO - Keep Stuff Out

Vibram was designed with the specific requirement to keep stuff out, therefore, you will often see KSO showcasing this great benefit to the shoe. In the video you will see how Vibram has improved the shoes so the collection of sand on the interior is very limited if not completely eliminated.

Vibram's Five Finger Versality

Water shoes all appear strange because they serve a completely different purpose - comfort and the difficult job of keeping things out. Of all the water shoes, perhaps the most versatile and the strangest looking is the Vibram Five Finger. Yet, this shoe is a technological advancement with superior materials and an engineering design to literally keep things out - KSO. Water shoes excel when they protect your feet. On land, we can have diva shoes, in the water and moving rapidly, we need function and nothing functions better than these high tech shoes.

What makes them special?

Vibram's Performance Rubber Soles for Superior Traction

For one, their traction, the sole are designed to adhere but not stick. The soles are made of performance rubbers - lightweight and designed for traction. This makes the Vibram a favorite among Kayakers and many runners. Yes, runners and many personal trainers love the Vibram. They feel as if you are bare foot.

Vibram's Barefoot Feeling - Stretch Polyamide Fabric

Which brings me to their other advantage, they do feel like your own skin and you can achieve that "barefoot" feel. Yes, obviously, you must get comfortable with the between the toes material. But the material is advanced and very lightweight and breathable. If you demand quality, these are the best water shoes in the industry in my personal opinion. Do try them on and walk a bit to see how you adjust to the new styling. Do purchase them online and take the time to walk in them at home. Remember most online stores have a solid return policy. Just be sure to adhere to their policy.

Vibram - The Ultimate Cross Trainer

The other item that set's the Vibram apart is the cross functionality. The Vibram is fantastic for other activities such as cycling, rock climbing and even body building. You see, the advanced fabric makes this water shoes great for the land too. Why? Because it has advanced fabric that allows your feet to breath on land.

Vibram's Added Bonus

Oh, all this and I almost forgot, as I mentioned before this water is engineered to keep stuff out. The original design had a pocket that I am told allowed sand to enter through the back of the shoe - this has been corrected so there is no worry for when you are running on the beach or slopping with your hunting dog at the edge of the lake.

Vibram Five Fingers KSO Shoes

Boating Yachting Cruising Deck Shoes

Barbie Ken and Midge on speed boat

Barbie Ken and Midge on speed boat

Water Shoes ala Deck Shoes ala Top-Sider

I first fell in love with water shoes with my Sperry deck shoe. I wore two pairs of shoes literally around the world and back. For me, the Sperry shoe is simply the best travel shoe made. It is fashionable, comfortable and versatile. Now Sperry offers a whole array of colors and styles. Cruise ships I feel should carry these shoes in their shops - nothing is better for both men and women while on vacation. These shoes serve you well while on deck, while shopping, while sightseeing. They are comfortable and very durable. I must have walk a million miles in my deck shoes each!

Deck shoes are great on deck. They can work in the water but they are not designed for full immersion like the other shoes. Deck shoes will not work for swim fitness of any kind.

Women's Deck Shoe

Etymology of the Term Top-Sider

Top-sider is a kind of casual shoe dating back to the years of yachting hype in the United states approximately 1937. The term is derived from "topside" from the nautical colloquialism of "upper deck of a ship,"

Original Boat Shoe Since 1935

Scuba Diving Barbie Doll

Barbie in red scuba diving gear complete with tank and fins

Barbie in red scuba diving gear complete with tank and fins

Neoprene Scuba Socks

Scuba Socks and Scuba Shoes

Scuba socks and scuba shoes provide a great shoes for protecting the feet. The difference here is the over the ankle length of the shoe - it is almost a boot for the water.

Durable and yet very practical for numerous water activities. Will work great for kayaking and of course, scuba diving. Provides a little bit too much coverage for most poolside activities except IF you are swimming with fins for your water workout. Swim fins can be worn with or without scuba socks. Remember, you will need protection from the rough surface and the bacteria on the swimming pool deck. The scuba socks offer the advantage of keeping your feet warm all while keeping debris and bacteria away from your feet and toes.

The majority of scuba socks and shoes are made of a very durable material called neoprene. These shoes could literally last you a lifetime. The neoprene allows your feet to breath and yet provides an exceptional tight weave to keep your feet free from debris and potential bacteria.

Scuba Socks Not Just for the Water - Great for Backpacking Too!

Great backpacking tip - include a pair of scuba socks in your gear. They are lightweight and provide warmth and expel water.

Scuba Shoes

Scuba Shoes - Multifunctional Too!

Scuba shoes are also multifunctional - they are not just for scuba diving. Scuba shoes are fantastic for sand volleyball and other beach combing. Scuba shoes are durable and yet breath to protect your feet from rough abrasions and from the sand.

Scuba Barbie Doll

Scuba Barbie Doll in Red Outfit

Scuba Barbie Doll in Red Outfit

Swim Slippers - Water Shoes in Blue and Purple

Swim slippers by EZ Swimmer - Water Shoe in Blue

Swim slippers by EZ Swimmer - Water Shoe in Blue

Swim slippers by EZ Swimmer - Water Shoe in Purple

Swim slippers by EZ Swimmer - Water Shoe in Purple

Beach Shoes and Swim Slippers

Walking along the beach, playing fetch with your dog at the water's edge, boating and wading in the shallow waters of the lake demands the right water shoe. Look for the water shoe that best suits your needs.

Beach shoes without an adjustable closure are great for beach volleyball and shell collecting. Full immersion swimmers, those seeking to flutter kick often want the swim slipper where they can quickly change at the edge of the swimming pool.

The swim slipper with the adjustable closure is great for those seeking to put their swim fins on and power through the water either full immersion or with another flotation device such an aquatic noodle or a swim board such as the EZ Swimmer®.

Swim Slippers Are Ideal For

  • Quick Entry and Exit at the Swimming Pool Ledge
  • Beach Combing/Shell Collecting
  • Boating
  • Hot Tub
  • Showers

Beach Shoes and Swim Slippers - Sizing Tip

Typically as a general statement, you will want to purchase one size smaller. Check the manufacturer's recommendation. Most of these shoes are sold in whole sizes only. If you wear a 7, you can comfortably wear a 6 and the 6 will most likely serve you better. In the water the soft neoprene material expands.

Beach Shoes and Swim Slippers

Beach shoes pull on and tug off. Swim slippers have an adjustable closure that allows you quickly slip into and out of the shoe. The adjustable closure makes this shoe ideal for the shower, ideal for the full immersion swimming, great for the water walker. The adjustable closure is not well suited to water aerobics especially kickboxing or any sort of kicking. The adjustable closure when met with pressure in the swimming pool will release.

Swim Slippers are Superb for Swimming

Swim slippers are superb for swimming and many forms of swim fitness from water walking to full immersion to resistance training. Movements that are completely horizontal in the water - you typically will want no shoes or swim fins. Movements that are diagonal in the water - again you will typically want no shoes or swim fins or possibly swim slippers. Swim slippers are a big step up from water socks. The advantage with the swim slipper is to take the to the edge of the pool and easily slip them on and off near or at the ledge of the pool.

Infant and Toddler Water Shoes

Infant and toddlers need water shoes too! When learning to swim and attending the new mother's classes, do consider the water shoes. These shoes do protect the tiny feet.

Do look for the adjustable closure to assist the parent in putting these shoes on and off wiggly little ones.

Swim Slippers Are Not Water Aerobics Shoes

Beach combing in deck shoes is better than no shoes. Water shoes in swim slippers is better than no shoes. Yet, what is best is the right shoe for the right activity. Know what your main function is before you buy your next water shoe. Shop early, learn the different brands, types and functions and you will shop wisely.

Tiny Tots Demand Adjustable Closures for Water Shoes

Tiny tots wiggle and let's face it Mom or Dad will be taking the water shoes on and off. Adjustable closures for small ones is an important feature.

Proper Shoe and Proper Size

The proper water aerobics shoe looks like your aerobics shoe on land and is sized accordingly.

Water Aerobics Shoes - What to Look For

  • Athletic type soles for possible impact with the swimming pool floor.
  • Stretchable closures not adjustable closures for rapid movements in kicking.
  • Buy true to size unless the manufacturer recommends otherwise.

Water Aerobics

The Aquatics Exercise Association has made major strides in educating their instructors and clients about the use of proper shoes during water aerobics classes. Sadly as a group fitness instructor and certified personal trainer, I still see clients without shoes. Any thing is better than nothing. A nylon sock works in a pinch, cotton socks are clumsy. What is best is a shoe that will serve you. You are investing your time, you probably have invested some dollars in the membership, protecting your feet from the rough surfaces of the swimming pool floor is necessary. You wouldn't ride a bike or hike or go for a walk typically without shoes. So too, you need the proper shoes for your water aerobics classes.

The Sole of the Shoe Matters Most

For me for water aerobics, the sole of the shoe matters most. Typically if the shoe says "beach", the shoe has a sole that is designed for the beach not water aerobics.

Silicon Soles Verses Rubber Soles

Silicon is a great invention and offers huge benefits in the kitchen, solar energy and so on. For the sole of your shoe, silicon may look great but it is not recommended. If silicon is wet and touches fiberglass, you have a slick surface - no traction. Silicon can function on cement but fiberglass shower stalls, the silicon sole can literally be lethal. Do look for a sole that has traction, has some rubber in the sole. Stay clear of silicon soles if you go near a hot tub or fiberglass shower or other slick surface.

Choose the Right Shoe and the Right Size

Most water aerobics shoes are true to sizing. Unlike the swim slippers and scuba shoes, do buy your size not a size smaller. The proper water aerobics shoe looks like your aerobics shoe on land and is sized accordingly.

Water aerobics shoes are worn without socks.

Learn what to look for in a water aerobics shoe. You want a substantial sole, you need a closure that is solid and yet expandable. You want a shoe not a sandal, you want to keep stuff out similar to the Vibram's Five Fingers.

If you are water walking, the Vibram and the swim slipper may be a possibility.

If you are seeing to get your heart rate up and the class is called water aerobics, you need a shoe that looks similar to the land aerobics shoes. The drawstring close works well. The sole that is a step up from the water sock may not be the best choice for your water aerobics classes. Typically if the shoe says "beach", the shoe has a sole that is designed for the beach not water aerobics.

The brands for water aerobics shoes are almost endless. The best recommendation is from your instructor and your fellow participants in your classes. Some of the top brands are shown and detailed here simply for a starting point.

Care of Your Water Shoes

All Water Shoes Need Rinsing! Just as you would rinse your bathing suit, follow the same routine.

Water Shoes Everywhere But Do You Have the Right Water Shoe?

Water shoes are everywhere but do you have the right water shoe for your purpose? The names are numerous but once you understand the functionality, the choices I feel get narrower.

I hope this review helped you to spend your dollars wisely. There are great values in the marketplace for water shoes. These shoes will protect your feet and provide the comfort that you need.

Look for the features that you need for your activity and your feet will thank you.

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Share Your Story - What is Your Favorite Water Shoe and Why

We can always learn from each other. Please feel free to share your story and your favorite water shoe. Explaining what activity you use the shoe for would be most helpful in order to understand why that shoe works best for you. Also, does anyone have a water shoe on their wish list? And why?

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2011 Kelly A Burnett


Kelly A Burnett (author) from United States on May 11, 2015:


Great comment! Wow! You hit all my important points and drove home the need for covering our feet. That needle is horrible - fantastic story to share with us and remind us that we need our feet protected.

I have two pairs of Tevas - and love them! I cannot handle the toes - perhaps I have fat toes? I haven't tried them in the garden - oh, that would be delightful so I will have to upgrade my running shoes and promote an older pair of Tevas to the garden - that will be a joy!

What is perhaps unusual for me, is I find I run better in Tevas. They truly are comfortable. I have tried to run in my aquatic socks thinking it would offer the same natural feeling and I have to be honest, the swim shoes work great in the shower, fantastic on the beach but not for running.

I could see Teva's in the shower, but the price tag is simply too high for me justify exposing them to water on a regular basis. Perhaps more importantly, I feel the different types of water shoes, have a perfect place, dependent upon the primary use - neoprene for sand and beach and shower, aerobic water shoes for water aerobics and Teva's for running but that is perhaps the purist in me!

Besarien from South Florida on May 07, 2015:

I have a pair of Teva water shoes a slightly different style to the ones pictured on your hub. I love them. I never go anywhere without them. I even wear them in our garden. I have used them as shower shoes too at the gym or when we travel or camp. I am with you. I don't like my feet exposed to weird stuff when I can easily wear shoes to help protect them. Not so long ago I was wearing my Tevas on a beach when a man about two beach blankets over stepped on a dirty hypodermic needle. We all just prayed that cutting his foot was the worst of his problems afterward. It pays to wear shoes everywhere! Great hub!

Kelly A Burnett (author) from United States on February 26, 2014:

The world of water shoes has changed dramatically - all for the better. Right now we are seeing a new broader line of rash guards both for women and men. Both of these garments are critical for comfortable out door exercise. For kayaking, you might consider the comfort that a rash guard can garner. I purchased my first one from Australia and the quality of the material and the comfort are unparalleled - even when dry!

Thank you so much for stopping by and sharing. I love to hear what sports people use water shoes for.

Chris Mills from Traverse City, MI on February 17, 2014:

Awesome article. I have a pair of kayaking boots/shoes that I do not like. They fill with water and are Annoying (Capital A intentional). I will be picking up some kind of shoe for the summer. I'll use your hub as a guide. Thanks for all the hard work you put into this article.

Kelly Kline Burnett from Madison, Wisconsin on December 21, 2011:

The Best Mouse Trap,

The "cheapo swim sock" - love that technical term! The world of water shoes has vastly expanded. There is a shoe literally for everyone. Enjoy that kayaking fun!

Pam Valentine from The Heartland, USA on December 19, 2011:

I'm hoping to graduate from the cheapo swim sock, to the teva's this year at Christmas is my secret Santa paid attention to the list! I keep loosing my swim socks getting in and out of my kayak; I have a habit if tangling my feet in the water while yaking, so they were always wet and my feet always soggy and wrinkly. But if I don't get them, then I am thinking of the Vibram Five fingers. Now those look cool, especially helpful for when I have to canoe-kayak carry over slimy rock. Very good post, thank your for all the new info. And thanks for stopping by my mouse trap hub.

Kelly Kline Burnett from Madison, Wisconsin on November 30, 2011:


The Vibram Five Fingers are cool. I see allot of runners who swear by them as well as personal trainers. I would recommend shop for them online and try them at home. Perhaps put a pair of big socks over them and walk for a while before you make your final decision.

So glad you found this resource helpful for water shoe shopping.

LYS on November 30, 2011:

very informative,quality hub and sold me on a pair of those Vibram Five Fingers!Thanks

Kelly Kline Burnett from Madison, Wisconsin on November 23, 2011:


I know isn't it amazing the variety. Water aerobic shoes are relatively new as are the Five Fingers and so on. The world is changing very rapidly. You are right - every day is a school day!

Liam Hallam from Nottingham UK on November 23, 2011:

Fantastic hub with some great water rekated shoes and fantastic images. I never knew you could get specific shoes for water aerobics- Every day is a school day!

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