The 6 Best Water Shoes of Summer 2012
Outside's long reads email newsletter features our strongest writing, most ambitious reporting, and award-winning storytelling about the outdoors. Sign up today.
Sperry Top-Sider Son-R Feedback Bungee Water Shoes
It might not win any fashion awards, but the Feedback Bungee is as well priced as it is versatile. Cinch ‘er down tight and the mesh upper keeps out debris—and lets water escape instantly. Traction is solid, thanks to a series of siped bumps that increase pressure around the balls of your feet.
Chaco Tedinho Bulloo Water Shoees
Because they’re lightweight and quick-drying, Converse Chuck Taylors have always been popular with guides. Problem is, they shred easily and offer scant protection. Chaco’s high-top take on that low-tech classic is superior in every way: it’s tougher (the uppers are made with Cordura and reinforced with rubber), it dries faster, and the Vibram sole is grippier.
Keen keeps tweaking the water-specific versions of its classic you-can’t-stub-your-toe sandals. Testers were impressed with the Turia’s quick-drying, debris-blocking mesh upper and grip—siping on the outsole boosts traction on slippery surfaces. As always, Keen’s molded EVA footbed has enough support that you can actually hike in them.
The slimmest, most minimalist shoe in our test, the Maliko has a surf-bootie-inspired split-toe design, which makes it more responsive when you’re balancing on an a paddleboard or a wet dock. That same design adds flexibility in tight spots, such as the cockpit of a whitewater kayak.
Built with Teva’s ultra-sticky Spider rubber for traction on wet rocks, and a proprietary fabric coating to keep the synthetic uppers from absorbing water, the Fuse-ion performed as well as any river bootie we tested. The heel folds down so you can slip into them as if they were clogs. The best part: it still looks like a sneaker.
The “ion” in the Teva shoe is an extremely thin (a thousandth of the thickness of a human hair) water-repellent layer called ion mask that coats the entire shoe, including the stitching. K-Swiss, Timberland, and Scott, among others, also use it.
Adidas Boat Lace DLX
The Boat Lace DLX is really more of a quick-drying, versatile summer shoe. (The suede and nylon upper absorb water, and there are no drain holes.) If you like the look—it comes in 12 colors—and want more performance, check out the Boat CC Lace ($70), which looks similar but has drain ports and is made with faster-drying mesh.