Water Sandals vs Water Shoes – The Ultimate Guide

Nowadays, outdoor pursuits and sports are more popular than ever before. This is why, in today’s handy guide, we’re going to be looking at the fundamental differences between water sandals and water shoes. If you enjoy outdoor sports, one thing that must be taken into consideration is your surroundings. If you take part in water-based sports and activities for example, you’ll need to ensure that you choose the appropriate clothing and gear to ensure that you protect yourself from the water. This is where it pays to know the key differences between water sandals and water shoes, so that you can make an informed choice about which happens to be the better choice for you. They both offer their own unique advantages and disadvantages, but, choosing the right one will not only help keep you comfortable, but more importantly, it will help to keep you safe. Here’s the ultimate guide to water sandals vs water shoes.

About water footwear

We won’t go into too much detail right now, because, as the name implies, you can probably guess what water footwear is. Basically, as you know, many popular outdoor sports, pursuits, and activities in general are either performed in water or around water and involve getting wet. Water sports such as kayaking, canoeing, and Whitewater rafting, all take place in the water. Other activities, however, take place around the water and there is therefore a very good chance that your feet could get wet, which is why traction and comfort is so important. Whilst there are a number of different types of water footwear, the two most popular examples are: Water sandals, and water shoes.

Why use water footwear?

We’ll be elaborating on the key benefits of wearing water sandals or water shoes a little later on in this guide, but for now, we’ll quickly cover the basics and will take a quick look at why good quality water footwear is considered to be of such importance. Key reasons to purchase good quality water shoes, water sandals, or water footwear in general include:


Safety is paramount when it comes to outdoor pursuits, or physical exertion of any kind for that matter. When you’re around water and slippery surfaces however, safety is essential. Water footwear is designed to provide superb traction and grip on all surfaces, helping to reduce your risk of slipping on wet surfaces.


When you’re taking part in your sport or activity of choice, it’s absolutely essential that you’re comfortable at all times. Let’s face it, if you wore regular training shoes whilst, say, kayaking, as soon as they got wet, you’d be walking around with soaking wet feet for the rest of the day. Not only that, but the material would also likely rub and cause blisters. Water sandals as well as water shoes, however, do not become waterlogged once they come into contact with water, or even once submerged. They’re designed to dry quickly and to be as comfortable on your feet as possible.

What are water sandals?

What are water sandals

Now it’s time for us to take a look at what water sandals are. Contrary to popular belief, water sandals are NOT the same as water shoes. In fact, other than the fact that they’re both designed to be worn in and around water, the differences between the two are like night and day. Generally, in terms of popularity, water sandals are considered to be the more popular choice, though this is largely due to the fact that they’re more versatile and can be worn during more pastimes and activities involving water.

If anybody tries to tell you that water sandals are basically just fancy flipflops, resist the urge to slap them around the face with the sandal, and instead calmly and politely inform them that they are talking complete nonsense. Okay, at first glance they may look like fancy flipflops, but trust us, that’s where the similarities end. It may look like a typical sandal, but a true water sandal is a highly sophisticated and specialist piece of footwear that offers the wearer numerous benefits when used in and around water. As you know, water is wet, and wet things tend to be slippery. If you were to wear regular sandals in the water, and then attempt to walk on a slippery surface, I.E rocks found around beaches, lakes, and rivers, you’d almost certainly slip over and would likely suffer a nasty injury in the process. Water sandals wick water away quickly and offer superior grip and traction on all surfaces, including those which would ordinarily be slippery, especially when wet.

Basically, they’re similar to hiking shoes, except for the fact that they’re sandals and are designed to be used in and around water. Some people incorrectly refer to water sandals as water shoes, and while similar in terms of safety, the difference is mainly in the design. Water shoes offer a closed toe design, whereas water sandals offer an open toe design.

Best uses for water sandals

So, we’ve established that water sandals are not just fancy flipflops, and we’ve also established that they aren’t water shoes. Now that you know what they are, it’s now time for us to take a look at some of the best uses for good quality water sandals. Whilst you could technically wear them in and out of the bath or shower, we recommend you expand your horizons and set your sights that little bit higher. Here are a few ideas of ideal uses for water sandals:

Wade fishing

Wade fishing

Wade fishing is an incredibly popular pastime, particularly during the warmer months of the year. There’s nothing better than grabbing your fishing gear, packing a few cold brewskis and delicious sandwiches and heading to your nearest beach, river, or lake and taking part in a spot of wade fishing. Wade fishing involves stealthily sneaking up on larger fish – like a fishing ninja, which means that it requires you to be in the water as you fish. Most forms of wade fishing require you to be at least waist-deep in the water.

In water however, you’ll often find super-slippery rocks and surfaces. Slipping over in the water could, best case scenario, involve you getting soaked from head to toe. More seriously however, it could literally put your life at risk. Water sandals offer superior traction and grip whilst in the water, and around the water’s edge, so you needn’t worry about slipping over. Not worrying about slipping over means that you can focus your attention on those pesky fish hiding in the water.


Many people choose to purchase water sandals for swimming. If swimming in lakes, the sea, and rivers, they often keep them on. If swimming in a pool however, they usually keep them next to the pool and throw them on their feet when they get out of the water. The flooring around the edges of swimming pools can get slippery when wet, so water sandals offer an element of protection and can help to avoid slippages.

Hiking and commuting

If you’re just walking around town between trips to the beach or river, you’ll find that water sandals work very well. They’re extremely comfortable, many of them look very stylish, plus, you know, you’ll be less likely to slip over. If it ever rains whilst you’re out walking, you’ll certainly be glad you’re wearing them.


When water sandals are not so ideal

As awesome as water sandals are, you unfortunately can’t wear them at all times. For example, even though they’re extremely comfortable, we don’t recommend sleeping in them and wearing them in bed. You could, but you probably wouldn’t sleep very well. Here are a few examples of when water sandals are not so ideal.

For hiking

Even though water sandals provide a grip which is just as good, if not better, than most hiking shoes, the one fundamental flaw in their design for hiking is the fact that they have an open-toe design and leave much of your foot exposed. When hiking, this could not only result in you getting cold, but more importantly, you’d be more likely to scratch your foot, cut it, or even have rocks and other heavy items fall on your feet when hiking. As they’re an open-toe design, they’d offer no protection at all.

For rock climbing

If you take part in rock climbing, or rock scrambling, you’ll know that grip is important. For very similar reasons to the ones we listed above however, water sandals would not be suitable for rock climbing.

For cycling or jogging

If you’ve ever tried running in sandals, you’ll know that water sandals are certainly not practical for jogging. For cycling, as your feet are exposed in sandals, you could suffer an injury due to various pieces of debris being kicked up by the wheels.

What are water shoes?

Now that you know what water sandals are, it’s time to look at what water shoes are. In terms of functionality, water shoes are very similar to water sandals, in that they are designed to be worn in water, to wick away water, and to offer superior grip and traction on slippery surfaces. However, they are far more specialized in terms of their uses. If you are involved in water sports and other similar outdoor pursuits, water shoes are ideal. These shoes offer a closed-toe design, as opposed to an open-toe design like sandals. This means that they offer superior protection for the feet, both in and out of the water. Because water shoes offer more protection, they’re designed to be used in more extreme water sports and outdoor activities. As a result of this, you’ll often find that water shoes offer even more traction and grip to the wearer, than most generic water sandals.

Ideal uses for water shoes

Now that you know the key differences between water sandals and water shoes, we’ll now take a look at some ideal uses for water shoes.


As opposed to water sandals, water shoes are in fact very beneficial for people that do a lot of hiking, especially as part of outdoor fishing trips for example. As you know, many hiking trails run through rugged woodland and mountain trails, and more often than not, there will also be significant stretches of water to navigate. When hiking, if you do encounter some shallow water, I.E a large stream, that you need to cross, you can simply go ahead and submerge your feet without having to worry about soggy feet or slipping over on wet rocks. As mentioned, they offer fantastic grip on all terrains, not just in the water.

Fishing trips

Fishing trips are generally a whole lot of fun. If however, you find that you’ve only packed one set of footwear, and the footwear in question doesn’t happen to be waterproof, as soon as you get them wet you’ll be uncomfortable for the duration of your trip. Cold and soggy feet are not fun, no matter how adventurous you are. For fishing trips however, water shoes are ideal as you can submerge your feet without having to worry a bout slipping over, and they’ll be dry in no time at all.

Hiking in wet terrain

Whilst some hiking trails are dry, rocky, and dusty, there are others that are soggy, muddy, boggy, and wet. If you’re taking part in a hike that covers a lot of muddy and wet terrain, water shoes are perfect. You can submerge your feet in water quite easily, without having a soggy, waterlogged shoe to deal with for the rest of the day because they dry off so quickly. Not only that, but if they do get muddy and dirty, you can simply find the nearest stream or river, and get them cleaned up without having to be mindful of getting them wet inside.

Drawbacks of water sandals and when they’re not so ideal

Like all things in life, water sandals have their benefits, and they have their drawbacks. Here’s a look at a few drawbacks and circumstances where water sandals are not so ideal:

Not as convenient as water sandals

One of the more convenient aspects of water sandals is the fact that they’re so easy to get on and off. Water shoes take longer to get in and out of.

Usually more expensive

Because water shoes are more complex and durable in terms of design and function, they’re usually more expensive than water sandals.

For extreme hikes and rock climbing

Even though most water shoes offer traction which is comparable to that offered by a good quality hiking shoe, for more extreme hiking trails, water shoes are not really suitable. The same principle also applies to more extreme rock climbing routes and trails as well.

So, water sandals or water shoes – Which are better?

We’ve looked at the key differences between water sandals and water shoes, and we’ve looked at their similarities, so which is better? In reality, it all depends on you and what you want from your footwear. If you’re looking for footwear that you can simply wear at the beach, or for a spot of wade fishing, water sandals are ideal. If you want footwear to keep your feet dry and to offer traction and grip when hiking in wet terrain, water shoes are better. Basically, the answer is very much subjective as it depends on your goals and requirements.


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