The Best Water Sandals for All Your Summer Adventures, According to a River Rafting Guide

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With summer in full swing and the great outdoors calling your name, having a pair of water sandals can make all the difference in your adventures. Whether you're gearing up for a heart-pounding rafting trip, a scenic hike, or a refreshing swim in a hidden stream, the best water sandals are designed to keep up with your active lifestyle, so you can enjoy every moment without missing a beat. (Or, ya know, without slipping on slimy river rocks.)

After countless summers of testing footwear around the Mountain West, I’ve rounded up some of the best water sandals that are up to the challenge. I also consulted Courtney Sweeney, the office manager of Northwest Rafting Company in Hood River, Oregon, who has over a decade of experience as a river rafting guide, so she knows her stuff. From sleek and sporty to rugged and reliable, these sandals offer the perfect balance of support and traction to keep you steady on your feet. Find our favorites, below.

Experts In This Article
  • Courtney Sweeney, river rafting guide and office manager at Northwest Rafting Company

The best water sandals, at a glance:

What to look for in water sandals

Water sandals are similar to hiking sandals, but they need to be able to perform in both wet and dry conditions. According to Sweeney, you should look for two primary features that set water sandals apart:

Strap system

Your strap system is your lifeline when you’re navigating rapids or crossing a fast-moving stream. “You should be able to tighten the straps down because once your sandals get wet (or if you're swimming), you don't want to kick them off,” says Sweeney. “You need to be able to strap in and be secure.” Tight-fitting straps will also add stability when you’re hiking over slippery rocks or trails. If you only plan to use your water shoes in calm water, you can get away with a looser fit.


If you’re just splashing around in the lake, you don’t exactly need a grippy sole. But the moment you get onshore or try to walk on some algae-covered stones, you’ll want something a bit more sticky. “There are shoes that have really good grip when they're dry, but when you get wet, they get super slippery,” says Sweeney. So look for a shoe that performs equally well in wet conditions.

Shop the 9 best water sandals

Best overall: Teva Hydratek Sandal — $85.00

Sizes: 5-11

Colors: 4

Teva is a major player in the outdoor sandal game, and it recently leveled up its footwear game with the new Hydratek, a water sandal is designed for performance in and out of the water. The footbed is textured so you don’t slide around in it when it gets wet, while the outsole is inspired by a tree frog’s grip to maximize the surface area that comes in contact with the ground. (Aka, minimum slipping.) They’re also very easy to adjust, with a simple velcro system across the top of the foot and around the ankle.

W+G Commerce Editor Francesca Krempa, who also happens to be a paddler and fly angler, swears by them for all sorts of watery adventures. “The grippy outsole really is tremendous and is almost sticky—I feel comfortable walking along the slipperiest of stones in them,” she says. “They’re also plenty comfy enough to wear on dry adventures, too.”


  • Textured footbed
  • Grippy, textured outsole
  • Comfortable, customizable, quick-dry straps
  • Features recycled and sustainable materials
  • Unique topographical design on the outsole


  • Whole sizes only
chaco z1 classic water sandals
Runner up: Chaco Z/1 Classic Sandal — $69.00

Sizes: 5-12, in two widths

Colors: 15+

Back in 2014 I worked in rentals at a river rafting company in Moab, and the shoe of choice for nearly every guide was Chaco. Fast forward to today, and it is still a staple in the industry (so much so that it has become a source of “cool street cred” for outdoors enthusiasts, says Sweeney, if you have the Z-shaped tan line.) People, including Sweeney, swear by these shoes for all water adventures because the sole is grippy on wet rocks, the straps are form-fitting for stability, and you can easily take them on and off. The only reason why they’re the Runner Up? They’re a little bit clunky, due to the heavier outsole.


  • Grippy, even in wet conditions
  • Durable outsole
  • You can cinch down the straps so they’re very stable
  • Use Chaco’s customization feature (on the brand’s website) to choose every color for a truly-you shoe


  • Straps may require break-in time for some
  • Heavier than other sandals
  • Available in whole sizes only
merrell hydro moc water sandals
Best closed-toy style: Merrell Hydro Moc — $60.00

Sizes: 5-11

Colors: 15

For days at the lake or around town, this slip-on sandal is comfy and eye-catching. (Think of them as Crocs’ sleeker, more hip cousin.) The lightweight design means you won’t feel weighed down, and the water-resistant material ensures they can handle splashes and puddles with ease. The back does have a strap that helps keep your foot in place, but we wouldn’t use these for any adventures where you’re at risk of losing a shoe. That said, the extra coverage in the upper is perfect for preventing stubbed toes.


  • Roomy, casual fit
  • Slip-on design with optional backstrap
  • Super lightweight
  • Closed-toe design acts as protection


  • Too loose for more intense adventures
hoka hopara 2 water sandals
Best cushioning: Hoka Hopara 2 — $135.00

Sizes: 5 – 11

Colors: 5

If you’re looking for Hoka-level cushioning in a water sandal, the Hopara is your best bet. It drains well and dries quickly like a sandal, but provides foot protection and support like a hiking shoe. Basically, it’s the best of both worlds if you’re on a trail with frequent water crossings. The quick-lace design is easy to get on and off, and it comes in a range of cute neutrals like the peachy pink “Cream/Cedar” colorway.

Krempa swears by these for long days on her feet: “I wear these when I know I’m going to be in and out of the water for a looong time,” she says. “They’re not as cute as my Tevas but they’re comfy. My knees love them.”


  • Durable toe cap helps prevent toe stubs
  • Excellent cushioning and shock absorption
  • Adjustable heel strap lets you dial in the fit
  • Lightweight, quick-drying mesh upper adds protection, too


  • Thick layer of foam reduces stability in tricky terrain, like slippery river rocks
  • Available in whole sizes only
astral webber water sandal
Most eco-friendly: Astral Webber Sandal — $110.00

Sizes: 6- 11

Colors: 4

The Astral Webber is the happy medium between your favorite river sandals and comfy flip-flops. With a unique webbing system that keeps your feet secure and a cushioned footbed, these sandals are versatile enough for active pursuits or even relaxed outings. Plus, they dry quickly so you won’t be stuck with soggy feet after a dip in the water. Even better, the uppers are made from recycled materials, so you can feel better about your carbon footprint.


  • Webbing is thick and comfortable
  • Cushioned footbed works with your natural foot shape
  • Quick-drying materials
  • Lightweight
  • Crafted with sustainable and recycled materials


  • Back strap isn’t adjustable, so may be loose for some
  • Available in whole sizes only
Most breathable: Keen Newport H2 — $125.00

Sizes: 5-11

Colors: 20+

When you think of water sandals, your mind may go to this iconic pair that has been around for over 20 years. There’s a reason not much has changed since then—and for that, Sweeney points to these as another great option for river trips: The Newport has everything you want in a sandal, like toe protection, excellent traction, breathability, and quick-drying materials. The fit is roomy enough to let your toes wiggle, but still secure enough to instill confidence wherever you step. And the full rubber toe cap extends along the sides to ensure you stay protected.


  • More protective than most sandals
  • Breathable and lightweight
  • Incredible traction, even in wet conditions
  • Enough cushion to wear for a full day of hiking


  • Gorpcore design sways functional over aesthetic (and isn’t for everyone)
  • Available in whole sizes only
bedrock cairn evo pro water sandals
Most lightweight: Bedrock Sandals Cairn Evo Pro — $130.00

Sizes: 6-15

Colors: 8

Bedrock, like Chaco, is another brand that comes with a very loyal fanbase for everything from water sports and thru-hiking. Sweeney wore the Bedrock Cairn sandals for her last few seasons as a guide because “they have great grip and feel really secure on your foot,” she says. Although they are very minimal in design, they perform well in any condition and mold to your foot for a secure fit. And best of all, they don’t get stinky as quickly as other shoes.


  • Inclusive size range
  • Grippy outsole
  • Very light, so you can bring them anywhere
  • Mold to the contours of your feet


  • Toes are very exposed, so you have to be careful while hiking
  • Barefoot design may not provide enough cushion or support for some
  • Available in whole sizes only
adidas terrex hydroterra water sandals
Most durable: Adidas Terrex Hydroterra Sandal — $86.00

Sizes: 5-15

Colors: 1

Maybe, like me, you’re hesitant to give up your sneakers. Well, this hybrid shoe from Adidas Terrex will help you ease into sandal-wearing. It looks like a trainer but has openings in the mesh along the side and back that dump water to prevent things from getting swampy. You can adjust the fit with the double buckles and heel strap and then walk all day in comfort thanks to the EVA midsole.


  • Fully protects from the elements
  • Comfortable midsole cushioning similar to a trail running shoe


  • Traction isn’t quite as good in water as competitors like Chaco and Bedrock
  • Runs slightly small—consider sizing up
  • Only one color option
  • Only whole sizes available
birkenstock arizona eva sandal
Best for casual wear: Birkenstock Arizona Eva Sandal — $50.00

Sizes: 4-12.5, in two widths

Colors: 10

The Birkenstock EVA collection should be your shoe of choice if you need a pair of sandals that look good with any vacation outfit but won’t take ages to dry if you step into the waves. Sure, they won’t stand up to rapids or rugged trails, but the material is waterproof and incredibly lightweight. And just like your favorite pair of Birks, they have the same anatomically shaped footbed with a deep heel cup and arch support along the side that keeps your foot in place.


  • Comfortable footbed designed for support
  • Doesn’t look like a classic water sandal
  • Versatile enough for everyday use


  • Not sufficient for anything technical


What are the best materials for water sandals?

The best materials for water sandals combine durability, comfort, and quick-drying properties. High-quality synthetics like EVA and polyurethane offer excellent cushioning and water resistance, ensuring comfort and longevity. For superior traction on wet surfaces, rubber, or Vibram soles are ideal. These materials ensure your water sandals are ready for any adventure, from river rafting to beach hikes, keeping your feet dry, supported, and safe.

Can I wear my water sandals hiking?

Absolutely! Water sandals are perfect for hiking, especially on trails that involve crossing streams or navigating wet terrain. Look for sandals with durable soles, good arch support, and secure straps to keep your feet stable. (And if you're not sure what to look for in a supportive, stable sandal, read our guide here.)

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