6 Best shoes for river hiking: Top rated water hiking shoes in 2021

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If you’re not quite sure what shoes to wear on that river hike you’re planning, you’re in the right place! It’s so easy to wear the wrong footwear and there’s nothing worse than ruining your hiking adventure with the wrong river hiking shoes – simply because they weren’t meant for it.

Sliding rocks or water not pouring out fast enough can be a challenge, but don’t worry. I’m here to help you pick the right water hiking shoes so that you can enjoy your adventure!

Before we look at the best shoes for river hiking, I’ll go through the most important things you need to know before choosing the right ones for you.

Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links. That means that if you make a purchase through one of those links, I will get a small commission at no extra cost to you.

Best shoes for river hiking

How to choose the best water shoes for hiking

When picking water walking shoes, there are a few things you should take into consideration before you make your choice. I’ll go through them here so that you can make a sound decision without too much fuss.

But first of all, let’s make it very clear. Water shoes are not the same as waterproof shoes. Waterproof shoes are meant to keep the water out of the shoes to keep your feet dry. Water shoes, on the contrary, let in water just as easily as it lets it out again.

When you hike in a river or stream, your waterproof shoes won’t do you any good. They will fill up with water that won’t drain, thus make your feet heavy and the hike or swim unbearably uncomfortable.

What you need, are hiking and water shoes that drain water out quickly to avoid any extra weight and that dry fast. Usually, you’ll use water trail shoes during the summer months when it’s not too cold, so you don’t need to think too much about how warm they are. After all, they’ll get wet anyway!

It’s also important to choose comfortable water shoes that protect your feet when walking on slippery and uneven terrain. And there I just touched into another super important feature. The best water walking shoes have a good grip and don’t slide easily on rocks covered in slippery algae.

If you’re generally active outdoors, you can use your water hiking shoes for water activities like kayaking and paddleboarding too. In that case, keep it in mind when you choose the right shoes for river walking – lightweight is always key.

Here are some of the main specs to look for when searching for the best river shoes:

  • water drainage
  • lightweight
  • quick dry
  • good grip
  • protective/support
  • comfort
Best water shoes for hiking

Best shoes for river hiking

Merrell Women’s All Out Blaze Sieve Water Shoe

  • Weight: 482g/1lb 1oz
  • Type of sole: Vibram synthetic outer sole and Unifly cushioned midsole
  • Lacing system: Bungee lacing system

View men’s here

Merrell Women’s All Out Blaze Sieve Water Shoe is one of the best shoes for river hiking. With a sturdy, comfortable sole it’s comfortable to walk on a rocky river bed. They don’t slip as easily as many other river water shoes either.

The drainage is excellent when walking in water, but these water hiking shoes are also great for hiking outside the water. Their versatility makes them a top pick as you can use them on hikes like Rio Higueron without having to change shoes when you’re hiking outside and in the water.

Finally, if you ask me, these are pretty cool water shoes and one of my favorite designs.

Pros:

  • High-quality water shoes
  • Comfortable
  • Great for hiking on pebbles and rocky river beds
  • Versatile

Cons:

  • These Merrell water shoes have a layer of leather, though they do have several vegan shoe models. I’d love to see them design a model of water shoes as cool as this without harming animals in the making.

Aleader Men’s DrainPro XT water hiking shoes

  • Weight: 363g/0.8 lb
  • Type of sole: High-traction EVA and rubber outer sole and cushioning, shock absorbing EVA mid sole + anti-slip sole with holes to assure water flowing out quickly
  • Lacing system: Bungee lacing system

View women’s here

If you’re looking for super lightweight water shoes, that drains water quickly, AND has great grip, Aleader has done a great job with the DrainPro XT water hiking shoes.

These are definitely among the best water shoes for hiking in rivers and versatile so that you can walk with them on dry terrain too. But if it’s cold, you can change into dry shoes and they won’t exactly make your backpack heavier.

Pros:

  • Easy to slip on
  • FluidFlow Technology with holes in the bottom that makes water flow out quickly
  • Anti-slip sole
  • Lightweight
  • Budget friendly

Cons:

  • Thin material gives little protection when walking on river beds with a lot of loose rocks that can roll over your foot.

Salomon Women’s Crossamphibian Swift 2

  • Weight: 454g/1lbs
  • Type of sole: Rubber outer sole and Synthetic textile upper sole
  • Lacing system: Regular laces

View men’s here

The Salomon Women’s Crossamphibian Swift 2 are versatile, good water shoes that look like sneakers that both drain and dry quickly. This means they’re great for those hikes where you are a lot in and out of water. They’re also made from both recycled and natural materials, which makes them one of the more sustainable of Salomon’s shoe range. Big plus!

One of the things I really like about these, that makes them some of the best women’s shoes for hiking, is that they keep debris out and the elastic ankle cuff wrapped around your Achilles heel protects it comfortably.

The Salomon Women’s Crossamphibian Swift 2 are also very lightweight, which is great when they get wet as they don’t pull your feet down as much as other water hiking shoes can do.

Finally, I think we can agree that they are cute and work perfectly for hiking, running, and going to the supermarket, which is a quality I adore, as I’d probably like to wear the same shoes for everything I do (not typically lady, like I know!)

Pros:

  • Drain and quickly
  • Lightweight
  • Comfortable to wear
  • Versatile
  • Made from sustainable and recycled material
  • Keeps debris out

Cons:

  • They slip easier than other water sneakers on wet rock (eg. in riverbeds etc.)
  • Can feel rough on the inside without socks (you easily solve this by wearing low cut socks)
  • Laces loosen easy without double lacing

Merrell men’s Choprock

  • Weight: 765g/1lb 11oz
  • Type of sole: Kinetic Fit BASE removable contoured EVA inner sole, compression molded EVA mid sole, and Vibram Megagrip outer sole
  • Lacing system: Regular laces

See women’s model here

Another one of Merrell’s river walking shoes that are great on slippery riverbeds and drains and dries out quickly. These are a winner with their toe protection that is excellent when walking on riverbeds with loose rocks. They perfectly protect your toes from getting hurt by those frequent stumbles on the path.

The soles have small holes letting the water out together with the mesh upper part of the shoes. Together with letting water run out quickly it also allows airflow through the shoes.

All in all good outdoor water shoes.

Pros:

  • toe protection
  • good grip on wet surfaces and on slippery river beds
  • drains out water and dries quickly
  • versatile

Cons:

  • heavier than other river water shoes
  • Laces loosen easily if not double laced

SOBASO Water Shoes

  • Weight: N/A
  • Type of sole:
  • Lacing system: Bungee laces

This is a decent budget option among the water shoes good for hiking in the summer. They’re easy to slip on and off and lightweight so you can easily store them in your backpack if you need to change to other shoes along a longer trek or backpacking adventure.

The thick and flexible rubber sole offers cushioning and protection from whatever uneven ground you might step on. They also have a surprisingly good grip on slippery riverbeds considering the price.

Due to their easiness of slipping on and off, these shoes are great for using if you’re heading to the shop a quick trip or working in the garden too. It can’t be only me that can’t be bothered with wasting time lacing my shoes if I’m off on a short trip out the door?

Pros:

  • Budget friendly
  • Quick dry
  • Drains quickly
  • Lightweight
  • Good grip on riverbed
  • Versatile summer shoes

Cons:

  • Open mesh shoes make your feet vulnerable to bumping into rocks and sticks in the water
  • Debris enters easily
  • Not as durable as the more expensive alternatives

KEEN Women’s Whisper Sandal

  • Weight: 482g/1lb 1oz
  • Type of sole: Compression Moulded EVA (CMEVA) midsole and rubber outer sole
  • Lacing system: Quick lace system

See men’s alternative

The KEEN Women’s Whisper Sandal is a great option if you’re looking for sandals for hiking in water. These close-toed water hiking sandals have a strap on top and soles that are made to support your feet even while walking on rocky river beds. They are easy to slip on and off which makes them perfect for everyday use in the summer too.

A good grip is also a plus with these. That said, some users have reported that their feet slide sideways and the elastic back strap may make your feet slide backward when walking on wet terrain (which you will if you’re heading out on a river hike.) So if the grip on the soles is good, it might still feel a bit unbalanced if your feet slide inside the sandals.

These are without a doubt among the best water sandals for hiking.

Pros:

  • Great fit for wide feet
  • Easy to slip on and off
  • Good water drainage
  • Great grip
  • Toe protection
  • Odor repellent

Cons:

  • Unless you have wide feet, your feet might slip around sideways
  • The back strap is elastic and the feet can slide backward when walking on uneven and wet terrain
Water hiking shoes

Reflections on water hiking shoes

Whether you’re heading out on a river hike or a coastal walk that includes getting in the water, there is no doubt you need a pair of good water shoes.

When considering the price, quality, and different features, keep in mind what you’ll use them for and how often you expect to use the shoes for walking in water. Maybe it’s best for you to get a versatile pair of water shoes that look like sneakers so that you can wear them for anything?

Happy hiking!

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