If you want to get into paddle boarding, proper footwear is a good idea, especially here in the UK. The sea can get very cold and many of our beaches are filled with sharp stones and shells.
A good shoe for paddle boarding can keep your feet warm and dry, protect them from sharp rocks, and help you grip the board. On sunny days a lightweight shoe will offer UV protection and stop your feet from burning.
While some paddle surfers and racers prefer to paddle board barefoot all year round, buying a decent pair of shoes is a great idea if you plan to head out on the water regularly.
I’ve seen some beginners wear socks and trainers or flip flops! Whilst this might be OK for one session in the summer, they won’t feel comfortable and once the weather turns, having wet, cold feet will make any paddle board session unenjoyable.
Using anything other than water shoes to protect your feet is not a good idea and can be unsafe. Get a good, properly fitting pair of water shoes for the best paddle boarding experience.
This article lists some great paddle board shoes you can buy online and offers some advice so you know what to look for in a paddle board shoe.
Table of Contents
The best shoes for paddle boarding
Body Glove Men’s 3T Barefoot Cinch Water Shoe
These Body Glove shoes are great all-round summer water shoes.
- Very thin to help you connect with the board properly
- Almost feels like being barefoot
- Stretchy for a tight fit
- Dries quickly and drains easily
- Split toe, so the shoe won’t roll
- Somewhat difficult to put on for some people
- Won’t keep your feet warm in the winter
The thinner the soles your paddle board shoes have, the easier it is to sense the board’s movements and control the board. Along with the thinness of the sole, having dexterity in the toes will give the feeling of paddle boarding while barefoot.
These shoes will be perfect for summer paddle boarding and will offer ideal protection whilst walking the board over stoney beaches.
While the Body Glove Shoes claim to be easy to put on, not everyone agrees. It can be somewhat of a hassle to get the shoes on, especially if you have not tried them before.
On the plus side, they are stretchy and fit very snugly. The shoes are flexible, breathable, and light. They also grip the board very well and are ok to walk in at least for reasonably short distances.
Body Glove Men’s 3T Barefoot Cinch Water Shoe – View on Amazon >
Gul 5mm Easy-Zip Power Wetsuit Boots
The boots are particularly good for cold, winter paddle boarding.
£29.99 – View on Ann’s Cottage >
- Particularly warm, ideal for cold weather
- Comfortable inner lining
- High-tech dura-flex neoprene construction
- Boots rather than shoes for more coverage
- Easy to get into
- Far too warm for summer paddle boarding
The Gul’s thick 5mm neoprene and relatively high-fitting design make it ideal for colder weather. Since these are boots rather than shoes, it protects some of your leg as well as your foot from the water. The boots are built with cold resistance in mind.
The inside of the boot has titanium-2 lining, a high-tech material that reflects heat inwards rather than lets it out of the boot. The outside of the boots is made of neoprene, which is the warmest material for paddle boarding shoes.
Despite the Gul’s being relatively heavy, they are also flexible. The dura-flex neoprene used to make the boots is a great material, warm while still being flexible.
I chose these boots as the ideal winter paddle board shoe because of the zip. Thick, winter water shoes can be really hard to get on and off, especially when you can’t feel your hands because of the cold. The zip will help your feet slide out of these boots with ease.
Gul 5mm Easy-Zip Power Wetsuit Boots – View on Ann’s Cottage >
O’Neill Reactor Reef Boots
These are the classic wetsuit shoe, affordable, high-quality from a well-known brand.
- Thin enough to help you feel the board
- Keep your feet warm in most seasons
- Not for mid winter sessions
- No drawstring or strap means they might fall off easily in surf
The O’Neill’s are great if you want a standard pair of water shoes with no special features that really make them stand out. While there is nothing special about these shoes, they are reasonably cheap and have no real flaws.
Whilst they might not have the ‘barefoot’ sensation because they lack the split toe option, they are still one of the thinner pairs of shoes available.
The 2mm thick neoprene means you can wear these shoes in the colder months, but you might want something thicker if you plan to paddle in January – March.
O’Neill Reactor Reef Boots – View on Amazon >
Two Bare Feet DX WETSHOES
These are inexpensive shoes that are good enough for warm weather paddle boarding.
- Protect your feet properly
- Good selection of sizes
- Easy to slip on and off
- Less warm than more expensive brands
- Somewhat less long-lasting
If you are just starting paddle boarding and want to start with a cheaper pair, the DX Wetshoes are reasonably good for their price.
They won’t last as long as a more expensive pair will, but they are good for new paddle boarders. If you aren’t sure how long you will stick with the sport for, a cheaper pair might be best.
These shoes are not good enough for cold weather. If you go paddle boarding on a colder day, your feet will get uncomfortably cold fast. Get a more expensive pair if you care about keeping your feet warm.
The DX Wetshoes do a good job of protecting your feet from sharp objects, so they can be worth it. The soles are strong enough to protect you from sharp rocks and shells. The shoes are available in many different sizes, including young children’s sizes.
Two Bare Feet DX WETSHOES – View on Amazon >
Solite 3mm Wetsuit Boots
These are arguably the most comfortable paddle boarding shoes for most people, although they are more expensive than the other choices.
From £49.99 – View on Surfdome >
- Fit very well, especially because they are heat-moldable
- Warm and comfortable for winter paddle boarding
- More durable than the competition
- Dries quickly
- Significantly more expensive than most other choices
- Not a summer shoe
The Solite’s feel noticeably better and higher quality than other shoes on this list. The boots are heat-moldable which gives you a custom fit that makes them feel better on your feet than any of the other options.
It is easy enough to put on the boots and easy to take them off, and they fit on your feet very snugly. Though if you have wider feet the Gul 5mm zipped boot might be a better winter option.
There is also a split-toe to hold your toes in place and improve your control.
If you wear waterproof socks with your paddleboarding boots, the Solite’s come with an excellent pair. While they are more expensive than other pairs, they are worth the extra money. The Solite’s are probably the best paddle boarding boots for winter and spring.
Solite 3mm Wetsuit Boots – View on Surfdome >
Lavibelle Unisex Aqua Water Shoes
These shoes are great if you need to walk as well as paddle.
- Durability and quality
- Feel like regular running shoes
- Useful for many everyday situations
- No significant disadvantages
- Not warm enough for winter
The Lavibille’s are a great choice if you are looking for water shoes that feel like regular running shoes. They have laces and fit just like trainers.
They keep your feet dry, and if any water gets into your shoes, they dry quickly. Water can pass out of but not into these shoes. Sweat can get out, but water can’t get in.
The Lavibelle’s are also comfortable to walk in. If you need to go on a long trek where you both walk and paddle, the Lavibelle’s are great shoes. They are great for different situations and well suited for long expeditions.
The shoes work for many different activities – beach volleyball, sailing, boating, and fishing. Since they are comfortable as normal shoes, you can use them when you are walking around in wet weather or washing your car, and they will keep your feet dry. They are also durable enough that you can walk in them many times without wearing them out.
Lavibelle Unisex Aqua Water Shoes – View on Amazon >
O’Neill SuperFreak 2mm Split Toe
High quality summer/autumn wetsuit shoe
- Adjustable elastic ankle cord and velcro strap keep the shoe on your foot
- Very well constructed – will last years
- Perfect for paddle surfing
- Not the cheapest option
If you are looking for a lightweight and durable wetsuit shoe, the O’Neill SuperFreak are an excellent choice. The shoes include an ankle cord that keeps the shoe on your foot if you fall in the water or if you are surfing.
People who surf with paddle boards rather than use them on calm water need shoes that will stay on. The adjustable ankle cord works very well for that purpose.
The SuperFreak’s are light, flexible, and durable. Since they won’t come off your feet easily, you can even swim with these shoes on. Like other neoprene based wetsuit shoes, they will protect your feet against the cold very well.
My sister has a pair of the SuperFreaks that she bought well over 10 years ago now and they are still going strong. You might pay a higher price up front for better quality shoes, but they will last far long and be more comfortable than cheaper alternatives.
O’Neill SuperFreak 2mm Split Toe – View on Amazon >
Can you wear Crocs paddleboarding?
While crocs are not nearly as good as proper water shoes, they are a fine alternative for the summer months. Crocs won’t keep your feet warm, but they can protect your feet when launching the board. Plus they float which is always an advantage.
If you decide to wear crocs, make sure they fit well. You may get blisters if they are too loose and move around too much.
Why are paddle board shoes a good idea?
The first thing water shoes can do is protect your feet from sharp rocks.
Even a beginner can take a paddle board down a river as long as it is calm. However, rivers can be quite difficult to get in and out of, and painful if barefoot. Cutting your foot open on a sharp stone is not the best start to a session
Even if you are in a lake or paddle boarding on the ocean, you can hurt your feet. Even if there are hardly any sharp rocks, things like oyster shells can cut you. Cuts are most likely when you are stepping on or stepping off your board.
Another advantage is that water shoes can protect your feet from the sun. While sun exposure can be good for you, you should avoid being burned.
Your feet can get burned just like any other part of your body.
Since your feet are so sensitive, having cold feet can make you feel cold all over. Many water shoes work very well to keep your feet warm.
Some adventurous people go paddle boarding in cold weather. Even if you manage not to fall into a cold lake, you probably won’t be able to keep your feet dry with regular shoes on.
Do water shoes have any disadvantages?
Surfers and racers often go barefoot because it is easier to sense the board’s movements that way. If you have shoes on, you might not be able to tell how the board is moving precisely enough for competitive racing or surfing. After you have enough experience, you might try going barefoot to see if you feel a better connection to the board this way.
Some people also prefer the feeling of going paddle boarding barefoot. If the weather is warm, and you manage not to step on anything sharp, it can feel good to stand on the board and step in water and sand. Be careful when you are stepping on and off the board, as that is when cuts are most likely.
What makes a good paddle board shoe?
First off, a paddle board shoe shouldn’t interfere with your movements at all. You should easily be able to move your foot around with a paddleboard shoe on.
This prevents strain on your foot and makes it easier to control the board. Don’t buy water shoes that have a reputation for being stiff and inflexible.
Paddle board shoes should also fit you properly. They should fit tightly, not move around when you walk in them. You will get sore feet and blisters if your paddleboard shoes move around too much.
Paddle board shoes should also be thin, as that way you can feel the board’s movements and stay in control. Some water shoes, such as sailing shoes, have thick soles and can break your connection to the board.
Your paddle board shoes should also stay on your feet if you fall in the water. If you are paddle boarding on calm water, this might not be likely, but if you are surfing or on a not very calm river, you need shoes that will stay on.
Last but not least, you need paddle board shoes that can keep your feet warm. Shoes made out of neoprene (wetsuit material) will do the job of keeping your feet warm.
Do you wear shoes paddle boarding?
You don’t have to wear shoes paddle boarding, and going barefoot on a hot, sandy beach is a great feeling. However, conditions in the UK mean it’s not always possible to paddle barefoot. If it’s cold or there are hazards underfoot that will likely hurt your feet, then you should wear shoes for paddle boarding.
Alternatives to water shoes
Running shoes aren’t a good idea unless you can keep them dry, which isn’t likely. Running shoes will get waterlogged if you fall in the water.
However, some people don’t mind wearing running shoes because you can balance with your toes. If you are going on a shorter trip and don’t expect your feet to get wet, they can be an ok idea, but you are better off with special footwear.
While waterproof socks are a good idea, you should always wear them with shoes on. Don’t wear waterproof socks on their own with no shoes. The socks are not durable enough to be worn without socks, and they will get holes.
Sometimes, flip-flops can be better than nothing. They can protect your feet to some extent, and they don’t always do a terrible job of gripping the board. However, they aren’t warm at all and aren’t as good as special watersports footwear.
It is dangerous to wear wellies while paddleboarding. They can fill up with water if you fall in – and the extra weight can drag you down and make it hard to swim.
Wellington boots are great for wet and muddy weather, but never use them in a situation where you might have to swim. There are better and safer ways to keep your feet dry.
About the author
Watersports Pro is managed by Ollie, who has been in the industry since 2007. A paddleboard and advanced windsurfing instructor, Ollie has travelled the world teaching these sports.
Now based on the South Coast of England, he shares his experience and knowledge on watersportspro.co.uk.