Choosing the right wetsuit boot or shoes
July 06, 2022
If it’s time to get your first watersports shoes, or upgrade, check out our handy list of things to think about which could impact your decision.
Shopping for sea-worthy footwear can be daunting. There’re boots, shoes and socks to choose from in a wide variety of styles.
Primarily boots are used year-round by watersport specialists (like surfers, or dinghy sailors), wet shoes are used by those who do multiple water-based sports over the summer and socks by those looking for a little more warmth….. But these are not hard and fast rules – you’ll need to think about what you’re doing, comfort, flexibility, grip and the length of your season.
What to look for in an all-rounder wet shoe
If you’re into multiple watersports and are looking for a wet shoe that can cope with everything, you’ll need to be looking for comfort and drain-ability on the go.
While all wet shoes should be designed to drain quickly, ones like the trainer-style Morfa Aqua.
come with drainage holes on the sole, so you know your feet won’t be sitting in a bag of water when you hop onboard whichever craft you’re using.
Check out whether the wet shoe is adjustable – look for elasticated laces and toggle fastenings. These mean you can adjust the shoe for comfort when your hands are dry, and more importantly, when they’re cold and wet – whether you’re paddleboarding or crewing on a dinghy. Also, some come with a cushioned insole, and moulded durable soles. Make sure you have a good look at the depth of the tread on the soles, this may have a direct impact on your stability.
The height on your ankle is very much a personal consideration. Some wet shoes like the Storm3 Shoe come slightly higher up the ankle and have an adjustable midfoot strap for stability, as well as toe reinforcement. This is made with 3mm neoprene which will see you through the summer, but if you’re planning on winter water sports, you might need to think about boots (see below).
The consideration needs to be what you need across the range of your activities. Grip, comfort, warmth, durability and drain-ability are key.
What to look for in a boot
Boots are an investment, so making sure you’ve got the right one for your sport and length of season is a must.
Firstly, think about the thickness of the neoprene. The thicker it is, the warmer it will be. If you’re planning on being in the water all year round, look at boots like the Surf Master which offers a whopping 6.5mm of neoprene, and is often used by divers, as it features a handy fin retainer.
That said, you’ll probably be warm enough with 5mm all year and if you’re planning on a shorter season, something like the Storm3 Boot might be a better fit, and offers 3mm neoprene.
Secondly, you’ll need to consider sole weight. Boots like the Runswick4 have a stiff sole for support and protection, whereas ones like the Ventnor5 has a lightweight flexible sole for watersports in general (the 5 refers to the thickness of the neoprene – again this boot is for year-round use).
Conversely, look at the top of the boot to see their unique features. Do they have additional reinforcement on the upper foot area, enabling you to hike for longer, like the Runswick4 with its protective upper and ankle strap providing great grip and improved for hiking.
What about socks?
Anecdotal evidence suggests that neoprene socks are popular among cold water swimmers due to being lightweight and close-fitting. Generally, insulating socks come with wicking fabric, pulling the water away from skin and are fast drying, offering thermal insulation when wet or dry. Socks like Narin can be worn as an insulating layer under a neoprene boot, or in conjunction with your drysuit.
Wet shoes for young children
Unless your young child is already a sailing or sports specialist, we’d advise sticking with a generic water shoe which can cope with all environments – like the Swarm Aqua Shoe range from Typhoon.
As well as fit and comfort, things to consider include whether the water shoe has a solid outer sole, so that pebble beaches can be added to the watersport mix. Check out features like a drawstring around the back of the foot – useful to tighten when swimming or rock pooling, so the shoes don’t get lost in the excitement, and making sure there’s enough grip on the soles to help with wet surfaces.
Wet shoes are going to protect children’s feet from hidden rocks, visible rocks, burning sand, and anything else in between whether crabbing in rock pools or clambering across kayaks. These all-rounders are sturdy enough to take control of each terrain, and – with a quick rinse – will keep on protecting them all summer long – or until they grow out of them.
Typhoon’s colour choices (black, blue and pink) will work for hand-me-downs for the whole family. Plus, the Swarm range comes in infant sizes too – so the toddlers can try to keep up with their siblings.
Once you’ve made up your mind as to boot, shoe or sock, and the features you require, there are a couple of other considerations.
The first is that you may find that your water footwear feels like the perfect fit – until it gets wet. Some water shoes can feel looser when immersed, so choose something that is adjustable or veer towards a snug-fitting, rather than a loose fit.
The second is the need to check out the environmental practices of the company you’re buying from. Look for REACH-compliant neoprene, and use recycled materials (including packaging) where possible.