Keeping warm in and out of the water is crucial when swimming in cold water. Your feet are a key spot for heat loss, so if you struggle with cold feet in open water, you should consider purchasing a pair of dedicated water shoes with a snug fit.
Swim socks or booties are the perfect solution for keeping your bare feet warm and protected. Open waters can be icy, and rugged terrain can damage your feet, so flip-flops won’t cut it.
Wet surfaces can be dangerous without a water shoe that has excellent traction. Slippery conditions can cause serious injury, so it is in your best interest to find tested water shoes.
We have rated and ranked the best swim shoes on the market; keep reading to find the best water shoes!
Why are swim shoes important for swimming in open water?
A high-quality swim shoe is important for many reasons, such as protection, warmth and stability in the water. To ensure you remain safe as you swim in open waters, you must have the right equipment and swim shoes or socks are vital.
When you swim in open waters, you may not be familiar with the area, so there may be hazards you are unaware of, such as coral or rugged edges. By wearing swimming shoes, even if you step on uneven surfaces, your foot will not hurt.
Most swim booties or socks have a rubber sole that is difficult to puncture, so even if your feet don’t get particularly cold in the waters, it may be worthwhile to wear them anyway.
If you have a tow float, you can slip the shoes on to enter and exit the water and store them in your buoy as you swim!
Made from thermal materials, such as neoprene, swim shoes are great for helping you maintain your body temperature in the water. Your feet are a key heat loss location, so by wearing thermal shoes, you can avoid your core temperature dropping in icy waters.
Research has been carried out to assess how heat is lost from your feet, and they found that heat loss is much greater in colder waters. To ensure you are safe as you swim in open waters, you must try to stay as warm as possible.
Other equipment to maintain heat include neoprene wetsuits, a swim cap, a neoprene hood, gloves, and a thermal changing robe.
Swim booties have grippy soles to prevent you from slippy on icy or uneven surfaces. When you swim in the winter or colder environments, there is a high chance of slippery spots, so a reliable grip from the rubber soles of aquatic shoes is a must.
Injuries can occur before you even step foot in the water. A rubber sole prevents you from falling and hurting yourself as you have greater underfoot traction.
Additionally, in unfamiliar waters, you won’t have a clear idea of what is underfoot in the water; there could be coral, debris, or stones on the floor.
We recommend purchasing an underwater camera to check the site before going for a full swim. A camera also allows you to capture memories to cherish forever!
Water shoes for open-water swimming
If you are looking for the best water shoe for an open-water swimmer, look no further.
Our list below encompasses a range of high-quality swim shoes for all water sports at affordable prices.
The Lakeland swim sandal comes in 22 different colours and is made from four-way stretch neoprene and mesh panels. You can adjust the shoe with the elasticated ankle and drawstring toggle to ensure it’s a snug fit on your foot.
Lightweight and breathable, this water bootie drys quickly due to efficient drainage ports, so you won’t have to carry dripping wet equipment home once you finish your swim. There are options for men, women and children.
The bottom of the shoe has grips to help you remain stable on slippery beach rocks. You may find yourself on uneven terrain when open water swimming, so a sturdy shoe with an excellent grip can help keep you safe.
Lakeland is a family-run business based in the Lake District. They test all their products in the local landscape and have noted that their swim socks and water shoes are perfect for swimmers, surfers, and walkers.
- Fast water drainage.
- Four-way stretch neoprene.
- 22 different colour options.
- Durable and grippy rubber sole.
Watelves is a popular brand, frequently promoted on Amazon, whose swim shoes are perfect for anyone interested in cold water swimming in the UK.
The ultra-lightweight shoes are ideal for any water sports as they are comfortable and won’t weigh you down or add too much buoyancy in the water – you will barely notice they are on.
With the anti-slip sole, you can rest assured you will be safe and unlikely to slip on any unstable or wet terrain. These wetsuit boots are one of the best water shoes for men and women as they provide extra warmth to those who want to go swimming or surfing.
So, if you are looking for a pair of water shoes to keep you toasty and secure, check out Watelves footwear.
- Anti-slip outsole.
- Good breathability.
- Stretchy and lightweight material.
- Fashionable and colourful.
Another good choice is Bravover water shoes, which come in many different colours and sizes to fit men, women, and children. This shoe is made from 92% polyester and 8% spandex fabrics and has amazing durability all year round.
Thermal swim socks for wild swimming are essential equipment as you may need to climb over pebbles, drainage holes, uneven ground, and slippery surfaces, so superb traction and reliable grip is important. You can keep your feet toasty whilst avoiding any abrasion or cuts!
Some water shoes come with velcro or toggles, whereas this shoe pulls on. The snug seams and breathable mesh allow for wiggle room whilst maintaining body heat, which is essential when swimming in icy waters.
Bravover has designed its water shoes for those who love the outdoors, whether kayaking or swimming, this pair of boots is a quality choice for aquatic adventures.
- 92% polyester and 8% spandex material.
- Pull on boots for no fuss.
- Grippy sole to prevent slips.
- Quick drying mesh.
Made with high-grade material, the Aqua Shield neoprene socks are a favourite of many cold water swimmers. Whether a beginner or a pro, neoprene swim socks are important equipment.
Rather than straps, this shoe has toggles that you pull to adjust the fit and improve the insulation. You want a tight yet comfortable fit; you don’t want your water shoe to be too loose or too tight.
Again, these water socks have an excellent grip on the shoe sole to protect you from falling on wet surfaces. A decent grip is one of the prime benefits of wearing swim socks in open water, as the entrance to the water is often slippery.
The synthetic and textile materials are perfect for diving or swimming, so grab your shoes, wetsuit, tow float, and goggles and get going!
- Breathable synthetic lining.
- Adjustable toggle on back.
- Snug fit and quick-drying.
- Four colours and seven sizes.
Racqua’s waterproof shoe is ideal for any triathlon, decathlon, or swimming event, as the maximum traction keeps you secure on land and in the water. These slimline water shoes are an alternative to bulky pool shoes and are perfect for walking or swimming.
They come in many colours, including blue, black, grey, and more! So, you can pick your favourite colour or perhaps find one to match your wetsuit.
Whether trekking through the Amazon or just going for a winter stroll on the beach, you can stay safe on wet and slippery surfaces by wearing the Racqua textile water shoes.
The thermal shoes have several holes in the sole to promote rapid water drainage but don’t worry; no wet rocks will be able to slip through. Racqua is all about comfort and safety.
- Zero heel lift.
- Low-profile ultra-grip outsole.
- Perfect for paddle boarding and surfing.
- Fashionable with independent character.
Last but not least, we have the Mabove water shoes! This water shoe will last a long time as it is made from durable rubber and fabric. Any keen cold water swimmer should consider buying a Mabove water shoe.
The fabric is made from 92% polyester and 8% spandex, making it lightweight and salt-resistant, which is ideal for anyone that wants to use the shoe for swimming in the sea.
The average weight of the thermal swim socks is 0.1kg, so you can easily carry your shoes in your tow float if you don’t wish to wear them in the water.
With options for men and women, this slip-on shoe could be perfect for any newbie or avid open-water swimmer. At just £18, these water shoes are great value for good protection, so it makes sense to consider Mabove for the best shoe.
- Salt-resistant material.
- Lightweight and easily stored.
- Unisex design.
- Provide protection.
How do you keep your feet warm when you leave the water?
Once you exit the water, you should remove your swim booties or socks and dry your feet off with a towel. Ensure you remove all other wet items, such as wetsuits and hoods.
You should wear dry socks and thermal shoes when your feet are dry. We recommend wearing thick or fluffy socks to help warm your feet and promote circulation.
You can go for a little jog or do some light exercises after your swim, which will help you raise your core body temperature too!
How to maintain your swim shoes?
You can maintain your swim shoes via the following steps:
- Wash your booties in clear water after every swim – not salt water.
- You can wash your boots in a machine at a max of 30ºC.
- Dry them in the sun, in a spot that is well-aerated.
- You can use your wetsuit shampoo on your swim swims.
Can you get athlete’s foot from water shoes?
It is possible to develop athlete’s foot from wearing unclean water shoes, as fungus can build up in damp, dirty conditions.
To avoid athlete’s foot, make sure you properly dry your swim shoes and dust them with talc. Always dry your feet thoroughly as well to prevent any cross-contagion.
What is the difference between wetsuit swim socks and booties?
The main difference between a swim sock and a swimming shoe is the sole; swim shoes have a rubberised sole which gives added protection, whereas the sock is simply a sock made from neoprene.
Swim shoes are heavier in the water than socks, which can be an advantage or a disadvantage. They won’t completely weigh you don’t, but if you are a weaker swimmer, they may be an added burden. However, you also don’t want too much buoyancy where your feet float, which is a risk with a swim sock.
Water socks provide greater insulation, whereas swim boots provide greater traction and protection. Whether you want a sock or shoe is completely up to you!
Whether you need insulation or protection, swim shoes can be a great way to enjoy the cold waters safely! Our list of the best shoes for swimming gives you the top six boots on the market right now.
Swimming, especially in the winter, can lead to icy surfaces and wearing a shoe with traction will prevent any trips or falls. Open water swimming can be dangerous at best, so it is crucial to take care.