Protect your feet when kloofing or rock-pool exploring. We found the best aqua shoes for summer adventures.
Why do I need these?
Water shoes are designed for submersion, are breathable when wet because of the open construction and range in practical application ‒ from paddling down a river or fishing off shell-caked rocks to safely exploring the Zanzibar corals. Sadly, many beaches are becoming polluted and littered with dangerous items, making footwear a good safety measure too. Some aqua shoes are as at home on land as they are in the water and are similar to sandals. Others, like neoprene booties, are aquatic-only. Whether you’re a beachcomber or river-fording hiker, these shoes all offer protection
and are quick to dry.
1. Hi-Tec Wolf River Shoe
Best for: Summer swims and strolls in the Magaliesberg.
Comfort: The cushy yet firm footbed is exceptionally comfortable and the outer sole is made of tough, resistant rubber, preventing bumps and scrapes from rocks.
Stability: The shoe fits snugly thanks to the bungee-like laces and toggle fastening, making for a secure but flexible fit prioritising comfort.
Drying time: A speedy one hour 45 minutes, due to the effective drainage ports and hardy mesh.
Verdict: I want to wear these shoes all day, every day. They look slick and are super to walk in (keep in mind, though, they’re not designed for challenging hikes or stable enough for walking on loose, stony ground). The upper mesh is durable and won’t rip easily, and the rubber outsole with toe protection gives the shoe some versatility, taking it beyond the aqua- only realm. They’re also great for paddling because the soles are thin enough to feel the steering, but thick enough to comfortably strut up a hillside. This style is available in a light grey for women, but I wore the men’s cut with no problem and prefer the black and yellow colour scheme.
2. Maxed White Water Aquasock
Best for: Rafting along the Orange River.
Comfort: The smooth inners mean less chance of blisters and the tongue is built in, further lessening friction. The mesh is soft on the sides so it moulds to your foot, but the toe and heel areas are made from a stiffer PU Nubuck material. Stability: The stretchy laces ensure a good fit and my feet didn’t move within the shoe.
Drying time: Just over two hours. These shoes took the longest time to dry because they have the thickest mesh (which isn’t a bad thing).
Verdict: These shoes offer foot and toe protection with enough traction for an adventure on the Orange River. They protect your feet from rocky river banks and have a comfortable footbed so you can wear them for four days without getting aches. They do not fit as well as the Hi-Tec shoes, but they are an affordable price for a holiday-specific buy.
3. Adidas Men’s Hydroterra Shandal
Best for: Exploring the Cederberg’s streams and trails, or obstacle course races and kloofing.
Comfort: The air mesh upper gives excellent ventilation and the shoes are incredibly lightweight (290 g) so you feel almost barefoot because of the foam frame construction. They’re comfortable and well shaped to the foot, with a snug lacing system.
Stability: They’ve got a nice grippy sole with a varied tread pattern that’s hard and durable for moderate hiking.
Drying time: A top speed of 50 minutes, as these shoes absorb practically no water.
Verdict: The most expensive option, but you’re paying for proper, sturdy shoes. They have a few drainage holes in them so they shed water quickly, but still have enough traction for use in aquatic environments. The elastic heel strap means you can wear them as hiking shoes or collapse the back to transform them into slip-ons. Either way, the rubber toecaps offer protection from bumps and abrasions.
4. Crocs Swiftwater Sandal
Best for: Fishing from the beach or boat in Mozambique.
Comfort: You can’t fault Crocs on comfort, and these water shoes are no different. The mesh uppers that aid drainage are constructed from soft sponge, preventing any friction when wet.
Stability: These shoes are wide but still relatively stable because the adjustable Velcro ankle straps help secure the fit. The soles have just enough give to be both comfortable and supportive.
Drying time: An hour and a half. The spongy uppers and solid cushioning shed water easily.
Verdict: Impressively lightweight, these shoes have big drainage ports, making it easy to shake free sand and small stones without taking them off. The entire foot is protected from debris, rocks or glass that may be in the water, making them more secure-feeling than open-toed sandals. I liked the tough toecaps, but the synthetic mesh uppers are not durable enough for rougher adventures.
5. Freesport Aqua Slip-On Bootie
Best for: Exploring rock pools along the KZN coast.
Comfort: They fit well and the soft, cushy neoprene doesn’t irritate the foot.
Stability: There’s not a lot of support ‒ these are more like socks ‒ but they do have a thick, flexible sole with great traction to help grip the rocks.
Drying time: A quick one hour 50 minutes, thanks to the mesh and neoprene combo.
Verdict: These booties are best used for wading close to shore and rock- hopping to discover the creatures that high tide left behind. They offer protection from sea urchins and sharp molluscs, with a good, chunky yet flexible sole that grips well. They’re also light and sleek enough to swim in. You won’t be able to pull on fins over these, though, and they’re better suited to narrow feet.
6. Actos Ballop Aqua Fit
Best for: Surfing the West Coast.
Comfort: The spandex uppers are stretchy and nothing is scratchy or irritating. There are also breathable, removable inner soles, affording better cushioning.
Stability: The fabric forms nicely around the foot, fitting snuggly so your feet don’t roll around in the shoes, and there’s plenty of flex underfoot.
Drying time: One hour 55 minutes, just behind the FreeSport booties.
Verdict: The sole is the thinnest of the shoes we’ve featured here, but the varied tread makes it non-skid. It also makes these shoes pretty flexible, which is great for water sports where you still need to shape your feet to grip a board. These shoes have a lightweight, minimal feel and are easy to stash into a beach bag.
7. Going fishing?
Short gumboots are a favourite among anglers and won’t break the bank. The Jonsson Ankle Gumboot is short enough for summer days but has a non-slip, hard-wearing sole with strong grip for navigating rocks, and they dry quickly. R249, workweardepot.co.za