Last Updated: November 9, 2022

Water Shoes Vs. Hiking Shoes: Which Is Better For You?

Not sure if you need water shoes or hiking shoes? This guide to the similarities and differences between the two will help you decide what you really need!

We’ll cover everything you need to know about the best water and hiking shoes, including when and why to choose each type of shoe over the other. So, if you’re having a hard time deciding between water shoes and hiking shoes, this comparison will help you figure out what’s best for you!

About Water Shoes

Water Shoes

Water shoes are outdoor footwear that is designed to quickly drain water. They’re usually not entirely waterproof, and instead, they’re designed to have excellent airflow and quick drying capabilities. That way, even when your feet get wet (whether it’s from sweat or from walking through water) the water doesn’t stay in the shoes for too long.

Water shoes are usually lightweight and airy, with lots of drainage holes. They boast excellent airflow and quick drying capabilities, as well as sturdy non-slip outsoles that prevent you from slipping when walking on wet terrain.

However, they’re generally not as comfortable or supportive as sturdy hiking shoes. They’re also not the best solution for hiking in rainy weather, especially if they’re not waterproof. It’s worth noting that you can find pairs of water shoes for hiking that boast waterproof construction, drainage points, and rugged outsoles suitable for slippery terrain, but these are usually pricey and not very common.

About Hiking Shoes

Hiking Shoes

Hiking shoes are footwear designed for rugged outdoor terrain. There’s a myriad of hiking shoes out there, and they range from simple sneakers for long walks in the great outdoors to sturdy boots that will allow you to take on different adventures.

Hiking shoes can have many different features, and the best pairs usually sport a combination of features that makes them suitable for different adventures. Winter hiking shoes are usually waterproof and insulated, summer hiking shoes normally have excellent airflow and are lightweight, and rugged hiking shoes boast extremely aggressive outsoles that are suitable for even the most challenging terrain.

Some hiking shoes can double as water shoes, depending on their basic features. Hiking shoes that are lightweight, airy, have drainage holes, and/or are water repellant are pretty much just water shoes. But you need to know what features to look for if you want to get the best of both worlds from footwear.

When To Choose Water Shoes

Go with water shoes whenever you know that you’ll deal more with wet than challenging terrain. If you know that your hike includes crossing bodies of water or that it will be extremely hot and you expect your feet to sweat a lot, wear water shoes instead of hiking shoes.

Water shoes can also be a good option for hiking on slippery and muddy terrain, but that depends a lot on their outsole. If you’ve got a pair of water shoes with very sturdy soles, you can wear them on most hikes in warm weather.

You should avoid wearing water shoes in cold weather, especially in winter conditions. They’re usually designed to be airy and light, so they’re not insulated or warm. Also, most water shoes aren’t entirely waterproof, so they’re definitely not suitable for hiking in cold and wet conditions.

When To Choose Hiking Shoes

Hiking Shoes

Choose hiking shoes if you prefer comfort and support over airflow and quick-drying features. Take a look at the common trail conditions and decide what’s more important – grip and support, or airflow and drainage?

If there are plenty of water bodies on the trail and you’re hiking in hot weather, water shoes are a good option. But hiking shoes are the better option in almost every scenario, especially during long hikes over challenging and steep terrain.

Most water shoes don’t offer great levels of grip and traction, especially not as much as you can get from sturdy hiking shoes. With hiking shoes, the emphasis is usually on the insole, midsole, and outsole, which are essential for your stability and comfort while hiking. But with water shoes, the emphasis is on drainage and drying features – which seems more important for the hike you’re considering doing?

Can You Hike In Water Shoes?

Yes, you can hike in good water shoes. There are many pairs of water shoes for hiking that offer the best of both worlds so that you comfortably hike in them. Water shoes are a sub-category of hiking shoes, and they work best on trails that include passing through several bodies of water.

If you know you’re going to be crossing streams or hiking on beaches, water shoes will be a lot more comfortable than regular hiking shoes. But not all water shoes are always a better option than hiking shoes.

The most important feature of every hiking/water shoe is the outsole. That’s what’s going to determine how well the shoes will perform and when you can wear them. If you often go hiking on relatively easy terrain and you don’t need shoes with too much grip and traction but you desperately need something that will drain and dry quickly, water shoes might just be what you’re looking for.

On the other hand, if you’re considering water shoes instead of regular hiking shoes but you often take on difficult trails, you might want to think twice. Water shoes are usually not designed for extremely rugged terrain and very few pairs have outsoles that are rugged enough for demanding hikes.

That being said, certain water shoes designed for hiking offer the best of both worlds. They’re lightweight, and supportive, and feature rugged outsoles, waterproof construction, drainage points, and quick-drying interiors. The only catch is that they’re never cheap, so if you want the best of both worlds, you’ll have to spring for a high-quality pair.

About the Author Roger Timbrook

Roger is a little obsessed with travel. He has been to over 40 countries, broken 3 suitcases and owned over 10 backpacks in 12 months. What he doesn't know about travel, ain't worth knowing!

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