Just like you wouldn’t go for a run in hiking boots or lift weights in swim fins, you wouldn’t (or at least shouldn’t) row in something unsuitable for the water.
Water shoes have a unique set of properties that make them ideal for rowing and general water exposure. It’s well worth investing in a pair for your days rowing on the water, so in this article, we’re going to look at the essential properties of water shoes and give you some buying advice.
At the end of the article, you’ll know exactly what to look for when buying water shoes for rowing!
Here’s a list of the top 5 water rowing shoes. I’ll break them down for you so you’ve got a real understand of what their strengths and weaknesses are, allowing you to make a fully informed decision on them.
These aren’t in any particular order, because it depends on what you’re looking for from a shoe. It’s just 5 solid recommendations so you can find something perfect for you.
The Racqua water shoes contain everything you need in a water shoe. They’re well made and the materials are lightweight and flexible. The soles offer a universal non-slip grip which extends all the way to an ergonomically designed toe guard. This feature is particularly useful for walking and climbing over wet and slippery surfaces - do bear in mind though, you can still slip if you’re not careful.
In terms of fit, they have the important wide toe box and the minimalist barefoot feet make them very comfortable. The flexible nature of the shoes make them perfect for rowing in, because they’ll flex all day without damaging or rubbing.
They’re slip-on, but they can be tightened with the laces. Finally, they’re quick-dry with ventilation and air holes, so perfect for the wet areas.
The Racqua water shoes are versatile, comfortable, well made and quick drying. They offer everything you are looking for in a water shoe for rowing, without breaking the bank.
We’ve already mentioned that a really important feature in a water shoe for rowing is flexibility - the foot will move a lot. Thankfully the Simari shoes are incredibly flexible and comfortable to wear. The sole is rubberized, grippy and thicker than most so offers a lot of protection to the feet - perfect for climbing over rocks and rough surfaces. The upper is a polyester and elastic mix, making them extra comfortable.
The design of the shoe is nice. They come in a range of colours, from subtle to slightly less subtle, but there’s certainly something for everyone there. Like many water shoes they’re slip-ons, but there’s an elasticated tightening lace to adjust for comfort.
The drainage is excellent, thanks to a combination of polyester mesh upper and 8 drainage holes on the sole of the shoe. It allows water to leave from multiple exit points. The lightweight construction means you can wear the shoes all day without problems.
The biggest selling point of the SIMARI water shoes is the extreme comfort. Generally, water shoes aren’t especially comfortable, but these are great. They’re flexible and padded while draining well.
If you’re looking for something simple and cheap then the SEEKWAY water shoe is a good direction to go in. It’s a very minimalist design, which keeps the price and weight down. The soft and elastic spandex upper is designed to fit and feel like a sock, whilst offering a bit of protection to the foot from rock surfaces.
These shoes aren’t going to be amazing for long distance walking, and they don’t have laces to adjust the fit, but they’re flexible enough to be suitable for rowing and they cost less than 20 bucks. It’s hard to argue with them as a purely value choice.
The minimalist design means there’s nothing to make them uncomfortable. They’re lightweight and the fact that they dry out so quickly makes them a more than capable water shoe for rowing. Don’t expect miracles from these, but they’re a great option for the price.
These have made the list because of the value for money. If you have no intention of walking far in your water shoes, and you want something light, cheap and comfortable, these shoes from SEEKWAY are a great choice.
If you’re looking for a great all rounder, the Body Glove water shoe is well worthy of your consideration. Unlike their other models, this one doesn’t have separate sections for each toe - it fits like a normal shoe. There’s a shock lace system to adjust the around the ankle.
The big USP here is the increased drainage in these shoes. They’re designed specifically for water thanks to something called the ‘Integrated Drainage System’ (IDS) to allow water and air to move freely. This means the water leaves the shoes more quickly than other models, so is perfect if you’re wearing them both in and out of water for a long time.
The Body Glove water shoes are made from neoprene, which is the same material wetsuits are made from. This means they’ll help keep the feet warm in cold water, making them a great choice for people who will wear them in the cold, or who suffer from poor circulation. They fit in the middle of the range price wise too.
The Body Glove water shoes are a great upper mid-range water shoe that will work well for rowing. Being made from neoprene, they offer a level of insulation that you just don’t really see amongst water shoes.
Sometimes a product just ‘gets it’. I think this is the case with the Maxome water shoes. They combine a feature heavy design (excellent drainage, flexibility, lacing, sole grip and padding) with an excellent price and nice design. There’s a shoe to suit everyone here and they come in at around the 20 bucks mark.
They’re excellent for walking in thanks to the anti-slip rubber sole. The inner sole is ergonomically moulded to provide extra comfort, especially to the toes. There’s additional padding for shock absorption during use too, making them a great hybrid shoe. The elastic material makes them stretchy, so added with the additional comfort elements and drainage they’re a great all round water shoe.
As a combination of features and value, the Maxome water shoe takes some real beating. The drainage features include a series of holes for water escape, the comfort features are the elasticity of the uppers and the smooth neck to prevent rubbing, plus the padded sole. They’re a perfect shoe for a mix of uses.
The Maxome water shoes are probably the best combination of features for the price. They’re suitable for use in the wet or dry and they’re comfortable enough to wear all day. The flexibility of the upper, combined with the padding and drainage makes them a great choice.
Water shoes for rowing need to contain a series of qualities. You can’t just buy any old water shoes and expect them to be suitable for rowing long distances or for a long time.
When you think about the nature of the foot during the rowing stroke, the shoe has to be comfortable and flexible enough to deal with huge amounts of flexion, but light enough and breathable enough to not end up being too sweaty.
Here’s an overview of the qualities needed for a good on the water rowing shoe…
You’re not expecting these shoes to be as water resistant as a wellington boot, but they certainly need to be splash proof. If you’re standing in water, they’re going to get wet and there’s nothing you can really do about it.
What is important is how quickly they dry. A good water shoe is breathable and dries out quickly. In some cases, the mesh upper allows the water to physically drain quickly, then the airflow helps it to air dry fast too.
As a rule the materials tend to be a mesh upper, usually made from a synthetic fabric, often containing lycra to allow for stretching and comfortable movement. The mesh is a little more open, more like a flyknit style.
The soles are typically a rubber construction, which offers the perfect combination of flexibility, robustness, grip and water resistance. In the very cheap shoes it can sometimes be a flexible plastic, but I’d never suggest you get these.
The water shoes tend to run to size, so whatever you are in your ‘normal’ shoes, go with that in your water shoes. With them being made from synthetic materials, they don’t tend to stretch when they get wet, unlike cotton deck shoes.
A wide toe box is important for a water shoe you’re going to row in. There’s a couple of reasons for this…
Making sure you have enough room for your feet to move is important in a water shoe for rowing. Most shoes will allow for this, but do be careful to get the right size.
This isn’t as important as you’d imagine. You’re not going to be walking long distances in your water shoes - you’re going to be rowing in them! You don’t need (nor do you want) the thicker padding that you’d find in running shoes, because all they’d end up doing is absorbing water, making them waterlogged and heavy.
Your biggest asset with comfort is how they grip your foot. With this in mind I’d always suggest you go with a water shoe that either has laces, or a version of laces.
These types of shoes are more adjustable than the slip on style, which means you can tweak them to suit your foot. It also gives you versatility in how tight you want to have them. For walking over uneven surfaces, you might like them tight. When it comes to rowing, you might want to loosen them off slightly.
This is an overlooked aspect of water shoes in my opinion.
You’re wearing water shoes in a wet environment. There could be wet rocks, or slippery surfaces because of water/weeds etc on them. If your shoes aren’t grippy enough underfoot, this could cost you heavily - if you slip over, who knows what could happen to you?
Always consider the sole grip when you’re buying water shoes for rowing.
The good news here is that you don’t need to spend big money in order to pick up a great pair of water shoes for rowing. For less than 30 bucks you’ll be able to pick up a great pair that will be more than suitable for your needs.
I’m yet to find anything very good below $10, so I’m not sure that bargains really exist in the space. Around the $20-$30 mark tends to be the sweet spot of quality and value.
Whilst there’s a lot of cheap garbage in the water shoe market, these 5 choices represent great quality and value. There’s no bad choice amongst these, but if you want an outright opinion, I’d go with the Maxome water shoes on account of their versatility.
If you were using them in the cold water, the Body Glove water shoes would be my choice because they’re the only shoes in the list made from neoprene, which insulates as well as protects the foot.