Best Water Shoes for Kids 2024

It’s summer time. You’ve reached that glorious season of parenting when your kids (hopefully) want nothing more than to be outside all day every day. It’s the stuff dreams are made of.

But then there is the ever-present parental battle over footwear. A lot of kids love being barefoot in the summer, and most of us would probably agree that it’s a glorious feeling! But sometimes it’s not necessarily the wisest choice, especially if you’re recreating in a place that is rocky or if you’re out hiking and exploring on trails or variable terrain.

Not to mention the fact that most outdoor summer play tends to involve water – whether from a lake or a river or a hose or a sprinkler. Here are some of our best water shoes for kids, and sandals too!

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Best Water Shoes for Kids

How to Keep Kids Feet Protected All Summer

So what on earth do you put on your kids’ feet that gives them enough protection, breathability, comfort, and traction to stay out as long as possible on both water and dry land? Water shoes? Sandals? Flip flops? Neoprene boots? Garbage bags and duct tape?

Your answer will probably depend on your particular setting and choice of activity, but the bottom line is that you want to find something that your kids will keep on their feet during outdoor adventures. Blisters are a bummer, shoes that don’t stay on are annoying, and hot feet are a hot mess.

Best Water Shoes for Kids

The good news is, there are TONS of options out there for quality, comfortable, durable water shoes and sandals for kids! And we are here to help you find what works for your family’s needs so that you can maximize fun through the warmer weather season and splash until your heart’s content.

Best Water Shoes for Kids

Our team members are huge fans of Keen’s lineup of water shoes for kids, and Keen also has an excellent blog post outlining how to decide which kids’ water shoes are right for you. While that post is specific to Keens, it is a helpful read in looking at different features that can be found in other brands and styles as well!


Best Water Sandals for Kids

If you do a lot of summer hiking in warmer climates, beach play in rocky areas, boating, or paddle boarding, water sandals for kids are a game-changer. Water sandals are designed to provide a balance of breathability, secure fit, and traction in both wet and dry conditions.

One caveat about the water sandal in general is that they get uncomfortable very quickly when they are both wet AND dirty or sandy. Regardless of the design or quality of the shoe, it’s almost impossible to avoid some discomfort when wet sand gets trapped between straps and skin.

Keen Seacamp II CNX

Keen has earned an amazing reputation for their line of water shoes and sandals for kids, and from our experience the kudos are well-deserved. The Seacamp II CNX is no exception – it’s light, durable, and has a super grippy sole. The reinforced toe provides top-notch stub protection, and these sandals perform remarkably well both in the water and on dry land.

Keen Seacamp II

Features

  • Multi directional lug pattern for increased traction
  • Secure fit lace capture system
  • Machine washable
  • Hydrophobic mesh lining

Best for

Hiking, Splash pads, River play, Early walkers, Toddlers with wide feet

Best Water Shoes for Kids

Comfort & Traction Ratings

Comfort: 4/5

The Seacamps are super comfortable on a wide range of feet – they are probably the best option out there for toddlers with wide feet and early walkers as well as older kids who are doing more strenuous hiking and climbing.

The only thing keeping them from a perfect rating is that the fabric can cause some rubbing when wet, especially if sand gets trapped in between the straps and skin.

Traction: 5/5

One of the best selling points of this shoe is the super grippy sole. If you’re spending a lot of time playing on rocky shorelines or wet rocks, the Seacamp is hard to beat! The sole is upgraded slightly from the Keen Newport H2, so if traction is a priority the Seacamp would probably be a better choice between the two.

Best Water Shoes for Kids

Pros of the Keen Seacamp CNX

  • Incredibly durable
  • Available in smaller sizes for toddlers and early walkers
  • Multi-functional, can be worn for hiking and general water play
  • Excellent traction
  • Comfortable fit on wider feet

Cons of the Keen Seacamp CNX

  • Fabric takes a while to dry
  • Can be difficult to put on when wet
  • Loop for velcro closure is not well designed – tough to get strap threaded back through the loop

Where to Buy the Keen Seacamp CNX

Available from Keen, Zappos, REI, Backcountry


Keen Newport H2

Keen Newport H2

The adult Newport sandal is Keen’s flagship product, and they have really nailed the design on scaling it down for kids. This sandal provides an excellent balance of support and breathability, and is easy for littles to put on and take off by themselves.

If you’re looking for a shoe that can handle hiking, beach play, rocks, poolside, and mud pits the Newport H2 is an all-around solid option. And we LOVE that it is machine washable! It is worth noting, however, that frequent washing can cause the velcro on the straps to wear out more quickly than the rest of the shoe.

Features

  • Secure fit lace capture system
  • Hook and loop strap over instep
  • Washable polyester webbing upper
  • Quick-dry lining for active use
  • Fits well on wider feet

Best for

Hiking, River play, Rocky beaches, Boating, Fishing

Comfort & Traction Ratings

Comfort: 4/5

Similar to the Seacamp, the Newport H2 can be a bit uncomfortable when the straps are wet and/or if they get too sandy. The fabric upper makes it a little bit more difficult to rinse off dirt and sand on-the-go which can be tough if you’re hiking to a lake or beach and then have to hoof it back out to your car.

Traction: 5/5

Keen claims that the Seacamp’s traction is beefier than the Newport H2’s, but the Newport provides plenty of grip for most activities. This is a huge selling point on these shoes, especially if your kids do a lot of climbing on wet rocks.

Pros of the Keen Newport H2

  • Very durable (can easily be passed down and used by multiple kids)
  • Great for hiking
  • Work well for wide toddler feet and early walkers
  • Easy on/off
  • Machine washable

Cons of the Keen Newport H2

  • Velcro tends to wear out more quickly than rest of shoe
  • Can be uncomfortable to hike in after getting wet

Where to Buy the Keen Newport H2

Available from Keen, Zappos, REI, Backcountry

Chaco Z/1 EcoTread

Chaco Water Sandal

The Z/1 EcoTread is a classic warm weather hiking and water adventure option for older kids (their sizing starts at little kids’ 10).  If you’ve owned and loved a pair of Chacos as an adult, you can imagine that these would also be a go-to option for kids as well because of their versatility, durability, and comfort. 

With the addition of a pull loop on the heel strap for easier on/off, the Chaco Z/1 carries the same quality and design of the adult Chacos and performs just as well over time.

Features

  • Durable LUVSEAT™ PU midsole
  • Quick-drying polyester jacquard webbing upper
  • Adjustable and durable high-tensile webbing heel risers
  • EcoTread™ 25%-recycled rubber compound outsole with 2mm lug depth

Best for

Hiking, River play, Camping, Boating, Splash pad, Older kids with wider feet

Comfort & Traction Ratings

Comfort: 5/5

The webbing on the Chaco dries more quickly than a lot of other water sandals we’ve tested, which is a huge comfort asset if you’re dipping toes in the water during a hike. 

The minimalist strap design also allows for feet to breathe really well in hotter conditions and the sole provides plenty of stability.

Traction: 5/5

The tread on the Chaco is top-notch and can withstand lots of hard wear.  The EcoTread has the added bonus of being 25% recycled rubber, which we love to see!    

Pros of the Chaco Z/1 EcoTread

  • Highly adjustable
  • Fits well on wider feet
  • Breathable
  • Quick-drying
  • Machine Washable

Cons of the Chaco Z/1 EcoTread

  • When tightened down, the extra length of strap can be annoying unless it is cut and re-sewn or singed
  • Expensive for a kids’ sandal at full price (MSRP is $60), although can easily be passed down and used by multiple children

Where to Buy the Chaco Z/1 EcoTread

Available from Chaco, REI, Backcountry

Merrell Big Hydro 2 Sandal

Merrell Water Sandal

The Merrell Kids’ Big Hydro 2 Sandal is a fantastic all-around summer adventure sandal, mixing the traction and comfort needed for longer hikes with the quick-dry and breathability factors that make water play dreamy.

This is a well-constructed, durable, burly hybrid sandal that is great for kids who tend to be rough on their shoes and wear things out quickly.

Features

  • Cushy EVA footbed for all day comfort
  • M Select™ GRIP for flexible, non-marking traction
  • Constructed of quick-drying materials
  • Close to the ground for a barefoot feel while still providing plenty of stability

Best for

Hiking, River play, Biking, Camping, Boating, Splash pad

Best Water Shoes for Kids

Comfort & Traction Ratings

Comfort: 4/5

The Hydro provides decent coverage for a sandal, keeping out bigger rocks and sticks super well. The upper also dries quickly, which helps with comfort while moving in and out of the water. Like most sandals, though, they become irritating if they get dirt or sand underneath the straps. 

Traction: 5/5

As water sandals go, you aren’t going to get much better traction than what you get on the Merrell Hydro. The tread is grippy and durable, easily able to be passed down even if your kids play hard and tend to wear shoes out quickly.   

Best Water Shoes for Kids
The Merrell Hydro is comfy both in and out of water

Pros of the Merrell Hydro

  • Easy on/off
  • Fit well on both wide and narrow feet
  • Super grippy sole, ideal for rocky terrain
  • Durable enough to withstand tough wear

Cons of the Merrell Hydro

  • Uncomfortable when wet or sandy

Where to Buy the Merrell Hydro

Available from Merrell, REI, Amazon

Keen Moxie

Keen Moxie

The Moxie is Keen’s “cute yet functional” water sandal – a great option for kids who love to be active AND look fancy! With softer color options and a glittery sole, the Moxie can be dressed up a little bit more than the Newport or Seacamp and may be an easier sell if your kiddo battles against athletic-looking footwear.

Features

  • Cleansport NXT™ for natural odor control
  • Secure fit lace capture system
  • Washable polyester webbing upper
  • Breathable jersey lining

Best for

Light hiking, Splash pad, Poolside, Fancy occasions

Comfort & Traction Ratings

Comfort: 4/5

The Moxie is designed for narrower feet, so depending on your kiddo that may or may not be an asset. The adjustability is solid, and like most Keens the comfort is definitely compromised when they are wet or sandy.

Traction: 4/5

While not quite as grippy or beefy as the Seacamp or Newport, the Moxie still has solid traction. The sole is lighter and more flexible, and not really designed for slicker surfaces or longer hikes.

Pros of the Keen Moxie

  • Available in fun, sparkly colors that might appeal to kids with pickier aesthetic taste
  • Fit well on more narrow feet
  • Flexible sole can make walking less awkward, especially for younger kids

Cons of the Keen Moxie

  • Uncomfortable when wet or sandy
  • Sole wears out more quickly than the Newport or Seacamp

Where to Buy the Keen Moxie

Available from Keen, Zappos, Amazon

Teva Tirra

Teva Tirra

The Teva Terra is a lightweight, comfy sandal for more low-key water play. If your kids prefer to hike in shoes but you want to carry a sandal to change into for water play, the Tirra is an excellent option.

Features

  • Easy hook-and-loop closure comes on and off quickly and gets the fit just right
  • Quick-dry webbing made from recycled plastic
  • Rubber outsole

Best for

River play, Camping, Boating, Splash pad, Poolside

Best Water Shoes for Kids

Comfort & Traction Ratings

Comfort: 3/5

The Teva Terra is in the middle of pack in terms of comfort. The multiple velcro adjustment points enable you to secure a snug fit, but the adjustment points also create more potential spots for irritation and rubbing if you can’t get the straps quite right. 

Traction: 2/5

While Teva claims this sandal is suitable for day hiking, the tread leaves something to be desired. It does have a little bit of grip, but the sole doesn’t perform very well on more slippery surfaces or longer hikes on rough terrain.   

Best Water Shoes for Kids

Pros of the Teva Tirra

  • Fully recyclable through the TevaForever recycling program, which means they never need to see a landfill!
  • Straps attach easily to a backpack for easy carrying
  • Lightweight and breathable
  • Easy on/off

Cons of the Teva Tirra

  • Lack of traction makes it not a great option for hiking
  • Less rugged than similarly priced options, doesn’t stand up as well to hard wear

Where to Buy the Teva Tirra

Available from Teva (they often have great sales here!), Amazon

Best Water Shoes & Booties for Kids

If you’re looking for more coverage than a sandal can provide, then there are plenty of solid options out there that still perform really well both in and out of the water. If your child has sensitive skin and you want to keep as much dirt or sand off of their feet, water shoes are a great option.

These shoes typically are not designed for hiking and thus don’t prioritize traction. They are a great option if you’re spending a day at the beach or on a boat and there isn’t a whole lot of walking around or hiking involved in your adventure.

Merrell Bare Steps H2O

Merrell Bare Steps H2O

The Merrell Bare Steps H2O is a dream for tiny feet! Made with developing toddler feet in mind, this shoe has a barefoot feel that little kids love while also providing protection from the elements and additional traction.

If you have an early walker who will be doing some splashing this summer, this is by far the best option out there. While not ideal for hiking longer distances, it’s perfect for younger kids who are in and out of a child carrier as they are learning to hike on their own.

Features

  • Extra wide toe box
  • Multi-directional grooves for ultimate flexibility and barefoot feel
  • Made with recycled materials
  • Alternative closure for easy on/off adjustability
  • Flexible sole

Best for

Early walkers, Wide toddler feet, Splash pad, Yard play, Beach, Boating

Comfort & Traction Ratings

Comfort: 5/5

The Bare Steps H2O is one of the most comfortable options out there – especially for chubby toddler feet! In addition to the easy on/off, these shoes do a great job keeping sand and dirt away from the skin which minimizes blisters and rubbing.

Traction: 3/5

These shoes aren’t really designed for hiking, as they don’t provide great traction on wet, variable terrain like slippery rocks. They perform much better on flatter, softer trails and paths.

Best Water Shoes for Kids

Pros

  • Super easy for little kids to put on and take off independently
  • Dries quickly
  • Easy to get onto wide toddler feet
  • Comfortable with or without socks
  • Keeps rocks out
  • More breathable than a standard neoprene shoe or boot

Cons

  • Velcro can wear out with heavy use

Where to Buy

Available from Merrell, Zappos, Backcountry, Amazon

Plae Sam 2.0

Plae Sandals

The Plae Sam 2.0 is a super soft, lightweight, versatile shoe that performs well both in and out of water. Great for summer biking in puddles, playgrounds and splash pads, and paddling around the lake.

This shoe is very comfortable, which makes it a great option for kids who tend to fight against wearing shoes in hotter temperatures!

Features

  • Lightweight and flexible
  • Removable insoles
  • Machine washable

Best for

River play, poolside, camping, biking, boating

Best Water Shoes for Kids

Comfort & Traction Ratings

Comfort: 5/5

The Plae Sam 2.0 has a super soft and lightweight upper, which makes it a beloved shoe for kids who generally hate shoes. If you have trouble keeping shoes on your kids, these are a great option because most kids find them incredibly comfortable.

Traction: 2/5

The outsole is not a strong point of these shoes, and they are best for activities that don’t require a whole lot of traction.

Pros of the Plae Sam 2.0

  • Great for biking near water
  • Solid foot coverage while still being lightweight
  • Soft material for kids with sensitive feet
  • Easy-to-clean
  • Durable

Cons of the Plae Sam 2.0

  • Not much traction on the tread

Where to Buy the Plae Sam 2.0

Available from Plae

Jan & Jul Water Shoes Neoprene Shoes

Jan & Jul Bootie

The Jan & Jul Water Shoe is a classic neoprene bootie, great for protecting feet from the sun and elements while remaining lightweight and breathable.

Comfortable and easy to slip on and off, these are a great indoor/outdoor option. The Play Shoe provides more UV protection than a sandal and also keeps out pesky dirt, rocks, and wood chips that can irritate sensitive little toes.

Features

  • Extra wide toe box
  • Multi-directional grooves for ultimate flexibility and barefoot feel
  • Made with recycled materials
  • Alternative closure for easy on/off adjustability
  • Flexible sole

Best for

River & lake play, boating, poolside, camping

Comfort & Traction Ratings

Comfort: 5/5

The Play Shoe is soft, flexible, and wide. It was designed specifically with toddler feet in mind, so it’s an excellent choice for early walkers. It feels like a slipper but with a little extra durability in the sole.

Because it is a full-coverage bootie, it keeps sand and rocks away from feet which is especially helpful for little ones who have a hard time verbalizing when something is bugging them!

Traction: 3/5

The Jan & Jul Play Shoe has slightly more traction than a flip flop, and is not really designed for hiking. It has enough grip for the playground or poolside, but would not be the best choice for bigger trail adventures and variable terrain.

Pros of the Jan & Jul Play Shoes

  • Super easy for little kids to put on and take off independently
  • Comes in cute, fun patterns
  • Best for wide toddler feet
  • Keeps rocks, sand, sticks, and dirt out
  • Affordable

Cons of the Jan & Jul Play Shoes

  • Only available in toddler sizes

Where to Buy the Jan & Jul Play Shoes

Available from Jan & Jul, Amazon

Best Water Clogs & Slides for Kids

Sometimes, what you’re looking for more than anything else in a shoe is something easy. Something your 3-year-old can put on by themself and something that can be hosed down and dried in a matter of minutes when it’s covered in mud. If simple is what you need, a water moc or slide might be right up you’re alley

Not great for hiking or rugged adventures, these shoes are designed for the ultimate easy on/off when you’re bouncing back and forth between bare feet and shoes. They are typically made of super light EVA foam and don’t have any closures or adjustment points, so you’ll want to make sure you have your sizing correct before purchasing.

Ten Little Splash Sandals

Ten Little Splash Sandals

The Ten Little Splash Sandals, like all of their footwear, are zero drop (the heel is not elevated). They are specifically made to have a thin and flexible sole as well as a foot shaped toe box to giving young, growing feet plenty of space. Advocates of zero drop footwear say they help kids improve their balance and coordination.

The Splash sandals are a new option for families who have worn Crocs, Joybees and other slip on clog style sandals in the summer. They are lightweight and could be a great fit for a chunky toddler foot. I love how secure they are and the durable traction (one outing on pavement did not wear it all off as with some shoes).

Features

  • EVA soles
  • Zero drop sole and foot shaped toe box
  • Easy on and off with a hook and loop closeure
  • Non-slip sole and insole

Best for

Poolside, Yard play, Around the campsite, Gardening

Ten Little Splash Sandals in grass

Comfort & Traction Ratings

Comfort: 4/5

The Ten Little Splash sandals are lightweight, cushiony under the foot and generally comfortable. The higher sides areas the ankle will feel best on a kid with a higher ankle bone or generally higher volume foot. These are easy to get on and off and quick to dry when playing in the water.

Traction: 3/5

These sandals have better traction than similarly soled shoes. The traction is wearing less quickly than on other clog style sandals. The Ten Littles are not the best choice for hiking, climbing on slick surfaces or rough trails.

Pros of Ten Little Splash Sandals

  • Easy to get on and off
  • The traction is lasting better than other EVA soled water shoes
  • Wider toe box makes for an easier fit for toddler feet
  • Dry quickly and are easy to clean

Cons of Ten Little Splash Sandals

  • The sides of the sandals are higher and can rub on the ankle for some kids
  • Not ideal for hiking or longer walks

Where to Buy Ten Little Splash Sandal

Available from Ten Little

Crocs Classic Clog

Croc for Kids

It’s hard to top the design of the iconic Crocs clogs when it comes to easy on/off and easy-to-clean water shoes for kids. These are a go-to keep by the front door shoe for so many households with little kids in the summertime, because slipping them on and heading out to play is a cinch. And hosing them down when they get full of mud or sand is also pretty dreamy!

They aren’t quite as versatile for adventuring as other sandals and water shoes that provide a more secure fit, but for general low-key play they are almost always a win. And they are especially handy at the campsite when you’re trying to keep shoes out of the tent and want a quick slip-on option.

Features

  • Pivoting heel straps for a more secure fit
  • Easy to clean
  • Customizable with Jibbitz™ charms
  • Lightweight Croslite™ foam cushioning

Best for

Poolside, Yard play, Around the campsite, Gardening

Best Water Shoes for Kids

Comfort & Traction Ratings

Comfort: 4/5

The Crocs clogs are very lightweight and cushy, and most kids love them as long as they aren’t walking long distances. They can be a bit awkward to run in because the heel strap doesn’t adjust at all, and the softness of the sole also means that walking around on rockier surfaces can be uncomfortable.

That being said, these are almost always the shoes our kids choose when we head out the door! Especially for playing in the yard or anywhere low-key, little kids especially love how easy it is for them to put them on and take them off.

Traction: 2/5

These are definitely not hiking shoes, and especially once they get wet they aren’t ideal for climbing around or getting traction on wet rocks, roots, or trails.

Best Water Shoes for Kids

Pros of the Crocs Classic Clog

  • Easy on/off
  • Lightweight
  • Great for campsite, poolside, or getting out the door quickly
  • Easy to clean
  • Ideal for wider feet

Cons of the Crocs Classic Clog

  • Poor traction
  • Not ideal for hiking or longer walks
  • Hard to fit securely
  • Heel strap can cause blistering when wet
  • Not very breathable, can cause sweaty feet

Where to Buy the Crocs Classic Clog

Available from Crocs, Amazon

Native Jefferson

For kids with more narrow feet, the Native Jefferson is another excellent slip-on option that does well in wet conditions. The Jefferson is surprisingly durable for being so lightweight, and because of this they are great for passing down or picking up used.

If they work for your child’s feet (again, they run narrow and are not adjustable so good fit is key), they tend to be very well-loved and frequently chosen by kiddos for all kinds of outdoor fun around the yard, pool, neighborhood, or splash pad.

Features

  • Odor resistant
  • Hand washable
  • Injection molded EVA construction

Best for

Poolside, Yard play, Around the campsite, Gardening

Comfort & Traction Ratings

Comfort: 3/5

The Native Jefferson is incredibly lightweight for basically being a closed-toed shoe. It is breathable and airy and so easy for kids to put on and take off by themselves. If you try to size up in order to accommodate for the more narrow fit, be aware that the material can cause rubbing and blistering on the heel.

Traction: 1/5

The Jefferson has a pretty slick tread, and traction is not a priority in its design. They are great for general use when you don’t need a whole lot of grip.

Pros of the Native Jefferson

  • Easy on/off
  • Lightweight
  • Great for campsite, poolside, or getting out the door quickly
  • Easy to clean
  • Ideal for more narrow feet

Cons of the Native Jefferson

  • Poor traction
  • Not ideal for hiking or longer walks
  • Difficult to fit well on wider feet

Where to Buy the Native Jefferson

Available from Native, Zappos, Amazon

Water Shoes for Kids: Shoes Our Kid Testers Didn’t Love

We know that kids’ feet come in all different shapes and sizes, and that not every shoe will work well for every kid. However, we thought it might be helpful to share a few of the shoes our kid testers consistently didn’t love and the complaints they had for each.

Nike Sunray Protect 2.0

We wanted to love these because they’re super lightweight, easy to clean, and have a double Velcro tongue that makes for simple on/off. They also have good traction and dry out quickly.

Best Water Shoes for Kids

However, the edges of the material were uncomfortable for multiple testers to the point where they would only wear the sandals with socks (kind of defeating the purpose of a water shoe). The kids described the heel, tongue, and ankle contact points as rough, pokey, and sharp.

Water Shoes for Kids: The Bottom Line

Whether you’re beach bums, avid hikers, river rats, or desert dwellers…chances are any outdoor kid will benefit from some solid water shoes to make the most of the summer months. Whether your priority is weight, comfort, traction, ease of independent on/off, or cost there are plenty of options out there that can keep little feet happy and active all summer long.

What matters most to you? What works for your active family? Please share your thoughts and insights in the comments and we wish you all safe and happy splashing!

Best Water Shoes for Kids

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Best Water Shoes for Kids

© 2024, Tales of a Mountain Mama. All rights reserved. Republication, in part or entirety, requires a link back to this original post and permission from the author.

Authors

  • Jessica has always been a mountain woman at heart, but didn’t truly find her place until she worked a summer camp job in Washington State during her college years. She has been in love with and exploring the wild places of the Pacific Northwest ever since, and currently lives in Bellingham, Washington with her husband Ben, 2 kids – Micah (4) and Lydia (2), and adventure dog Yeti (5). Her family is at their happiest outside – enjoying the local pump tracks, hiking trails, lakes, ski hills, and forest service campgrounds. She is a firm believer in the value of the outdoors to teach, heal, nurture, and foster creativity in kids and adults alike and has survived the transition to being a stay-at-home mom by spending as much time as possible outdoors. In her rare moments of free time you can find her running, writing, reading, taking photos, and watching re-runs of Parks and Rec on Netflix.

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