Summertime and the living is easy—except when your shoes get soggy or filled with rocks. Summer is meant for adventuring, and kids need shoes that can keep up. What that means is shoes that will stand up to sweat, sand, water, heat, rocks, pebbles, and shards of seashells.
We polled 20 moms and got recommendations for their favorite water shoes for kids of all ages, then we dug in and found some of our own. Each shoe is as comfortable as it is hard-working. Read on for the absolute best water shoes to make this the summer of fun.
1. For the adventurer: Keen Newport H2 sandals
Available sizes: Infant 5 to adult
Rock-scrambling, puddle-jumping, tree-climbing, tide pool-hunting: These rugged, closed-toe sandals are made for the adventurous kid. The impressively grippy soles make these a great choice for kids that love to be active in and around the water and on rocky shorelines. They also make for a breathable hiking sandal that’s perfect for stream-crossing. If you’re looking for a versatile summer shoe that will last—not only through the season, but through siblings—this is the shoe for you.
One reviewer puts it perfectly, “Climb 50 trees. Stomp every puddle. Then give them to your little brother.”
2. For the pebble-sensitive kid: Cior water shoes
Available sizes: Toddler 8 to Big Kid 7
If your child gets upset by a shoe full of rocks and shells (what kid doesn't?), a fully enclosed shoe is a smart choice for beach days. These will keep feet protected from hot sand and will keep tiny shards of sea treasures from sneaking in. These are praised for being flexible, breathable, and—with a very cool drainage design in the soles, paired with a lightweight, synthetic fabric upper—super quick-drying.
3. For the kid who wants to make a style statement: Tevas sandals
Available sizes: Toddler 8 to adult
Are you sitting down? Tevas—the shoes that used to be worn almost exclusively at college protests and Phish shows—are now super-stylish! There's a reason they've stuck around for decades after their initial heyday: Tevas are incredibly durable and they are structured to give the support needed for all sorts of adventuring. Their cushiony rubber soles and quick-drying straps are made from 100% recycled plastic, making them a sustainable choice as well.
Tevas look pretty simple, but that are comfortable enough for long walks and are an excellent choice for canoeing, boating, and any other outdoorsy water adventure your kid wants to undertake. And—now—they're even a solid style choice if all they want is to look cute by the community pool.
4. For the urban adventurer: Native Kids Jefferson slip-on shoe
Available sizes: Toddler 4 to adult
For city kids that need to transition from the urban splash pad to the ice cream stand, these have been a versatile family favorite that my big-city kid has been wearing since he was a toddler. The soles offer support, the air holes make them cool and breathable, and they offer a sweat-free shoe option for hot summer months. They also clean out easily (because sometimes they WILL get muddy) and, because they are rubber through and through, kids don’t whine about wet feet when they wear them.
A smart tip that was passed on to me, that I will now pass on to you: Size up when you buy these. These shoes wear well at a size or a half-size too big: They won’t slip off and, since Natives are a slightly more pricey summer shoe option, a larger size ensures they last for a full year of use.
5. For the tiny puddle jumper: Jiasuqi Barefoot water socks
Available sizes: Infant 0-6 mos to 18-24 mos
Your kids may be little but that doesn’t mean they want to be carried the whole time. These sturdy-soled water shoes are made for small-scale adventures. They are grippy enough to give extra purchase when scrambling across rocks, and the fully-enclosed uppers keep tootsies well-protected from sun and sand. Reviewers especially like that these are comfortable enough that kiddos never give pushback when you're slipping them on, and that they protect small feet from hot surfaces poolside.
6. For the kid who wants to run in and out of the water: Hobibear breathable sandals
Available sizes: Toddler 4.5 to Little Kid 13.5
Dubbed “the holy grail of kids’ sandals” by reviewers, these shoes are touted for being instantly wearable and never having to go through a break-in period. The superior grippy-ness of the soles and the “anti-collision” toe design makes these shoes function as breathable sneakers for summertime. The quick-drying fabric of uppers make them a great choice for when those long and playful runs take them into water play.
7. For a kid that wants versatility: Sketchers Foamies slip-on shoe
Available sizes: Little Kid 11 to Big Kid 5
This shoe seems to come from the best of all possible worlds. When you’re looking for a comfortable shoe that’s great for land or water, reviewers say this shoe is the ultimate answer. The soft back makes it easy for smaller kids to slip on easily all by themselves. Reviewers praise this shoe for being a blister-free and super-comfortable summer shoe that looks just as cute with swim trucks as it does being dressed up for a family picnic.
8. For the kid that needs a little bit of arch support: Equick lightweight water shoe
Available sizes: Little Kid 9 to Big Kid 7
For the bigger kid that wants to go all day, rip-chord lacings give these quick-drying shoes a great, customizable fit. Perfect for the kid that really wants to compete, this shoe is great for running along the shore, hopping on a skimboard, or scrambling rocks. Insole arch support make this a pair of shoes that can handle any athletic undertaking your child throws at them. Reviewers also praise these shoes for staying stink-free despite long days of wear.
9. For the fast and the fashionable: Ubfen Barefoot Sport water shoe
Available sizes: Little Kid 11.5 to Big Kid 4
Soft and bendable, this water shoe packs down super-small for travel. According to reviewers these shoes are the perfect choice for water parks thanks to their adjustable velcro fastening and breathable neoprene-like uppers. Another thing is these shoes come in great-looking styles that, according to reviewers, get lots of enthusiastic buy-in from kids.
10. For that trip to Disney World, and all the water rides: Aleader Slip-On water shoes
Available sizes: Toddler 4 to adult
This jack-of-all-trades shoe is the master of all of them! Reviewers love it for its walkability and breathability and—even though it’s technically a water shoe—many say it’s their kids’ ultimate, quick-drying and sweat-free summer shoe. This slip-on offers breathable support for long days of walking at a theme-park, but it doesn’t let you down when you go on the splashy ride, or when your child is desperate to run through the water features.
11. For the classic kid: Crocs Classic Flip flip-flops
Available sizes: Little Kids 6 to Big Kids 3
Sometimes you just have to go with the classics. Flip-flops are the ultimate, easy summer shoe but, for little kids, they can be a real bummer when they slip off. If your kid wants to do any sort of exploration, a shoe that slides off too easily is a disaster waiting to happen. This flip-flop by Crocs keeps the ease of your standard flip-flop, but with a flexible and comfortable back strap that helps keeps shoes in place, even when running through waves.
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.