Best Beach Shoes and Sand Shoes – 2021 Buyers Guide
No matter what your ideal beach day looks like, there is certainly a pair of beach shoes that will make your day comfortable and fun.
We've put together a list of fun, comfortably and stylish options for your next visit to the beach. Enjoy the sun for us!
Criteria Used for Evaluation
When you’re going to the beach (or any other environment involved mostly with water) you want to count on beach footwear that allows water to exit. You’ll inevitably get some water in your shoes regardless of what you’re doing on the beach. Two things can happen: it stays in both of your shoes clogging them or it drains.
Long story short, shoes suck when they’re filled with water. You’ll lose every sense of the grip, the sensibility of the underfoot when walking, support, and internal traction. It’s just a mess. The best beach shoes are those that count with an effective draining system that removes most of the water once they’re not submerged anymore.
This can be done in a variety of ways. For instance, the Speedo Hydro Comfort 4.0 counts with a built-in drainage port within the midsole. This channel allows the water to flow freely in and out of the shoe. It’s important to note the height of any drainage ports in the shoe; if they’re too high, the accumulated water below the channel won’t be able to exit.
At the same time, openings and other perforations contribute to the drainage. Basically, the more openings there are, the easier the shoe will drain. A mesh upper build is a big contribution to easy drainage, whether it counts with mesh panels on the lower portion or just made entirely from the mesh.
For this guide, we evaluated the ability of a shoe to drain based on two criteria: efficiency and speed.
Normally, something is called efficient when all of its components work together in an optimal way. However, to differ it from speed, we’ll refer to efficiency as the ability of the shoe to drain out most of the water. A shoe that doesn’t manage to drain most of the water would be inefficient under this criterion, and the other way around.
What makes a drainage system efficient is the number of ports there are available for water flow. If there’s just one draining channel, water won’t exit as fluidly as you would need to partially dry the shoe. But it’s not all about the number of channels; their location is a key factor in determining the efficiency.
As mentioned before, you should avoid any beach footwear that focuses on the upper portion of the drainage. You want any ports to be located as low as possible to ensure that there won’t be any remaining coats of water within the shoe. At the same time, the best beach shoes count with other drainage methods located in different regions of the shoe.
If you were to put to drainage ports one next to the other, water still wouldn’t flow out as optimally as it could. Get two openings on each side of the shoe, however, and water will make its way out before you notice.
For normal users who are just going to the beach to relax or do recreational activities, the draining speed is not a paramount feature. However, sports that involve getting in the water and back out a call for a faster draining speed. This is because any water within the shoe will obstruct your feet in any sort of performance outside the water.
The sooner the water exits the shoe, the better. Once most of the water leaves the shoe, you’ll regain inner traction, stability, and all the other abilities you lose when your shoes are full of water. As the sport gets more competitive, you’ll want the water to leave even faster – as soon as possible.
To achieve this, you should opt for bigger drainage systems. However, every other aspect of drainage contributes to its speed really. Just like with the draining efficiency, increasing the number of openings will also translate into faster drainage. Drainage speed and efficiency go hand in hand; they’re determined by nearly the same factors.
Some users make the mistake of thinking their feet won't heat on the beach because they’re near water. Don’t get it wrong, heat will have an impact on your feet wherever you are if your shoes are not adequately equipped. Although water is a great refresher, you shouldn’t depend on it to help your feet cool.
Our body produces its own heat, and it increases the more we move. This includes our feet. When moving or playing on the beach, our feet will start to generate heat. If they’re trapped by closed shoes, heat will start to accumulate. At the same time, this will cause our feet to generate even more heat themselves, and so on until you get in the water.
Some may think that it’s unlikely to come across a shoe meant for the beach that isn’t breathable, but you’d be surprised by how many there are. Breathability and drainage also go hand in hand because of a very simple reason; water and air will mostly flow through the same channels and openings in the shoe.
A shoe that lacks a proper drainage system is likely to lack breathability too, but this is not always the case. Breathability and drainage have a lot of things in common, including the features required to optimize their flow. However, the air is easier to handle when it comes to footwear because it will flow through any opening regardless of its position or height.
Mesh upper builds guarantee the breathability of the shoe. The upper build plays a massive role in the breathability of a shoe – some would even argue it’s the most important role in it. This is simply because the upper is normally the biggest (or largest) portion of the shoe. If it’s closed, air will lose most of the space through which it can flow freely.
Air will flow through the shoe regardless of where it enters. However, this doesn’t mean that one flowing channel is enough to make a shoe breathable. Certain zones of our feet suffer more when exposed to concentrated heat. This is not necessarily because they’re more delicate, but because they undergo many other things at the same time.
For instance, our heel isn’t particularly delicate, it’s the hardest spot on the foot in fact. However, it has a role in many natural processes like shock absorption that put stress on it. If on top of the stress generated by other things, the heel starts to suffer from overheating, the bad news is certain.
The best beach shoes count with strategically located breathing panels (when they’re not breathable all around, that is). We advise going for shoes that count with targeted breathability around the Achilles tendon, the upper foot, and the sides of the shoe (for the arch). Irritation around any of these areas will result in your performance and comfort going downhill.
Who likes buying shoes that come apart way before they’re worth the money you put into them? Nobody. You already know this, of course. However, what most normal footwear users don’t know is how to approximately determine the durability of a shoe.
Do keep in mind that the durability of a shoe is unpredictable, as there are a huge amount of influencing factors. Something as simple as exposing your shoes to the sun while letting them dry may affect the properties of the materials and thus their durability. Not to mention that no matter how good a shoe is, you may simply have an accident and break them. The thing is how many accidents can the shoe sustain?
Most crappy shoes can be easily avoided by a thorough examination. You’d be surprised by the number of defects you’ll find in footwear by taking a close look. Before purchasing any shoe (or upon delivery), inspect it completely; touch everything you feel like touching and look all around it.
A lot of shoes come with issues on the stitching and the sole gluing. Make sure it’s not threaded irregularly and the sole is properly glued. The most common signs of a cheap shoe are low-quality, uneven stitching and glue marks around the midsole. The best beach shoes are put together with quality materials.
Don’t think that buying a shoe from a big brand makes you immune to defects. Adidas, Nike, Puma, and all other footwear titans make defective products every once in a while. If by luck you picked one of those defective items, examining it will save you from a pretty unfortunate experience.
When it comes to the functional aspects of the shoe, these are the features to keep in mind while evaluating the best beach shoes:
It’s a no-brainer; the materials from which the shoe is made have a direct impact on its durability. Buy crappy materials and you’ll get a crappy shoe. You’re obviously not going to pick materials that you know are bad. However, some users aren’t able to determine which materials are the right choice for beach shoes.
For instance, the mesh is an extremely popular option amongst beach shoes. No wonder why; it’s breathable, it allows water to drain and whatnot. However, mesh alone isn’t a good material for the construction of an upper build. Materials like air mesh are really thin and fragile, and thus very likely to rip or break upon the first few abrasions.
Air mesh certainly is cheaper, but it lasts way less alone. Try to get your hands on beach shoes that reinforce their mesh with another compound. The Vibram Signa, for example, makes use of a stretchy polyester compound as upper build mesh. The shoe breathes, drains, and more importantly, won’t break so easily.
Lastly, make sure you’re getting beach shoes when purchasing. Certain water shoes that are meant for the pool or fresh water are not suitable for the beach. This is because the sodium chloride and other compounds found in saline water may affect the properties of certain materials. Ask if the shoe materials are suitable for salt water.
In an overall look, there are two main things that determine the durability of a shoe. The first one is the quality of the shoe itself and how it’s put together. The second one is the attention that the user gives their shoes, and how they use them. The cheapest of shoes can be durable in the right hands, just like top-notch shoes can break on the first use when used incorrectly.
The first step to proper usage is knowing what your shoe is capable of. If the upper build is entirely made from air mesh, then you know you’re not going anywhere near rough environments. You may get away with using a shoe for another activity different from the original purpose of the shoe, but know that your footwear is at risk depending on what you do.
Washing shoes is a big role in the durability of a shoe. Normally, washing them won’t really make them last longer, but it does help make the shoe look newer. Although looks aren’t related to performance, we all take them into consideration when buying shoes. Don’t wash them and you’ll have the opposite; new shoes that look old.
But, once again, the beach is a different environment. It’s important that you clean your shoes with fresh water once you’re done at the beach. Regardless of what the shoe is made of, it’s not ideal to leave all the salts and compounds from the beach sitting on your shoe. Wash away as much saline water as you can, and take advantage of the opportunity to clean the sand as well.
Two things can be understood by performance features; the basic qualities that are required for any shoe to function properly, and the features related to a specific sport or performance. In either case, performance features are things that should always be present in your shoe, no matter how vague their original purpose is.
When looking for the best beach shoes, you should keep in mind the things you’ll use it for. If you are likely to practice a beach sport, examine the shoe to see if its qualities meet the requirements of your sport. For example, if you’re planning to do some running on the beach, your shoe should count with a shock-absorbing, flexible midsole.
It’s important to remember that neutral beach shoes aren’t meant for any specific sport. Thus, you’ll get much more out of your performance by buying a pair of shoes specialized in such activity. But we understand that for most users it’s not practical (nor affordable) to have a bunch of shoes laying around for each action they perform.
Don’t get it wrong, though. Beach shoes are perfectly capable of delivering performance features. The Vibram five-finger by Signa is an ideal example of our previous statement. It’s not originally designed as a shoe for the beach, but neither are most shoes that are the best choice for the beach.
Like we mentioned before, some features should be present in every shoe. We’ll provide you with insight into each of the basic abilities that should be present in a beach shoe for it to function correctly and comfortably. Keep in mind that, for specific activities, these features may increase, decrease, or not be present in that type of shoe. For instance, all shoes should be flexible; but rock climbing shoes count with a stiff, non-bending sole.
Remember that there is a huge variety of shoes compatible with the beach. The Zhuanglin Aqua and the Easy USA Wave are both beach shoes, but one resembles a running shoe and the other a surfing one, respectively. In general, the best beach shoes count with the following performance aspects:
Keep in mind what kind of activity you want to use your shoes to determine which performance features to choose.
Unless the circumstances of a specific sport say otherwise, a shoe must always feature a certain amount of flexibility. Without a flexible sole, we won’t be able to perform some of the most basic human motions correctly, like walking. It’s not an option, and in the case of neutral footwear it’s just not up for debate – our feet are naturally meant to flex and bend as we walk.
A shoe that prevents our feet from moving naturally is no good. If the sole is not flexible, the foot will be confined to space within the inner build. This space is generally just big enough to fit our foot in there, but certainly not big enough to flex or arch.
Our arches can suffer a lot of tension from the lack of flexibility in a shoe; even worse if the shoe lacks support at the same time. Being one of the softest spots in the foot, it’d be unwise to expose your arches to the stress caused by an unnatural walking form. Realistically speaking, walking without bending your feet is just abnormal – even if it’s physically possible.
10 Best Shoes for the Beach
1. Crocs Swiftwater
Croc is a brand that needs no introduction; we’ve all had a pair of them at some point in our lives, or at least have seen them somewhere. The quickly-growing footwear designer for adults and children came up with an approach specifically for water walking. The Swiftwater Beach Sandal is soft, lightweight, comfortable, and extremely water-friendly. The versatile design of these beach sandals works in combination with Crocs proprietary technology to deliver maximum water efficiency. You definitely won't regret having this beach footwear.
Crocs beach sandals aren’t crocs footwear if they lack CrosLite cushioning. This technology is possibly the most emblematic feature in any Crocs shoe. The closed-cell resin represents a pretty big improvement in the way we wear clogs and sandals. This material does everything from improving grip, prevent marking and skidding, to providing softness, comfort, and preventing odor. Thanks to this technology, Crocs shoes are compatible with the beach, the pool, the boat, and an extremely large variety of other activities.
It’s hard to be uncomfortable in this pair of beach sandals when there’s a massaging footbed design under your feet. Small massaging balls are located all across the footbed of the inner build, comforting your feet as you walk and reducing stress off key areas of the underfoot. The massaging footbed design in these beach shoes also works as an inner traction enhancer, preventing your feet from slipping all over the inner sandal.
2. Columbia Drainmaker II
Beach sneakers made for water activities where you want something that will quickly drain water but still provide you with the required protection and comfort for all-day walking, the Drainmaker II by Columbia features several drainage ports in the heel and forefoot, ensuring a quick drying process. These beach shoes are perfect for more adventurous seaside outings, it’s a lightweight model you will reach for most often on your next holiday.
For the best possible traction on all surfaces, the outsole on the Drainmaker II is made with a wet-traction rubber compound and features deep lugs that’ll grip both dry and wet surfaces. For improved performance, you’ll find that these beach walking shoes are siped, giving them an advantage over most other models found on this list. This means that these beach sneakers will do great at the pool as well.
To ensure that your feet are as dry as possible, the Drainmaker II beach shoes feature an upper made with a single layer of mesh that’ll easily dry without retaining moisture. Not only will this feel more comfortable on your feet, but it’ll also contribute to a healthier environment for your foot, slowing down the appearance of odors.
3. Crocs Crocband
The first thing that comes to most people's minds when they think beach shoes is the obvious choice of flip-flops. Cheap, easy to put on, extremely lightweight and water-friendly they are the ideal shoe for those who love relaxing at the beach and enjoying some fun in the sun.
Of all the flip-flops on the market, the Crocabands are one of the highest-rated and best quality while still sticking to the fairly cheap nature that makes flip flops great. Quick and easy to take on and off, these shoes can walk across the sand as well as keep your soles safe in the water. The variety of color options make these both a fun and smart choice for comfortable and durable beach shoes.
Made out of Crocs original Crocslite foam, these flip flops are extremely comfortable and cushioned pair of sand shoes, while still weight only a few ounces. The lightness of the beach shoe makes it buoyant, meaning it will float above the water in the cases where it comes off your foot. The Crocslite material is also completely water-friendly, meaning you can go from the car to the beach, to the water without changing shoes.
What adds to the comfort of these beach shoes is the ribbed and bumpy footbed, which presses gently into the bottom of your foot to help relieve pressure and give you a feeling of relaxation. Combined with the spongy nature of the shoe, these should feel comfortable for all feet types, including individuals who suffer from Plantar Fasciitis.
4. Vionic Tide II
If you prefer to beach footwear in the form of a sandal or flip flop on a hot summer night, but still require a level of support and cushioning that’s usually found in orthopedic footwear, then the Vionic Tide II beach walking shoes are the perfect option. A simple flip flop design featuring Orthaheel technology, this will work for anyone who suffers from flat feet, plantar fasciitis, heel pain, or even alignment issues. It’s also a great choice for all-day wear seeing that it won’t cause fatigue like a number of heavier and less secure beach shoes.
To minimize the level of irritation, Vionic beach footwear has decided to add soft padding to the straps of the Tide II, and combined with the soft woven toe post, these will work great to give you a fit that’s secure, without the disadvantage of rubbing or blistering.
The outsole is made with TPR, featuring a deep tread to keep you grounded even in slippery conditions, the midsole of these beach shoes is made with shock-absorbing, lightweight EVA foam, while the Orthaheel technology cradles the heel and supports the arch, ensuring proper foot alignment even for overpronators, and reducing all types of heel and knee pain.
5. Teva Verra
A comfortable and weather proof shoes for the beach, Teva makes a long line of shoes and sandals that are comfortable and durable. With multiple velcro straps, the Teva Style Beach Sandal is securely attached to your foot, so you can walk and even hike comfortably in them. The open toe and top of foot design are breezy, keeping your feet nice and cool in the summer heat. What makes this beach shoe style stand out is that it is versatile, meaning you can wear it in the water, for walks along the sand, or for climbing trails to scope out hidden watering holes. With good traction created by Teva's unique spider rubber, these shoes are a great choice to accompany you on all of your summer travels.
The upper part of these shoes for the beach is made out of polyester webbing which is comfortable as well as great for wearing in the water. These beach shoes will dry very quickly after getting wet, so after spending some time in the water you can be sure you won't have soggy feet for the remainder of the day. This material is also strong and durable, so any pressure put on the straps from walking won't wear them out or cause any breakage.
Using a unique blend of materials, Teva's patented Shoc Pad technology in their beach shoe will evenly transfer any energy emitted every time you step down. Carefully cupping the heel, shock impact will travel away from the heel and down the footbed leaving you with a gentler feeling step as well as extra bounce. On rougher terrains, this Shoc Pad will keep your knees and feet safer and you will have less chance of injury from impact and shock.
6. Stride Rite Made 2 Play Phibian
Love the idea of running barefoot on the beach, but don't want to be burned by the hot sand? Love swimming in the water but don't like the feeling of rocks or seaweed on your bare feet? Water socks give you the feeling of not wearing beach shoes, while still protecting your feet and providing some cushion and comfort. Made of Neoprene, water socks can be fully submerged in the water without getting your feet wet, and they have traction on the bottom to help give you some grip.
Stride Rite beach shoes are a long time favorite for children's shoes and the Made 2 Play Phibian is right up at the top of their products. Perfect for the beach, these rubber sand shoes are machine washable and anti-microbial so they'll last your little ones a long time as they play out at the beach.
The Stride Rite Made 2 Play Phibian beach shoes are fun, colorful shoes that are perfect for your little beach lovers. With plenty of design options, you can find the perfect beach walking shoes for your children. These shoes for the beach are machine washable while also being anti-stink and anti-microbial so you can rest assured that they'll last a long time between having sweaty little feet in them and running around in the saltwater and sand.
With an EVA upper and synthetic sole, they're comfortable to wear and won't irritate the skin. The rubber pods on the outsole help with traction to grip the ground on any surface. Plus, the hook and loop closure makes them easy to put on and off. As an added bonus, they are vegan-friendly: made without any animal products.
7. Keen Newport H2
For more adventurous and active beachgoers, the above-listed beach shoes may not offer exactly when you're after, so you may want to consider purchasing a pair of sport sandals. These are shoes that are designed for high-intensity activities like hiking, rock climbing, or other daring adventures. Athletic sandals will allow you to go to the beach in full comfort while making sure your feet are properly protected and secure.
The Newport H2's by KEEN is a very sporty beach sandal, with a thick rubber sole and ghillie lacing. These beach sand shoes will give you a very secure fit, and ensure that you have great traction on any type of terrain. The mesh material is hydrophobic so you can wear these in and out of the water. With numerous patterns and colors, there is a pair of these beach walking shoes for every personality and style.
To make sure these fit each person perfectly, the footbed will conform to your exact foot shape, giving you comfort and support wherever you need it. The footbed is also easily removed, so you can replace it with custom insoles if you so, please. With breathable mesh, these shoes offer top-notch comfort and breathability, while remaining flexible and sturdy.
Since these shoes for beach are made to explore the world, they feature a lug pattern on the sole which gives you great traction and security. Effective in both wet and dry conditions, you can tackle any type of terrain with these sandals. With a secure, tight fit your foot will be stable as you climb over rocks, bound uphill, or push through rivers and lakes. That's why it's in our top ten for beach sand shoes.
8. Speedo Surfwalker 3.0
Speedo has long been making professional equipment for swimmers and water sports enthusiasts, so it comes as no surprise that one of the best shoes for the beach on this list is made by the company. The Surfwalker 3.0 sand shoes are one of those slip-on models which perfectly balance underfoot protection with lightness and flexibility that won’t hold you down. Whether you wear them to a pebbly beach, on a boat, or even by the pool, these surely won’t disappoint.
Without any laces or closures, the stretch mesh upper of the Surfwalker 3.0 will give you a snug fit that you won’t have to worry about once you’ve put it on. It’ll allow for all types of movement, and will even work while you’re swimming. When you’re out of the water, it’ll dry fast, while the tabs at the heels allow these slip-ons to be hung from your backpack.
The outsole of the Surfwalker 3.0 beach shoes features concealed drainage ports underneath the foot that are great because they’re so small. Not only will they allow water to escape, but even more importantly, they won’t allow pebbles to enter your shoe or the midsole area, making these great for a variety of uses.
9. NeoSport Paddle
The NeoSport Paddle water beach boots are actually wetsuit boots designed to keep your feet warm while you're in or around the water. But, they don't just have to be used while you're wearing a wetsuit. If you're in colder water, or just hate having your feet touch the sand, these beach shoes are a great option for your trip to the beach.
The sole of the NeoSport Paddle Boots is hardened to resist punctures. This is especially helpful on certain beaches where wildlife or jagged rocks are prevalent. The outsole also features aggressive tread patterns to provide traction, even on those slipper or jagged rocks.
The neoprene uppers in these beach shoes are soft and comfortable. The seams are all glued and sewn for durability and warmth with a bonded thread. The ankle barrel cinch shock cord helps to secure your foot in place with easy on and off as well as help trap warmth.
10. Speedo Hydro Comfort 4.0
Speedo is unquestionably known as one of the biggest water sports equipment supplier in the market. The quality of their equipment goes undoubted, and the Speedo Hydro Comfort 4.0 is no less. A quick-drying approach keeps your feet dry and fresh at the same time, mostly thanks to its open-air mesh paneling. Great athletic styling combined with relaxed lifestyle wear for the beach make this beach footwear pair an ideal choice.
A quality water shoe is always accompanied by a quality sole. The Hydro Comfort 4.0 counts with a slip-resistant and non-marking sole construction that helps you stay on your feet. Aside from its original gripping design, an improvement on the outsole pattern provides you with one more layer of slippage prevention. The rubber sole is highly durable and doesn’t increase its weight when exposed to water.
Beach shoes can hardly get any lighter than the Speedo Hydro Comfort 4.0; its midsole barely adds any weight to the build. But this doesn’t mean that there are no goods within it, as its highly compressible profile and responsive bounce make it suitable for performance. As if that wasn’t enough, an integrated drainage port is located within the midsole to allow both air and water to flow optimally.