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Best River Hiking Shoes

Hiking through a creek in Lake Powell with river hiking shoes

River hiking is one of the most thrilling adventures. Jake and I love hiking in rivers because it usually brings you to one of the most epic end destinations. Many canyon hikes are some of the most memorable hikes we’ve ever been on.

One thing we invested in are designated river hiking shoes that are designed to go in and out of the water without compromising on grip. River hiking shoes are breathable and comfortable so you can continue on the hiking trail without having to switch back and forth between hiking shoes and sandals.

But, river shoes that we love might not be loved by the next, so we collected research on what people love best for river hiking and bring you the latest and greatest river hiking shoes. 

Hiking in your normal shoes can slow you down because they aren’t meant to go in and out of the river. They can hold debris or hold in too much water, so it might slow you down having to stop and empty your shoes every few minutes. These river hiking shoes are meant to conquer river hiking and keep you on the trail painlessly!

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Emily hiking in Chaco Sandals in Havasu Creek

Chaco’s are a crowd favorite, including ourselves. A Chaco sandal provides great arch support, good grip on slippery terrain and lets your feet breathe in and out of the river. One negative is they are sandals, so you still have the chance of stubbing a toe or scraping the exterior of your foot on sharp objects. 

Chaco was born on a rafting trip back in the 80’s. The famous Gecko logo represents chaco sandals adaptability. Meaning they can be used anywhere and everywhere!

Chaco sandal designs differ, but almost all sandal designs are river friendly. The strap design is meant to cater to everyone with different sized feet and how tight or loose you want to wear your sandals. 

If this is the river water shoe you are interested in, we go into depth about all the different types of Chaco sandal designs. Check out our post: Gear Review: Chaco’s 

Chaco also has an awesome Repair. Reuse. Rechaco. Program. Chaco’s sandals are meant to last, therefore if the sole gets worn out because you adventure too hard, you can send in your sandals and they will resole the outsoles on your water shoes.

They will also replace, buckles, straps, can adjust the length of straps and even clean your chaco sandals. Making Chaco a great river hiking shoe option because your first Chaco purchase could be your last! 

We love our Chaco’s because they are super durable. Although on long hikes the straps can rub if sand particles get underneath, they have always been a great choice for river hiking. You can even wear them with socks on longer hikes to protect your feet from blisters. 


  • Secure to feet
  • Breathable
  • Multiple strap designs
  • Great arch support
  • Repair. Reuse. Rechaco. Program


  • Straps need to be washed and threaded right after use
  • Straps can be hard to adjust once sand gets in
  • Not much exterior coverage, can stub toe or scrap exterior, heavy
  • Heavy

Our Top Choice:

Men’s: Z Cloud

Chaco Z/Cloud Sandals - Men's | REI Co-op

Women’s: Z Cloud

Chaco Z/Cloud Sandals - Women's | REI Co-op

Check Price: Men’sWomen’s Men’sWomen’s Men’s | Women’s

Jake hiking in a river in Aravaipa Canyon
Jake River Hiking In Aravaipa Canyon


Another popular option for river hiking shoes are Keen’s. Keen’s water shoes add a little more protection to the exterior of your foot. Which also includes more fabric and in return, extra areas to rub and create blisters. Most keen water shoe designs have a strap around the ankle, closed toe and straps surrounding the top of the foot. This design leaves multiple holes so sand and debris can escape from under the foot. 

Keen is determined to make a better impact on the environment. Most shoes on the market use PFC (perfluorinated chemicals) as their waterproofing repellent which contains carcinogens and degrades in the environment over time.

Keen is working to eliminate PFC’s as their waterproofing method and switch to an alternative chemical. Keen is now 95% PFC-Free. They also source their leather from Leather Working Group-certified tanneries. Which are companies that reduce chemical use and impact on watersheds. 

Keen’s are a popular water shoe choice because they are more versatile than a hiking sandal. They provide more exterior protection and are “close-toed” so whenever that rule applies, these shoes technically work. Many people find keens to be very adaptable to more occasions than river hiking. 


  • Secure to feet
  • Breathable
  • Different shoe styles
  • Great exterior foot coverage


  • Lack of arch support
  • Lots of straps which could result in blisters

Our Top Choice:

Men’s: Newport H2

KEEN Newport H2 Sandals - Men's | REI Co-op

Women’s: Whisper

KEEN Whisper Sandals - Women's | REI Co-op

Check Price: Men’sWomen’s Men’sWomen’s Men’sWomen’s

Jake jumping off a waterfall in Havasupai with Chacos on
Jake jumping into Havasu Creek with River Hiking Shoes


Another popular river hiking shoe are Teva Sandals. Teva’s are a velcro sandal meant to handle great hiking adventures. Their classic design is a strap over the toe, with a strap down the side to the strap around the ankle.

They have since upgraded their sandal from the original (foam outsoles to rubber outsoles) making them much more viable for river hiking. 

Teva Sandals were thought up on a rafting trip. They wanted a sandal that would stay strapped to their foot and not float down river. Teva straps are made from recycled plastic. The company is continually trying to reduce their footprint on the planet by reducing their water usage and reducing their packaging.

The company also sources their leather from tanneries certified by Leather Working Groups. 

Teva’s are often compared to Chaco sandals. They are less expensive but less rigid and durable. The straps are also velcro which can lose it’s durability over time. People have often said Teva’s are less secure to your feet than Chaco’s, which can lead to blisters.  


  • Secure to feet
  • Breathable
  • 1 Year Warranty


  • Lack of arch support
  • Straps can be uncomfortable/rub
  • Velcro can degrade overtime

Our Top Choice:

Men’s: Hurricane XLT 2

Teva Hurricane XLT2 Sandals - Men's | REI Co-op

Women’s: Hurricane XLT 2

Teva Hurricane XLT2 Sandals - Women's | REI Co-op

Check Price: Men’sWomen’s Men’sWomen’s Men’sWomen’s

Emily hiking in a river in Aravaipa Canyon with river hiking shoes
Emily River Hiking In Aravaipa Canyon

Merrell Water Shoes:

Merrell is a well recognized shoe company for the hiking and backpacking community. They have a shoe that is suitable for any circumstance while you might be out on the trail. They have a couple different water shoe designs that are best for river hiking. 

Their most popular being the Choprock Sieve which comes in both men and women styles. This style is meant to dry out fast, provide grip on slippery terrain, and protect your feet from debris.

The Choprock Sieve added extra protection to the exterior of the food having a close toe style and most of the foot covered with fabric minus little holes so debris can get out. 

Merrell’s mission is to continually make more sustainable products. They use both pre and post consumer recyclables to construct their shoes. Merrell is part of the Leather Working Group to help reduce their overall environmental impact.

They also use sustainable and natural materials such as wool, RDS (responsible down standard) down, and anti-odor treatments on their insoles. Merrell prides themselves in making durable products, therefore making your purchase last for many years to come!

If you are looking for a more durable close-toed shoe the Merrell Choprock Sieve are a solid choice. 


  • Secure to feet
  • Breathable
  • Easy to clean


  • Sizes run large
  • Less holes for debris to escape

Our Top Choice:

Men’s: Choprock Sieve

Merrell Choprock Shandal Water Shoes - Men's | REI Co-op

Women’s: Choprock Sieve

Merrell Choprock Water Shoe - Women's - Footwear

Check Price: Men’sWomen’s Men’sWomen’s

a group of hikers trekking in a canyon in their river hiking shoes
River Hiking in West Canyon at Lake Powell

Zhuanglin Water Shoes:

Another popular river hiking shoe that many of our friends have are the Zhuanglin water shoes. The layer over your foot is mesh and there are holes that can easily sift out debris. They are quick-drying and relatively inexpensive. The water grip outsole provides great traction on slippery surfaces. Zhuanglin shoes are meant to feel like you are wearing socks in the river while providing enough support on the sole. 

One drawback is if your foot gets stuck in a sand sinkhole, these shoes might be less secure to your feet and might fall off. But for trekking in and out of the river, the mesh covering doesn’t let large debris inside! The design of the shoe only provides grip on the toe and ankle, therefore if you are hopping to and from slippery rocks, you might want one of the options listed above for added security. But for hiking in and out of sandy rivers, these are a great option!


  • Inexpensive
  • Breathable
  • Easy to clean


  • Lack of arch support
  • Less secure to feet (easier to fall off)
  • Lack of grip outsole

Our Top Choice:

Men’s Zhuanglin:

Women’s Zhuanglin:

Check Price: Men’s Women’s 

Jake and Emily hiking the Virgin River in Zion in river hiking shoes
Jake and I hiking The Narrows in Adidas Terrex Hydro-Lace Water Shoes

Adidas Terrex Hydro-Lace Water Shoes:

These shoes are the king of all river hiking shoes. They are heavy duty, durable and the perfect option for all-day, long hikes through the river. People often choose this option for canyoneering and long haul river hikes.

Adidas Terrex Hydro-lace water shoes come with stealth rubber outsoles meant to provide unbeatable grip protection on slippery surfaces. The neoprene high collar strap is meant to keep out debris and keep you on the trail longer.

You can pair these shoes with neoprene socks to keep your feet warmer on those cold treks through the river and to protect your feet from blisters.

We wore these on our hike through The Narrows (16mi) in Zion National Park and they were great. The river was chilly, so these shoes kept our feet temperate and blister-free. These river hiking shoes will get you from point A to point B every time.


  • Extra secure to feet
  • Very durable
  • Great exterior protection
  • Great arch support


  • Less breathable
  • Run large
  • Only sell in men’s sizes

Our Top Choice:


Adidas Terrex Hydro Lace Hiking Shoes

Check Price: Men’s 

Note: When buying shoes, it’s best to go into a store to personally try them on. But I can almost always find a better deal online. Therefore, Jake and I often go to REI or similar stores that carry the brand of shoe we are shopping for.

We try on multiple sizes and use the hiking terrain that REI has to see which shoe size fits best. We make a note of the size and then search for the best deal online!

Wearing river hiking Shoes on a side canyon hike at Lake Powell

Takeaway | Best River Hiking Shoes

River hiking is one of our favorite ways to hike, especially in those hotter months because you can cool off in the water. Although it often brings more challenges, especially with your footwear, it leads to great adventures.

We hope you find the right river hiking shoes that best suit your needs. 

Our Favorite River Hikes:

Everything You Need To Know About The Subway At Zion NP (Bottom-up)

The Subway is one of the most unique hikes Jake and I have ever been on. You are in complete solitude as you adventure through tall canyon walls, meander across the Left Fork of North Creek until you reach the subway-like walls.

Hiking The Narrows In Zion National Park

The Narrows is a spectacular canyon hike in Zion National Park. It is the narrowest section of Zion Canyon, with some sections that are a thousand feet tall but only 20 feet wide. You spend the majority of the time hiking in the river since there are very few trail sections.

How To Plan A Havasupai Trip

Havasupai is one of the most majestic places on earth! It’s a side canyon of the Grand Canyon that has beautiful blue/green water that creates many stunning waterfalls as it makes its way through the canyon.

Kanarra Creek

Kanarra Creek is located right outside Zion National Park and is way less popular than the others listed above. But it’s a really captivating little slot canyon hike.

Sulpher Creek: Capitol Reef National Park

Sulphur Creek is a very unique river hike that makes a spectacular 8-mile loop. You encounter 3 different waterfalls as you meander down Sulphur Creek.

The creek mostly snakes its way through sunny burnt orange canyons. Yet, there are a few tighter slot sections too.

Share The Best River Hiking Shoes On Pinterest!

a pinterest pin with a crew hiking along a canyon in a creek with river hiking shoes on
a girl hiking on a log with river hiking shoes (chaco's)

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