What Shoes To Wear White Water Rafting?

White water rafting may be one of the most thrilling activities you’ll ever do.

Yet, before you head out onto the water, you need to know what shoes to wear white water rafting.

The right shoes will provide comfort and, more importantly, safety.

Not sure what shoes to wear white water rafting?

Don’t worry, you’re not alone.

Many people are unaware that particular shoes are better suited for white water rafting than others.

This article is here to help.

Keep reading to find out what shoes to wear white water rafting.

Understanding the Rafting Environment

White water rafting is undeniably an exhilarating adventure. 

You’ll be expected to navigate through rivers ranging from “easy” and gentle to more extreme and challenging. 

Certain factors can make whitewater rafting more challenging.

For instance, how fast the water is moving or how cold it is.

You must also consider the overall terrain, such as excessive rocks, which can hurt your feet or trap you. 

What Shoes to Wear White Water Rafting

Wearing the right pair of shoes while white water rafting is essential to your well-being, comfort, and safety. 

When deciding which shoes are right for you, it’s important to consider three key factors: grip, drainage, and durability.

1. River Sandals: The Go-To Option

One of the top picks for white water rafting is river sandals, and for good reason, too. 

River sandals are specifically designed for superior comfort.

Yet, they’re also impressively breathable, quick-drying, and provide excellent traction during the activity.

With their immense durability and ease of putting off and on, they’re a superb choice for white water rafting.

River sandals are available in a wide range of styles, so everyone can easily find exactly what they’re looking for.

What Shoes To Wear White Water Rafting
water rafting
Waterproof Beige Sandals
Comfortable Hiking Sandals 

2. Neoprene Booties: Ideal for Cold Water Rafting

If you’re planning to go white water rafting while it’s cold outside, the better option is neoprene booties.

These booties are uniquely designed with exceptional insulation, ensuring your feet stay nice and warm – even when exposed to chilly water temperatures.

They’re also quite comfortable and durable, protecting things you’ll likely run into, such as rocks and other debris.

When deciding on a pair of neoprene booties for white water rafting, pay attention to these four things:

  • Thickness – The colder the water, the thicker the booties should be.
  • Fit – Your neoprene booties should be relatively tight but not overly snug. Refrain from wearing loose booties.
  • Ankle height – Neoprene booties come in various ankle heights. Higher ankles will keep you warm, but they’ll be trickier and more time-consuming to put on.
  • Closure – Neoprene booties with zippers or Velcro are ideal as they’ll be easier to put on.
What Shoes To Wear White Water Rafting
Ankle Rain Boots
Short Rain Boots

3. Water Shoes: Versatile and Protective

Water shoes are the most common footwear used for white water rafting (and other water-related activities).

Water shoes are undeniably versatile and protective.

Yet, they have the benefit of being impossibly lightweight, flexible, and breathable, too.

They tend to have a more budget-friendly price tag associated with them. 

When deciding on a pair of water shoes, there are a few things to look for.

For one, make sure you’re buying a pair of water shoes suitable for the type of rafting you’re doing.

Some provide more protection, which will be necessary for more intense whitewater rafting ventures.

Secondly, make sure the water shoes fit correctly.

Again, the goal is to find snug footwear, but not too tight.

Loose water shoes are a definite no-no. 

Lastly, check the water shoes for must-haves for white water rafting.

For example, the soles should be non-slip with ample traction and made with drainage holes so your feet don’t stay wet. 

What Shoes To Wear White Water Rafting
Quick-Dry Aqua Socks
Quick-Dry Swim Socks

4. Wetsuit Boots: When Warmth Is a Priority

As the name suggests, wetsuit boots are crafted explicitly with superior insulation in mind.

That said, they’re the ideal choice for frigid waters.

Wetsuit booties are also designed with protection and comfort in mind.

While wearing wetsuit boots, you won’t have to worry about running into debris while white water rafting or ending up with soaked feet throughout the whole adventure.

Here are  a few extra tips to ensure you stay warm while white water rafting:

  • Layer with socks – Neoprene socks are the ideal accompaniment for wetsuit boots. Wear them underneath to enhance the coziness while fending off wetness.
  • Make sure they’re the right size – If they’re too loose, you won’t reap all of the benefits of the insulation.
  • Spend more for quality (if you can) – More expensive wetsuit boots will simply be higher quality, ensuring they’re durable, practical, and protective.
  • Go with a higher boot height – Higher wetsuit boots will cover some of the ankles/legs, making you more comfortable, warm, and wet-free.
What Shoes To Wear White Water Rafting
Ultra Stretch Water Socks 
water rafting 7
Quick Dry Swim Socks In Aqua

Avoiding Unsuitable Footwear

Not all footwear is suitable for white water rafting.

In fact, some footwear can be *detrimental* to your safety and well-being. 

Here are the top three types of footwear to avoid:

  • Flip flops/Sandals – This type of footwear offers zero protection and can easily be swept off during white water rafting, leaving you shoe-less.
  • Sneakers – Although they provide decent protection, most are not water-resistant, leaving you with soaked feet.
  • “Regular” water shoes – Not all water shoes are made for white water rafting. Ensure they’re specifically designed for the activity.
  • Boots – While neoprene booties and wetsuit boots are fine, regular boots are heavy, bulky, and won’t repel water.

Proper Sizing and Fit

Regardless of what type of footwear you decide to white water raft in, finding the proper sizing and fit is essential.

The right fit will ensure your overall safety while rafting.

If your footwear is too loose, it can lead to injuries.

They may also slip off while rafting, leaving you shoe-less – and that’s not something you want to experience!

The right fit will also ensure you’re comfortable and warm during the rafting experience. 

To find the right size, do the following:

  • Measure your foot – The first step is to measure your foot. A foot-measuring tool is ideal.
  • (Optional) Make room for socks – Many people wear socks underneath their footwear. If you plan to, make sure you leave a little wiggle room so they’ll fit.
  • Double-check sizing charts – Brands can have different charts, so check with the chart before purchasing.

Safety Precautions

When it comes to white water rafting, safety is paramount – and that includes your footwear.

Here are some basic footwear rules to follow:

  • Only wear footwear designed for white water rafting – Regular shoes just won’t cut it!
  • Ensure the footwear fits correctly – Too tight or loose is a definite no-no!
  • Don’t forget to layer – A pair of neoprene socks underneath can add comfort, dryness, and warmth.

Rafting Destinations and Footwear Considerations

Different rafting destinations require specific types of footwear. 

For example, rafting in the Colorado River will require neoprene booties, wetsuit boots, or water shoes with added toe protection and exceptional traction due to the rocky riverbeds.

For the warm waters of Costa Rica, sturdy river sandals will do the trick.

Needless to say, *where* you’re white water rafting will dictate what shoes to wear white water rafting.


As you can see, what shoes to wear white water rafting is exceptionally important.

It’s best to prioritize safety and comfort when selecting your footwear.

Ensure the footwear will cater to the area you’re rafting in, and always make sure the shoes provide a good and secure fit.

Julie Higgins
Julie is a Staff Writer at momooze.com. She has been working in publishing houses before joining the editorial team at momooze. Julie's love and passion are topics around beauty, lifestyle, hair and nails.