No matter what water sport you prefer, a good quality pair of mens water shoes should be top of your list of purchases. Whilst many men's sandals may look like they are up to the job in hand, most lack the quality of construction to cope with the increased forces of walking through water, and getting your shoes dry afterwards can be a major pain.
In order to give your feet the maximum level of protection and to main traction in the water and on dry land, your shoes needs a combination of features which are rarely found in standard hiking and everyday outdoor sandals. For traction on wet and slippery rocks and on riverbeds, the outsoles of your shoes need to have NASCAR style grip. Just as with car tyres, in order to maintain traction in the wet, surface water needs to be dispelled to give a solid contact and to prevent aquaplaning. Both tyre rubber and outsole rubber needs to feature channels to allow the water to escape, and in mens water shoes, razor sipping does just that. As the foot makes contact, the underfoot water is forced into the channels ensuring that the rubber has the maximum chance of maintaining contact with the surface. Whilst this is all well and good on rock and hard surfaces, for mud and gravel the system does not work so well, and needs to be aided by rubber lugs which dig into the surface and bite for added grip.
The same lugs perform admirably on wet and slippery river backs, maximising contact with the terrain, however the rubber compound used in water shoes has considerable bearing on traction, with sticky rubber ideal to keep you on your feet. Notable rubber compounds come from Vibram, a world leader in high performance rubber, however many of the top brand names have developed their own compounds to maximise grip in the wet and dry.
Whilst sticky rubber is ideal, it often comes at a price, with the compound being less durable and prone to show wear quickly. Whilst hiking boots can be re-soled, when the rubber wears down on water sandals they need to be replaced. To save on cost, and to maximise the lifespan of your shoes, choose a rubber compound whilst gives a good blend of stickiness for traction with a hard wearing compound for a long lifespan. Vibram rubber is one of the best, in particular the TC5+ compound, which features in Merrell water shoes.
To appeal to the broadest range of customers, and to offer the maximum versatility, many manufacturers have started to produce hybrid shoes. Hybrid shoes offer the best features from both hiking sandals and waterproof water shoes. They are highly comfortable for long walks, with excellent protection and grip. They tend to be a little heavier than standard water shoes, but for extra protection they are first rate. If you are forever stubbing your toes in your Teva's, it may be time for a change. Featuring sticky durable rubber outsoles for traction, waterproof or water resistant materials to dry out quickly, and an anatomically moulded insole, they offer excellent protection and comfort.
Many mens water shoes models leave the toes a little exposed, whereas hybrid sandals counter this with an enclosed toe box, protecting the toes from underwater hazards, and being better suited for light hiking. The Keen Newport was the first such shoe, offering a patented toe protection system and robust chunky toe bumper. Present throughout the Keen water shoes range, they offer exceptional protection for the feet, and are well suited to an amphibious life.
All water shoes for men are likely to spend a considerable amount of time in a bag or in the back of the car, with the damp fabric and rubber a haven for bacteria, mould, mildew and fungi. If you want to ensure a long lifespan, great foot health, and you want your shoes to say looking as good as the day you bought them, look for an anti-microbial treatment such as AEGIS or AgIon to prevent your shoes from taking on life of their own.
If you are looking to replace an old pair of water shoes, and are undecided on the best models to buy, have look at the following mens water shoes review which details the top 5 brands and models to look out for, and always stick to a major outdoor brand such as Merrell, Teva, The North Face, Columbia and Patagonia. Their experience in outdoor robust design and performance will make all the difference in the comfort and lifespan of your shoes.