If you’re new to water sports and have a trip coming up, it’s probably a good idea to get a pair of wetsuit boots to protect your feet from the chilly water. Especially for surfers and divers, cold gets the better of you just a minute or two in and you soon lose any sensation in your feet.
It’s not too long before the numbness gets painful and you’re now too busy focusing on getting rid of it instead of having a great time underwater.
Why bother taking a risk that could ruin an otherwise awesome dive or surf? This guide takes you through everything you need to know about wetsuit boots- styles, fit, what to look for while shopping for one and other frequently asked questions. For starters –
What are wetsuit boots?
Wetsuit boots provide thermal protection to your feet while diving, surfing, snorkeling or canoeing. They’re made out of neoprene and rubber that stick to your foot and block any dirt or pebbles from making their way in. Scuba divers wear them with open-heel fins for greater comfort and safety underwater. They’re also designed to help surfers grip their boards better during particularly tough maneuvers like the tail slide or cutback.
You’ll often find veteran divers and surfers in a love/hate relationship with their boots- because while they’re super comfortable and snug on your feet, they can sometimes take away from the experience by preventing water from reaching your feet.
While that’s an important concern, it’s not worth exposing your feet to all sorts of dangers just to feel the board under them a little better (you don’t want a weaver fish to sting you, take our word on that). You’ll most likely step out of the water and onto a rocky surface many times, the boots protect you from dirt, broken pieces of coral and hard shells on the surface.
Especially if you’ve recently moved from a sunny beach-all-day-long place to a colder location, a solid set of wetsuit boots is one of the most basic gear to get before venturing into the waters there. Though they’re just as common in warmer weathers for the added protection and comfort they get you.
Now, there are some important factors to consider while you’re in the market looking for the right wetsuit boots.
How should wetsuit boots fit?
Accidentally getting a size too big or small for your feet is easier than you anticipate. Fit and size are hands down two of the most important aspects of a good wetsuit boot – just like in regular shoes.
Should wetsuit boots be tight?
You run the risk of losing circulation and getting your feet uncomfortably cold at the wrong time if the boots are too tight. The tightness around your toes and ankles can cause painful blisters when worn for longer periods of time.
Too loose and the boot will fill up with water the second you step in, making you feel you are diving/surfing in a pair of soggy socks. Not to mention you could trip over or slip out of the shoes at the wrong moment. If you’re a diver who attaches their fin to the boot, you’ll have to work harder to kick underwater and possibly risk getting cramps in a loose-fitting one.
How to choose the right fit?
A well-fitting wetsuit boot will feel snug all around your feet. It’ll be tight enough to negate any possibility of water seeping in. Though it’s not exactly the same as choosing the right shoe size- wetsuit boots have a thick layer of rubber over the toes and heels to provide extra comfort.
Start with your regular shoe size. Wetsuit boots come in the standard size range of 5 to 15, sometimes higher. If you’re getting a thicker variant (7 mm), it’s best to go for a larger size to make sure the rubber inside doesn’t make the fit too tight for you.
How thick should your wetsuit boots be?
Wetsuit boots come in either 3 mm, 5 mm or 7 mm neoprene thickness. How thick you want them to be largely depends on two things: the climate/ water temperature you’re most in and your preference for warmth. 3 to 5 mm is ideal for temperatures as low as 46-47 F. Anything below that needs boots with 7 mm thickness. Consider your cold tolerance while choosing the boot’s thickness too.
How long should your wetsuit boots be?
Boots can be ankle length or go up to half your calf, it’s a wide range. While length doesn’t affect the boot’s performance a lot, it can significantly affect comfort. Needless to say, longer boots will protect more of your skin from the harsh waters. It all comes down to personal preference – do you want the neoprene limited to your ankles like a regular shoe or longer? Go for whichever one sounds more comfortable.
Another pretty important factor to consider if you have wider feet is flexibility:
Do wetsuit boots stretch?
Yes, some do. You should prioritize how much the boot can stretch if you have wider feet or easily irritable skin. Even a well-fitting boot’s neoprene fabric can cause rashes if your skin is too sensitive. Flexible boots can help you combat that.
Most popular brands have their own size template. Size 10 of one may fit differently than that of another. It’s a best practice to try on a couple sizes and brands in a physical shop to gauge the perfect one for you. After all, wetsuit boots are a long-term investment that’ll accompany you on all your adventures and you wouldn’t want to risk getting the wrong fit.
Styles of Wetsuit Boots
Quite like your regular Adidas or Nike, wetsuit boots come in a bunch of different style options you can choose from. This is the second most important thing to look for after the boot’s fit- there can sometimes be a night and day difference in how two styles of wetsuit boots affect your experience. So, what are your options?
Round Toe/Split Toe Wetsuit Boots
Round Toe has a comfortable rounded front that covers all your toes like a regular shoe. It’s by far the most popular and inexpensive option out in the market. They are also the easiest to put on and slip out of, since you won’t be struggling to find separate sockets for your thumb and other toes. These are most popular with divers and entry-level surfers.
Split Toe boots have different spaces for your thumb and remaining toes, sort of like the good old flip flops. Since professional surfers need both protection and mobility that split toe boots provide, this style is super popular with them. They let you control the surfboard better and move your toe more freely. Though that comes at a price- they offer much weaker thermal protection and are not ideal if insulation and safety are your priority.
Zipper/Strap/Slip-on Wetsuit Boots
Boots either have straps or zippers on the side to fasten them to your foot- both fit and perform equally well. The zippers on wetsuit boots are always super durable. They don’t feel itchy because they’re covered with comfortable fabric from the inside. Straps are just as helpful in making the boot fit better around your foot- they’re common in shorter boots.
Slip-on boots are the easiest to put on and off- just step into them and the neoprene clings to your foot like a sock. Many prefer them over velcro or zippers for the sheer convenience of the design.
Soft/Hard Sole Wetsuit Boots
Soft soles are thinner and super flexible but don’t protect your feet well in rocky surfaces. If you’re a comfort-first person who wants boots that won’t tire the feet after heavy water sport sessions- soft sole is the way to go. They come in all three thickness levels- 3, 5 and 7 mm.
Hard Sole boots are built for protection against sharp objects and unconditional support. They’re not as comfortable or flexible and usually come in 5 mm thickness or above.
You’re all caught up on the necessary pre-purchase information and are now ready to choose the right pair of wetsuit boots; one that suits your needs and will last you years to come. There are hundreds of boots on the market, both mainstream and off-brand. Many of them have every feature in common. Which one should you get?
After carefully analyzing a bunch of them for durability, support and value-for-money, these are the best all-around wetsuit boots:
Mares Equator 2mm
“The Mares dive boots turned out to be the perfect thing, working well in all aspects. They fit well, stay on your feet, don’t slip easily, absorb foot strike pressure well and are very comfortable. We plan to buy these again!.”
Slip on, rounded toe, thin wetsuit boots perfectly suited for warm tropical waters.Buy Now on Amazon
Soft Sole | 2 mm Thick | Round Toe | Slip-On | Suitable for Warmer Water >50° F | Sizes: 5′ to 15′ (Women) 4′ to 14′ (Men)
Lightweight, comfortable and equipped with an anti-slip rubber sole, Mares Equator has 1500+ previous buyers raving about its quality. They’re super easy to slip on and hook to your open-heel fins in a blink. Despite being ankle-length, they fit like a glove and are surprisingly good at keeping sand and water from seeping into the boot.
They’re light and provide just the right amount of insulation for colder water dives- though the 2 mm sole makes them better suited for warmer temperatures.
The sole is sturdy enough to provide comfort in rocky areas and the anti-slip feature gives it a strong grip on your foot. Mares won’t take a lot of effort to clean and dry for your next use – just turn it inside out and leave it out overnight. This one’s sure to last you years of heavy use for a pretty great price.
- Light and Handy (316 g) great for travelers and scuba divers with slightly less leg strength
- Unparalleled Comfort: Doesn’t tire your foot or causes sores even after hours of consecutive water sports,
- Convenient: They’re not a hassle to put on and off
- Solid Grip: The rubber heel and sole will cling on to both your scuba fin and surfboard super well- enhancing your performance significantly.
Quick Tip: Equator runs a size or half large. If you get an 9′ with regular shoes the 8′ variant will fit you well.
Cressi Isla 3-7 mm Wetsuit Boots
“They are rugged for water boot standards, warm, comfortable and they have a sole that is hard yet yielding enough that it will last a long time”
Long-lasting, rugged wetsuit boot for use in any kind of situation.Buy Now on Amazon
Soft Sole | 3/5/7 mm Thickness Variants | Round Toe | Zipper | Suitable For Cooler Water < 50° F | Size: 5′ to 15′ (Unisex)
Some boots are flexible and comfortable but not secure, others offer great protection but feel as if you’re standing on hard wood.
Cressi Isla is a rare best-of-both-worlds option that offers both comfort and safety in a double-neoprene boot- all in a lower-range price relative to other mainstream brands. You just can’t go wrong with a bargain that good- especially if you’re a scuba diver looking for a boot to go with your fins, since Cressi features a built-in strap holder to give you a better grip on the fin and prevent any mid-dive slipping.
We’ve noticed above-par insulation with this piece- it’ll keep your feet warm and secure in the coldest of waters. The high-cut elastic design makes sure there’s next to none water seepage.
Even if zippers are not your thing, this boot has a flap behind it for extra seepage prevention. The zipper goes all the way down to its sole, so it’s just as easy to slip in and out of as a velcro boot.
- Great Insulation from the elastic neoprene- you’ll never be cold in these boots
- Built-in strap holder for open-heel scuba diving fins- super convenient and prevents any slipping incidents
- Variety: Available in multiple thickness levels
- Rugged sole that provides both long-lasting comfort and protection against rocks and gravel
SEAC Super-Stretch 6 mm Wetsuit Boots
“These booties fit nicely and after 3 hours down, no foot discomfort at all. Love the tread, thickness and heavy zipper. Great price, well made, good fit!”
Nicely fitting, thick wetsuit boots for cold water.Buy Now on Amazon
Hard Sole | 6 mm Thickness | Round Toe | Zipper with Velcro Strap | Suitable for both cold and warm water | Size: 4.5 – 13.5 Unisex
If you need a robust, support-first wetsuit boot that will last you many years, SEAC will be a solid fit. They provide great insulation and traction for walking around a rocky surface with all your gear on. Living up to its name, the boot has aqua silk lining that fits wider feet really well. Despite the zipper’s questionable image, it’s a breeze to slip in and out of and the sturdy strap prevents as much as a drop of water from seeping in. They provide hiking-shoe level support with all the qualities of a great water sports’ boot. It’s well-made, has a grip good enough not to slip out and hooks to your scuba fin in seconds.
- Above-par Support & Protection: Take them on a ride across the toughest of locations, they’ll keep your feet safe from the rockiest surfaces.
- Super Stretchy and Comfortable on wider feet: 250% more stretch than regular neoprene boots
Wetsuits have been all the buzz in water sports for decades, but if you’re a regular scuba diver who would rather go for a suit that’s a looser fit- you’ll like a drysuit better.
Drysuits keep an insulated layer between you and the cold water, it’s cleverly engineered to release air as you ascend after a dive and takes some getting used to before you can thrive in them underwater:
Special Mention: Hollis Canvas Drysuit Diving Boots
Sturdy, super cold-water diving boot. Perfect for drysuit diving.Buy Now on Amazon
If you’re more of a drysuit diver, this diving boot will bring the suit full-circle by preventing any air from pocketing in its socks. Hollis Canvas is specially built for scuba divers looking for support in high water pressure. Its heel has an attached catch your fin’s strap can easily latch onto and the tough sole protects your feet both in and out of water. It’ll be a breeze to slip out of in between your dives- there’s no zipper or velcro to spend a minute undoing.
How to clean and maintain wetsuit boots?
It’s all fun and games until your wetsuit boot has been festering in the closet for days and stinks too bad to use the next time you take it out for a dive. It’s the smell of unwashed neoprene that’s been seething in the ocean’s salt for way too long.
If you want your boots to last a long time, cleaning after every use is important. Nothing too over the top though- just washing it well with clean water and leaving it out in shade to dry for a couple of hours does the trick just fine. Do not put your boots in the dryer to speed up the process, let it dry naturally in the wind.
If you’re willing to go the extra mile, soak them in clean water for 10-15 minutes after every use and better yet, use any baby shampoo to rinse out dirt that might’ve found its way in.
Crumpling up your wetsuit boots can lead to creases and cause them to lose insulation significantly. Instead, avoid bending the boots at all. Store them out of sunlight and make sure they’re at ample distance from any sort of chemicals- mainly aerosol spray, since it degrades the neoprene.