Footwear for Stand Up Paddle Boards

Choose the proper footwear to stand on your paddle board.


Stand up paddle boarding (SUP) is a popular water sport that's making waves globally. From quiet lakes to the open sea, paddle boarding offers a unique way to enjoy the water. However, a crucial aspect of your SUP gear is often overlooked: the footwear. Most beginners will start out barefoot on stand up paddle boards. However, once they start going longer distances on their solid paddle boards or inflatable boards, they begin to appreciate the support that they get from footwear. This article will delve into the types of footwear suitable for various paddle board scenarios.

Understanding the Importance of Footwear

stand up paddle board on the river

Safety and Comfort on your Stand Up Paddle Board

Footwear plays a vital role in paddle boarding, as much as the paddle boards themselves. Your feet serve as the primary contact point with your board. They need to be comfortable and secure to ensure a smooth ride and keep you stable on the board. Having the right pair of shoes can make a significant difference, particularly when you're paddle boarding long distances.

Grip and Balance

The right footwear provides the necessary grip on the board. This is especially crucial on inflatable paddle boards, which can become slippery when wet. A secure grip aids in maintaining balance, preventing falls, and making sure your paddle board adventure remains enjoyable and safe.

Types of Footwear for Stand Up Paddle Boarding

Water Shoes

Water shoes are a popular choice among paddle boarders. They offer excellent grip on both solid boards and inflatable paddle boards. Most water shoes have a robust rubber sole that provides solid footing even on a wet deck pad. Furthermore, they dry quickly, reducing discomfort from soggy feet.

Surf Booties

Surf booties are designed for colder water temperatures and provide excellent traction, similar to water shoes. They are usually made of neoprene, providing insulation and maintaining your feet's warmth. This makes them ideal for stand up paddleboarding during colder seasons.


Going barefoot is the choice of many paddle boarders, especially those using their board for yoga or fishing. The direct contact with the board offers a high degree of control and balance. However, this might not be the best choice for inflatable stand up paddle boards or if the board's surface is hot due to sun exposure.

Choosing the Right Footwear for Stand Up Paddle Boards

paddle board shoe options

The choice of footwear for paddle boarding depends on several factors.

Type of Paddle Boarding

The type of paddle boarding you intend to do plays a significant role in your footwear choice. For instance, inflatable paddle boards used for long-distance expeditions or touring boards for lengthy sea journeys might necessitate footwear with exceptional grip and comfort, like water shoes. On the other hand, if you're using your stand up paddle board for yoga or other fitness activities, going barefoot might be your best bet. It's anyone's guess what the best footwear is for a multi person paddle board!

Weather and Water Conditions

The conditions you'll be paddle boarding in should also guide your footwear choice. For colder weather and water conditions, opt for insulating footwear like surf booties. On the other hand, if you're paddle boarding in a local lake or calm flat water during summer, water shoes or even barefoot might be the way to go.

Size and Fit

One of the most critical aspects to consider when choosing footwear for paddle boarding is the size and fit. Like any other shoe, your paddle boarding footwear should fit you well. Shoes that are too tight can restrict blood flow, causing discomfort, while those that are too loose may slip off and get lost in the water. 


Paddle boarding footwear will be exposed to water, sun, and rough surfaces regularly. Hence, durability is a significant factor. The shoes should be made from quality materials that can withstand these conditions without falling apart. The soles should be robust and capable of handling the abrasive deck pad of your paddle board without wearing out quickly.

Easy to Clean and Dry

After a day on the water, your paddle boarding shoes are likely to get dirty and wet. Therefore, opt for shoes that are easy to clean and quick to dry. This not only maintains the shoe's lifespan but also helps prevent odors and mildew from developing. Shoes made from synthetic materials and with good drainage tend to be easier to clean and quicker to dry. 


man on a solid paddle board

Choosing the right footwear for stand up paddle boarding can significantly enhance your experience, providing safety, comfort, and balance. Whether you prefer water shoes, surf booties, or barefoot, the most important thing is to choose what suits your specific needs and conditions to ensure you can enjoy your time on the stand up paddle board to the fullest.