What is the Difference: Dive Boots, Water Shoes & Aqua Socks


Ever stepped on a sharp rock or shell while strolling barefoot on the beach? Ever slipped on a mossy rock while crossing a stream on your flip flops? If so, then you probably already understand how important it is to wear the proper footwear for water-related activities. There are different types of footwear that are suitable for water sports and activities. In the following paragraphs, we’ll give you an overview of the different kinds of water footwear, explain the difference between water shoes and water socks (and wet boots, too), and provide you with basic tips you should keep in mind when purchasing your first aquatic footwear.


Let’s take a look at the more obvious difference among water socks, water shoes, and wet boots: the design.

Water socks, sometimes referred to as aqua socks, look pretty much like your everyday socks. However, unlike ordinary socks which are commonly made from cotton, water socks are made from materials like lycra or neoprene. They also come in different heights like ankle-high or high-tops, and some even have adjustable ankle cuffs to adjust the fit and hold your socks up while you’re walking or swimming.

Water shoes have soles made from rubber and a mesh top. The flexible rubber soles are designed to promote comfort and excellent traction for wet surfaces, while the mesh tops provide breathability and allow water shoes to dry quickly. The holes in the mesh tops also allows water to flow in and out of the shoes freely so they don’t get water-logged. There are slip-on water shoes which are perfect for walking and swimming, and there are also lace-up water shoes which are designed for more intense activities like hiking, crossing streams and shallow rivers.

Wet boots come in two different designs: the round-toe and the split-toe. As their name suggests, round-toe wet boots have rounded end toe covers, whereas split-toe wet boots has the big toe separated from the rest of your toes. Between the two, round-toe wet boots are the more popular since they are relatively inexpensive.


Water socks, water shoes, and wet boots are used for specific purposes and activities.

Water socks are primarily worn by snorkelers to prevent their snorkeling fins from rubbing against their feet’s skin since excessive rubbing can result to chaffing and even blisters. High-top water socks are also worn along with low-cut water shoes for added protection from jellyfish stings and other similar hazards.

Water shoes are used for a variety of purposes and water activities. They can be worn when strolling down the beach, swimming, hiking on wet and rocky areas, paddle boarding and many more. Because water shoes are at home on both water and land, this makes it the perfect footwear for those who are going on kayaking camping trips.

Wet boots are usually used by surfers and paddle boarders. This is because wet boots have specially designed soles that provides excellent grip on a board’s surface. There are also more technical wet boots that are designed specifically for diving and other underwater activities.

Buying Water Footwear

Before you rush to your nearest dive shop or start browsing online, take note of the following tips to make sure you don’t end up buying the wrong water footwear.

Understand Your Needs. Some footwear offer better features than others, as is the case with water socks. As mentioned earlier, water socks can either be made from lycra or neoprene. If you are looking for water socks that keep your feet warm (and added cushion), then you should consider getting those made from neoprene since they have better insulating properties.

Buy Quality Water Footwear. High quality water footwear are made from excellent materials and craftsmanship, ensuring that they will last you for a reasonably long time. And yes, high quality water footwear perform much better than their cheap versions. For instance, high quality water shoes will have soles that provide better traction which helps reduce any chance of you slipping.

Get the Right Size. Wearing ill-fitting water shoes or wet boots can be very uncomfortable and painful, so make sure that you get the right size. If you are buying from actual stores, you should try the shoes or boots to ensure that they fit perfectly. If you are buying online, be sure to check the sizing guides in the product descriptions since there may be variations in how manufacturers size their footwear.

The Bottom Line

Whether you’re on a saltwater kayak fishing trip with your buddies, relaxing with your family on the beach, or hiking through mountains with streams and shallow rivers, make sure that you’re wearing the appropriate water footwear to keep your feet dry, warm and well-protected. By knowing the difference between water shoes and water socks (and let’s not forget the wet boots), you should be able to determine which footwear to use for which activity.

More Water Gear Reviews:


  1. Stepping on Sea Urchins in the Ocean, Wired.com

Have you tried any Dive Boots, Water Shoes or Aqua Socks? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below. 

My name is David Hamburg. I am an avid water sports fan who enjoys paddle boarding, surfing, scuba diving, and kite surfing. Anything with a board or chance I can get in the water I love! I am such a big fan I decided to start this website to review all my favorite products and some others. Hope you enjoy!