If you Google ‘water socks’ while planning for your vacation, then the sheer choice (200+products) might make you want to weep. There are socks for men, women, and kids. There are 2 and 3mm variants. Some have straps for that snug fit, while others cling like barnacles with abandonment issues.
How are you supposed to choose?
We’ve sifted the bestsellers and checked with the diving and beach enthusiasts to supply a top-nine shortlist for you. There are so many excellent products that limiting the array to the top five seemed a disservice both to you and the ever-expanding market.
If you’re in a hurry, we’ve launched straight into our list of favorite water socks immediately below. If you’re happy that you’ve ticked one more thing off your prep list, then you might find the Q&A section at the end a helpful additional resource.
Best Neoprene Socks
OUR TOP PICK
These are currently Amazon’s best seller for diving boots, and with good reason—they’re your friends in the water and on dry land. The neoprene upper is soft and stretchy, making them easy to haul on and tug off, while the grippy soles give you fantastic traction across rocks. Rocks seem to accumulate more slime than toddlers. Mares diving socks will insulate your feet in cold temperatures and prevent your soles from damage on less forgiving ground, like equatorial sand.
These boots feature a high heel protection at the rear, but the prevailing wisdom from happy customers is that they work just fine with open-heel fins. These fins really do perform the three-boot function: water sports; beach sports, and foot safety.
Sizing reportedly runs a little large; the recurrent advice is to order a whole size smaller than usual. That said, if your feet are wider than average and you won’t be using them with fins, picking your regular size might give you the most comfortable fit.
Beware though, although they’re exceptionally durable, the robust sole can lead you into a sense of false security in terms of the surfaces you’ll be able to handle while you’re out of the water. If there’s a small rock, you’ll know about it. For this reason, they’re probably not the best choice for lake or river walking.
Packing advice—with such a robust base, these shoes weigh in at 4lb for the pair. They won’t weigh a suitcase down much, but it’s best not to cram them into something the size of a flight bag.
These dive socks are fabulous all-rounders and unbelievably economical for the quality and level of protection they afford your feet. Slightly thicker than the Mares boots, they’re excellent boots for colder waters. That said, that extra thickness doesn’t make them less malleable. Far from it, they have 4-way stretch which, while ensuring a close fit, also makes them a breeze to take on and off.
The close, smooth fit is partially achieved through the glued, blind-stitched seams, which further protects your feet from rubbing or chafing. This also minimizes water flow and sustains strength throughout the fabric.
One particularly lovely feature about the snug fit is that it repels invasion by sand. Unless some playful and irritating fiend kicks it all over your legs and it drops down into the gaps, sand-chafing is one annoyance you can cull from your beach vacation.
So, there’s much to love about the uppers, which come in 14 vibrant colors. The dotted silkscreen sole provides great anti-slip grip, too.
Your packing guru says that even the XL sizes in these socks weigh in at 3.5ozes, putting them into hand luggage/purse territory.
Third on our list, the Akona low-top socks are geared more exclusively towards those buying them for snorkeling, diving, or other watersports.
You can also wear these socks inside regular booties if you’re doing dives in cooler Mediterranean waters, or in the Atlantic off the northern parts of the east coast. Even better, you have the option of pairing these with open-heel or full-foot fins. The higher heel also makes them suitable for wearing inside other footwear. Why would you? Well, it’s efficient to strap sandals over these just until you get close to the water.
These socks feature some of the standard higher-end features of a good neoprene sock: glued and blind-stitched seams and good sole traction. An added bonus is the finish on the edges using nylon binding for extra strength and comfort, and the speed with which they drain and dry out. The side panels on these socks are designed for rapid drainage.
These anonymous-looking black socks weigh in at just 8oz—very much a hand luggage item.
These are true socks. They pull up like standard socks, well over the ankle and a good way up the shin, and you’d have to be very unlucky to get sand in them.
As with many other diving socks, there is a rubberized sole. The difference is that you get extra anti-skid toe and heel protection in these, making slippery areas so much less intimidating to walk around. You don’t know how much you brace your weight and tighten your core muscles to keep your balance until you don’t have to do it. Poolside tiles and seaweed beds will no longer hold their intimidating, slippery power.
Another advantage to a sock that pulls up this high is that it lessens the chance of friction blisters across the heel where the strap of an open-heeled fin (or collar of a full-foot fin) overlays the sock’s top edge.
These socks are popular, durable, and comfortable, but if we had one criticism it would be that the largest size isn’t particularly generous, working out as a US men’s size 11.
Fun toes are primarily fin socks but they can be used for other water sports such as paddle boarding, jet skiing or kayaking. They have a rubberized and reinforced sole, but they are not intended for extended use out of the water. By all means use them to stop you from slipping on a boat deck (or other uniform but wet surface), but it’s best not to try out their toughness on more challenging planes. They’re only ultra-durable if they're used the right way.
It does appear that the sizing hasn’t quite worked to Fun Toes’ expectations because they do warn people who take a small size to order one size up. That’s not going to be an issue for most people, or for those who heed the warning.
However, whether previous customers have done so or not, there have been a scattering of reports of the upper coming loose from the soles as the stitching has come loose. It’s a significant enough trend in the feedback for us to mention this here, but hopefully this is a quality control issue of the past.
Fun Toes socks are neat little black booties with a contrast blue or green trim for that unisex flexibility. Each pack has two pairs. This is great if you have the same foot size (or close enough) to your partner, but if your feet are significantly on different scales, then you could end up paying a little more than average two get two pairs that fit correctly.
These are warm, durable, snug and--best of all, made from pure neoprene (limestone-derived) for sensitive skin. It is no fun missing out on water sports because of allergies, so these socks could present the end to your problems.
These can be worn under snorkeling fins and water sandals as an extra protective layer. They’re cozy (4-way stretch flexibility at work again) and grippy in their own right, too, with a traction dot sole which is just thick enough to act as a rash guard and protect your feet from hot or gritty surfaces.
We’re also pleased to say that these socks come in a range of color choices. The standard sock comes in gray, gray camo, digital blue, and black/aqua. The high-cut sock comes in digital green or gray. We do slightly question their definition of “green” (zoom in on that thumbnail to form your own opinion) but they’re attractive designs nonetheless, and conveniently unisex.
Unless you’re pulling the high-cut socks over the feet of a wetsuit, these are not particularly sand-proof, according to the sand-hating customers. Thankfully, this is the worst thing that has been said about this particular product.
The NeoSport socks, to be used with open-heel or full-foot fins, come in low and high rise variations and the taller version can be worn with water shoes or boots. They’re a little more expensive than the average pair of water socks, but, as declared on the packaging, they certainly do protect your feet and protect you from slippage with good sole traction.
Although these are at the thinner end of the range of socks, they’re still very robust. What’s noticeable about the NeoSport socks is how easy they are to pull on and remove. When they say ‘EZ slip-on’, they mean it.
These socks come in a shade of dark gray and will go with most of your kit.
They say that the rules of the road and the rules of the sea have one thing in common: “be seen, be safe.”
There is little danger of not being seen in a pair made by BPS. They come in over 30 color variations, some of which can probably be seen across the Atlantic, let alone the few hundred yards between you and the nearest lifeguard. The range of designs is cheerful and bright. We love them.
The BPS water socks have a second unique selling point, which is the straps which can be fastened over the top of the foot and across the base of the shin to minimize the entry of unwanted water and sand. As might be inferred from the appearance of a BPS pair, the main lure is for someone who wants something robust and chirpy to wear on the beach that will also perform well in the water.
Although the straps may make them look a little chunky (compared to the ultimate sock experience of the Skyone’s, for example), they’re still thin enough to fit inside water boots if you happen to prefer ford walking to beaches.
The uppers are flexible and soft, but the sole robust enough to play sports on sand or on a flat, pebble-free, and smooth surface. If you like beach tennis when you’re not in the water, or if you like to play tag with your kids in and out of the surf, then these are perfect.
Last but not least, the SeaSnugs (so well named for their fit and comfort) seem to combine the authentic sock feel of the Skyone Slinx with the aesthetic joy of the BPS color range. You can get your SeaSnugs in 20 designs and even get a pair of the red feather socks, which seems like a generous deal. People with wider feet should definitely check these socks out because of the sheer stretch in the neoprene. This gives them a roomier feel while ensuring that molded fit.
What else distinguishes our final entry? Well, they’re very breathable and significantly robust across the surface of the soles, which are reinforced, uniquely, with Kevlar beneath the rubberized base. Like the BPS shoes, these endure better out of the water than many of their competitors, and because you’re likely to be in and out of the water a lot, shifting from snorkeling to volleyball, their quick-drying technology will keep your feet so much more comfortable.
If you have a kid who is hot on their beach sports and wants to join in everything you're doing, then you might want to get them the cute, bright water shoes by UBFEN. Unlike you, they will not be able to wear these with flippers. But they will be able to keep up as you hang out in the ebbing and rising wash.
Best Neoprene Socks Buying Guide
Navigating the Wet World of Water Socks
Okay, so we’ve cantered briskly through the top nine choices. Hopefully, this sifts out some of the confusion that comes with an abundance of choice.
In this final section, we’d like to answer frequently asked questions about the inner workings of water socks. Just to keep you awake after that long list of firm favorites, we’ll start with what will seem like a disturbingly controversial announcement to a neoprene newbie: “water socks are not waterproof.”
What? So they don’t actually keep water out?
Nope. The neoprene in wetsuits and water socks doesn’t create warmth by keeping water out. When you’re diving or swimming closer to the surface, then what you need is a light, closed-cell covering which works by trapping a thin layer of water against your skin so that your body raises its temperature and creates a barrier against the colder water. Open-cell suits are the ones worn by deep divers or those in frigid water. They work by creating suction between the neoprene and the skin. This is why watching someone trying to climb into an open-cell suit is a spectator sport worthy of popcorn.
Water socks operate on the closed cell basis. They fit closely, but not to the point that suction becomes the overriding source of warmth.
Is it worth getting the 4-way stretch socks if I’m short on funds?
Honestly, the socks which highlight 4-way stretch as part of their promotional material aren’t significantly more expensive than competing socks. And yes, it’s worth it. Perhaps you have wide feet, high arches, or—conversely—flat feet. 4-way stretch socks will mold themselves around your foot, whatever shape your foot happens to be. It’s the nearest thing you’ll get to a spray-on neoprene foot covering. And the closer the fit, particularly around the shin or ankle, the less likely you are to get sand in there, which will otherwise chafe you crazy.
How do I know how thick the socks need to be?
Well, allowing for variations in quality of neoprene, here’s a rule of thumb which you can apply if you know the water temperatures where you’re going to be swimming. Do your Google Fu, and then use the following as a guide:
- 2mm is good for mid 60s to low 70s
- 3mm for mid 50s to mid 60s.
If there’s typically a lot of wind chill where you’re going to be swimming or diving, then go for 3mm on principle.
How often do I need to clean my water socks?
Every time you use them.
Sorry to be the bearer of onerous news, but since these socks take such great care of you, you need to return the favor--if only to stop them from becoming malodorous and fellow-swimmer-repelling. Don’t forget that there’s enough bacteria in one cup of ocean water to keep a microscope enthusiast busy until they’re nonagenarians.
Thankfully, cleaning them out is pretty straightforward. As soon as possible after use, strip them off, rinse them as thoroughly as possible under the beach shower, or in the one at your apartment.
Steep them in a sink, leaving them for a moment in a solution of water and neoprene shampoo. The linked product can be bought in a more travel-friendly 4oz bottle, of course.
Gently brush every inch of the outside of the sock before rinsing one last time and squeezing out the excess moisture. You can stuff them with a t-shirt or cloth kept specifically for this purpose to help things along a little.
Finally, air-dry them by hanging them up out of direct sunlight.
In summary, make sure you add to your packing list:
- A softish brush (or a couple of clearly marked toothbrushes)
- Neoprene shampoo
- A cloth (or bundle of microfiber cloths)
- Soft-grip pegs (so that you can drip-dry them over the shower)
Final question. At the risk of sounding fussy, if a water sock has a reinforced sole, then how is it different from a water shoe?
You’re not fussy--there’s a lot of emphasis on protective soles, so you might get the impression of hard rubber. Water shoes have hard rubber. Think of the difference between house socks with a grippy base for slippery floors and rubber clogs. You should be able to fold the sock up completely. We’re not suggesting you try this, but it’s technically possible.
A secondary, key difference is the material. The upper on a water shoe tends to feature breathable mesh, and may feature actual holes for drainage. This is something you will never see in a neoprene sock.