If you’ve never purchased a wakesurf board before, it can be confusing and cumbersome. There…
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Surfing booties. Not the first thing that springs to mind when you’re hunting for seasonal surf gear, more like the warmest wetsuits.
Problem is, your warmest wetsuit won’t save your toes from freezing when you’re out catching winter waves.
That’s where surfing booties come in.
As a surfer, you are most likely searching for the best and warmest wetsuits rather than the best surfing booties.
Okay, so the veterans of surfing may laugh at the idea, modern times call for surf booties to become a crucial part of a cold water surfers fit out.
It’s 2019 people, everyone could do with a pair of surfing booties.
Imagine for a second… you’re out there surfing near freezing temperatures without a care in the world. A few hours in and most surfers would bail.
But not you. You know why? Your favourite pair of surfing booties have your back (and feet).
No longer will you fear the cold numbing your feet.
There’s a dense market for surfing booties so this guide was a tough one, but we have selected our best surfing booties in the market so that you are well informed to make the best purchase for your surfing booties.
Follow our guide below to understand exactly what to look for your next pair of surfing booties:
This bootie has made it to #1 on our list, mainly due to its unique design which incorporates a stylish hidden split toe design.
The materials that make up this masterpiece is 3mm flash lined neoprene, with a Stitch-Less Compression strap for added mobility are perfect for any surfer, though not ideal for the harsher cold water surf sessions.
The thin sole with rubber grip increase the feeling with you and your board while the hidden split feature allows for easier maneuverability without the added possibility of your leash getting caught between your toes.
All hail the best surf booties for the warmer climates!
O’Neills craftsmanship on this model is unparalleled with any other model out there.
Low-cut 4 way super stretch neoprene makes for a secure, but comfortable fit that guarantees you will get maximum feel for your board whilst surfing in the SuperFreaks.
The design of the Superfreak features breathable overlapping with flat-stitched seams and a textured rubber sole that extends to the upper part. This feature gives the feeling of being barefoot while being protected from the elements and terrain.
At #2 on our list, the O’Neill SuperFreak Tropical Split Toe is a MUST-HAVE for any avid surfer or watersports for that matter.
At 2mm thick, these Reef booties are not ideal for colder climates, but perfect for the warmer waters.
Simplistic, with a 2mm neoprene mesh and 2mm Fluid Foam design you get all the comfort you need without compromising your maneuverability when surfing.
The thick sole on these also provides added protection when having to traverse rough terrain to get to your surf spot.
A strapless stretch design add to the overall aesthetics, although there are no straps or cords to secure your feet inside, the overall design is perfect for any surfer looking for simple protection and warmth from the elements.
At 3mm, these are not suitable for colder waters, but they are our personal favorite in this list and here’s why;
O’Neills soft neoprene design is a testament to the quality they produce with every product.
The O’Neill HEAT are strapless, but are designed with blind-sitched and glued seams to keep them secure on your feet with minimal intake of water.
For anyone looking for a well-designed, all-rounder, O’Neill will satisfy your needs with the 3mm Heat which is why this model has reached #4 in our guide.
High performance and good design.
Two things consistent with all HyperFlex booties.
This particular model has been improved over the past decade, which means they have a better finish, fit, warmth, and features to deal with the harsh elements.
AMP foam neoprene is the material used to make them flexible, comfortable, and very, very warm. The flexibility is the best feature, giving you the widest range of motion and control throughout your session.
Not only are the seams all double-glued and blind-stitched using FusionWeld liquid bond, but a high-stretch tapered panel that is sewn onto the bootie opening; pretty much impossible for water to get in.
Similar to the round toe version, the split toes have a vulcanized heel lock membrane that connects to the arch strap for good fitting and extra support.
Not only that, but HyperFlex has these available in both 3mm and 5mm designs, so you have the option to choose your preferred thickness.
Beating the round toe HyperFlex AMP, we prefer the split toe design which means it makes a respectable #5 appearance on our list.
The second pair of the Hyperflex brand on our list is the HyperFlex AMP 5mm Round Toe Boot.
Equipped with double-stitched seams and double-glue seams stitched with a single needle, these provide some of the best water protection out there.
If you need high-performance, reliable booties then look no further. These bad boys are the right choice for you.
HyperFlex have included their DiamondSkin sole to provide constant traction without the loss of board connection that all surfers love. There is also a vulcanized heel lock membrane for improved support and better fitting.
The round toe design on this pair may be less balanced, but the P4 Thermal Lining, Exoshell+ Membrane, and the TaperLock Closure all add up to a well-designed bootie perfect for all skill levels.
We love the low-cut design for these. Well manufactured, with a durable rubber sole, these give you the ideal amount of traction between you and your board.
O’Neill Superfreak Tropical 2mm Split Toes are set at a great price point for being so well-designed, making them a must-have option for surfers, especially those in warmer climates.
They’re made with fluid foam nylon to avoid wear and tear, but being so thin, they’re no use for surfing the colder waters.
Rapid drain ports are the best feature on these fellas as they reduce the possibility for any water intake during your session.
Another solid entry from O’Neill to reach #7 on our list.
Thin, warm, but without the split toe design.
O’Neill have designed a great pair of lightweight and flexible booties, giving you the best experience for durability and board feel.
The outsole is made from foxing rubber which is strong enough to withstand plenty of battering. In a warmer climate, these are perfect and due to their low-cut design, they are easy to get on and off while providing the perfect fit you can trust.
O’Neill have also included features such as forefoot straps, ankle cinch cords, and drainage holes for releasing any water intake quickly.
These surfing booties are some of the best for recreational surfers, which is why they have made it to #8 on our list.
Another pair perfect for the warmer climates, the Reactor Reefs are manufactured with a 2mm synthetic mesh neoprene; much thinner than the standard designs.
Being thin, they are also very lightweight,but surprisingly strong.
Being round toe, these are not as stable as the split toe counterpart and are not ideal if you are used to a long hike to get to your favorite surfing spot.
On this design, drainage holes are not a feature, but O’Neill have designed the liner to fit quite tight so there’s not much intake of water.
If you’re not an everyday surfer, these could be the best pick for you.
Think of the Reactor Reefs as the standard pair of watersport shoes that you’d likely find at your local beach store.
They are still nicely designed, which means they reach #9 on our list.
The first pair of Hyperflex booties on our list are perfect for high performance surfing and warmer climates.
Hyperflex have used their durable AMP-foam neoprene, which makes these booties capable of handling wear and tear.
They are also using their single stitch seam design which ensure minimal water intake during use.
Hyperflex have used their Diamond-Skin soles on this design, which provides constant grip and traction, without compromising your feel of the board or range of motion.
The AMP-foam neoprene is incredibly warm, while, at the same time, comfortable and flexible, for a maximum range of motion.
The material usage on this design provides great protection from the harsh elements and terrain, making this Hyperflex our #10 best surfing bootie available on today’s market.
You may have already guessed what round and split toes are, but in short they refer to the footbed part of the shoe.
The round toe is exactly that, and the split toe is split into two sections, a bit like flip flops.
The main advantage to wearing a split toe design is that you have a much more natural feel of your surfboard and users have said they give additional balance compared to the round toe counterparts.
When wearing surf booties, the most detrimental aspect of wearing round toe designs is that you are likely to experience internal slide which will probably make you fall off your board constantly.
The only downside users experienced with the split toe design was that they forced the users toes apart.
This can be uncomfortable, but after a few runs you’ll get the hang of it and never look back.
Warmth. That’s the first word that springs to mind when talking about round toes. They are built like your everyday pair of sneakers and are sure to keep your toes toasty during those cold water surf sessions.
The main disadvantage of the round toe models is that your toes are not as secure as the split toe design.
Either way, surfers will forever debate which bootie design is the ultimate, but as long as you find your perfect pair, that’s all that matters right?
Choosing the right size is a simple, yet crucial part of the buying experience.
Most people get rather confused when choosing their latest pair so read on to find out what to look out for…
First and foremost, you’ll want your booties to be snug around your feet and ankles (this helps avoid slippage in both designs).
They don’t need to be numbingly tight, but you definitely don’t want any water seeping through or your feet doing slip n’ slide inside throughout your session.
Do yourself a favour – NEVER put on booties that are too small for you, it will actually make your feet colder as it cuts off the warm blood circulation to your feet.
Of course, buying them too big and you will be the fool catching waves with your clown shoes on.
I mean you don’t want the tip of your shoes flopping around like flippers when you’re riding waves, do you?
Not to mention a larger size will defeat its main purpose of letting water inside.
Sizes are fairly relative to regular sneaker sizes, but you will find some brands design their styles to be a size or half a size bigger or smaller than your usual shoe size.
All brands mentioned in this guide have sizing charts on their websites for you to read over before making that big purchase.
It’s common sense; the thicker the bootie, the warmer your feet in cold waters.
The majority of surf bootie brands are design to be 3mm to 7mm thick.
During the warmer seasons, especially in California, temperatures can get well above 60°F which makes your booties rather unnecessary.
There are some exceptions though.
For example, if you are someone who has circulation issues, can’t stand the cold water, or simply hate the feeling of your feet on the ocean floor with all the monsters of the deep, booties are for you!
The thickness all depends on your preference, but in areas where the waters usually get up to mid-30s, you are better off getting 5mm.
During the warmer months, the 3mm style are perfect for the elements. Of course, in the much colder climates such as Iceland, you are definitely going to need those thicker 7mm styles to ensure your toes stay warm and dry throughout your session.
Terrain plays a big part when choosing your type.
You wouldn’t wear a wetsuit and booties for a summer trip to Oahu, more like a pair of board shorts and some sunscreen.
On sandy beaches, they are not essential, but when you’re having to hike down rocky passages to get to surf, they are great for protecting your feet during the treacherous entry and exit from the surf.
Keep in mind what terrain you will spend the majority of your time surfing, and choose the best ones to suit your needs.
We’ve talked about choosing the right thickness already, but the thickness is a crucial factor for determining how warm they are and can also affect your performance out on the water.
The majority of dedicated surfers like to wear thinner styles in order to get the best feel for their boards, similar to surfing without any footwear.
Thinner styles are great for connecting the rider with the board while staying warm, but the main issue with the thinner types are their durability.
Your feet get thrashed by the saltwater and terrain; the same for your booties. Coral reefs, saltwater, and terrain affect your soles over time and the thinner designs are likely to need replacement after only one season.
If you’re surfing as a hobby, it can be quite frustrating on your wallet to be replacing your surf shoes every season so you need to put some serious thought into finding the right pair for your needs and lifestyle.
There’s no point spending $’s on the best ones money can buy if you’re only using them 5 times a year.
Double-sided neoprene is the material of choice for the majority of manufacturers; One layer on the outer skin, one layer on the inside.
This fabrication method is the key to making your booties durable and warm enough.
Neoprene is the exact material used for most wetsuits too.
What makes neoprene so durable is it’s resistance to weather elements, extreme temperatures, chemical spills, and is a very tough material in general; perfect for the battering of the ocean waves and terrain.
Surf bootie manufacturers have been producing latex-dipped neoprene in recent years as it adds to the flexibility and lightness.
Dipping booties in the latex also allows for manufacturers to design in a way that show the single-lined layer of neoprene on the outside.
Using this method has proved a great design for surfers who are looking for the same connection with their board as the thickness still provides users with a feeling of being barefoot, which ultimately improves stability and performance.
Performance improvement not guaranteed though, that’s up to you, not the booties.
As mentioned, the thinner booties are not the most durable and usually last for just one surf season, but investing in a well designed, double-lined neoprene style can last much longer if they are taken care of.
You should treat your surf booties like you would take care of your wetsuit; with a bit of TLC.
After each surf session, you should be making sure you rinse your booties in cold, fresh water to get rid of the harsh saltwater.
To dry them it’s best practice to hand them out to dry in a shaded area (the sun will eventually ruin the neoprene so take extra care).
Do yourself a favour and NEVER store your booties stuffed into a bag or leave them in the boot of your car, unless you like the idea of moldy fuzz hugging your feet next time you go for a surf; We sure don’t!
Some booties give surfers a strong grip on their board which makes it harder to maneuver freely.
Trouble is, those same surfers will wax their boards as if they were riding barefoot, defeating the purpose of grip that you get.
If you’re wearing booties, a little wax will help with the maneuverability aspect without gripping you to the board or making you slide all over the place.
Let’s make this clear, your booties are best stored in a cool, dark,and dry place, preferably hanging to dry completely before being stored away.
Once dry, your they can be set on their side or standing upright, just ensure you don’t put anything on top of them.
Creases and cracks will eventually show if they aren’t stored properly, so putting newspaper inside can maintain their shape for longer than expected. Whatever you do, make sure they are COMPLETELY dry before storing or you will end up with a lovely pair of moldy fuzz.
It’s inevitable that your booties will get water in them at some point, no matter what brand or design you get.
Of course, too much water will weigh you down and defeat the purpose of keeping your feet warm. Choosing the right size is essential and we recommend trying on various pairs before making your pick (if possible).
Extra ankle and foot straps or ties are also recommended as they are designed to keep any excess water out during your surf sessions. If you are still getting wet feet after that, you should check your wetsuit.
We usually find that a surfers wetsuit is too big for them, not the booties.
Taped seams, double-glued, and blind-stitched.
These are our recommended seams for minimal water intake and are far more reliable. These seam features are highly common for all manufacturers as they provide the best design possible for water protection while surfing.
This is highly debatable, but entirely down to the individual.
Even though some veteran surfers will refuse booties, we recommend that every surfer keeps at least one pair in their surfing ensemble.
Your scenery could change every month and you could find yourself surfing with unforgiving reefs below, so a nice pair of booties can protect your feet from all sorts of hazards including infections.
Also, if you’re a surfer whose feet go numb after a short session, booties become a god-send and allow you to surf for much longer.
Any surfing done in waters above 65°F, then you probably won’t any, but it all depends on your preference and resistance to the elements.
It’s always been a love/hate relationship between surfers and their booties.
They really aren’t necessarily the coolest surf product out there, but you should consider a compromise next time you have to walk a mile over jagged rocks barefoot after a freezing surf session.
This article has been versed for the surfer, but a trusty pair of booties can be useful for any watersport or day at the beach; they are the perfect way for you to keep your feet safe and warm.
The rubber sole also provides excellent grip on any surface.
As you are now aware, styles, features, and prices of booties vary significantly between each manufacturer, so we recommend carrying out some further research before making a purchase.
If you are ready to make a purchase, you can refer back to our list in this guide for links to your favourite pair.
Whatever you take away from this article, just make sure you stop discounting surfing booties as a millennial “fad” and embrace them because they will be a staple in the future of cold water surfing for many years to come.
Looking for a good place to surf and try out your new surf booties? Check out My Ultimate Where To Surf Directory List.
About the Author Chet Thornberry
My name is Chet and I'm a surfer living in Cocoa Beach. I created this blog to put my experience with surfing, skimboarding, bodyboarding, and paddleboarding to good use (pretty much all things water sports).
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