Cold Water Essentials: Surf Booties Buying Guide

Surf booties are one of those things that almost everyone needs but most people can’t stand. Plenty of surfers say that they’d prefer to carve a wave with bare feet, but boots are vital for anyone surfing in cooler waters. Too much neoprene can translate into a bad day on the beach, but too little can make your cold toes quake. Striking a good balance is the key to getting the right pair.

Our #1 Surf Boots Top Pick – See It On Amazon

If you’ve bought a pair before, then maybe you have a favorite style or brand. Anyone who hasn’t done much surfing in cold weather might need a little help, though. One of the best pieces of advice in this situation is to try on a pair before you buy them. You want to make sure that they fit right before you hit the waves. Some surfers find that it’s harder to pop up into their stance with a pair of booties on, but you shouldn’t have much difficulty at all with the right pair and a little bit of practice.

Top 10 Best Surf Booties For The Money (2017)

SHOESTYLETHICKNESSEDITOR RATING
Quiksilver Mens Syncro 3Mm Surf Bootssplit toe3mm (4.9 / 5)
Xcel Wetsuits 3mm Infiniti Split Toe Suit Bootsplit toe3mm (4.9 / 5)
O'Neill Wetsuits Mens 4/3 mm Psychotech Split Toe Bootsplit toe4/3mm (4.9 / 5)
Xcel Men's Drylock Split Toe Boot 3Mmsplit toe3mm (4.9 / 5)
NRS Paddle Wetshoeround toe3mm (4.8 / 5)
O'Neill Wetsuits Mens Superfreak Tropical 2 mm Split Toe Bootsplit toe2mm (4.7 / 5)
O'Neill Wetsuits Mens Mutant Split Toe Bootsplit toe3mm (4.7 / 5)
O'Neill Wetsuits Womens MOD Split Toe Bootsplit toe3mm (4.7 / 5)
O'Neill Wetsuits Mens Superfreak Tropical 2mm Round Toe Bootround toe2mm (4.5 / 5)
Hyperflex AMP 5mm Split Toe Bootsplit toe5mm (4.5 / 5)

Choosing the Right Fit

Everyone’s feet are different sized, but shopping for good surf booties isn’t quite like shopping for shoes. All surf brands now use the same standard sizes, though very few ever offer half-sized booties. The problem is that each company uses their own template, so a size 8 from O’Neill won’t necessarily fit like a size 8 from Quiksilver or Xcel.

Keep in mind that any extra space between your toes and the side of you surf boots will fill up with water. You want to have a short layer of water inside, but having too much will make your feet feel heavy. It’s hard to pop up to your feet when you’re waddling like a duck, so you’ll want your booties to fit snugly.

Wet booties will offer you a tighter fit than dry ones. Most surf booties now feature a thick layer of rubber around the toes and heel. While this provides extra support when you grip the deck of your board, you don’t want it to grab your toes too tightly. You’ll want to aim for a healthy medium between the two extremes. Unlike regular boots, surf booties usually don’t wear in or get larger over time.

If you’re lucky enough to get a chance to try out a pair of booties while wearing your wetsuit, then you should take a moment to roll the wetsuit leg back down over your booties. When you take your first duck-dive, your booties have a chance to fill to the brim with water, and a good fit between the leg and the top of the boot will keep this from happening.

Picking a Shape for Your Booties

More surfers wear round toe booties than any other kind. As their name suggests, they feature a rounded toe area that makes them fit different sized feet easily. While it’s not a one-size-fits-all solution, you can generally get away with being slightly off when you buy round toe booties. This shape is easier to make as well, which means that they cost less than other options.

Several top competitive surfers prefer split toe wetsuit boots to round toe ones. By splitting the big toe off from the rest of the foot on each side, these booties prevent your feet from moving around inside of them. This means that you can transfer more energy to your board when you shift your weight while wearing these booties, which is extremely important when you’re carving under a barrel. While no one makes a wetsuit boot that allows you the same freedom of movement you get from surfing with bare feet, split toe booties come close.

You’ll notice that you’re warmer when wearing round toe booties as opposed to split toe booties. Packing the toes together helps keep them warmer. When the big toe sits in its own chamber, it tends to lose some of its heat in the process. That’s why this style of surf booties isn’t for everyone.

How Thick Do You Like Them?

Manufacturers usually stick to standard double-lined neoprene construction when making surf booties. They use a single layer of neoprene with pieces of fabric stitched on either side. Latex dipped neoprene construction is making a huge wave in the industry, though. These surf booties look like they’re made from a single layer of neoprene with only one piece of fabric, but they’re actually physically dipped into liquid latex that later congeals into a solid mass. While they look sick, these booties are all about performance and not fashion.

If you want really thin booties, then this is your best bet. They’re as close as you can get to the feel of surfing without footwear, and some surfers who ride switchfoot say they feel equally as good when riding reg or goofy. Split toe booties are so thin, however, that they’re not particularly durable. You might expect to replace them about once a season or so.

Some razor-thin pairs made with performance in mind might develop nicks or tears in the neoprene after one or two times out on the waves. This isn’t due to quality control issues. It’s a side-effect of making latex dipped surf booties as thin as they are. Many professional surfers put up with this issue and tend to replace them all the time. Most of us can’t afford to do that, so think about whether you actually need that kind of razor-thin neoprene wall or not.

Regular surf booties come in 3mm, 5mm and 7mm thicknesses. Thicker boots tend to be warmer, but they’re hard to surf in. If you’re a hardcore wave rider who plans to travel to beaches in Norway or Iceland, then you’ll want a thicker boot. If you’re sticking to Malibu and Waikiki, then 3mm neoprene construction is fine.

As with everything else, some surfers prefer one type of surf booties while other surfers like different styles. Some of these choices are nothing more than personal preference but make sure that they fit well before buying them. Good fitting booties that are the right thickness can turn an otherwise dull day into a gnarly one.

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