Cooler heads may prevail, but cooler feet? Not so much. Wintertime may bring more powerful storms and as a result, more consistent waves, but if you're so cold you can't even paddle out, what's the point? Cold water surfing calls for cold water gear: 5mm and above wetsuits, hoods and of course, the surf bootie.
Opinions on whether to wear, or not to wear surf booties are strong and divisive: sure, wetsuit brands have poured innovation into booties, and they're more comfortable and flexible than ever — but some surfers think they also look pretty kooky, and that surf booties make it harder to grip your board. However, if you're consistently surfing anything cooler than 60° F water, we're guessing at one point or another, after your toes have lost all feeling — you've probably considered them. If you're curious about the surf bootie, we've got you covered.
Best Overall Surf BootieSoLite 3mm Custom Pro 2.0 Read More
Most Comfortable Surf BootieVans Surf Boot 2 Hi V 5mm Read More
Best Warmth to Weight RatioO'Neill Psycho Tech 5mm ST Read More
Most Environmentally-Friendly Surf BootiePatagonia R4 Yulex Round Toe Booties Read More
Best Budget-Friendly Surf BootieBillabong 3 Absolute Hidden Split Toe Read More
What to look for in a surf bootie
An extension of the wetsuit, surf booties are akin to wetsuits in their materials and construction. Made primarily of neoprene and rubber, surf booties are designed to be tight fitting, while simultaneously stretching and flexing with active movement. Surf booties should be tight and slightly uncomfortable your first couple wears as you break them in and stretch them out — as a rule of thumb, you should size half a size down (or one whole size down if you have exceptionally narrow feet) from your normal shoe size for the best fit. Manufacturers will have varying recommendations though, so it's best to read product descriptions carefully before making your pick.
Round vs. Split Toe
Much like the debate surrounding mittens versus gloves, the literal split between split-toe and round-toe booties comes down to a choice between warmth or board feel. A round toe bootie will keep your feet warmer, and arguably allow you to stay out in the water longer as a result. Split toe booties separate the big toe from the rest of the little piggies, and while that cuts down on the warmth provided, it does allow you to feel more secure on your feet and will keep your toes from rolling around on the board.
There's a third option we've yet to mention — one that combines the best of both round and split toe designs: the internal split toe surf bootie. It looks like a round toe from the outside, but inside is where the magic happens: an internal divider allows toes to separate, giving you both the warmth of a round toe, and the dexterity of a split toe.
Surf booties and the warmth they provide are measured in millimeters, just like wetsuits. Surf booties typically come in three tiers of warmth: 3mm, which is suitable for water temperatures that range from 50ºF – 60ºF, 5mm for 45ºF – 55ºF and 7-8mm for 45ºF and below.
The Best Surf Booties
SoLite 3mm Custom Pro 2.0
- Warmth: 3mm
- Weight: 48 ounces
- Round or Split Toe? Internal split toe
Solite's 3mm Custom Pro 2.0 surf bootie is the ideal combination of precise fit and pro-level insulation. The entire Pro line features a 3d-molded rubber sole that wraps up the toes and heel for increased protection against the reef, rocks and other prickly items (and creatures) that dwell below the surface. The sole is heat-moldable, so you can custom-fit your bootie to your foot in 30 minutes. (Not in the mood to mold? Play the long game and wear them in over time.) The internal split toe provides both enhanced boardfeel and warmth, and the quick-dry interior lining provides additional heat enhancement. As if there weren't enough durability baked into the boot, Solite went a step further and triple-glued, blind-stitched, then sealed the exterior seams for even greater durability and longevity. If we had to recommend one boot to buy, this would be it.
Vans Surf Boot 2 Hi V 5mm
- Warmth: 5mm
- Weight: 45 ounces
- Split or Round Toe? Round
Vans has been setting the style bar for over 50 years with its skate shoes and lifestyle apparel, and its surf booties continue the trend of being effortlessly cool. If you're looking for a style-forward surf bootie that's easy to get on and off and doesn't break the bank, Vans' 5mm high-top option is a solid pick. The round-toe, universal fit is paired with liquid rubber dipped around the shoe for maximum heat retention and grip. However, be warned that just like its sneakers, these booties are not built to last a decade — you'll get three seasons out of them, tops, before you'll need a replacement pair.
O'Neill Psycho Tech 5mm ST
- Warmth: 5mm
- Weight: 48 ounces
- Round or Split Toe? Split
This split-toe, stretchy surf bootie from heritage brand O'Neill takes the decades of innovation crafted by the brand and brings them into one comfortable, easy-to-wear everyday boot. The Psycho Tech surf bootie is made with O'Neill's TechnoButter 3 neoprene, which insulates like the 5mm thickness it is, but feels like a stretchier, more flexibly 3mm. Taped seams, a secure and snug fit and arch strap ensure stability and comfort in the water and on your board.
Patagonia R4 Yulex Round Toe Booties
- Warmth: Designed for water 38° F-48° F
- Weight: 17.6 ounces
- Round or Split Toe? Round
It should come as no surprise that Patagonia is leading the charge when it comes to producing an ethically-manufactured, recycled surf bootie — after all, the founders did just give away the company. But if you thought surf booties couldn't get the eco-treatment, Patagonia is here to say otherwise. These booties are made from a blend of 85-percent Yulex natural rubber, 15-percent synthetic rubber and are Fair Trade Certified sewn. On top of that, they're solution-dyed (where pigment is added directly to the material, saving up to 90 percent water consumption) and the synthetic rubber is chlorine-free: two more ways you can enjoy the ocean in these boots, without worrying about polluting it.
The R4 Yulex Round Toe booties won't grip like the split toes on this list, but they're stretchy and warm. Reviewers are quick to note that the boots let in more water than their predecessors, but if you can get past a little boot bloating, these are still a solid pick.
Billabong 3 Absolute Hidden Split Toe
- Thickness: 3mm
- Weight: 30 ounces
- Round or Split Toe? Internal split
Another mainstay in surfing, Billabong has been making quality wetsuits, trunks and swimwear (plus apparel) since 1973, when it got its start in Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia. These days, the brand is known worldwide, and although it's more mainstream than core at this point, still makes quality and affordable surf gear and apparel for beginners and seasoned surfers alike. The 3 Absolute Hidden Split Toe surf booties can't compete with the likes of Solite, but for less than $70, they pack in a solid amount of tech. As the name suggests, an internal split toe provides movement and retains warmth, while partially recycled neoprene foam, 100 percent recycled exterior Superflex jersey and a silicone stretch interior up the sustainability, and comfort, levels. The fit isn't as secure or accurate as a more niche and innovative brand, but if you're looking for a dependable surf boot to get you in the water this winter, we suggest Billabong's.
Xcel Drylock 3mm
- Thickness: 3mm
- Weight: 18 ounces
- Round or Split Toe? Split
Anyone who knows anything about surfing knows Xcel. The brand makes getting into frigid winter water much more manageable with its high-quality neoprene, and attention to detail. The Drylock Split Toe Surf Boot is a 3mm wonder that is one of the warmest on the list, thanks to a thick fleece lining and ankle seals that keep water out, and heat in.
One of the most popular boots on this list, Xcel's option is made for those that want to stay out in the water as long as possible — although the burly design of the boots is much more reminiscent of a shoe than a sock, compared to O'Neill's option, that extra bulk pulls double duty as an insulator and protective buffer against aquatic obstacles. This is a no-nonsense, all-performance boot that still manages to be an upgrade pick, without breaking one hundred bucks. Consider us sold.