There comes a time in the year where a little extra wetsuit thickness is required, and accessories like surfing booties, gloves, and even hoods improve comfort levels in cold water.
For many of us, wearing booties is something we put off for as long as we can. Surfers often endure numb feet for repeated sessions before pulling on a pair of booties.
Booties used to be a nightmare. Heavy, inflexible lumps of rubber at the end of your legs were hardly conducive to surfing performance. The dreaded swamp foot scenario, where your feet move around in your flooded booties, has ruined many a session.
Modern wetsuit technology has enabled manufacturers to produce surfing booties that are a pleasure to wear. Performance levels are in no way hindered like they were before. Many surfers now enjoy wearing booties for the added warmth, protection, and traction they offer.
For the first time we are seeing companies emerge who exclusively produce booties. These guys are taking on a market historically dominated by the major wetsuit manufacturers.
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What Thickness Should I Choose?
Thickness really depends on the temperature of the water. Back in the day it was common to see surfers wearing 7 and 8mm booties at the coldest surf spots. Nowadays technology has advanced to a point where 5mm boots are appropriate for most cold water endeavours.
Generally a pair of 3mm surfing booties are good down to around 11-12°C. Modern 5mm surfing booties will keep your feet warm down to 6-7°C. Any lower than 6°C the insulating properties of 5mm neoprene reduces. In this scenario surfers will often look for 6 or 7mm booties or utilise a 1-2mm bootie liner sock.
What Features Should I Look Out For?
Modern surfing booties are packed with advanced features.
Look for heel or ankle loops which help you pull your booties on, particularly for the thicker versions.
Arch straps are velcro fastenings which pull the sole and the mid foot area tighter around your foot. This creates a snug fit and helps to prevent your booties ballooning with water.
Look out for surfing booties with a thermal lining. Most manufacturers have their own version of lining, all of which are designed to keep you feet extra warm for longer.
Round Toe or Split Toe Surfing Booties?
Round toe means that all of your toes are in the same space within the bootie. Just like your four fingers in a mitten style glove
Just as mitten style gloves tend to be the warmest, round toe surfing booties usually retain the most heat.
However, there is always a sacrifice. Mitten gloves tend to be the hardest to paddle in and round toe booties, unfortunately, tend to be the least performance orientated. Your feet tend to move around bit in round toe surfing booties, particularly the cheaper versions.
Split toe surfing booties, where your big toe has its own space separate from the rest, eliminate this problem. Again there is usually a sacrifice and split toe surfing booties tend to keep your feet less warm than round toe. Often the big toe its self goes numb as there are no other digits sharing their body heat. There is also a tendency to trap your leash in the gap between the toes. Never a good thing.
The compromise is the internal split toe. The warmth and comfort of the round toe booties, with the performance attributes of the split toe.
Modern day manufacturers have gone a long way towards overcoming the round toe issues. Adding areas of support which “grip” the feet help prevent the movement issues. These surfing booties are awesome and you will see several of the new designs featuring on our list.
The Best Surfing Booties On The Market
Xcel Drylock TDC Black Split Toe
Thickness: 3mm, 5mm
Xcel have been pushing the cold water boundaries for years. The Drylock TDC Black Split Toe is no exception. These surfing booties are some of the warmest and most technically advanced on the market.
The first time you pick up a pair of these booties you immediately witness the quality and durability. The first time you wear them in cold water you will be amazed at how warm a split toe bootie can be.
Xcel have eliminated the problem of leashes trapped between toes via a split toe connection that is flexible enough to retain all the required movement.
The arch strap is designed to apply pressure towards the heel, rather than the mid foot. Comfort levels are greatly enhanced by this simple application.
Water ingress is minimised by an exceptional seal around the calf area.
Billabong have identified the needs of surfers in the coldest locations. The Furnace booties are the warmest the company have produced to date.
These booties are packed with features and cutting edge, Eco conscious technology. Smart Foam Neoprene, Airlite Recycler Fabric and 100% recycled Graphene Thermal Liner combine to produce these incredible, industry leading booties.
All the seams are welded to eliminate water ingress. The sole has been shaped around the mid foot and toes to offer the surfer exceptional feel and control in a thick, round toe bootie.
Despite cramming tech into these booties, they retain a bit more of a simple, classic look than others on the market which appeals to some surfers.
Rip Curl Flashbomb Booties
Thickness: 5mm, 7mm
Hidden Split Toe
The Flashbomb Round Toe Booties were made to withstand the coldest winter conditions. Rip Curl work on the simple philosophy that warmer = more water time.
These booties were constructed with Rip Curls signature Flash Lining technology for exceptional warmth and faster drying times.
The flexible and textured grip used in this design is exceptional. Thicker booties are often cumbersome, but Rip Curl have managed to maintain excellent flexibility and lightness. This enabled them to bring a 7mm product to the market, that does not compromise your feel or performance.
The latest offering from O’Neill has made this list for two reasons; comfort and feel.
The super thin sole creates a feeling of interaction with your surfboard that is only rivalled by one other pair of booties on this list (Wetty Proserie).
Despite going the ultra-light, high tech route with these booties, warmth is not compromised at all.
I would go as far as to say, after a couple of surfs in 11° water, these are possibly the best performing booties on this list. However, I have experienced in the past that sometimes the first wetsuit products on the market with new technology don’t tend to offer the best durability. I am not sure how well the thin sole is going to stand up to a winter of walking and surfing over barnacle encrusted reefs.
Stretchlight Neoprene, Warmflight Thermal Fleece and Liquid Flex Seal combine in a bootie that focuses on ultra-light, ultra-flexible performance.
These booties fit the foot snuggly and securely, with the arch strap providing a genuine feeling of adjustment.
The split toe area remains warm and Quiksilver have attached it in a way that prevents leash issues but retains all the associated performance benefits.
Patagonia R4 Yulex Hybrid
Patagonia have achieved something that several brands have tried in the past and ultimately failed to do.
Wetsuit socks, worn by bodyboarders and divers, are extremely comfortable and warm. Unfortunately it has never been possible to properly surf in wetsuit socks due to the lack of sole and structural support.
Patagonia have used 85% natural Yulex rubber in these booties, once again setting the sustainability standards for other brands to catch up with.
Triple gluing, blind stitching and internally taping the seams provides exceptional warmth. The super thin Supratex soles with Tatex rubber touch points are both tactile and comfortable, while the split toe enhances the fit and performance properties.
Wetty have developed the Proserie booties to feel as close to bare-foot as possible. The Proserie is one of the most comfortable pair of surfing booties on the market.
Swamp foot is eliminated via a slim-fit cut and clever placement of latex reinforcement. Wetty call this the NO WATER ENTRY system.
The Proserie defies the scenario that often the most comfortable booties are not the warmest. Wetty have also produced a bit of a game changer with the snug fitting round toe design. This is the closest I have seen of a round toe boot enjoying the same performance attributes as a split toe.
The lining of these booties is as near to polar fleece as you will see on a limestone neoprene product.
Vissla 7 Seas
Thickness: 3mm, 5mm
Vissla have taken a no-frills approach with the 7 Seas booties. When I say no-frills what I mean is they have applied the design and technology aspects that have proven to work (super stretch neoprene, hollow fibre thermal lining, solid sole split-toe) and eliminated others that they deemed unnecessary.
The result is probably the simplest looking bootie on our list, however it is also one of the warmest and most comfortable surfing booties on the market.
The 7 Seas booties are glued, blind-stitched and sealed. Vissla have included a reinforced heel, allowing the booties to be pulled on without stressing the seams.
These booties are a perfect example that sometimes simple is best.