The 11 Best Surf Booties (2021/22)

by Tom Lacmundy

Discover the best surf booties on the market for the 2021/22 winter season, all with help from our in-house, toe-warming expert, who knows just a thing or two about surfing in colder conditions!

Wetsuit boots are one of the unfortunate necessities of riding in the winter months. But they’re also a gift. They make it possible to chase the gnarly swells of the French Basque Coast when everyone else is snuggled up by the fireside. They’ll let you hunt those empty swells in Canada come December. And they mean surf explorers can dream about carving the snow-caked climes of Norway, Iceland, Alaska – the list goes on!

Every surfer, from beginner to casual, should have a pair (or several) of surf boots. They’re an essential part of the kit, letting you get wet in the wilder months and keep practicing when the mercury drops. This guide runs through 11 of the best surf booties currently on the market. We’ve got it fully updated for the new models of the 2021/22 winter season, with ultra-good techy boots for the pros and the best surf booties for beginners and intermediates alike. Let’s go…

We might use affiliate links in this post. Basically, you click em’ and we get a little something from your booking or purchase. They help us keep offering more and more in-depth surf guides to awesome places all around the globe. So, thanks for that!

Our surf booties guide is just one part of our complete guide to wetsuits

A quick-jump guide to our best surf booties…

best surf booties

XCEL 3mm Drylock Split Toe Wetsuit Boots – The best wetsuit boots for men

Price when reviewed: $84.95

Highlights

  • Basically zero water flushing – key in cold-water environments
  • Super contoured fit
  • Cutting-edge Celliant Black thermal lining – AKA Toasty AF!

We’d been hearing pretty excellent things about the Xcel Drylock range before we bought a pair of the boots this last winter gone. Now we’re pretty gutted it took us so long to come around to the flagship, which prioritizes cutting out flushing (the movement of water in and out of the neoprene) above all else.

Not only does the tight, rubberized ankle cuff and the pull-over strap work wonders for stopping H2O moving through the boot, but Xcel haven’t skimped on the other features they offer in their top-of-range Drylock models. The standout is the Celliant Black thermal insulation. It’s unquestionably some of the best on the market right now and kept us toasty, even in a 3mm, throughout most of our winter sessions. You also get taped seams all over and a single rubber sole for fantastic connection to the board surface.

If, like us, you’re wary of switching surf booties too often because of worries around fit, we don’t think you’ll have that problem with the Xcel DL. They’ve been moulded to work around a variety of foot shapes, with a contoured sole that can cater to narrow and wider fittings alike. That also helps to cut out unused space inside the boot, much like a proper fitted ski boot.

All of the above, and the fact that this surf boot looks simply stunning, means we’ve elevated them to our current top pick for 2021! The downside? Mainly the price. You don’t need to spend quite that much if you’re a beginner and intermediate (try the Billabong below…).

Women’s Rip Curl 3mm Flashbomb Hidden Split Toe Boots

  • Very fast drying
  • Very versatile boot
  • E5 neoprene is a dream

Flashbombs are always introduced as the world’s fastest-drying boots. It’s super hard to argue with that. I mean, you might, find some 1mm rubber that’s got no thermal tech in it that gets rid of the H2O faster, but you’re in safe hands. And, believe us when we say that that’s good news on cold winter mornings, when the last thing you want to be doing is pulling on a sloppy wet mush of a boot from the day before.

We’ve put these guys up here as our overall best surf bootie for 2021/22 for the female surfer. We’re actually consistently irritated how few boots there are for the better sex. However, we can also honestly say that you probably don’t need anything other than this (unless you’ve got your sights set on the Arctic or something).

They cover all the bases. Not only are they famously fast at drying, but there’s that flexy, thin E5 neoprene that makes the whole boot feel as light as a cellophane wrapper. We also love the compression strap placement across the front, making them a versatile boot for a lot of different foot shapes.

Billabong 5mm Absolute Split Toe Wetsuit Boots

Highlights

  • Vulcanized arch
  • Foam core adds lightness
  • 20% Nylon for stretch on and off

Best for? Intermediate and beginner surfers in medieum-cold locations (Portugal, Baja, France)

The Billabong Absolute range has long been a staple for casual riders. It strikes a fine balance between affordability and efficiency on the wetsuit front. So, it’s hardly a surprise that the brand has a mention on this list of the best surf booties.

In fact, we’d go one further and say that these 5mm boots are the perfect choice for improving beginners and intermediates looking to brave the water this winter. (We actually had these guys up as our all-round best surf booties for 2021 only a few months back. But that was before we’d tested the Xcel splits, which we think come in ever so slightly better if you’re surfing a lot in the cold season).

But back to the Billabong: The success here is mainly to do with that graphene-coated neoprene. A tried-and-tested favourite, it’s both warm and flexible, and fits nicely to the foot. That’s important with surf booties, because any excess water sloshing around in there will get really annoying, really fast. There’s also a high rise, which means you’ll easily slide the lip under the base of the wetsuit to reduce water inflow. 

TL;DR: This boot just ticks all the boxes we can think of and won’t break the bank. It’s not gonna’ make you Kelly Slater and isn’t really for hardcore surfers, but it’s still one of the most solid all-round intermediate choices out there. You can grab a pair with split or round toes. The first tend to be better for more aggressive and advanced surfers. Round toe boots are the option for beginners.

Rip Curl Dawn Patrol 3mm Round Toe Wetsuit Boots

Highlights

  • Just 8mm underfoot for full-on board control
  • Stitch-less compression puller
  • Great flex

Best for? Surfers who like to feel the board beneath their feet.

This is a fantastic shoe for a cost of under $50. The boots have that brilliant Rip Curl E5 material. It’s uber-fast drying and very stretchy. There’s a simple design with stretch neoprene reaching all the way to the top of the boots, too. That means simple pull-on, pull-off access. The soul also has light crosshatch for added grip on the board and it’s thin, so you’ll get great control on the surface of steeper waves that demand fast turns.

Yes, the Dawn Patrol might be a step down from the Flashbomb series. However, we notice few big differences between the two during casual surf sessions in the winter months. The main downside is that they might take a little longer to dry, and could be a tad heavier in the water. Still, occasional surfers after a fantastic all-rounder boot for a good price simply cannot go wrong here…

O’Neill 7mm Heat RT Boots

Price when reviewed: $74.95

Highlights

  • Great in really cold winters
  • Very durable
  • Works in waters under 50 degrees

Best for? Really hardcore winters

The O’Neill 7mm Heat RT Boots have been designed with one thing and one thing only in mind: The coldest winters of them all. Yep, these bad boys are for the surfers close to the Arctic Circle, in places where the H2O can drop to sub-50 and there’s snow and ice on the beaches.

A thick, 7mm neoprene upper starts the cold-defense off. That’s just about as thick as they come – there are some 8mm boots but there’s little difference. What we like about the O’Neill RT options is that they come with the added bonus of a very efficient anti-flush strap on the high ankle. That doesn’t add anything to the thermal tech per se, but will cut out any water flow between outside and inside, meaning more heat is held in for longer.

More generally, you’re looking at a tried-and-tested neoprene crafter here. O’Neill have been around since the very beginning of it all. We might not wax lyrical about their stuff so often, but it’s solid, efficient, flexy rubber that’s not to be underestimated. With that comes durability. Expect a few seasons at least out of these guys.

Solite 3mm Custom

Highlights

  • Solite’s heat-moldable fit
  • Creative O-ring to reduce water entry
  • 1mm base for barefoot feel

Best for? Feeling like you ain’t got no wetsuit boots on at all!

Solite are slowly but surely raising the game with their range of Custom boots. We’ll take a look at their hardcore winter models a little later, but first: This 3mm set. It’s pretty much fantastic for all levels of surfer who like to keep it light underfoot. Seriously, weight is the winner here (or lack thereof!). They are paper-light like some of the other best surf booties out there can only dream of.

On top of wearing a feather into December seas, you get the added benefit of a wide pull-on panel of neoprene that makes it a cinch to get the boots on and off. That’s important when your fingers are shivering, you know. You can also create a true custom fit. That’s thanks to the Thermo-Form soul. Basically, you get em’ hot with boiling water at home and then mould them perfectly to your individual foot shape. That keeps out any stray H2O and adds real comfort and control to your riding.

If we had to pick a downside it would be the looks. We’re just not convinced on them yet. Toasty toes is the payoff, though.

O’Neill Heat 3mm Split Toe Booties

Highlights

  • Well taped seams
  • 3mm width means versatility
  • Very flexible

Best for? Improving surfers

We usually talk about O’Neill as a good entry-level choice. That’s often because the price point on their basic gear is a little lower. It’s enough to make surfing in colder conditions more accessible, which is probably what Jack (the revered inventor of the wetsuit would have wanted!). We can’t really do that here, though, because these 3mm booties still come in at just shy of $50 starting. That’s the bas news…

The good news is plentiful. For starters, they’re available directly off Amazon. That’s a real gift if you’re in a hurry to get some shoes sorted before that next swell comes in. But they also manage to tick lots of boxes on the tech front: Rubberised sole (extra grip), taped seams on the inside (cuts flushing to keep the toes warmer), and a tight shin strap (even more flushing reduction).

The upshot? We’d place the O’Neill Heat 3mm firmly in the intermediate category. That’s especially true scene as it comes with a split-toe format that tends to lend itself more to improving surfers who are looking for extra connection to the deck to master those turns.

Xcel 7mm Round Toe Drylock Wetsuit Boots

Highlights

  • Some of the best watertight seals on the market for 2021
  • Celliant Black lining for more warmth
  • 7mm feels lightweight enough for casual sessions

Best for? Long sessions in the water, from north Cali across to NJ

The Drylock has been designed precisely to keep water out of the boot. That’s a perennial problem for surfers who like to do long sessions in colder climes. The minute there’s H2O flowing freely in and out, you can kiss goodbye to whatever fancy tech is at hand to keep you warm. Cue the trademark Drylock ankle seals. They are made almost like the lining in a ski boot. They scrunch in and hug the upper foot like a rubber band, offering a non-strap solution to water flow where the wetsuit joins the wetsuit booties.

There’s even more protection from the ergonomic cross-foot strap that keeps the pressure sealed over the whole upper. You can pull that as tight as you like to eliminate air bubbles around the rise of the foot. Venture inside and you’ll find that everything’s lined with the ground-breaking Celliant Black material that Xcel are super proud of. With good reason, too – it’s one of the first wetsuit linings we remember that activates blood dilation to generate heat retention. Clever work, folks!

Generally speaking, the Drylock model is a good buy for any level of surfer. However, a relatively high price point probably puts it in the more serious school. There are 5mm options in the range, too. However, we like the 7 because, well….with the lightweight Xcel tech, why not?

Solite 6mm Custom

Highlights

  • Warm but not heavy
  • Can be paired with a heat sock if needed
  • Thinner soles for contact transfer that can keep you riding well in Alaska and the like

Best for? Expert shortboarders who crave control in <50 F waters

Heading to Iceland to chase the hidden swells of the North Atlantic? Waxing down the board in Alaska? Making for the Arctic Circle? If you’re planning a wave-hunting expedition to any of those sorts of spots, you’re going to need one hefty pair of surf booties to bring along. Thankfully, Solite – a relatively new name in the the market – think they have the solution without compromising on flex and control: The Custom 6mm.

They are certainly nice and thick, at an almost finger-fat 6mm on the toes and the base, combined with a generous thickness on the upper to match. That reduces just a tad where the booties meet the wetsuit legs for better integration and water blocking. There’s some give inside the shoe for the add-on Heat Booster socks if you need em’, but we think it’s toasty enough without.

That should all be enough to keep the toes alive and kicking in waters well below the advertised under 50 F mark. Meanwhile, the vulcanized rubber sole is good for contact transfer onto the board surface and there’s an impressive weight reduction that means the Solite boots live up to their name – they are about the same as some of the industry-leading 3mm surf booties!

Mens Split Toe Reef Boot 1mm

Highlights

  • For tropical destinations
  • Thin for warm water use
  • Ankle protection on hard reefs

Best for? Boots for protection against tropical reefs

We love the added control that comes with the split-toe 1mm style of this Xcel booty. They are made super light and tight by a single over-the-top strap. There’s also a super slimline rubber sole that’s suited to tube riding on the front foot. The limestone-based material also cuts weight but keeps things nice and eco-friendly. Xcel have also built in a solid sole line under the toe form, which means you shouldn’t be getting that leash caught too often.

Generally speaking, we’d say that these are an advanced-level boot for surfers who like the added control of split-toe design. They’re good for summer riding in the far north of the US and spring/autumn riding in places where the temperatures dip considerably. Mainly, though, we reckon these are top pick if you’re going Sri Lanka way or Indo and don’t want to reduce the risk of picking up nasty flesh cuts on the reefs and corals.

Vans Surf Boot 2 Mid Boots – the best surf booties for style?

Highlights

  • That Vans style!
  • Great grip
  • Perfect for surfing reefs and stone in shoulder seasons (spring/fall)

Best for? Surfing reefs in style

Vans have always liked to do things a little differently in the surf market. That’s why they made these mid-rise foot warmers look just like a pair of their off-the-wall skate shoes. Yep, these bad boys will let you channel a little of that urban grit in the water, with the trademark Vans white stripe and chequerboard pattern on the pull-on strap.

As a mid-height boot, it’s a decent all rounder for shoulder seasons like spring and autumn. That’s backed up by the modest 2mm coverage, which is okay for cool waters, but not for hardcore winter sessions in the snow.

It’s not all about the looks either. Credit where credit is due: The rubber-dipped front gives nice toe protection on rocky sea beds (these are a great shoe for use in coral and stone reefs). And there’s some super-sticky undersole grip that follows considering Vans are usually all about keeping riders stuck to their skateboards.

Oh umm…did we mention they’re also available with a fireball blazing down the side. That’s sure to add speed in the pit, right?


Cheers for reading this full guide to the best surf booties for 2021/22. We hope it’s helped you pick out the top booties and keeps those toes warm for the next sesh.

We might use affiliate links in this post. Basically, you click em’ and we get a little something from your booking or purchase. They help us keep offering more and more in-depth surf guides to awesome places all around the globe. So, thanks for that!

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