Non-marking rubber outsoles, no-slip grip, and a comfortable wearing style that’s casual enough for the open sea—those are boat shoes in a nutshell.
These ultra stylish and multi functional shoes maintain your traction on the boat, but also act as a shield against athlete’s foot, fungal growth, and general irritation that’s often associated with taking on water.
We’ve researched, tested and display the best deck shoes to not only protect you, but wrap you up in full nautical attire that’s certain to get you in the sailing spirit.
Our Reviews Of The Best Sailing Shoes
Aleader Men’s Quick Drying Aqua Water Shoes
In more ways than one, Aleader achieve the most comfortable boat shoes we’ve ever used. These aren’t your traditional Sperry style boat shoes, because they’re built with a durable fabric exterior and mesh upper, which attributes to breathability throughout the day.
As the top rated boat shoes on our list, they give you the most dexterity and traction while you’re actually on the boat, but you might run into issues when you step off.
On sand, these work like a dream, but if you’re walking on a rocky beach you’re essentially going to be a magnet for small stones to get stuck in the outsole webbing.
If you look at the bottom of the shoes, the web-like series of holes helps with breathability and grip on wet surfaces, but is also very malleable when walking on hard surfaces. Beware of curbs and jagged stoney edges when you’re walking around.
Aleader gives you the option of twenty different unique styles and colors to choose from, as well as a wide range of sizes.
To avoid irritation and chafing from the rage of the open waters rushing cross your feet, these are the most breathable water shoes for men.
Sperry Top-Sider Authentic 2-Eye Boat Shoes
Sperry is the name in boat shoes for men, and they’ve been constantly developing new takes on their classic style.
The Top-Sider is built with razor-cut wave-siping soles, which is Sperry’s way of saying unparalleled traction when you’re in the midst of the open waters.
If you tread water or get splashed from the waves, you’ll have no problem retaining your stance.
Built out of genuine 100% leather with a rubber insole, the Top-Sider is built with an EVA heel cup to help prevent chafing from constant wet-to-dry use, while dually supporting proper posture.
Sperry is known for their classic look and hardware, including their rust-resistant steel eyelets that stand up to the test of time.
Sperry uses nothing but genuine leather, and when mixed with the rubber insole it can produce a bit of a squeaking sound after a week or so of wear.
This is a manufacturing defect that shouldn’t occur, but thankfully you have the stellar support team at Amazon to handle any issues should they arise.
They keep a wide variety of sizes in stock online with a fairly high true-to-size rating, but they’re not built for a lifetime of use.
Sperry has become somewhat of a fashion phenomenon for men, which has led to more focus on aesthetics and slightly less attention to quality.
Older Sperry shoes used to have a ten-year life expectancy, but the Top-Sider is resting somewhere around three to five years before they need to be replaced.
Columbia Men’s Bahama Vent Marlin PFG Boat Shoe
Columbia hasn’t been known for their popular boat shoes, but after this pair, you’ll see them in a new light.
Columbia’s main attention to detail has been on outerwear, so they know a thing or two about keeping things waterproof.
These shoes come with a non-marking rubber outsole that’s built with Omni-Grip, a better way to retain traction in less-than-desirable conditions.
They’ve put their full focus on function here. You only have three styles to choose from, each coming with a blend of leather, mesh and textile to create a tactile grip.
Columbia did miss the mark on pricing: it’s a good price, but it can increase by up to 2.25x depending on what size you choose, which is a bit of a bummer.
That sizing range is widespread though, spanning from a 7 M US up to a 16, which is how they scale the prices accordingly.
Featuring an antimicrobial interior, you won’t develop foot fungus or an odor for the duration of use.
Hang them up to dry when the day is done, and there will be zero odor retention. They’ll feel like new when you slip back into them.
Sperry Top-Sider Women’s Bluefish Boat Shoe
The best marine shoes for women by a longshot, Sperry continues to be show what a real boat shoe is made of.
The Top-Sider women’s edition comes with a 100% leather exterior and durable rubber EVA insole, as well a non-marking rubber outsole with pressure-activated traction.
Take one look at the bottom of the outsole, and you’ll see specific lines that expand when you step, gripping the deck of the boat like nothing else.
One common problem (especially with women’s shoes) is the vast price jump between sizes, and the limited number of sizes to begin with.
Sperry seems to fluctuate quite a bit, and while we understand that genuine leather can get pricey as you scale up, there should be a more narrow pricing model.
Just like other Sperry shoes, you can use the two-hole eyelet to tighten your leather strip lacing and get a tighter fit.
This lacing runs throughout the heel, providing a closer fit in every area. The slotted collar and fabric beneath the collar keep this breathable, though the interior is not antimicrobial, so you will have to dry these out or use a UV shoe sanitizing light after your trip.
Suokeni Women’s Quick-Drying Slip-on Water Shoes
Suokeni was a close second for the best sailing shoes for women, especially with their webbed bottom that’s similar to the Aleader pair we reviewed earlier.
You’ll grip the deck with unbelievable, pressure-activate traction that pushes your dexterity and balance to the max.
These simple slip-ons are fitted with a elastic insole for support, though since they are built-in and designed to resist against water, you can’t really replace them.
They’re not the more comfortable, but they do get the job done. The closure around your feet is definitely much more hospitable, built primarily out of quick-drying fabric.
On average, it takes about two hours after you’ve kicked these off for them to be completely bone dry and ready for another sailing adventure.
They’re extremely lightweight and inexpensive, but we all know that you get what you pay for. The color fades, and these will eventually become exclusive for function with very little aesthetics.
They also show slightly more vibrant colors online than what you actually get in your package, which is a bit off-putting.
Sizes tend to run large, especially in EU sizes (since the company is sourced in the United States).
If you’re in need of an inexpensive pair of sailing shoes, these will do the trick while beating all the other cheap options online.
Introduction To Boat Shoes
Just getting your feet wet?
Some of the best boat shoe brands have been creating fan-favorite designs for close to a century, and needless to say they’ve got this down pat.
It’s given us a much more solid image of what boating shoes should look like, and a clearer concept on how they should react while you’re actually sailing.
Boat shoes have become somewhat of a trend, used predominantly by men in a corporate-casual office setting.
It gives off a chill, relaxed appearance, which is especially helpful for those who have critical roles in large corporations.
Boat shoes are fashionable and can most certainly be used on-shore, but they really shine when you get into the nitty gritty of a day of sailing.
With traction grip that’s superior to standard sneakers or other types of shoes, when the deck gets slick, you’ll still be able to hold your ground.
Boat shoes tend to use non-marking rubber outsoles, which helps to upkeep the boat, and provides more safety when walking around the deck after a bit of ocean spray has graced the boat.
You’ll often see boat shoes made out of leather, and that’s for a couple of reasons. For one, it looks dashing and makes these versatile between different uses like we talked about earlier.
Leather is also durable against water, and can be hit with a waterproofing spray to extend their natural resistance. Fabrics, elastics and textiles are all viable options for boat shoes, but you will see most of them in leather.
Boat Shoes FAQ
What Types of Shoes Should I Wear to go Sailing?
There are boat shoes, and then there are water shoes, as we’ve showed in this buying guide.
The truth is, it doesn’t matter which type you use, so long as the features and benefits work well with you during sailing.
Instead of thinking what type of shoe, look at this checklist of what makes a quality shoe for sailing:
Boats aren’t made like they used to be. There’s a lot more synthetic manufacturing going on, and fiberglass hulls are always changing.
You take care of your boat like you take care of your house (sometimes even better than), so it only makes sense that you want to keep it looking immaculate.
Non-marking rubber outsoles will keep traction even if your feet skid across the deck, but won’t leave behind those terrible marks that ruin the aesthetic appeal of your sailboat.
That outsole we mentioned needs to keep you nice and stable, even when jet spray slides across the deck.
You should be able to move around the deck without fear of falling when you’re wearing a good quality pair of boat shoes.
Traction specifically depends on the outsole. Rubber (boat shoes) and elastic (water shoes) are both good options.
The traction keeps you standing, but water resistance works on a different defensive front.
If you’re taking on water on the inside of your shoes all day, some could say that it’s just the occupational hazard of sailing.
While they might be right, you should still avoid treading water when possible.
Waterproof or water resistant shoes mean that ocean water won’t soak through the materials, though it can’t defend you against water falling into cuff.
Or can it?
Traditional boat shoes (we’re looking at you, Sperry) come with a leather two-hole fastening lace system, which usually run throughout the heel.
You can see four to six eyelets circumnavigating the heel with that leather strip running through them, and it’s going to let you tighten those shoes to minimize the amount of water that comes through.
Slip-on shoes are convenient and comfortable, but don’t offer adjustability in the least.
All this talk of water, and this is why: bacterial growth. If you’re standing in wet shoes for eight to twelve hours during the day, then you’re basically providing a breeding ground for all sorts of bacteria.
Fungal growth is no joke, but an antimicrobial interior can help to minimize the chance of that growth. Over time, the antimicrobial properties might wane, so be sure to have a UV sanitizing lamp for your shoes.
Even if you have the best features as mentioned above, they’re not going to do much good for your wallet if they don’t stand the test of time.
Unlike a pair of trainers, these types of shoes are going to be put through a lot more stress, so we can’t really expect more than five years if we’re being reasonable.
If you sanitize the interior, store them dry, and apply some sealant/waterproofing spray as necessary, you can get a pair of Sperry shoes to last about four to five years.
Fabric and elastic shoes will wear down with use, but on average can give you one to three years with proper care and maintenance.
What Should I Wear With Sailing Shoes?
We could give a lot of fashion advice since boat shoes have become this sort of cultural phenomenon in recent years, but that’s not what this guide is about.
Instead, wear items like these to maintain your mobility on the boat.
A lightweight Polo with the buttons down not only looks good, but it also keeps you nice and cool while complimenting boat shoes, and increasing your mobility.
You never know when you’re going to have to spring into action, so dress like you’re always prepared.
Shorts or Chinos
Chinos are a common fashionable item that men like to wear with boat shoes, and they definitely have their place on the boat.
Grab a pair that has a little bit of ankle exposure, so that way you won’t soak the hem if a bit of water rides up onto the deck.
There’s a couple reasons for this. They hide well and don’t ruin the aesthetic, but the functional aspect is that you won’t be left with a sopping wet sock around your ankle.
No-show socks are lightweight and usually made of quick-drying, breathable nylon. Even if they get wet, a half-hour in the sun will fix things up. These help prevent ankle chafing and irritation.
Are Leather Shoes Good for Sailing?
Leather is the perfect material for boat shoes.
They age better from extended use, maintain their shape for longer, and are naturally water resistant to some extent.
You can put a waterproof spray coating on a pair of fabric shoes, but it’s not going to do you justice like a pair of leather shoes will.
Leather boat shoes also usually come with removable insoles, whereas inexpensive fabric or mesh shoes don’t.
When wear and tear take over, it’s important to have the option to remove the insole and toss it away.
How to Prevent Slips on the Boat?
Simply having the best non slip shoes doesn’t make you impervious to slips and falls. Before you actually get on the boat with your new shoes, walk around in them for about ten minutes a day for three days leading up to your trip.
One of the reasons that it takes us a little while to get used to wearing new shoes is our equilibrium, which regulates balance in our bodies (we’ve covered balance on an article relating to overcoming sea sickness as well).
New shoes mean a new insole, a new break-in period before they conform to your walking style. It’s just new, and you don’t have the same level of balance in new shoes. Wear them around to get used to them first.
A few external ways to prevent slips are:
- Don’t Drink: We’re not trying to spoil your fun, but this isn’t going to help your balance very much.
- Install Grip Strips: Put these around various areas of the boat where you’re afraid of slipping or falling, and you’ll quickly get used to where slippage safe zones are.
- Skip The Polish: Don’t polish the deck before leaving for a trip, do it after the fact to maintain your boat in between sailing sessions.
What is the Purpose of Boat Shoes?
You could wear sneakers on deck if you wanted, but they come with disadvantages.
Boat shoes exist to give you better handling and dexterity while facing the unknown variables of the open ocean, like the imbalances of the waves, water treading onto the deck, and unexpected jerks that shift your balance.
Their purpose is all about function, granting more controlled movement while staying lightweight where it counts.
Boat shoes are generally breathable and easy to maintain, and have a longer life expectancy than trainers.
What Are Sperry Shoes?
They are the original men’s sailing shoes.
In 1935, Paul Sperry wanted to creating the best non slip shoes for boating, and he did so by making cuts on his shoes and creating siping across the outsoles.
This gives pressure-activated traction when you’re moving around on deck, where you can’t be 100% certain of every single step you take.
These sparked a trend of other siping shoes, starting the boat shoe trend that’s been carried out to modern time.
Sperry is the go-to brand that exemplifies what a boat shoe should be, thanks to their long history and track record of providing excellent solutions for sailors, and becoming somewhat of a fashion statement in the last decade.
Sperry originally exclusively designed men’s boat shots, but have since expanded their operations to women’s sailing shoes and alternate styles that try to give the best of both worlds between function and fashion.
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