Best Boat Shoes

best boat shoes

Written by Sonia Su

When it comes to finding the perfect pair of boat shoes, I've been on quite a journey myself. Remember when they were all the rage in the 2000s among trendy teens and adults alike?

Well, now navigating through endless options as an adult, from the classic to the contemporary, I've come to appreciate the blend of style, comfort, and functionality that defines the best boat shoes. Whether you're an avid sailor or someone who enjoys the nautical aesthetic, a good pair of boat shoes can make all the difference.

In this article, I'll share my top curated picks for the best boat shoes, including highly recommended brands from Reddit and Amazon, to help you find the ideal pair that suits your needs.

Selecting the best boat shoe depends on a combination of style, comfort, durability, and functionality.

 

What are Deck Shoes?

Before we get into our top recommendations, let's clarify some of the language. You may see "deck shoes," but that's just another term for boat shoes or topsiders.

Boat shoes are a type of footwear designed for use on boats and other marine environments. They typically feature a non-marking rubber sole with a tread pattern that provides excellent grip on wet surfaces, preventing slips and falls on deck.

boat shoes

The uppers are often made of leather or canvas, and they may include features like rustproof eyelets and water-resistant materials to withstand exposure to water.

Boat or deck shoes are known for their comfortable and supportive design, making them suitable for long hours of wear while sailing or engaging in other waterside activities.

Moreover, they have a classic, nautical-inspired aesthetic that transcends their practical function, making them a popular choice for casual everyday wear.

 

Boat Shoes Throughout the Years

The history of boat shoes is a fascinating journey that traces back to the early 20th century when Paul A. Sperry, an avid sailor and inventor, revolutionized footwear with his groundbreaking creation.

In 1935, Sperry observed his dog effortlessly traversing ice without slipping due to the grooves and patterns on its paws. Inspired by this observation, Sperry set out to develop a shoe sole that would provide similar traction on wet surfaces.

The Invention of the Sperry Top-Sider

After careful experimentation and testing, Sperry invented the first boat shoe, known as the Sperry Top-Sider. The defining feature of this innovative footwear was its unique sole, which incorporated a pattern of siping (razor-like cuts) that enabled water to channel away from the sole, providing superior grip on wet decks.

To further enhance traction, Sperry utilized a special rubber compound that remained pliable even in cold temperatures, ensuring reliable performance in various maritime conditions.

Sperry

"A pair of Sperry "Authentic Original" boat shoes" by Antontushnov is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.

The introduction of the Sperry Top-Sider marked a significant advancement in footwear technology, addressing a critical need for sailors and boaters who previously struggled with slippery decks and unstable footing. Sperry's invention quickly gained popularity within maritime circles, earning praise for its exceptional grip, durability, and comfort.

Sperry design

During World War II, the United States Navy recognized the value of Sperry's boat shoes and adopted them as part of the standard-issue footwear for sailors. This widespread endorsement further cemented the reputation of boat shoes as essential gear for maritime activities.

The Boat Shoe Evolution to a Broader Audience

Following the war, boat shoes experienced a surge in popularity among civilians, as returning veterans introduced them to a broader audience. Their practical design, coupled with their association with the adventurous spirit of sailing, appealed to outdoor enthusiasts and fashion-conscious individuals alike.

Throughout the latter half of the 20th century, boat shoes continued to evolve, incorporating new materials and design elements while maintaining their core principles of traction, comfort, and durability.

Brands such as Sebago, Timberland, and Rockport emerged as leading boat shoe manufacturer, offering a diverse range of styles to suit various tastes and preferences.

boat shoes

In the 1980s and 1990s, boat shoes transcended their maritime origins to become a fashion statement embraced by mainstream culture. Influential figures in music, sports, and entertainment popularized the casual yet refined look of boat shoes, further solidifying their status as a wardrobe staple. Check out Nimble Made's guides to building a capsule wardrobe and dressing better.

The Boat Shoe Today

Today, boat shoes remain as popular as ever, beloved for their timeless style, versatility, and practicality.

They are worn by sailors, boaters, and outdoor enthusiasts seeking reliable footwear for maritime adventures, as well as by individuals seeking to channel the laid-back elegance of coastal living in their everyday attire.

 

The Best Boat Shoes

Here are our picks for the best boat shoes:

1. Sperry Men's Authentic Original 2-Eye Boat Shoe

Sperry Men's Authentic Original 2-Eye Boat Shoe
  • Pros: Classic design, excellent traction, high-quality leather, comfortable fit.
  • Cons: Pricey for some budgets.

This is a classic style and timeless footwear choice designed for both style and functionality. While you could go for the Sperry tennis-shoe style, this boat shoe features:

  • Premium Leather: Crafted from high-quality leather that offers durability and a refined look.
  • 360° Lacing System: Ensures a secure and customizable fit with rawhide laces and rust-proof eyelets.
  • Ortholite Insole: Provides all-day comfort and superior cushioning for shock absorption.
  • Non-Marking Rubber Outsole: Equipped with razor-cut Wave-Siping for ultimate wet/dry traction, making them perfect for on and off the boat.
  • Hand-Sewn Construction: Ensures durability and a hand-crafted appearance.

These boat shoes are ideal for both casual and nautical settings, combining traditional design with modern comfort features.

Consider pairing your Sperry's with Nimble Made's checkered and gingham shirts and slim-fit button-down shirts.

2. Sebago Men's Docksides Boat Shoe

Sebago Men's Docksides Boat Shoe
  • Pros: Timeless style, durable construction, comfortable from the first wear.
  • Cons: Leather may require some maintenance to stay supple.

The Sebago Men's Clovehitch II FGL Waxed Leather Boat Shoe is a high-quality, technical boating shoe designed for comfort and durability.

These shoes feature a hand-sewn moccasin construction with a moc toe and a 3-eyelet upper that combines oiled and waxed full-grain leather with breathable Dri-Lex® Hydrofil® mesh panels. This design ensures both robustness and breathability, ideal for boating activities.

The Clovehitch II includes a functional 360° elastic shoelace system, an anatomical EVA insole for added comfort, and a Sebago® Marine Tack™ sole with an enclosed EVA midsole. The sole is designed to be slip-resistant and non-marking, featuring a siped rubber bottom for extra grip on wet surfaces.

These shoes are crafted to provide both comfort and security, making them a reliable choice for those who spend time on the water​.

3. Timberland Men's Classic 2-Eye Boat Shoe

Timberland Men's Classic 2-Eye Boat Shoe
  • Pros: Rugged construction, eco-friendly materials, great arch support.
  • Cons: Heavier than some other boat shoes.

The Timberland Classic 2-Eye Boat Shoe is a well-crafted, stylish, and functional shoe perfect for both casual and semi-formal occasions. Key features of this boat shoe include:

  • Premium Full-Grain Leather: Offers durability and a classic look.
  • Handsewn Construction: Ensures quality and longevity.
  • 360° Rawhide Lacing System: Provides a customized fit.
  • EVA Footbed: Delivers all-day comfort and shock absorption.
  • Rubber Outsole: Offers excellent traction on both wet and dry surfaces.

These shoes are available in various colors, including Rootbeer/Brown, ensuring a versatile addition to your wardrobe. Pair them with a classic white dress shirt or blue dress shirt.

4. Dubarry Admiral Deck Shoe

 

Dubarry Admiral Deck Shoe

 

  • Pros: Premium leather, stylish design, extremely durable.
  • Cons: Higher price point.

The Dubarry Admirals are premium boat shoes designed for both style and functionality. These deck shoes are crafted with DryFast-DrySoft™ water-resistant leather, ensuring durability and comfort.

This deck shoe features a NonSlip-NonMarking™ rubber outsole for superior grip, a soft Dubarry blue sock pad for added comfort, and rolltop hand stitching to keep water out.

This deck shoe also includes rust-proof brass/nickel emblems and eyelets, and an adjustable leather lace that circles the foot.

Plus, the distinctive Port and Starboard color flashing adds a unique touch to this deck shoe.

5. Eastland Men's Yarmouth Moc Slip-On

Eastland Men's Yarmouth Moc Slip-On
  • Pros: Comfortable, reasonably priced, hand-sewn construction.
  • Cons: Less premium feel compared to more expensive brands.

The Eastland Men's Yarmouth One Eye Camp Moccasin is a classic and comfortable choice for casual wear. Handsewn with a true moccasin construction, these slip-on shoes offer a tailored fit that molds to your feet over time.

Made from premium leather, this boat shoe features a cushioned insole for all-day comfort and a durable rubber outsole for optimal traction.

The simple, timeless design is perfect for everyday use, whether you're out on the boat or running errands around town.

6. Clarks Orson Harbour Boating Shoes Mens

 

Clarks Orson Harbour Boating Shoes Mens

 

  • Pros: Lightweight, good value, comfortable footbed.
  • Cons: Not as traditional in styling.

The Clarks Men's Orson Harbour Derby is a stylish and versatile shoe designed for comfort and durability. It features a high-quality leather upper, a cushioned OrthoLite® footbed for superior comfort, and a lightweight EVA midsole.

The boat shoe's rubber outsole ensures excellent grip and traction, making it suitable for both casual and semi-formal occasions.

With its sleek design and reliable construction, the Orson Harbour Derby is an excellent boat shoe.

7. Helly-Hansen Ahiga V4 HP Boat Shoes for Men

Helly-Hansen Ahiga V4 HP Boat Shoes for Men
  • Pros: Excellent for water activities, breathable, quick-drying.
  • Cons: More sporty look, less traditional boat shoe appearance.

The Helly Hansen Ahiga V4 Hydropower Sailing Shoes in White are designed for optimal performance on the water. These shoes feature a breathable and quick-drying mesh upper, providing comfort and ventilation during sailing activities.

The HellyWear protection and HellyGrip rubber outsole ensure durability and excellent traction on wet surfaces. The midsole is equipped with EVA for cushioning and support, making these shoes perfect for long hours on deck.

Stylish and functional, the Ahiga V4 Hydropower shoes are among the best boat shoes for both professional sailors and casual boating enthusiasts.

8. Rockport Mens Perth

Rockport Mens Perth
  • Pros: Comfortable, good support, durable leather.
  • Cons: Can be stiff initially, needs breaking in.

The Rockport Ports of Call Perth Slip-On in Timber is a classic deck shoe known for its comfort and durability. It features genuine leather uppers, a moisture-wicking lining, and an EVA footbed for cushioning.

The rubber outsole ensures excellent grip, making it ideal for both wet and dry conditions.

With its traditional moccasin construction and versatile design, this boat shoe is perfect for casual outings and nautical activities.

9. Rancourt & Co. Read Boat Shoe

 

Rancourt & Co. Read Boat Shoe

 

  • Pros: Handcrafted in the USA, premium leather, customizable options.
  • Cons: Expensive, longer lead time for custom orders.

The Rancourt Read Boat Shoe in Carolina Brown Chromexcel is a classic, handcrafted shoe made in Maine, USA. It features unlined Horween Chromexcel leather, offering water resistance and durability. The non-marking rubber soles have siping for excellent grip on wet surfaces.

Chestnut leather laces and nickel-plated brass eyelets add to the shoe's robust design.

Each pair is constructed using Genuine Handsewn Moccasin techniques, ensuring a snug and comfortable fit, perfect for summer wear with chinos or shorts. Check out Nimble Made's guides to summer outfits, what are chinos, and chinos vs khakis.

10. OLUKAI Moku Pae Men's Boat Shoes

OLUKAI Moku Pae Men's Boat Shoes
  • Pros: Excellent comfort, water-friendly, modern design, quick-drying.
  • Cons: Less traditional styling, higher price for a casual shoe.

The Olukai Men's Moku Pae shoes are designed for comfort and versatility, perfect for both land and sea. They feature a lightweight, breathable mesh upper that provides excellent ventilation, and a dual-density anatomical footbed for all-day comfort.

The shoes also include a wet-grip rubber outsole, offering superior traction on wet surfaces.

With their quick-drying properties and modern, stylish design, the Moku Pae shoes are the best boat shoes for any water-related activity or casual wear that will keep your feet dry.

11. Columbia Men's Bahama Vent Hightide Boat Shoe

Columbia Men's Bahama Vent Hightide Boat Shoe
  • Pros: Excellent breathability and comfort for all-day wear on and off the water.
  • Cons: Sizing may run small, so order a size up for a proper fit.

The Columbia Bahama Vent Loco Relax III Boat Shoes are designed for comfort and functionality, perfect for a day on the water. They feature a breathable, lightweight canvas upper with leather trim for durability and style.

The midsole includes ports for ventilation and cooling, and the non-marking rubber outsole provides excellent traction on wet surfaces.

With a relaxed fit and versatile design, these shoes are ideal for both casual and boating activities. These water shoes pair well with some skinny-fit shirts.

collection of mens button up collared dress shirts slim fit

 

Factors to Consider When Choosing Boat Shoes:

  1. Material: Genuine leather is durable and molds to your feet, while synthetic options can be lighter and more breathable.
  2. Comfort: Look for cushioned insoles and adequate arch support.
  3. Traction: Non-slip soles are essential for wet conditions.
  4. Durability: Quality stitching and premium materials ensure longevity.
  5. Style: Consider whether you prefer a classic look or a more modern design.

white boat shoes

Ultimately, when buying boat shoes, consider factors such as material (genuine leather for durability), sole grip (non-marking and slip-resistant), comfort features (cushioned insoles, breathable design), and proper fit (snug initially, with minimal stretching over time).

Additionally, ensure the shoes have water-resistant properties and are suitable for both wet and dry conditions to provide reliable performance on deck.

 

Are Crocs Good Boat Shoes?

Crocs can be a good option for boat shoes, depending on your needs. Here are some pros and cons:

Pros:

  1. Comfort: Crocs are known for their cushioning and support, making them comfortable for long periods.
  2. Water-Friendly: They are made from Croslite material, which is waterproof and dries quickly.
  3. Easy to Clean: Crocs can be easily rinsed off, which is convenient for boating.
  4. Non-Slip: Some Crocs models feature non-slip soles, providing good traction on wet surfaces and slippery decks.
blue crocs

Cons:

  1. Style: Crocs' design may not appeal to everyone.
  2. Support: While comfortable, they might lack the structured support needed for some boating activities.
  3. Durability: They may not be as durable as traditional leather boat shoes in the long run.

For casual boating, Crocs can be a practical and comfortable choice. However, for more intensive or professional boating activities, traditional boat shoes might offer better performance and support.

 

Are Flip Flops Good Boat Shoes?

Flip flops are not typically considered good boat shoes. While they may be convenient for slipping on and off, flip flops lack the necessary grip and support needed for activities on a boat.

flip flops on boat

Boat shoes are specifically designed with features like non-marking, slip-resistant soles and supportive construction to provide traction and stability on wet surfaces.

Choosing proper boat shoes over flip flops can help ensure safety and comfort while boating or participating in water activities.

 

Why Buy Boat Shoes?

Boat shoes are worth buying for their versatile functionality and stylish design with a classic, timeless aesthetic that complements various outfits, making them a staple in many wardrobes.

brown boat shoes

More specifically, here are some reasons why people choose to buy boat shoes:

Grip and Traction

Boat shoes are specifically designed with non-marking, slip-resistant soles that provide excellent grip on wet surfaces, making them ideal for boating and water activities where traction is essential.

Comfort for Long Hours

Boat shoes typically feature cushioned insoles, supportive arches, and breathable materials, ensuring comfort for long hours of wear, whether on deck or land.

Classic Style

Boat shoes have a classic, nautical-inspired design that adds a touch of timeless style to casual outfits. They are versatile enough to be worn with a variety of clothing, from shorts and t-shirts to khakis and polos.

Durability and Quality

High-quality boat shoes are often made from durable materials like genuine leather or synthetic fabrics, ensuring longevity and resistance to wear and tear, even in harsh marine environments.

brown boat shoes

Versatility and Style

While originally designed for boating, boat shoes have become a popular choice for everyday casual wear due to their comfort and style. They transition seamlessly from the dock to the streets, making them a practical and versatile footwear option.

If you liked this guide, check out our recommended best business casual sneakers for your everyday wear and out guide on how to clean shoes.

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