Best Boat Shoes Reviewed & Rated

Boat shoes, you may have guessed, were designed specifically for walking on the slippery deck for those out sea. Sailors used them for the simple fact they were easy to air out, included waterproof leather or breathable mesh uppers, and were non-slip. Although, in the late 1900’s they began to catch on as a fashion trend in most countries.

Best boat shoes

You can usually recognize them by their moccasin-like design, and sometimes the line is blurred so much that there isn’t much of a difference between the two. Or, at least until you hit a wet, slippery deck to find out that your mocs don’t have the grip and water resistance a legitimate boat shoe has. There’s the difference.

Last Updated: October 5, 2017
By Daniel Gonzalez:

This page was recently updated with new information regarding how to choose between different boat shoes. New data includes a Criteria that eaders can use to select their own if going with our suggestions doesn’t work well enough for you. We’ve selected tried and tested boat shoes such as models from brands like Skechers, Dunhams and Tommy Hilfiger. Other info includes a rundown of the ideal material and upper build, plus the aspects that make great boat shoes effective.

Featured Recommendations

Skechers Flagship
  • Skechers Flagship
  • 5 out of 5
    Our rating
  • Resalyte cushioning
  • Price: See Here
Dunham Captain
  • Dunham Captain
  • 4.7 out of 5
    Our rating
  • waterproof leather
  • Price: See Here
Tommy Hilfiger Bowman
  • Tommy Hilfiger Bowman
  • 4.3 out of 5
    Our rating
  • Rawhide laces
  • Price: See Here

By the 1990’s, boat shoes were being worn as dress shoes by both men and women, boys and girls. Despite being made to be worn without socks, the trend to wear them with was formed, and they were no longer just for sailors or a deck shoe anymore. Today, they fall under many categories and are even associated with the preppy style. One thing for sure is, no matter how you wear them, they are a staple in the history of well designed, catchy and performing footwear.

 

10 Best Boat Shoes

 

1. Skechers Flagship

The flagship is a fabric shoe made to weigh less than most. It features an elegant stitched toe and a footbed made specifically with energy-return properties. Along with its highly cushioned midsole, Skechers lands a great one here with a shoe made for fashion and performance, not only on deck but off too.
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All-day Comfort
if you're troubled with aches after being on your feet all day, you may want to consider this pair of boat shoes. This is simply for the fact they have extra cushioning, and a rubber outsole to ensure you stay up on your feet, at all times. Not only are the insoles and midsole made for comfort, the outsole is too.

Lightweight Fabric Upper
The upper is not made of leather, so it is not waterproof but is much lighter in weight. The fabric is also super breathable, so the lack of waterproofing is compensated for by allowing air circulation and temperature regulation. In the end, you get a better breathing and drying boat shoe.

Cost & Value
The Flagship is on the average side when it comes to out-of-pocket cost but its true value comes from the diverse use you can get out of them. Yes, they can be used onboard but can also be used as a fashion or casual shoe. Walking all day never felt so good with this "airy" slip-on boat shoe.
Pros

Fabric Upper for Breathability

Low heel for natural foot angle

All-around light in weight

Cushioned Resalyte sole

Energy return footbed

Cons

Lack of arch support

2. Dunham Captain

This leather boat shoe has interesting characteristics, with an oiled upper and rubber sole for perfect grip. The oiled leather allows for the material to not be penetrated by moisture. Its raised heel offers more support in that area. With the underfoot material being EVA foam, you don't have to worry about unnecessary strain to your foot as with harder materials like leather.
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Eva Components
With its midsole and footbed being composed of EVA foam, you will experience the highest comfortability then with any other material composition. Why? Well, EVA's properties allow for a sponge-like softness with the ability to flex without breaking.

Multiple widths
Those with flat feet can finally get the perfect shoe for them. Along with the width options, there are also extended sizes. The perfect fit isn't far away. Don't bother with tight-fitting shoes any longer.

Cost/Value
This boat shoe has a steep price but it certainly makes up for the out of pocket cost by its sheer quality. The durability for one will keep the shoe going far longer than even the laces will last. Just have a second pair of your favorite laces ready and you'll be going strong with these for as long time.
Pros

Lightweight design

Water resistance leather material

Eva Cushioned Midsole

Removable footbed

Eva and memory foam footbed

Cons

Tricky sizing

Laces are difficult to keep tied

3. Tommy Hilfiger Bowman

The Bowman features a very low heel, coming in at half an inch giving just a slight lift. They also feature the signature lace that rounds the collar of the shoe. With rawhide leather laces, and a classic leather upper, these are your everyday boat shoes made for being on deck specifically.
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Size/Fit
The leather is a bit flexible so the fit is adjustable. If you get a slightly tight fit, don't worry they will loosen up. In fact, they run a little bit on the wide side. After you slide your feet into the shoe, you can then tighten as needed using its lace. The best part about its lacing system is that it runs around the rim so the lace fastens perfectly.

Waterproof Leather Upper
With a waterproof upper, you don't need to worry about your feet becoming soaked. The leather is treated with oils to seal any pores to be truely effective in this area. This shoe is made to be on deck with.

Cost/Value
For a high-quality leather boat shoe, the price to buy them is quite fair. The strong leather upper will ensure they last without succumbing to water damage. The rubber sole and lacing system that runs the full extent of the rim for grip and proper fit. If that's not enough for one shoe, they also incorporate an extremely fashionable design.
Pros

Waterproof leather upper

Low heel for natural feel

Leather laces

Rim-wrapped lacing structure

Accurate fit

Cons

seams tend to tear if rough

4. Sperry Top-Sider Sea Kite

4. Sperry Top-Sider Sea Kite
With the infusion of mesh and leather on the upper, you get a solid, water-resistant shoe that is ultra breathable. Leather is a bit rough, so added to the insides of the shoe is a cushioned lining for ultimate comfort. To add to the cushioning factor is a padded & soft insole that can be removed for custom orthotics.
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Slip Resistant Outsole
The outsole isn't the typical fashion shoe outsole. No, it is made specifically to prevent slipping and falling. They use a technology called Wave-Siping, which is just another term for leaving a route in the outsole grooves that lead water out from under the foot.

Style and Performane
Not only are these for th sailor on deck, but they are fashionable enough to be used with casual wear. This means from sea to shore to indoors and all around, you will find perfect use with the Sperry top-sider Sea Kite.

Cost/Value
At just marginally above the average cost of quality bost shoes, these are worth checking out. They have a bit more casual style than some more higher fashioned boat shoes but perform perfectly when put to the test, on and off-deck.
Pros

Water Resistant leather upper

Mesh windows for airflow

Comfortable cushioned lining and footbed

Slip-resistant outsole profile

Grippy synthetic sole material

Cons

Textured insole said to bit a bit irritating

Laces wear out quickly

5. Columbia Bahama Vent PFG

5. Columbia Bahama Vent PFG
The upper of the Bahama vent is contrived of both leather and synthetic halves. The sole material is what's known as Tech Lite. This is Columbia's version of EVA and acts as a large suer flexible underfoot cushion. Whats great about this boat shoe is it's capabilities on deck. When water gets's in or your feet get sweaty, the Bahama Vent is one of the best at expelling all moisture.
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Drainage Ports
This feature would be perfect for sailors on deck who have sensitive feet and need maximum drainage. Not only does it contain synthetic mesh to allow for moisture to evaporate more easily, but also has holes at the sides of the sole to let any trapped water find its way out from the inside of the shoe.

Outsole Provides Perfect Traction
When you're on a wet deck you don't have to worry about slipping and sliding around it. You also don't have to worry about falling on your head or overboard, which is known to happen. With the special rubber outsole that's made to expel water out to prevent hydroplaning of the feet, these are perfect for your time on the water.
Pros

Mix of leather and mesh

Cushioned Techlite sole material

Water and air ports in heel area

Slip-resistant

More comfort than the ordinary

Cons

No wide available

some say the leather tends to keep moisture in

6. Sperry Top-Sider Ivyfish

6. Sperry Top-Sider Ivyfish
No matter where you are you will be able to pull off some fine traction and a great look with the Sperry Ivyfish. Yes, this is an on-deck specific shoe made with style in mind. With leather 360 lacing you can walk on any deck knowing your feet are secure and slip-proof. They are also designed with a specific style in mind for those with a fashion sense.
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Fabric Side Panels
The mesh side panels assist in expelling water from the insides of the shoes. Water can easily come in through the rim, so this drainage system ensures none stays inside. It works much like the drainage ports you can find put into the soles of some boat shoes.

Padded Collar
A padded collar keeps the top of the foot cushioned and blister free. Blisters have been known to form from wet feet and the roughness of bare leather on the skin. With the soft padding, that is avoided.
Pros

360-degree leather lacing system

Minor arch and heel support

Stylish for casual wear

Made specific for on deck

Cons

Run big

7. Clarks Jocolin Vista

7. Clarks Jocolin Vista
If the Clarks Jocolin Vista was made for anything, it was made for comfort! The cushioned-soft technology with an ortholite insole will give you comfort like no other. Some say you will be walking on clouds. Also included is a soft mesh upper, which provides further comfort and breathability.
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Perforated Textile Upper
The perforated upper allows for much better breathability and regulates the temperature inside the shoe much more efficiently. A lower temperature inside the shoe means less perspiring and less moisture to worry about. These are great if you typically deal with sweaty feet.

Ethylene-vinyl acetate Sole
Because Eva is lightweight, and the upper is made of mesh rather than leather, the overall weight of the shoe is much less than the typical boat shoe. But, Eva isn't only light in weight. It is also super durable and cushion-like. That means you will be walking on a cushion that will hold up to hard surfaces.
Pros

Mesh upper with minor leather overlays

Lightweight EVa cushioned sole

Super breathable

Ortholite cushioned insole

Cons

Known to fit loose

8. Lacoste Dreyfus

8. Lacoste Dreyfus
Although these have a particular style, don't let that fool you as they are as diverse as the best. With a leather waterproof upper, your feet stay dry but are not the best for being on boat decks that become massively soaked. Water that enters the shoes does not exit as easily. They do well because they have a casual look, and are durable enough to use on a daily basis.
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Thin Rubber Sole
The thin rubber sole allows the shoe to be more flexible while still providing the same amount of protection. They are also able to provide slip-resistant traction, with less weight. The end result is a cushioned shoe with medium weight.

Made with style in mind
Style is a strong aspect with the Dreyfus. They are known to be worn on a daily basis from casual wear to dress style. With the slot-collar and perforated quarter with logo in plain sight, they sure are a unique pair.
Pros

All-around leather upper

Detailed design great for diverse style types

360 lace structure

durable, flexible outsole

Cons

Not so good in ventilation

9. Rockport Perth

9. Rockport Perth
The sole on the Rockport Perth is significantly more hardened and stiff than most boat shoes on this list. For this reason, they are great if you need a more supportive and stable platform. The material of the sole is synthetic rather than pure Eva which would be much softer. These, in fact, are not best for on-deck but an be used as so fairly effectively.
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Made to Dress-up or Down as needed
This is a shoe that has a bit of class in it and tends to be obtained as a dress shoe rather than by sailors themselves unless they have a formal occasion to attend to. You're more likely to see this shoe paired with a fancy get-up but even works as casual wear. The side lacing is purely aesthetic.

Textured synthetic rubber sole
The sole along with the upper leathger makes for a decent boat shoe for any occasion. With a textured sole, grip and traction will not be a problem whether on a slippery floor or boat deck.

10. Margaritaville Anchor

10. Margaritaville Anchor
The Anchor by Margaritaville is another shoe that utilizes both mesh and leather for the build of the upper. In this case, the mesh takes up much more real estate on the upper compared to the leather. This is unlike other similar shoes that have small mesh windows. This means much better air circulation, thus making it a highly effective shoe for being on board a boat.
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Dual elastic panels
The elastic panels allow for a more conforming fit. They span the rim and ensure that shoe is snug but not tight against your feet. It also ensures the shoe won't slip off as it has a slip-on design with no laces.

Sipped rubber outsole
A special outsole is always required for footwear that's made to go u against slippery, wet floor surfaces. This design allows for both traction on wet surfaces and wonderful traction of dry as well. They are great for walking on concrete, even on hot, sunny days as they don't retain heat at all.
Pros

Great traction

Large mesh portions on upper for air flow

Conforming fit

Super grippy oustole

Cons

Small for wide feet

There you have it. The highest rated and most effetive boat shoes available in 2017. Not only are they made to perform on board a boat, but they incorporate a bit of fashion and style as well. Some are made solely for on-dek use and some made to wear for formal events and on boat. Some of the more diverse options don’t exel at one thing though. The one’s that do stik to being solely boat shoes with fashion not considered tend to perform better when it really counts.

 

Criteria Used to Evaluate the Best Boat Shoes

 

Ability to be worn effectively on a wet surface

Since boat shoes are made to be worn while on a boat to prevent slipping and water retention, we included this dynamic in our research. What we found is that traction on wet surfaces comes from the material of the outer most part of the sole that comes into contact with the ground and the tread pattern. Sticky rubber, as they call it, is most effective. This can be from Vibram, be a mixture of EVA foam and much more.  Although, It wasn’t more the rubber than it was the herringbone-like outsole pattern. This pattern or outsole profile was one of the first designs for boat shoes by the first to ever create what we know as a boat shoe. The

Although, It wasn’t more the rubber than it was the herringbone-like outsole pattern. This pattern or outsole profile was one of the first designs for boat shoes by the first to ever create what we know as a boat shoe. The design mimics that of a dogs paw. The padding of a dogs paw has grooves that let it traverse slippery surfaces, like a boat deck when its wet, effectively. The pattern is still utilized today for its effectiveness and the design has been adapted among many shoes.

Ability to Air Out easily or Resist Moisture

Some boat shoe designs are made specifically to resist any sort of moisture intake or retention. Others are made to air out and dry quickly rather than preventing the intake of moisture in the first place. This boils down to the upper material they are made of mainly, but there are some other small factors that tip the scale.

Leather Upper – Leather is commonly seen in quality boat shoes as it’s natural ability to be water resistant. To further waterproof the material, oils are used to coat the leather. This prevents water from entering the shoe, although has its downsides. One of the downsides is that water can still enter the shoe from the top, trapping the water in. Although, this is what was first used in boat shoes when they were made for the Navy.

Synthetic or Mesh Upper – It is also common to see boat shoes with mesh uppers. This is because mesh is extremely breathable and provides the best possible drainage. This means water will easily get into your shoes but comes out just as easy. Becuase of the airflow, mesh uppers dry out quickly. It also allows for temperature regulation, keeping the feet cool. When they are cool, you won’t have to worry about excessive sweating. Consider the two types of materials, and make the decision based on where exactly you will be taking the shoes.

Some shoes will even have a mix of mesh and leather, which allow a bit of mixed results. Check the exact specs on the pairs above to see what would be best for you.

Fashion or Performance

Be careful what you are choosing. There is a line between fashion and performance but it may not always be apparent with boat shoes. As they rose oin popularity, more than just sailors were wearing them. They became a fashion trend and to this day are worn between professionals, for casual use and formally.

Although they were initially made for sailors you can now find them in various styles. Some have replaced their sneakers and slippers for a good pair of boat style shoes. Some wear them with or without socks, although if you are wearing for performance purposes, we do not recommend socks. On the other hand, you will find those that are true to the shoe. This means they will only wear the original made by Sperry. They will only wear legitimate boat shoes made to perform for the navy, which is how most would see them fit.

 

FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What is the best boat shoe?

In 2017, we recommend the Skechers Flagship, but there are so many great boat shoes that could have taken the top spot. It’s hard to choose, but according to wear tester feedback, it would have to be either the Dunham Captain, Bowman by Tommy Hilfiger and of course the Flagship by Skechers. As new models become evaluated, we will update out list to always provide the absolute top quality for the time.

Q: Is a Sperry a boat shoe, or what is it?

That is exactly what it is. Sperry is a brand, the first maker of actual boat shoes, and they still produce the original. Don’t be hesitant to pick up a pair of Sperry boat shoes. They are a quality and reputable brand.

Q: Can socks be worn with boat shoes?

Socks should only be worn with boat shoes if for fashion or everyday purposes. If worn on a boat for performance, they should be worn barefoot.

Q: How can I make my boat shoe more comfortable?

The best way to make your boat shoes more comfortable is to use orthotics. A custom insert or gel pad will do wonders while still maintaining the overall effectiveness of the boat shoe. There are many different inserts to choose from for an array of different uses. Some boat shoes come with removable inserts, to easily accomodate for a custom.

Q: How long does it usually take to break in boat shoes?

If you’re wearing leather boat shoes it may take a few wears but a minimalistic type made primarily of mesh may not need breaking in at all. Consider the build of the shoe and the material as a more heavy shoe will generally take longer to break in properly.

Here’s how to make minor repairs to your damaged shoes.

Are blisters hindering your time on deck?

If you’re dealing with Plantar Fasciitis, know this.

Sources

  1. hespokestyle, boat-shoes-history-men,
  2. gq.com, how-to-wear-boat-shoes,
  3. businessinsider, history-of-the-boat-shoe,
  4. sperry.com, mens-shoes-boat-shoes,
  5. en.wikipedia.org, wiki/Boat_shoe,
  6. gentlemansgazette, boat-shoes-guide-buy-style-history-care/,