Best Boat Shoes Reviewed & Rated
Boat shoes, you may have guessed by the name, were designed specifically for walking on slippery decks for those out at sea. They were designed originally for sailors who used them for the fact they were easy to air out, included waterproof leather or breathable mesh uppers, and were non-slip. Although designed for the seas, they soon began to catch on as a fashion trend and today are worn by all types of people for almost any occasion.
Boat shoes are being worn as casual and dress shoes by men and women, boys and girls. Their versatility makes them wearable in just about any situation with just the right look and feel. The rubber insoles provide comfort for walking all day and with virtually endless colors, styles and designs, they’ve transcended the sailor’s working shoe and have become popular and purposeful for thousands. Some models also have removable cushioned inserts so you can extend their wearability even longer. From one of the original brands, Sperry to more surprising names like Lacoste and Timberland, hundreds of companies have jumped on the Boat Shoe bandwagon. So whether functionality or fashion is more important to you, you’ve found a shoe that satisfies both interests!
- Sperry Top-Sider Sea Kite
- 100% Leather
- Rubber Sole
- Clarks Jocolin Vista
- Cloud Steppers
- Rubber Sole
- Skechers Flagship
- Lightweight Fabric
- Synthetic Sole
The style of boat shoes practically screams casual but refined comfort. They’re not a sneaker but feel like one. They’re not a dress shoe but they look great with business casual attire. They’re not a sandal, yet they fit right in at the beach. Along with the comfort and style of the shoe, any choice you make from our list will also give you the versatility you are looking for.
10 Best Boat Shoes
2. Sperry Top-Sider Sea Kite
Not only are these for the sailor on deck, but they are fashionable enough to be used for casual wear. This means from sea to shore to indoors and all around, you will find the perfect use for the Sperry top-sider Sea Kite.
Slip Resistant Outsole
The outsole is specifically designed to prevent slipping and falling. Sperry uses their own Wave-Siping, which is a patterning on the outsole that leads water away from the shoe.
Cost and Value
Well within the mid-range of prices for the list, these are really worth checking out. They have a very casual style while their performance can only be described as excellent. You’ll also love the breathability of these shoes along with that comfort. Happy, happy feet for the price.
- Water resistant leather upper
- Mesh windows for airflow
- Comfortably cushioned
- Slip-resistant sole
- Stylish and casual
- Textured insole = irritating
- Laces wear out quickly
3. Clarks Jocolin Vista
The perforated upper allows for a lot of breathing for your foot and temperature regulation too. A lower temperature inside the shoe means less perspiring and less moisture to worry about.
Because EVA is lightweight, the overall weight of the shoe is very light. 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.
Cost and Value
These boat shoes are the least expensive on our list. For a remarkable price, you get cushioning and stability along with a soft and breathable upper. All in a stylish, ready for the deck, shoe.
- Mesh upper
- Lightweight EVA sole
- Super breathable
- Ortholite cushioned insole
- Fits loose
1. Skechers Flagship
Work all day, play all day comfort is what to expect here. The extra cushioning on the inside and a rubber outsole for shock absorption and grip ensure you can do both.
Lightweight Fabric Upper
The fabric upper on this shoe is very breathable and it allows air circulation and temperature regulation for your feet. Lightweight mesh means it dries fast too, so go ahead and enjoy that sail.
Cost & Value
The Flagship is on the average side when it comes to cost but its true value comes from the diverse uses you can get out of them, the lightweight, airy and dryable mesh, and the comfort built right in.
- Fabric Upper for Breathability
- Low heel for natural foot angle
- All-around light in weight
- Cushioned Resalyte sole
- Energy return footbed
- Lack of arch support
4. Skechers Seashore
The Goga Max return energy insole found in these boat shoes is an injection molding and memory retaining technology developed by Skechers that provides stability and comfort while making you feel light on your feet.
The same injection molded technology found in the insole is also in the midsole providing that extra bit of cushion and preventing compression. Your feet will feel like you’ve been walking on tiny springs, they’re so light.
Cost and Value
Your pocketbook will be happy with the price of these stylish shoes. Your feet will also sing your praises for giving them a molded, cushioned surface to live and work on all day. You can walk or work on your feet all day in these shoes and still look relaxed and casual. How can you lose?
- Energy insole
- Resalyte midsole
- Soft fabric lining
- Slip resistant
- Breathable upper
- Wide sizes limited
5. Dunham Captain
With its EVA foam midsole and footbed, you will experience truly on the go comfort in these shoes. The spongy softness of the EVA also allows this shoe to flex without breaking.
Shoes can be hard to find if you have wide or flat feet. These shoes come in wide options and extended sizes ensuring that the perfect fit is a click away.
On the higher end of price ranges for this list, this shoe gives you quality to warrant the investment. The shoe will outlast the laces. Just have a second pair of your favorite laces ready and you'll be going strong with these for a long time.
- Lightweight design
- Water resistance leather material
- EVA Cushioned Midsole
- Removable footbed
- Eva and memory foam footbed
Laces are difficult to keep tied
6. Columbia Bahama Vent PFG
Not only do these shoes contain synthetic mesh to allow for moisture to escape and evaporate, but they also have holes at the sides of the sole to let extra trapped water find its way of the shoe and away from your feet.
With a special rubber outsole that's made to expel water and prevent hydroplaning of the feet, these are perfect for your time on the water.
Cost and Value
These shoes fall in the mid-range of boat shoes on our list. For your money, you are receiving superior slip-resistance while keeping your feet comfortable. The thoughtful design also ensures that your feet stay as dry as possible in wet conditions.
- Mix of leather and mesh
- Cushioned sole
- Water and air ports in heel area
- More comfort than the ordinary
- May retain water
7. Lacoste Dreyfus
The thin rubber sole allows this shoe to be flexible while still providing slip-resistant protection. They are also able to provide great traction, with less weight. The end result is a cushioned shoe with medium weight.
Made with style in mind
These stylish shoes can be worn on a daily basis with casual wear, business dress or to add to that night on the town look. With the slot-collar, perforated quarter and Lacoste logo in plain sight, they make for a unique shoe.
Cost and Value
This is one of the more expensive items on our list. For the price though, you are getting Lacoste’s unique style and its ability to go from casual to dressed up in the same boat shoe. The shoe is all leather and the sole is durable and flexible.
- All-around leather upper
- Detailed design
- Great for diverse style types
- 360 lace structure
- durable, flexible outsole
- Poor ventilation
8. Sperry Top-Sider Ivyfish
The mesh side panels help expel water from the insides of the shoes. This drainage detail ensures your feet stay dryer. Mesh also help keep your feet cool and comfortable.
A padded collar keeps the top of the foot cushioned and blister free. Padding also increases the comfort of the shoe generally, especially in bare feet.
Cost and Value
These are on the more expensive end of our list. But for the investment, you are getting a shoe that was designed for boating. Sturdy, slip-resistant soles and sides that allow water to pass out of the shoe will leave your feet feeling comfortable and secure no matter how rogue the waves get.
- 360-degree leather lacing system
- Minor arch and heel support
- Stylish for casual wear
- Designed for on deck
- Fits large
9. Margaritaville Anchor
Dual elastic panels span the rim and ensure that the shoe is snug but not tight against your feet. The shoe will conform to you, ensuring that your foot stays in place and your sea legs stay strong.
Sipped rubber outsole
A special outsole is always required for footwear that's made for slippery, wet surfaces. This design allows for both traction on wet surfaces and wonderful traction on dry as well. They are great for walking on concrete, even on hot, sunny days as they don't retain heat at all.
Cost and Value
These boat shoes are at the lower end of shoes on our list. For a little investment, you really are getting a superior quality shoe for boating. Excellent traction and walk all day comfort even in summer on concrete will keep your feet happy.
- Great traction
- Great air flow
- Conforming fit
- Slip on ease
- Fits narrow
10. Rockport Perth
This is a shoe that is just classy enough to be worn as a dress shoe but it also works well in a laid-back, casual, jeans and t-shirt outfit. The side lacing is a purely aesthetic and stylish detail.
Textured synthetic rubber sole
The sole along with the leather upper makes for a good boat shoe for any occasion. With a textured sole, you get good traction and great stability.
Cost and Value
Rockports are famous for quality built shoes and the Perth is no different. It is the most expensive shoe in our line up but worth the money for the versatility of this boat shoe. Stylish enough to be casual and dressy at the same time, you will want to wear these everywhere.
- Versatile style
- High quality build
- Good traction
- EVA footbed
- Hand sewn
- Sizes run narrow
Whether you are on deck or on shore, these 10 shoes above are the best of the classic, always in style, boat shoe. Not only are they made to perform on board a boat, but they come in a more versatile range than one might expect, from casual canvas to dressy leather. Some designed with navigating the seas in mind and other designed for onshore comfort, you won’t go wrong with this selection. Some will perform better on deck, of course, but all will leave you with comfortable feet at the end of the day.
Criteria for Evaluating the Best Boat Shoes
Grip & Traction
If you’re a sailor you know it doesn’t take a very rough sea to get a deck good and wet. Moderate, windswept swells will do the job quite well. Boats are made to deal with that water so why wouldn’t your shoes be the same? Boat shoes, originally created by Sperry, were made for sailors who need superior grip and traction while working on deck. It’s not hard to understand why a flat leather sole just wouldn’t cut it on deck.
Grip and traction can be added to a shoe in three ways:
- First, your foot must stay inside the shoe. You can have a great sole but if your shoe flies off your foot, that sole isn’t going to help you. We looked for shoes that would fit the back of the footwell so that even slip on versions would remain secure.
- Secondly, grip and traction are created by the patterns printed on the outsole. Chevron patterns do a great job at direct water away from the sole so it’s not underfoot. All of the shoes on our list will provide that traction, though some to a lesser degree.
- Finally, the material used to make the outsole is supremely important. This material is usually a soft form of rubber known as sticky rubber. It has a little give to it so that it grips when you wear them. It does this by spreading out slightly, forcing water out and giving your foot a larger surface area to hold on. A good boat shoe will be made with a soft, slightly pliable sole to provide you with the very best defense against slick, wet surfaces.
Sticky rubber forms a great sole but other materials also work well on a boat shoe. These include gum rubber (like you find on the bottom of rain boots), rubber with aluminum oxide embedded to create a rough surface, and neoprene. Please remember that soles built for traction in winter will use different material in the outsole and a different tread pattern mainly because they are meant to prevent snow build up in the tread and to cut into the snow. Winterized soles may damage your deck and you don’t want that. Choose a sole that is meant for water resistance, rather than snow, ice, oil, or grease.
There are two ways that boat shoes are designed to deal with water in the upper. Most boat shoe designs are made specifically to resist any sort of moisture intake or retention. Others are made to air out and dry quickly. The material used in the upper will essentially tell you which design was used. Canvas, mesh and synthetic weaves are designed to dry quickly and to allow water to escape while waterproofed leathers are designed to prevent, as much as possible, water from entering the shoe, to begin with. A third design is a hybrid, with some leather and some mesh parts to the upper, giving you dual function water handling.
- Leather Upper: Leather is a common material used in boat shoes because it has some natural water resistance. To provide further water protection, oils are used to coat the leather. Oiled leathers are fairly effective in preventing water from entering the shoe. There is a flip side to this though. If water comes in over the top, it will not find an easy way out unless there are other design elements, like ports (holes) in the side which can allow the water to escape. Oiled leathers are a common element and were part of the original Sperry designed boat shoe.
- Synthetic or Mesh Upper – It is also common to see boat shoes with mesh uppers. Mesh is extremely breathable and provides great drainage because of its open weave. Water will easily get into your shoes but it can also escape just as easily. Another benefit of mesh is airflow – mesh uppers dry out quickly. It has nothing to do with sailing really but you’ll appreciate that airflow also keeps your feet cool. This is especially great if you deal with excessive sweating.
You should consider which type of design (and therefore the material) is best for you. The decision is a personal one. Feet that sweat? Canvas. Feet that itch when wet? Leather will help keep them dry. Need to keep them on your feet through a wet shift on deck? Leather may work better for you. Have some time to dry them out before the next wear? Canvas will work. Ambivalent? Great, then you can go straight to the next consideration – fashion or performance?
Fashion or Performance
Another factor that we considered, and you should too, is whether a shoe is constructed for performance or for its style. Both are legitimate considerations in a shoe and the choice will entirely depend on why you are buying a boat shoe.
If you are going to be working (or fishing or lounging or sightseeing) on the deck of a ship or boat, you may be more concerned about the performance of the shoe. If you aren’t going near the water but you want to look great and be comfortable, you may be more concerned about the appearance of the shoe and how well that appearance will hold up. Our reviews give you the important information you need to determine whether the shoe is a high-performing, designed for the sailor, stick to the deck shoe or whether it’s really more of a super comfortable choice for looking great in those new jeans shoe. We have shoes that will do either well, we also have shoes that will do both at the same time, proving that you do not have to sacrifice style to get great function.
Either way, you also want to be comfortable and boat shoes are comfortable. Some people have even replaced their sneakers and slippers with a good pair of boat shoes because they are casual and comfortable and not just good at preventing slips.
Unlike a lot of summer footwear, boat shoes can be worn with socks even when it’s hot. Some people prefer the socks and some like the barefoot feel they were designed for. If you wearing them for sailing, however, we do recommend that you wear them without socks as you will find much better performance in very wet conditions.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What is the best boat shoe?
A: 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. According to wear tester feedback, a top spot would be any of the Dunham Captain or the Flagship or the Performance both by Skechers. All of the shoes on our list are great though, so you can’t go wrong. As new models are evaluated, we will update our list to always provide the absolute top quality at the time.
Q: Is a Sperry a boat shoe, or what is it?
A: That is exactly what it is. Sperry is a brand, the original maker of boat shoes, and they produce a wide variety of boat shoes. Don’t be hesitant to pick up a pair of Sperry boat shoes including the three that are on our list (have we told you how great they are?). They are a quality and reputable brand.
Q: Can socks be worn with boat shoes?
A: Socks should only be worn with boat shoes if you are wearing them for fashion or for everyday purposes. If worn on a boat for performance, they should be worn barefoot. This is because a wet sock can cause blisters and friction burns on your feet as well as being a source of direct heat loss from your body, all things you want to avoid.
Q: How can I make my boat shoe more comfortable?
A: 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 accommodate for a custom.
Q: How long does it usually take to break in boat shoes?
A: 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 heavier shoe will generally take longer to break in.
Q: Water and leather are like oil and water. Won’t wearing leather boat shoes sailing ruin them?
A: Not at all. The leather in a good boat shoe is treated to deal with water and dampness. Still, there are things you can do to care for your leather shoes to ensure they always maintain their best condition. First, keep them clean with a leather cleaner, and conditioned with a conditioner and let them dry out fully after use.
Q: Help! I love the shoes I bought but they’re a little tight. What can I do?
A: If the shoes are made of a material that can be stretched you can try to break them in a little or you can stretch them with a proper stretching form that will stretch the shoe evenly without hurting your feet. If you find you have a slightly hard to fit foot due to width or length, investing in a shoe stretcher might be a great idea for you!
Q: Are boat shoes and water shoes the same thing?
A: No. Boat shoes are designed to work well in wet conditions like working on a boat. Water shoes are designed to protect your feet while you are walking on the bottom of a body of water, like a lake, stream, or even the ocean, usually, because you are participating in a water sport. You can see our reviews of the best water shoes, and the best water shoes for toddlers.