Ask any two sailors about their favourite boat shoes and the answers are likely to vary as widely as the craft they sail. Rupert Holmes takes a look at 10 of the best deck shoes on the market
The traditional leather deck shoe has long been the mainstay of most manufacturer’s range of boat shoes. However, trainer style options tend to offer more technical features that improve comfort, support and grip.
These deck trainers are therefore making ever deeper inroads into the market and are not simply a fashion choice. Technical shoes include flexible mesh panels to give ventilation in hot weather and allow water to drain quickly if you get a wave over the shoe.
At the same time, extra cushioning vastly improves comfort, even with effective lacing systems that help ensure a very snug fit. Designers have far more latitude for creating soles that will grip at the most extreme angles, even when the foot is not flat on the deck.
Trainer style boat shoes also often have sticky rubber soles, which vastly improves grip on wet surfaces. Anyone who hasn’t tried sticky rubber soles will be surprised by their effectiveness.
So, what’s the best boat shoe option? Of course sense of style will have a bearing on your final choice, but anyone who spends a lot of time on or around the water is likely to want several pairs.
For instance, I have traditional leather deck shoes, plus two levels of technical trainer types, one a fairly closed (and therefore warm) design for general use.
The other has plenty of ventilation and quick water drainage for hot summer weather and sailing in warmer climes – it’s remarkable how cool they feel, even in Caribbean sun.
Best boat shoes available now
Zhik Fuze boat shoes
This Australian company’s kit tends to be at the top end of the price range, but that hasn’t stopped it drawing plenty of advocates.
They argue that, if your time off work and on the water is limited, a little extra investment to ensure you’re as comfortable as possible, even when the weather turns nasty, is easily justified.
The Fuze deck shoes are very lightweight, flexible and comfortable, with excellent support. A one-way drainage system is incorporated in the sole.
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Gill 2020 Race Trainer
This British company has long offered top-quality kit at competitive prices.
The 2020 Race Trainer is designed for a secure fit and is made of breathable materials, including a mesh lining with minimal water absorbency.
The moulded insole and outsole both have fast drainage and there’s extra toe protection to reduce risk of injury.
Musto Dynamic Pro ll boat shoes
This technical boat shoe from Musto is designed for both yachting and dinghy sailing.
The sole uses sticky rubber for maximum grip, while the TPU welded overlay along the sides gives excellent lateral support.
EVA is used for the mid-sole to enhance comfort and protection.
The mesh construction dries quickly and provides plenty of ventilation, making these trainers ideal for summer use when the anti-microbial protection will also be beneficial.
Helly Hansen Women’s W Ahiga V4 Hydropower
Helly Hansen is a giant in the outdoor clothing world and has heaps of experience producing marine gear.
It’s perhaps no surprise then that, at the time of writing, these were the top-selling women’s boating shoes on Amazon.
They are optimised for summer use and are very lightweight, extremely quick drying and highly breathable.
The siped HellyGrip rubber outsole is designed to maximise grip, while the high-grade EVA midsole promotes maximum comfort.
Chatham Bermuda II G2 boat shoes
These are an absolute classic design, in waxed breathable nubuck with all-round lacing and a razor cut rubber sole.
They are unlined, which means there’s no fabric that can absorb foot odours if they are worn without socks.
Dubarry Regatta boat shoes
The Dubarry name is synonymous with sailing footwear and has an outstanding reputation for durability.
The Regatta deck shoe combines elements of a traditional style, including leather and nubuck, with technical fabrics.
The result is excellent water resistance, reasonably quick drying and excellent protection against wind chill.
A dry soft and dry fast finish means that, unlike many leather boat shoes, these won’t become hard and inflexible after a dunking in the sea.
Quayside Sydney boat shoes
This long-running, popular and highly rated traditional boat shoe is made from oiled nubuck with hand stitching and all-round lacing.
A cushioned foot bed improves comfort, while the rubber sole offers decent grip. Discreet mesh side gussets improve breathability.
Lizard Regatta boat shoes
This innovative Italian brand produces a range of excellent technical sailing shoes and sea boots.
The Regatta Shoe has a non-slip rubber outsole that provides excellent grip and is shaped to improve side protection.
The outer material is of a breathable mesh that promotes very quick drying and allows water to drain fast.
There’s also a removable anatomical footbed for extra comfort. The lacing system is designed for secure fastening.
Keen Women’s Solr Closed Toe Water Shoe
Although many technical boat shoes are great at shedding water and are quick drying, there are times that a closed shoe just simply isn’t what you want.
However, flip-flops and open-toe sandals are a big injury risk thanks to the number of deck fittings on most yachts – stubbing your toes in a properly serious fashion is all too easy.
Keen is one of the very few manufacturers with a product that addresses this problem.
It has a water-resistant upper with recycled plastic used for the webbing, plus a comfortable quick-drying lining.
The non-marking rubber sole has deep drainage channels, plus siped zones to improve grip.
Tribord Unisex Yacht Race boat shoes
These may have a bargain basement price, but they don’t skimp on quality.
Decathlon’s technical shoes are lightweight, with a mesh upper that benefits from a plasma coating that reduces water absorption by 40 per cent.
The sole is made of non-marking rubber, with deep drainage channels and an effective non-slip pattern.
Tribord Sailing 500 boat shoes
This is another classic choice from Decathlon. It’s made of flexible and durable full grain salt-water resistant leather, with a non-marking siped rubber sole.
There’s a padded leather insole and tongue, but no fabric linings that absorb foot odours.