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 and Phil Sampson take a look at some of the best deck shoes on the market.
Staying safe while looking good is not always possible in today’s hi-vis health and safety conscious world. Happily though there’s plenty of footwear manufacturers out there who have succeeded in bucking the trend with shoes which are not only super-safe in potentially hazardous environments but tick all the fashion boxes too. And best of all, nowhere is this more apparent than when it comes to boat shoes.
The marine scene poses a number of unique footwear challenges. Firstly, there’s the question of how well they perform in both wet and dry conditions – will the uppers keep you snug and warm when it’s raining, for example, or will they overheat your toes on one of those hot and sunny summer days?
Slip resistance is vital too, for there’s no point in having boat shoes which turn heads if they also turn into a pair of skates whenever the deck gets swamped by a wave. Don’t forget that non-marking soles are also essential if the ire of the boat owner is to be avoided.
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Then there’s the question of what type of shoe do you actually want in terms of their form and function. Here, the choice extends way beyond the traditional and much loved leather deck shoe through to latest-generation trainer style footwear made of super-fast drying materials and sporting all manner of performance enhancing features from in-built impact-reducing cushioning to water-repelling sole designs.
To help you pick your way through the mire of footwear choice, we’ve selected six of the best boat shoes out there right now for you to consider.
From entry-level standards to stylish top-end selections, we’ve gone for some of the shoes we believe will deliver excellent service out on the water come what may.
Traditional boat shoes
Austell deck shoe
The Austell deck shoe is about as traditional a deck shoe as you can get. Featuring 100% chocolate brown leather uppers and non-slip rubber soles, these shoes have been crafted to look great on and off the boat.
In creating its Austell deck shoe, Crew Clothing have paid total respect to the enduring appeal of this long-time design classic. So don’t expect anything fancy, it won’t be there.
But what you do get in return for your investment are a high quality pair of shoes built for purpose and built to last.
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Chatham Galley II men’s leather boat shoes
Available in five colourways, including a distinctive navy and tan option, the Chatham Galley II comes in whole sizes from 6 to 12.
Chatham tell us its Galley II design is athletic-inspired, and with its sporty looks and use of contrasting materials and colours, we can see exactly what they mean.
The Galley II also has anti-bacterial Sole Spring Poron performance cushioning for shock absorption and maximum comfort. Completing the picture inside the shoe, and enhancing its overall quality appeal, is a textile lining.
RRP: £69 / $110
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.
RRP: £55 / $37
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.
RRP: £110 / $170
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.
RRP: £139 / $199
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.
RRP: £50 / $100
Modern deck shoes
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.
RRP: £110 / $119
NRS Men’s Vibe Water Shoes
Available in a full range of half sizes from UK 7.5 to 12.5, the NRS Vibe Water Shoe has been designed to be worn with or without socks.
To achieve this, the interior has been constructed to ensure barefoot comfort by way of low-profile seams and a non-absorbent EVA foam footbed which offers added support without absorbing water.
Any H2O which does manage to find its way inside is released via drainage ports in the instep. The uppers are made from quick drying 1000D Cordura nylon and the non-marking rubber sole features a durable siped, sticky rubber rand outsole.
RRP: £60 / $50
Sperry Authentic Original Float Boat Shoes
The Sperry Authentic Original Float Boat shoe is guaranteed to *ahem* float your boat. And even if the water does manage to get in, these shoes are more than up to the job as they are made from super-lightweight injected EVA, which floats.
In fact, Sperry Authentics have been designed to be water-ready and all about protecting you and your feet whenever you get wet.
To do this, they have strategically placed drainage ports on the waterline to help speed drying, vent holes in the uppers to ensure breathable comfort, and moulded wave-siping incorporated into the outsoles to provide sure-footed traction in all conditions.
RRP: £45 / $44.95
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 II 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.
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.
RRP: £119 / $158
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.
RRP: £45 / $50
Best women’s boat shoes
Chatham Pippa II G2 women’s leather boat shoes
Chatham has more than 30 years of shoemaking under its belt and so confident is the company of its Pippa II G2 women’s leather boat shoes that each pair comes with a two-year manufacturer’s warranty.
Offered in half sizes from 3 to 7, with sizes 8 and 9 also available, the shoe comes in a choice of three distinctive upper/sole colourways to match your sails and your mood!
Crafted from premium washable leather with non-slip rubber soles, rust-proof eyelets and rot-proof laces, the Pippa II G2 also features Chatham’s new anti-bacterial Sole Spring Poron performance cushioning for maximum comfort and shock absorption.
RRP: £105 / $165
Tribord Cruise 100 Leather Women’s Boat Shoes
While billed as leather boat shoes, the uppers of Decathlon’s moccasin-style Tribord Cruise 100s also incorporate a thin lightweight mesh for increased breathability. As such, they are ideal for wearing without socks.
The shoes are fully laced all round to ensure a good, snug fit, and feature anti-rubbing protective strips and non-slip and micro-grooved natural rubber outsoles.
The outsole is also thicker at the heel for cushioning and comfort. Resistant to salt water, Tribord 100 boat shoes have detachable cotton insoles for easy cleaning and a small leather tab at the back helps make them easy to get on and off.
RRP: £29.99 / $35
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.
RRP: £70 / $80
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.
RRP: £75 / $110
Looking for more protection? Check out our guide to the best waterproof boat shoes on the market right now.
Need a wider fit? Check out our guide to the best boat shoes for wide feet.
Didn’t find what you’re looking for? Head to Amazon’s dedicated boating page for more marine products.