Those of you who spend a lot of time on your boat know the importance of a good boat shoe. Besides looking great, boat shoes allow you to walk on a wet deck without the fear of slipping. On top of this, the best boat shoes also feel comfortable on your feet for all-day wearing.
When choosing a new pair of boat shoes, factors like fit, water-resistance, traction, and durability all come into play. Not to mention the perfect style, which is very important for all top rated deck shoes.
To make your choice a bit easier, we carefully picked out every model featured in our best boat shoe reviews. These awesome shoes check all the boxes we mentioned earlier, making them perfect for your boating sessions. In addition, be sure to check out our buying guide below if you want extra tips on how to recognize the best deck shoes and make the right decision.
How to Choose A Pair Of Boat Shoes – Buying Guide
A good fit is a vital part of any shoe. With boat shoes, you want to ensure that they are a great fit because traction and grip depend on it. Otherwise, you could find yourself with plenty of foot problems such as sore feet or blisters. Having shoes that don’t fit properly can ruin your day, which is the thing you want to avoid when you’re out there on a boat.
If you have the option of two shoe sizes and one is going to feel a bit tight and the other will feel a little loose, then it’s better going for the slightly larger model. Boating shoes usually have plenty of lace that will allow you to have a great fit so that the shoes stay securely on your feet.
One way to ensure a great fit for your shoes is to get them from a reputable shoe brand. There is a reason why some shoemakers become a lot bigger than others, and it all starts with quality. All the brands that we have listed here have a reputation for making great shoes. That’s important as it gives you a level of trust knowing that it will be a well-made product.
Many people have made the mistake of buying poorly made shoes thinking they’d be okay, only to find their feet hurting after only a short period. Wearing shoes from a well-known company will not only give you a better chance of your shoes fitting properly, but they will also last longer as well.
Another aspect when it comes to fit is whether or not to wear socks. This is something that you have to bear in mind before buying them. If you regularly wear thick socks, buying your regular size in deck shoes might not be the best idea. Before choosing, you need to determine whether you’ll be wearing socks or not.
If you’re the type of person whose feet get sore quickly, then you want to look for additional features such as padding under the foot and at the collar of the shoe. This will give you extra protection and an extra level of comfort as well.
Once you have your shoes it’s important, as with any shoe, to break them in so you avoid being uncomfortable. If you’re going to be on the boat all day or out all night, wearing new shoes might cause some problems. To break them in, you should try wearing them for shorter periods before wearing them for a full day.
The main reason that these shoes have become so popular has a lot to do with their style. Boating shoes have very similar design features – most are made with a rubber sole with the rest of the shoe being made out of leather. They have a moccasin toe with the cross laces over the top and the two or three eyelets across the side.
Thanks to this design, you’ll find a lot of different tips about where you could wear your shoes and what you should wear them with. One of them is the notorious sock question which we’ll expand on later. Thankfully there are plenty of ‘invisible’ socks out there, which can give you the best of both worlds.
Besides this, there are plenty of other bits of common advice when it comes to deck shoes and style. One of the biggest is certainly where you can wear them. As the name suggests, these shoes are made for wearing while you’re out there on a boat.
The good news is there are many other situations when it’s acceptable to wear them – at the beach, when traveling or to the office (if you have a more casual dress code). The only place when they don’t really work is formal occasions when you’re wearing a suit and in the winter as they would look out of place.
These shoes are dynamic when it comes to style and look equally great whether you’re wearing jeans or shorts. They also suit people who are wearing chinos. They really are a shoe for most occasions, except when you need to look your best at a smart-dress occasion.
Smart-casual is a term that confuses a lot of people, but there aren’t many fashion items that define the term quite like a boat shoe. They are smart and stylish but lack the proper formality of an office shoe or a shoe you’d wear to a black-tie event. Colors on the brown scale are by far the most popular choice when it comes to a boat shoe and they go with many outfits. Other colors are available and you just need to ensure that these match your outfit.
Once you have everything worked out in terms of the styling of your boat shoe, you want to make sure that you know how to tie them correctly. The laces on a boat shoe can be a lot different from other shoes, so you could do with learning a new way to tie them (besides your usual method). That bow knot method is fine as long as you have enough lace, but options like fishtail or barrel knots might look a little smarter.
While you might be looking for a boat shoe so that you don’t slip on the deck, they are also a dynamic shoe that can be used for many different occasions. They can fit into many different styles, so you are sure to find something that suits you.
Size is an obvious factor when buying a boat shoe, perhaps even the most important one. It’s possible that you will be on your feet all day, so the size of the shoes is very important.
When considering what size is best for you there are a few things to think about. Firstly, you will want to make sure that there’s a little bit of space between your big toe and the top of your shoes (about half an inch), as this will ensure that there is enough room in the shoes so that your toes don’t rub.
When talking about the ball of your foot, it should be able to fit snugly into the widest part of your shoe. If it feels like it is pinching the widest part of your foot, it’s likely that you need a bigger shoe. Obviously, the greatest test for this is to check for any tightness or gaps in the foot when you’re walking. If there is, you should look into getting another size.
Finally, the back should be pressed against the ankle (but not too tightly) when you’re wearing the shoe. If it’s loose, it will cause movement in the shoe which, in turn, can cause blisters. The shoe should be tight to your ankle but without feeling restrictive.
If you’re hesitant about buying boat shoes online, don’t worry. Places like Amazon have specified sizing guides that will show you whether you are buying the correct size. In addition, there is also plenty of information about size in the reviews and questions section. If you’re not happy with the size or fit of your shoes, you can send them back and get the next size up or down until you find the perfect shoe.
Boat shoes have to be well-made and hard-wearing due to the conditions that they are subjected to. If you’re on a boat, your shoes are going to be exposed to the harsh conditions that saltwater brings. When you’re off the boat, they need to be durable enough for walking and everyday use.
One of the greatest things about a boat shoe is that they are made of leather which is an incredibly strong material. If you care for it, your shoes will last you for years. The uppers are also specially treated so that they are able to repel water and be stain-proof as well. This is an important aspect to look out for when buying your boat shoes.
Another feature to look out for are the eyelets. They’ll probably be the only feature of the shoe made out of metal, so you want to make sure that they are corrosion-resistant (because of the saltwater). Otherwise, you could be left with a good looking boat shoe with eyelets that are rusting away. As for the laces, they are often made of leather which makes them very strong and durable.
When it comes to any type of shoes, their durability is in the stitching. This is why you want to ensure that it’s to the highest of standards. Having a hand-stitched shoe from a top brand is perhaps the greatest way of ensuring this, but it’s also important to check the product reviews and see what other people are saying about the quality of the shoe.
If you’re wearing shoes that absorb water and don’t dry quickly, it could make for a very uncomfortable experience. You’ll find that your feet are constantly wet, which is the exact reason why you need proper boat shoes to overcome the problem.
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Boat shoes do this in one of two ways. Either they have uppers meant to resist moisture from seeping in, or they allow water to come in but then dry very quickly. The former does this thanks to water-resistant leather, while the latter will do this by having mesh at the sides of the shoe.
Leather has a good amount of natural water resistance already, as it is hard for any moisture to come through it. On boat shoes, this leather is generally treated with a special oil coating to improve its water-resistance. The disadvantage to this though is that if water comes over the top of your shoe there is nowhere for it to go.
Mesh uppers take a different approach, as water can come into the shoe easily if it goes beyond the sole (so there isn’t really any water resistance at all). However, it has the ability to dry very quickly because the water will run out of the shoe as soon as it comes in.
Which option you choose comes down to personal preference. If you’re not going to be treading through any water, it’s best to go for a leather shoe. On the other hand, if you’re working hard while you’re on a boat, a mesh shoe will dry quickly and allow your foot to have a lot more breathing space.
When talking about a boat shoe, it has to perform well in a wet and slippery environment on your boat. Their job is to feel comfortable while you are walking around the boat and, more importantly, give you enough traction so that you don’t slip on slippery boat surfaces.
If you’re looking at deck shoes from a fashion point of view, you won’t care too much about how they perform in wet conditions (as long as they look good and last you for a long time). Whatever the reason you want a boat shoe, they got their name because they are made for using on boats.
For best performance, you want your boat shoes to have a rubber sole and a high level of traction. This will ensure that you don’t slip while you’re on deck. If you’re sailing, you want a shoe that isn’t going to restrict your movement and one that will feel comfortable throughout the day.
In addition, there is no point in having shoes that perform if they break easily, so having well-made shoes is paramount. If you’re looking to further enhance performance, boat shoes are best used without socks because this will prevent your foot from slipping while you’re wearing them.
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Grip And Traction
The reason all boat shoes have rubber soles is so that they offer enough traction and grip while you’re on the boat. When smooth boat surfaces get wet, they become problematic for most shoes to deal with. Because of this, it’s vital that your boat shoes have a better grip than your average shoe. Boat decks are often wet – that’s a fact that everyone has to consider. Due to this, you should follow a few important tips to ensure that you’re getting the best possible traction.
One of the first considerations (and it seems like an obvious one), is to get a shoe that won’t come off. If you’re working around the boat then there may be times where you’re putting stress on your feet. You need to make sure that the heel of the shoe is tight to your ankle and doesn’t slip off. Also, not wearing socks will add to the grip of your shoe.
Having a smooth rubber on the sole wouldn’t be ideal. Imagine the bottom of your shoe to be like a car tire. You can see it in racing, where they have tires with tracks and grooves to have a better grip on wet surfaces. When looking at shoes you need to see the same thing – tracks on the sole. They push out the water so the shoe makes contact with the surface properly.
On the outsole, you often can find a softer rubber which will give you additional grip on the sides of your feet. This softer rubber will spread out slightly upon impact and make a large surface area for an improved grip. When you’re looking for soles, you want to make sure they are not going to mark your boat. Thankfully, the soft rubber of boat shoes generally doesn’t leave any marks.
While you may look at these boat shoes and be tempted to pick them on style alone, you also need to think about function. If you’re going to be active around a boat, grip and traction should always come before style. It doesn’t matter how good you look if you’re slipping all over the place.
Q: Can You Wear Socks With Boat Shoes?
The general rule with boating shoes is that you shouldn’t wear them with socks. The two fashion exceptions are when you’re wearing long pants or if you’re wearing short socks. Full-length socks simply don’t look good on boating shoes, which is the main reason why many people avoid them.
There are also safety and comfort considerations related to wearing socks on a boat. Firstly, there is a good chance that you’re going to be getting your feet wet at some point. Wearing wet socks and keeping your feet damp will make you a lot more prone to blisters and soreness.
Secondly, socks make it easier for your feet to slip in and out of a shoe. While this may be seen as a good thing if you just want to throw some shoes on and walk around town, you want to avoid this on a boat. If you’re on a boat, the only way that you want your shoes to come off is if you specifically untie them yourself. Therefore, not wearing socks is safer.
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It’s quite clear then that if you’re on a boat then you should not be wearing socks. Not only will you look better, but the shoe will sit a lot more securely on your foot. If you’re off the boat, you can think about getting some socks that can’t be seen over your shoe (if you’re wearing pants that will expose your ankles) or, if you’re wearing long pants, you can get away with wearing high socks.
A lot of this question comes down to where you are going to be wearing your shoes and the surrounding conditions. Boating shoes are very well made and have become fashionable over the years. Due to this, they can be worn on a number of different occasions including many places besides the boat.
If you are going to be wearing them on formal occasions, these shoes can be worn with socks and wouldn’t look out of place in your outfit. They look great with jeans and chinos too. If pants are long, there is nothing to say that you shouldn’t be wearing socks.
Boatinf shoes are generally seen as a summer shoe that pairs well with different types of clothing such as pants that have been rolled up, three quarter length pants and shorts. With all of these fashion items, wearing socks would look out of place. You may be sitting there though thinking you’d be more comfortable in stocks. This is where those no-show socks can be a lifesaver, as you can wear socks on your feet but they won’t show above your ankle.
Q: How Do You Soften Leather Shoes?
If your new leather shoes feel too tight, you can do the following things to soften them a bit. First, put a pair of thick socks on your feet. Before putting the shoe on, warm them up with a hairdryer for a minute. Put the first shoe on, and repeat with the other shoe. Then, walk around with the shoes – they will stretch and mold to your foot better. Walking breaks in the shoes and makes them more comfortable for all-day wearing on the boat.
This being said, boating shoes are made to be comfortable. They are made out of soft leather and have a molded EVA base for added levels of comfort. If your shoes are uncomfortable then it could also mean that you have the wrong sized shoe or you need to replace your old ones. If you’ve been using them for a long time or you have issues with your feet, you need ways to make your shoes a lot more comfortable.
If you’re not going to be around water, wearing socks, either short or otherwise, could add an extra level of comfort. On the other hand, if you’re looking for more support at the bottom of your shoe then you could invest in a pair of inserts that can mold to your feet and offer a greater level of comfort. These also dry quickly allowing you to easily wear them with boating shoes in all circumstances.
Q: Are Boat Shoes And Water Shoes The Same Thing?
No, they are not. There is a huge difference between boat shoes and water shoes – they are made for two very different occasions. Boat shoes aren’t suitable for being in the water, while water shoes aren’t going to be suitable for use on the boat as they don’t offer the same level of protection.
Boating shoes have soles with a lot of traction which is going to prevent you from slipping and falling. Water shoes are meant to be used while you’re in the water or your feet are often going to be wet.
In addition, water shoes aren’t very stylish. They are meant for a highly practical purpose of allowing you to walk in the water. They don’t contain any leather and are made from a fine mesh material. They could technically be used on a boat, but they are not ideal for walking any significant distance out of the water.
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Q: How Do You Clean Boat Shoes?
Caring for the leather is paramount because, even though it’s a tough material, it still needs proper care to last longer. Polishing your shoes with shoe polish will help to not only protect them from the elements but also keep them looking great as well. This only works with smooth leather, and it’s important to always check that you’re using the right product.
Before you polish, you want to make sure that no debris is left sitting on your shoes (such as salt deposits or dirt). These should be brushed off with a soft brush. If your shoes are made out of leather (as most boat shoes are), you won’t be able to machine wash them. Instead, hand soap should be used for spot cleaning.
When drying your shoes, they shouldn’t be left in direct sunlight. Obviously, they shouldn’t be placed in a machine dryer either. Allowing them to naturally in the air is the best solution. Boating shoes are usually very durable, but it’s important to keep them as clean as possible to prolong their life.
If you’re out and about on your boat, it’s inevitable that they are going to get dirty over time. Natural dirt and saltwater will come into contact with your shoes. Therefore, it’s important that you clean your boat shoes on a regular basis if you want them to last for a long time.
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Q: Will Saltwater Ruin My Leather Boat Shoes?
No, it won’t ruin them if you take care of them properly. However, it can damage your shoes if you leave salt water to dry on your shoes and form a crust. This crust can change leather properties and dry it off, making it brittle so it starts to crack.
This is why proper leather care is important. In addition, saltwater can corrode the eyelets, so get a pair of shoes with eyelets made of rustproof materials.
With all this said, leather is a tough material, so the saltwater won’t ruin your shoes straight away. However, saltwater isn’t the greatest thing for any material which is why it’s important to take good care of your boat shoes. Remember to clean them with fresh water and occasionally treat the leather with polish.
Q: Can You Wear Boat Shoes With Jeans?
Yes you can, because boat shoes and jeans pair great together. This gives your new pair of boat shoes extra versatility for wearing them off-deck. Matching the colors of your shoes and jeans will have you looking great in every casual situation.
Q: How Should Boat Shoes Fit?
The fit of your boat shoe depends on the materials used to make it. If you’re buying a leather boat shoe, you should get a more snug fit because the shoe will stretch over time and get more comfortable. On the other hand, shoes made of fabric won’t stretch much, so you can get a looser fit right away.
Either way, the shoe shouldn’t press on your foot too much when standing and walking. To improve the fit, almost all boat shoes come with side lacing to tighten or loosen them.
Q: What Are Docksiders?
Docksiders is a popular name for boat shoes that are used as casual footwear, in addition to wearing them on the boat. Boat shoes have a great-looking design which improves their versatility, allowing you to use them as an everyday pair of shoes too if you want to add some style.
Q: How Do You Tie Boat Shoes?
Besides the standard bow knot, you can tie boat shoes in many other ways. This isn’t just for fashion reasons either – leather laces can be very hard to tighten, so you need a firmer knot for your shoes. If a bowtie knot doesn’t work for you, a barrel, tassel, or chain knot are great alternatives for tightening your shoes.
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A pair of the best boating shoes on your feet is important when you’re on your boat – they give your feet comfort and prevent you from slipping on the wet deck. The great news is that there are plenty of styles to choose from. Whether you want Sperry shoes for men or a pair of sport boat shoes, our list features mens boat shoes for every taste. Hopefully, you’ve found a pair that will allow you to enjoy your boating adventures even more. Happy sailing!
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