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Our Favorite Boat Shoes for Life On and Off the Water

Don’t step aboard your vessel without a pair of boat shoes that offer style, durability and traction

Updated:

March 29, 2021
Man sitting next to boat shoes
Searching for the right pair of boat shoes is no day at the beach. Pexels

Say it out loud and believe it: Boat shoes are cool. Traditionally worn by yacht owners, casual boaters, and even generations of prep school graduates, the modern boat shoe was invented by a man named Paul A. Sperry – yes, that Sperry – back in 1935 when he was admiring his dog’s ability to run on the ice without sliding. He sliced some ridges into the rubber soles of his shoes and invented a new industry. Boat shoes today rely on much of the same theory as that original pair – they traditionally offer a non-slide sole coupled with rugged construction to stand up to the sun and saltwater. As for style? That’s something left to the eye of the beholder – just be sure to ditch any socks before donning true boat shoes. If you’re in the market for a superior pair of boat shoes, here are a few pairs we recommend.

Sperry Men's Authentic Original 2-Eye Boat Shoe

Tons of color options

This pair is made of 100 percent leather with a rubber sole and rust-proof eyelets. Sperry

These shoes have been synonymous with boating and yachts since 1935, almost to the point where you’d say “Bring me my Sperrys” instead of “boat shoes.” The full-grain uppers fight off the effect of both fresh and saltwater while the soles provide unmatched traction on wet or dry decks. They’re also available in more than 30 shades and color combinations.

Skechers Men's Expected Avillo Relaxed-Fit Slip-On Loafer

100 percent canvas

This pair is more casual than the competition but still provides great traction. Skechers

Skechers might not have the blue-blooded pedigree of other names in the boat shoe business – they’ve only been around since 1992 – but they have quickly earned a reputation for their products’ style and comfort. These slip-on loafers are 100 percent canvas and sport a rubber sole that will be handy in all kinds of weather. They also offer sizes for men and women.

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Sperry Men's Billfish 3-Eye Boat Shoe

Great traction

Leather and mesh mix to create more breathability and comfort. Sperry

You’ll see Sperry’s name a lot when shopping for boat shoes. This model has a more sporty vibe to it, while still maintaining the traditional look of shoes designed for yachting. Unlike the fully leather uppers of the company’s other models, these Billfish shoes offer perforated side panels, which makes them far more comfortable in tropical climates. The obligatory rubber sole is still there for traction. Both dark and light tones are available.

Crocs Men's Swiftwater Mesh Deck Sandal Sport

Fun yet functional

Style and technology bring these boat shoes into the 21st century. Crocs

Crocs as boat shoes? Let’s get one thing straight: We’re not recommending you wear the Crocs clogs on a boat or any uneven surface. But these mesh deck sandals are a revelation. They’re 100 percent textile, made of a material called “Croslite.” The mesh uppers keep your feet cool while large ports at the bottom help flush away water and debris. They’re lightweight, sporty, and fun to wear. So lighten up and give them some consideration.

Columbia PFG Men's Bahama Vent PFG Shoe Boat

From the outdoor experts

Durability and comfort are the goals of this pair of loafers. Columbia

Columbia has been a big player in the adventure sports apparel industry since its founding in the 1930s. It’s no surprise that they have a very attractive and compelling entry into the boat shoe business. The Bahama Vent PFG model was designed for anything the sea can throw at you. The rubber sole provides the requisite traction while a lightweight but waterproof midsole provides comfort and cushioning.

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Margaritaville Men's Anchor Lace Boat Shoe

Focused on foot comfort

A leather sole and foam insole set this pair apart. Margaritaville

Margaritaville isn’t just a song – it’s a lifestyle and a worthy outdoor apparel option. These boat shoes might look like many of its competitors, but it’s focused more on comfort than a day of heavy seas. The breathable leather and mesh upper is accented by contrast stitching and a super comfortable foam insole for a heavenly feel. It’s available in four shades and all the usual sizes.


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