Hailing from their humble beginnings back in 1935 when they were invented by sailor and outdoorsman Paul Sperry, boat shoes have been a fixture of the man’s summer wardrobe ever since.
Their style coupled with functionality makes them among one of the best summer shoes that any man with a sense of style can own. While not succumbing to the extremely casual sense of flip flops or sandals – although they have their place, boat shoes are a perfect addition to any man’s ensemble when looking to carry themselves well during the long and hot summer days.
Being able to be paired perfectly with a pair of chinos, shorts, or chambray shirts, boat shoes are a go-to classic for men looking to have the grip of a sneaker while enjoying a good inflow of air through their many grommets and often mesh and leather construction.
What to Know When Buying Boat Shoes
When finding the right pair of boat shoes, there are a few considerations you will want to consider when making your purchase. Here are the most important ones to think about:
The material of your boat shoe is important. Not only can the right material increase durability, but it can also subtly demonstrate your sense of style. Here’s a look at all the most popular types of materials used for boat shoes and how they differ from one another:
One of the most common materials used for boat shoes will be leather. However, its important to know that not all leather is created equally. Here’s an overview of each:
- Full Grain: Made from the thickest part of the cow hide, full grain leather is the most durable and highest quality leather that you can own for boat shoes. While they may take some effort to break in, full-grain leather boat shoes will get better with time as they will develop a nice patina that will give it a soft and velvety texture.
- Top Grain Leather: Like full-grain leather, top grain is a cut of the hide that is extremely durable and relatively thick. The main difference between this cut and full grain is the treatment of the hide during the tanning process. Top grain leather is sanded down to remove surface imperfections on the hide itself. This is a great alternative to full-grain leather and is widely considered to be a premium leather grade.
- Genuine: While the name infers authenticity and premium quality, genuine leather is among the poorest quality of leather that you can own. Mixed with binders (glue), genuine leather degrades quickly and is susceptible to cracks and general wear and tear. If you plan on buying boat shoes for only a single summer, or perhaps are looking to save a few dollars, then this leather grade may make sense. However, know that you will need to buy replacement boat shoes not too long after purchase.
- Suede: Made from a deeper cut of the hide, suede is sanded to create a soft and smooth texture. While you likely won’t be touching your boat shoes much, this soft texture can create a warm and more casual appearance. Furthermore, suede is often dyed to be much lighter in color, making it a great pick for summertime wear.
- Nubuck: Very similar to suede, nubuck leather is made from the outer hide and has a finer texture. This slightly different treatment process will give nubuck a bit more strength when compared to suede. Nubuck is typically priced higher than suede as well. If you like this appearance and plan on owning a pair of boat shoes for several years, then nubuck can easily be worth the extra investment over suede.
Derived from cotton, canvas is a lightweight, breathable, and durable material. While canvas is typically paired with either comfort or vintage looking boat shoes, it is also inexpensive – making it a preferred pick for budget-focused men. Lastly, the breathable nature of this material will prevent your feet from smelling when compared to other common materials.
Man-made / Synthetic
Synthetic fibers such as nylon, rubber, polyester and more provide some unique advantages. While leather boat shoes shouldn’t be submerged in water, boat shoes made from synthetic materials can also act as a water shoe – making them great for both beach and fishing wear. Furthermore, synthetic materials are often much more durable – allowing them to look great for years down the road.
Depending on how you intend to wear your boat shoes will determine the right style for you – here’s a look at the most popular boat shoe styles for men:
- Casual: Your quintessential casual boat shoe expertly strikes the balance between style and comfort. Whether you are attending a summer party or want to bring a bit more sophistication to your summer wear, a boat shoe made from a leather upper and a thinner outsole makes for a great pick.
- Comfort: With a thicker insole footbed coupled with a cushioned outsole, comfort-focused boat shoes are great for daily wear. Typically made from canvas uppers, comfort boat shoes can be worn with many different outfits and settings. Whether you are grilling in the backyard or are heading to the beach, comfort boat shoes can be a great pick for many men reading this guide.
- Athletic: While boat shoes and athletic wear may sound like complete opposites to many, there are moments where they may make sense. Athletic boat shoes are often made for fishing or for wet or slick settings (especially if you work on a boat and need to make a quick jump from the dock to the bow). Nearly always containing highly-breathable uppers coupled with an anti-slip outsole, athletic boat shoes provide extra confidence with each step.
- Outdoor: Boat shoes intended for outdoor wear will often contain drainage along with anti-slip outsoles. Furthermore, outdoor boat shoes may contain more secure lacing to ensure that your foot remains in place when walking over long distances.
3. Color / Pattern
Whether its dark brown or a light khaki color, you will find that most boat shoes are available in neutral colors. However, if you are wondering what color boat shoes go with everything, most fashion experts recommend dark brown for your first pair. It not only can be worn with shorts, but also a variety of chinos and denim as well. If dark brown isn’t your preferred pick, another great option would be a lighter brown or navy.
Based on our research, the price you should expect to pay for a pair of boat shoes will range between about $75 and $200. The price will vary depending on brand, quality of materials used (i.e. full-grain leather vs. genuine leather), and additional features.
Based on our research, we found the following boat shoe brands to be among the most popular with men:
- Cole Haan
- John Varvatos
- LL Bean
- Nunn Bush
- Tommy Hilfiger
- Vince Camuto
6. Extra Features
As we researched and reviewed boat shoes, we found the following unique features that are worth considering:
- Non-Marking Sole: These soles are typically made from non-black soles and are a bit softer so they won’t leave marks on boats when worn. Some companies such as Sperry offer proprietary and tested outsoles.
- Water Resistant: While boat shoes aren’t intended to be worn in the water, they may inevitably get wet. Water resistant boat shoes have been chemically treated to limit the damage that fresh and salt water may do to the materials such as leather, canvas, etc. after prolonged exposure.
- Slip Resistant: When wearing boat shoes to the marina or a beach, slippery docks can be a hazard. Slip resistant boat shoes have outsoles that are more gumy and provide added stability to each step.
- Waterproof: If heading to a rocky beach or you plan on wearing your boat shoes while fishing, waterproof boat shoes will continue to look great even after full submersion in water. Furthermore, some waterproof boat shoes will prevent water from entering the shoe – which can be great if you plan on wearing these in shallow depths.
- Antimicrobial: Boat shoes are the perfect breeding ground for bacteria. During the humid and warm summer months smelly feet can become an issue. If this is a common problem for you, then antimicrobial boat shoes can limit this embarrassing issue significantly.
- Orthopedic: Orthopedic boat shoes are perfect for men who are looking for increased comfort by using thicker foam inserts. It is worth noting that some companies make diabetic boat shoes, which have a deeper heel in order to reduce skin breakdown.
The Best Boat Shoes For Men
A good quality boat shoe doesn’t have to be uncomfortable. In fact, some of the best boat shoes on the market are incredibly comfortable as well as functional for casual wear.
Sperry’s has long been held as one of the best manufacturers of boat shoes, and that quality shows in their top-sider shoes.
These shoes come in a wide variety of colors with anti-slip soles so you don’t lose your footing while on wet, slippery surfaces. The non-marking rubber soles ensure that you aren’t going to scuff your boat deck.
The moccasin trim pulls together the classic boat styled shoe, with the leather body able to stretch and conform to the unique shape of your foot over time.
The EVA sole is shock absorbing, which is perfect for rough weather, or if you are especially hard on your shoes. Wearing them in does take some time, depending on what method is used.
From box to break-in, the expected time according to buyers is anywhere from 12 hours to a couple of weeks. They are styled in such a way that these shoes are ideal for men with wide feet. They come in sizes from US 8 to US 16, and have regular, wide, and extra-wide options in some sizes.
There are options for almost every man’s particular tastes and style.
Top Award: Most Comfortable Boat Shoe
- Mesh upper allows for best-in-class breathability
- Made from sustainably sourced renewable materials
- Machine washable
Men who want a comfortable boat shoe for summer-time wear.
The Allbrids Men’s Tree Skippers redefines what a boat shoe can be. While the mesh upper is its most striking feature, there are design details throughout the shoe that set this above the rest in the field when it comes to comfort.
- Mesh upper is made from a silky-soft eucalyptus tree fiber
While wearing trees for shoes is likely not what you had in mind when browsing the selection. Allbirds has crafted these shoes in such a way that the fabric feels smooth as silk. So whether you decide to wear these shoes barefoot or with a pair of no-show socks, you will love how they feel against your skin.
Unlike other boat shoes that rely on a leather wrap around the shoe, the commitment to mesh throughout allows for unmatched breathability. Not only does this allow the shoes to dry quickly should they ever become wet, but it also prevents sweat and odor buildup as well.
- The minimalist style will work for just about any setting
Whether you are attending the boss’ pool party or going to the beach with your friends, the style of these boat shoes is extremely versatile. The simple two-tone design can be dressed up or down accordingly. This helps to condense how many shoes you need to own in your wardrobe.
- Moisture-wicking and odor-reducing insole allows you to wear these without socks
Thanks to the reliance on the naturally moisture-wicking merino wool and castor bean oil insole, Allbirds created an insole that will draw moisture away from your feet. This helps to cut foot odor considerably on the bottom of your feet and will be helpful in reducing blisters.
- Machine washable so they always look and feel their best
Perhaps one of the biggest advantages of these boat shoes is that they are machine washable. Simply remove the laces and insole (you can hand wash if you want), and toss these in the washer. Once washed and air dried, the natural fibers will soften and return to their original shape. This can be a major selling point should you plan on wearing these boat shoes near saltwater or you simply have overly sweaty feet.
Other Important Features:
- The simple and clean design allows you to wear these casually
- Allbirds offers a 30-days no question asked return policy
- Designed and manufactured to be carbon-neutral
- 13 different color options available
- Available in sizes 8-14
- Mesh uppers are breathable and comfortable
- Moisture-wicking insoles provide ample cushion
- Able to be easily dressed up or down
- No wide sizes available
What You Need To Know
Top Award: Best Boat Shoes for Fishing
- Waterproof fabric coupled with a breathable design
- Available in 7 different colors and a multitude of sizes
- Durable outsole provides grip on slick surfaces
Men who are looking for a stylish fishing shoe that doubles as a boat shoe.
Whether you are fishing off the deck of a boat or on a secluded freshwater ravine, the Columbia Bahama Vent Boat and Fishing Shoe are a match made in heaven. Here’s why we think this shoe will become a wardrobe staple while fishing:
- Versatile design is comfortable and vented
Unlike so many other water shoes that may cause blisters due to excessive rubbing on the skin, the Columbia Bahama Vent boat shoes are smartly designed to increase comfort and ventilation.
Comfortable: From the canvas and full-grain leather construction on the uppers to the lightweight outsole, these shoes dry fast while keeping your feet dry and comfortable. In addition, the interior mesh will wear nicely and feel nice against your feet.
Vented: If you slip in the water by accident or simply take a step in catching the fish into a net, the uppers are waterproof and can be good enough for shallow waters in low-wake rivers.
- Available in 7 different color options and massive size variety
Here are a few key points about the style and sizes available:
Stylish: Whether you are heading out to a fishing trip or are heading to the local beach bar afterward, these boat shoes won’t look like traditional clunky fishing shoes. They can be easily dressed up for any occasion.
Sizes: Columbia makes this shoe in sizes 7 to 17. In addition, if you pick these up at a specialty retailer (i.e. Zappos), you can buy them in wide sizes (EE).
Other Important Features:
- Simple lacing system allows you to get a secure fit so they don’t slip off
- Omni-grip rubber sole provides great traction on all surfaces
- Open mesh insole increases ventilation
- Versatile fishing shoes that look great in a variety of settings
- Wide range of sizes and colors available
- Will keep your feet dry and comfortable whether fishing or walking
- Designed for anglers
- Some men may prefer a quick drying mesh rather than a waterproof material
What You Need To Know
Top Award: Best Boat Shoes for Sailing
- Secure and sporty fit make these the perfect shoes for boating and sailing
- Arch support and EVA footbed allows for all-day comfort
- Mesh uppers will dry quickly
Men looking for sailing shoes that provide a confident step on wet and slick docks.
Whether you are going out on your personal boat or simply enjoying a bit of summertime fun with a close friend, family member, or colleague, performance-focused shoes for a boat is almost a necessity, especially if you will be called on to man the sails. Here’s why men love these sailing shoes:
- Deck shoes that provide stability on the open water
Relying on Sperry’s proprietary Adaptive Wave-Siping outsole, the Sea Kite Sport Moc will disperse water under your foot so you can worry about the task at hand rather than if your shoe will slip out from underneath you.
- Quick-drying mesh uppers make for a comfortable fabric
Whether you take a quick step in the water, experience a sudden downpour of rain, or a wave crashes the deck of the boat, the mesh uppers coupled with the water-resistant leather are quick drying.
This means that your feet will get plenty of air in order to prevent blisters or odor from forming before its too late.
- EVA footbed increases durability and provides extra support
While a memory foam insole is great on casual boat shoes, when it comes to performance, an EVA (ethylene vinyl acetate) footbed that is made from a rubber-like plastic will not rot or wear down easily. The footbed on the Sea Kite Sport Moc provides both arch support and plenty of cushioning for all-day comfort.
Other Important Features:
- The Sperry Sea Kite Sport Moc is available in two colors
- Current size range is between 7 and 13
- Wide sizes are available
- Mesh fabric lining on the inside will dry quickly and provide breathability
- Mesh upper offers an adequate draining system
- Moc toe style is good for casual to semi-casual settings (i.e. pool parties)
- Terrific deck shoe for all-day sailing
- Proprietary non-slip sole makes for a confident step
- Designed to dry quickly
- Limited color combinations
What You Need To Know
Top Award: Best Orthopedic Boat Shoe
- Podiatrist-designed boat shoe that alleviates aches and pains
- Arch and heel support for extended wear
- Upper is made from a nice oil-treated leather
Men who have overpronation, plantar fasciitis, or joint pain and want a boat shoe designed for them.
When it comes to orthopedic footwear, there is no better brand in the business than Vionic. Makers of a variety of shoes for men with joint and foot pain, these boat shoes are podiatrist-design for comfort. Here are a few of the noteworthy features of the Vionic Lloyd Slip-On Boat Shoes:
- Quality materials and thoughtful design throughout
From the oil-treated leather uppers to the grippy rubber outsole, the Lloyd Slip-On Boat Shoes are an excellent shoe to wear wherever you go. Whether you are going on a boat or the beach, these shoes deliver a level of comfort and sophistication that is nearly unmatched.
With a simple, yet classic, lace up the front coupled by a soft interior, you will never want to take these shoes off. Like the Vionic Bryant Slip-On shoes we reviewed here, the Lloyds are designed for those men who have overpronation or suffer for plantar fasciitis.
While these shoes may be tempting to wear all day the moment you get them, Vionic does recommend that you break them in by wearing them a few hours at a time for a couple of weeks before all-day use. This will allow the soft leather uppers to become a bit more pliable while your feet also get used to the increased arch support.
- Limited size option may be a deal-breaker for big and tall men
Available in sizes 7-13, most men will have no problem finding the perfect size for their foot. However, big and tall men may find the sizes to be too limited not just in length, but also in width. The Lloyd Slip-Ons are only available in medium (D) widths.
Other Important Features:
- The quality soft leather does require regular care – especially if exposed to saltwater
- Vionic has built a strong foundation for providing excellent orthopedic-focused footwear
- Available in two color varieties
- Shock absorption insole provides ample cushioning and arch support
- Designed for men with plantar fasciitis and joint pain
- Quality materials and craftsmanship
- Great for vacation or semi-formal wear
- The price tag is a bit high for some
- Limited sizes for big and tall men
What You Need To Know
Top Award: Best Affordable Boat Shoe
- A budget-friendly price that is easy on the wallet
- Hybrid vent and leather design is both stylish and functional
- Lightweight and comfortable to wear
Men who want a great looking and functional boat shoe at an affordable price.
When it comes to budget-friendly men’s wear Dockers consistently hits a home run. With the Beacon Boat Shoe, they did it again by expertly making compromises in both materials and design in order to make a shoe that many can afford. Here are a few more details about the Beacon Boat Shoe that we wanted to share:
- A versatile shoe that should combat odors
What is nice about these boat shoes is that not only do they have a sophisticated leather upper, but they are coupled with mesh around the lower half of the shoe.
Rather than relying on small eyelets for ventilation like other boat shoes, the mesh netting will provide air to flow freely into the shoe in order to prevent your feet from sweating as well as odor buildup. While we wouldn’t recommend going barefoot in these shoes as they aren’t washable, if you plan on only wearing them from your car to the beach with no socks, then it shouldn’t be a problem.
The footbed also has some antibacterial features that should also work to combat odors as well.
- Tie closure for a more secure fit
If you plan on walking heavily in these shoes, the front lace design provides extra security. Rather than relying on 4 eyelets (common in the Sperry Top-Sider boat shoe), the Beacon Boat Shoe has 6 eyelets (3 on each side) which allow you to tie it snug against your foot.
This secure fit can also help in preventing the shoe from sliding around while walking (which is the leading cause of blisters).
- Compromises in materials
Unlike other boat shoes that rely on a full-grain leather upper or a silky-smooth mesh, in order to make these shoes cheaper, Dockers relies on a genuine leather grade. This means that the leather won’t be nearly as durable as other grades, nor will it develop a nice patina with time.
What does this mean for your wallet? Realistically, you will likely need to replace these boat shoes in a year or two. Don’t expect them to last much longer than that.
Other Important Features:
- Available in 6 neutral colors
- Great for all feet sizes with lengths ranging from 7-15 along with both medium and wide sizes available
- Water-resistant treated leather (NeverWet) repels water
- The outsole is lightweight and provides adequate grip
- Budget-friendly price point
- Stylish and functional design
- 6 eyelets allow for a more secure fit
- Made from genuine leather
- Won’t last as long as other boat shoes reviewed
What You Need To Know
The boat shoe is a classic style of shoe designed for the wetter surfaces of a dock or a boat.
Timberland is a very popular shoe manufacturer, and their boat shoes are no exception to that quality. They feature a comfortable synthetic sole and a strong moccasin toe to withstand regular wear and tear on the boat.
They are outfitted with a foam EVA insert, which adds comfort and support while wearing. The shoe material is real, genuine leather to be able to stand up to the harsher elements of boating.
As a casual shoe, they are comfortable, but they aren’t supposed to be worn with regular socks.
Wearing this shoe takes some familiarity, as many people will try to wear them with regular cotton socks. While you can do this, you would have to order a half size up to be able to fit your foot in.
Many men say that these shoes run small, but if you wear them without socks, they are closer to true size.
They do eventually conform to the size of your foot, as the leather material is made to stretch and warp as you continue to wear these shoes. Overall, they are a good quality, the only sticking point is finding the right size for you.
Sizes range from a size 6 (US) to a size 15 (US), with half sizes in between.
Docksides boat shoes are a great quality boat shoe if you are looking for something simple but comfortable. These shoes are made with 100% genuine leather and are very easy to break in within the first few wears.
They have a nice, thick sole that adds structure and support to the foot, while also being anti-slip and non-marking. These shoes are incredibly affordable, but also very durable where it counts.
Other shoes of a similar price range have a tendency to fall apart after the first few wears, but no such defect has been reported for these Sabago Docksides.
As for fit, they may run large, or they may fit true to size.
The manufacturer says they do fit true to your regular size, but there are buyers that say they run a little larger. If they are a little small, remember that these are genuine leather shoes and will stretch and warp to fit your foot while you wear them.
Because they are leather, they aren’t made to breathe, which will result in some odor over time. These shoes are also fitted with non-corrosive eyelets and rawhide laces both for looks and for durability; these shoes are made to last.
Class, style, elegance, and a call to casual design that many boat shoes try to exhibit.
These Eastland shoes are the most typical boat shoe you could own, and yet, they are also one of the most classic shoes out there. They feature tan or deep brown leather exterior options and a thick black sole.
Wear them with jeans, khakis, chinos, or shorts; they are versatile and go with virtually anything. Designed for the outdoors, these shoes will carry you through your day comfortably.
That being said, they run either true to size or a little smaller, so it would be wise to pick up the next half-size up from what you usually wear. These shoes come in US sizes 8-13, with half-sizes up to size 11.5.
Overall, they are exceptional quality, but the first few wears are bound to be uncomfortable as you start to wear them in. Because they are leather, it may take some time, but they will inevitably last for a good while.
Plus, they will mold to your feet and your walking pattern over time, which in turn will make them more comfortable the more you wear them. Wearing socks will of course help to reduce blisters and expedite the breaking-in process.
Shoes made from leather are fantastic because they fit you even if they were initially a little small.
Leather is designed to stretch and to warp when you use them, resulting in a custom fit that you can only get over time. Quoddy Downeast boat shoes are made of a supple leather that does exactly this, and results in a higher quality shoe overall.
The navy color with the white stitching and soles imparts a very classical look that works with many seaside outfits, such as khakis and shorts, but you can also wear them with jeans as a casual everyday shoe.
Boat shoes such as this are not designed to be worn with socks because they are meant to wrap around your foot naturally. The leather lined interior helps with this process, though if you are worried about blisters, there are specially designed socks for boating shoes. These lace-up shoes fit true to size, but are only available in full sizes from a US 7-13.
If you fall in the half-size range, it is recommended that you go up to the next full size for the best fit.
Other than that, they look like any classic boating shoe should, and are designed with the elements in mind.
Leather is good for stretching and fitting according to your foot shape, but it doesn’t breathe very well and can often take a long time to feel comfortable.
Fabric, while it isn’t necessarily water resistant like leather, allows for your foot to breathe, and requires less care than genuine leather products.
Sanuk Casa Barco boat shoes are ideal if you want a lightweight casual shoe that also has the look of a traditional boat shoe. These shoes feature a rubber, non-marking sole that aids with traction on wet and slippery surfaces, and the rubber outsole imparts a very trendy look for today.
The canvas shoe can be worn with or without laces if you need more room.
These shoes come in a variety of colors, ranging from traditional and reserved to exceptionally bold and stylish. The more subdued colors such as gray and navy are more typical of a traditional boat shoe, but if you are feeling adventurous, the bright orange shoes are just a click away.
Because keeping your feet locked away in tight shoes tends to cause bad foot odor, these Sanuk shoes also possess a premium EVA insole that has been treated with an anti-microbial wash, which helps reduce end-of-day foot stink. They can be ordered in a US size 8 to a US size 14, with some options for half sizes in the middle range.
Boat shoes don’t have to be worn on a boat.
They also make fantastic casual shoes that can be worn with a comfy pair of khakis or shorts.
Boat shoes are designed to be comfortable and cool, as traditionally you do not wear them with socks. The Tommy Hilfiger Bowman boat shoe is comfortable and stylish, and is made for life both on and offshore. These shoes are made with a leather body and a sophisticated cotton stitching to allow for optimal molding to fit your foot.
They are extremely comfortable, and many men say that they fit true to size.
The Bowman shoes come with a rubberized, non-marking sole that helps maintain traction on wet surfaces. They do not have grooves, just a textured bottom to grip against moist surfaces.
They would not work very well on ice, but these are distinctly summer shoes. They are not designed to be worn with socks, but you may choose to wear some during the initial breaking-in process.
An intermittent complaint with these shoes in particular is that the stitching is prone to come apart near the tongue after a very short time, though this does not seem to be the norm.
Available in sizes US 8 through to US 13.
Can You Get Boat Shoes Wet?
One of the most common questions that men have when it comes to boat shoes is whether or not they can get them wet.
After all they are called boat shoes right?!
Well, generally speaking, it’s ok if boat shoes get wet. By this we mean, if there is some water (salt or fresh) splashed on the leather upper itself, it’s likely not going to be a big problem.
There are even some guides online that go so far instructing men to purposefully get them wet in order to break them in fully.
From our experience, and from what we gathered in our research, it’s best to leave boat shoes dry on land.
It’s not necessarily that they can’t get wet, it’s more so that they shouldn’t.
Even if the leather on the shoe has been treated to resist water, the coating will eventually crack and break down if its constantly going through wet and dry environments.
Therefore, if you are looking for a pair of shoes that you can wear in the water, we would recommend water shoes or even sandals (if you want to retain more of a casual look).