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 make 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.
16 of The Best Boat Shoes For Men
If you are looking for a comfortable shoe that’s easy to put on and take off every day, then the Columbia Bahama vented shoe is probably what you are looking for.
This shoe features a vent in the insole that exhausts through the outsole, allowing your feet to properly breathe. This is especially important if you wear them all day, or live in a hot environment. Moisture that builds up tends to get trapped in most shoes, so the option to have that ventilate out keeps your shoes smelling better for longer.
These slip on shoes, like the many top rated slip on shoes we recently reviewed, are made with a mix of leather and cloth, so you get the stability of the leather with the flexibility and breathability of the canvas all in one. Buyers remark that it is an extremely comfortable shoe.
They are slip on and slip off, which eliminates the need for laces all together. As a result, they do fit a little snug to prevent them from slipping against your heel, or right off. As for the look, they do look very athletic, and the thick rubber sole is non-marking so you don’t scuff important surfaces like the deck of a boat.
The bottom of the soles are textured so you won’t slip if the floor happens to be wet. The Bahama Vent boat shoes come in a wide array of colors and sizes, from a US 7 to 14 to fit most men.
These textile shoes were made for the open sea.
Columbia is well known for its outdoors attire, and their shoes are designed specifically for rough weather wear. These shore boat shoes are designed to allow your foot to breathe, while still being incredibly durable for time in the elements.
They feature a rubber sole that is ventilated to allow for maximum comfort and breathability.
The soles are textured which gives you enhanced grip on wet and slippery surfaces, and they are non-marking so you don’t have to worry about scuffing your deck.
Columbia makes quality products, but that doesn’t mean that they are expensive. These shoes in particular are incredibly affordable in comparison to other canvas type boat shoes.
The stitching is very well placed, and buyers have had no complaints as to the overall quality of the product. These shoes are typically worn without socks, but you could get away with wearing very thin ones while you break them in. Because they are cloth, it should not take long for them to wear and stretch.
Expect to get about a years worth of daily use, more if you only wear them a few times a year.
Very comfortable and very well made.
This boat shoe has all of the qualities you would expect from this type of footwear, but it does improve on some of the core features.
One of those features that stands out the most is that the sole is made of memory foam, which conforms to your feet to give you exceptional support and comfort while you wear them. These shoes are not made of leather, but a synthetic material that is meant to look like a leather/suede combination while still being flexible.
This material has its downsides, as it does wear out considerably faster than either or cloth.
It’s a very lightweight shoe with a non-marking rubber sole that is textured for grip and stability. This ensures that you can walk on wet surfaces easier than you would with a flat soled shoe.
They do run a little small and a little tight, and because they do not come in wide selections, it may feel constricting in the toes. However, if you do not need wide shoes, reviewers say that the shoes are exceptionally comfortable once they are broken in.
While they can be used for daily use, the material does wear out very quickly. Keep them out of direct sunlight for long periods of time, and wear thin socks to prevent blisters.
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.
These shoes by Steve Madden are the essence of a sporty look. They are designed to wear outside in the elements, and look incredibly good.
These shoes are made from leather, with a synthetic rubber sole to assist with structure of the shoe body. They also sport the look of a traditional boat shoe, complete with moccasin stitching all along the toe.
For a name brand product, they are incredibly cheap and very well made, though there are some points of contention for a minority of the buyers.
The soles, and especially the heel, are very thin; there is not a lot of support to speak of.
Walking for long periods of time can quickly make your feet sore. If you are wearing these shoes with socks, you could experience a lot of foot odor lingering in the shoe due to the lack of ventilation.
Even though there appears to be holes throughout the leather exterior, they don’t appear to translate well through to the foot. The M-Gambeon style boat shoe comes in five different colors, including navy, cognac, and black, and they are available in a decent range of sizes.
As with any new shoe, it may take some time to break them in, but leather is more forgiving than most other materials.
Sometimes, quality doesn’t come cheap.
Quoddy uses real, genuine leather and a quality rubber sole to deliver a boat shoe that is functional in its design as well as stylish. The shoes are designed after the traditional moccasin look that is shared by many boat shoes today, and are made from leather to ensure a long lasting product that forms to your unique foot shape.
The rubberized sole is textured much like the pads of a dog’s foot, which helps keep your footing on uneven, wet, or slippery terrain.
These shoes are relatively expensive, but in terms of footwear, you pay for what you get. In this case, you get an incredibly comfortable and high quality shoe with a thick, strong sole. The downsides to this model is that is only comes in two different colors (tan and blue), and sizing is exceptionally limited.
It is available in a US size 5 to a US size 11, so if you have feet bigger than that you are out of luck. It is also only available in full sizes only, so it is recommended that you go up to the next full size if you are in between.
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.
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.
Boat shoes are great; designed for the open sea, or for casual walks to the store. As with any shoe, one that breathes is important.
Having a shoe like the Sperry Billfish shoe ensures that your feet can breathe while trapped in a closed environment for long periods of time. This all leather shoe features some cloth netting on the sides to allow for flexibility and breathability, while still maintaining that classic boating shoe look.
The rubber sole is non-marking and helps with traction while on wet surfaces (such as a boat deck).
Of course, they make great casual shoes as well, and feature a soft, cushioning insole for support as you walk. This makes them ideal for walking around if you wear them with very thin socks to prevent blisters.
These shoes are made from 100% leather, and as they are worn they will conform to your foot and become even more comfortable as time goes on. With daily use, you could be looking at about a year of wear with these shoes in particular.
Remember to wear thin socks while breaking them in, or you will end up with blisters. They fit true to size, and are able to be ordered in a size US 8 to a US 13, but do not have options to go narrow or wide.
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.
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.
Canvas boat shoes look good, feel good, and allow some much needed flexibility within the first few days of wear.
Additionally, canvas and cloth boat shoes allow your feet to breathe, unlike those shoes made from leather. TOM’s Culver boat shoes are the ideal, all day casual shoe that works for on and off the water.
They are made from a resilient canvas material that is both flexible and breathable, and the thick rubber sole is perfect for maintaining traction on wet and unstable surfaces. In fact, the sole is textured with ridges to allow for steady footing even on slippery surfaces.
These shoes come in a variety of trendy colors, and they make for a perfect casual shoe for daily wear.
They are described as fitting small, so it is recommended that you seek a half size up if you can.
While wearing socks is not typical with boat shoes, you can still get away with wearing very thin socks to help prevent blisters, especially during the first few days of wear. There are sizes from a 7 to a 13, but do not offer widths outside of Medium.
Other than that, they are a great quality shoe that works for whatever you may need them for.
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.
Canvas boat shoes, while not water resistant, are incredibly comfortable and exceedingly flexible even before breaking them in.
They allow your foot to breathe all throughout the day, which does wonders to combat foot odor. Tretorn canvas boat shoes are made from this breathable fabric, and possess numerous additional features to make your day even more comfortable.
To start, the insole within these shoes are designed to support and massage your bare feet.
No socks need to be worn while you wear these shoes, and traditionally, boat shoes were not worn with socks. According to buyers of these shoes, they do fit a little snugly.
They do eventually stretch out thanks to the canvas material, but for those first few wears, it can be very uncomfortable. To circumvent this issue, buying the next half-size up should help alleviate any concerns with tightness.
There are a few negatives surrounding this model. The first is that there are not a lot of choices in terms of color.
While color is not necessarily a huge sticking point, not everyone is looking for plain gray, blue, or white. The other issue is that these shoes come in very limited sizes, starting at a US 6.5 and finishing at US 9.5. If you fall in these sizes, and are looking for a more traditional looking boating shoe, these shoes definitely fit that bill.
Traditional boat shoes look good and feel good when you wear them. You don’t need to wear socks, and they will still be good to you and your feet.
The Gregg boat shoes by Vince Camuto feature that traditional boating shoe look without being exceptionally clunky or heavy. The textured bottom of the sole is ideal for holding on to slippery and wet surfaces – great for going boating or for other water activities.
The leather is flexible and wears very well, plus with constant use it will eventually conform to your feet, making them unique shoes solely for you.
These shoes come in three different colors – coral, navy, and tan sienna – which allows you to choose a more neutral, versatile option, or a bold, statement color.
The Gregg boat shoes start at a US size 8 and go all the way up to a size 12, so there is a lot of variety for whatever you should need.
They are great quality shoes for a very affordable price, and should last you an entire year or more with every day wear.
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).