Did you know that the most common injuries on boats come from passengers slipping and falling on a wet deck?
But, with a good pair of deck shoes, you don’t have to worry about slick surfaces!
Most of them look similar to traditional moccasins. But, unlike moccasins, they have thick soles that will keep you from slipping and sliding.
Sometimes called “sailing shoes” or “boat shoes“, these shoes work for every sailor – from men, to women, to children. They stay firm on your feet, whether you’re getting on the boat, getting off the boat, or just wandering around on the deck. They are perfect for every water vessel – from sailboats to fishing boats.
Deck shoes have been a mainstay in the boating world since the 1930’s, when Paul Sperry designed shoes with special traction that would be slip-resistant on both wet and dry decks.
But it’s not all about staying upright.
They also provide another very important function.
They come with white rubber soles, so that they do not leave any scuff marks behind on your boat deck. After all, nothing makes a deck look worse than black smudges! But with these white, rubber soles, you can feel free to walk all over the place – whether the deck is wet or dry – with confidence.
Aside from their white soles, what makes deck shoes different from other shoes?
Most of them are made out of leather that has been specially-treated with oil, so that they are soft and comfortable. And, most of them are hand-sewn, which provides added comfort. In fact, deck shoes were originally designed to combine the comfort of slip-on loafers with a traction that’s far better than traditional sneakers.
However, that leather also provides a shoe that is water-resistant. While they are not quite as water-tight as water shoes are, deck shoes are designed to dry off very quickly, so that you don’t wind up with soggy feet.
And, as an added benefit, they also look great – because they come in a variety of colors and styles. You can get a pair of deck shoes that slip right on, or you can get a pair that looks like full-fledged sneakers.
If you’re looking for the very best deck shoes, there are several top brands, including:
Deck shoes are so comfortable and stylish that many people even wear them when they’re on dry land! They can look great with jeans, khakis, and even summer dresses. W
Whatever your style, you can find a pair to match
What You Need to Know Before You Buy a Pair
Are boat shoes comfortable?
They are some of the most comfortable shoes out there!
Their thick rubber soles aren’t just good at keeping you from sliding on a wet deck; they also provide a nice cushion so that you can comfortably stand on your feet as long as you need to.
Plus, oiled leather is much softer than normal leather. It works with your feet – instead of against it.
How do you break them in?
Good boat shoes should be fairly comfortable as soon as you buy them. However, if they feel a little tight at first, you can soak them in some water. Just be sure to let them dry thoroughly, so that they don’t start to smell.
How do you keep them from smelling?
Boat shoes are designed to be near the water, but if they get too water-logged – without being given enough time to dry out – they can start to smell a bit. Some are built with antimicrobial properties, but they can still fall victim to a slight odor.
If you plan on going boating every day, invest in a couple of pairs. That way, you can wear one pair while the other dries out.
If the smell is stronger, there are special inserts that you can buy that have activated charcoal in them. That will eliminate even harsh odors.
Can they be considered “business casual”?
In fact, they are a versatile shoe that can be dressed up or down.
Boat shoes go great with bathing suits and t-shirts, but they also look great with khakis and a button-down shirt. You can wear them to a nice dinner or a business meeting.
Do they go with jeans?
Both men and women love to walk around in them with their favorite pair of jeans – whether they’re on dry land or off.
Can you wear socks with boat shoes?
That’s up to you.
Wearing socks is definitely not a requirement. In fact, for casual places – like the beach, the pool, or a seaside restaurant – it looks better if you go sockless. However, if you are headed to a nice restaurant, you may want to dress up your boat shoes with some dark-colored socks.
What is the difference between loafers and boat shoes?
They may look similar, but they are very different!
Boat shoes have special soles that won’t leave scuff marks on your deck. Plus, those soles also have special tread that will keep you from slipping.
Unlike loafers, boat shoes are designed to get wet. That’s why their leather is specially-treated with oil before you buy them. However, if loafers get wet, they are likely ruined.
What is the difference between boat shoes and deck shoes?
There isn’t one! The 2 terms are used interchangeably.
Sperry Boat Shoes
The next time you can walk comfortably across the deck of your boat, thank Paul Sperry – the creator of Sperry boat shoes. Actually, thank his Cocker Spaniel!
Back in 1935, Sperry was out for a sail with his Cocker Spaniel, Prince, when he noticed that Prince had no trouble navigating the cold, wet, icy decks – even though Paul was having plenty of trouble keeping himself upright. Paul took a look at Prince’s feet and noticed that there were several cracks and ridges going through the pad on the bottom of his paw.
Prince’s foot inspired Paul, and he went home to create shoes with rubber soles that looked just like the bottom of Prince’s foot. And, thus, Sperry boat shoes were born!
Since Paul came up with that innovative sole design, Sperry boat shoes have been leading the way ever since. In fact, by the 1950’s, car tire manufacturers started using the idea to create a tire tread that would be especially effective in wet conditions.
However, as other boat shoe manufacturers have come and gone, Sperry has stuck with that original sole design.
Along the way, Sperry created the Sperry Top-Sider brand, which, in true nautical fashion, is named after the part of the boat that goes from the waterline to the deck. In addition to creating Sperry boat shoes, Top-Sider also carries an extensive collection of nautical clothing and water gear.
But that’s not all Sperry offers.
If you’re looking for bright colors and tropical patterns, head for the Sperry Bahama line. If you’re looking for a shoe that’s chock full of breathable mesh, opt for the Sperry Billfish line.
So, just how popular are Sperry boat shoes today?
They are the leading brand for men, women, and children all over the world.
But these shoes aren’t just popular with people who like to relax and unwind on their boats. Sperry boat shoes are also the official footwear of the U.S. Sailing Team and the U.S. Naval Academy. Look closely, and you’ll see these shoes donning the feet of most Navy SEALs.
What makes Sperry boat shoes so great?
Along with a cutting-edge rubber sole that keeps you on your feet, these shoes were also designed with comfort and function in mind. Their white soles will not leave scuff marks on your deck. And, there is even a cushioned midsole inside of Sperry boat shoes that will keep your feet comfortable, no matter how long you have been standing up fishing, or walking from bow to stern.
Like many other types of boat shoes, Sperry’s are made out of leather. However, Sperry soaks that leather in hot water first, so that it “gives” more than average leather.
From top to bottom, Sperry boat shoes are designed to give you the perfect fit, the perfect design, and the perfect traction!
Men’s Boat Shoes
When it comes to men’s boat shoes, you are probably going to wind up paying a little bit more for them than you would traditional shoes. However, that’s because the good ones do a whole lot more for you than traditional shoes do!
But, before you go out and buy a pair, you need to make sure that you are making the most out of your hard-earned money. Here’s how you can do it:
Look for white soles
Those are the only ones that will actually keep scuff marks off your deck. After all, keeping your deck crisp and white is one of the main reasons that people wear men’s boat shoes in the first place! If you see boat shoes with anything other than white soles, you know you are dealing with an imposter.
Look at the tread in the soles
Remember, men’s boat shoes were first created as a way to keep people from slipping and sliding all over wet decks. A good pair has grooves and slits in the soles that are similar to the tread on a car tire. If your shoes don’t have the right tread, you will not have the non-slip protection that you need. The smoother the soles, the less friction you will have on a wet deck.
Look at the leather they’re made out of
All leather is naturally water-resistant. But just any ‘ol leather is not good enough for men’s boat shoes! Good boat shoes are specially-treated with oil so that they are soft and even more water-resistant.
Before you buy a pair, look carefully at the leather. Make sure it is soft enough to be comfortable throughout a long day out on the water. And, make sure the leather is of good enough quality to hold up well against any water and heat you’re going to deal with out on the boat.
Look to see if you will be comfortable wearing them anytime
Men’s boat shoes offer a ton of versatility. In fact, lots of men wear them all over the place – and pair them with jeans, khakis, and shorts.
The great thing about these shoes is that you can dress them up or down. You can spend the afternoon wearing them with a bathing suit and t-shirt, then pair them with some khakis and a button-down shirt for a dinner date once you’re back on dry land.
To get the most out of your men’s boat shoes, you will need to find a style that you are comfortable with, since you will likely be wearing them all over the place!
Women’s Boat Shoes
With women’s boat shoes, you can look great and stay safe at the same time – whether you’re a champion fisherwoman or you just want to hang out and relax on the deck!
These shoes all come with thick, white rubber soles, so that you don’t leave unsightly scuff marks on the deck when you walk around. Plus, the soles come with a special tread, so that you don’t have to worry about slipping and falling on a wet deck.
So, why should you buy a pair before you next boating trip? There are 3 great reasons:
They are incredibly comfortable
Women’s boat shoes are made out of specially-treated leather that is much softer than other leather shoes. Plus, most women’s boat shoes slip on, so that you don’t even have to tie them. They’re also incredibly lightweight – unlike those platform shoes, boots, and heels that you’re normally running around in. And, those rubber soles are specially-padded, so that you are comfortable standing for long periods of time.
As an added benefit, women’s boat shoes are flat, which gives your feet a ton of relief, after you’ve been walking around in heels at the office all week!
They are incredibly fashionable
They come in a variety of colors and styles. You can get everything from basic khaki moccasins to bright red ballerina slip-ons! In fact, many women wear boat shoes when they’re on dry land because they are so stylish! Boat shoes look great with jeans, skirts, and even summer dresses. When you’re wearing women’s boat shoes, you can rest easy knowing that your feet look great – whether you’re roaming around on the boat, or on a date back on shore.
They keep your feet cool and dry
Because they are made out of leather, boat shoes naturally resist water. And, they dry off really fast, so, if you do get them wet getting on or off the boat, they won’t stay that way for long!
As an added benefit, most women’s boat shoes have anti-microbial properties. That way, when they are wet, you don’t have to worry about your shoes or your feet falling victim to mold or mildew!
Plus, women’s boat shoes are also designed to keep your feet cool when they’re totally dry. Many of them come with mesh that breathes, so you don’t wind up with hot and sweaty feet.
Timberland Boat Shoes
When you think of Timberland, you probably think of rugged boots that are perfect for a hike up a mountain or a day at a construction site.
But that’s not all the company makes.
If you’re looking for a dependable shoe that you can wear while you relax, Timberland boat shoes are a great combination of both style and function.
So, what do you need to know about them?
- Timberland was created back in 1952, when a shoe-stitcher from Massachusetts named Nathan Swartz wanted to create shoes that could stand up to the worst possible conditions. In 1979, Swartz and his two sons expanded into the nautical footwear business, and Timberland boat shoes were born. Soon after, big-time yachters William F. Buckley and Ted Kennedy gave the shoes their full endorsement.
- Like other brands, Timberland boat shoes are all hand-sewn, and they are crafted from specially-oiled leather. They have a classy look that can be dressed up or down. In fact, these shoes are very popular both on and off the dockside!
- Similar to the company’s work boots, Timberland boat shoes have thick rubber soles that will not leave marks on your deck. Plus, they come with special tread, so that you will not slip and fall – no matter how wet the conditions are.
- Timberland boat shoes are big on padding. Every shoe comes with a padded collar and a cushioned heel, so that you can be comfortable – even if you spend hours on your feet. Plus, each shoe also comes with a special leather insole that gives you some additional padding. While it is very comfortable, some shoe owners say there might be a little too much padding. Some wearers say all of that padding allows more water to soak in.
- In addition to keeping your foot padded, Timberland boat shoes are also designed to keep your foot cool. Each shoe comes with a recycled inner lining that is designed to let air in.
- With more than $1 billion in revenue every year, Timberland has some of the highest annual earnings in the shoe industry. Timberland boat shoes account for about 25% of the company’s revenue – meaning that they sell more than $233 million worth of boat shoes every year. Those numbers are similar to those of Sperry – a company that’s considered to be the leader in the boat shoe industry.
Sebago Deck Shoes
Very few brands stand the test of time, but that’s exactly what Sebago has done. Sebago boat shoes have been around since the 1970’s, when three New England men created a hand-sewn loafer that was designed to look like a moccasin.
Today, all of Sebago’s boat shoes are still made by hand. And, clearly, customers appreciate the attention to detail. These boat shoes are sold in more than 85 countries!
What makes them different?
Like other boat shoes, Sebago uses oil-treated leather to create a shoe that can stand up to the rigors of boating. However, Sebago boat shoes are constructed using a single piece of form-fitting rubber, which makes them incredibly comfortable.
That single piece of leather will conform to your foot over time, giving you a customized fit.
Sebago boat shoes also come with laces, so that you can get a fit that’s just snug enough.
As great as they are out on the water, these shoes are just as comfortable on dry land!
In fact, plenty of people wear Sebago boat shoes when there isn’t even a boat in sight. They look and feel great whether you’re out fishing, or out to dinner with a group of friends.
And, since everyone’s feet are a little bit different, Sebago has come up with a way to make sure that everyone gets the perfect fit. Unlike other brands, Sebago boat shoes are available in a variety of widths – from narrow all the way to triple wide – so that you don’t have to cram your foot into a shoe that doesn’t fit right.
But, for Sebago, it’s not all about comfort.
The company is also determined to create boat shoes that will be functional, too. After all, boat shoes that scuff up your deck or don’t provide enough traction on a wet deck are useless!
Sebago uses thick rubber soles that will keep your deck crisp and white. And, they have enough tread on them to keep you upright on even the most slippery of decks.
Sebago offers three different types of shoes:
- Sebago Classic
- Sebago Casuals
- Sebago Casual Marine
All three types have the same basic design, but each one offers some slightly different nuances, so that you can get a look that’s perfect for you.
And Sebago wants you to have that perfect look for awhile. That’s why Sebago has created boat shoes that incredibly durable.
Ask virtually any Sebago boat shoe owner, and they will tell you that they’ve had their shoes for years – and that they look and feel just as great today as they did the day they bought them!
Boat Shoes Maintenance and Care
Part of the beauty of boat shoes is that they’re durable. They can handle a lot, so they don’t require a ton of work to keep them looking good. However, there are a few things that you can do to keep yours looking as good as the day you got them:
Let them dry fully
Boat shoes are meant to get wet, but when they do, you need to make sure that they have a chance to dry thoroughly. Leave them in a well-ventilated space for at least 24 hours.
If they get very wet, remove the insoles and give them a chance to dry. That way, you can prevent mold and mildew from forming in even the tiniest crevices of your shoes.
Use a water-repellant spray
Boat shoes are naturally water-repellant. However, that defense can gradually start to fade over time. A water-repellant spray will help keep water at bay for as long as you have them.
Get a wire brush
That is the best tool for removing dirt from the outside of your boat shoes. All it takes is some gentle scrubbing to loosen up and dirt, dust, and grime. Once you are done scrubbing, spray your shoes with a water-repellant spray. You can do this brush-and-spray routine every day, or as often as you need to.
If you have more serious stains that will not come off with a gentle brushing, get some vinegar. Rubbing a little bit of vinegar on the stain should make it go away.
Use a leather conditioner
After all, the leather on your boat shoes gets subjected to a lot – like water, salt, sand, and sunlight. To keep it looking its best, you need a good leather conditioner, and you need to use it frequently.
If you have darker shoes, mink oil works the best. Not only will it condition your leather, but it will also make your shoes more water-resistant. However, mink oil can make lighter leather look darker, so don’t use it if you have light-colored boat shoes.
For lighter shoes, treat them with a spray silicone. That will give them the conditioning they need, without altering their color.
Keep a close eye on the soles
If they start to wear out, your odds of slipping and falling on a wet deck go up dramatically. If your soles start to lose some of their traction, a professional can easily repair or replace them.