Boat Shoes Aren’t Just for Boating Anymore

blue and red boat shoes for boating and yachting

On Deck or Around Town, Boat Shoes Are In

High-quality boat shoes are available in many different styles, colors, and materials including leather, canvas, and suede. They have evolved significantly since first appearing on the market in the mid-30s. Today you no longer need to own a boat to enjoy a stylish pair. You see plenty of people casually walking around wearing boat shoes with jeans, khakis or shorts.

However, regardless of whether you want them for fishing, boating, or just everyday use, you should choose a pair that will give you not only the stylish good looks you want but also the comfort, safety, and durability you need. Today, we’re going to take a look at what makes a good pair of modern, men’s boat shoes and then highlight 10 designs that offer both performance and good looks, not to mention value. But first a little boat shoe history…

Footwear Inspired By Man’s Best Friend

Long before the fashionable transformation of boat shoes, they were originally made with the sole (pun intended) intention of providing safe and proper footwear for boating and sailing. Before their invention in the 1930s, boatmen were left to contend with slippery, wet decks that often lead to falls and injuries. But one man saw a solution… and a new market for footwear.

Most seasoned boaters will recognize the popular “Sperry” shoe brand created by Paul Sperry, who was an avid boater and sailor. The iconic boating footwear brand is still going strong today, making and selling boat shoes for men, women, and children around the world.

Sperry created his slip-resistant boat shoes after observing his dog’s ability to run over difficult terrain, including ice. He created a pair of shoes with a herringbone pattern on the soles to mimic the dog’s paws. This pattern seemed to give his dog great traction, so Paul Sperry rightly assumed that copying this patterned layout would also help boaters get around safely on deck.

The first pair of Sperry “Top-Sider” boat shoes arrived on the market in 1935. A later edition even included a white sole to minimize the risk of leaving marks on the deck, and the rest is history, as they would say.

Choosing the Best Boat Shoes for Your Feet

Upper Material

The leather or canvas uppers of the boat shoes are treated to speed up drying and minimize water absorption and damage. Premium upper materials quality, heavy-duty stitching, and corrosion-resistant eyelets are necessary for shoes that can stand up to the elements – sun, saltwater, rough surfaces, etc.


Fishing or any activity on a wet boat deck requires non-marking, non-slip shoes. Rubber is the preferred material for maximum grip, with grooved or patterned soles help to drain water away. The softest sole is the most efficient at providing a good grip.

Support and Protection

Full-length lacing, a snug fit, wrap-round sole and a shock-absorbing heel cup all provide reliable support for your feet. Plus, extra reinforcement in areas of wear such as toe and heel gives greater foot protection and durability.


Being on your feet for prolonged periods of time require comfortable footwear. An EVA midsole and a padded tongue provide extra cushioning for comfort. Boat shoes that let water drain quickly are preferred. Drainage holes are a typical feature to clear water more effectively. Breathable mesh or other material is a must to keep your feet cool.


Let’s face it, looks are important too, and boat shoes are no longer restricted to one look fits all. No, today there are as many options as there are individual tastes. You can get them in a variety of colors, styles, and materials, from two-tone canvas or microfiber slip-ons to bright blue leather with matching rawhide lacing. It’s now just as much about style as it is about function, and that’s just great!

Ten Boat Shoes for Men Who Want Some Style with Their Quality

Versatile and stylish, a trusty pair of boat shoes is a timeless classic and right for almost any situation. Here’s a list of 10 of the most attractive and best boat shoes available today:

Sebago Men’s Docksides Boat Shoe

Great shoes with classic styling, the Sebago Men’s Docksides are constructed with soft but rugged leather, a durable, non-slip sole and rawhide laces. They have a molded EVA foam-based insole for greater comfort and a non-marking outsole in a rubber material.

Whether it is on the city streets or on boats, these shoes give great performance to match the environment. The Docksides come in a variety of colors including white and green. See Details & Prices

Columbia Men’s Bahama Vent PFG Slip-On Boat Shoes

Super comfortable and lightweight, the Columbia Men’s Bahama is a ventilated slip-on shoe that encourages water evacuation and facilitates airflow to make it perfect for water-based activities.

The upper comes in a stylish combination of leather and canvas and in many vibrant colors. The rubber outsole gives a superior grippy performance on different surfaces, while the mid-sole has the ability to offer cushioning support all-day long. See Details & Prices

Sebago Men’s Clovehitch II Oxford

A great “all time” shoe, the Sebago Men’s Clovehitch II is made with weathered full-grain leather/nubuck upper and mesh-panels to give the desired breathability. The slotted collar with eyelet helps to create the distinctive nautical feel.

Plus, the rubber sole is there to give the required non-marking, slip-resistant and razor-grip qualities. This classic design comes in several colors including a beautiful navy nubuck. See Details & Prices

Sperry Top-Sider Men’s Billfish Slip-On

One of the most comfortable pairs of men’s slip-on boat shoes, the Sperry Top-Sider Men’s Billfish has had a modern update to improve the comfort and durability.

This classic deck shoe has a high-quality hand-sewn tru-moc construction and a shock-absorbing EVA heel cup to give it added comfort.

Sperry certainly deserves its reputation as the maker of some of the best shoes for boating on the market. See Details & Prices

Sanuk Men’s The Sea Man Sneakers

Classic boat shoes, the Sanuk Men’s The Sea Man Sneakers are styled with a nicely washed canvas upper and rubber sole to give the desired traction on deck.

Even though the shoes come with a collar cord and laces, they can easily be worn without laces. The molded foot-bed has a useful antimicrobial additive to minimize issues with odor-causing bacteria.

These relaxed and comfortable deck shoes are offered in 6 beautiful colors that go well with everything from jeans to dress shorts. See Details & Prices

Timberland Men’s Classic Two-Eye Boat Shoe

Great shoe for a very reasonable price, the Timberland Men’s Classic Two-Eye Boat Shoe is made with hand-sewn leather upper and grippy rubber soles to give superb traction on wet and slippery surfaces.

The slotted collar with rawhide lacing and moccasin toe help to create the classic styling. Plus, the Poron foam and EVA insert provide the craved comfort of lounging even when on the deck or strolling around town. See Details & Prices

Sperry Top-Sider Men’s A/O Boat Shoe

The classic style, Sperry Top-Sider Men’s A/O Boat Shoe is leather made with moccasin-stitched toe, slotted collar and rust-resistant eyelets.

The shock-absorbing EVA heel cup gives extra comfort and durability, while the rubber sole is appreciated for providing wet/dry traction and not marking the deck.

This is the go-to boat shoe for men who want the traditional look. See Details & Prices

SoftScience Mens Fin Lace-Up Watershoe

Great for boating or casual wear, the SoftScience Mens Fin is a pair of lace-up water shoes with a mesh upper and self-draining system.

This comfortable footwear is made with a woven, breathable microfiber upper and trileon slip-resistant, non-marking outsole. Your feet will thank you for wearing these trendy yet super-comfortable boat shoes.

They also look great on land with Khakis or a pair of jeans. See Details & Prices

Olukai Men’s Mano Boat Shoe

Great shoe, the Olukai Men’s Mano is made with a waterproof waxed and oiled leather/nubuck upper and moisture-wicking microfiber lining.

The hand-sewn moccasin toe, leather laces, and rubber, non-marking rubber sole, and rubber heel guard help to create this high-quality pair of boat shoes.

You won’t go wrong with this waterproof and very comfortable design. See Details & Prices

Polo Ralph Lauren Men’s Rylander Boat Shoe

Goes with everything, the Polo Ralph Lauren Men’s Rylander has the distinct character of leather with the natural breathability of canvas to create a perfect pair of boat shoes.

Other classic details of this boat shoe include the comfortable textile lining, metal eyelets, and 360-degree lacing. The sole is finished with a sure-grip tread to help stay steady on the wet surfaces.

You’d be hard-pressed to find a better-looking pair of deck or casual men’s shoes than these. See Details & Prices

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About Avid Angler

Dave "Avid Angler" Miller has been an author and contributor to Reel Adventure Fishing since its inception, going back to 2010. Dave has fished just about every freshwater and saltwater body from coast to coast and enjoys putting a lifetime of angling experience to use in helping others to become better anglers. In addition to penning featured posts, Dave also writes a good deal of our product reviews.