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Boat shoes have been around since the 1930s but only recently underwent a major overhaul. With modern materials, companies have begun to stray away from traditional style “boat shoes” and offer innovative and stylish alternatives. The results are some of the best boat shoes I’ve ever tested. Regardless of what they look like, a good boat shoe should keep you from slipping on a wet deck and be comfortable enough to wear even on the hottest days. With summer around the corner, here are some of my top picks for the best boat shoes.
How I Made My Picks
As a fisheries biologist and avid angler, it sometimes seems I’m on boats more than I’m on dry land. Between electrofishing surveys and fishing whenever I can, I’ve come to appreciate a good pair of boat shoes. The best pairs of shoes I’ve tried have all been comfortable to wear with amazing grip. This is especially important on aluminum boats, where any bit of water on the deck can make it super slick. Regardless of what brand of shoe you go with, make sure the soles are designed with traction in mind, and you’ll be much happier with your purchase. I also make sure I know what purpose I plan to use my boat shoes for. If I know they will be underwater at times, I look for shoes designed to dry fast. If I’m fishing through colder days, I prefer a shoe that is fully waterproof to keep me dry and warm. Here are some of the criteria I used to evaluate my selections for the best boat shoes.
Durability: What materials go into the shoe and how durable is it?Waterproofness: Is the shoe waterproof or quick-drying?Flexibility: How much flex in the sole is there and how comfortable is it?Support: How much support is in the insole for long days on the water?Available Sizes: Are there a variety of different sizes and options?Sole Design: How does the sole improve traction on wet surfaces?
Best Overall: Grundens Seaknit Boat Shoe
Why it Made the Cut
A good-looking sneaker-style boat shoe. It is comfortable and water-resistant for warm weather fishing.
Sizes: 8-14Colors: Metal, Anchor, Coastal Blue, Fog, Red OrangeSole Design: Gum Rubber Soles with razor cut siping
The most comfortable shoe we testedOffered in a wide range of sizesSoles have great traction
Laces aren’t designed for a tight fit
The Grundens Seaknit boat show combines an athletic style sneaker with all the benefits of a boat shoe. The shoe is lightweight and comfortable out of the box, and unlike other boat shoes, they fit true to size. These are offered in a wide range of sizes—up to size 14—which is rare for boat shoes. It is slightly water-resistant in case a rain shower pops up or spray comes over the gunwales. If you do soak your shoes, don’t worry, they dry fast with their light and breathable design. Grundens opted to go for gum rubber soles that are non-marking and beefed them up with razor cut siping. Whether on the water or around town, these are my go-to for just about anything.
Best for Men: Columbia Dorado CVO PFG Shoe
Why It Made the Cut
These stylish shoes are perfect for all-day wear with stain-resistant fabric and added support.
Sizes: 7-15Colors: Oxford Tan, BlackSole Design: Omni grip sole with razor siping
Stylish shoesWater and stain-resistantEVA lower foam for extra cushion
Columbia offers a wide variety of boat shoes, but the Dorado CVO PFG shoe stands out among the others. As part of Columbia’s Performance Fishing Gear line, it is designed with fishing in mind. The soles feature Blood’n Guts technology which repels blood, water, and dirt from staining your shoes. The shoe itself has a stylish design similar to street shoes but built of quick-drying material. In a pinch, you can even wet wade in them, and they’ll be dry by the time you’re back to the car. Like other shoes, we tested the outsole, which has a razor siping design, allowing more surface area contact to improve grip. For a flat shoe, I was very impressed with the insole support. Even after poling a skiff for several days, my feet and back felt surprisingly strong.
Best for Women: Columbia PFG Tamiami Shoe
Why It Made the Cut
A sneaker-style boat shoe designed specifically for women with great ventilation and sticky soles.
Sizes: 5-12Colors: Titanium, Grey Ice, WhiteSole Design: Omni grip sole with razor siping
Great ventilationStain-resistantComfortable insoles
When it comes to finding women-specific boat shoes, there aren’t many options out there. Luckily, Columbia has introduced several options including the Tamiami shoe designed specifically for women. The shoe features all the options common in Columbia boat shoes including the Omni grip sole, Blood’n Guts stain resistance, and plenty of ventilation. It is offered in several color options tailored towards women anglers and offered in sizes 5-12 with half sizes available. These shoes are designed to get wet and dry fast. The drain ports in the sole help get rid of water quickly and circulate air to dry them in no time. Even barefoot, these shoes are incredibly comfortable and ready for anything on or around the water.
Best for Fishing: Huk Rogue Waves
Why It Made the Cut
A fully waterproof, non-slip deck boot that excels no matter the season or the conditions.
Sizes: 7-14Colors: Grey, Blue, White, Mossy Oak BottomlandSole Design: GripX Wet Traction
100% WaterproofExtremely comfortableSeveral color options
Can be hot in summer
These are my go-to pair of boat shoes for long days on the water. The Huk Rogue Waves handle everything I throw at them. This slip-on style deck boot is easy to take on and off while still providing plenty of support. The inside of the boot is lined with a thin neoprene coating that keeps your feet dry and warm when it’s cold. The Rogue Waves keep my feet completely dry on my boat and have great traction even if the deck is wet. They can be submerged without allowing a single drop through. I’ve even used them turkey hunting in a pinch, and they work surprisingly well. The only downside is on hot summer days, they can be a little too warm.
Best Budget: Hey Dude Men’s Wally
Why It Made the Cut
A traditional style boat shoe at an affordable price. These shoes come in a wide ranges of colors and sizes and are made with comfort in mind.
Sizes: 8-15Colors: Natural Blue, Steel, Ice grey, Natural white, Slate, and many moreSole Design: Manmade Sole
Affordable for boat shoesPlenty of sizes and colorsFlexible sole and toe box
Soles lose some traction when wet
Traditional style boat shoes have been around for a long time but are notoriously not kind to the wallet. Hey Dude has solved this with the introduction of the Wally boat shoe. They are similar in design to traditional boat shoes; however, they utilize modern materials to make an affordable and comfortable shoe. Traditional boat shoes are made entirely of leather which can be sticky and uncomfortable. To solve this, the shoe features a cloth-lined inside to help keep your feet dry and comfortable in combination with a memory foam insole. The only downside to this shoe is the lack of traction on wet surfaces. It is more designed as a comfort shoe than a working boat shoe and are best for pleasure boaters or casual sailors.
Things to Consider Before Buying Boat Shoes
While any shoe can technically be a “boat shoe,” the best boat shoes are made specifically for boating with key features that address water activities. Make sure to consider these factors in order to make the best decision for the open water.
Perhaps the most important part of any shoe is it’s comfortability. This is exceptionally important for boat shoes. They must offer support for your feet all day, especially in rough conditions. But just as important, they need to be breathable to keep your feet dry and comfortable, especially if you wear them without socks. Breathability and comfortablility should be a the forefront of any boat shoe purchase.
Spend enough time on the water and you will get wet. Boat shoes solve this problem one of two ways: They either are completely waterproof, or they are built to dry fast. Several companies make a fully waterproof shoe and offer hardworking designs that are built to withstand rough seas. These can be worn year-round but sometimes lack breathability during the hottest months. The quick-dry approach has gained popularity with modern fabrics making shoes that look like everyday wear. If they get wet, a series of mesh openings and breathable fabrics typically allow air to pass through and dry shoes within minutes in some cases.
The most important aspect of any boat shoe is sole type. The best soles keep you from slipping around a wet boat. Look for soles that are sticky with good tread or razor cut siping for added stability. In addition, many boat shoes offer models with non-marking soles. People can be quite protective of their white boat so nonmarking soles are always helpful to have.
Q: How much do boat shoes cost?
Boat shoes can vary widely in price depending on design and features. Bigger deck boots that are fully waterproof can run you upwards of $100, while simpler deck shoes are typically much less. If you are looking for a good budget option, Hey Dude makes affordable and comfortable boating shoes. However, for those uncompromising anglers that want performance, the Huk Rogue Wave shoe is my go-to.
Q: Can you wear socks with boat shoes?
Nowadays, you can wear socks with pretty much any boat shoe. Socks can make certain shoes much more comfortable, but several boat shoes may perform best without them. Shoes that are designed to get wet and dry fast work best without socks. Cotton socks will hold moisture for longer and can actually slow down the drying process. Keep this in mind when you choose what kind of boat shoe to go with.
Q: Are boat shoes waterproof?
Depending on the kind of boat shoe you choose it may or may not be waterproof. A good boat shoe is designed to be comfortable, and depending on the style of fishing it’s made for, it can be waterproof or water-resistant. For cold weather anglers that need dry feet, boat shoes are designed to keep water completely out. But if you are a summertime angler or live somewhere warm, boat shoes are designed to be water-resistant and dry fast. This is perfect for when you take a break from fishing and decide to hop in the water by the sand bar.
Q: How do I clean boat shoes?
Cleaning boat shoes depends on the shoe you have. Fabric-based shoes can be put through the washer if they are really dirty, but most shoes can simply be hosed down. Boat shoes designed to be breathable usually are best kept clean with a handwash and air drying. For other rubber-style shoes, some soap, water, and a sponge can go a long way when cleaning.
Boat shoes can make a big difference when you’re on the water. The right shoes are comfortable and supportive, so you can focus on fishing all day. Like any pair of shoes, each will fit differently, so trying them on is a must. Once you find a pair that fit comfortably, take time to look at the features in the shoe. Look for breathability, support, and above all, traction. Any shoe with all three is worthy of time on the water. No matter what shoe you end up going with, remember to buy what feels right to you.
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