Best Shoes for Boating, Sailing, Fishing & Camping in 2021

When it comes to preparing oneself to step onto a boat, a person thinks of many things. However, I am sure the last thing that comes to mind is the shoes on your feet.

Having the best shoes for boating is so important though, without them, a boating trip could go from pleasant to someone taking a spill on the deck in a second.

That is where boat shoes come in.

Boat shoes have actually grown into an interesting fashion fad most commonly seen on college campuses. Boat shoes have a much more utilitarian history that is still valued and seen today.

Nowadays, the number of modern boat shoes out there is overwhelming. There are so many new styles and added features; it is hard to know what you want. From style to safety and functionality, boat shoes can do more than boat safety.

That is why we created this guide.

So, we encourage you to read on and find out how you can find the best shoes for boating.

Sperry Men's A/O 2-Eye Pullup Shoe
Aleader Quick Drying Aqua Water Shoes
Vibram KSO EVO Cross Training Shoe
Astral Brewer 2.0 Outdoor Sneakers
Sperry Men's A/O 2-Eye Pullup Shoe
ALEADER Men's Quick Drying Aqua Water Shoes
Vibram Men's KSO EVO Cross Training Shoe
Astral Men's Brewer 2.0 Everyday Minimalist Outdoor Sneakers, Grippy and Quick Drying, Made for...
Sperry Men's A/O 2-Eye Pullup Shoe
Sperry Men's A/O 2-Eye Pullup Shoe
Aleader Quick Drying Aqua Water Shoes
ALEADER Men's Quick Drying Aqua Water Shoes
Vibram KSO EVO Cross Training Shoe
Vibram Men's KSO EVO Cross Training Shoe
Astral Brewer 2.0 Outdoor Sneakers
Astral Men's Brewer 2.0 Everyday Minimalist Outdoor Sneakers, Grippy and Quick Drying, Made for...

Where Did Boat Shoes Come From?

original Sperry boat shoes for sailing

The original boat shoe was created in 1935 by a fellow named Paul Sperry. The soft-leather, moccasin-like loafer was created for sailors to combat slippage on the deck of a ship.

According to a Sperry spokesperson, Paul Sperry noticed his dog had no issue climbing around slippery surfaces. After closer inspection, he noticed the herringbone-like grooves in his dog’s paws.

So, he decided to mimic the tiny grooves of his dog’s paws on the bottoms of his shoes. With a pen-knife, Sperry cut threads into the outer soles of his shoes for traction.

His brilliant quick-thinking led to the birth of what we know today as boat shoes. Interestingly, boat shoes have become popular in crowds outside of boaters.

From cities to college campuses, boat shoes are now an icon of American style. Despite its mainstream popularity, its functionality still makes it a go-to for many boaters.

Characteristics of Traditional Boating Shoes

  1. They had mid to dark brown leather uppers.
  2. The uppers are treated to be water-resistant.
  3. Moccasin-toe construction.
  4. Hand-stitched and sewn.
  5. Typically have 2-3 eyelets.
  6. Laces are made from the same material as the uppers.
  7. Soles are white or light-colored.
  8. The sole’s tread pattern is a traditional herringbone pattern.

What Should You Look for in a Modern Boat Shoe?

When you are on a boat, safety is a major concern. Whether you are passing through raging waters or not, your shoes should act as a safety precaution. As such, your boat shoes’ performance is far more important than their appearance.

Here are the characteristics of good boat shoe:

Tread Pattern

  • Its tread pattern defined the first official boat shoe. As such, any decent boat shoe should offer good traction.
  • Nowadays, there are a variety of tread patterns for different settings. Try a moderate tread for more leisure sailing trips. For something more fast-paced like race sailing, you should invest in shoes with a more aggressive tread.


  • Once you have determined the siping, you want to make sure the shoes stay on your feet. There are slip-on boat shoes for the more relaxed, casual trips. More high-energy activities need shoes with more security.
  • Aim for shoes that have laces or velcro.

Sole Color

  • Next, you should be mindful of the color of your soles. Boat shoes should have a white or light-colored sole. Why? Dark soles can scuff the deck of the boat. If you want to wear shoes with dark soles, I recommend having a carpet on your boat. Just make sure you know how to clean your boat carpet because it will get dirty.

Water-Resistant Shoe

  • It is best to find a shoe that is water-resistant but not water-proof. I know; it sounds counter-intuitive.
  • The water-proof shoe issue is that the water can get trapped inside the shoe and prune your feet. That is why you should consider shoes that are quick to dry or have built-in drainage ports.

Boating Shoe Style

  • While style comes second to performance, it still matters. The great thing is that traditional topsiders come in various styles, so you aren’t limited in your choice.

Boating Shoe Types

Now that we know what makes a good boating shoe, let’s look at the different types of boating shoes you might need. Each type of shoe provides its own unique level of functionality, style, and comfort.

Classic Boat Shoes

  • Many boaters still favor the Classic Sperry Topsider, and for a good reason. In addition to their timeless appearance, these boat shoes can handle wet and dry decks with ease.
  • The shoes are made up of natural leather that is durable and can withstand sun and water exposure. You can find these boat shoes in canvas if you prefer another shoe material.
  • These shoes can easily replace your favorite pair of sneakers or loafers.
Sperry Men's A/O 2-Eye Pullup Shoe
  • Genuine hand-sewn leather uppers with true moccasin construction to ensure longevity of wear
  • Functional 360 degree lacing system delivers comfortable, secure fit with rustproof eyelets
  • Genuine rawhide laces

Active Water Shoes

  • If you enjoy fast-paced water activities, you need shoes that can keep up. Trade in the Sperry Topsiders’ stylish aspect for the snug and secure fit of an active water shoe.
  • An active water shoe is designed to resemble a hybrid between a sock and spandex. The design is great because it is flexible and breathable and protects your feet from scrapes and cuts.
  • Active water shoes also excellent underfoot grip. So you can also wear these shoes if you like to surf or water ski.
ALEADER Men's Quick Drying Aqua Water Shoes
  • Breathable and durable air mesh upper allow the foot to breathe
  • Solyte midsole provides an exceptionally lightweight midsole with excellent bounce-back and durability
  • Water Drain and cushion outsole provides exceptional traction in wet and slippery conditions,offer you good performace on your water aerobic activities.

Paddler Shoes

  • Now, if you prefer kayaking in calm waters, like coastlines or harbors, active water shoes can get the job done.
  • If you love paddling through river rapids and waterfalls, you might need more aggressive paddling shoes.
  • Like the Vibram KSO Evo Cross Training shoe, Paddling shoes provide the same snug fit as an active water shoe. They have a sturdier shoe construction, including tie fastenings and tread patterns on each toe.
Vibram Men's KSO EVO Cross Training Shoe
  • Runs small, Go up a size
  • Lightly padded tongue & speed lacing system.Care - Machine Wash Cold / Air Dry
  • Serrated blade lug design.Select half size up or down

What Are The Best Shoes for Boating?

Now, picking the best boating shoe is definitely a thing of preference. It depends on the type of boater you are and how much boating activity you participate in.

Some will not need more reinforced boating shoes, while others will not need more stylish boating shoes.

What if I told you there was a shoe that had the best of all worlds?

The Astral 2.0 Water Shoes combine the best features of functionality, comfort, and style. Drawing from the classic boat shoe and a classic sneaker, these shoes include lace fastenings and sock-like lining.

Additionally, they also have breathable mesh uppers and toe and heel drain. This way, you could get your feet as wet as you want, and the shoes can stay nice and dry.

Their sturdy but comfortable and flexible build makes them perfect for a day on your pontoon boat or a day out in your kayak.

Astral Men's Brewer 2.0 Everyday Minimalist Outdoor Sneakers, Grippy and Quick Drying, Made for...
  • GRANITE GRIP 2.0: Made for surfaces smooth, wet and rocky; Allows excellent flex and sensory feedback for enhanced grip and balance; With razor-siping, divided lugs and a maximized surface area
  • EXTRA GRIPPY: High performance G.15 rubber outsole is extra grippy and sticky like tar; Low durometer construction conforms to the ground and provides excellent abrasion resistance
  • WATER READY: Built-in Polygiene treated sockliner to eliminate odor, holes in the front and back to drain water, and mesh to vent hot air; Hydrophobic, quick-dry canvas and water resistant laces

Other Boating Apparel Essentials

By now, we have established that reliable boat shoes are a necessity. They are not the only important aspect of a boater’s apparel.

Let’s talk about what else you should wear anytime you are on-board a ship or boat.

First, you should always carry a good pair of sunglasses with you. Sunglasses are a great way to protect your eyes from the sun’s UV rays on bright days. Moreover, they ensure you have the best visibility possible while you are piloting your boat.

Secondly, it is always a good idea to pack a rain jacket. You never know when the weather will change at the drop of a hat.

So, whether you get socked from the rain or a dip in the water, a jacket can keep you warm. It can also reduce the chances of you catching a cold.

Thirdly, you should invest in a good hat. In particular, it can protect your face from too much sun exposure. On rainy days, it can keep the rain out of your eyes.

Fourthly, we highly suggest you invest in a water-resistant duffle bag. A durable water-tight bag can keep any extra clothes, towels, electronics, and other goods dry and safe.

Last but definitely not least, on sunny boating days, do not forget your sunscreen. Sunscreen will protect your skin when you are exposed for a whole day of boating.

Make sure to find a water-resistant sunscreen; otherwise, it might wash off as the day goes on.


Boating can be a relaxing and exhilarating experience. As such, you need shoes that can withstand whatever wild water adventures you go on. That does not mean you should sacrifice style.

Fortunately, boat shoes have come far since the 1930s. Now you can have boat shoes for every occasion. From white water rafting to a calm day at the docks, boat shoes strike a happy balance between practicality and style.

This is why it has become such a universal shoe for so many people. They are easy and comfortable boat shoes that other shoes cannot measure up to.

I hope this best shoes for boating article was helpful to you. Please share your thoughts with us!

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