Wearing the best sailing shoes, whether onboard your boat or not, can say a lot about you. Besides looking the part and being a bit of a fashion statement, of course, they have a very practical aspect as well.
The most important aspect of wearing the best shoes for sailing is that of safety. There cannot be enough said about taking the proper precautions to keep yourself and the rest of the crew on your sailboat free from injury.
The best boat shoes for sailing are the ones that you want to wear every time you go on the water. This only happens when they are comfortable and do the best job they can, providing support and grip when you need it most.
While it may look cool and hip to sail barefoot, there are many reasons why you should not consider this even for a short cruise around the bay. Sailing barefoot is plain dangerous. You can slip and fall or become injured. There are cleats and blocks and other equipment all over the place, and it’s super easy to stub toes.
You can trip and injure others. You may lose control of your boat should you lose your footing. These are just a few reasons why you should always wear the best boat shoes when sailing.
Here is a table with our picks of the best options on the market at the moment (see a more in-depth review of each shoe at the bottom is this post). These sailing shoes are not specifically for laser sailing, but are popular options for a variety of uses including dinghy, yacht, and ocean sailing, as well as for when you are back on dry land or in the bar…
The Different Types of Sailing Shoes
The best shoes for when you are sailing come in many different styles and designs. Each has the same basic construction and features you would expect for use aboard a sailboat. These features include:
- non-slip treads,
- comfortable materials that can you can wear for long periods of time, and
- strong enough to withstand the demands of sailing and sailboat racing. This goes for all upper and sole materials, as well as the stitching.
Many also have a nice contemporary look. This makes the best shoes for sailing also a good choice of footwear for other occasions off the water as well.
As for some of the more specific differences:
- Sport sailing shoes are flexible, provide comfort and come with super-grippy soles for added traction. They are also designed to keep your feet dry.
- Deck shoes are waterproof, durable and made to be comfortable. The soles do not provide as much traction as sport sailing shoes but are still non-slip.
- Sailing boots are waterproof and have non-slip soles but are heavier and larger than other sailing shoes.
- Good offshore boots go up the calf and will keep feet warm and dry in any conditions.
- Dinghy hiking boots cover the ankles and provide comfort, fit and are completely non-slip. They are flexible and comfortable with soles designed for traction.
- Sailing sandals are for use in calmer waters and provide traction around the deck and are generally classified as casual footwear while on the water.
Here are some of the most popular sailing shoes that you will find at the moment:
Helly Hansen Men’s Hydropower 4 Shoe
The upgrade has a low-cut design with an anti-microbial, quick-drying surface. The synthetic mesh upper has increased breathability attached to a TPU stable frame. They have a molded EVA sock liner midsole and an outsole with a multi-directional grip system that provides superior traction and shock absorption. High-wear areas have received extra treatment to add durability.
There is no reason to not consider these as one of the best men’s sailing shoes ever made!
- Dry quickly
- The fit can be a bit small so be careful when ordering by size
- These shoes are reported as not being waterproof nor water resistant. Although they are designed to dry very quickly
Sperry Top-Sider Men’s Sea Kite Sport Boat Shoe
This moc-style boat shoe features a quick dry and water-resistant leather and mesh upper. The smooth inner lining is also water resistant. They come with compression molded EVA midsoles and footbeds that are completely removable.
What sets these apart in making them one of the best shoes for sailing is the trademarked Adaptive Wave Siping. This is the name used for the innovative tread design on the soles of these Sperry Top-Siders. The design actually disperses water from under your foot which results in better traction on wet or dry surfaces.
- Attractive, good looking shoes
- Comfortable, good fit
- Sole has good grip
- No drainage so feet will get wet inside the shoe
- Dye on the outside can fade quickly
- Leather uppers are easily scratched
Sperry Top-Sider Men’s Bahama Two-Eyelet Boat Shoe
Molded EVA midsoles make for a nice comfortable cushion for feet. The out-sole has a non-marking rubber construction with the Wave Siping design to enhance traction on board or on land.
What makes these shoes stand out is the innovative 360-degree lacing system. This means they will stay secure and not slip off when racing around the deck. They also look great so will definitely look the part after a race back in the clubhouse.
- Comfortable fit
- Good looking, stylish shoe design
- Sizing may run small
- No ventilation
- Scuff easily
- Laces may come undone easily due to the coating used
Helly Hansen Women’s Hydropower 4 Deck Shoe
They get these traits from the synthetic open mesh construction which also provides a quick-drying feature. Add to this a structural overlay design that keeps feet protected from various onboard and on-land obstacles and you have one of the best boat shoes for women on the market.
Removable EVA midsoles add comfort and cushioning with a siped rubber outsole that adds extra traction.
For an in-depth review of some of the best women’s boat shoes, click here.
- Good fit
- Attractive, comfortable shoe
- Tie system may be difficult for some to master
Gill Trapeze Boots – Black/Silver
With a reinforced heel, toes, and bridge, this is one of the best purpose designed sailing shoes on this market. The ankle support has flat lock seams. The non-ferrous Velcro lock zip keeps these boots from slipping off during an intense session on the water.
These are very durable and strong boots that will last well and do a good job when on the water.
- Well constructed
- An attractive shoe with good sole
- Velcro closure is easy to use
- Sizing may be off so beware when ordering
NeoSport Wetsuits Premium Neoprene 3mm Hi Top Zipper Boot
The sole also has a puncture resistant insert which adds protection and strength.
These high top boots will keep your feet both warm and dry. They are available in 13 sizes (4 to 16 US) and come complete with a 12-month limited warranty. This makes them one of the best sailing shoes you will find.
For more sailing boots, click here.
- Comfortable, good fit
- Nice solid sole
- High top design keeps sand and water out
- Zipper closure may be difficult to close on some
Sperry Top-Sider Men’s A/O Boat Shoe
Featuring a genuine leather upper and a rubber, non-marking sole, these Sperry Top-Sider boat shoes are a great casual choice. They look sharp whether you are on the deck of your boat or back in the club.
With rawhide lacing in a 360-degree lace-up system, these best boat shoes for sailing will stay on and fit your feet snugly.
The soles feature the trademarked Razor-Cut Wave Siping tread pattern. This results in excellent traction in both wet and dry conditions.
Shock absorption is from the molded Ortholite heel cup and adds comfort to the fit.
- Look and feel good, fit well
- Laces come undone frequently
- Not very water resistant
Helly Hansen Men’s Midsund 2 Rain Boot
Depending on the size you get, the shaft (ie. height of the boot) measures about 11-12 inches from the arch and these boots have a 1.25-inch high heel. The boot opening is 15-17-inches around.
As these are a tall boot, they are water resistant, have a traction grip and will keep your feet warm and dry regardless of the conditions.
They are made out of 100% rubber and have a superior grip in wet conditions.
They are a practical and durable choice of footwear for sailing.
- Easy pull-on, pull off design
- Rubber non-slip sole
- Fit well
- Not as durable as expected
- No ventilation
Sperry Women’s Bahama 2-Eye Boat Shoe
The Bahama Boat Shoes have a cotton canvas upper which provides both comfort and breathability. They use a wave comfort system with a removable molded footbed constructed from polyurethane which adds to the strength of the shoe.
The 360-degree lacing system provides a secure fit and is attractively designed to be a perfect match on or off the boat.
- Attractive shoe in pink!
- Comfortable fit
- Sizing runs a bit bigger so beware when ordering
Sperry Women’s H2O Escape Bungee Water Shoes
It features a bungee closure that is adjustable and has a toggle closure to keep them securely on your feet. Add to this a quick-drying fabric lining and your feet will stay warm and dry as well as comfortable. They have a removable cushioned footbed and the outsole made of a non-marking rubber.
The contemporary styling also makes these the sailing shoes you will want to wear on and off the water. They will go with almost any outfit and social engagement.
- Available in several different colors
- Looks like a running shoe
- Breathes like a running shoe
- Sizing may be off, so beware when ordering
The Best Shoes for Sailing
It’s not hard to find a large selection of the best boat shoes for sailing. This is because manufacturers have embraced the boating lifestyle in recent years. This means that many shoes are functional and practical whether on the water or not.
When shopping for this kind of footwear you will want to watch for certain features, including:
- lightweight but strong and durable construction,
- comfortable but functional,
- water resistant, quick drying materials, and
- non-slip sole or a sole that provides excellent traction in wet or dry conditions.
When you are able to find all this in the right shoe, you will have found the best sailing shoes to maximize the enjoyment of your time on the water.
With so much choice these days, it can be hard to make a decision. We are spoilt for selection with various options in design and price. So, to help out our fellow sailors (and not just Laser sailors), what are your favorite sailing shoes? What has lasted well and stood the test of time for you? Please share your pick of the best shoes for sailing below…