Choosing the Best Boat Shoes for Men – RECOMMENDATIONS!

Looking for the Best Boat Shoes for Men?

Check out my LIST of Men’s Boat Shoes I believe are the BEST based on over 35 years of boating experience!  (Updated for 2019)

Only the very BEST Boat Shoes will do while you are attempting to make a head sail change on a wet deck while being tossed around by 6+ foot waves!

Thirty plus years ago when I used to competitively race sailboats on the Great Lakes.  I wanted a boat shoe that would give me excellent traction, stand up to the stresses of sailboat racing, and look good too.  They had to feel comfortable, and last at least a couple of boating seasons.
Making a Headsail Change
My boat shoe requirements have changed over the years now that I have retired from sailboat racing. I am more into cruising, being comfortable, and…well…looking good too (if possible.)

“Life is just better in Boat Shoes!”

Hopefully this guide will provide you with some thoughts and recommendations to get you started.

Choosing the Best Boat Shoes for Men is Mostly About Traction!

Let’s face it, boat shoes have become as much of a fashion statement as they are an important piece of boating equipment. In that sense looks, comfort, and performance are the qualities that determines which men’s boat shoe is best for any one individual.

Traction is the primary reason most boaters buy Boat Shoes, to minimize slipping while walking on decks, especially when wet. Were talkin safety gear here!
Best Men's Boat Shoe Mostly About Traction
Traction is about friction and the material used for the Sole of the shoe as well as the tread design of the sole.

You want a sole material with the highest frictional coefficient possible without sacrificing wear any more than necessary. Natural vulcanized rubber has the highest coefficient and is by far the best sole material for a men’s boat shoe.

Any compounding to make the sole wear longer takes away from its traction.

Vibram is just one of several excellent rubber compounds found in some of the best men’s boat shoes. It gives excellent traction and wears better than just vulcanized rubber. I am wearing a pair right now that I have owned for at least 16 years. I retired them from boating a long time ago but they still make for great slippers!

Tread Design – What to Look For!

Tread design is Extremely Important. The only time a boat shoe will have traction is when the sole is in contact with the deck surface (obviously!) So, it is vital that the tread design allows for water to quickly evacuate the sole area to allow as much surface area contact possible. Otherwise, your shoe is going to hydroplane.

This is accomplished by incorporating groves or channels in the tread that allow the water to quickly evacuate the sole print area.

Sperry discovered the concept of utilizing Siping as seen in the Men’s Boat Shoes below. Other boat shoe companies utilize similar tread designs.
Mens Boat Shoe Comparison ii
Notice that each of them have the Wavy groves or Siping that is common to all the best boat shoes. This is what makes a Men’s Boat Shoe “Sticky” so you get the Best Traction Possible.

The Sebago soles have wider Siping which help the water to evacuate faster so you don’t hydroplane on a wet deck.

The Sperry sole has secondary channels for water to evacuate but have narrower Siping for excellent traction.

The Timberland Sole features similar Sipping as the Sperry but NO Channels.  This type sole will really give excellent traction but may hydroplane on a slick wet surface – especially when your moving fast.

All three Sole Designs are excellent! However there are other tread designs that work equally as well. Some of the best Men’s Boat Shows utilize a symmetrical nub design that also works very well at gripping the deck and evacuating water.

So traction is the main consideration I used in making up this List of the Best Men’s Boat Shoes.

Uppers Are Important Too!

The material used for Men’s Boat Shoe Uppers is important also.  You want an Upper that will give your foot the support necessary when scrambling around on a heaving deck.

For serious boating I recommend Top Grain Leather that has been treated to withstand frequent wetting. Hand-stitching so they don’t fail at a critical moment and for the best comfort, and fit.

I prefer a 2 Eye Lace-Up Style.  This allows me to be able to slip in or out of my shoes without using my hand.  It also means the shoe is more likely to slip off at a critical time if you wear them loose like I do.

A 3 Eye Lace-Up secures the shoe better.  With either one you want a 360 Lace-Up where the lace goes all the way around the opening of the shoe and feeds up through the Lace-Up grommets.  This will allow you to adjust the shoe to your foot for the best fit.

Drainage, a Must for the Serious Boater!

If you get a shoe full of water while trying to scramble around on deck you could lose a shoe. Not Good!

One feature I consider Very Important for men who expect to do some serious boating is Drainage. Most commonly a mesh-type material designed into the upper to allow your foot to breathe and also allows water to drain. We used to punch holes through on the instep side before they came with vents.

If you think you might find yourself in a situation such as making a head sail change while taking water over the bow in heavy weather you should seriously consider a Men’s Boat Shoe with a Drainage Feature.

A Drainage Feature also allows your boat shoe to breathe and dry out faster.

Unfortunately, there are relatively few models offered by the Top Brands of Men’s Boat Shoes with a drainage feature.

Top 3 BEST Performance Boat Shoes for Men

If you intend to do some serious boating and want a boat shoe that will perform well under extreme conditions, here are 3 that won’t let you down.

Although there are a lot of excellent men’s boat shoes I am going to suggest BELOW, these three fine shoes belong on your list of the best.  They offer the Drainage Feature, excellent traction, high quality, comfort and other features I consider essential.

Sebago Men's Clovehitch II

Sperry Top-Sider Men's Billfish boat shoe for men

Irish Setter Men's Lakeside shoe for men

Who Makes the Best Quality Boat Shoe?


When it comes to comparing the quality of boat shoes, the first thing I look at is the leather. You should make sure the leather is naturally tanned or vegetable tanned. This process produces a more comfortable material that is generally softer and will withstand the cycle of being wet and dry without cracking. Chemical tanned leather is a less expensive and faster process. It provides an acceptable material for modestly priced street shoes. The problem with chemical tanning is it will make your feet smelly.

Sperry, Timberland, and Sebago use vegetable tanned leather for their boat shoes.


No matter how good the leather is it doesn’t matter unless its held together with good stitching. Sperry, Timberland, and Sebago hand-stitch their shoes.

If I had to choose one brand over the other as far as quality goes it would be difficult. I have had excellent wear as well as comfort from these three brands.


This List of the Best Boat Shoes for Men (SEE BELOW) is based mostly on my own experience of actually wearing the shoes, both while boating and for casual wear.

I believe that Sperry, Sebago, and Timberland (generally speaking) currently offer the best quality men’s boat shoe. Plus, here are some other quality brands that fit the criteria I look for.

Sperry Mens Authentic Original ShoesSperry Men’s Authentic Original ShoesBuy NowSperry Top-Sider Mens Billfish 3-Eye Boat ShoeSperry Top-Sider Men’s Billfish 3-Eye Boat ShoeBuy NowSebago Mens Docksides Boat ShoeSebago Men’s Docksides Boat ShoeBuy NowDockers Mens Lakeport Boat ShoeDockers Men’s Lakeport Boat ShoeBuy NowTimberland Mens Classic 2-Eye Boat ShoeTimberland Mens Classic 2-Eye Boat ShoeBuy NowSebago Mens Clovehitch LiteSebago Men’s Clovehitch LiteBuy Now

Sebago Mens Docksides Boat ShoeSebago Men’s Docksides Boat ShoeBuy NowSebago Mens Schooner Boat ShoeSebago Mens Schooner Boat ShoeBuy NowSebago Mens Triton Three-Eye Boat ShoeSebago Men’s Triton Three-Eye Boat ShoeBuy Now