How to Pick the Perfect Boat Shoe

While usually an activity associated with summer, boating can be enjoyed any time of the year, even into the fall and winter months. Whether you’re headed for a sunset cruise around the harbor or a long expedition among rough waters, it’s important to have the right footwear on deck to make the most of your boating experience.  

It’s no secret that any boating adventure comes with the risk of getting wet, not to mention the risk of slippery floors. While you might associate boating activities with the standard summer fare, such as flip flops or other sandals, these styles of shoes will not provide you with protection to keep you from skidding, slipping, or falling. This also extends to standard dress shoes, which you might plan to wear for more formal occasions, such as a cocktail party on a yacht or a seaside work event.  

Luckily, men’s boat shoes do the trick. Below we’ll explore why they’re necessary for both the avid sailor and the occasional summer seafarer, how they function, and some of the most popular styles currently available.  

A Brief History of Boat Shoes 

Boat shoes were first imagined in 1930 after retired Navy sailor Paul Sperry took note of how slippery, and dangerous, his schooner’s deck inevitably became when wet. In an attempt to make the experience safer and more enjoyable, the retired sailor experimented by playing around with the deck itself. After slightly improving traction by giving it a fresh coat of paint and adding a layer of emery dust for increased grip, Sperry realized the sandpaper-like flooring would be extremely rough to the touch, especially if passengers were barefoot.  

Sperry began factoring the passenger himself into the equation by working with the other contact surface: the passenger’s shoes. He experimented with different materials to maximize the sole’s grip, such as rubber, but none seemed to demonstrate the non-skid protection he was looking for. After observing his dog run over slippery terrain with seemingly no issues, he began to take inspiration from another non-slip surface – a dog’s paws.  

Taking note of the uneven and grooved surface of his dog’s paws, Sperry began carving slits into shoes’ rubber soles, which effectively provided traction and balance to the wearer. After trial and error, the first boat shoe hit the shelves in 1935 to extremely popular demand.  

Why Do I Need Boat Shoes? 

Shoes are probably the last thing on your mind when you think of setting sail, and understandably so. If you are thinking of shoes, you’re probably thinking of sandals or possibly no shoes at all, since time spent on or near a boat is usually spent swimming or just lounging around on deck.  

After the initial release of boat shoes, sailors rushed to grab a pair due their trendiness and popularity, although their intended purpose was to provide extra safety measures by preventing falls and injuries on slippery decks.  

In addition to injury prevention, the white soles on boat shoes prevent scuff marks and leave the deck looking as clean as possible, meaning less cleaning for you, and more time for fun out on the water. They are also lightweight, comfortable, and keep feet clean and dry.  

How Do I Find My Perfect Pair? 

The perfect boat shoe for you depends on your specific needs and preferences. First and foremost, when choosing a pair of boat shoes, it is important to find the right fit. Comfort is key, but so is a glove-like fit – boat shoes should not be too loose; otherwise you run the risk of slipping out of your shoes, defeating their purpose.  

These shoes can take some time to break in, so don’t expect a perfectly comfortable fit straight out of the box, but make sure you don’t experience any pinching or chafing.  

Luckily, boat shoes today come in an endless variety of styles so you’re sure to find a pair that fits your preferences. Not only do boat shoes come in a wide assortment of colors, they are also made from different materials such as canvas or leather, among others.  

How Else Can I Wear Them?  

Some fundamentalists say boating shoes should stay on a boat. However, due to the ever-evolving range of styles, boat shoes are no longer limited to waterborne adventures. Their casual yet sophisticated styles make the men’s boat shoe versatile enough for a variety of occasions.  

They can be easily paired with long or short khakis for a fun yet effortless semiformal look perfect for a beachside happy hour, strolling along the boardwalk, or exploring the hot spots of coastal cities. Boat shoes also pair well with polo shirts and short-legged pants.  

Any event considered casual, taking place near the water, and that calls for exposed ankles are potentially great opportunities to rock your nautical style on land.  

Our Recommendations  

Now that you know a little more about the history of boat shoes, why they’re used, and how they can be worn, take a look at some of Rockport’s most popular styles.  

Our Perth Boat Shoe is the ultimate in both style and safety. The premium unlined upper allows for increased breathability for barefoot wear, and an advanced polyurethane cushioning system provides maximum comfort and absorbs excess moisture.  

Our Cullen Boat Shoe is true to size and is available in new dress blues, cognac, or dark drown colors. Durable enough for everyday wear, this topsider with an extra rugged sole is perfect for activities on both land and water.  

Whatever your needs or style preferences are, Rockport is proud to carry the best in men’s boating shoes and men’s footwear. Wherever you’re headed, Rockport’s high-quality selection of products will get you there and keep you looking your best.   

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