Last updated: August 11, 2021

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Welcome to our big sailing shoes test 2021. Here we present all the sailing shoes we have tested in detail. We have compiled detailed background information and added a summary of customer reviews on the web.

We would like to make your purchase decision easier and help you find the best sailing shoes for you. You will also find answers to frequently asked questions in our guide. Furthermore, you will also find some important information on this page that you should be aware of when buying sailing shoes.




The most important facts

  • Sailing shoes allow you to find optimal grip on smooth surfaces such as a ship's deck and have many other features that are necessary for a stay on ships.
  • There are classic leather boat shoes, fashionable and sporty shoes made of synthetic or mixed fabrics and boot models.
  • Not only on deck but also in leisure time, boat shoes are a fashionable eye-catcher and very comfortable when worn barefoot in spring or summer.

The Best Sailing Shoes: Our Picks

Guide: Questions you should ask yourself before buying sailing shoes

What are the main features of sailing shoes?

Sailing shoes, also called boat shoes or deck shoes, are characterised by a particularly non-slip sole that offers optimal grip, especially on wet surfaces. They must also be able to withstand salt water, dry quickly and be completely closed.

Classic sailing shoes can be recognised immediately by the typical heel straps (Image source: unsplash.com / Rui Silvestre)

The sole is the most important component of sailing shoes. Even with different manufacturers, the soles always have a smooth contact surface and drainages that allow water to run off.

Did you know that sailing shoes were invented by Paul Sperry in the 1920s? Sperry got the idea to make the sailing shoes thanks to the grooves and shapes of his dog's paws. The Cocker Spaniel proved amazingly stable on slippery ground. He served as inspiration for Paul Sperry and so the first soles with herringbone pattern were created.

The classic patterns of the drainage channels are the herringbone pattern and the knife edge pattern. In addition, the high-quality rubber soles do not cause abrasion so as not to leave unsightly streaks on deck. Due to the special conditions at sea, sailing shoes must be made of suitable material.

Salt water and the alternation between cold and strong sunlight must not impair the function of the shoes. The material also influences whether the shoes are waterproof or water-permeable. In both cases, the shoes must have good breathability so that they are dry again the next morning after a watery day.

Since each manufacturer uses different materials for the sole, the inner material and the upper material, each model has individual characteristics. This makes each sailing shoe suitable for different weather conditions. In general, all sailing shoes can be used for walking on deck without any problems.

However, some sailing shoes focus more on a trendy design, whereas others focus on suitability on deck.

What weather/season are sailing shoes suitable for?

In general, sailing shoes are suitable for any weather. No matter if it is cloudy, sunny or stormy, as well as hot or cold days. The many variants offer a suitable model for every occasion.

Of course, it makes a difference whether you are going to the Caribbean or planning a trip around Greenland.

For extremely cold conditions, you should consider putting on particularly robust and waterproof boots that also have enough room to wear thick socks.

For warmer climates, light and water-permeable shoes that you can slip into barefoot are more suitable.

How much do sailing shoes cost?

There is a considerable difference in the price of sailing shoes. Depending on the brand and quality differences, you can buy sailing shoes for as little as €10 or pay up to €1300 for a luxury model. As is common in the footwear industry, it doesn't necessarily matter whether you buy shoes, loafers or boots made of synthetic fabric or leather.

A big part of the price is the brand. Of course, the price also affects the quality of the shoes, but everyone has to decide for themselves which shoes are best for their individual circumstances.

Type price range
Leather shoes approx. 10-1300€
Racing shoes approx. 40-150€
Regatta shoes approx. 40-150€
Sailing boots approx. 100-400€

How long do sailing shoes last?

As is often the case, the quality depends on the price. Usually there is a price limit, above which the price no longer has much effect on the quality. A general upper limit is reached at around €400 for leather shoes and €250 for synthetic shoes.

With particularly inexpensive models of around 10-40€, there is a risk that the sole or seams will come loose after a few uses, or even that the leather strap will tear. Intensive use over several years will inevitably lead to wear and tear.

Of course, the lifespan varies depending on the manufacturer and model. Higher-priced models made of leather are more robust and durable, but also require more intensive care than models made of synthetics, which are somewhat more susceptible.

The lifespan of sailing shoes depends on the quality of the material, intensive use and proper care.

What alternatives are there for sailing shoes?

Now there are always people who are simply not happy with "normal" sailing shoes, or who are simply taking part in a sailing trip or similar for a special occasion and are therefore looking for boat-suitable alternatives. Generally speaking, all shoes with a rubber sole provide grip on slippery surfaces.

However, this does not mean that all rubber soles are suitable for a cruise. The shoes must be suitable for the conditions on a ship. In addition, the following alternatives should only be considered if it is a leisurely cruise in moderate weather.

Type Description
Indoor sports shoes The non-slip sole leaves no marks. Most of the time, the shoes have breathable properties. A disadvantage is the annoying squeaking and the water retention. If they get really wet (again, there are exceptions), the shoes may still be wet the next morning.
Crocs Crocs were originally designed as boat shoes and are therefore well suited as sailing shoes. They can be worn as loafers or as fixed shoes because of the adjustable heel strap. The material is robust enough and the sole provides a decent grip.
Hiking sandals They are less popular on deck, but can still be used as an alternative. They usually have a rubber sole and thus offer good grip. You can definitely wear them for a leisurely cruise in warm weather.

Decision: What types of sailing shoes are there and which is right for you?

If you want to buy boat shoes, you have to decide between four types that are more suitable for you, depending on what you want to do.

  • Classic leather sailing shoes
  • Racing shoes
  • Regatta shoes
  • Sailing boots

The different shoes are always made of different materials and often have an upper material and an inner material. The materials used vary from model to model and also depend on the manufacturer. Leather shoes can be made of pure leather or artificial leather.

The types of leather vary between smooth leather, nubuck leather and suede, which are specially treated to obtain the desired properties. Which type of leather is used in each case varies from manufacturer to manufacturer. They differ mainly in appearance, with nubuck leather being somewhat softer than suede.

Did you know that the Englishman Robin Knox-Johnston was the first person to sail non-stop around the world? His journey lasted 313 days, from 1968 to 1969. It was a single-handed circumnavigation of the world without calling at any port.

A vegetable alternative is cotton, also called canvas. Here, too, there are various mixed forms. Besides cotton, hemp fibres, linen or chemical fibres can also be used.

These textiles are usually further chemically treated to give them the functions they need. If synthetic fabric is used, it can be a mesh fabric.

Mesh is breathable, water permeable and dries very quickly. It consists of a flexible fabric with very many holes, which gives it the characteristics described.

Besides mesh, neoprene, solid rubber or rubber mixtures are also often used.

What distinguishes classic sailing shoes and what are their advantages and disadvantages?

First of all, a distinction must be made between shoes made of full leather and artificial leather. Shoes made of natural leather have advantages that cannot be matched by specially treated artificial leather shoes in their entirety. However, shoes made of artificial leather can score in other areas.

Leather sailing shoes

The two biggest advantages of natural leather over artificial leather are the material's stretchability and breathability. Our feet swell a little during the day, so shoes made of natural leather are still very comfortable to wear in the evening.

Furthermore, leather has a natural breathability that prevents perspiration and thus prevents unpleasant odours. If leather is cared for properly, it will last the longest of all materials. If you are worth the effort and are willing to pay a slightly higher price, you will enjoy shoes made of natural leather for a long time.

Advantages
  • Waterproof
  • Stretchy
  • Durable
  • Odourless
Disadvantages
  • Requires a lot of care
  • Can cause blisters
  • Higher price

Synthetic leather sailing shoes

Synthetic leather shoes are particularly easy to care for and look just as good as natural leather. Their weather resistance even surpasses that of natural leather. Due to their particularly dense structure, they are naturally waterproof.

However, this dense structure inhibits breathability, which is why the notorious stinky feet can occur. This is particularly common with lower-quality artificial leathers.

The lower the quality, the shorter the life of the shoes. If you decide on a model made of imitation leather, you should make sure that it fits well, as imitation leather cannot give in. Also make sure you have enough space inside the shoe. If you ever want to put on socks, pressure points can occur.

Advantages
  • Waterproof
  • More weatherproof
  • Easy to clean
  • Less expensive
Disadvantages
  • Rigid fit
  • Sweaty feet
  • Varying quality in some cases

What distinguishes racing shoes and what are their advantages and disadvantages?

Racing shoes for boating are usually made of neoprene and rubber. This gives the shoes stabilising properties around the heel. This is necessary because at high speeds and with a strong incline, a lot of stress is exerted on the ankle joint.

Neoprene shoes have an excellent heat-insulating function, but this also ensures permanent moisture on the foot. This favours the formation of athlete's foot when worn for a long time, which is why these shoes need special care. The low weight and basic flexibility are a great advantage in hectic movements that strain the material, apart from which they are comparatively less comfortable.

Those who want the benefits of these shoes must be able to get used to the feeling of wearing them.

Advantages
  • Stabilise the foot
  • Insulate
  • Light weight
Disadvantages
  • Hygienic care required
  • Less comfortable
  • Pure sports shoe

What distinguishes regatta shoes and what are their advantages and disadvantages?

Regatta shoes combine the fashionable design of common sports shoes with the functional needs of sailing shoes. A combination of neoprene and mesh textiles gives them the features that a fashion-conscious sailor needs.

The mesh textile used offers excellent comfort and at the same time is dry again within a very short time. This material can be designed in countless colours and patterns, making it extremely popular with many recreational sailors.

However, because this material is so thin, it offers less protection should you run into it with your toe. Even minor scratches can quickly affect the material and the first fringes can appear. The neoprene insulates the feet well and the high breathability creates a pleasant climate.

Due to their beautiful appearance, these shoes can be combined well with leisure wear and also look good in the harbour. But if you wear them often outside the ship, the thin sole will wear out very quickly.

Advantages
  • High wearing comfort
  • Fast drying
  • Attractive design
Disadvantages
  • Susceptible to wear
  • Less protection
  • Thin sole

What distinguishes sailing boots and what are their advantages and disadvantages?

Sailing boots are a special type of boat shoe. They are guaranteed to protect against wet feet and are extremely resistant to hard impacts. The multi-coated boots are 100% waterproof and yet breathable. Even though they provide good protection against the cold, they should be worn with socks specially designed for sailing.

If you want to buy sailing boots, you should also make sure that the fit is adapted to your individual calf size. Although the lacing allows a certain amount of leeway, there are sometimes considerable differences here.

Due to the complex manufacturing process and the special textile and rubber mixtures, a certain quality also demands its price. Inexpensive models are nevertheless suitable for all those who only need to make occasional use of these shoes.

Advantages
  • 100% waterproof
  • Very robust
  • Breathable
Disadvantages
  • Firm fit
  • Limited mobility
  • High price for good quality

Buying criteria: Use these factors to compare and rate sailing shoes

In the following, we will show you which aspects you can use to decide between the many possible sailing shoes. The criteria you can use to compare boat shoes include:

  • Grip of the sole
  • Drying properties
  • Dirt absorption during shore leave
  • Wearing comfort
  • Workmanship
  • Price-performance ratio

In the following paragraphs, we will explain what is important in each criterion.

Sole grip

As mentioned above, the sole is the most important part of a boat shoe. You already know that there is the knife-cut pattern and the herringbone pattern. Both differ only slightly from each other.

The deep drainages ensure optimal water drainage (Image source: pixabay.com / Hans)

What both have in common is a smooth bearing surface and many channels that allow water to drain away. These channels, also called drainages, are also so thin so that no stones can get caught in them, which could then damage the deck.

The sole is made of either rubber or high-quality rubber, which ensures slip resistance. In the past, these soles were made of light-coloured material so as not to leave streaks on the deck. But today, the materials used are so advanced that a light colour is no longer an issue.

On closer inspection, it is noticeable that the soles have different thicknesses. A thinner sole is more comfortable to wear, but absorbs shocks less well.

Especially for longer sailing trips, you should give preference to thicker soles; they are more comfortable in the long run and easier on the joints.

Drying properties

Since wetness in the shoes is an unavoidable fact of life on sailing trips, it is important that the shoes can dry again quickly. In bad weather, shoes need to be dried in the cabin or mess, the dining and recreation area.

This can take some time at room temperature. It is therefore important that the shoes are made of breathable materials that quickly release moisture back into the environment, even at low temperatures.

If you are wearing shoes made of synthetic leather, make sure that the shoes have breathable properties.

Dirt pick-up on shore leave

A scratch on an expensive teak deck is a big nuisance. But any other deck doesn't like stones either. That's why we advise you to use boat shoes only on the boat.

If you do have to go ashore, it is important that the sole is not too soft. Otherwise the lamellae will give way easily and trap small stones despite the thin drainage.

Wearing comfort

Of course, sailing shoes for long cruises have to be comfortable. Sporty shoes for competitions are an exception here, but they should also be comfortable to wear. Since boat shoes are usually worn barefoot, it is important that the shoes are well lined.

Synthetic shoes are more flexible and thus generally more comfortable. If you don't want to do without the classic leather look and opt for natural leather, you have to break in the shoes for a while until they have adapted to the shape of your foot.

This can cause a few blisters, but once this phase is over, leather shoes are in no way inferior to synthetics in terms of comfort.

Workmanship

The workmanship of the shoes is of central importance for the longevity of the shoes. There are big differences depending on the manufacturer.

The quality of the materials used, the know-how in processing, but also the circumstances under which the raw materials were obtained are an important factor in the choice of shoes.

Price-performance ratio

With a price range of about 10€ to 1300€, the question of an optimal price-performance ratio is not easy to answer. It depends on your individual demands on your shoes.

If you want to go on a one-off sailing trip with a leisure group, it more or less doesn't matter if your shoes are broken after 2 weeks. But since you can also find shoes among cheap models that you can continue to use as leisure shoes after your trip, we advise you not to buy the cheapest model from the discounter.

If you want to have something from your sailing shoes for several years, we recommend that you buy a cheaper model from a brand manufacturer.

Facts worth knowing about sailing shoes

Do I have to impregnate or grease sailing shoes?

Whether you should impregnate or grease sailing shoes depends on the upper material of your shoes and whether your shoes are designed to let water through or not. Shoes made of imitation leather do not require any special care, a damp cloth is sufficient to bring the imitation leather back into good condition.

If your shoes are made of natural leather, the situation is different. Natural leather becomes brittle over time. To maintain the water-repellent properties, you should use leather grease. Shoe polish also contains fat, but a little less and it makes the leather shine. If you like the shiny look, go ahead, but rub a thin layer of leather grease on your shoes before applying the cream and let them dry for 48 hours before using shoe polish.

Canvas boat shoes should be waterproofed before each trip. Make sure the waterproofing spray is of good quality, as the shoes need to withstand more than a light rain shower. It also takes time for the chemical smell to disappear from the shoes. So at best, think about it a week before your trip. Shoes made of synthetic material are usually designed to let water through.

They do not need to be impregnated or greased. If you feel that the shoes need to be waterproof, then impregnate them as described above.

Upper Care
Synthetic leather Clean with a damp cloth
Natural leather Rub with leather grease
Canvas Spray with waterproofing spray
Synthetic fabric No special care required

How do I care for the sole of my sailing shoes?

The best sole care for boat shoes is to wear them only on boats. This protects the sole and keeps it non-slip even after years of use.

But even the Best Rubber Sole will eventually harden once the softeners have evaporated. Fortunately, this does not mean the end of the beautiful shoe. Usually only the top layer is affected.

In such cases, it helps to sand off the hard layer with sandpaper. After that, the sole should have a good grip again.

However, the sanding method will not help if the sole comes into contact with polishing agents, such as those often used for a ship's deck. These polishing agents accelerate the hardening of the sole many times over. After that, the shoes are only good for leisure.

What can I wear sailing shoes for?

Some boat shoes look almost like ordinary sneakers and can thus be combined with almost any outfit imaginable (Image source: unsplash.com / Christopher Burns)

Sailing shoes have long since left the harbour area for land and are also becoming increasingly popular as leisure shoes. However, there are a few things you should keep in mind if you want to wear these shoes in style. Since sailing shoes are made for spring and summer, this is also the best season to wear them.

At best, wear them barefoot with jeans or shorts. They don't really go well with a suit, in our opinion. Women can also wear boat shoes without remorse. A fashionable blouse and simple trousers made of flowing fabric or with a summery dress, these classic shoes go well with any cosy evening.

Whether you're travelling, at the beach or going to the office, classic leather boat shoes with their unique look are always a real eye-catcher. Image source: unsplash.com / Artem Verbo

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