You could call this the ultimate smell test. Want to know the favorite boat shoes of Boating’s editors? Take a whiff, or at least a look, at what we wore during our fall boat tests.
Reef Leather Fannings ($51, dogfunk.com)
Worn them since: Summer 2006
Why they’re my faves: They hold my foot snugly and fit the length perfectly. Support at the arch and around the heel makes them comfortable. In spite of a few hundred dunkings at the launch ramp, they still hold together.
Way better than: Closed shoes are too hot in the South. Half the time I flip my flops in a compartment and go barefoot until my feet get tired of the hard deck.
Moment of truth: When I dig through my closet, pulling out all manner of boat shoes, to grab the Reefs for a boating weekend.
On the other...hand: There’s a bottle cap puller in the sole. (I use it sparingly since our dogs roam the yard.) Though it hasn’t damaged my boat’s deck, I wish they’d make these sandals without it. — Randy Vance
Merrell Running Shoes ($105, rei.com)
Worn them since: August 2007
Why they’re my faves: Super light, these shoes offer tremendous cushion and support while I’m on my feet running a boat all day. The soles really grip wet decks.
Way better than: Boat shoes, tennis shoes or basketball shoes. Mostly mesh, they drain right out when spray, the hose or a blocked scupper cause my feet to get wet. Designed for all-weather running, they dry quickly and are odor free (at least in salt water).
Moment of truth: Playing monkey bars on the tower of a sportfish some 80 miles offshore while trying to fix a busted outrigger fitting: My hands were busy so sure footing was all I had.
On the other...hand: I had to change out the silly round laces that came with them because they wouldn’t stay tied. They now sport old-school flat laces. — Kevin Falvey
Maui Surf Aloha ($62, shoebuy.com)
Worn them since: March 2008
Why they’re my faves: They’re the lightest shoes I’ve ever worn, about 10 ounces apiece, which is like slippers. When I first put them on, I thought they’d get wet and tear as easily as tissue paper. They did (get wet) and didn’t (fall apart).
Way better than: Flip-flops or sandals. My feet get sunburned in sandals, and I’m a firm believer that unless a guy is barefoot he has no reason to show his hairy toes.
Moment of truth: The first time I wore them on a rough boat ramp, they got soaked. But they drained quickly, and water didn’t squish out for the next three days.
On the other...hand: They’ve stretched quite a bit and they look dorky with socks (or maybe it’s just me). — Robert Stephens
OTB Harbor ($99, boatshoes.com)
Worn them since: June 2007
Why they’re my faves: They have a look and feel similar to traditional leather boat shoes, but they stay way cooler in summer and have a removable insole that provides good arch support when I’m standing a long deck watch.
Way better than: Those leather boat shoes. They don’t stink when they get wet, they dry quickly, and they’re easier to clean (not that I’ve ever done so).
Moment of truth: Bought at the same time as a pair of OTB Leader slip-ons, but didn’t actually wear them until the other pair went missing. Since then, they’re the perennial first choice.
On the other...hand: You still have to tie your shoes instead of stepping in and out like you can with moccasins and some old-school lace-ups. — Pierce Hoover