Best Boat Shoes 2019

Our resident lab-meister compares deck shoes.

Best Boat Shoes 2019
Here are the right shoes to stay comfy and leave no tracks on deck.Jon Whittle

They say your shoes tell the most about you on a first impression. Boat shoes tell even more. You could be a traditional guy in moccasins, a Friday office-casual guy in boat-shoe Oxfords, or a fishing fanatic in most of the performance shoes we tested.

There’s a style that’s right for you, but our testing revealed some interesting facts about their function.

Even razor-siped soles will ­occasionally pick up a small stone. Boat shoes should not pick up rocks or sand. They should not scuff or smudge the deck. They should dry quickly because they will get wet. And they should stick to a moving deck wet or dry, and usually dry. All sizes listed are men’s.

Traction Test
Most importantly, boat shoes should be able to grip hard, wet surfaces. We created a test ramp with textured plastic-covered particle board and, using a protractor, designed a gauge to reflect the angle of incline. Next, we put 10 pounds of lead shot in each shoe and raised the test ramp to see when the shoe would begin skidding down the ramp. We conducted the test on dry and wet surfaces and noted the results.

Drip and Dry
Many boat shoes have drainage in them. It seems if you're taking water over the deck, the more drainage, the better. But shoes designed to drain the fastest have weep holes from the insole to the bottom of the outsole, and if you step in a shallow puddle of water, water can enter as well as drain. Whether you want those drains or not will depend on how often you're in the water with the shoes. The more water work you do, the more you'll like the drains. But we didn't like them when walking down a wet street.

Drainage Test
We poured a cup of water into each shoe and let them drain for up to a minute. Many of our test subjects, even those with drain eyelets on the instep, didn't drain because they were occluded by the insole.

Dry Time
After dumping standing water in the shoes, we let them dry for two hours before taking three moisture readings at the top of each hour. The results were surprising. Some shoes that did not drain dried more quickly than those that did drain well.

Best Boat Shoes 2019
Dooney & Bourke RegattaJon Whittle

Dooney & Bourke Regatta

These were stiff out of the box, but the wetted shoe in our test proved more supple and comfortable than the untested one. That’s a testament to the leather quality and the desired characteristic of boat shoes — standing up to water for years. From our experience with boat shoes, these will weather nicely hugging the foot. We agree with the manufacturer: Order a half-size over your normal shoe size.

Italian leather uppers are hand-sewn to a durable siped outsole. The foot bed is cork-lined beneath a fast-drying closed-cell foam insole. The eyelets are of Swiss stainless steel. Fresh from the box, the leather is stiff but finished in a way to mold to your feet as the shoes age. The rubber soles are sticky on smooth surfaces. They are available in black, dark brown, biscuit navy, paprika, white and midbrown.

Drainage: These shoes didn't drain, but the oiled leather dried completely in less than an hour.
Traction Dry: 30 degrees
Traction Wet: 30 degrees
Dunk and Dry, 1 Hour: 0%
Dunk and Dry, 2 Hours: 0%
Sizes: Half-sizes from 7 to 11 medium, plus size 12 medium
Cost: $135;

Best Boat Shoes 2019
Timberland 2-Eye Boat ShoesJon Whittle

Timberland 2-Eye Boat Shoes

One of the first things we do with a boat shoe is walk in the water with it. Our demo revealed the wet shoe opened up a little more than the dry shoe. It cradled the foot in a foam pad perforated to let water drain to the bottom, but not out.

Nubuck and split leather are hand-stitched to join the upper and midsole leather, which is then bonded to the rubber sole. Inside, a super-soft three- quarter-length leather insole adds cushioning and breathability to the foam foot bed. Eyelets are antique brass. You can customize your shoe with leather color combinations for upper, trim and insole for $120. Make them match your boat if you like.

Drainage: These shoes didn't drain but dried almost completely in an hour because the oiled leather didn't absorb water.
Traction Dry: 40 degrees
Traction Wet: 35 degrees
Dunk and Dry, 1 Hour: 2%
Dunk and Dry, 2 Hours: 0%
Sizes: Half-sizes from 6 to 10, wide through 15.
Cost: $95;

Best Boat Shoes 2019
Huk BrewsterCourtesy Huk Gear

Huk Brewster

We took these out of the package and wore them to the Miami Boat Show, logging about 12,000 steps a day on my Garmin Quatix sports watch. We’ve washed them twice, and they faded a little but look better with jeans every time. The squashable heel adds sandal convenience on the boat and around the house, and the fabric seems to breath, mitigating the effects of sweat.

They’re made of a light but durable canvaslike material, and the upper is joined to the sole with adhesive. Simple in design, a muslin-covered foam insole is comfortable all day. They’re available in five colors: denim blue, gray camo, khaki, brown camo (that looks more blue-green) and black.

Drainage: It took 60 seconds for them to drain, but they were slow to dry.
Traction Dry: 33 degrees
Traction Wet: 28 degrees
Dunk and Dry, 1 Hour: 40%
Dunk and Dry, 2 Hours: 34%
Sizes: 7 to 13
Cost: $54.99;

Best Boat Shoes 2019
Huk AttackJon Whittle

Huk Attack

These have the feel of a cross-trainer shoe but the drainage system of a wading boot. They are good out of the box but will loosen up with wear and vie for the top shelf on your shoe rack. The laces are ribbed to stay tied, and they do. Extra support comes from the EVA sole with feel-good arch support and a molded exoskeleton for stability.

Three Kryptec camo colors from gray to blue to dark offer style options. The sole is dual-density EVA for shock absorption and protection from deck hazards. The GripX Traction sole engaged well in our traction test. They stick and won’t scuff or pick up stones.

Drainage: They drained in 53 seconds.
Traction Dry: 35 degrees
Traction Wet: 32 degrees
Dunk and Dry, 1 Hour: 29%
Dunk and Dry, 2 Hours: 22%
Sizes: Half-sizes from 7 to 10.5, plus whole sizes 12 and 13
Cost: $84.99;

Best Boat Shoes 2019
World Wide Sportsman Lakefront 2-EyeJon Whittle

World Wide Sportsman Lakefront 2-Eye

These are track-shoe comfortable with a deeply padded interior. These are not waterproof and are best suited to casual-dress boating in dry conditions, but their soles are nonmarring, and the tread design won’t pick up rocks. Bass Pro Shops calls them slip-ons, but it’s easier to use the laces.

A memory-foam foot bed renders these ideal for boat shows, yachts, and the office on casual Friday. Ventilated sides let feet breathe, and oiled leather uppers are bonded to the flexible outsole. The eyelets are bronze-finished metal.

Drainage: Not all boat shoes are advertised to be waterproof and these aren't. They didn't drain and dried slowly but were comfy out of the box.
Traction Dry: 37 degrees
Traction Wet: 35 degrees
Dunk and Dry, 1 Hour: 32%
Dunk and Dry, 2 Hours: 23%
Sizes: Half-sizes from 8 to 10, plus 11 to 13
Cost: $69.99;

Best Boat Shoes 2019
Irish Setter LakesideJon Whittle

Irish Setter Lakeside

My last pair of Lakesides are 6 years old, still tough as nails, and look good enough for casual Fridays. They offer a stable stance for boats in motion and a protective sole that’s tough but supple. They’ve been comfortable at trade shows, bass fishing all day, and dashing through the airport.

Oiled leather uppers are breathable thanks to styled fabric sidewalls and moisture wicking inside. Soles with siped pods and dual textures add to the grip. Dual-density EVA insoles and a nonmetallic shank give plenty of arch support plus flexibility. Durable stitching and a rugged casual look help ensure the timeless look stays timeless.

Drainage: They drained slowly but dried more quickly than fabric shoes.
Traction Dry: 35 degrees
Traction Wet: 30 degrees
Dunk and Dry, 1 Hour: 18%
Dunk and Dry, 2 Hours: 11%
Sizes: Half-sizes from 8 to 11, medium and wide to 14
Cost: $114.99;

Best Boat Shoes 2019
Xtratuf ChumrunnerJon Whittle

Xtratuf Chumrunner

These retro canvas deck shoes reminded me of the Red Ball Jets basketball shoes I wore as a kid. The Chumrunners have the same canvas construction but are more comfortable thanks to the soft fabric and foam liner. And unlike the Red Ball Jets, they offer comfortable arch support.

The chevron-style traction worked well and was the ideal depth to increase traction without picking up rocks or shells in our test — but beware. And unlike the finer treaded shoes, these sloughed off wet sand easily with a kick or a slap. The insoles are removable. They are available in brown and cobblestone beige. A synthetic leather heel cap adds style and durability.

Drainage: Weep holes in the insoles did not help drain water from the shoe.
Traction Dry: 40 degrees
Traction Wet: 35 degrees
Dunk and Dry 1 Hour: 35%
Dunk and Dry 2 Hours: 34%
Sizes: Half-sizes from 7 to 11, plus 12, 13 and 14
Cost: $69.99;

Best Boat Shoes 2019
Xtratuf Finatic IIJon Whittle

Xtratuf Finatic II

The shoes molded to the feet instantly with no chafe points or hard spots to wear against the bone. Xtratuf’s chevron sole is sticky — even on a wet tile floor. Inside, a closed-cell foam foot bed is lined with pigskin, adding even more softness to the glovelike fit.

The soft leather upper is vented at the instep and outside with a mesh-and-foam fabric. The mesh and foam lines the entire upper to softly cradle the foot. The outsole is bonded to the upper, and the nonmarring rubber turns up around the shoe for added protection. They’re available in tan or chocolate tan.

Drainage: The shoes lacked drainage, and the soft leather was porous and slow to dry.
Traction Dry: 32 degrees
Traction Wet: 31 degrees
Dunk and Dry, 1 Hour: 100%
Dunk and Dry, 2 Hours: 50%
Sizes: Half-sizes from 7 to 11, plus 12, 13 and 14
Cost: $84.99;

Best Boat Shoes 2019
Xtratuf Spindrift Kryptek PontusJon Whittle

Xtratuf Spindrift Kryptek Pontus

These slip on as easily as dive boots but drain like a sieve — unlike dive boots. They are comfortable on the street for light walking but most ideal for the boat or wade-fishing. Fine sand can come through the drainage system, but most of it goes out the same way.

The laces are elastic for quick donning and doffing, and a friction buckle makes snug adjustments easy. The insole pulls out to make rinsing and drying the shoe fast. The sole is grippy but sort of lugged, so check for small stones before stepping aboard and kick the sand off. The soft rubber won’t scuff the boat.

Drainage: They drained in 30 seconds and dried faster than most shoes in the performance class.
Traction Dry: 42 degrees
Traction Wet: 34 degrees
Dunk and Dry, 1 Hour: 18%
Dunk and Dry, 2 Hours: 11%
Sizes: Half-sizes from 7 to 11, plus whole sizes 12 to 14
Cost: $100;

Best Boat Shoes 2019
Xtratuf BluefinJon Whittle

Xtratuf Bluefin

Available in medium widths, this shoe still felt comfortably wider when compared to other medium-width boat shoes. The upper’s construction is forgiving in shape, and the fabric offers a protective feel to the shoe without binding the foot uncomfortably.

This shoe’s regatta styling includes red, white and blue tones. The uppers are synthetic-leather-trimmed mesh fabric with round-the-ankle moccasin-style laces. Stainless-steel weep holes are mesh-covered to keep out debris. They feature Xtratuf’s go-to chevron nonmarring soles. They have great traction but didn’t pick up debris in our experience.

Drainage: They wouldn't drain but were among the fastest to dry.
Traction Dry: 45 degrees
Traction Wet: 35 degrees
Dunk and Dry, 1 Hour: 29%
Dunk and Dry, 2 Hours: 24%
Sizes: Half-sizes from 7 to 11, plus 12, 13 and 14
Cost: $64.99;

Best Boat Shoes 2019
Olukai PuhaluJon Whittle

Olukai Puhalu

Like the Brewsters in fine leather, with a dressier and more substantial feel on the foot, the Puhalu is comfortable out of the box, thanks to the buttery softness of the leather and the dual-density rubber insole with canvas surface. The insole is removable and washable, an important feature if you’re a no-socks-in-the-boat-shoe type of guy.

The nonmarking rubber is molded with traction pods that worked well in our tests. The heel is designed to be mashable to offer a handy slide-in style for more casual wear around the house or beach. The shoes are available in dark wood brown and toffee brown.

Drainage: They didn't drain, but the oiled leather didn't absorb water, so they dried quickly like a boat shoe should.
Traction Dry: 30 degrees
Traction Wet: 30 degrees
Dunk and Dry, 1 Hour: 13%
Dunk and Dry, 2 Hours: 0%
Sizes: Half-sizes 8 through 11, plus 7, 12, 13 and 14
Cost: $125;

Best Boat Shoes 2019
Olukai Hamakua PokoJon Whittle

Olukai Hamakua Poko

This rugged boat shoe seems more like a boating, hiking and driving SUV. The soft glove fit is thanks to supple oiled leather and foam-and-fabric lining. The shoe rolls nicely from heel to toe for a comfortable stride.The natural and synthetic rubber sole won’t leave marks. The tread “pads” like a bear’s paw, giving it hiking appeal. Its driving style comes from the leather wrapped around the pods and sewn to the uppers. All in all, it’s a good walker that won’t get you kicked off the boat for picking up rocks in the treads. It comes in dark wood, ray (lighter brown) and storm gray.

Drainage: Zero drainage doesn't deter purchase because the Oxford height makes water intrusion less likely, and the shoe dried quickly.
Traction Dry: 30 degrees
Traction Wet: 28 degrees
Dunk and Dry, 1 Hour: 7%
Dunk and Dry, 2 Hours: 2%
Sizes: Half-sizes 8 through 11, plus 7, 12, 13 and 14
Cost: $130;

Best Boat Shoes 2019
Columbia Magavent IIJon Whittle

Columbia Magavent II

They wear like a cross-trainer and are extremely comfortable. The elastic laces are a bit tricky to lace, but there’s no pinch or bind as the elastic flexes around the tongue. You could run comfortably in this shoe if you didn’t pack your runners.

The mesh breathes and lets water squish out as you walk. Drain holes in the outsole channel water from the drain holes inside. The foot is protected from sucking in debris by mesh screens over the drains in both the outsole and the insole. A polyurethane exoskeleton adds body and support to the sides, increasing arch support. They’re available in only one color combination called splash/white.

Drainage: It drained in under 30 seconds.
Traction Dry: 35 degrees
Traction Wet: 32 degrees
Dunk and Dry, 1 Hour: 22%
Dunk and Dry, 2 Hours: 16%
Sizes: Half-sizes from 8 to 11, plus 7, 12, 13, 14 and 15
Cost: $110;

Best Boat Shoes 2019
Easily customize your favorite pair of Sperry Topsiders.Courtesy Sperry

Sperry Topsiders Can Now Be Customized

Sperry Topsiders, the iconic boat shoe, can now be customized. “Tell your story,” is the way the shoe-maker is putting it. We say…it’s a cool idea!

It seems pretty easy, you pick your style of shoe, then select from a range of colors, and then just wait for the big brown, yellow or white truck to show up at your door. (They say it takes 3-4 weeks)

Naturally, the fit, the siped soles, performance and other Sperry attributes you have come to know, come with.

Check out all the details at