Thank Paul Sperry’s dog for the legendary Sperry Topsider boat shoe. An avid sailor, Sperry was looking for a solution to slippery decks when he noted his dog race surefooted across winter ice. Looking at the dog’s grooved paws, he cut a similar pattern into a rubber sole and the boat shoe was born. Today, that original concept still exists, as do numerous alternatives. Here’s how to pick the right boat shoe for you…and your unique boating lifestyle.
The classic leather boat show will likely always remain a timeless choice, sporting a mix of form and function that has made them both stylish fashion footwear and go-to deck gear for almost 90 years. Alternatives, however, do exist, including updated versions of the classic boat shoe with more supportive, comfortable footbeds, sneaker-like alternatives with highly breathable mesh uppers, even boat-shoe variations of the infamous rubber Crocs.
Looks will always be important, but a boat shoe’s true purpose remains the same as it was way back when — to provide traction on wet decks. Many boat shoes still use Sperry’s original “siping,” the zigzag, razor-thin pattern designed to offer tenacious grip while pushing water out from below the shoe.
Comfort is important in any shoe, but a boat shoe has the added challenge of often being wet. Classic leather uppers may be timeless, but leather is not as quick to dry as some manmade materials. Removable insoles help when you want to dry your shoes quickly. Many shoes also incorporate mesh panels in the upper, as well as drainage holes in the sole.