Should I Wear Boat Shoes on Boats?

Shoes aren’t your first thought about enjoying the boat with family and friends. However, it is an important part of ensuring safety while boating. Fancy dress shoes are obviously not the safest choice for a slippery boat, but what about boat shoes?

People began making a fashion statement of deck shoes, wearing them as part of their daily wardrobe. After seeing many people wearing the shoes on dry land, you may be wondering if you need them for safety on the boat. Here are a few facts to help you decide if you should wear boat shoes while enjoying marina activities.

The Real Purpose of Boat Shoes

Contrary to the fad that evolved from boat shoes, they were originally made for safety while sailing and boating. Before their debut in 1930, boatmen had to deal with wet, slippery decks and that led to falls and injuries. As most are familiar with the “Sperry” line of boat shoes that are still in stores today, Paul Sperry was a frequent sailor and boater. 

He created the boat shoes with a herringbone pattern inspired by the bottom of his dog’s feet. Seeing that the pattern helped the dog’s grip while walking on ice, he assumed the same would help boaters carefully get around. The second version of the shoes, the Top-Siders, even had a white sole to minimize obvious marks on the boat deck.

Benefits of Wearing Boat Shoes

Many enjoy sporting the shoes in summer months. However, it may not be your ideal fantasy to enjoy waves in your swimwear or summer gear while wearing boat shoes. There’s still no denying the fact that there are several safety benefits of wearing boat shoes:

Boat shoes keep the deck clean and minimize spots

You can purchase the shoes with a white sole to prevent scuffing and marking up the boat. Maintaining a clean boat is good for the environment, safety, and longevity of the boat. Shoes with darker soles tend to leave visible marks on the deck, which means more work to keep it clean.

Prevent embarrassing slips and hurtful falls

The shoe soles also have a special herringbone pattern and rubber material for slip resistance. When waves are crashing and the boat is in motion, it can be a rocky ride. It’s important to have good traction while maneuvering around. Having the shoes can prevent slips, falls, and resulting injuries.

Even if it’s not a dramatic moment like taking a splash in the water, it would be embarrassing to fall in front of other guests. Think about the conditions on the boat and if your footwear is equipped to handle wet floors and a bumpy ride.

Keep your feet clean and dry

The material on top of the leather boat shoes is water repellent. Leather on the shoes have special oils to keep water from getting inside. That makes the shoes good for safety and hygiene since you’ll maintain clean, dry feet while boating.

Boat shoes are comfortable protection

Wearing boat shoes isn’t like you’re planning to wear steel toe work boots. While the shoes are protective, they’re almost as comfortable as wearing a house slipper.  The lightweight shoes have shock absorbing heel cups for added comfort. Just be sure to choose the right fit. They should hug your feet enough to stay on, but also be comfortable and not too tight.  

Even the Navy loved boat shoes

If it helps your decision, you should know the Navy was impressed by boat shoes too. After some tweaking to the original version of the Sperry and the introduction of the “Top Siders”, the Navy jumped on board. They liked the shoes so much that they requested manufacture for their sailors.  

You can still make a fashion statement if you choose

The deck shoes have evolved since their first introduction in the 30’s. Many brands make their own versions of the shoes in different styles, fabrics, and colors.  You might compromise some of the benefits by not choosing leather or white soles. Still, you’ll reap the safety benefits if you purchase a high quality boat shoe.

Not everyone wears boat shoes on deck, but it’s more beneficial to wear them than not. Evaluate your situation and the type of boating event you’re planning.  The most important thing is being comfortable and safe.