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Published Sep. 12, 2021

Call them boat shoes, call them Top-Siders, call them deck shoes. Whatever you call them, they are some of the most comfortable and great-looking footwear for men and women. The classic boat shoe may have been created for easy walking when you’re by the water, but they have evolved into a must-have element of any wardrobe. Their non-slip, non marking sole makes it ideal for waltzing on slippery and delicate surfaces like the deck of a ship. With strong leather or canvas materials and durable laces, the simple boat shoe is up to just about any task. And the classic design makes it ideal for every hour of your life. 

Use them as morning slippers. Use them as business-casual footwear. Use them for heading out to the bar. Pair them with socks if you’re a maniac. Boat shoes do it all and have been making casual footwear less casual for decades. They’re not a trend, and they’re not a fad. The best boat shoes are the most versatile tool in your closet.

How We Picked the Best Boat Shoes

Methodology 

With 15 years of experience reviewing men’s fashion and tech gear, I look for comfort and style in all the wearable products discussed. I also spent my high school days working at Kinney Shoes in the local mall and can tell the vamp of the shoe from the toe box. (The vamp is the part on top, closer to the laces.) I also know that the foot measuring gadget in a shoe store is called a Brannock Device. And yes, they are always cold to the touch. To choose the best boat shoes, a group of 20 to 25 shoes were considered, from name brands to generic. Online specs and reviews were carefully considered for each pair. 

To judge the best boat shoes for men, we examined the materials, the fit, the style, and the price. Genuine leather got the highest marks for being durable, and the best boat shoes had supple leather that never felt like slabs of stone. Most have a relaxed fit, but they should still hug your feet snugly and not fly off when climbing stairs or hills. Slip-on shoes are notorious for wandering off your feet at the wrong moment. 

Boat shoes are all about style. When reviewing the shoes, we looked for the traditional moccasin design. If it looked too much like a sneaker, it didn’t make the cut. And if it had a thicker sole, it still needed the angular upper of a classic boat shoe. 

Finally, these shoes generally cost less than $100. You can always get more expensive shoes, but we hovered around this price point since it’s what you can expect to pay at most retailers. Cheap boat shoes costing less than $25 were junk and not worth your time or money.   

The Best Boat Shoes: Reviews and Recommendations

Best Overall: Sperry Men’s Authentic Original 2-Eye Boat Shoe

A Preppy Staple

Sperrys are timeless and comfy, and they go with everything. Sperry

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Why It Made The Cut: Sperry boat shoes cannot be beat in terms of style, comfort, and durability. They offer a classic look that’s always in fashion. There’s a reason the name has become synonymous with boat shoes. 

Specs:

  • Leather upper
  • Rawhide laces
  • Synthetic sole
Pros:Cons:
  • Easy slip on and off
  • The leather lasts, but the rubber soles don’t live forever
  • Wear and tear only add to their charm
  • Soles squeak when new
  • Hand-sewn stitching is made to last
  • Look great anywhere
  • Sperry has been making the Top-Sider since 1937, so they clearly know what they’re doing. Sperrys are what most people think of when you mention boat shoes or deck shoes. The low-top moccasin features rawhide leather laces that surround the shoe and keep this slip-on secure. The fit is true to size and has a 0.75-inch heel that is wide enough without being too roomy. The shoes feel solid on your feet, while other boat shoes sometimes feel too sloppy and loose. 

    They are not officially weatherproof, but they are designed to get wet. Water marks and scuffs will add character to the shoe, and the leather is strong enough to last for a decade or more of regular wear. 

    The two eyelets allow for a wide variety of lacing options, from classic crisscross to chain knots, tassel knots, and fishtail knots. (Visit Sperry’s YouTube page for easy lacing tutorials.) The laces will feel stiff at first but loosen up quickly with use. The Sperry boat shoe is the best of the best for a comfortable fit that looks iconic.

    Best Slip-On: Margaritaville Men’s Dock Slip On Boat Shoe

    Easy Breezy

    Throw on these sturdy slip-ons for an instant polished look. Margaritaville

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    Why It Made The Cut: While all boat shoes can technically be slipped on, the Margaritaville slip-on does the job with strong top-of-the-foot support that stays put. The faux-lace look is modern while still staying true to the boat shoe aesthetic. 

    Specs: 

    • Canvas upper
    • Rubber sole
    • Slip-on 
    Pros:Cons:
  • Easy to slip on in a hurry
  • Can feel the tag on the inside 
  • Breathable canvas material
  • Heel is a bit low
  • Good grip prevents slips
  • The Margaritaville slip-on boat shoe is riding the current wave of laceless shoes, and it does a great job at staying on your feet even without knots. The top of the shoe stretches and expands to snuggly wrap around your foot. The Margaritaville boat shoe does have laces, but they’re decorative.

    The boat shoe’s fit is true to size and lightweight. The heel wrap of the shoe is lower and may dig into your heel at an odd angle, so some finessing and tugging may be needed to get a good fit. If it still bugs you, try no-show socks for added cushioning. 

    The canvas material feels great and lets the air in. They dry quickly, even when sopping wet. And if they get muddy, you can always toss them in the washing machine. They’re only available in two colors: black and khaki. If you want a slip-on boat shoe, these are the best slippers that still retain the look of a traditional Top-Sider. 

    Best Cushioning: OrthoComfoot Mens Slip on Deck Shoes, Casual Canvas Loafers with Arch Support

    Stylish Support

    A practical boat shoe option for walking around town. OrthoComfoot

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    Why It Made The Cut: This shoe is a hybrid of a deck shoe and a sneaker, making for one of the most comfortable boat shoes available. The thick cushioned sole is great for all-day adventures. 

    Specs:

    • Canvas upper
    • Rubber sole
    • Removable insole
    Pros:Cons:
  • Thick rubber outer sole
  • No half-sizes for those between size 8 and 11
  • Significant arch support
  • Style isn’t stellar 
  • Lightweight even with thicker sole
  • Get the best of both worlds with a boat shoe that’s part sneaker. While the sole of the OrthoComfoot deck shoe is thicker than most traditional boat shoes, it still sports the classic boat shoe look. And that extra padding feels great, especially after long days on your feet. If you’re not sure where the day will take you, it’s always best to have sensible footwear that’s ready to go from the boat to the beach to hiking in the rain forest…because you never know where you’ll end up.

    The arch support is good for plantar fasciitis. And because they’re not as flat as typical boat shoes, these are a great choice for anyone with even mild pain in the arches. Plus, the rubber sole puts a little bounce in each step. While still not as great as a regular sneaker or walking shoe, for a boat shoe this is surprisingly comfy on long walks. 

    We wish the blue style popped more instead of having a denim look. And the grey color options have busy patterns that may not appeal to all tastes. The canvas material won’t last nearly as long as leather Sperrys, but the shoes do let your feet breathe. 

    If you want a soft, comfortable boat shoe that offers more support than the standard flat slice of leather, these are a sneaker/boat shoe combo worth checking out. 

    Best Business Casual: Dockers Men’s Vargas Leather Handsewn Boat Shoe

    Relaxed But Professional

    These Dockers look smart and classy, perfect for the office and beyond. Dockers

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    Why It Made The Cut: The dark brown Dockers Vargas boat shoe can fit into a business casual office environment and pair perfectly with khakis during the day and jeans at night. 

    Specs:

    • Leather upper
    • Rubber sole
    • Two eyelets 
    Pros:Cons:
  • Rich, dark leather
  • Inside leather feels a bit rough at first
  • Available in wide widths
  • Too formal for shorts
  • Good price for leather boat shoes
  • The classic question: Are boat shoes considered business casual? We say yes if the boat shoes are as dark as these Dockers shoes. These deck shoes can be passed off as dress loafers. The Dockers boat shoes feel good and secure and can give Sperrys a run for their money in terms of style. 

    If you need wide-width boat shoes, Dockers has you covered with a good assortment of size options. The dark rubber sole will hold up well in the office or on the boat. The leather laces are strong and won’t crumble after one season of use. And the heel cup offers as much support as dress shoes. 

    Wear them with jeans—or Docker khakis, of course. The dark color may look too formal and stuffy if you’re wearing these with shorts to a beach party, but we’ll leave the style choices up to the wearer. 

    They are slightly cheaper than Sperrys, but still sit above the fifty dollar price point. They’re not quite a budget boat shoe, so the materials are high-quality and worth the money. 

    Best Value: Amazon Essentials Men’s Lace Up Boat Shoe Sneaker

    Low Cost, High Style

    Amazon’s take on boat shoes will make you look good without breaking the bank. Amazon Essentials

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    Why It Made The Cut: Amazon Essentials boat shoes do a pretty job at imitating the Sperry look and feel at less than half the price. Not a bad deal for seasonal footwear or wearing only on the weekends. 

    Specs:

    • 80 percent polyurethane, 20 percent mesh
    • Three eyelets
    • Cushioned insole
    Pros:Cons:
  • Cheap boat shoes that look like the real deal
  • Cheap materials won’t last
  • Thick sole is good for walking
  • Sole separates too quickly
  • Holds up well to water
  • There’s no denying that name-brand Sperry deck shoes aren’t cheap. Even with sales and promotions and discounts, you’ll drop at least $70 for a good pair. The Amazon Essentials boat shoe swoops in to save the day for those who want classic Top-Siders without the high price tag. 

    What do you give up when picking a cheap boat shoe? The materials are not that great. You can tell right away that this is not genuine leather or high-quality canvas. And the construction lacks the precision stichting of name-brand boat shoes. That means these will fall apart after a few months of normal wear and tear. 

    But they look the part, with the classic moccasin design. And if you need a quick and easy pair of weekend lounge slippers, these are a good choice. For cheap boat shoes, it’s possible to go too cheap and end up with shoes that feel like tissue boxes. The Amazon Essentials boat shoe is the right price for a budget shoe that is still comfortable. 

    Things to Consider Before Buying the Best Boat Shoes

    Though they may all look alike, there are differences between the various types of boat shoes. Knowing what to look for and how specific boat shoes are unique will ensure you’re making a smart choice. 

    Top-Siders, Boat Shoes, Deck Shoes, or Sperrys

    There isn’t a difference between them. Boat shoes and deck shoes are generic terms for this style of rubber-soled shoe. As the name implies, they were created for use on boats. While sailing off the coast of upstate New York in 1935, Paul A. Sperry noticed that his cocker spaniel was adept at walking on slippery boat decks. He looked at its paws and created a sole for canvas moccasins that had similar small, thin lines called siping. And thus the Sperry Top-Sider was born. Top-Sider is the brand name of one Sperry shoe. More recently, people have been calling them Sperrys. And if you’re really uncool, you can call them preppy foot gloves.

    Leather or Canvas

    The best boat shoes come in two main types: leather and canvas. This will be listed as the upper material. (A shoe’s “upper” simply means everything above the sole. A shoe can have a leather upper and rubber sole.) The first boat shoes were made of canvas because they could dry out quickly when sailing. Leather ones hold up better but will cost more and are heavier. Neither the leather nor canvas are waterproof. This seems counterintuitive for something called “boat shoes,” but the leather and canvas actually take to the water quite well. They’re meant to get wet. And any water damage gives the shoes cool colorations, like battle scars. You can find boat shoes that use both leather and canvas to create a durable shoe that also breathes. Canvas is much better at letting air circulate around your foot, a huge plus for long hot days. 

    Size and Fit 

    Many boat shoes will fit true to your shoe size. Keep in mind that they are low-tops and slip-ons. They’re not meant to be worn with socks, so if you wear a size 11 sneaker with socks, you may need a 10.5 boat shoe because there’s a missing layer of padding. They should not be super tight and form fitting. When trying on boat shoes, make sure your toes have room to move—especially if you plan to wear them on a boat, where your toes can help keep your balance. 

    The soles should be flexible and lightweight. And the heel shouldn’t be cutting into your skin or rubbing with each step. If the heel feels too loose, a thin pad in the front of the shoe under the toes can help prevent your entire foot from slipping forward. And remember that leather stretches. Anywhere the shoe feels tight will probably stretch over time. 

    FAQs 

    Q: What shoes should you wear on a boat?

    You need the right shoes on a boat. This means the shoe must have a non marking sole. The shoes should also be non-slip and water-friendly. Boat shoes are the obvious choice because they check all those boxes. But you can also wear sailing boots or plastic shoes. And when in doubt, go barefoot (but be careful).

    Q: Are boat shoes worth it?

    Yes, boat shoes are worth it. They can be used for much more than boating. In fact, most boat shoe fans probably never even wear them out at sea. Sperrys have become a stylish choice for a casual men’s shoe. They’re not as lazy as sandals and not as stuffy as dress shoes. They can be worn to restaurants and bars, and if the color is dark and sophisticated, they are acceptable business casual attire. Wear them for working in the yard or walking around the neighborhood. All that in one simple pair of shoes? That’s more than worth it. 

    Q: What makes a boat shoe?

    A boat shoe needs a few things to be an official boat shoe. First, the cut and shape should look like a moccasin, with visible stitching and a boxy toe. Second, the sole should be non-slip and non-marking. The tread will be subtle and nearly smooth, with thin siping lines to give you a lot of contact with the surface of the boat. They will have either two or three eyelets, and most use a thick rawhide shoelace. There are variations on the traditional boat shoe, namely some slip-on models that forgo laces. But you’ll know a boat shoe when you see it. 

    Final Thoughts

    The best boat shoes will have the recognizable look and feel of a classic Top-Sider. The low-top mocs come in a variety of colors and styles that suit your tastes. Make sure the shoe is made of strong materials with leather or canvas uppers that won’t tear like paper. Sperry continues to make the best of the best boat shoes for men, but Dockers and Margaritaville can be just as great and offer unique style options. With these shoes on your feet, you can almost feel the ocean breeze on your face and hear the annoying cackle of seagulls in your ear. It’s a shoe for work, play, and much, much more.  

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