Three Things to Consider Before Buying Boat Shoes

Unless you want to anger a boat owner, get yourself some non-marking, grippy footwear before climbing on board.

Hey Dude red boat shoes
A good pair of boat shoes won’t leave marks on the boat itself.Hey Dude

Whether you captain a sailing vessel, sport fisher, or family runabout, it most likely has a neutral-colored deck. That makes it prone to picking up scuffs and marks from shoes that aren’t designed with boating in mind. If you are looking for proper footwear to protect the surface your boat, or simply need an appropriate shoe for climbing aboard someone else’s vessel, look for these traits in a comfortable and functional boat shoe.

Non-Marking Sole

Sperry Men's Billfish 3-Eye Boat Shoe
True boat shoes are designed to not damage the deck or other surfaces common on ships of all shapes and sizes.Sperry

Shoes intended specifically for recreational boating will usually say “non-marking.” However, many everyday sneakers and loafers are also safe to wear on deck. If you are uncertain, test the sole by first scuffing it against a white plastic or fiberglass surface to determine whether it will leave a mark.

Traction on Deck

Dockers Men's Beacon Boat Shoe
The grippiest boat-shoe soles have small cuts or “sipes” to improve traction and grip.Dockers

Boat decks get wet, making for slippery and even potentially deadly footing. A genuine boat shoe will have tread material that is grippy by nature and is also siped (cut with small slits) to increase traction.

Dual Purpose

Hey Dude Men's Wally Sox Loafer
If you don’t want a true boat shoe, you can use traditional loafers as long as the soles are “non marking.”Hey Dude

If you are only an occasional boater or a guest on someone else’s vessel, a standard loafer with a rubber sole may suffice. Just make sure it is non-marking, and keep in mind that even on the largest sport vessel there is a good chance it will get wet. The uppers and footbed should be able to handle a thorough dunking and still dry out quickly.