Waterproof, cushy, and breathable, the best boat shoes keep feet dry and feeling fine
Boat shoes are about function over fashion because wet feet can be the difference between a happy angler and a miserable angler. Wet feet are uncomfortable, but wet shoes are slipperier and prone to developing funky fungus. The best boat shoes for fishing have three requirements: traction, cushion, and water management. Significant advancements in materials and technology have created boat shoes that excel in all three categories in the last few years. My best boat shoes picks were all vetted over many seasons of hard use.
After a lifetime on the water, I am a boat shoe snob. First, I’m super protective of my feet, so flip-flops and sandals are out. Too many sharp and heavy objects in a fishing boat to take a chance of injuring my feet.
In the course of a week, I will fish out of a boat, on the beach, and from a kayak, so my boat shoes have to be versatile and durable. I fish year-round, so I need boat shoes for summer, winter, and shoulder seasons that are fresh and dry at the start of each fishing trip. The right boat shoes are more than comfortable, and they could prevent an accident or health issue. Without a doubt, a great day on the water starts with happy feet and here are the factors I look for in boat shoes.
Sticky soles keep me planted when the deck is wet and slimy. The best boat shoes use the latest materials and designs to increase traction. Start with a soft and pliable outer sole that is channeled to force water from under the shoe. This increases surface area contact with the deck and prevents slipping. I like a shoe with shallow channels and razor siping on a non-marking sole to prevent tracking dirt and grease onto the boat.
Fishing the open ocean in my 20-foot center console puts the hurt on my lower back and legs. The latest generation of soft and spongy insoles helps boat shoes smooth rough seas. Since I started wearing EVA foam shoes, I’ve noticed a significant improvement in comfort. Apparently, I’m not alone. The durable and malleable material dissipates impact when the boat slams off of a wave. And the material is easy to clean and disinfect to reduce foot fungus and funky smell.
Keeping boat shoes dry is the final step in healthy, comfortable feet. In summer, I know my feet are going to get wet. The best warm-water boat shoes combine a quick-dry, breathable upper and channeled insole that drains water from inside the shoe. I keep my feet completely dry with ankle-height rubber boots for shoulder seasons and winter. After each trip, I remove the insoles and let the shoes bake in the sun. So I start each day with a fresh pair of kicks, and I keep several pairs of boat shoes ready for action.
Why It Made The Cut
A unique appearance, best-in-class shock absorption, and stretchy upper make Grunden’s Sea Knit my pick for best boat shoe.
When I pulled Grunden’s Sea Knit boat shoe out of the box, I laughed out loud at the bright blue shoes with thick black soles. These shoes don’t look like any boat shoes I’ve ever seen. But, once the Sea Knits were on my feet, they instantly became my new favorite. Underneath the Sea Knit’s bright, bold looks is design and tech to keep my feet comfortable. The seamless, knit upper stretches to hug my feet and provide more support. The material is super breathable and dries fast. My favorite feature is the thick EVA soles. Banging around in my boat, I’m looking for every inch of shock-absorbing foam between my feet and the deck. The extra-thick EVA sole sucks up vibration to save my back and legs. The shoes are so comfortable, they are my first choice for running to the grocery store or walking around town with the family.
Why It Made The Cut
A new take on an old favorite, the Sperry Cutwater deck boot is the best waterproof boat shoe focused on comfort and convenience.
Every angler needs a pair of ankle-high deck boots. The comfortable and versatile rubber boots are great for rough days on the water, washing the boat, and working around the yard. Sperry boat shoes took a different approach with the new Cutwater deck boot. As a boat owner, I like the shallow channels and razor-siped outsole that sticks to the deck but doesn’t track dirt onto the boat. The heel is reinforced for more support while the toe is thin, stretchy rubber. A neoprene collar hugs my ankle to keep out water and makes it easy to kick off the Cutwater at the end of the day. My only complaint: I found the finger loops too small, making it a little more challenging to pull on the boots with my large fingers.
Why It Made The Cut
The Astral Loyak is an all-terrain boat shoe that can go from the dock to the water to the trail.
Astral’s new Loyak AC is my choice for kayak fishing and afternoons with the family on the sandbar. These boat shoes are great for wading, sandy walks, and stand up fishing in the kayak. My favorite feature is the thin rubber sole. I need to feel the deck below my feet to improve balance and grip while standing and fishing in my kayak. The Loyak AC’s thin soft rubber sole puts my feet closer to the boat deck. The shoes have a mesh tongue and vamp with holes in the toe and heel to drain quickly and dry fast. Tough canvas uppers protect my feet and repel water. A level foot bed and wide toe box provide a natural foot position, like walking barefoot in the sand. The wide foot bed has one disadvantage, every time I take off the Loyak, the insole pops out of the shoe. Not a big deal, just a little annoying.
Why It Made The Cut
A classic look combined with a high-performance design makes the Columbia Bonehead a favorite for the best boat shoe for women.
When my wife goes fishing, catching fish is almost as important as looking good. This summer, she’s wearing Columbia’s Bonehead PFG. She chose the Bonehead for the classic plimsoll look, with a low top and flat toe that doesn’t look out of place running errands or hanging out at the marina. On the boat, the mesh upper stays cool and dries quickly making the Bonehead the best boat shoe for women. The molded midsole and EVA outsole work together to absorb shock and keep the shoe planted on the boat deck. When fishing gets messy, Columbia boat shoe’s stain and water-resistant material is easy to clean, so the Boneheads stay looking new.
Why It Made The Cut
Looks like a jogging shoe and performs like a boat shoe, Under Armour kept to their sporty roots with the athletic Micro G Kilchis.
Leave it to sporting-goods giant Under Armour to design a boat shoe that looks like a running shoe. The Micro G Kilchis fishing shoe packs great features at a great price. The water-resistant mesh uppers are breathable and dry fast. A non-marking outer sole keeps the deck clean while channels move water from under the shoe. Internal channels lead to drainage ports to keep the inside of the shoe dry. Under Armour gave the Kilchis their soft, contoured Micro G midsole for comfort and support. The Kilchis looks like a classic jogging shoe and performs like a great boat shoe.
Boat shoes are more than an old pair of sneakers or a funky pair of flip-flops. To understand what shoes are best to wear on a boat, look at the requirements for safety and comfort. Boat shoes have super-sticky soles with traction and channels to move water from underneath the shoe, so more rubber connects with the deck. Since the boat is always rolling and rocking, shock absorption is another important quality. Soft rubber and spongy foam insole and outsole reduce vibration to protect the angler. Finally, boat shoes have to manage moisture. In cold, wet conditions, a pair of rubber boots are the only thing that will keep feet dry. When the weather is warm, I wear boat shoes with breathable, water-repellent uppers and a sole with drain holes. Not only does this keep my feet dry on the water, but it allows the shoes to dry faster between trips. Dry shoes are more comfortable, and they reduce the chance of spawning stinky foot fungus.
After a long day on the water in the wrong shoes, my back is screaming, my legs ache, and my feet stink. Without a doubt, the best boat shoes are worth it. My small boat is always rocking and rolling. I can’t count the times boat shoes saved my feet from sharp objects and blunt force trauma. Boat shoes are necessary to protect my feet from damage. The right boat shoes reduce shock so that I can fish without pain. Taking a couple waves over the side and landing a few fish turns my boat deck into a slimy skating rink. I won’t go fishing without grippy boat shoes to keep my feet on the ground.
The boat shoes in this review range from $80 to $109. To understand how much boat shoes cost, expect to pay for the technology and design that will provide a safe and comfortable experience on the water. The best boat shoes use premium materials and the most advanced construction for a shoe that dries quickly, provides reliable traction and responsive cushioning.
My garage is full of boat shoes. After a lifetime on the water, and season after season searching for the best boat shoe, I’ve acquired a collection of winners and losers. Choosing the best boat shoe was a no brainer: I have high expectations and only a few shoes meet my requirements. Now that I’m entering the second half of my life, I’m not as tough or agile as in my youth. I rely on boat shoes to keep me safe and comfortable, so I can go hard on the water and still take it easy on my feet. To find the best boat shoes, I chose a field of candidates with the highest standards for breathability, traction and shock absorption. Over and over, I got the shoes wet and slimy and then left them in the sun to dry. Day after day of abuse narrowed the field to the final choices. The results range from the best overall boat shoe to great waterproof shoes and shoes for women or anglers on a budget. The shoes on this list are tested to guarantee you get the best experience on the water.
In the lineup of old favorites and classic boat shoes, I picked the brand new Grunden’s Sea Knit as my favorite for 2022. The big winner was the thick EVA sole and contoured insole that smooths the ride over rough seas. The upper is made out of a single piece of knit fabric that prevents abrasion on bare feet and dries quickly. I like the bright blue Sea Knit boat shoes because they look cool and get a lot of attention on and off the water.
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