Even if you’ve never stepped foot on a boat before, there’s a strong possibility you’re familiar with boat shoes. You’re probably familiar with Sperry’s take on the shoe, but for those who aren’t, boat shoes are two-hole, leather shoes that are breathable and waterproof — and made with a rubberized sole that provides critical traction for slick surfaces like a boat deck. Inherently functional, boat shoes have found a second life a casual office shoe, a go-to choice for collegiate prepsters, and even get referenced by Jay Z himself.
The boat shoes of 2020 aren’t quite as boxy as they were in the past and are now more reflective of the sleek sailboats you’d typically wear them on. The key to pulling them off is to know that they shade a little more towards the casual side of the spectrum. That means you can wear them with jeans or khakis with ease. Regardless of how you style them, we’ve rounded up nine of our favorites that can take you from the shore to the water and back again.
1. Sperry Original 2-Eye Boat Shoe
Sometimes, you’ve just got to go with a tried and true classic. The Sperry Original boat shoe is the most well-known and most recognizable boat shoe on the market. The shoe’s Tru-Moc construction allows for supreme comfort that doesn’t sacrifice anything in the comfort department. Meanwhile, the razor-cut Wave-Siping allows for sturdy traction and grip on any surface — no matter if it’s wet or dry. Whether on land or on the boat, it’s a reliable shoe that can handle it all.
2. Dockers Vargas Leather Boat Shoe
If for some reason or another you don’t want to go with Sperry, this handsewn leather option from Dockers is a good secondary option. The soft leather upper provides a nice and clean finish, while the overall construction yields an elegant and stylish appearance. The EVA footbed allows for a cushioned and supportive bed that slightly grips your foot with every step. And, of course, the rubber outsole provides solid traction across any surface.
3. TOMS Culver Boat Shoe
While the boat shoe is most typically constructed from a leather upper, there might be a time and space where you’d prefer a canvas upper. The hemp used in Tom’s take allows for a fair amount of breathability, which is helpful if your feet really sweat in the summertime. The pattern itself evokes the tooth grin of a shark, while the removable insole allows for more customization to your individual foot. And, of course, you still get an outsole with great grip.
4. Unlisted by Kenneth Cole Santon Boat Shoe
The price of each of the shoes on the list, before you start getting into the designer side of things at least, is roughly priced around the same point. This means it’s a little tougher to find a dedicated value pick, but this Santon boat shoe from Kenneth Cole’s Unlisted line definitely gets the job done. Under $60, it provides the same comfort and traction as all the other shoes. One thing that also stands out is the contrasting white sole that adds a welcome pop of color.
5. Columbia Men’s Baham Vent PFG Boat Shoe
If you took a look at Columbia’s version of a boat shoe, you might not even realize it was a boat shoe at first. The design of the Baham Vent PFG almost looks more like a water shoe than anything else. Nevertheless, the blend of canvas and leather ensures your foot is protected and comfortable. The slip-on nature makes them easy to take on and off. Additionally, the shoe’s Omni-Grip rubber outsole provides reliable grip in situations where you need it most.
6. L.L. Bean Casco Bay Boat Shoes
The thing that’s great about a company like L.L. Bean is that because they’ve been around so long, their brand is basically synonymous with quality. These Casco Bay boat shoes are handsewn for the best quality from leather that will age — and get better looking — the longer you wear them. Additionally, the interior liner is crafted with soft and supple leather that gives even more cushion and support to your feet. Closer in feel to a pair of mocassins than boat shoes, there’s a reason why L.L. Bean continues to resonate.
7. Rockport Perth Boat Shoe
Boat shoes can look a little bland sometimes, so it’s always appreciated when there’s an elevated and stylish alternative. The two-tone, contrasting nature of these boat shoes from Rockport is a subtle way to inject a bit of swagger into an outfit. Additionally, the supportive sole provides support that can transition from day to night just as easily as you can go from boat deck to shoreline.
8. Samuel Hubbard Camplight Boat Shoe
BEST RUGGED OPTION
If you like the look and feel of a standard boat shoe, but want something that’s got a more rugged sole, this boat shoe from Samuel Hubbard has a considerable amount of grit to it. Whether it’s on the boat or walking through city slush, the chunky lug sole provides good grip and traction, elevating your step slightly above the mess. The grain leather will age nicely, too, making for a really sharp looking shoe you’ll want to wear over and over again.
9. Quoddy Blucher Suede Boat Shoes
If you’re willing to drop some serious cash on a really elegant-looking pair of boat shoes, you should absolutely do on this pair from Quoddy. Handmade from rich tan suede and nestled on top of a pair of Vibram rubber soles, they’re just as great on the dock as they are on date night. The resulting product is an extravagant, sharp-looking set of shoes that’s bound to turn heads.