11 Best Boat Shoes For Men
We actually have a dog to thank for the invention of the boat shoe. Back in 1935, Paul A. Sperry noticed how easily his dog was able to run across the ice without slipping, which inspired him to create a shoe that could be safely worn on the slippery deck of a boat.
Based on the traditional design of moccasins, Sperry’s shoes were made from canvas or leather and featured rubber soles designed in a sipping pattern to improve traction on wet surfaces. Nearly a century later, Sperry is the undisputed leader in boat shoes, with dozens of companies releasing their own interpretation of Sperry’s iconic and immediately identifiable slip-on design. They are far and away the best men’s boat shoes on the market.
While Sperry’s are still worn by sailors, the majority of people who reach for their trusty boat shoes as soon as summer hits have probably only ever seen a marina in Jaws. Luckily, you don’t have to have your sea legs in order to sport a pair of sleek boat shoes — even if you can’t get out on a boat this season, boat shoes are a stylish and extremely comfortable addition to your summer wardrobe.
Can you wear boat shoes with socks? And what are the best socks for boat shoes, you might ask? Boat shoes are generally worn without socks (no one wants a pair of soggy socks on deck), but a good pair of no-show socks like Bombas or Mack Weldon will do the trick if potential wetness isn’t an issue.
You want to stick with the basics when choosing a pair of boat shoes since they represent a classic and understated look — navy blue canvas or brown leather are two of the most popular offerings. You can rock them with anything from a pair of chinos to your favorite casual shorts. We’ve cherry-picked a handful of our favorite models to help get you primed for a summer on the water, or to at least put you in that seafaring state of mind.
Most Classic: Sperry Top Sider
Sperry invented the boat shoe, and they still offer the ultimate mix of style, function, and comfort today. With their leather construction, moccasin-stitched toe, and a flexible non-marking sole that won’t scuff up the deck of a boat, the Sperry Top Sider delivers on all fronts. Best of all, you can wear the Top Siders out for a full day on the water and then incorporate them into a casual dinner look later that night. If you’re in a landlocked area, the Top Siders still provide the immediate sense of relaxed cool, even on a crowded city street. You’ll almost be able to smell the sea water.
Best Statement Classic: Sperry 2-Eye Nubuck Boat Shoe
Sperry has updated their classic Authentic Original Sperry design with the stylish Nubuck boat shoe. The Nubuck features a full-grain tumbled leather upper and an Ortholite insert to keep you feeling light and comfortable throughout your day out on the water.
Available in four classy designs, this model features a nice splash of color that easily stands out from the exclusively nautical designs you commonly find from other companies. With the Sperry name and an appealing look, these are some of the best men’s boat shoes we’ve found.
Best Leather Option: Timberland Men's Classic Boat 2-Eye Shoes
While Timberland is best known for producing chunky winter boots, their year-round offerings also include these gorgeous boat shoes. Made from premium leather from a “LWG silver-rated tannery,” this model also includes a foam EVA insert for comfort and support during those long summer days.
Reviews do mention that they run a little small, so you may want to go up a half size to be safe. Like all leather shoes, these will require some breaking in, but the end result will definitely be worth it.
Best Philanthropic Purchase: TOMS Men's Claremont Slip-On
It’s no surprise that TOMS is in the boat shoe game, given how closely their standard slip-on resembles the classic boat shoe design. Available in two styles, the nautical-themed Navy Canvas and Oxford Tan Boat, these 100% synthetic shoes fall somewhere between a sneaker and a traditional boat shoe.
The Claremont features TOMS’ CloudBound Sole, which provides more comfort and support than most boat shoe designs. The rubber/EVA sole features a unique tread pattern (including “traction pods”) that should keep you upright no matter what surface you find yourself on.
Best For Comfort: Dockers Castaway Boat Shoe
You already have their khakis, so why not pair those with these attractive and understated boat shoes? Made from full-grain leather, the Castaway features an EVA insert for cushioned support and a rubber sole to keep you topside. Dockers bills the Castaway as being fully versatile, and it’s easy to see why — you can just as easily wear these on the beach or for a casual dinner date. The Castaway is also available in wider widths for those with larger feet (this is particularly welcome since many boat shoe styles are fairly narrow).
Most Fashionable: Sebago Makwa Brown Moccasin
If Sperry is the king of the boat shoe, then Sebago is its loyal prince. Founded in 1946, the American company has been making high-quality boating and deck shoes for decades. Their Docksides line features dozens of boat shoes, from mainstay nautical-inspired looks to some truly wild designs like their animal print penny loafers.
These Makwa Brown Moccasins are literally a step above the competition with their extra-wide sole that gives them the appearance of a dressier shoe. With a beautiful multi-color design, these are some of the best men’s boat shoes, and offer the flair of high fashion with the comfort and durability you’d expect from a classic boat shoe.
Vegan Leather Option: Kenneth Cole REACTION Men's Ankir Boat Shoe
Kenneth Cole delivers a no-fuss boat shoe that doesn’t go overboard with the nautical design. These solid color shoes (with white side-stitching) are available in four designs, and are made from vegan leather, which isn’t easy to find. Coming in somewhere between a casual sneaker and a boat shoe, these simple summer shoes are guaranteed to brighten up any outfit, even if there’s not a drop of water in sight.
Biggest Statement: Polo Ralph Lauren Men's Merton Boat Shoe
The long-reigning champs of prep-wear have designed a luxurious boat shoe for those who want something with a little more heft than many of their competitors. Weighing in at just under five pounds, these are substantial loafers that will look great for any occasion, whether you’re near the water or not. Made from waxed and burnished leather, the Merton features a reinforced heel and rawhide laces (complete with a long tassel).
Available in a wide-range of designs, you can keep it conservative with the standard navy or brown leather look or really make a statement with the silver (!) option or the all-American red-white-navy combo. Whichever you choose, you can rest assured that you’re picking up some of the best men’s boat shoes you can find.
Best Boat Shoe/ Moc Hybrid: L.L. Bean Men's Casco Bay Boat Mocs
As their name implies, L.L. Bean has constructed these as a blend of a boat shoe and a moccasin. With an all-leather handsewn upper, these shoes will look great when you’re fishing from the deck of your boat or just taking a leisurely stroll around town. They feature everything you’d need from a boat shoe including a no-slip rubber sole, and adjustable side lacing to ensure the perfect fit. Nothing about these shoes necessarily screams “I’m on a boat!” but these elevated boat shoes are sure to make an impression on and off land.
Best Beach Day Choice: Vans Trek Slip-On
Vans has retooled their beloved slip-on to incorporate elements of a boat shoe for this new hybrid take on a classic design. Described as the first “rinseable slip-on,” the Trek features numerous drainage holes to allow water to freely flow through the shoe, so you don’t have to worry about getting these wet. These combine the elements we all love about Vans slip-ons, from the comfort to the lace-less design, and add an entirely rinseable shoe that makes it the perfect choice for a beach day.
Best For Water Sports: Crocs Swiftwater Mesh Wave
We may lose some of you with this one, but hear us out – Crocs makes some of the best men’s boat shoes. Originally made popular by medical staff who were on their feet for hours a day, the lightweight and supportive shoes feature air holes to ensure you stay cool, which also makes them perfect for the water. The Mesh Wave design features a stretchy mesh upper for a flexible and comfortable fit and the requisite rubber sole for traction.
While any boat shoes can technically get wet, you wouldn’t want to soak a nice pair of leather boat shoes – the Mesh Wave is made from “Croslite” foam, so you can completely drench them and they won’t absorb any water. Best of all, these aren’t readily identifiable as a pair of traditional Crocs, so you can sport these at your next beachside party and no one has to be the wiser. Your secret is safe with us.