The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine

Ahoy, Matey! Choosing Boat Shoes

Posted by on Thursday, February 9th, 2012


It’s winter here in the northeastern US, which perhaps inclines us (or at least me) to begin to daydream about things like sun, sand, and water. That is, boats out on the water and being in those boats.

An important part of foot health is, of course, the right pair of shoes for any given situation. Keeping your feet dry while you’re involved in water sports will help prevent chafing, blisters, and just plan chilliness; making sure that shoes are meant for slippery surfaces will keep you from falling and breaking an ankle, toe, or anything else.

So with that in mind, let’s talk about how to choose shoes that will keep your feet happy and healthy if you’re going to be striding around the deck of a yacht, pirate ship, or canoe, or if we’re all going to be living on the ocean soon. Here are some questions…and answers:


What kind of shoes are we talking about? You may know them as boat shoes, deck shoes, topsiders, or docksiders. The name you choose probably depends on whether you grew up on the starboard or port side of the ship (no, I have no idea what that means but it sounds frightfully nautical). Originally modeled after moccasins, boat shoes are usually low cut shoes that can be easily slipped on or off. They typically were worn without socks (the logic being, I assume, that if you were going to be on a boat and get water on your feet, you might as well not waste a pair of socks), though you’re certainly welcome to wear them if you’re a sock fan. They’ve become known as part of the essential preppy wardrobe, as in, “Hi Muffy, I’ll meet you at the country club for drinks as soon as I dock my yacht at the marina. I’ll be the one wearing khakis, topsiders without socks, and an L.L. Bean windbreaker.” (Oops, Chip just described everyone at the country club! How will Muffy recognize Chip now?!) If you want something a little sportier, there now are sneakers and sandals that are designed for use on boats or in the water.

Now what are they made of? Boat shoes are typically made out of a waterproof leather, but you can find synthetic versions. Look for shoes with a lining that will wick away moisture to help keep your feet dry. If you want something breathable, look for shoes made out of canvas, sneakers with mesh cutouts, or, of course, sandals. Keep in mind that you need to look for waterproof shoes if you want to keep your feet dry; the label “weather resistant” just means that water won’t damage the shoe.

O Sole Mio This is practically the entire point of boat shoes–soles. Water gets all over the decks of boats and the docks where you may be embarking or disembarking (it’s always a good time when I get to use the word “disembarking”). Rubber soles provide traction, and they don’t scuff up the deck.

And speaking of soles, many of your classic boat shoes come with removable insoles. Why? So you can take them out and let them dry if/when you get your feet sopping from that big wave that just rolled over the side of your little sailboat. The shoes will last longer if you give them the opportunity to dry out fully after you’ve gotten them wet.

You’ve Got Style Yes, you want your shoes to be practical, but you also want to look good. When it comes to boat shoes, the type you choose is all about who you are. Your classic topsiders will say that you’re a classic type of person. You can’t go wrong showing up at the dock wearing brown topsiders/docksiders/deck shoes/boat shoes. If you like your fashion on the daring side, go for one something in a brighter color, like one of the canvas options. And if you’re the type who’s heading out for a sail after doing a triathlon and before a refreshing hike in the woods, and, oh, you don’t mind getting your feet wet, then you’re the sporty sandal type.


Or if you want to really embarrass your kids, you can just wear Crocs.

Now I hope all that helps you understand how to keep your feet safe and happy while you’re on board ship…or trying to look like you are!

And of course, for advice on choosing a shoe best suited for your foot, contact us at The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine. Dr. Josef J. GeldwertDr. Katherine Lai, and Dr. Ryan Minara have helped thousands of people get back on their feet.

If you have any foot problems or pain, contact The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports MedicineDr. Josef J. GeldwertDr. Katherine Lai, Dr. Ryan Minara and Dr. Mariola Rivera have helped thousands of people get back on their feet. Unfortunately, we cannot give diagnoses or treatment advice online. Please make an appointment to see us if you live in the NY metropolitan area or seek out a podiatrist in your area.