Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Boat Shoes

All Original Photographs from Archives

Women's Bluefish and Men's Billfish
Boat shoes are an iconic style, made by a variety of vendors. Boat shoes and shoes on boats are chosen for different reasons.

Some boat shoe providers are:

For example, some opinions include:
Our bowman on our Newport to Bermuda bound race boat swears by his Dubarry boots for a secure safe grip on a wet foredeck, warmth in cold weather, and dryness; they are light enough in weight to assure his nimbleness as well, Those leather mocs that Sperry makes are comfy ashore or out for a day sail on a perfect summer day, but many sailors change them at the dock before boarding for more rugged sailing shoes that both dry quickly when wet with salt water (leather shoes take forever to dry) and are also less slippery. As soon as you wear those Sperry mocs ashore you degrade the sole, they take a beating on gravel or pavement and are soon unreliable. I like the Sperry ASVs, others swear by Rugged Sharks and Harken, Musto, Gill, and Henri Lloyd all make excellent boat shoes. (Hearthstone Farm)
I wear Sperry Billfish now but mainly for their versatility. For true boating wear, I don't think that these are any better than the old Tretorn canvas pair that survived my tennis. The Converse All-Stars were great shoes but not the best on wet deck where the Tretorns pulled through just fine. I should get another pair of those.:) (James)
The [Sperry] Gold Cup are certainly more comfortable than the original AOs (blame the tautology on Sperry, not me).  Rancourt is another good company for shoes made in Maine; worth spending time with either company discussing sizing before placing an order. (John G)


Can One Wear Socks With Boat Shoes?

Can one wear socks with boat shoes?
I have been wearing top-siders for 50 years and its only the last few years that these twits have been talking about "you can't wear Top siders with socks." Have they never been on the Ocean in the spring or fall? (Comment)
When on a boat in spring or fall, it can be quite cold and the last thing one wants are bare ankles.   In addition, boat shoes are comfortable and easy to wear on land, and as long as there is not two feet of snow on the ground, one can alternate between these, camp mocs,  and blucher mocs.  (Some have several pairs of boat shoes and buy up a size for sock wearing.)


Two casual socks that work well, the Wool Ragg sock, and the old fashioned tennis sock.  Both styles were purchased at L.L. Bean and both made in the USA.

Boat Shoes with Socks

Sperry (Past and Present)

For decades, after Paul Sperry in 1935 invented the iconic boat shoe with the "Razor-Siping" sole, no other brand would do.   Now, of course, most are made in China instead of Connecticut, and there are many viable alternatives.

Some opinions have included:
I'm a big fan of the Sperry Gold Cups. Their regular line along with anything from LL Bean are like walking on boards once you have donned a pair of gold cups. Go for the ASV 2-eyes over the AOs. (Darryl)
Sperry Sea Kite sneakers for racing and original Topsiders the rest of the time because old habits die hard. (Katahdin)
Many choose either the Original Boat Shoe (in Classic Brown only) or the popular Billfish 3-Eye in Dark Tan or Dark Brown. The Billfish is arguably more comfortable despite the mesh, which is where the shoe will most likely start to come apart first.

Women's Bluefish 2-Eye Boat Shoe


Men's Authentic Original 2-Eye Boat Shoe (Sperry Link, Amazon Link)

Men's Original Sperrys

Women's Authentic Original 2-Eye Boat Shoe (Amazon Link)




Men's Billfish 3-Eye Boat Shoe (Sperry Link)



Bluefish 2-Eye Boat Shoe (Amazon Link)

Color: Tan


Sperry boat shoes have soles designed for traction and to be non-marking.

Men's Billfish

Women's Bluefish, Original (Compared to Bean Blucher on right)
Past Opinions:
The one thing that the Sperry Topsider has that other deck shoes don't have is their patented razor-cut siped sole. If you are sailing and walking on decks that are awash, you want as good a grip to the deck as you can get. That said, even Sperry has modified their original razor cut sole in recent years and, in my opinion, have made it less effective on a wet deck. (Comment) 
The soles get hard and slick otherwise the shoes are like new. I've had 3 pair to do this. Is it a China made thing? (Galestorm)
Regarding Sperry soles going "hard," I speculate the cold has something to do with it - I have had a few pairs go hard (both traditional and performance styles) after the winter. The most recent pair after being left in my trunk through much of the winter. With the traditional dog paw type soles, going at them with a little sandpaper and even a sander if necessary will bring back some of the grip. (Comment) 
After a few years without, I decided to buy a new pair of Sperry topsiders over the weekend. Went to the Sperry store in Freeport, ME and had an interesting conversation with one of the employees that left me not so keen on what Sperry (like SO many other retailers) has become.
Turns out the original Sperry topsider they offer (made in Maine) is discounted to $240 (regularly $300). If you don't want to spend that much, they offer many other iterations, but all made in China, Indonesia, etc. And those are $85 to $115, not exactly throwaway pricing for this Yankee. If you want the dark brown, white sole, leather lacing model NOT made in Maine, that is only available online. Ridiculous.
After hemming and hawing (and feeling like I was buying the "cheap", made for the outlet store version) I bought the China version (ugh) in dark brown with the nylon cord lacing and had them put in new leather lacing for me. It's close enough, but why all the nonsense?
If you want pink or camo or yellow or vine print or patent, glossy (seriously!) topsiders, they have plenty of 'em. Why do the classics have to be "improved"? And why do I feel like I "settled" for a pair of $90 Topsiders? Icky. Hopefully after a few dunks in the ocean and some boat time, they'll feel like old friends and this experience will fade out of memory, but it was much too close to a Mall experience for me. (Comment)
I usually wear Sperry's. I have both the AO and the Bluefish and find I tend to go with the Bluefish most of the time. Several years ago I got a pair of Merrell sailing slip-ons at the recommendation of a friend. These are no longer made. I also have a pair of Musto Dynamic Pros. Both the Merrells and the Mustos grip well and drain and dry quickly, but I seldom wear them. My husband wears anything that meets Patsy's requirements: non-marking and comfortable, and often what he's already wearing. (Bitsy)

Sperry Water Sports (Sperry Link, Amazon Sperry Store)




Past Opinions:
I have whatever the older version of the Sperry "bungee sneaker," "water sports" model is called, and it performs very well for sea kayaking, especially launching or landing on a rocky area or one with deep sand. Good protection, holds fairly tight, dries fairly quickly, less sand in my shoes than with others I've used. (John G)
I've always loved my CVO canvas Sperry sneakers. I've worn those for years and years. I was upset when they discontinued them for awhile. They're back now and I've stocked up on them. I love the traction on a wet deck ( actually, I haven't been on a wet boat deck since the 80's). I think they look great with a pair of Red's/khakis. (Wasp Decor)

L.L. Bean

Men's Casco Bay Boat Mocs <http://www.llbean.com/llb/shop/46112>

Dubarry 

If you can afford it, Dubarry is the way to go. (Comment)
Love that you featured the DuBarry boots too. I love mine...nothing more waterproof, hardworking and yet great to look at. I wouldn't be without a pair. (Alexandra)



Dubarry Sailing Boots

Other Pictures of Boat Shoes and Shoes on Boats


Past Opinions:
I wear Tretorns, Converse or non-marking flip flops, and my husband wears whatever is on his feet at the time (even when he is racing)- all his everyday shoes have non-marking soles. He's usually on someone's boat every day. The #1 most important thing is non-marking soles. Then, go for comfort or style, or both! (Patsy)
No one has mentioned Sebago boot shoes. Wore them for years in college and afterwards. I think they were better made and more comfortable especially for wearing on the streets. (Comment)
I agree with the Sebago postings. I have worn their Clovehitch model for years and could not be satisfied. Great on deck and comfortable and supportive around town when we arrive in port. (Seadog, June 5)
i like sperry's gold cup because the insole and midsole are more comfortable for standing and walking around.  for any hardcore sailing in a dinghy - lasers, 420s and the like - shoes and sneakers are not great. i prefer neoprene booties with a grippy sole, sperry seahikers. ugly but more effective. i think boat shoes can be maintained the same as any leather shoe. a generous cleaning with saddle soap will loosen up stiff leather, then treat with some light leather conditioner. Gokey's sells conditioner through Orvis. Limmer Boots in New Hampshire makes great leather conditioner too. vs (Andrew)



I had a very brief career as a crew member on my college's sailing team (joined late in senior year), and I wore basic Sperrys because they worked well and were priced within the reach of a working student. My skipper preferred Converse All Stars - red canvas hightops. Several of the more experienced team members wore canvas shoes, especially surprising considering how chilly NE lakes tend to be in the spring! (JSL)

Gokey Boat shoes by Orvis (Left) and Sperry Gold Boat with ASV (Right)






29 comments:

  1. Good thing I don't have a boat. I would be so confused over which shoes to buy. So many great choices! Happy sailing! Landlocked in Atlanta . . . .

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  2. In the picture of the 'Women's Bluefish 2-Eye Boat Shoe', the laces on the right shoe are tied in a Granny Knot.

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  3. After wearing Sperry's most of my life, ( I taught school in Sperry's) I'm going to try a pair of Quoddy's.

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  4. The ones God gave me...

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    Replies
    1. When my son was younger, he grouped boats into two categories - shoes off boats and shoes on boats.

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    2. Heather, having broken 2 toes (on 2 different occasions) on some piece of deck hardware, I 100% agree with your son!

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    3. Oh my, you have my sympathy! There is nothing worse than broken toes, especially those that are wrenched back via a jamming split and twist.

      I had a spectular bruise one summer that covered my sole and spread over the top of my foot as the result of a run in with a stanchion.

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  5. Replies
    1. I see a lot of those kicking around boatyards.

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  6. Quoddy's boat mocs are great! I prefer the vibram soul rather than the traditional boat shoe soul. I wear them in shallow water to break them in. I have also had good luck with Quoddy's maliseet oxfords for more general wear. Quoddy does an excellent job refurbishing their shoes when necessary.
    If you plan on walking a lot on shore in your boat shoes the Mephisto have much more comfortable support than anything else I have found.
    I notice that Quoddy occasionally has sales now.

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    Replies
    1. Their souls are really soles.

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  7. I've been buying Sperry CVOs for years, even after they did away with the patented razor-cut sole, which was great on a wet deck. I ordered a pair last summer and had to return them because Sperry, for some unknown reason, decided to attach the tongue of the shoe to the shoe. So, you could not even get your foot into it. Why fool with the something that has worked so well for 50 years? The logic escapes me. I think I'll have to go with Quoddy.

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  8. Sailing San Francisco Bay calls for serious grippiness, to use a technical term. About two years ago I bought a couple of boat shoes for comparison - some claimed to be for sailing par excellence (e.g., Helly Hansen). The Sperrys beat all others hands down. I was surprised; the price tag was modest compared to others incorporating the latest in doo dad technology and materials. Never missed a step; felt sure footed under the beautiful & deceptive microclimes & currents of the Golden Gate Bridge. For me, it's Sperry.

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  9. I own two pairs of Sperry's, both purchased 10 years ago. Although never worn on a boat, they get a workout and have stood the test of time.

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  10. Quoddy and Sperry...to echo others

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  11. RANCOURT BOAT SHOES - THE BEST!!!!

    Similar to Quoddy as far as build quality, but I prefer the Rancourt sole/look. They are amazing and the leather takes a beating.

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  12. Currently have Sperry's, husband has an ancient pair from GH Bass. We've both had Bean before. We are not frequent sailors (we live in Idaho, after all) so not as important for us, other than just as a comfortable shoe. Oh, and as a "just in case " shoe.

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  13. I like Sperry Authentic Originals. They are easy to find at a number of brick and mortar stores in my area, they fit me well, they are often on sale, and I don't worry about getting them wet like I would with a more expensive boat shoes. I coach swimming 10 months a year so I wear them pretty much year round, at least while I'm on deck.

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  14. I wore Topsiders back in the day, then a Timberland boat shoe. These days I do much more whitewater kayaking and have a discontinued Keen water boot. Their sandals are nice. Martin Keen envisioned them while sailing. The big toe rand offers great protection from bumping into toe rails, winch heads, cleats, etc., and they have siped soles.

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  15. An earlier comment noted that Sperry is making Topsiders in pink, camo, etc. While they wouldn't be the shoe of choice for a, um, mature sailor, stroll by an Opti Regatta or a junior sailing program to see who is wearing the crazier choices.

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    Replies
    1. all about the money....

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  16. Sebago Clovehitch. Similar to Sperry Billfish but they fit my feet better. Great comfort and support on the boat and for walking on
    shore in interesting ports of call.

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  17. I am not a sailor but I do like to wear boat shoes when on a cruise. The ones I like are the Perth model made by Rockport. Great for on board use and comfortable enough for walking around the islands.

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  18. Sadly as wonderful as they are, Sperrys can be slippery. Last year I tried an experiment. I bought ASICS GEL-Cumulus 17 running shoes. They are super comfortable, dry fairly quickly and aren't as slippery as Sperrys. Their soles don't degrade as quickly and they come in narrow widths unlike many other shoes these days. So they are now my go to sailing shoes--as odd as it sounds.

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  19. I love my Sperry Topsiders, even here in land locked Colorado! (We do have a lot of nice lakes here.

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  20. I ordered the handmade in Maine Topsiders two years ago and they are just like the ones I grew up wearing. Pricey for a boat shoe, but if they last like the old, made in USA ones, I'll be happy. cheers!

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  21. Even though they're no longer made in the USA, I stick with Sperry AO's. I feel the ones I've bought in recent years as as good as the ones I bought years ago when we actually had a sailboat and wore them when sailing in SoCal.

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  22. Switched from Sperry to Sebago and never looked back.
    Sperry soles quickly turned hard and slippery whereas my several year old Sebagos still go strong and provide traction on and off Deck, plus the leather feels and looks better and less "plasticky".

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  23. Does anyone have any opinions on Dubarry? I have Sperry's, but am looking for something different.

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