What sailing shoes to wear?

As an enthusiastic sailor and experienced advisor, I understand the significance of wearing the right shoes for sailing adventures. They play a crucial role in ensuring your safety, comfort, and performance while out on the water. In this comprehensive guide, I’ll walk you through the essential factors to consider when selecting sailing shoes and provide helpful suggestions for the perfect footwear for your sailboat outings.

Factors to Consider for Sailing Shoes

 When it comes to choosing the ideal shoes for sailing, there are specific considerations to keep in mind. The most critical factor is the type of sole; sailing shoes must have non-slip and non-marking soles to provide reliable traction on wet decks. A rubber sole is the preferred choice, as it offers excellent grip even on slippery surfaces. Additionally, shoes should be lightweight, quick-drying, and water-resistant to withstand the marine environment.

Types of Sailing Shoes

Deck shoes and sneakers with light rubber soles are the two primary types of sailing shoes available. Deck shoes, also known as boat shoes, are specifically designed for boating activities and offer exceptional grip on wet surfaces. On the other hand, sneakers with light rubber soles can be a suitable alternative for less intense sailing trips. However, they may not provide the same level of grip as dedicated deck shoes.

Material Matters

The material of shoes plays a crucial role in their performance and durability. Rubber is the preferred material due to its non-slip properties and resistance to water. Leather is another popular choice, especially for deck shoes, as it offers a classic and stylish look while still providing good traction. However, ensure the leather is treated to withstand moisture.

Comfort and Fit

Comfort is key when spending long hours on a sailboat. Ill-fitting shoes can cause discomfort and potentially lead to accidents. When choosing sailing shoes, make sure they fit snugly but not too tight, allowing room for movement and wearing socks if necessary. Test the shoes by walking and bending your feet to ensure they provide adequate support and flexibility.

What Not to Wear Sailing

Certain types of shoes should be avoided when sailing to ensure your safety and the preservation of the boat’s deck. High heels, open-toed shoes, and flip-flops are not suitable for sailing due to their lack of stability and grip. Additionally, avoid wearing shoes with dark-colored soles, as they can leave marks on the deck.

Best Brands for Sailing Shoes

Several reputable brands specialize in producing high-quality sailing shoes. Brands like Sperry, Gill, and Helly Hansen offer a wide range of sailing footwear with excellent grip, durability, and style. These brands have established themselves as leaders in the sailing industry, providing reliable options for sailors of all experience levels.

Seasonal Considerations

Depending on the weather and season, your choice of shoes may vary. During warmer months, breathable shoes with good ventilation are recommended to prevent excessive sweating and discomfort. For colder conditions, insulated and waterproof sailing shoes can provide warmth and protection against the elements.

Care and Maintenance

To ensure the longevity of your sailing shoes, proper care and maintenance are essential. After each sailing trip, rinse off any saltwater or debris and allow the shoes to dry naturally. Apply a suitable conditioner or waterproofing treatment to protect the shoes and extend their lifespan. Regularly inspect the soles for wear and tear and replace them if necessary.

Personal Recommendations

 Having spent countless hours sailing, I’ve discovered my own preferences for sailing shoes. My personal recommendation is to invest in a pair of high-quality deck shoes from reputable brands like Sperry or Gill. These shoes offer exceptional grip, durability, and comfort, making them ideal for any sailing adventure. Remember, finding the right shoes is a personal choice, so consider your specific needs and preferences when making your decision.


Choosing the appropriate shoes for sailing is crucial for ensuring your safety, comfort, and performance on the water. Prioritize non-slip and non-marking soles, lightweight and quick-drying materials, and a proper fit. Remember to consider seasonal variations and maintain your sailing shoes properly for long-lasting use. By following these guidelines and recommendations, you’ll be well-prepared to enjoy your sailing adventures to the fullest.

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

Can I wear regular sneakers or athletic shoes for sailing?

Regular sneakers or athletic shoes can work for sailing, as long as they have light rubber soles that provide sufficient traction on wet surfaces. However, dedicated sailing shoes or deck shoes are designed specifically for boating and offer superior grip and durability.

Are there any specific shoe brands recommended for sailing?

Several brands specialize in sailing shoes and offer excellent options for sailors. Some reputable brands include Sperry, Gill, Helly Hansen, and Musto. These brands have a long-standing reputation for producing high-quality sailing footwear.

Can I wear flip-flops or sandals while sailing?

It is not recommended to wear flip-flops or sandals while sailing, as they lack stability and grip. Sailing involves constant movement and potential exposure to water, making it essential to wear shoes that provide adequate support and traction.

How do I clean and maintain my sailing shoes?

To clean shoes, rinse them with fresh water after each sailing trip to remove saltwater and debris. Allow them to dry naturally and apply a suitable conditioner or waterproofing treatment to protect the shoes. Regularly inspect the soles for wear and tear and replace them when needed.

Can I wear sailing shoes for other water activities?

They can be suitable for various water activities, such as kayaking, canoeing, and paddle boarding. These shoes provide grip and protection against wet and slippery surfaces, making them versatile options for different water-based adventures.

sailing shoes
Avatar photo

Michael Thompson

Embarking on a lifelong love affair with the sea, I found solace and exhilaration in the art of sailing. From navigating treacherous waters to harnessing the wind's untamed power, my passion has evolved into a mission to inspire others. Join me on a voyage of discovery as we explore the vast horizons of sailing's timeless allure.

More to Explore