The New Boat Shoes
Old Sailor Looks at the
Latest Hi-tech Footwear
a few years ago if you wanted a pair of sailing shoes (or deck shoes
as they’re known downunder) you’d go to your local chandlery and
buy a pair of Sperry Topsiders. Or if money was a bit tight, you’d
buy a pair of “made in china” replicas.
Then along came
Timberland and Dubarry and other upmarket brands and suddenly, if
you wore Sperry, or Sperry look-alikes, or heaven forbid, a pair
of old runners with the canvas top and rubber soles (Dunlop Volleys
in Oz) you were definitely not invited to the Commodore’s cocktail
Before I go on
I must declare a personal bias. I have been, and still am, a Sperry
man. I admit I did dabble with Timberland for a while, but it was
a silly, temporary fling and meant nothing. To me the old original
Sperry Topsider, the scruffier the better, is still the only boat
In fact, I used
to give my new topsiders to my dog for a week before I’d dare wear
them to the yacht club. No sailor I know would be seen wearing a
new pair of boat shoes.
And of course
I’ve never been invited to the Commodore’s cocktail party.
been a revolution in boating shoes over the last few years. The
high tech guys, those who’ve tinkered with our sails, masts, electronics
and foul weather gear, have now started on our boat shoes.
even called boat shoes any more. They’re
… sounds like something with little wheels on the side.
for sailors who spend most of their life in boat shoes is that their
feet spread out. My feet are like a duck’s - almost as wide as they
are long and I find it hard to buy normal shoes to fit me. I need
a pair of boat shoes that stretch and mould to my foot and feel
like a second skin.
Which is why
I live in Topsiders.
are so easy. Buy a new pair … put them on … stand in a bucket of
water … walk around until they dry … give them to the dog for a
few days … a bit of oil ...perfect.
these new “deck trainers” have been tested by several impeccable
groups, including Practical Boat Owner, who’ve tested several different
makes on several occasions.
They found little
difference in performance between the major brands. Henri Lloyd,
Musto, Harken, Gill, Dubarry and Sperry were all found to give very
good support to your foot with arch supports and support around
the heel. The soles are made from the very latest in materials,
giving excellent grip in the wet and they all have “breathable”
uppers and “wickable” inners to keep your feet as dry as possible
and to dry out quickly – a bit like foul weather gear for your feet.
they all look like something your local rapper would wear.
They even have
special inner liners to stop your feet smelling!
- smelly feet are a sailors birthright.
The real problem
is - I’ve changed a headsail at 2 am on a cold, wet foredeck in
a gale in Bass Strait. It’s no fun. It’s bloody uncomfortable to
say the least.
And I’ve lost
my boat shoes overboard doing it. And bare feet on a slippery deck
are even less fun.
as much as I hate saying so, the next time I go offshore I’m going
to at least look at these new “deck trainers”. At least you can
be sure they’ll stay on when you need them.
say a good fit is critical, and I’m not sure they’ll be as forgiving
as my Topsiders, so I’ll have to try every make and model to see
if I can get a pair to fit my duck feet.
And if I do
find a pair that fit, I’ll hide them aboard somewhere safe, and
only wear them when the wind and sea pipe up.
And I’ll never,
ever wear them in the club.
And you can
count on this … you could never wear them to the Commodore’s cocktail