Types of Sailing Footwear: A Comprehensive Guide

Types of Sailing Footwear: A Comprehensive Guide

Choosing the right footwear for sailing is essential to ensure comfort, safety, and high performance on deck. Here's a detailed overview of the various types of sailing shoes available:

Dinghy/Hiking Boots

Dinghy and hiking boots are designed for sailors in small boats where getting wet is inevitable. These boots provide excellent protection for the feet and ankles, which is crucial during manoeuvres such as roll tacking, trapezing, hiking out or recovering from a capsize. While they may not win any fashion awards on land, dinghy boots offer superior functionality and durability in small boats. They are not designed for walking long distances along the deck, but rather for protecting feet during tactical manoeuvres. When selecting the size, it's important to ensure a snug fit for ease of movement and swimming in case of a capsize. They can be paired with neoprene socks for added warmth.

Rooster All Purpose Boots

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Runners are undoubtedly the most breathable option and well-suited to hot climates. For fair weather sailing conditions where there's minimal risk of getting wet, runners can be a suitable option. However, their appropriateness depends on factors like the season, weather conditions, and the type of sailing. They can be paired with waterproof or neoprene socks for extra protection. Many sailors prefer runners with white soles to minimise scuffing on the deck. It isn’t necessary to have sailing specific runners, but do note that runners designed especially for sailing will generally be made of quick dry material while normal street shoes may not. We have several excellent options for runners, have a look at these options:

Musto Dynamic Pro II Adapt  

Dubarry Palermo Lightweight Trainer

Additional Options:

  • Gill Savona Deck Trainer
  • Helly Hansen Revo Deck Runner
  • Helly Hansen Revo Ladies Deck Runner
  • Helly Hansen Ahiga V4 Deck Runner
  • Helly Hansen Ahiga V4 Ladies Deck Runner 
  • Dubarry Palma Lightweight Trainer 
  • Traditional Boots

    Fully waterproof and durable, traditional sailing boots are ideal for larger vessels and harsh weather conditions. They offer maximum protection from the water and elements, making them indispensable for offshore sailing. However, they may feel bulky and cumbersome during technical manoeuvres on smaller keelboats and dinghies. They will also be difficult to keep dry when launching from a beach or a slipway, so they are a better option for boats that are kept on a slip, dock or mooring. Leather and leather imitation materials offer better breathability compared to rubber, reducing the likelihood of sweating. However, they also require more maintenance. Dubarry of Ireland is renowned for producing top-quality traditional sailing boots that combine durability with comfort. Made from premium leather, Dubarry boots provide a snug fit and excellent performance even in the harshest environments. They are a long-term investment for serious sailors who demand the best from their gear. Chose from;


    Dubarry Ultima Leather Sailing Boots

    Musto Gore-Tex Race Boot

    Dubarry Crosshaven Sailing Boots

    Orca Bay Storm Leather Boot


    Gill Short Cruising Boot

    Additional options:

  • Orca Bay SOLENT Sailing Boot
  • Gill Tall Yachting Boot
  • Deck Shoes

    Deck shoes strike a balance between style and functionality, and are favoured by cruisers and recreational sailors for their closed toe protection and ease of wear. They offer stability and grip on wet surfaces. These are often a go-to shoe for summer coaches because they offer closed toe protection while still being easy to slide on and off. Designed for use on deck, these shoes feature water-resistant materials, non-slip soles, and rust-proof details. They provide excellent grip and traction on wet surfaces, ensuring stability and safety while manoeuvring around the boat. They are stylish and classic and look great on and off the water. For information on caring for your deck shoes, check out our Deck Shoes Guide.

    Dubarry Admiral Leather Sailing Shoe

    Dubarry Regatta Deck Shoe
    Additional options:
  • Dubarry Clipper Gore-Tex Leather Sailing Shoe
  • Dubarry Biarritz Ladies Sailing Shoe
  • Material

    When choosing sailing shoes, material is an important consideration. Depending on the climate and environment, sailors need footwear that provides adequate protection, comfort, and performance. Here's how different materials address the unique needs of sailors facing extreme cold or tropical climates:

    • Leather: Leather sailing boots or shoes offer excellent durability and water resistance. They provide good protection against moisture and abrasion, making them suitable for moderate to cold conditions. However, leather boots may not be the best choice for tropical climates due to their limited breathability and size. Consider deck shoes instead for another classic look.
    • Neoprene: Neoprene is an excellent material for sailing footwear, especially in cold conditions. It provides insulation to keep feet warm even in freezing temperatures, and can be paired with neoprene socks for extra warmth. Neoprene boots are also flexible and lightweight, offering sailors ease of movement. However, they may not be suitable for sailing on larger keelboats where crew members are on their feet frequently and covering larger surface areas of the deck.
    • Rubber: Rubber boots are highly waterproof and provide excellent protection against water ingress. They are also relatively affordable compared to leather and offer good durability. However, rubber boots may not provide sufficient insulation in cold conditions and can become uncomfortably warm in tropical climates due to their lack of breathability.
    • Canvas: Canvas sailing shoes are lightweight and breathable, making them suitable for tropical climates where ventilation is crucial. They offer decent water resistance but may not provide adequate protection in extremely wet conditions or cold temperatures.

    When selecting sailing footwear for specific conditions, sailors need to consider factors such as insulation, water resistance, breathability, and durability. For extreme cold conditions, neoprene or leather boots with insulation features would be ideal. In tropical climates, breathable materials like canvas or lightweight synthetic options are preferable to prevent overheating and ensure comfort during long periods of wear. Ultimately, the choice of material depends on the climate, intended use, and personal preferences of the sailor.


    Regular maintenance is essential to prolong the lifespan of sailing footwear. Clean them with freshwater after each use, air dry away from direct sunlight, and store them in a cool, dry place. Leather boots require additional care to prevent corrosion from seawater. Have a look at our footwear maintenance selection. 


    Fitting sailing footwear properly is crucial for comfort and performance, especially considering the unique conditions encountered at sea. Here's a detailed guide on how to fit sailing footwear. 

    • Understand the shape of your feet. Some people have wider feet or higher arches, which may require specific styles or brands of sailing footwear.
    • Look for sailing shoes that offer different width options or adjustable features to accommodate various foot shapes comfortably. Different widths and styles of socks can be used as well.
    • Recognize that feet can swell during prolonged periods on deck, especially in warm weather or due to increased activity.
    • Socks play a crucial role in providing comfort and moisture management while sailing.
    • Opt for lightweight, breathable socks for warmer weather and thicker, moisture-wicking socks for cooler conditions.
    • Ensure that the sailing footwear you choose can accommodate different sock thicknesses without feeling too tight or loose.
    • If possible test the fit of the with the types of socks you intend to wear while sailing to ensure a comfortable and secure fit.
    • Sizing may vary between different brands and styles of sailing footwear, so it's essential to refer to the manufacturer's size chart and product description. Better yet is to try on a few pairs and see what is most comfortable.
    • Keep in mind that it's better to have sailing shoes that are slightly too lrage than too tight, as tight footwear can lead to discomfort and potential foot problems during long periods of wear.
    • Pay attention to the fit around the toes, arch, and heel to ensure stability and support.

    Trial and Adjustment

    • Once you've selected a pair of sailing shoes, try them on and walk around to assess comfort and fit.
    • Pay attention to any pressure points or areas of discomfort, especially around the toes, heel, and arch.

    Comfort and Performance:

    • Sailing shoes should provide adequate support and comfort for long hours on deck. Look for features like cushioned insoles, padded ankle support, and flexible outsoles for optimal performance.
    • Consider the climate and sailing conditions when choosing insulation and breathability features.

    Price and Lifetime Value:

    • Quality sailing footwear is an investment in your comfort and safety on the water. Consider your budget and prioritise features that offer the best value for money.
    • While premium brands may come with a higher price tag, they will provide superior durability and performance over cheaper alternatives. and generally come with a longer and more flexible warantee.

    Selecting the appropriate sailing footwear depends on factors such as sailing conditions, boat type, and personal preferences. Complementing our footwear collection, Viking Marine offers a range of accessories tailored to enhance the comfort, safety, and performance of your footwear. We stock waterproof  and neoprene socks, as well as cleaning and repair products, designed to augment your experience on deck. Whether you're racing competitively, instructing, or cruising leisurely, investing in high-quality footwear will enhance your sailing performance and keep your feet comfortable and protected throughout your time on the water.


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