Sue Pelling takes a look at the latest women's boating shoes and picks the best on the market for discerning female sailors
Over the last decade or so, there has been an increasing emphasis on sailing kit designed specifically for women, including women’s boating shoes.
This is great news as, while some pieces of kit such as lifejackets are reasonably acceptable in unisex form, traditional leather deck shoes designed for men are often impractical and a poor fit for women sailors.
As one of the most essential items of sailing kit, before choosing a pair of women’s boating shoes, it’s therefore worth looking at the many different styles and options available.
While budget is often a starting point in a decision-making process, it’s not always a case of spending the most, but more about what how you will be using the shoes, and how they fit when worn.
For relaxed sailing a good quality pair of traditional style leather deck/boat shoes is still popular, as they are both practical while sailing, non-marking on deck, but also look good and are comfortable to wear on shore.
For more active crew work, racing, and wetter keelboats, there are now many women’s designs of technical sailing trainers/sneakers. These are generally lightweight, supportive and snug fitting, while most sailing trainers are also self-draining/quick drying. Be wary, however, of prolonged wear on land as the super-grippy soles often wear down quickly if walking on rough ground.
9 of the best women’s boat shoes
Gill Pursuit Trainer
With 45 years of marine footwear development to its name, Gill knows a thing or two about sailors’ technical requirements. The Pursuit Trainers are designed for ultimate comfort, with a lightweight design, and smart water drainage system, that showcases the company’s latest sailing shoe innovations.
The outsoles are molded using a non-slip compound to work in both wet and dry conditions, while the insoles have been designed with impact-absorbing qualities. They also feature a quick-lace adjustment system to ensure a secure fit.
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Musto Ladies Dynamic Pro II Adapt
Musto has worked hard to produce sailing shoes that provide ultimate stability on deck. Thanks to their construction of TPU (Thermoplastic Polyurethane) welded overlay in the uppers, there is plenty of lateral support in the Dynamic Pro II Adapt shoes, as well as shock absorbing heel cages for a secure, comfortable fit.
For extra confidence and comfort when the deck is wet, these shoes feature Musto’s GripDeck rubber and GripFlex tread on the soles, and mono mesh upper fabric, which offers good ventilation and is quick drying.
These shoes also features XPL drainage – a technology designed to disperse and divert water away from areas prone to water ingress.
If you are looking for a pair of practical, yet extremely stylish hand-sewn leather deck shoes, Wuzzos Whitaker Boat Shoes should definitely be a consideration. What’s more, they can also be personalised.
As well as good looks, and day-long comfort, these shoes feature Wuzzos’ standard stitched and bonded, performance UV-repelling rubber, non-marking soles with striped treads that offer excellent grip on deck.
Like all quality deck shoes, the leather laces run continuously around the top of the shoe with the 360-degree lacing system. The Wuzzos leather is also infused with ‘Micro-Fresh’ – a smart antimicrobial technology that offers antifungal and antibacterial protection.
With exceptional attention to detail in its design and technology, it’s hardly surprising Wuzzos are the preferred brand for personalized/branded deck shoes at Yacht Club de Monaco, Fairline Yachts and a growing list of superyacht teams.
Personalisation is simple. Just click the box when ordering and you will be guided through the process.
These ultra-lightweight, sneaker-style deck shoes have been designed to ‘keep you glued on board’ thanks to ultra-high grip soles from Zhik’s non-marking proprietary ‘ZK Soles’.
They also look good and, for the super-active sailor, are ultra-lightweight yet tough-looking, comfortable and have a built-in drainage system.
According to Zhik, the ‘one-way’ drainage system within the soles of these shoes are created by molded channels cast into the mid-soles, which instantly channels water away from underfoot for grip, but doesn’t let it back in when water is running across the deck.
The construction of strong, perforated mesh upper fabric makes the Zhik Fuze breathable and quick drying. Inside the shoes, antibacterial coating has been added to the fast-drying inner liners.
For extra protection when the going gets tough, there is PU reinforcement in the upper, heel and toe areas.
Decathlon Cruise 100
For an exceptionally good value pair of practical, moccasin-style boat shoes, you can’t go far wrong with Decathlon’s Cruise 100 Women’s Leather Boat Shoes.
Marketed within Decathlon’s Tribord sailing range of products, the Cruise 100 are lightweight and offer comfort for active summer sailing.
They have all the features expected of functional boat shoes including non-marking and non-slip micro-grooved natural rubber outsoles.
The uppers are made from a combination of split leather and thin lightweight mesh, which aids breathability, while detachable cotton insoles help to keep things fresh!
As an endorsement of its functionality, Decathlon say the 100 design ‘has been tested and validated throughout its design phase by the Tribord sailing team in calm to variable sailing conditions (choppy water, small swell, average wind speed of Force 5), in warm and sunny weather (average outdoor temperature of 25°C).
‘These tests on the level of grip during use were carried out mainly on a Figaro and an Open 5.70, in different positions (helmsman, pitman, trimmer, midbowman).’
Chatham Pentle G2
The Pentle shoes in Chatham’s G2 collection are among the company’s best sellers. They are sturdy-looking classic leather boat shoes and offer all the style and comfort associated with the Chatham brand.
One of key features of this pair of boat shoes is Chatham’s internal Sole Spring – a tri density comfort technology used to enhance comfort and give plenty of absorption.
The shoes are also anti-bacterial. To achieve this Chatham uses an open cell polyurethane, which allows the material to breathe, and the moisture to wick away.
For the classic look, the Pentle shoes are available in walnut nubuck leather with triple-eyelets, side lacing, contrast stitching and the all-important non-slip and non-marking soles.
The popular Aruba shoes are one of Dubarry’s latest styles from the women’s range of this tried and trusted brand. Performance features of the Aruba include Dubarry’s non-slip, non-marking slim rubber outsoles, and the company’s signature Port and Starboard flash trims.
Constructed of soft nubuck leather, which is protected with a water-resistant ‘DryFast-DrySoft’ finish, these shoes are designed to contend with all conditions.
They are also available in a whole range of bold colours so, for the fashion-aware sailor, these are definitely a pair of women’s sailing shoes to consider.
Orca Bay Creek
The Orca Bay Creek in Sand are a quality pair of classic design shoes that have been tweaked to appeal to style-conscious female sailors.
As well as their good looks in premium oiled nubuck leather, they are hugely practical with high compound, non-slip/non-marking rubber soles and rawhide leather laces that have undergone a process to increase longevity.
Thanks to the cushioned EVA heel cups (ethylene vinyl acetate – which is a rubber-like plastic that is particularly durable), the Orca Bay Creek offer plenty of day-long comfort.
Sebago Nina Suede Bala
For a real feminine look, nothing shouts style like a pair of Sebagos. The recently-launched, hand-sewn, Nina Suede Bala Moccasins are designed around a slimmer female foot.
The short vamp (the front part of the shoe’s upper) makes them really eye-catching, although those with wide feet should definitely ‘try before they buy’.
Made of full grain leather and soft suede, the Nina shoes come with leather sock linings, a 360° rawhide lace system and thin, elegant non-marking anti slip siped rubber soles.
What to look for in women’s boat shoes
Desire to wear – Comfort is extremely important, so try on as many pairs as you can before you make a purchase. Synthetic trainer-style shoes tend not to stretch after use so if you are going down the ‘trainer’ route, choose a size that fits well initially.
With quality-made leather deck shoes such as Wuzzos and Orca Bay, which have thicker leather and no synthetic lining, will mold nicely to your foot with wear. If that’s the fit you’re looking for, choose a pair that fits more snugly instead of the ‘next size up’, because the leather will soon soften around your foot.
Style v practicality – As well as looking good, bear in mind practicalities. For hardcore sailing, boat shoes need to fit securely around the foot so they don’t come off when scrambling across the deck in slippery, wet conditions.
Ideally, leather deck shoes should have what is known as a 360 degree lacing system where each shoe uses one continuous lace threaded along the side to the front tie eyelets to allow fine tuning for a snug fit.
Safety – Staying safe on deck/around the dockside is essential so choose a pair of women’s sailing shoes specifically designed for sailing with good grip. Make sure also they have non-marking soles.
Looking for more protection? Check out our guide to the best waterproof boat shoes on the market right now.
Need a wider fit? Check out our guide to the best boat shoes for wide feet.
Didn’t find what you’re looking for? Head to Amazon’s dedicated boating page for more marine products.