We asked a round-the-world yachtsman for the best boating shoes

From fashion-forward boat shoes to practical professional designs, French skipper Charlie Dalin reveals his top five pieces of ocean-going footwear…

What’s your go-to summer shoe? A smart-casual loafer? A pair of espadrilles? For us, boat shoes have always held a special oceanfront spot in our hearts (and our warm weather wardrobes). Whether crafted from canvas or leather, these interlaced, low-slung designs shout ‘Summer!’ louder than almost any other style.

But which are the best? We turned to French skipper Charlie Dalin to find out. The 37-year-old last year completed the quadrennial Vendée Globe race, an extraordinary competition that challenges sailors to circumnavigate the globe single-handedly aboard monohull sailing yachts. He placed second, taking 80 days to cover over 28,000 nautical miles.

And he did so in style. Whether slipping on professional sailing boots (Dalin suggests Dubarry’s ‘Crosshaven’ design for any serious seafarers) or more fashion-forward boat shoes, the Frenchman has tried and tested many different designs during his voyages. Here are the best boat shoes, for all occasions…

Paul & Shark Men’s Sneakers

We say: A solid choice to start. The luxury Italian brand has always had one toe dipped into the world of nautical influences, and these yacht-ready sneakers from Paul & Shark — although not featuring the ‘siped’ soles of Sperry-type boat shoes — are still designed in a thoroughly maritime manner.

Dalin says: “These shoes are timeless essentials. They’re very comfortable, and they bring together elegance and practicality. The quality and reliability of Paul & Shark products is now internationally known — and this is a shoe you should wear to be smart in every situation”.

We asked a round-the-world yachtsman for the best boating shoes

Paul & Shark Men’s Sneakers

£111.00

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Henri Lloyd Men’s Deck Shoes

We say: If you’ve only got a broad knowledge of boating style, you’ll probably know names such as Sebago, or Sperry. But Henri Lloyd, founded in Manchester in 1963, is the British gold standard; and this pair of caramel-coloured, handcrafted deck shoes are finished with sufficiently seaworthy tanned leather laces, and rustproof eyelets.

Dalin says: “This is a classic, and one made by a brand of the highest standard of quality. It is a moccasin made from leather and nubuck, and that makes it very comfortable to wear. Its principal advantage is a moulded rubber permanent grip outsole — unique to Henri Lloyd, non-marking and offering reliable grip on board slippery decks”.

We asked a round-the-world yachtsman for the best boating shoes

Henri Lloyd Men’s Deck Shoes

£59.99

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Helly Hansen ‘Azure’ Sailing Shoes

We say: The Norwegian company has been crafting seaworthy style since 1877, when the sailor who founded the brand began creating oilskin jackets and sou’westers for seamen. To this day, Helly Hansen produces understated, practical kit — and these stripped-back, vulcanised rubber sneakers are the pinnacle of dependable, debonair marine sportswear.

Dalin says: “I really appreciate the elegance of Helly Hansen’s ‘Azure’ sailing shoes. They are very comfortable and can be worn everywhere, with either trousers or shorts. And their main advantage is that those white soles leave no traces on deck”.

We asked a round-the-world yachtsman for the best boating shoes

Helly Hansen ‘Azure’ Sailing Shoes

£55.00

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Musto ‘Dynamic Pro Lite’ Sailing Shoes

We say: Like Henri-Lloyd above, Musto is another British brand that’s been kitting out yachtsmen for over half a century. Founded in 1964 by British Olympic sailor Keith Musto, these boat shoes are the perfect blend of style and substance; pairing an ergonomic design with modern sneaker fashions.

Dalin says: “These sailing shoes are very practical. They’re light and useful for manoeuvring around easily on deck. The mesh construction enables a very good ventilation and ensures freshness and comfort. The grip gives a very good stability and safety. I recommend them for summer sailing and actually wore them when claiming victory at the Rolex Fastnet Race 2021!”

We asked a round-the-world yachtsman for the best boating shoes

Musto ‘Dynamic Pro Lite’ Sailing Shoes

£110.00

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Adidas 'Tack TA01’ Sailing Shoes

We say: When it comes to trustworthy sportswear brands, Adidas leads the pack. And sailors, whether they’re leisurely taking their boats out at the weekend or competing, like Dalin, in the derring-do of non-stop, round-the-world racing, need to be dependably decked out and prepared for any eventuality.

So, although these ‘Tack TA01’ sailing shoes from the German giant may look a little out of place during a drinks reception on a J Class, there are few better options for the nitty gritty, close-to-the-wind escapades of professional sailing. Quick-drying, non-marking and with a drainage system for diverting water, they still manage to be consistently comfortable; thanks to a soft suede heel cap.

We asked a round-the-world yachtsman for the best boating shoes

Adidas Sailing Shoes

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Want more professional advice? We asked a pilot for his favourite pilot’s watches…

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