What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think of boat shoes? For many of us, words like summer, beach, mojitos, and pineapples are common denominators. When you wear boat shoes, you’re probably lazily chilling out with friends without a single care in the world.
Boat shoes have been popular for ages. In fact, here is a screenshot from Google Trends:
Their popularity exploded in 2012, and then it has remained steady ever since. In other words, they are still as dandy as they were a few years ago.
We got many candidates for the best vegan boat shoes award — including these amazing Hey Dude Wally Loafers — and it’s our goal to help you find shoes that are as high in terms of quality, as they are harmless to wildlife.
In this blog post, we’ve reviewed 8 vegan boat shoes, and we also have some tips to help you choose future boat shoes.
Things To Consider Before Buying Vegan Boat Shoes.
Most people buy shoes based on aesthetics and brand.
For the majority, as long as the shoes are from a popular brand (Nike, Adidas, etc) and look good, they’re a viable choice. However, there is more to shoes than just aesthetics.
The material, fit, sole, upper layer, insole, and heel are things you need to take into consideration once you figure out the need for the shoes.
1 – Material
Sadly, most boat shoes consist of genuine leather. Leather has always been the most used fabric because of its exceptional durability and depending on the quality of the leather, it may actually improve with age.
That said, with the increasing levels of awareness, we’re now seeing a shift in demand and boat shoes made from faux leather and textiles are now more than ever.
The most common vegan materials used for boat shoes are the following:
- Canvas (which is a blend of cotton or linen and polyvinyl chloride (PVC))
- Faux leather (it’s either made from polyurethane (PU) or polyvinyl chloride (PVC))
These are the ones I’ve found the most, but I wouldn’t be surprised if you found other plant-based fabrics being used instead. Depending on the specific canvas and faux leather fabrics used to make the shoes, you might have shoes that last you forever or shoes that break down early.
In recent years, advancements have been made with manmade fabrics, and we’re now seeing more durable footwear made from faux leather.
Note: Faux leather is indeed a more animal-friendly solution, but the use of PU and PVC isn’t exactly environmentally-friendly, so out of the two vegan materials I’ve mentioned, Canvas may be best for the environment.
2 – Fit
Boat shoes may fit differently from other shoes. First off, they’re typically worn without socks, and secondly, they tend to stretch out and become a bit looser the longer you wear them. Thus, you may want to pick shoes that fit a bit snug, but not too snug as they’ll eventually fit perfectly.
Therefore, you have to decide whether or not you’ll be wearing them with (or without) shoes, and choose the size accordingly.
3 – Sole
The sole actually happens to be the most important aspect of boat shoes. Why? Because when boat shoes were first conceived, its intended use was for walking/moving around on a slippery boat deck. Rubber was the best sole material to tackle wet surfaces and still remains the sole of choice until today.
4 – Upper Layer
Apart from boat shoes made from genuine leather, textile, and faux leather boat shoes typically have an upper mesh. In other words, an upper layer with water-wicking (and in some cases, waterproof) function, which allows the shoes to dry more quickly.
5 – Insole
(Faux) leather insoles are generally built to be more comfortable than other insoles, but a mesh insole allows for better draining. Having removable insoles helps the shoes dry faster, so this is something you might consider as well.
6 – Heel
Most boat shoes have a slightly elevated heel, but a few brands feature heel-less shoes.
7 – Intended Use
Why do you want to buy boat shoes? Do you want to use them primarily on a slippery boat deck? Or are you simply attracted to the visual? Faux leather shoes are resistant to water (being made from PU or PVC), but textile-based shoes may get soaked and consequently uncomfortable. If you want to use textile-based shoes on a boat, consider using a waterproofing spray.
Boat shoes feel comfortable when you’re making short, casual strolls, but don’t let them seduce you into thinking they’re great walking shoes. While they boast great traction, they’re not designed to handle uneven or rocky terrain.
Difference Between Boat Shoes & Loafers
I believe it’s important to mention that boat shoes are not the sole option when it comes to summer footwear. In fact, if you’re doing a lot of walking, there are certainly better choices.
What jumps out instantly are loafers, a type of shoes that are very similar to boat shoes (one may say that they fit in the same category, but have slightly different traits), and I believe they’re worth recommending, especially if you’re looking for shoes that are comfortable.
Boat shoes yell summer. They’re specifically made for the summer and they usually don’t fare well during the winter, unless you live in a tropical country like Brazil. You can also wear them with or without socks, and many individuals (mostly men), use them for the boat/summer lifestyle.
This being said, while they were conceived to walk on a boat deck, most people don’t use them to ride boats. In fact, they’re actually very stylish and go very well with different clothes, so they’re used in a more laid-back scenario.
It’s hard to beat the comfort provided by loafers. While loafers and boat shoes are alike in many ways, they’re still two different types of footwear. Loafers are a type of moccasin with a slip-on design and are made with a slightly elevated heel. Unlike boat shoes, loafers usually come without laces, but I’ve also seen many with laces, including my favorite loafers.
The reason I’ve decided to make this distinction is that boat shoes and loafers often fall into the same broad category because they’re at times, very similar.
As a result, I also felt compelled to include some loafers in this list because I feel that (1), they’re exceptionally comfortable (even more so than boat shoes), and (2) some can handle the slippery state of a boat deck.
Allow me to share some of my favorite boat shoes (and loafers) on the same list!
Best Vegan Boat Shoes For Men & Women
Hey Dude Wally Boat Shoes/Loafers (Men)
If you want vegan boat shoes that are extremely comfortable, these represent the passion, sweat and dedication Dude has for crafting comfortable shoes that can be used in different scenarios.
These obviously have a distinct look from regular boat shoes, but that’s what Dude intended. Regular boat shoes are somewhat firm and durable, but they lack the flexibility these Wally boat shoes can give you.
The upper layer is made from highly flexible stretch materials that conform to the shape and width for your feet, maintaining them secure and comfortable. On top of that, they’re lightweight, and you also have elastic laces that flex with the foot, resulting in a shoe that fits flawlessly.
Needless to say, they’re 100% vegan-friendly as they are fully man-made.
These Wally boat shoes also come with the removable insole (which you can replace for a custom insole), which is an interesting optional feature if you suffer from (i.e) plantar fasciitis and want an insole that better matches your feet. In addition, having removable insoles also allows the shoes to dry faster, which is optimal in the prevention of accumulative odor.
On a less important note, you have multiple colors, from chocolate to black melange, not to mention the fact they’re very stylish and fit particularly well in today’s fashion panorama.
GM Golamain Boat Shoes (Men)
These GM Golaiman are authentic boat shoes made from vegan-friendly leather which are also endowed with the qualities of smooth PU and microfiber which add softness and breathability to the fabric.
When you combine the fabric with easy slip-on construction, you get a pair of shoes that fit very comfortably on your feet.
According to some of the reviews, the soles start out by being very rigid but after a couple of days of walking, they gradually become more comfortable.
On a similar note, the front of the shoes are also quite hard, so your toes are quite protected, but at the same time, you want to make sure you order the right size, otherwise, it might just feel uncomfortable.
At the same time, these shoes are not as flexible as the previous ones, so due to the narrow design of the shoes, people with wider feet may not find them to be a good fit.
One of the most commented benefits from users is in regards to the walking experience. On top of being lightweight (which makes walking effortless), you have a durable TPR sole with a two-tone stacked heel that contributes to a more comfortable walking experience.
This being said, one of the most important aspects of boat shoes is a rubber sole that grips to slipper surfaces. Unfortunately, I’m not sure how these shoes fare in that department, but being boat shoes, I would assume GM Golamain took that into consideration before crafting it.
Sketchers Go Walk Boat Shoes (Women)
Among the boat shoes (and loafers) I’ve researched, this is the best one in terms of good/bad reviews ratio. The overwhelming majority of reviews are positive, which really says a lot about Skechers and the overall quality of their manufacturing team.
If you want comfortable, durable, grippy and vegan-friendly boat shoes that are more affordable and similar in quality to leather-made Sperrys, then these Skechers are the best candidate for women.
Most boat shoes have a narrow width, but the flexible nature of the fabric in these Skechers, you can slip your shoes in and they will feel comfortable right away.
They don’t have high-arch support, but the squishy, Goga Max high-rebound insoles alleviate the impact of walking. This being said, the support is still better than most shoes.
A common appreciation you’ll find in most reviews is that they feel like walking on clouds. What you will also find is that most users don’t use them in a boat surface scenario, and instead are often complimenting the shoes for their comfort when walking long distances. Other people also love taking them to work to prevent a pair of sore feet at the end of the day.
In terms of grip, the soles are very robust but the treads are designed to maximize grip, which is important if you decide to walk on slippery surfaces. Plus, these shoes are dirt cheap if we take into account their quality… which is why they’re the #1 choice for women!
Sanuk Pair O Dice Flat Boat Shoes (Women)
These are awfully simple shoes but pretty effective regardless. They’re textile-based shoes created by Tanuuk and have become pretty popular on Amazon with over 1000 reviews.
If you want a minimalist shoe you can slide in and off when you’re intending to leave the house for a short and relaxing walk, these are ideal for that purpose.
On top of that, these shoes are very breathable, so you have shoes that can support hotter climates, which is what summer shoes are supposed to do. With these, you don’t have to regularly take them off because your feet are sweaty. On the contrary, they feel comfy and ventilated.
Being textile-made, one of the most worrisome aspects is durability. However, as long as you used them in flat terrain, they’re bound to last longer.
On a more negative note, despite having a rubber sole, some reviewers mention that they don’t have particularly good traction. Therefore, if you’re planning to use these shoes in more slippery surfaces, then the Skechers are definitely superior.
But overall, they’re super comfortable and excellent for the summer season.
Nautika Spinnaker Boat Shoes (Men)
What I love the most about these shoes is the design and the different choice of color patterns Nautika has chosen. Whether you’re going for a quick meet-up with friends, or to work in a casual workplace, these boat shoes blend in both casual and semi-casual environments.
What’s also interesting is that they’re pretty easy to clean up, which is a common trait in shoes made from faux leather. Usually, all you have to do is spray them with a water-repellent coating and they stay spotless with practically no maintenance.
More importantly, these shoes are comfortable, flexible and lightweight, and some reviews even suggest that 8-10 hours in these shoes are comfy.
This being said, these shoes, in particular, are better used without socks. If you choose to wear socks, then they might not feel as comfortable. Though, that might may change from person to person, so you can test both ways.
The sole also offers a good grip, so you have good boat shoes to wear on a slippery boat surface. Plus, the insole also offers better support than what’s expected from shoes like these. And that is really good news because these shoes are a bargain when compared to leather-made boat shoes.
A few reviews also mention that the shoes adjust really well to the foot, and as such, you’re better off ordering half a size smaller, otherwise, they’ll get too large.
Crocs Santa Cruz Loafers (Men)
Within this list, these shoes are by far the most popular. With just over 6000 reviews, these Crocs Santa Cruz Loafers are not ones I would wear for style, but they’re unparalleled when it comes to the comfort they provide. In addition, they have a lightweight design, a relaxed fit and an easy slip-on construction that is truly appreciated by comfort-seekers.
As summer shoes they are breathable, and they feel like you’re walking on clouds. The insert sole is extremely supportive, which gives most people the feeling of being able to walk all day without feeling an ounce of fatigue.
At the same time, what you’ll notice is that the spongy insert may cause your feet to sweat, and given the relaxed fit of the shoe, it feels like your foot is sliding around.
However, that may not happen to everyone given that some people naturally sweat more than others. So, thus far, only a few reviews mention having a dislike for the spongy insole.
Also, while the shoes have superior comfort, you need to take good care of them. If you plan to use these shoes to walk long miles, you’ll be disappointed to know that they wear out pretty quickly which is common in the majority of shoes with an upper made of canvas.
In my opinion, these shoes are better worn in a scenario where the fabric and elasticity of the fabric aren’t put to the test. In other words, stick to short strolls on flat surfaces and you’ll have Crocs that will last you a long time.
Clarks Jocolin Vista Boat Shoes (Women)
If you want shoes with great cushioning, Clarks has the Jocolin Vista from the Cloudsteppers collection. These shoes offer a perforated textile-based upper with tan detailing for maximum breathability and style.
They also come with a lightweight EVA sole which is lightweight and effective in absorbing impact. On top of the sole, you have high-density foam which provides superior cushioning, and a removable Ortholite footbed that not only bounces upon every step but is also easy to wash.
These shoes come with a rubber sole that is grippy, which makes these shoes worth wearing on slippery surfaces. However, like many boat shoes, these are ones people seek for comfort, and that is what echoes within the hundreds of reviews.
Other than that, the shoes are 100% textile made, so in terms of durability, these shoes may not last more than a few years, especially if you put them through tough terrains.
This being said, the reviews on Amazon are more than amazing, and if you’re looking for short strolls by the beach, these are an ideal match!
Sperry Crest Vibe Boat Shoes (Women)
Sperry is a pretty established brand when it comes to boat shoes and they usually create shoes out of leather. But this time around, they created the Crest Vibe shoes, a 100% textile-made shoe.
Contrary to most textile-based shoes… in these Sperry shoes, you’re able to find a soulmate that can endure hours of walking without cracking. On top of that, they’re pretty fashionable.
So, you have a pair of shoes that can go literally with anything, whether that is a combination of t-shirts and jeans or a flowery dress, and you also have an upper that can endure a beating.
These are qualities you’re unable to find in a great number of textile-based shoes. On top of that, you have a very comfortable insole that can withstand long walks while molding perfectly to your feet, as well as a removable footbed that provides great arch support.
As far as the outsoles go, these shoes have a non-marked rubber outsole that provides you with great traction, which is effective in slippery surfaces and when you’re taking long walks in more uneven terrains.
In addition, the convenient elastic back makes it easy for you to wear shoes without much resistance. Overall, many people praise the shoes for their comfort and durability, and at the same time, you have a smaller portion of people criticizing the shoes for the lack of those pros.
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