Fishing Footwear

Wide-ranging, boater-friendly footwear keeps anglers comfortable all trip long.

If the Fishing Shoe Fits…

boat shoes for fishing
FOR YOUR FEET: Boots, sandals, flip-flops and technical fishing shoes all perform as boating footwear. What’s your preference? Zach Stovall / Sport Fishing

From flip-flops and sandals to boat shoes and boots, the footwear options available to today’s fishermen are expansive. That’s “expansive,” not necessarily expensive!

When it comes to the latest fishing shoes, anglers want no aches, no pains, no slipping on decks and no soggy feet. ­Unusual styles, features and color schemes can match the individual preference of just about any angler.

Recognizable shoemakers such as Columbia, Rugged Shark, Simms and Sperry sell models that cover a whole slew of styles, while other quality companies like AFTCO, SoftScience, Salt Life, Shimano and Xtratuf manufacture specific, limited designs.


In a paddlecraft, center-console or sport-fisher, enough salt water or rain in the cockpit can soak an angler from head to toe. No specific fishing shoe is ideal for every situation, but most captains recommend wearing at least some type of footwear as protection. Hooks, knives, gaffs, tag sticks, pliers and spastic fish can easily damage vulnerable feet.

Keeping With Tradition

Sperry Captain's A/O fishing boat shoes
Sperry Captain’s A/O ($120) Bill Doster / Sport Fishing

Sperry — maker of foul-weather boots, thong sandals, mesh sneakers and other styles — is still best known for its classic leather boat shoe. The newest Captain’s A/O shoe continues Sperry’s legacy, along with some enhancements.

“While the shoe itself is not waterproof, the leather waterproof upper is resistant to messy situations while fishing,” says Ali Griffiths, of Sperry. “Patented anti-shock and -vibration technology in the heel and OrthoLite EVA in the forefoot allow anglers to absorb less ­vibration on offshore runs.”


The Captain’s A/O also features Sperry’s Adaptive Wave-Siping outsole design and nonmarking Hydro Grip rubber, making the model ideal for the dock or deck, especially on Chamber of Commerce days.

Open to the Elements

AFTCO Beachcomber Sandals fishing boat shoes
AFTCO Beachcomber Sandals ($50) Courtesy AFTCO

On dry or wet days, some anglers ­flat-out dislike wearing fully enclosed fishing shoes on the boat, so they often compromise with sandals that expose plenty of skin and dry quickly in warm temperatures. Be careful: Cheap flip-flops don’t handle wet conditions, and too many fishermen have learned the hard way.

AFTCO’s Beachcomber, Salt Life’s Finn and Shimano’s Evair shoes reveal enough exposed skin to necessitate ­several applications of sunscreen, but each exemplifies a boat-worthy sandal. The Beachcomber flip-flop has a leather upper and straps, a molded foot bed, arch support and skid-resistant rubber outsoles.

Salt Life Finn fishing boat shoes
Salt Life Finn ($28) Zach Stovall / Sport Fishing

Salt Life’sFinn flip-flop ­features a polyurethane thong upper with a CME (compression-molded EVA) foot bed and outsole.

“The upper is resistant to moisture, while the foot bed offers a comfortable fit,” says Larry Laska, of Salt Life.

Shimano Evair fishing boat shoes
Shimano Evair ($50) Zach Stovall / Sport Fishing

Shimano’s Evair is a lightweight fishing shoe made from molded EVA material able to absorb heel shock and reduce foot fatigue. The top of the shoe has seven holes, with additional holes circling the ball, sole and heel to provide breathability and weight reduction.


“Most appreciate how light the shoes are when it feels like you are wearing nothing during those hot summer days,” says Ted Sakai, gear product manager for Shimano. At less than 9 ounces, the Evair features an ergonomic arch design, removable waterproof insole and nonmarking rubber outsole.

The Tech Field

Rugged Shark Marlin 3 fishing boat shoes
Rugged Shark Marlin 3 ($70) Bill Doster / Sport Fishing

The most wide-ranging and colorful boat shoe is the closed-toe, technical, athletic style. Columbia, Rugged Shark, Simms, SoftScience and Sperry are just a few of the many makers in this category offering new designs to anglers each year. With this type of fishing shoe, ­expect better protection, lasting saltwater ­durability and quick-dry capabilities.

“For the Rugged Shark Marlin 3 shoe, we updated the pattern to incorporate breathable mesh inserts,” says Rugged Shark’s Jerry Giarrusso. “We also used an EVA foot bed with perforated holes for additional breathability.”

Simms Currents fishing boat shoes
Simms Currents ($100) Bill Doster / Sport Fishing

Most technical fishing shoes have similar characteristics, including cushioned soles, slip-resistant outsoles, and ­qualities that allow the shoe to breathe.

“A deck shoe should be comfortable all day, feature a siped sole for traction, and incorporate a nonmarking outsole to prevent scarring on the boat deck,” says Rich Hohne, of Simms. “The Currents shoe fits the bill with seamless quick-dry mesh uppers to fight water retention, Agion anti-odor technology, and a stretchy Lycra heel.”

Columbia Megavent Dorado PFG fishing boat shoes
Columbia Megavent Dorado PFG ($130) Bill Doster / Sport Fishing

Some shoe models take it one step further, incorporating drainage holes to quickly flush out water. Brands such as Columbia, with its bevy of options, and SoftScience’s Fin model, capitalize on this technology.

Columbia’s latest fishing offerings, like the Bahama Vent Marlin (a mesh and leather slip-on), Megavent Dorado PFG (a hybrid with Blood ‘n Guts technology and a mesh upper) and Boatdrainer Fly PFG (a nubuck boat-shoe design), all feature airflow and drainable ports. Smaller holes in the foot bed allow water to exit via the drainage holes, often located near the heel.

“Columbia has many great options as the fishing market continues to be a thriving category for us,” says Columbia’s Krystl Tonkin. She adds that other beneficial technologies are prevalent in much of Columbia’s fishing-geared footwear: Omni-Grip is a nonmarking wet-grip outsole with razor siping for traction, Techlite’s Comfort System foot bed provides support and cushioning, and Blood ’n Guts acts as a stain resister to help shield the shoe from water and fish blood.

These Boots Were Made for Fishing

Xtratuf Performance Ankle Deck Boot fishing boat shoes
Xtratuf Performance Ankle Deck Boot ($80) Bill Doster / Sport Fishing

Deckhands who work hard every day on the water often pass up the technical gear and flip-flops. The die-hards on the water during cold-water months and anglers who don’t want their feet touching salt water often do the same.

For these more extreme scenarios, the best footwear is fishing boots. Deck boots can be stinky and sweaty during a summer day, but the absolute waterproof protection they provide — often with help from bibs — is vital for anglers fishing in the cold and wet.

Rugged Shark makes a professional-grade Great White rubber boot that completely blocks water. Shimano’s Evair boot is made from lightweight EVA material. Xtratuf manufactures a range of performance boots.

The new Xtratuf Performance Ankle Deck Boot, crafted from lightweight, waterproof rubber, features Xtratuf’s proprietary XpressCool lining, says Kim MacKenzie, of Xtratuf. The deck boot also incorporates anti-microbial properties to alleviate fish odors; a signature nonmarking, slip-resistant chevron outsole; and pull tabs on both the front and back of the boot.

“These are the only fishing boots on the market with temperature-­regulating liners,” says MacKenzie. “As an angler’s foot starts to sweat, the lining material wicks away moisture from the skin while simultaneously creating a cooling sensation.”

So identify what your feet crave! Comfort on the boat spares you foot- and backaches later, along with potential wet and soggy misery on the water throughout the day.

Shopping the Shoe Racks

Fishing shoe comparison chart
A variety of fishing footwear for the dedicated angler. Chris McGlinchy / Sport Fishing