January 02, 2014
Boat shoes can save your skin, back, and bucks.
Good boat shoes take anything and keep kicking. The AFTCO Guy Harvey Deck Tech shown here.
If I saw one more guy get a rusty hook in his heel on a boat offshore, or cut open his foot by on a razor-sharp mollusk shell while wading barefoot in the Intracoastal waterway, I said, I'll write a piece on boat shoes. Here it is.
Columbia's Drainmaker. Not only is this new shoe a lightweight, durable boat shoe, but it's by far my favorite kayaking shoe. It's self-draining and quick-drying. No more tugging around soaked boat shoes or sneakers while I'm paddling, because the Drainmaker has an upper of light, breathable cell mesh and the midsole has drainage ports. Just as a boat hatch drains overboard, any water that goes in the Drainmaker goes right out through the flexible, durable drain ports in the Techlite midsole. Neat feature. It's actually designed to be a hybrid water shoe, meant for use on boats and trekking near water, with grippy Omni-Grip Wet Grip rubber outer soles. So it's also good for short wading stints off a boat or kayak, too. Clean them well after use. You'll want them around. Drainmakers are for the warmer seasons when you don't care if your feet get wet—for the days in fact when you know that they will.
Columbia's innovative Drainmaker.
For those anglers who want more arch and heel support in their shoes, Columbia has a brand new offering in the same self-draining build called the Powerdrain. It has a conventional interior heel cup and a slightly more structured upper.
Where I fish inshore I'm almost assured of getting out of the boat and wading around flats and channels for pompano and redfish. If it's at all cold, I'll wear booted waders, but most of the year, I'll jump in with my shoes. Wearing Sperry's Ventus Performance shoe, I've shuffled through muck, sand and mud and over rocks and shells and sand on trip after trip and washed them well afterwards and they're still tough and strong. They're presented as sailing shoes, because they support your feet for quick movement, not plodding steps, and they're light and strong, made of breathable, hydrophobic mesh upper material and layers of toe and heel reinforcing. I wouldn't abuse many boat shoes like this, but Sperry's products have a deserved reputation for durability, and for all purpose inshore wear, the Ventus lives up to the Sperry line. I still have a nearly 10 year-old pair of Sperry's that I wear for yardwork.
For those folks who want a dedicated boat shoe or a more structured and cushioned shoe, Sperry also makes the ASV Athletic Boat Shoe, with enhanced structure and padding to reduce shock and vibration to the feet. ASV stands for Anti Shock and Vibration, a patented technology Sperry developed for boating shoes which, the company claims, reduces shock to the body from sudden motion by as much 40 per cent. The ASV technology has since been implemented into a men's dress casual line called Gold Cup ASV.
The new Guy Harvey Deck Tech Shoes from AFTCO Bluewater are solid offshore fishing and boating wear. They're built for the standing, rocking and quick moves of boat riding and fishing, with solid support and cushion to protect your feet, knees and back—all made vulnerable by improper foot support. The AFTCO Bluewaters, though super durable, are light—made of quick-dry mesh and Nubuck uppers. The non-marking rubber outsole is super grippy but not soft or sticky, and the AFTCO FishFeet Insoles give extra support and can be removed for cleaning and drying. These are the kind of well-structured, well-built shoes you can wear comfortably all day while fishing and keep wearing that night. Great shoes to pack when traveling because they're so versatile. A lot of guys take to wearing them all the time.
In cool and cold weather offshore, I'll either be wearing Rugged Shark's Great White Deck Boots or I'll have them in my boat bag in case it gets rough or rains. Simply not worth messing anymore with wet feet on longer trips offshore. The Rugged Shark boots are built to fit right, be comfortable, support the wearer's arch, with cushion, a liner and a padded collar. They're made of flexible, vulcanized rubber material and of course they're leak proof, with a one year no look, waterproof guarantee. They're necessary gear to guys who can't afford to call off trips due to rough weather, like mates, and to sporty guys competing in cold weather competitions like wahoo and sailfish tournaments. For the rest of us, they just make cold days offshore a lot more pleasant and safe.
I'm not suggesting that you get four or five pairs of fishing shoes, but I would say at the least try to get the best shoe for the kind of fishing you do most often. That way, you'll get better performance and durability from both your shoes and your feet.