All, hands on deck! FiveFingers as Sailing Shoes

Gear Review: Vibram FiveFingers for Sailing/Deck Shoes

[For more sailing shoe reviews from SFLF, check these out:

Deck shoes seem to be a very personal matter to most sailors. Some swear by Sperry’s TopSiders or Sebago’s Docksider line. Racing sailors often seem to prefer a more snugly fitting athletic shoe with a sole specialized for the deck, such as those offered by Harken. I’ve always been much more casual with my choice of footwear for the boat. Typically you can find me in flip-flops, Crocs or often barefoot while sailing. Crocs provide a bit of protection from stubbing a toe on deck hardware and have a decent amount of grip in wet conditions when they are new. However, the sole loses its’ grip rather quickly, particularly if they are worn on hard surfaces such as asphalt and concrete. Admittedly, flip-flops usually don’t offer much grip, stability or protection from stubbed toes so they aren’t ideal for deck work in anything but the calmest of conditions. Even if it is calm and I’m wearing flip-flops, I’ll typically go barefoot if I have to leave the cockpit to go on deck. I prefer the natural grip my foot and toes provide.

This past spring I purchased a pair of Vibram FiveFingers Classics hoping they would be good deck “shoes”. Vibram has long had a reputation as a high quality manufacturer of durable soles for shoes and hiking boots. Aesthetically, FiveFingers are funky with their bright colors and toe pockets, making them look like gloves for your feet. The tread on the sole is non-marking and sipped (see picture) for great wet traction. Additionally, you’d be surprised how much more grip you have when you get your toes involved in the process. Without a doubt, my FiveFingers are the best deck shoes I’ve ever worn. The grip is tremendous, dexterity is remarkable and the construction is proving to be highly durable. FiveFingers also offer good ventilation for your feet when compared to more traditional deck shoes. Additionally, Vibram claims that FiveFingers stimulate muscles in your feet and lower legs to make you stronger as well as improving your balance and agility.

FiveFingers are also great for going ashore on slippery rocks, swimming, wading and scambling over rocks and boulders like those found in the North Channel. If you haven't looked, there are many different styles of FiveFingers available, including ones with straps for an extra snug fit (Sprint, KSO, Flow), neoprene for water performance and warmth (Flow), open top designs for warm weather (Classic), and rugged soles for off-trail hiking (KSO Trek, TrekSport).

FiveFingers do take a bit more effort to put on than a more conventional shoe and also take some getting use to, but the grip, comfort and benefits to your feet make FiveFingers a great deck shoe for my sailing needs.

Looking for a great deal on FiveFingers Classics?  I haven't seen them any cheaper than here on Amazon.


  1. Great post... hoping to crew on a boat heading west from the canal here in Panama, and trying to decide if Crocs will work or not. Was looking at them in the store yesterday and was concerned about the traction. But if they are at least better than flip flops... I guess I might as well go for it! Thanks =) (Don't think I could stand those funny toe pockets myself!)

    1. Anonymous17 July

      Wear crocs at your own risk! on my boat doggie paddle I have great non skid i have some crocs i wear in the hottest parts of summer and i still slide sometimes at 20 or more degrees of heel. If going offshore barefoot is better than a pair of crocs!

  2. John Latimer28 December

    Yes Sir, right on! Five fingers are the best boat shoes. It would be really great if they came up with a bootie for foul weather.


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