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How To Choose Dinghy Sailing Boots | Expert Advice

 

Dinghy boots are designed to protect your feet from bumps and bruises, provide support when hiking or trapping, and give you the best grip or attachment to the boat.  They are designed to meet the unique needs of different types of dinghy sailing to accomplish this.  Be sure to know what type of sailing you will be doing to best choose your boots.  The needs of a skipper who does not trapeze and only uses a hiking strap are different from the crew who is on the trapeze the majority of the time.  Lastly, depending on the materials and construction, some dinghy boots can in keep your feet dry, and in the winter months other provide insulation to keep feet warm.

 

Types of Dinghy Boots

Hiking Boots are built for those using a hiking strap and not generally trapezing.  These boots are designed to keep you attached to the hiking strap, and have a reinforced upper foot area to pad and distribute the load of your body weight against the strap.

Trapeze-Hiking Boots are designed for the needs of trapezing first and hiking straps second.  They have thinner and more flexible soles than hiking boots to allow your foot to ‘mold’ around the gunwale when trapezing.  This provides more surface area connection between you and the boat, so better grip.  These boots will also have a padded hiking strap area on the upper foot for hiking comfort when the wind does not allow you to trapeze.

Skiff ‘Booties’ are for skiff style boat sailing where the wearer will trapeze, but seldom or never use a hiking strap.  These tend to be lighter weight and more minimalistic in materials and construction than other dinghy boots.  They generally have little or no hiking strap reinforcement on the top of the foot area.  They have thinner and more flexible soles than hiking boots (and some trapeze boots) to allow your foot to ‘mold’ around the gunwale when trapezing.  This provides more surface area connection between you and the boat, so better grip.

Water Shoes – Skiff ‘booties’ are excellent active water shoes for protecting your feet while participating in any water activity – SUP, kayaking, walking the beach, etc.

 

Boot Uppers

Neoprene boots are flexible throughout which makes them comfortable to wear for long periods of time.  The thickness of the neoprene determines how much insulation they provide your feet.  Thicknesses run between 2mm to 5mm.  Because neoprene stretches, they allow you to wear different thicknesses of socks – add a neoprene sock, Gore-Tex sock or the sock (‘bootie’) of your dry suit – when cool weather sailing.
Rubber (or PVC) boots are waterproof to their top but can be difficult to keep water from running in at their tops due to their short height.  They are uninsulated, so cooler on hot days, and poor at keeping feet warm on cold days.  Soles tend to be firmer and more protective of toes and the bottom of feet, lending themselves to use on small keel boats too.  They are non-stretch, and do not accommodate large variations in layers of socks.
NOTE: Laces on rubber boots should be replaced with 1/8” shock cord to allow more flexibility and help reduce the stresses on the lacing eyes and prevent blowing them out over time

 

Boot Fit

It is important to know what socks you will be wearing with your boots.  These can consist of sock liners (to move moisture away from the surface of your foot), light to heavy (thin to thick) knit socks, neoprene socks of varying thicknesses (for additional warmth), rubber or Gore-Tex dry suit booties (attached to the drysuit) and Lycra drysuit socks (worn over rubber drysuit socks to protect them and allow your foot to more easily slide into a boot).

Be sure to measure your foot (shoe size) with you spring/summer socks on.  If you are sailing in the fall and winter, measure your foot with all of your cold weather socks on too.  Visit our Fitting Tips for Sailing Shoes & Boots article in insure you size your boots correctly.

Hiking boots should fit snug all around and have room to wiggle your toes.  They should not be tight in any area, which is uncomfortable after hours of use and will reduce blood circulation which leads to cold feet when sailing in cold weather.

In general you will find that rubber boots do not stretch and their size remains constant.  Neoprene boots do stretch and can accommodate some variation in sock thickness.

Winter Sailing Fit:  Due to the large variation in foot size between light socks (or no socks) worn in the summer, and potentially four layers of socks in the winter when sailing in a dry suit, one size of boots may not adequately meet your needs.  It can be best to have a summer sized boot and another pair a size larger for winter sailing.  Remember, tight boots in the winter equals cold feet.  Loose boots in the summer make for sloppy

 

Boot Comparison Chart

Use the following chart to help find the boots best suited to your sailing.  Note: The more stars a boot has in a use category the better suited it is for that application.

Boot Material Neoprene Thickness Closure Hiking Trapeze Skiff Water Shoe Sole Firmness Waterproof gusset behind zipper
Gill Competition Rubber n/a Lace *** Firm Yes
Sperry Waterproof SeaHiker Rubber/ Neoprene Thin Lace *** * Medium Yes
Gill One Design Neoprene Thick Zipper *** Firm Yes
Ronstan Zip Up Neoprene Medium Zipper *** Firm No
ZhikGrip Race Hiking Neoprene Thin Lace ***  * Medium Yes
Sperry SeaHiker Boot GripX3 Neoprene Thick Zipper *** * Medium No
ZhikGrip Barefoot Hiking Sock Neoprene/Rubber Thin Slip ON *** n/a n/a
Gill Trapeze Neoprene Thick Zipper ** *** * Medium Yes
ZhikGrip Soft Sole Hiking Neoprene Medium Lace ** *** * Soft Yes
Zhik Lightweight Race Neoprene Thin Lace * *** *** Soft Yes
Gill Aqua Tech Shoe Neoprene Thin Slip On ** *** *** Soft n/a
Zhik Ankle Cut Boot Neoprene Thin Slip On ** *** *** Soft n/a
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