Since we began cruising, I’ve been on the lookout for a good pair of sailing boots. Something that was versatile and could handle salt water. Ultimately I discovered the ultimate sailing boots were in fact a pair of sandals.
Gear review: Keen Sandals (the ultimate sailing footwear).
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A couple of weeks ago, while visiting Robin’s parents in Cottonwood Arizona, I underwent a family right of passage and bought my first pair of Keen sandals.
I’d held out for a while, desperately loyal to a pair of Birkenstocks that I’d backpacked around in through Europe. However, over the past few months of wear and tear on the boat my resolve began to degrade along with the cracked cork soles and rusting fasteners.
Everyone in Robin’s family has at least two pairs of Keens and Robin wanted to buy another pair before going into Mexico as he was afraid we might not be able to find a store that sold them later.
This isn’t a one-family phenomena however, I’ve been seeing Keens EVERYWHERE in the sailing world. It’s frankly a bit ridiculous. Of the many cruisers we’ve met sailing down the coast I’d estimate 80% own a pair of Keens. Here’s why:
- Versatility. There’s no space on the boat for anything that only
has one function. When it comes to footwear, sailors want something they can wear while sailing, provisioning, fixing the boat, hiking, and going out for dinner.
- Salt water resistant. That means nothing that will rot or rust and is ideally quick drying. When landing our dinghy on a beach we inevitably get our feet wet and it’s no fun running around in wet, smelly, shoes.
- Non-marking soles
When I was looking for a shoe, I wanted all of these benefits and, dare I say it, something that looked cute too. So, on our last day in Sedona we went to a travel outfitters and I bought a pair of KEEN Women’s Rose Sandals in Indian Teal. Robin bought the KEEN Men’s Kuta Sandals Black/Yellow,
The verdict after two weeks? I’ve been wearing them non-stop! They’ve been great on the boat, hikes, splashing about in the ocean, and can be dressed up enough for dinner (well at least the casual cruiser dinner parties we get invited to!). I even tried to go rock climbing in them (not recommended).
While a sandal will never replace a pair of sailing boots when it comes to foul weather, they’ll probably be what you end up wearing 90% of the time while cruising in warmer climates.
Love your Keens or have other sailing footwear recommendations? Let us know in the comments below.
Fiona McGlynn is an award-winning boating writer who created Waterborne as a place to learn about living aboard and traveling the world by sailboat. She has written for boating magazines including BoatUS, SAIL, Cruising World, and Good Old Boat. She’s also a contributing editor at Good Old Boat and BoatUS Magazine. In 2017, Fiona and her husband completed a 3-year, 13,000-mile voyage from Vancouver to Mexico to Australia on their 35-foot sailboat.