Like most sailors, I like to think of myself as a romantic traditionalist, carrying the torch passed down through generations of seafarers.
SWMBO thinks I am a creature of habit, resistant to change.
One of us is right.
On very, very good days, it's even me.
Take shoes, for example.
Boat shoes, in particular.
For decades I have worn Sperry Topsiders ™ in a variety of permutations- slip-ons, laced, leather uppers, canvas uppers, you name it. They are solid, sturdy, dependable, shoes that all have a common set of characteristics:
They always stink by the end of the first season.
The soles always harden and get slippery by the end of the second season.
They aren't cheap, even on sale.
3 years ago, I rotated my latest pair of stinky, slippery Topsiders ™ into service as "boatwork shoes" and moved a new pair of West Marine Topsider-like shoes into regular use. Same styling, slightly lower price....
.... and same result- slippery as teflon covered-snot, and as stinky as bleu cheese aged in a diaper pail, by the end of the second season.
So, they rotate into the "boat work shoes" slot and the Topsiders ™ rotate into "lawnmowing shoes" role.
All of which means I need a new pair of boatkicks for this season.
This time around, I decided that I might maybe, possibly, break with tradition.
I knew what I wanted:
Last season, I had the chance to check out a pair of Vibram Five Fingers ™.
I liked the concept, but didn't like the lack of toe protection, and I like shoes that I can slip into with a quickness if necessary- these ain't that, when you gotta make sure your piggies park in their own pocket.
And, although I rarely get invited to places that have a dress code, on the odd chance that an invitation to an event requiring a jacket is issued, deck shoes are acceptable, and mark one as a man of the sea- Five Fingers™? Er, maybe not so much.
So, is there anything new that might meet my needs?
Meet my new Crocs ™ boat shoes:
When our new footwear arrived at Stately Jones Manor, the first impressions were largely positive.
The stitching was nicely finished, the leather uppers were soft and supple and the shoes were light- the Cove Sports weigh about half of what my previous boat shoes weigh.
Do they meet the requirements, though?
Ventilation? Got it.
Check out the scuppers on these bad boys:
Water gets in, water gets out. Air gets in, air gets out. See the way the moulded sole wraps all the way around the side of the foot and caps the toes? Looks like it might be a toe-protection winner. Big burly boaters don't cry- but jamming your toe on a cleat will make one's eyes water and cause the hurling of creative epithets to the world at large.
Comparing them side-by-each, it looks like the SWMBOs shoes have more support than mine:
But, looks can sometimes be deceiving. More on that later.
One feature that I appreciate is that the removable insoles are all polymers. No cloth, no glue, nothing that is going to come loose and end up polluting the lake or end up in the garbage... and one less "gets wet and stays wet" area.
Both shoes have real-world usable "pull tabs" on the heels. You can actually hook a finger in the tab loop to pull your shoes on. Nice touch.
Two minor gripes- the laces. SWMBO finds the laces on her shoes to be kinda cheesy. The laces on mine are kinda slippery looking. More on that later, as well.
Got grip? Sure looks like it. Nice tread pattern, good siping around the perimeter allowing water to
escape under each footfall.
Okay, cool- first impressions are largely all good.
So, let's put them to work.
For the last 10 days, SWMBO and I have been wearing our new Crocs everywhere. To work, to the marina, walking the dogs, riding our bikes, everydamnwhere.
Initial impressions of these Crocs boat shoes under load?
Better than expected, and in this traditionalist boat shoe-snob's view, far, far better than a pair of Crocs has any right to be.
There has been no break-in period. No blisters, no stretching, no issues- from the first day, it felt like I had been wearing them for years.
They are WAY more supportive than they look. I have been working some long days, on my feet for up to 12 hours at a time, and my feet don't hurt. That is a Very Big Deal. I have feet so flat that ducks go "damn!" and the end of the day often finds me popping pain relievers and soaking my feet. (Yeah, middle age sucks.) I have been foot-pain free for the last ten days.
The initial grip is excellent. Better than expected, which can take some getting used to, after shuffling around on slick soled shoes. Will it last? We'll see.
The ventilation is great- After taking these shoes off at the end of the aforementioned 12 hour workday, my shoes, and my feet, do not smell like the end of a 12 hour workday.
They look good. I've had people ask about them, and everyone is floored when SWMBO or I give up the maker. The response is always the same: "Those are Crocs? Where can I get a pair of Crocs like those?"
The laces are mildly annoying- SWMBO thinks hers look cheesy but stay tied without getting stretched out or knotted, mine look better but need frequent retying.
So far, neither pair is showing any noticeable wear. On the dirt, they are doing the job they were hired to do. However, one key component in this long term test is missing-
These are BOAT shoes, and they have yet to do their thing aboard a BOAT.
Will they be up to the task to which they have been tasked?
Will they hold up over the long haul?
Whiskeyjack splashes on May 15th. Then, it gets serious.
We'll keep you posted throughout the 2013 boating season. If they work, we'll let you know. If they don't, we'll let you know that as well.
Meanwhile, it looks like the shoe roster has just added another player to the rotation:
"Talk the Dock!"