To find the toughest and most comfortable dinghy boot, we went back to school. "Gear" from our October 2011 issue.
Sailing boots are the unsung heroes of dinghy sailing: ridden hard, put away wet, and smelly, and somehow expected to last through seasons of abuse from hiking straps, gravel parking lots, and general disregard. No environment is harsher on this essential equipment than college sailing. Last fall, on a mission to determine the best dinghy boot on the market, I collected five major brands and let my teammates at St. Mary’s College of Maryland abuse them for the spring season. This became one of the toughest tests any dinghy gear could undergo. We used these boots almost everyday for five months in FJs and 420s. Our test period included days in February when rigging included chipping ice out of the bottoms of our boats and days in May when going for a swim in the river was a welcome relief from the stifling humidity. We hiked hard off of these boots on windy afternoons, and we gracefully maneuvered them through roll tacks during light air boathandling drills. A season of college sailing provided the ultimate dinghy boot test—a wide range of conditions, an extended duration for wear, and a group of sailors aware of the value of high quality gear. Here is what we found.
Aigle is best known for its lace-up Maramu boot, but the Bora (pictured above, right) challenges this classic with high ratings in both warmth and comfort. With a rubber exterior and 4mm neoprene interior, the boot kept toes warm in the coldest conditions. The boot was very supportive for hiking, and fit comfortably with drysuits or bare feet. The Bora has a zipper, rather than laces, and seems to have been designed for sailors with small ankles. The zipper and neoprene necessitate a post-sail rinse-off to ward away corrosion and funky odors. But with this small amount of maintenance, the Bora easily withstood the test. While at the upper end of the price range, they are a worthwhile investment. $135
The verdict: “The neoprene provides soft padding as well as great insulation. Having a layer between your foot and the thick hard rubber prevents your body heat from being sucked out of your feet. They are a little smaller than my Maramus. I had a hard time pulling the zipper all the way up—if I had a drysuit on, I left them unzipped.” –Megan Magill
Ronstan Race Boot
Ronstan’s Race Boot strikes a good balance between support, comfort, and durability. Reinforced neoprene provides excellent support for hiking and also makes the boot comfortable in all seasons. With a side zipper, the boot was easy to pull on and off. Once on, there’s no need to worry about readjusting, as a tab at the top of the boot holds the zipper in place. The boot has a flexible fit, working well with and without a drysuit. Flexibility also characterizes its sole, which is textured to provide a good grip. The Race Boot transitioned nicely from dinghies to bigger keelboats, with one of our offshore teammates testing it on Navy 44s, J/109s, and SR33s. The boot lasted well throughout the test, with minor wear on the upper, non-reinforced neoprene. At a reasonable price, the Race Boot will fit those looking for the flexibility of an all-season option. $75
The verdict: “They are very flexible, which is compatible to the different styles of hiking I have in Lasers and doublehanded boats. They are also comfortable, and the neoprene allows them to stretch a little so that my feet don’t feel too cramped if I am wearing a drysuit.” –Mayumi Roller