To find the toughest and most comfortable dinghy boot, we went back to school. "Gear" from our October 2011 issue.
Slam Sea Perch
With its neoprene and rubber construction, the Sea Perch provides plenty of support for hiking and warmth in cold climates. The boot has a side-zip closure and a Velcro belt that adjusts the fit around the top of the foot. These adjustments made the Sea Perch comfortable, and the boot fit especially well when worn over a drysuit. The boot proved to be durable throughout the season, but the Velcro belt tore off at the end of our trial. While appropriate for most of our sailing season, the weight and support of this boot made it feel clunky when the temperatures rose and the drysuits came off. $65
Ed. Note: As of press time, the Sea Perch was still available at several retailers, but Slam reports that they are discontinuing the boot for next season. Instead, they will offer a Skiff line including high-cut ($50) and low-cut ($45) neoprene boots designed for performance sailing.
Sperry Top-Sider Submersible
Sperry is new to the dinghy boot market and has brought a different approach to their footwear. The Submersible Boot garnered high ratings in both comfort and support with its neoprene construction and rubber outersole. The rubber outersole consists of grooves that provide better traction on the sole and more support on the top of the foot and ankle for hiking. Sperry also added drainage ports to the soles of the boots, which kept them cool in warm weather but required the use of dry socks in cold weather. The durability of Sperry’s boots could still use improvement. After three months, the zipper ripped and holes were torn in the neoprene. Fortunately, Sperry is dedicated to its customers and gave my teammate a free replacement pair after they saw the damage he had done. $80
The verdict: “The soles have nice arch support, and the ankles give support while still being flexible. The rubber grip across the top of the foot and ankle gave me extra grip on the hiking strap. The only questionable feature is the drainage holes located in the bottom of the boots and on the side. This feature can be very nice in warm weather—eliminating boot juice and keeping feet cool—but when its cold, this gives you wet feet.” –John Wallace
Zhik Soft Sole Boot 250 (now 260)
Zhik recently redesigned their line of dinghy boots, including the pair that we sailed with. The 250 model received high marks, so the enhancements in the 260 are sure to make it even better. Both versions of Zhik’s boots are made with a unique side-lacing system that resembles ballet slippers. After you pull the boots on, you can make the fit as tight or loose as you want. An ankle strap at the top of the boot can be tightened to provide more support for hiking. In their 260 model, Zhik made this strap wider for more support and integrated it with the rubber upper. Zhik also makes a hiking strap that meshes with their boot, effectively “locking you in” to the hiking strap. While Zhik provides a range of adjustments for fit, the actual width of the boot is relatively narrow, and my teammate had to go one size up. Zhik’s boot is made with 4mm neoprene, which functioned well in warm weather but allowed water to seep in. Like Sperry’s model, the Zhik boot requires a good dry sock in colder weather. The boot was relatively durable—the only wear and tear involved several small holes that formed in the neoprene around the lacing system. $89
The verdict: “I like the lacing system. The boots give you a great feel in the boat and are super grippy and lightweight. They are better for summer than winter; when you wear them without dry socks, they fill up with cold water and stay cold during the winter months.” –Maddie Jackson