Hydrofoil Sailing Sandal by Sperry Top-Sider

"Gear Up" from our November 27, 2006 /SW eNewsletter/.

GearUpSperry

When we recently laid eyes on Sperry's new performance sailing sandal, the first thought that came to mind was, "What the…?" Honestly, I'd never seen anything like the Hydrofoil, and wondered whether the bizarre design of the sandal's split-bottom sole was the idea of some over-caffeinated footwear designer or a breakthrough in deck-gripping sailing shoes. To satisfy this curiosity we brought two test pairs with us to last week's Caribbean NOOD Regatta in the British Virgin Islands.First an explanation about the design: Sperry says the Hydrofoil's "catamaran inspired dual-suspension system allows the foot to move more naturally." While the catamaran analogy may seem a bit odd, the split-sole concept does make sense for racing applications. For example, when straddling a leeward genoa winch, grinding in the last few inches, I found the split design allowed me to really plant the inside "float" (to use the catamaran analogy) without having to bend the entire sole. Also, with the split-toe design you get a better grip because it allows you to apply direct pressure with your big toe, which from my experience greatly improves one's footing. The split-toe concept has been used in surfing-specific wetsuit booties for years, and it makes a noticeable difference here. Combined with Sperry's patented Wave-Siping bottom, we found the Hydrofoil delivers excellent grip and sure footing on wet or dry decks.Out of the box, the plastic (injected EVA) midsole and upper strapping were stiff and uncomfortable, which made the sandals feel clunky at first, but after a few days use, they broke in nicely. The sandals are relatively lightweight, and they float, which came in handy when we swam ashore during a Sunsail charter boat-based surfing expedition following the NOOD championship. The Hydrofoils were easy to swim with, were great for the hiking trails of the B.V.I., and served dutifully on provisioning trips into town. With three adjustment straps and a footbed full of drain holes, the sandals are perfect for water-based activities; no matter how wet I got the sandals, my feet didn't slip around inside. The Hydrofoil is an excellent new concept for sailors who prefer to race with open-toe shoes, and once you get past the otherworldly look of the sole design, we think you'll agree. ($69.95) www.sperrytopsider.com