Each time I get a new pair of sailing shoes, I vow to only wear them on boats. I make a plan to preserve their baby-soft soles from the street’s harmful dirt and oil, which gradually hardens the rubber to the point of uselessness. I’ll wear flip-flops down to the boat and only change into my sailing shoes once aboard. Like the Little Mermaid before she went after that dorky prince, the shoes will never know life on land.
So when I scored a pair of Sperry Top-Sider’s Reliance sailing shoes, I had the best of intentions. But it wasn’t long before I was wearing them to airport security, kicking around parking lots, and cutting down gravel paths. After a year’s use, these shoes have been through all sorts of funk. And you know what? They’re still just as grippy on deck as the first time I wore them. Somehow, the Reliances’ Hydro-Grip rubber traction compound seems to have resisted the blacktop oils and everything else I’ve subjected it to; the soles remain soft and supple. And the signature Wave-Siping seems to be fine enough not to pick up the little rocks and debris that can mar the deck with scratches.
In terms of multi-directional traction and quick-drying characteristics, the Reliance shoes build upon the success of Sperry’s earlier performance sailing shoes like the Figawi2 and Ventus models. Compared to those shoes, the Reliance feels a little more substantial, with the generous cushioning you’d expect from a tennis shoe. That’s not to say they’re bulky. In fact, the lightweight, hydrophobic mesh material that makes up the uppers and lining gives the shoes an airy feel. I’ve been wearing mine with a pair of Patagonia’s Lightweight Endurance ankle socks, and the combination keeps my feet comfortable no matter how many times they get doused. With wicking socks and easy-draining, quick-drying shoes, I haven’t had a case of swamp foot all summer.