Deck shoes have moved on since the traditional leather moccasin was first designed in 1935. The YM team put 11 deck trainers to the test

Anyone who’s spent the day squelching around in soggy leather deck shoes knows the unpleasantness of that slimy-footed feeling.

Whether walking the sidedeck or alighting the dinghy, it takes just a little water to get into your shoes and blight your day.

If it’s not water getting in, in hot weather you’ll find out how much your feet sweat and getting the moisture out becomes an issue, especially if you opt to go without socks.

WHY DECK TRAINERS?

Where the traditional boat shoe will hold water and take an age to dry, deck trainers are designed to let water out and be fast-drying.

If you’ve tried deck trainers you’ll rarely convert back.

The use of modern materials make the shoes lighter, especially when wet, and the increased number of eyelets make them a better, more secure fit than regular deck shoes.

Because trainer design varies, so does the support the shoe gives.

Many brands are available in a range of different colours, so it shouldn’t be hard to find a trainer that suits your needs.

As with all clothing it’s important to find the right fit for your feet, be they long, short, wide or narrow.

HOW WE TESTED

deck trainer gear test

© Graham Snook Photography

With a number of different sized feet in the YM office, we chose 11 pairs of deck trainers in a variety of sizes, for both women and men, to see which worked best.

Prices ranged from £30-£110.

The deck trainers were inspected for features, design and build quality by the team.

Deck trainer gear test

© Graham Snook Photography

The shoes were then tested for grip on a dry surface and a second time on a wet surface, before being tested while sailing.

After wearing them sailing, the deck trainers were worn ashore to see how they coped with life on land too.

Finally, to test their draining speed, we poured one litre of water into the shoe and timed it as it drained.

After one minute and 30 seconds any residual water was measured.

Zhik ZKG water test

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GUL AQUA GRIP HYDRO

£30
**BEST BUDGET BUY**

Gul Aqua Grip Hydro deck trainers

© Graham Snook Photography

Although Gul were the cheapest deck trainers on test, they didn’t disappoint.

The yellow soles are grippy but not that flexible and did feel a little clumpy.

The Aqua Grip Hydro came second on both grip tests, with the same average as the most expensive shoe.

Subtler in styling than many on test, they’ll appeal to those not keen on garish deigns.

The shoes drained pretty quickly, in around 58 seconds, due to mesh sides and drain holes on the bottom, which help water escape rapidly.

SPECIFICATIONS

MAKE: Gul
MODEL: Aqua Grip Hydra
DRY GRIP ANGLE: 39°
WET GRIP ANGLE: 36°
TIME TO DRAIN: 0:58 sec

Buy it now on ebay (UK)


TRIBORD ARIN 500

£39.99

Tribord Arin 500 deck trainers

© Graham Snook Photography

These shoes look more like sporty trainers, boasting good protection around the heel and toe.

Drainage holes are on the side of the rubber soles, which scored the best joint average grip and best in the dry.

The soles are flexible, but at the flex point where the deck trainers bend, the firm material folds onto the foot.

This might ease with wear, but apart from this they are lightweight and comfy.

One nice touch is the large loop at the back to assist in getting them on and off, or when hanging them up to dry.

SPECIFICATIONS

MAKE: Tribord
MODEL: Men’s/Women’s Arin 500
DRY GRIP ANGLE: 42°
WET GRIP ANGLE: 35°
TIME TO DRAIN: 1:00

Buy it now on Decathlon (UK)


MUSTO NAUTIC COAST

£70
**BEST ON TEST**

Musto Nautic Coast deck trainers

© Graham Snook Photography

These lightweight deck trainers are great for the summer, as the mesh upper enables feet to breathe, and you can feel air coming in through the drain holes in the sole.

There isn’t a lot of arch support, though, and they feel a bit flat.

The Clarks sole is a mix of patterned and razor-cut, and came third in both the wet and dry test.

The sole provides support for the shoe and as such isn’t that flexible.

The laces run down further than most and the soft construction means they can be squashed flat when packing.

An impressive drain time of 11 seconds saw them win that test.

SPECIFICATIONS

MAKE: Musto
MODEL: Nautic Coast
DRY GRIP ANGLE: 37°
WET GRIP ANGLE: 36°
TIME TO DRAIN: 0:11

Buy it now on ebay (UK)


ZHIK ZKG

£85

Zhik ZKG deck trainers

© Graham Snook Photography

These unisex shoes have good toe protection and the laces help secure your feet.

The neoprene upper material is stretchy and comfortable, but while the deck trainers grip well, they can feel a bit insecure. They have an antibacterial liner which reduces the odour from feet.

The grip is Zhik’s zig-zag rubber design which sticks tenaciously to the deck but squeaks.

It also has a slight tendency to pick up small stones.

The neoprene mesh provides the method of drainage, but after 1:30, these still had 50ml of water in them.

SPECIFICATIONS

MAKE: Zhik
MODEL: ZKG
DRY GRIP ANGLE: 34°
WET GRIP ANGLE: 35°
TIME TO DRAIN: 1:30+

Buy it now on ebay (UK)


HELLY HANSEN SANTIAGO

£80

Helly Hansen Santiago deck trainers

© Graham Snook Photography

The Helly Hansen shoes look the most like trainers, and these women’s shoes were very neat, we felt.

There is almost no stitching, only around the heel, tongue and around the sole – the rest is seamless.

There are no drainage holes, resulting in 400ml of water remaining in the shoe at 1:30.

The flexible rubbery sole gave the best wet grip in the women’s test.

There is a bit of protection in the toe area, but the softer fabric upper is a bit flimsy.

The thick inner sole has been given the anti-bacterial treatment, creating good cushioning and support.

SPECIFICATIONS

MAKE: Helly Hansen
MODEL: Santiago L20
DRY GRIP ANGLE: 32°
WET GRIP ANGLE: 38°
TIME TO DRAIN: 1:30

Buy it now on eBay (UK)


CHATHAM AQUA-GO REEF

£89

Chatham Aqua Go Reef deck trainers

© Graham Snook Photography

These smart pink and grey shoes are from the women’s range, a shame for the men as they are more attractive than the Aqua-Go Mist.

They have a good rubber-covered toe, while the rest of the deck trainer is nicely padded.

There was a slightly raised vertical seam in the heel, which could rub until the shoes have been broken in, and the arch support is low.

The sole has a mixture of pattern and razor cut grip with reasonable flex.

It also has internal channels from under the foot to the sides of the shoe, to help with drainage without getting your socks wet if you step in a puddle.

SPECIFICATIONS

MAKE Chatham
MODEL Aqua-Go Reef
DRY GRIP ANGLE 32°
WET GRIP ANGLE 36°
TIME TO DRAIN 1:09

Buy it now on eBay (UK)


HL DECK GRIP PROFILE

£89.99

Henri Lloyd Deck Grip Profile deck trainers

© Graham Snook Photography

The razor-cut rubber sole has plenty of grooves, creating a particularly grippy shoe, although a little heavier than others on test.

This design was joint top in the dry grip test and joint first in wet/dry average.

The black material on the upper is rubberised and gives good protection around the toebox, but doesn’t allow the foot to breathe – without getting the shoes wet they were left with a salt stain from sweat in the toe.

Despite drainage holes, water can only really escape through the mesh material.

SPECIFICATIONS

MAKE: Henri-Lloyd
MODEL: Deck Grip 2018
DRY GRIP ANGLE: 42°
WET GRIP ANGLE: 35°
TIME TO DRAIN: 1:20

Buy it now on eBay (UK)


CHATHAM AQUA-GO MIST

£95

Chatham Aqua-Go Mist

© Graham Snook Photography

A lime-green and black colourway might not appeal to everyone, but they are light and easy to wear.

Soft and flexible, the heel sometimes folds down when you slide your foot in – a pull tab would help.

The sole is the third of the best performers in the dry and the solid grip gives the wearer confidence.

There are drain holes in the side of the sole, but they are small and drainage is on the slow side, with 150ml of water remaining in the shoe after 1:30, though this may improved when worn with the foot to push water through.

SPECIFICATIONS

MAKE: Chatham
MODEL: Aqua-Go Mist
DRY GRIP ANGLE: 42°
WET GRIP ANGLE: 34°
TIME TO DRAIN: 1:30+

Buy it now on eBay (UK)


GILL RACE TRAINER RS11

£99

Gill Race Trainer RS11

© Graham Snook Photography

These smart-looking deck trainers are good for summer use.

They have mesh sides and relatively large holes in the sole to let the water escape quickly.

They also let water in, but seeing as they drained in just 16 seconds (the second quickest on test) the water won’t be in there for long.

The inside has had an anti-bacterial treatment, but all those holes work wonders for allowing air to circulate.

They have a high, protective heel which might not suit everyone’s feet, and while the big toe is well protected, others toes are less so.

The sole is patterned but didn’t shine in our grip test.

SPECIFICATIONS

MAKE: Gill
MODEL: Race Trainer RS11
DRY GRIP ANGLE: 33°
WET GRIP ANGLE: 34°
TIME TO DRAIN: 0:16

Buy it now on eBay (UK)


Continues below…

MUSTO PRO LITE

£100

Musto Pro Lite deck trainer

© Graham Snook Photography

As their Pro Lite name suggests, these are lightweight shoes.

They’re also good looking and comfortable to wear, which was surprise as the sole is really quite stiff but it also gives support in the right places.

The tongue is attached inside the shoe by thin fabric on each side that can sometimes ruck up.

There are no holes in the sole, so walking on a wet deck will leave you with dry feet, but after 1:30 there was 100ml of water remaining.

After light use, there were some signs of wear on the stitching.

SPECIFICATIONS

MAKE: Musto
MODEL: Dynamic Pro Lite
DRY GRIP ANGLE: 36°
WET GRIP ANGLE: 36°
TIME TO DRAIN: 1:30+

Buy it now on eBay (UK)


HH SKAGEN RACE

£110

Helly Hansen Skagen Race trainer

© Graham Snook Photography

The Skagen Race look and feel like trainers.

They have good padding, and the thick foam sole absorbs a lot of impact when on deck.

The mesh upper is quick drying and has a hydrophobic coating with minimal, seamless stitching on the upper.

With no holes in the sole, drainage was limited to just the mesh and after 1:30 there was still 350ml of water left in the shoe.

In spite of the limited toe protection they were very comfortable and the razor-cut sole gave the best overall grip in the wet test.

SPECIFICATIONS

MAKE: Helly Hansen
MODEL: Skagen Race
DRY GRIP ANGLE: 37°
WET GRIP ANGLE: 38°
TIME TO DRAIN: 1:30+

Buy it now on eBay (UK)

CONCLUSION

HH Skagen deck trainer

© Graham Snook Photography

While many of these deck trainers let the water out, they also let the water in – walk though a slight puddle or stand on some moist moss while loading the car and if the drainage holes are on the bottom you’ll have wet feet.

The good news is that you’re not squelching, and once the water is warm you rarely notice it.

The Helly Hansen Skagen Race were the best as a trainer, however they were also the most expensive and there were other shoes that do the same job for less.

Helly Hansen’s Santiago L2 was the best women’s shoe on test, although ladies on a budget could also opt for the Tribord Arin 500.

If you’re a man on a budget the men’s Tribord Arin 500 are worth investigating, however, although only £30, the Gul shoes came close to taking the overall prize.

They were only let down by their style and slightly bulky feel. Either offer good grip at a staggeringly friendly price.

If you’re looking for a lightweight summer shoe, which is what deck trainers are about, then Musto’s Nautic Coast weighs very little and is very comfortable, especially when the weather is hot or you’re sailing in warmer climes.

The only downside is that as the temperature drops the mesh won’t keep your feet warm.

If you want a comfy deck trainer for year-round use that offers good grip and fine looks, albeit with slightly less drainage, the Deck Grip Profile from Henri-Lloyd is a good choice.