The Sperry 7-Seas 3-Eye Sneakers are boat shoes that perform almost every job you can ask of them. They’re lightweight, flexible, and easily adjustable sneakers that grip well on most surfaces you can imagine encountering in, or around, small boats.
This lightweight water shoe is designed to perform through the rigors of a day on the water. The ovals in the rubber sole’s honeycomb pattern have sipes—fine cuts that improve traction on slippery decks—while the wave-like tread near the toe and heel provide grip on a variety of surfaces. The injection-molded EVA (ethylene-vinyl acetate) midsole provides cushioning and is equipped with built-in drainage holes that ensure that your feet won’t be sloshing for long after you’ve stepped out of the water. The breathable hydrophobic mesh uppers are quick to dry out. I wear the shoes without socks, which works fine for the sailing season’s mild weather. Waterproof socks would be in order if you need to stay dry and warm.
When sailing off a beach of sand and pebbles, no sand gets into the shoes through the drainage holes or past the seal between the uppers and my feet. After I step aboard the soles stay put on the slick, painted bottom of the dinghy and my feet don’t slide around in the shoes. I didn’t feel any water sloshing around my sole; the mesh uppers dry in about 5 minutes. On shore, the hiking sandals I frequently wear slip on smooth granite and rocks recently soaked by a high tide, but the Sperry 7-Seas had a secure grip and enough traction for leaping from boulder to boulder, even when landing on a rock face sloped about 40 degrees.
I use my shoes hard, and many others I’ve tried have lasted only a single season of boating. I wore the previous iteration of this shoe through three years of vigorous college sailing. Hiking straps on boats chafe away at shoe’s uppers, and constant alternation between long dinghy-dolly pulls over asphalt, beach launches, and hanging on to the grip tape placed on the floors of dinghies and decks of keelboats can quickly wear down the soles of many rubber dinghy boots. I can’t yet speak to the longevity of the new 7-Seas sneakers, but they appear to be made with the same materials and care, and I expect they’ll last at least as long as their predecessors.
I have a wide foot and usually wear a women’s size 8.5; in the new Sperry 7-Seas 3-Eye Sneakers, size 8.5, my foot didn’t overlap the sides of the shoe’s sole, and I had about 1/2″ of space between my big toe and the shoe’s end, the minimum amount recommended for the best fit in most shoes. By adjusting the two heel cords that wrap around the heel on the outside of the shoe and then cinching the laces tightly to tension those cords tight, I was able to lock my heel into the back of the shoe.
Delaney Brown is associate editor of WoodenBoat magazine and recent University of South Florida alumna, currently living in Maine to restore a 31′ liveaboard sailboat.
I have a high instep and a long heel, and that combination makes for a tight squeeze getting into slip-on neoprene booties and knee-high rubber boots. The Sperry 7-Seas Men’s 3-Eye Sneaker is not a slip-on but a laced shoe, with the laces connected to two cords that wrap around high on the outside of the heel. Tightened, the cords help prevent the shoe from slipping off the heel, a valuable feature, but they prevented me from getting the shoes on if I loosened the laces only at the top. After loosening the laces all the way to the bottom to put slack in the heel-retention cords, I could pull the shoe on.
I have wide, size 13 feet. The sneakers’ stretch-mesh uppers comfortably accommodate them by allowing the outside of my big and little toes to overhang the sides of the soles a little bit, while the soles are just wide enough to support the weight-bearing parts of my feet. Sperry’s sizing worked for me, and the stretch in the uppers allows me to wear Sealskinz or Kokatat knee-high waterproof socks to keep my feet dry and warm.
The 7-Seas sneakers are very comfortable and light—a size 13 men’s shoe weighs just 10.6 oz. I had surgery on my left knee about 35 years ago, and that knee can get sore after 10 minutes of walking on pavement. These sneakers have a well-cushioned sole that is shaped to roll my foot down, eliminating the impact and thus the soreness of that knee.
The grip of the textured and siped sole is excellent on oiled teak floorboards and varnished ash seats, whether they are dry or have standing water on them. The sole would only slip an inch or two on the slipperiest surface—a wet varnished seat—if I lunged onto it, but when my full weight was planted, the shoe’s sole held fast.
Is there a product that might be useful for boatbuilding, cruising, or shore-side camping that you’d like us to review? Please email your suggestions.