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Breaking in new tradition in boat shoes


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POSTED: Sunday, April 05, 2009

All it took was getting a new pair of shoes to make me realize how long I've been in a rut.

Around the same time that I began wearing one brand of jeans rather than any of its competitors as a teenager some five decades ago, I also started wearing boat shoes exclusively from one well-known manufacturer.

The styles of those shoes may have changed some over the years, but I was always able to find ones that fit my taste, my budget, and my feet. And that brand's notable ability to provide slip-free footing on wet boat decks was always the clincher.

A couple of weeks ago, however, I decided to give Columbia Sportswear's new line of boat shoes a try and suddenly I'm climbing out of my rut. I think I've discovered a shoe that has a number of advantages over my old traditional shoes, and particularly for anyone boating in Hawaii.

To begin with, whether they're fishing or sailing in Hawaii's warm tropical waters, boaters here usually don't need much in the way of waterproof footwear. In fact, many of them wear rubber slippers, if they wear anything at all.

But for me, as someone who tries to avoid those injuries known as “;boat bites”; that are caused by the periodic collisions of toes or other body parts into cleats and other boat hardware, I have always favored wearing shoes, although never with socks.

Still, no matter how warm the water is, when a rogue wave fills your shoes, you're not really comfortable until you can empty them out. And that's where the design of Columbia's new “;Boat Tech”; shoes comes into play.

The shoe itself has a traditional moccasin look, including its leather laces. But it's where the leather upper is stitched directly to the midsole that the difference becomes apparent.

The shoe has no insole like most shoes, but rather its soft “;Techlite”; molded midsole, which according to the manufacturer is antimicrobial for safe barefoot use, is textured and contoured to be as comfortable as a jell pad insert.

Then small holes have been drilled through on either side of the midsole's forefoot and heel and work like the scuppers on a boat to drain the shoe of any water that may come pouring in.

Add to this the fact that the shoe seems to weigh almost nothing and has a non-marking, non-skid, gum rubber outsole, and my guess is that Columbia has created a boat shoe that most boaters in this state should love.

It's not often that a product comes along that seems so well suited for our particular boating environment. And it's not often I feel comfortable recommending any boating product. But this time it does and I do.

Boat Tech shoes are competitively priced, and the only downside is that they aren't currently available in our local stores.

They can however be purchased through an online store called Zappos at www.zappos.com, which has free shipping. Also, West Marine has Columbia's canvas version of the shoe called Marine Tech listed in its 2009 catalog.