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How to Tie Boat Shoes? Easy and Practical Ways

Fact checked by William Hart

how to tie boat shoes

On leather boat shoes, bow knots can look messy and unfashionable, and they can easily come off. When you try to hide the bows by tucking them behind the eyelets, they irritate your feet and make the shoes look weird.

So, how to tie boat shoes appropriately? You can learn to do a reef knot or boat shoe knot (also known as a barrel knot). A simpler way is to tie a knot right behind the eyelets. Then, tuck the excess laces into the pockets inside the shoes.

Table of Contents

What to Prepare

You only need your boat shoes and a pair of laces to follow this guide. If you wear socks, remember to put them on before tying boat shoes.


1. Reef knot (or square knot)

The quickest way to tie boat shoes with leather laces is with reef knots. Unlike a bow knot, you can’t pull the laces to undo a reef knot. So, it won’t snag or come undone suddenly. Since leather laces can’t be as tight as fabric laces, this knot is perfect for them.

Step 1. Make a starting knot

  • Cross the left lace over the right one.
  • Wrap the right end over the front of the left lace so it ends up between the back of the gap.
  • Pull the right lace through the gap.
  • Pull both ends tightly.

Step 2. Repeat step one and make another starting knot on top of the previous one. Now, you have a reef knot.

To untie a reef knot, follow these steps:

  • Step 1. Pull one end straight upward. You can see the other lace wrapped around it.
  • Step 2. Slide the loop along the straight lace until it comes off.

2. Boat shoe knot (or barrel knot)

A boat shoe knot is also known as a Barrel Tassel or Eastland knot. This knot is a simple way to elevate your boat shoes, making them more stylish and classy.

  • Step 1. Make a reef knot so the shoes fit securely.
  • Step 2. Double the left lace to form a loop. Remember to leave a long end.
  • Step 3. Wrap the long end around the beginning of the loop.
  • Step 4. Form a second wrap right above the first wrap.
  • Step 5. Continue wrapping until the end of the shoelace reaches the top of the loop. It takes some practice to create the correct length and optimize the number of loops.
  • If the shoelace runs out before reaching the top of the loop, you have to release the lace and redo it from step two. If the shoelace reaches the top with only a few wraps and leaves a long end trail, you also have to release and redo it.
  • Step 6. Tightly pull the lace’s end through the top of the loop, and you have a barrel knot.
  • Step 7. Repeat the same procedure with the right lace.

The knot takes time, but the result is nice and sleek. You can skip the reef knot in step number one and only make the barrel knot. Tie Sperry laces that way and your shoes will turn into slip-on.

Another technique is to skip step number one and make the barrel knots right above the eyelets. Tie Sperry boat shoes this way and the laces are secured in place.

If your boat laces are excessively long but you don’t want to spend time making barrel knots. Check out the next method.

3. Tuck the Laces Behind the Eyelets

The pockets inside the sides of boat shoes are not useless. Manufacturers intentionally put them there so wearers can tuck in the shoelaces.

  • Step 1. Tie a knot right behind the eyelets.
  • Step 2. Grab a hanger or small screwdriver to tuck the lace into the pocket.

Check out this video for the final results: How To Tuck Sperry Laces

Don’t tie a knot and cut off the rest of the lace. That knot will come off easily, and you will be left with weirdly short shoelaces. The only solution is to purchase new laces to re-lace the shoes.

Tips to Take Care of Boat Shoes


Boat shoes are anti-slip and snugly fitted. These features help you walk on slippery surfaces safely. Besides learning to tie deck shoes, you need to take proper care of them.

1. Protect the leather

Leather is a delicate material. You should keep them from getting soggy and dirty. If grime appears, scrub it off with a soft bristle brush. If you get caught in the rain, absorb the excess water with a towel and leave the shoes to dry in a ventilated place.

You should also apply shoe polish regularly to protect the smooth leather. Marine environments are packed with moisture, sunshine, and salt deposits. It will ruin your shoes sooner=.

2. Clean the shoes properly

Never soak leather shoes in water or throw them in the washing machine. You should always follow the washing procedure recommended by the manufacturer.

3. Store the shoes correctly

Store your shoes at room temperature and avoid direct sunlight. Heat will cause the leather to dry out and crack. You can also use shoe trees to retain their shape.

4. Repair the shoes in time

Since deck shoes are exposed to harsh environments from time to time, you should keep an eye on them and repair them when you spot signs of wear and tear.


Boat shoes have slip-resistant rubber soles, so they help you move safely on slippery surfaces onboard. The laces that run through the eyelets on both sides also help enhance the fitting and comfort. Now that you know how to tie boat shoes, they will stay put and offer more stability.

If you try the techniques mentioned above, tell us the one that works best for you in the comment section. For me, it is the barrel knot. You can rely on a tight knot and a good pair of boat shoes to keep you safe on the water. Enjoy your next trip out on the sea. We’ll see you soon!

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