Buckle up, because this is going to be a fun ride. I’ll tell you why: when you dip your toe into the pool of men’s driving shoes, you find out pretty quickly that it’s a biiiig pool. While shoes — just plain old shoes — have been around for centuries, driving shoes were created in the mid-20th century, so they’re a relatively young category. However, driving shoes for men — or driving moccasins, as they’re commonly called — are ubiquitous because they’re a super-solid fashion style that is practically essential for every dude’s shoe tree.
Driving Shoe History
In 1963, the Italian Ministry of Industry and Trade gave Gianni Mostile a patent for his new creation, driving shoes. Sig. Mostile’s new company, called Car Shoe, created driving shoes for the very practical reason of helping race car drivers work the pedals. The new style of shoes were primarily defined by the nubbed sole: dozens of small rubber studs protruding from the outsole gave drivers more traction on the metal acceleration, brake and clutch (ABC) pedals. The heightened “feel” made it easier to perform the race car driver’s standard “heel-and-toe” technique of operating the pedals. Here’s a great video from Drive 61 on how to do the heel-and-toe technique.
Driving Shoe Evolution
Race car drivers today — both professionals and hobbyists — still use heel-and-toe, but men’s driving shoes had quickly evolved after their introduction to the more stylish side of things. That’s evident with the almost simultaneous entry into the driving shoe industry of high-end luxury Italian shoemaker, Tod’s. Today, Tod’s still offers a wide range of driving shoes, like this grey suede men’s driving shoe. According to the Bata Shoe Museum in Toronto (yes, there’s really a shoe museum), the more nimble feel of driving shoes appealed to everyday consumers and, thus, became fashionable.
Driving Shoe Categories for Our Definitive List
So the way we see it, you might have one of three approaches to men’s driving shoes. One, you’re looking for actual driving shoes because you race cars; two, you’re looking to tap into the driving shoe’s luxurious side; or, third, you’re looking for some cool kicks with an interesting pedigree. Whatever it is, we got ya covered, so gentlemen — and the ladies who are buying for their gentle-dudes — start your engines.
1. Eastland Men’s Talladega Driving Style Loafer
We’re kicking off the Top 10 with an entry from a classic American shoe company, Eastland. It’s a family-owned outfit that’s been making shoes in Maine since 1955, and they offer a handful of different driving shoe styles. We like the Eastland Men’s Talladega Driving Style Loafer because of its rock-solid look. As you’ll see throughout the list, driving shoes are, by and large, loafers. Very often, they come in classic penny loafer form or, sometimes, they’re more boat shoe-ish. Eastland’s peanut color driving shoes are beautiful and, for their hand-made, high quality features, they’re very affordable in this car shoe category. You’ll note the absence of those outer sole nubs, but that doesn’t disqualify them as driving shoes. As you’ll see, even the pure driving shoes we feature later in the list are nub-less — largely because of the modern materials the ABC pedals come in nowadays. From the sole on up, these men’s driving shoes will have your engine purring.
2. Sebago Kedge Tie Nubuck
We may as well stay in Maine, because, coincidentally, our second entry is from another left-tip-of-the-country company, Sebago. The Sebago Kedge Tie Nubuck is hand sewn and we think this taupe set is as fashionably solid as the Eastlands. No nubs on these soles, either, but note the way the outer sole curves up the backside of the shoe: a clear reference to driving shoes and the practical use of the shoe’s heel. These lovelies also come in a navy version and a brown version, if that’s how you prefer to rock them.
Price: $84.99-$225.29 (depending on size/color selected)
3. Cole Haan Men’s Gunnison II Slip-on Loafer
Cole Haan’s entry in the list is full of detail that practically shouts “I am a driving shoe!” The Gunnison II Slip-on Loafer is actually a moccasin construction, according to the company. These blue nub, rubber soled babies feature blue-and-black speckled cording that works around the slotted collar and ties on the vamp. It’s an all leather imported upper that’s been hand stitched. We think the creamy khaki color will work great with any ensemble, but there are six different colors to choose from. We’re particularly fond of the brown crocodile embroidered entry, which are cow leather, but styled to look like croc-skin. With the exception of the khakis with their blue cording, all the other styles sport the more traditional leather laces.
Price: $50-$173.70 (depending on size/color selected)
4. Frye Men’s Allen Venetian Slip-On Loafer
Driving shoes for men come in practically every color imaginable. We think these rust soft Italian nubucks from Frye are just bold enough, but not too flashy. Plus, the rust allows them to be worn with practically anything. The Fryes hew very closely to the traditional driving shoe look, as you’ll note with the nubbed rubber outsoles. The New York City based company uses imported tumbled full grain Italian leather for the uppers and they call this a “moc construction.” If the rust pair isn’t your jam, the Venetian comes in 10 different colors.
Price: $114.99-$198 (depending on size/color selected)
5. ECCO Men’s Dynamic Suede Penny Loafer
A fine example of the bold use of color within the men’s driving shoes category, the ECCO Men’s Dynamic Suede Penny Loafer is just a great looking shoe. This kick’s got serious detailing going on, with the contrasting stitching and contrasting synthetic sole (dig the nubs), as well as the the two different shades of blue: denim blue and Bermuda blue. It’s just one of four different colorways available with this line from the longtime Scandinavian shoemaker. For those of you who want to bring even more attention to your new car shoes, maybe the picante is your style. Whatever the color, this line features ECCO’s proprietary Comfort Fibre System, which the company says “helps keep footwear fresh and dry.”
Price: $79.99-$160 (depending on size/color selected)
6. Puma Men’s Futurecats 1 Nightcat Driving Shoe
The Puma Men’s Futurecats 1 Nightcat Driving Shoe is a super-cool, athletic looking kick that veers closer to a practical driving shoe in that it’s quite sporty. Made with a mix of leather, suede and synthetics, these car shoes have a very contemporary appearance. No nubs here, but the outsoles do project up the back of the heel, à la classic driving shoes style. The color here is “periscope and Puma silver,” with hey-look-at-me mustard detailing. Take a look (on Amazon) at an optional colorway, the “vaporous gray” and Puma silver. That vaporous gray looks more to me like a very light shade of pink (which is way in right now). Whereas most of the other units in this list are on the loafer and moccasin side of the equation, these Puma Nightcat driving shoes will up your sneaks game substantially.
Price: $69.62-$110 (depending on size/color selected)
7. Gucci Men’s Road Burnished Leather Driver
And now we’re heading into luxury territory. As mentioned in the intro, men’s driving shoes have their roots in lux because, first, they were associated with the elite sport of auto racing and, second, they evolved thanks to the initial work of two high-end Italian design firms. Thus we include the Gucci Men’s Road Burnished Leather Driver. The Nappa (very soft) leather is seen here in a beautiful and creamy light brown, but a closely similar style is available on Amazon in black. The black version replaces the signature Gucci horsebit detail with a bamboo horsebit on the upper. These men’s driving shoes are classic with the nubbed sole — Gucci calls it the “pebble rubber sole” — and the insole and lining are all leather. Yes, these specimens are extravagant, but they are Gucci-cool and if you want to enter the driving shoes for men category with a flourish, this set is just about perfect.
8. Sparco 00122447VF Shoes
And now we’re gonna detour from fashion to functional. The next two in the list are true driving shoes — or, actually, boots in these cases — that are certified by governing bodies in racing. The Garco Spark Cross RB-7 is dramatically colored with the green for the entire leather upper and the calf leather lateral reinforcements. The company’s premium models of men’s driving shoes are actually made with kangaroo leather, which Sparco says is even lighter and more supple. You’ll note that the outer soles are not nubbed, which is because the materials that comprise ABC pedals don’t require the studs. However, Sparco says the soles here are ultra-slim, which “offers greater pedal sensitivity.” So drive on, speed racer, and look cool doing it.
9. Simpson Racing 28100RD ‘The Hightop’ SFI Approved Driving Shoes
If a basketball shoe and a boxing shoe had a love child, this is what the tyke would look like. The Simpson Racing’s 28100RD The Hightop is a true pair of men’s driving shoes, as evinced by the “SFI approved” designation (SFI is a racing governing body). No nubs here, the Simpsons feature non-slip, super sensitive PU soles with posi-grip traction; a triple layer anterior toe area for added wear protection, and “satin suede” toe, heel and lace guard reinforcements. Three color ways available: the red, a deep blue and black — all with that big Simpson logo. They’re simple, good looking and for the serious driver, just like these Oakley Men’s Race Mid Sneakers.
10. Car Shoe – Driving Shoes Leopard Printed Pony Hair
And now we finish back to where it all started, with this spot-on example of men’s driving shoes made by Car Shoe. As mentioned in the intro to this Top 10 Best Men’s Driving Shoes: the Definitive List, Car Shoe’s founder, Gianni Mostile, invented the driving shoe in 1963. And we’re definitely not throwing shade on any competitors here, but when you cop one of Car Shoe’s products, you’re getting the real deal. (The company was bought by The Prada Group in 2001.) Car Shoe’s lineup includes some of the most colorful fashion items that you’re likely to see anywhere. These Leopard Printed Pony Hair shoes are a wild example of the company’s intense focus on design. By the way, “pony hair” is simply an industry descriptor for the way the cowhide is treated in this case. No ponies were harmed in the making of these classic driving moccasins. Yes, these precious driving shoes will drain your wallet’s tank a bit more, but you’re getting something with all sorts of panache. Happy motoring!