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.
UPDATE – This post was updated January 10, 2018. We removed a pair of Guccis — they’re beautiful, they’re great, and they’re tough to get in a variety of sizes — and a couple other brands. We’ve replaced them with better options! Vroom!
What Are Driving Shoes? A Quick 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 “foot feel” made it easier to perform the race car driver’s standard “heel-and-toe” technique of operating the pedals.
Driving Shoes: They Really Work for Racing
Heel-and-toe isn’t something the everyday driver needs — if you’re using the technique, you’re probably not unaccustomed to seeing red flashing lights in the rearview (haha, insert smiley face here). But heel-and-toe is definitely used by race car drivers. In a nutshell, it’s a way of operating the ABC pedals simultaneously so the car’s engine doesn’t lose the all-important RPMs that keep that baby performing at peak. Park it here for a minute and take a look at this great video from Driver61.com on how to do the heel-and-toe technique.
While I don’t use heel-and-toe, I have driven some very high performance cars (Porsches, Lamborghinis, to name a couple) where the driver could definitely benefit from a good driving shoe. Did you know that some of those super high-end cars are about as close to race cars as you can get while still being street legal? They all look great, but many of them are made for performance, not comfort. I didn’t realize this until I was wedged like a sardine into some of these amazing vehicles.
Driving Shoe Evolution: Functional and Fashionable
Race car drivers today — both professionals and hobbyists — use heel-and-toe, but after men’s driving shoes were invented, they somewhat quickly evolved 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 blue suede men’s driving shoe (just one example out of many from Tod’s). And the company created by the inventor of the driving shoe, Car Shoe, is still making driving shoes. Most of them, like these nasty leopard numbers, are very fashionable and very expensive. According to the Bata Shoe Museum in Toronto (yes, there’s really a shoe museum in this world), the more nimble feel of driving shoes appealed to everyday consumers and, thus, became fashionable. Hence the huge number of shoe makers who, today, offer driving moccasins (again, same thing as driving shoes) for the discerning shopper.
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 fashionable side; or, third, you’re looking for some cool kicks with an interesting pedigree. Whatever it is, we got ya covered, so gentlemen — and those who are buying for their gentle-dudes — start your engines and take a drive through our Top 10 Best Men’s Driving Shoes: The Definitive List.
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.
Price: $30.21-$100 (depending on size/color selected)
2. Twisted X Yellow Lace Driving Mocs
These driving moccasins are from the Texas-based company, Twisted X, which started in 2005 as a maker of western boots. Since then, they have (obviously) evolved to include several other styles of shoe. The Yellow Lace Driving Mocs are one of the more unique entries in the list. They’re constructed with leather uppers — the color is called “bomber” — and they feature bright yellow contrasting laces, upper stitching, and heel and sole accents. The interior sole features Twisted X’s proprietary “SD Footbed,” which has a breathable mesh lining and is moisture wicking, antibacterial and machine washable. As you can see from the sole design, these don’t have the traditional driving shoe nubs, but they are slip- and oil-resistant.
Price: $79-$144.95 (depending on size 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: $59.03-$148.50 (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: $87.19-$205.99 (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: $104.96-$171.28 (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: $80-$208 (depending on size/color selected)
7. Ceyue Leather Breathable Driving Shoes
A great bargain on a unique pair of men’s driving shoes. The Ceyue Leather Breathable Driving Shoes pretty much announce to any casual observer that they are, in fact, driving shoes: the rubber outsole is molded up the sides of the upper and is visible at the toe. Ceyue says the “combined rubber sole helps walking comfort, slip resistance as well as wear resistance.” The shoe features contrasting threading (the company calls it “Italian type manual suture”) in a somewhat wavy design. The shoes lace up on the side and the heel is “unconstructed” and “lazy,” according to Ceyue, which makes them easy on, easy off. Saving almost 60 bucks on these kicks means you’ll save enough for a couple extra tanks of gas.
Price: $29.98 (65 percent off MSRP)
8. Sparco “Race” Driving 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. Call these the real deal. They are, as we mentioned in the intro, part of the category that is for actual racing. Sparco is the Italian auto parts and accessory company from Volpiano, Turin. Obviously, one of their accessories is driving shoes. These are more like high top athletic shoes (with a Velcro closure at the ankle). They feature a wide toe box and an extra cushioned sole for additional comfort and, according to Sparco, a reduction in shock and vibration on the ball of the foot. Back in the day, David Letterman used to wear wrestling shoes while he was hosting his show. If you want to cop these and not use them for serious driving, just know that there’s a history of wearing sport-specific shoes for just kickin’ around in (or hostin’ a show in). You’ll note that the outer soles are not nubbed, which is because the materials that comprise ABC pedals don’t require the studs. 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. Minnetonka Men’s Original Cowhide Driving Moccasin
We end on a casual note. And as we have noted previously, driving shoes are also commonly called “moccasins” and we believe that the Minnetonkas capture the moc essence better than most. The company started in the 1940s with hand-crafted mocs for $3.80. Now the brand is in 50 countries and, clearly, their shoe tree has expanded to include many styles other than the simple moccasins. Minnetonka created its first driving shoe in 1986. These driving shoes feature the nubbed soles which, while being functional for the heel-and-toe action, also protect against wear and tear on the heel region. These are very soft cowhide leather and they feature a mock tie front. Available in three colors: brown ruff, dark brown lariat and brown. Maybe cop a pair, hop in the car and go visit Minnetonka’s HQ in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
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