Buckle up, because this is going to be a fun ride. 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, or car shoes, 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 May 17, 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 replaced a couple other brands. We added five additional brands and we’ve updated all pricing. Vroom!
What Are Men’s 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 Do Work
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.
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
The men’s driving shoes in this list are mostly loafers. We’ve actually thrown in a couple of pairs of actual, honest-to-goodness technical driving shoes (#8 and #9) that race car drivers use — and that you could cop for a real conversation starter. The important thing to remember about all these shoes: you don’t have to drive to wear them. You just have to want to look good. 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 roundup of the 15 Best Men’s Driving Shoes: The Ultimate List 2018.
1. Eastland Men’s Talladega Driving Moc Loafer
We’re kicking off the list 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.
Eastland’s 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. Shown in “peanut” color, they’re available in three different colors. From the sole on up, these men’s driving shoes will have your engine purring.
Price: $51.40 and up (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: $97.47 and up (depending on size selected)
3. Cole Haan Men’s Gunnison II Slip-on Driving 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 five 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: $72.99 and up (depending on size/color selected)
4. Frye Men’s Allen Venetian Driving Loafer
Car shoes for men come in practically every color imaginable. We think the 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: $59.99 and up (depending on size/color selected)
5. Timberland Men’s Sandspoint Venetian Driving Loafer
Timberland is, of course, famous for its classic waterproof boot, but the brand has many other styles, including these solid Sandspoint Venetian Driving shoes.
These men’s driving shoes feature a leather and textile upper — the textile portion are the goring panels, which are the stretchy bits of material that make getting in and out of the shoe a lot easier. They’ve got an OrthoLite footbed for enhanced comfort and they feature 50 percent recycled lining, reflective of Timberland’s eco-conscious leanings. They synthetic sole doesn’t have the nubs, rather it features horizontal grooves for traction.
Shown in medium brown full grain, the shoe is available in three colors.
Price: $99.93 and up (depending on size/color selected)
6. Puma Men’s Drift Cat 5 Ferrari Leather Sneaker
The Puma Men’s Drift Cat 5 is from the men’s driving shoes family, although it’s not technically identified as a “driving shoe.” It’s clear, reading Puma’s description, that these joints are all about the car: “The shoe strongly represents both Puma motorsport and Ferrari. Puma’s Futurecats 1 Nightcat Driving Shoe is ID’d by the brand as a driving shoe, but the size availability is just about impossible to navigate (read: hardly any sizes are available).
The Drift Cat comes in Ferrari’s classic colors and they’re available in the shown red or a white or a black. There’s no denying the super-cool look of these shoes, but they’re also high quality with a full-grain leather upper and a breathable EcoOrthoLite sock liner for optimum fit and comfort. The Puma logo is on the tongue, toe and heel while the Ferrari logo is on the side.
Price: $74.97 and up (depending on size/color selected)
7. Ceyue Men’s Casual Leather 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.
Price: $24.98 and up (depending on size selected)
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 ‘The Hightop’ SFI Approved Driving Shoes
If a basketball shoe and a boxing shoe had a love child, this is what the baby 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 colorways 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
As we have noted previously, car 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. Shown in brown, they’re available in three colors.
Maybe cop a pair, hop in the car and go visit Minnetonka’s HQ in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Price: $51.40 and up (depending on size/color selected)
11. Polo Ralph Lauren Men’s Woodley Slip-On Driving Loafer
Polo calls these a “classic driver” and it’s obvious that they are. These men’s driving shoes feature the small nubs on the sole and a bowling-pin-pattern of nubs on the heel, which is reinforced with a patch of leather and additional stitching. These are all leather moccasin toe loafers with heavy stitching in a contrasting color on the upper.
Shown in “Polo tan” color, they’re also available in black. For those of you who are logo-watchers, these shoes do feature the Polo logo — spelled out, not the horse — on a small leather tab toward the heel.
Price: $73.19 and up (depending on size/color selected)
12. 206 Collective Men’s Pike Driving Slip-On Loafer
206 Collective is an Amazon brand, so you’re going to get the quality and the very affordable price. These men’s driving shoes are a good example of how far the entire category has come since its invention.
These are decidedly loafers that lean further toward casual moccasins than classic drivers — no numbs, no reinforced heel. They do have that low-slung silhouette that is commonly associated with car shoes. These are suede leather with an easy-slip-on design and a flexible rubber outsole. They feature the wraparound lacing with metallic eyelets. Shown in “camel tan suede” color, they’re available in six different colors.
Price: $41.03 and up (depending on size/color selected)
13. Allen Edmonds Men’s Interstate 90 Slip-On Driving Loafer
Allen Edmonds has been a premium shoe maker since its founding in 1922. They have a line of men’s driving shoes, and these are the latest edition. Obviously, they’re named after the interstate highway that goes from coast to coast.
The shoes are hand made in the Dominican Republic and feature high grade leather with contrasting stitching that looks fantastic. The leather is burnished, so each pair has a unique look. These aren’t lined, so you might want to get some sock liners to go with because these car shoes — like all the models in the list — would look great sockless. Nubs on the Dario rubber sole in the classic driving shoe style. A beautiful pair of shoes that is also available in navy.
Price: $194.95 and up (depending on size/color selected)
14. Hush Puppies Men’s Longin Terveen Driving Moccasin
Hush Puppies is a brand that has been around a long time (60 years) and is said to be making a resurgence — they just released a retro collection for 2018.
These men’s driving shoes from The Pup are a good looking, low-slung version of the classic car shoe. They feature a horse bit ornament on the upper, which is 100 percent nubuck leather. The shoes feature the square-nubbed soles, which continue up the heel. They’ve got a soft microfiber sock lining for comfort, as well as Hush Puppies’ “Hp02flex” cushioned triangle footbed pattern which provides air circulation, flexibility and support. Shown in “olive nubuck,” the shoes are available in three colors.
Price: $34.99 and up (depending on size/color selected)
15. UGG Men’s Bel-Air Venetian Driving Loafer
UGG is known for the emphasis on comfort and these men’s driving shoes are no exception, with an insole that features UGG’s “enerG comfort system” with built-in arch support. (The enerG technology uses micropod technology that combines soft foam and poly pods for cushioning, breathability and moisture-wicking, as well as using antimicrobial technology.)
The upper is leather and features a contrasting leather collar, as well as contrasting stiching. The shoes are leather lined and feature a rubber outsole with Treadlite for cushion and traction. They’re shown in “chestnut” and are available in navy and “stout.”
Price: $164.95 and up (depending on size/color selected)
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