Most men’s dress shoes are not comfortable. But they’re essential to any man’s wardrobe; particularly for those men who have to don them most days for work. Obviously, the answer here is to get a pair of dress shoes that are comfortable! But when most of us think of ‘comfortable’ dress shoes though, we picture hideous shoes that no one under the age of 80 would wear… So, this begs the question: how can I get comfortable dress shoes that look great?
Sole and behold. That’s where we come in.
You need to know what to look for in a shoe that’ll make it comfortable, what leather type is best for your lifestyle (and budget), and you also need to know what brands have mastered how to embed technologies that make dress shoes comfortable in a way that doesn’t make them un-stylish looking.
What Makes A Shoe Comfortable
Think of your favourite pair of running shoes, they’re probably super comfortable, right? You could wear them all day without any issues whatsoever. These are the features your running shoes include that you should be looking for in a comfortable pair of dress shoes.
Believe it or not, feet weren’t designed to be in shoes. In fact, we really shouldn’t be wearing them but society says otherwise. Feet are designed to move in a very specific way, what makes most dress shoes so uncomfortable is that they restrict this natural movement and try to impose a different movement onto your foot. Running shoes better mimic the natural movements of your feet and hence are more comfortable. In order to be more comfortable, look for dress shoes with a more flexible upper (the part that covers the top surface of your foot).
Most high-quality dress shoes have a leather sole, which is great for durability but is not comfortable, at least to begin with. Running shoes often have a soft foam insole that cushions the foot when it makes contact with the ground and you should look for similar, cushioned insoles in your dress shoes. Alternatively, if you are willing to wait it out, leather insoles will eventually mould to your foot and become more comfortable than foam alternatives.
Soles & Cushioning
Again reference your running shoes. Their sole is probably made from soft and flexible yet durable foam. Contrast this to your dress shoes which probably have either a leather or hard rubber sole. When you make contact with the ground your running shoe absorbs the impact, whereas your dress shoes don’t, making them more uncomfortable. Whilst you’ll never get the comfort of running shoes in a dress shoe, picking the right type of sole will help make them more wearable.
You should be aware that shoes with Goodyear or Storm welts limit flexibility and are uncomfortable until broken in, which can take a long time. They are more durable than their glued counterparts though so if comfort and flexibility is your priority, go for shoes with a Blake stitch, Bologna stitch or glued sole.
Similarly, consider the stiffness and rigidity of the sole material. Rubber is typically softer and more comfortable whereas leather can be harder and less comfortable. For added comfort, ensure the shoe has some cushioning between the sole and insole.
Leather dress shoes aren’t just leather dress shoes. Those who are serious about how their feet feel need to consider the leather types they’re made from and there are four common types to consider.
Full Grain Leather
This is the most common type of leather used and is also the best quality found in dress shoes. Full-grain leather is characterised by its luxurious and smooth surface with minimal flaws. This means that it’s often used in its natural state without the need for sanding or buffing of imperfections. More importantly, it’s strong because the fibres and grain haven’t been modified from their natural state. Aesthetically, full-grain also develops a natural patina layer that protects the leather from wear. We still recommend you look after your dress shoes with additional supplements though.
Top Grain Leather
Top grain leather is the second-highest quality leather found on dress shoes. It is thinner and therefore more flexible than full-grain leather. Its surface is often sanded and is less breathable. The positive to this is that it has better stain resistance than full-grain leather.
If you needed proof that marketing is a powerful tool then this is it. Genuine leather dress shoes are made from leather but they’re the lowest quality you can get. These kinds of shoes are made from the leftover leather of high-end products – the ones that quality shoemakers reject. As a result, these dress shoes are less comfortable on the feet and don’t last as long. Their advantage is that they’re widely available and affordable.
Corrected Grain Leather
One of the lesser-known leathers is the corrected grain. think of this one as a hybrid leather that takes a special type of leather that is further fixed or refined by leatherworkers. What this means is that an artificial grain has been embossed over the top of it before it is refined with sanding, dyes and stains.
It’s also one of the more affordable options in leather dress shoes.
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Still a tad confused or overwhelmed? To make this seemingly impossible task of finding a leather dress shoe easier, we’ve curated a selection of brands that make dress shoes that both look the part and are ultra-comfortable. Whether you’re after a wingtip oxford or a cap toe, you’re guaranteed to find the dress shoe you’ve been looking for (that’ll also keep you comfy) with one of the brands featured below.
Cole Haan has a fantastic range of dress shoes, all of which are uber comfortable and look incredibly dapper. The Original Grand dress shoes are extremely lightweight and feature extreme cushioning that was inspired by walking on the moon. And the Zerogrand dress shoes mimic the foot's natural movement, so you can move smoothly with less fatigue. Both are good options, but if you're planning on standing for long periods, go for the Original Grand, and if you're planning on walking a lot, go for the Zerogrand.
Their Men's Ortholite range includes smart dress shoes, that all have cushioning and moisture-wicking technology in the footbeds to keep feet comfortable all day long. In fact, Clarks boasts that, with their cushioning technologies, their footwear will provide you with comfort and support 24/7, 365. The Ortholite dress shoes also feature open-cell foam technology that absorbs impact and reduces shock.
For a pair of comfortable dress shoes, Camper's Lightweight range is an excellent option. All of the men's dress shoes in the Lightweight range provide advanced everyday performance in terms of mobility. Plus, with cushioned insoles for arch support and EVA rubber outsoles that'll make you feel like you're going barefoot, you'll feel comfortable all day. Oh, and did we mention Camper's dress shoes are also elegant and handsome?
Johnston and Murphy
And boy, did they. Johnston & Murphy launched their XC4 range, which stands for Extreme Comfort and the number 4 represents the four main features of XC4 shoes: moisture-wicking, lightweight, cushioning, and an extra removable insole for a perfect fit. They have a large range of men's dress shoes within the XC4 collection that'll keep your feet feeling but also looking good.
Aside from being stylish, Hush Puppies' dress shoes also employ their Bounce technology, which reduces the stress on your feet by absorbing the energy generated when you walk. Dual-density outsoles release energy with each step by absorbing and redistributing shock through the air pods at the heel and ball area of the foot for unparalleled comfort and support. Talk about comfortable dress shoes.
Florsheim has a great range of men's dress shoes in different colours and styles, but they all employ Florsheim's technology, Comfortech. This means all dress shoes include features like cushioned footbeds, breathable linings, rebounding insoles, and outsoles designed to make your stride easier. Talk about comfort meets style.
Ecco achieves this with their Vitrus collection of dress shoes for men. The innovative Viturs shank, featured in all of the dress shoes, allows the formulation of a soft, cupped heel that'll bring you closer to the ground for greater stability and comfort. Ecco's Vitrus dress shoes also feature Fluidfrom, a lightweight and fluid material, that's wrapped around the Vitrus shank so the interior of the shoe follows the natural contours of feet, meaning you can comfortably wear any Ecco Vitrus dress shoe all day long.
They only have one shoe to offer, ‘The Original’, which is a stylish dress shoe available in four timeless colours. But this shoe is secretly a serious game-changer when it comes to men’s dress shoes. The soles of The Original are crafted with new, proprietary materials created by Amberjack that deliver comfort all day long! The shoes also feature heat-activated arch support made with foam (that’s more durable than memory foam) that when heated by your body warmth will mould to your foot for custom arch support.
Not to mention a dual-density outsole with high-performance athletic technology in the front for flexibility and strong hiking boot material in the back for support. Oh, and the sustainably sourced Italian suede used for the upper is water repellent, meaning you can wear these dress shoes in rain or shine, and the suede will stay protected and fresh. Seriously, these will be some of the comfiest dress shoes you’ll ever own.