Dressing to drive is a trait of a bygone era, and we are all the poorer for it.
Slipping on a set of leather driving gloves, some Wayfarers and a sweet pair of loafers makes even a casual sojourn to the next suburb feel like a travelogue scene from a Steve McQueen film.
But times change.
We are in and out of cars as conveyances of our busy lives, so specialty outfits are reserved for those with plenty of time up their (neatly rolled and tailored) sleeves. Plus, the irony of not being able to tweet about your driving gloves while you’re wearing them because your phone screen won’t acknowledge your finger touches, is no doubt lost on the current generation.
And while it may seem that specific clothing choices are purely style focussed, in the realm of driving, it can very much be a functional focus. Especially when it comes to your feet.
Tight footwells and three pedals almost necessitated sensible driving shoes. It’s often overlooked, but if you’ve ever tried to drive a manual Lada Niva wearing a pair of Sorrels, you’ll know that the wrong footwear can be a terrible mistake.
You need something tight fitting, with good grip, but also comfortable and not too hot. Even driving with modern transmissions, where hyper-coordinated heel/toe movements are a thing of the past, can be made to feel more rewarding when your feet are in sync with the rhythm of the car.
Lace-up or slip-on is fine, and you don’t need to spend four figures on some custom-fit suede Tod’s. Sensible and stylish driving footwear (ie: not the cowboy boots pictured top) can be had for men and women on any budget. So what follows here are some recommendations and favourites from the CarAdvice team…
Curt Dupriez: Adidas Neo (from $60) or Onitsuka Tiger Runspark (from $70). The Tigers are hard to find, so if you spot some, get me a pair too.
Matt Campbell: Always Pumas or Tigers. The lower the profile of the rubber, the better the feel through the heel. Puma Drift Cats (from $80) are available in a range of colours and materials, and also through licences with Ferrari and BMW. But you need to be a very ‘specific’ person to buy the car-branded ones – and not in a good way.
Mike Stevens: I really like my Nike Roshes (from $120). It’s definitely thicker in the heel than Onitsuka Tigers, but it is a pretty soft sole. They are light, and again, available in a range of colours and materials for both men and women.
Tony Crawford: Puma for the go-to shoes, but I have others. Puma make dedicated motorsport boots that are FIA approved should you be venturing into competition territory. The standard race-inspired Puma casual is as close to an authentic racing shoe as it comes – they’re just not fireproof.
Alborz Fallah: Onitsuka Tiger ‘Made in Japan’ specials or Mexico 66s (from $130) are my favourite. They are always hard to find, so if you get a cool colour combo, they become collectors items.
Mike Costello: Tigers are great, as are Adidas Neos… anything but my big Timberlands really.
Paul Maric: K-Mart slip-ons (from $9). Seriously. They have incredibly thin soles and no laces. Easy and light to kick on and off, and cheap enough to keep a pair wherever you may need them.
Dave Zalstein: You might not need to heel-and-toe all the time, but feeling the pedals in comfort is a bonus, so I like Nike Free Runs (from $160) or Sketchers Synergy (from $95).
Tegan Lawson: I like sneakers with rubber soles so they don’t slip. Thin and flexible is also good so I can feel what’s going on underfoot. Puma Eskiva (from $130) are slip-ons and look pretty cool, driving or not.
Chris Atkinson: For me, I love a cheeky pair of Asics Tigers – Mexico 66 editions. A firm fit, good feinting, and with a thin sole. The heal sits nicely on the floor too. I have to say too, I’m not a fan of seeing punters in proper FIA-approved racing shoes when they’re not actually racing.
Emily Duggan: If race boots aren’t available, then Chuck Taylors it is – although they need to be properly laced up. Being a thin-sole shoe, they are flexible and work well for heal-and-toeing.
James Ward: Puma Speed Cats (from $50) are perfect for everything from club-level motorsport to a long-tour assessment loop. But when style is important, my blue Bally Pearce suede loafers (from $399) are always a good bet.
Do you have a preferred shoe for driving? Let us know in the comments below.