An icon of the 60s and the perfect match for that Italian sports car you’ve always wanted, driving shoes are suave, comfortable and a worthy consideration for a place in your shoe rotation. An interesting alternative to regular loafers, they’re smart but still relaxed and work with a wide range of outfits and looks, making them more versatile than you might first think.
They may have been originally designed for a very specific niche, but today driving shoes are a casualwear classic whether you’re holidaying in the south of France or enjoying a weekend BBQ.
But what actually are they, and which are the best driving shoe brands on the market today? This is everything you need to know.
What Are Driving Shoes?
Driving shoes were invented in 1963 by the aptly named Italian brand Car Shoe. The idea behind them was simple: they were designed for driving first and foremost, but were also supposed to be smart enough to be worn casually. Aimed at owners of sports cars who wanted a comfortable yet high-performing shoe, they quickly caught on, as much for their grippy rubber sole as for their classic moccasin design.
Softly constructed, driving shoes are made with supple suede uppers, which gives them a somewhat slipper-like feel. They resemble moccasins with their simple loafer design and lace construction but their soles are what differentiate them. The style’s distinctive rubber soles extend to the heel and come in either solid or pebbled designs; they provide the necessary grip for driving, giving the wearer confidence when braking or changing gears.
When Should You Wear Them?
If you’ve got a classic Italian sports car, you basically need a pair of driving shoes. For the rest of us though, they are perhaps the perfect holiday shoe: comfortable, lightweight and will inject a dash of riviera style into your warm-weather wardrobe.
Best Driving Shoe Brands
They may not be the original driving shoe brand, but Tod’s undoubtedly made them a household name. The Italian brand’s Gommino model is arguably the definitive driving shoe, with its beautiful soft suede upper and distinctive rubber pebbling on the sole, which gives the shoe its name.
Tod’s perfected the style and today offers them in a range of finishes from leather and suede to nubuck and canvas – all made in Italy, naturally.
Aurelien places as much importance on construction and luxurious materials as it does price point. That means that pound for pound, its driving shoes are among some of the best on the market. Crafted from its Softey suede, expect to find exposed hand stitching and a classic rubber pebble sole in a range of colours, from burgundy and beige to bright yellow.
Although a newcomer on the footwear scene when compared to the longstanding names, Velasca has carved out its own path when it comes to its leather shoes. The brand offers a range of classic styles made using time-tested construction methods, but offered at accessible price points that belie their quality.
Its driving shoes are of course no different – they’re crafted from waterproof suede and made by hand using the ‘tubular technique’, promising unrivalled comfort and flexibility.
Another Italian brand that places great emphasis on classic design and exceptional materials, Salvatore Ferragamo makes all its driving shoes in its homeland.
It has taken a slightly different approach to design though, with pebble soles replaced by a flexible panelled version, while the lace tie has been swapped with a steel ‘Gancini’ buckle for a luxurious twist.
When it comes to loafers, Gucci is hard to top. The iconic fashion house has long produced some of the finest in the world, all incorporating its signature horsebit buckle.
Its driving shoes have also been given the horsebit treatment, with palladium-tones buckles present on a number of its designs. A Gucci classic, its driving shoes are all produced in Italy, reinforcing the quality the brand is renowned for.
Arguably the finest shoemaker in all of France, JM Weston is well known for its loafers. And with its own factory and leather dyeing facilities, the craftsmanship is second to none.
The brand’s driving shoes are of equal renown with their soft suede uppers and supple leather linings. With its Ajaccio model, JM has stripped the driving shoe of all extraneous features, so expect a slightly more minimal design than usual.
As previously mentioned, Car Shoe invented the driving shoe back in 1963, so if you want the original, this is the place to go. While they are on the pricier end of the spectrum, the Italian brand’s driving shoes are hard to beat.
Featuring classic exposed stitching, metal hardware and the suede lace tie system, they’re made practically the same way they were back in the 60s.
For drivers with unrivalled attention to detail and exemplary use of materials, Bally is difficult to top. Its range of timeless driving shoe designs include those with ‘B’ buckles at the vamp as well as more minimal versions that take inspiration from penny loafers.
Expect a range of top quality leathers too – including calf leather, buffalo leather and grained bovine leather – all of which offer their own unique look and feel.
The British shoemaker might be more well known for its brogues and Chelsea boots, but it also does a fine line in driving shoes. F1 legend Ayrton Senna was said to have worn Loake driving shoes, so if they were good enough for the GOAT, they’re good enough for us.
Expect well-made yet affordable designs crafted from supple suede and with solid rubber soles, which allow for plenty of flexibility whether you plan to heel and toe in them or just walk to the shops.
Russell & Bromley
From minimal sneakers to chunky-soled Derby boots, it’s hard to go wrong with Russell & Bromley. The British retailer has long produced exceptional quality leather shoes that are both classic yet reference current trends.
Its driving shoes have been a part of its lineup for years – and with their refined silhouette, soft suede construction and tassel trim they’re a more than worthy option.