Most men out there know that a stylish pair of dress shoes are much more than just great footwear. The right pair of shoes for the occasion can substantially improve your personal style. But dress shoes are not always the most comfortable footwear, and they often lack arch support. There are ways to up the comfort level of your dress shoes, and they’re easier than you think.
Traditional Men’s Dress Shoes Are Not Always Comfortable
Men’s dress shoes are often considerably less comfortable than casual or athletic shoes. While they rarely provide all-day walking support, there are several ways to make them substantially more comfortable. First, let’s look at what makes them uncomfortable to begin with.
Shoe Construction - Few men’s dress shoes have removable insoles. Instead, your foot rests on leather or synthetic materials without cushioning or arch support.
Footwear Materials - Stiffer leathers are often used for men’s dress shoes. These leathers do not conform to the shape of your feet as well as softer, more casual leathers.
Design - Thin leather soles afford very little cushioning. Built for looks not comfort, these soles tend to be hard and slippery.
Fit for Business - With firmer leathers, there is little give to ease discomfort if the fit is a bit narrow or tight. The shoes must fit perfectly.
Do Casual Dress Shoes Offer More Comfort?
Casual dress shoes, from slip-on loafers to saddle styles, are versatile shoes that easily transition from the boardroom to the bar.
Many guys may think that casual, suede or soft-leather styles are more comfortable than the rigid, leather Italian shoes you wear with your tailored suit. But the construction of most dress casual footwear is actually not that different from the special pair you pull out for your next big board meeting. While your feet may feel great at the beginning of the day, after hours of standing and walking on hard surfaces, they will fatigue. Pain can follow.
Like traditional men's dress shoes, dress casual shoes:
Don't have removable insoles. The shoes' insides are made of leather or synthetic materials that don't provide cushioning or arch support.
Are often made of stiffer materials. Leather dress casual shoes still constrict the feet more than athletic shoes.
Have thin soles that don't provide much cushion.
Luckily, the same rules apply to improving comfort in your dress shoes and casual shoes so you can get the comfort and support you need to look good and feel great – anywhere.
Transform Your Dress and Casual Shoes For Comfort
For shoes that you already own, here are some tips to improve comfort.
Low-Profile Insoles - The comfort delivered by arch supports is substantial. By spreading weight over a larger portion of the foot, supportive insoles provide comfort, even if there is minimal room for cushioning. Look for a pair of short insoles. Just 2/3 in length, they end behind the ball of your feet, ensuring they fit in low-profile men's shoes.
Leather Conditioners - Most dress shoes are highly polished. Using a conditioner rather than a polish will soften the leather, allowing it to conform better to your feet. Do not confuse conditioners with cleaners like Saddle Soap. Most conditioners have some oil or grease in them and may darken some leathers. Allen Edmonds leather conditioner is a good choice. A more robust option is Tana Dubbin. For suede and nubuck leathers, use only conditioners designed for that type of leather.
Stretching - Shoes can be stretched in width and instep height but not in length. If your shoes are of quality construction and just feel too snug, find a good repair shop and ask about stretching. Usually the shoes are sprayed with a mixture of alcohol, water, and glycerin. A shoe stretcher is then put in and pressure is applied as the shoe dries. Don’t expect miracles, but you may be surprised about how much a shoe’s fit can be improved.
Socks - Changing the environment immediately surrounding your feet can make a big difference for foot comfort. We are big fans of merino wool socks. They are comfortable in all kinds of weather, keep your feet amazingly dry, and do not stink. They are available in thinly woven designs if you don’t have extra room in your shoes. Smartwool has a great collection.
Resoling - If your dress shoes are high quality and you really like them, it is possible to have them resoled with thin rubber or crepe outsoles to increase their flexibility and cushion. The outsole need not be thick to provide some measure of comfort. In addition, the heels can be rubber. Having softer materials in the heels will have an even greater effect on the comfort of the shoes. A good shoe re-crafter can do the job. Expect to pay $70-$85 to get softer bottoms on your shoes.
Purchasing Comfortable Men’s Dress Shoes
There are several choices for new and more comfortable men’s dress shoes. Here are 4 suggestions to consider if you need new dress shoes.
Allen Edmonds - Allen Edmonds makes a collection of quality dress shoes that have removable insoles and lightweight cushion outsoles. The outsoles are not so thick that they detract from the traditional look of the shoes. The material in the outsoles (EVA) will not wear particularly well, but it will be more comfortable than any leather-soled shoe. These shoes are re-craftable for a good value. Made in the USA.
Neil M - Neil Munro has been making shoes in the U.S. for decades. The Neil M line features a thin layer of polyurethane foam inside to increase comfort. Most styles have removable insoles; some have rubber soles. Another advantage of Neil M is the huge array of sizes offered. The shoes are top quality.
Ecco - Ecco dress shoes for menfeature the same direct-attach construction as the rest of their shoes, creating a flexible shoe with a soft polyurethane outsole that is very comfortable. The shoes have removable insoles and a second layer that helps dial in the fit. Expect mid-range pricing and European sizing. The disadvantage of Ecco is that the direct-attach construction cannot be resoled.
Cole Haan - Nike owned Cole Haan from 1988 to 2012 and injected a big dose of comfort into the footwear. The brand still retains some of that DNA, especially in styles that cross visually between dress and sport. If your idea of dress shoes include thick colorful soles, Cole Haan would be a great choice. Check out the ZeroGrand collection.
Dress casual shoes are perfect for a variety of places – from corporate to casual. While it can be difficult to find dress shoes with arch support, aftermarket insoles can make all the difference. Firm, well-fitting insoles will provide the structure and comfort your feet need, so you can perform at your best – no matter the occasion.
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