How to choose the best driving shoes to make the most of your car – and look good in the process
You’ve got the car, the setup you want and the time for those memorable drives. But what about your footwear? The best driving shoes can really make a difference to how well you can drive – and there’s a huge range of shoes and boots out there for all budgets and all purposes.
Driving shoes are usually thin enough not to take up too much space around the pedals, and the soles are thin and flexible, giving you the best possible feeling for optimum pedal control. Perhaps even more importantly, the soles are designed to offer as much grip on the car’s pedals as possible.
If all of that sounds excessive, remember that sports cars and classic cars often have their pedals positioned close together – in the case of the former, it’s to allow the “heel and toe” driving style favoured by race car drivers and track day enthusiasts; in the case of the latter, making cars easy to drive wasn’t always a priority decades ago.
There’s another reason to choose driving shoes: staying cool. When you’re pushing a car hard, there’s often a lot of heat generated, and the last thing you want is a pair of sweaty feet. And if you plan to take your driving up a notch and start to compete, you’ll need a pair of heat-proof race boots approved by motorsport’s governing body, the FIA.
Below we’ve answered some of the common driving shoe questions, and have compiled some of the best boot choices for differing requirements at a range of budgets.
Best driving shoes: At a glance
- Best-value driving shoes: Bruno Marc Men’s Casual Loafers Slip On Driving Shoes
- Best luxury driving shoes: Tod’s Gommino heaven suede driving shoes
- Best driving training shoes: Adidas Trackstar XLT Performance Driving Shoes
- Best lightweight race boots: Sparco Prime Evo Race Boots
- Best customisable race boots: OMP One Art Custom Design Race Boots
How to buy the right driving shoes for you
If pedal feel is so important, can I drive barefoot?
If driving shoes have thinner, flexible soles for better pedal feel, then driving barefoot should be even better, right? Well, it’s not illegal to drive without shoes in the UK, but it is essential you’re in full control of the pedals at all times – and if your feet are sweaty or too cold to move, that might be tricky. The Driving Standards Agency says “suitable shoes are particularly important behind the wheel. We would not recommend driving barefoot because you don’t have the same braking force with bare feet as you do with shoes on.”
What styles of driving shoes are there?
The majority of driving shoes are in a moccasin style, and not dissimilar from boat shoes. And like boat shoes, some wear them because they like the style, rather than the benefits they might provide when sitting behind the wheel. Driving shoes are usually slip-ons, and have a rubberised sole that often extends up along the heel of the shoe.
What about trainer-style driving shoes?
With driving considered a pastime, it’s not surprising that there are driving shoes that take a more sporting approach. Indeed, some familiar sportswear brands such as Adidas and Puma have moved into the driving shoe market. These share the same rubber sole design that wraps around the back of the heel as more traditional driving shoes.
What driving shoes do I need to race?
There are specific boots if you decide to take up karting, but if you move into more traditional motorsports such as circuit racing, rallying or drag racing, you’ll need a pair of race boots that adhere to the FIA’s 8856-2018 regulations. This stipulates that they must cover the ankles, and offer at least 11 seconds of resistance to heat under the heat transfer index. Additionally, they must have a homologation tag to enable race officials to check compliance.
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The best driving shoes you can buy in 2023
1. Bruno Marc Men’s Casual Loafers Slip On Driving Shoes: Best-value driving shoes
Price: £36 | Buy now from Amazon
Proving that a pair of driving shoes needn’t cost the earth, this pair of casual loafers look far more expensive than their sub-£40 price tag might suggest. The loafers have a faux leather upper with a mesh design, a metal motif and a moc toe, while the sole is synthetic and there’s a cushioned latex insole. The shoes are available in brown, black, beige, navy and grey.
From the perspective of a driving shoe, they’re narrow, and have an extremely flexible sole. The block tread pattern should ensure excellent grip on a car’s pedals, and there’s the all-important run of sole up the back of the heel. The heel itself is flat, but is set at a thickness of around half an inch.
Key specs – Style: Loafer; Upper material: Faux leather; Sole material: Synthetic; Sizes: 7-12
2. Tod’s Gommino suede driving shoes: Best luxury driving shoes
Price: £450 | Buy now from Selfridges
A pair of high-end, luxury driving shoes could well make the ideal accompaniment to a sophisticated supercar or a timeless classic. Tod’s Gommino driving shoes are a case in point, and with 14 colours, ranging from muted monochromes to green, orange and yellow, there’s every chance you’ll be able to match your footwear to your motor.
The Italian-made shoes feature a velvet suede upper with exposed hand stitching, metal eyelets and a front tie, also in suede. The lining is leather, and the footbed measures 1.5cm thick. The rubber sole features a smart pebble detail that continues up the back of the shoe, designed to provide excellent pedal grip. The shoes are supplied with care and maintenance instructions, and come in a branded dust bag.
Key specs – Style: Loafer; Upper material: Suede; Sole material: Rubber; Sizes: 4-13
3. Adidas Trackstar XLT Performance Driving Shoes: Best driving training shoes
Price: £90 | Buy now from Demon Tweeks
Not all driving shoes are in a traditional style, as these Adidas Trackstar XLT prove. Indeed, at first glance they look like conventional trainers, even if they are actually derived from the Adidas Daytona race boots. That means they enjoy the high specification of the Daytonas, if not the FIA approval required for competition. The black lace-up design makes them ideal for drivers who understand the importance of a good driving shoe, but don’t want to festoon their feet with lurid branding in the track-day paddock.
The uppers are made from full grain Taurus synthetic leather, while the mesh lining is designed to keep feet cool in warm environments, and a soft padded Achilles panel aids comfort. The rubber sole, which features the famous Adidas three-stripe logo design in contrasting white, is both oil- and flame-retardant and rolls up the back of the shoe.
Key specs – Style: Trainer; Upper material: Synthetic leather; Sole material: Rubber; Sizes: 5-12.5
4. Sparco Prime Evo Race Boots: Best lightweight race boots
Price: £331 | Buy now from Demon Tweeks
If you’re racing, then you need to ensure your boots comply with the FIA’s 8856-2018 regulations – something that’s a given with Sparco’s high-end Prime Evo boots. It’s not just the compliance that appeals here; they’re the lightest boots Sparco make, and thanks to a real carbon sole and a supple kangaroo-leather upper, there’s no compromise on either performance or safety.
A lace-less strap closure reduces weight further by removing the need for laces and eyelets and ensures a perfect fit. Indeed, a Sparco Prime Evo in size 8 weighs just 210 grams. It has a tongue made from woven jacquard fabric, and a rear insert to ensure comfort behind the wheel.
Key specs – Style: Race boot; Upper material: Kangaroo leather; Sole material: Carbon; Sizes: 4-13
5. OMP One Art Custom Design Race Boots: Best customisable race boots
Price: £363 | Buy now from Demon Tweeks
Race drivers understand the importance of branding, whether that be sponsor logos or their own colour scheme across overalls, helmets and boots. Happily, OMP makes this all possible with its FIA 8856-2018 approved One Art Custom Design race boots. The boots can be fully customised with colours, logos, names or photographs; every design is discussed on a case-by-case basis for a fully bespoke design.
The boots feature an upper made from a single piece of fire retardant fabric, secured by an elasticated side panel and a single Velcro strap, while soft ankle supports allow increased movement and reduce rubbing. If needed, the inner foot support can be removed to improve comfort. As well as the usual rolled tread on the heel, the boots offer additional protection against wear around the outer toe and heel.
Key specs – Style: Race boot; Upper material: Soft, fire-retardant fabric; Sole material: Rubber; Sizes: 4-13