Commentary: "Let's Get Some Shoes…Let's Party!"

Driving Shoes 1
Photo by Randy Stern

Could a subversive, alternative comedy music video influence the purchase of a piece of footwear?

Several years ago, comedian Liam Sullivan created a character named Kelly. This persona represented an interesting archetype of the clueless, somewhat fashion conscious alterna-chick that is two generations removed from Moon Unit Zappa's "Valley Girl." The first time we saw Kelly, Sullivan's character left one indelible impression upon the viral world. The song Kelly sang in this YouTube sensation became a paean to conspicuous consumption challenging the legacy of Imelda Marcos.


Why did this video and song popped up in my semi-crazed head of mine? It stemmed form another semi-crazed idea that in order to properly evaluate the test vehicles for my outlets I would need a pair of driving shoes.

After checking my accounts, I headed to an outlet mall northwest of The Cities in Albertville to look for an inexpensive pair of said driving shoes. Luckily, I remembered one of the stores carried them at a deep discount – Reebok.

What became my first stop at the Albertville Outlet Mall, ended up as my final stop. I found said shoes (pictured above) at a price I wanted to pay ($40) in my size (I am a 14 Medium-to-2E). A few adjustments to these shoes and they turned into the right pair for me to do my automotive work. These brown suede Reebok low-cut shoes were immediately put on my feet for the drive back home.

Why do I need a pair of driving shoes?

My shoes range from specific running shoes that were weighted to help my feet feel active. I also have some open toe sandals that make driving a bit of a challenge in stop-and-go traffic. Work dress-type shoes work, but I only wear them for work. Even in winter, my outdoor cross-trainers are too heavy for even a sporty car.

Driving shoes offer a different kind of fitness for the feet. Their lightweight design and flat soles enable me to do my pedal work quickly – even with an automatic transmission. Granted, most of my work is out on public roads and not on the track. Yet, wearing driving shoes during the vehicle evaluation process actually helps when compiling data for a review. Not every vehicle I drive would require me to wear my driving shoes, but it does help to gauge a vehicle's performance, as they are put through its paces in everyday situations.

Also, I believe in ensuring some form of fitness when driving to ensure competency when evaluating a vehicle. You sit in a vehicle for hours where something needs to have a work out. Ask any professional driver the importance of footwork, especially when negotiating a track or a nice, curvy canyon road.

What are so special about driving shoes? What are they exactly?

Proper driving shoes are normally fire retardant. If you see race drivers get in and out of their cars, look at their shoes. Normally, they would have the same material as their driving suits, if not of a material coasted with fire retardant material. If there is a fire that penetrated the cabin, the driver needs to be protected from any flames that may hit any of the outfit – feet included.

Also, many racing and sports cars have a narrow foot well to work with. The shoes are designed with narrow soles to navigate between the pedals. The soles themselves are completely flat with a tire-like tread for better footwork between the pedals. The lightweight design also helps a driver to properly use the "heel-and-toe" technique, especially when downshifting through the track or a challenging road.

Driving shoes come in various types these days. Puma offers traditional driving shoes along with shoes for drifting, motorcycle riding and co-branded shoes with Ferrari and Ducati. If you go through the Simpson catalog, you will find more professional shoes designed for the motorsports enthusiast. The prices Simpson charges reflect the application of these shoes at motorsport venues.

However, the number of brands selling driving shoes is narrowing down. Reebok and Adidas used to carry their own shoes – the latter using soles by Goodyear tires. No reason was given as to their retraction from this market, albeit specialized and somewhat esoteric. Nike does not sell such shoes in their lineup.

What if you do not want to buy driving shoes? What alternatives do you have? Keep in mind that regular ol' shoes will not offer fire retardant protection, a sole flat enough to work the pedals or light enough for you to do your foot work down there – let alone a combination of all three. If you happen to be a casual enthusiast, a light running shoe would work. My concern would be a lack of protection on the new ultra-light shoes designs and perhaps too much weight on certain types of runners – such as stability and motion control types. Maybe some skater shoes, despite having so much weight and protection on the upper part of the shoes.

There is another alternative for the discriminating driver who needs good footwear for the road. If you prefer a more classier and dressier look, driving loafers and driving moccasins provide such an option. The concept is the same with a flat sole, or more gripper tread for pedal work, but either in a casual moccasin or dress loafer style on the top. Obviously they are not made for the track, but for a nice jaunt out in the countryside.

How much are you willing to pay for driving shoes. If you buy new, they range from $42.00 all the way up into the $200-plus plateau. Good Simpsons start at about $100, while the most popular Puma Speed Cats are around $75. Minnetonka driving moccasins run in the $80 range.

You do not have to have a shoe fetish to enjoy these shoes. Nor should you be as conspicuously consumptive as Kelly to indulge in a pair. For the serious driver who seeks an advantage in his approach to the road or track, a pair should be do the trick.

Meanwhile, enjoy this diddy by Kelly…

Video courtesy of Liam Sullivan via YouTube

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  1. Randy,

    I went looking at Puma driving shoes last night and found out that they do not sell shoes that are flame retartant to the public. I also found that in their shoes I would wear a 1/2 to full size larger than normal. Finally they didn't have anything at the outlet that would fit my foot. I may venture into town to the Gallarie and check out their only retail non outlet store in this area.

    1. Rob – I believe Simpson sells via their website. Kinda sucks that Puma would not sell their race driver supply though public outlets – but I am certain there are online outlets that might. Good luck!

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