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Dad shoes, aka old people shoes, aka ugly sneakers, have been around for a long time. However, they’ve only been cool for the last three years or so. And while dad shoes have been popular for a while now, this anti-fashion trend is showing no signs of slowing down. So, love them or hate them, those chunky, thick-soled lace-up sneakers that made you cringe as a kid aren’t going anywhere.
To be honest, we hope they stick around for a few more years. Think about it: a shoe that’s comfortable and fashionable is about as rare as a dancing unicorn. And that’s why the best dad shoes are the ones that make your feet happy.
Historically, dad shoes are thick, white sneakers that are historically popular with older and middle-aged men. Recently, the popular TikTok channel The McFarlands racked up more than 7 million views for a viral video about a millennial lacing up his New Balance dad shoes (along with khaki shorts and a tucked-in t-shirt) for the first time. The video is further proof that dad shoes have officially become a part of the zeitgeist, and we’re here to tell you, “Wear them with pride, man.”
@the.mcfarlands Answer @TikTok will we ever be able to top this video 🤔 #dad #dan ♬ Reborn – Colin Stetson
What Is a Dad Shoe?
There’s no single definition of a dad shoe, but this term refers to any style of popular footwear commonly worn by dads and middle-aged men. Historically, New Balance 624 trainers and Nike Nike Air Monarch IV sneakers (both in the white-and-navy colorway) are the most famous and instantly recognizable dad shoes. There’s just something about their boring, inoffensive aesthetic that says, “I’m too tired to care about looking cool” and “I just want to be comfortable.” Some people will tell you that dad shoes have to be lace-up sneakers, but you can make a strong argument that classic Crocs clogs should also be considered dad shoes.
The History of the Dad Shoes Trend
How did we get to fall in love with chunky sneakers? The 90s made athletic wear trendy, which set the ground for what was to come. Back in 2014, Adidas’ Stan Smith sneaker was relaunched, and everyone had to have them. That shoe was really the gateway to it all. Then in 2017, Balenciaga released the Triple S sneaker and suddenly oversized, thick-soled, chunky sneakers were the big thing. Yeezy, Louis Vuitton and everyone else jumped on the trend. Demna Gvasalia, the genius behind Balenciaga also created the knitted sock sneaker. (Want to know what the next footwear trend will be? Follow Balenciaga. Under Gvasalia’s reign as creative director, the brand is creating sneaker trends every day.)
More recently, we’ve seen the rise of normcore and dad fashion. Instead of wearing $1,000 Balenciaga sneakers with chunky soles, hip young people realized that they could just buy $65 New Balance sneakers and achieve the same overall vibe. It’s the ultimate anti-fashion statement. Dad shoes exist at the intersection of a few different trends, and between the rise of dad shoes and the pandemic, which mainstreamed comfortable shoes and athleisure, we think the best dad shoes are a stylish addition to any laidback or business-casual look. Our colleages at Footwear News recently named Clogs the shoe of the year in 2021, and it’s clear that dad fashion isn’t going anywhere.
How to wear dad shoes
The best dad shoes, as we’ve established, are insanely comfortable. Maybe it’s the big, chunky foamy heel, the EVA midsoles within, or the knitted top, but once you got them on, you don’t want to take them off. Heck, that’s why dads everywhere love these shoes so much in the first place. When throwing together an outfit, remember that the best dad shoes, once you parse it down, are usually just chunky white sneakers. They’ve got an amped-up sole and boring colorways, but in the end, they’re still sneakers (with rare exceptions).
Using that philosophy and applying it to dressing, the stuff that you’d normally wear with sneakers — jeans and a t-shirt, or khakis and a sweatshirt — will work just as well with dad shoes. In the office, you can wear dad shoes with chinos and similar outfits when you want to be comfortable. Basically, you can wear a dad shoe with anything except maybe a tuxedo or a kilt, and even that’s not a hard and fast rule, so long as you have the confidence to pull off the look.
Now that we’ve cleared all that stuff up, scroll through to find the best dad shoes for you and your budget.
1. New Balance 990v5 Core
New Balance’s 990 sneakers have crossed the fashion Rubicon long ago, and are now officially cool, not just ironically cool. That means you can wear these famously comfortable sneakers with pride. They’re made with suede and mesh for a breathable, comfortable fit. These are among the more expensive sneakers on this list, but they’re made in the USA, which is the kind of thing dads appreciate (and rightly so).
2. Nike Air Monarch IV
When pitting Nike head-to-head with its competition, it’s rare that Nike loses out. But there can only be one king that wears the dad shoe crown, and we’ve got to give it to New Balance. However, if there’s any other dad shoe that comes close to matching New Balance’s dad cred, it’s the Nike Air Monarch IV sneakers. Again, these shoes do come in other colorways, but it’s the classic white-and-navy that you want. So if you want to rep Nike instead of New Balance, opt for these foam-cushioned sneakers. Like the best dad shoes, they’re lightweight for long walks, runs and other workouts.
3. New Balance Men’s 624 Sneaker
COMFORTABLE FOR WALKING
Universally known as the “classic dad shoe”, the New Balance 624’s silhouette remains unchanged since it first hit the streets. Classified as a cross-trainer, aka mall walking shoe, this sneaker has a thick, chunky heel, rounded toe, EVA cushioning for a comfy midsole and an additional EVA heel pocket for more plushness. Please note that the 624’s are available in other colorways, but if you want to pass the vibe check, you want to stick with the classic white.
4. Asics Gel Kayano
BEST RUNNING SHOES
Like a lot of running shoes, Asics’ Gel Kayano sneakers have become popular among people looking for comfort. In addition to comfort and performance, Asics’ Gel Kayano is surprisingly stylish. Asics also has a long pedigree. The brand was founded as Onitsuka Tiger in 1949, the same year as Adidas. In fact, Nike wouldn’t exist if not for Asics.
5. Birkenstock Men’s Arizona Sandals
When it’s really hot out, even lightweight sneakers might not cut it. These shoes from Birkenstock have a comfortable footbed with genuine suede buckles. They clock in at a higher price point, but they’re built to last much longer than your average slides or flip-flops. Now, as to whether or not to wear them with socks is up to you.
6. New Balance Men’s 608 V5 Casual Comfort Cross Trainers
If you think these New Balance 608 V5 cross trainers are the same shoes pictured above, then you aren’t a connoisseur of dad shoes like we are. However, you might still appreciate that these popular white sneakers are on sale for just $50 right now via Amazon Prime. Not only are these sneakers some of the most popular men’s trainers on Amazon, but they’re also the quintessential dad shoes for your summer style. Oh, and they’re on sale.
7. Skechers Relaxed Fit: D’Lux Walker Pensive
MOST COMFORTABLE PICK
Skechers, no matter how they’ve tried to position themselves, were always kind of a dad shoe. And now, they’re finally cool. One thing the brand does right is creating a massively comfortable sneaker. The Relaxed Fit: D’Lux is a slip-on sneaker that looks like a running shoe. With its flared outsole and air-cooled memory foam insole, you’re in for miles of easy walking. This dark shade works well with jeans and proves that dad shoes don’t have to come in white.
8. Crocs Classic Clogs
Crocs are the ultimate dad shoe and no one can take that away from us. Once deemed “uncool”, these clogs are now some of the most unapologetically cool shoes to wear due to their carefree nature and ready-for-anything vibe. Plus, these puppies are way too comfortable. You can even jazz up these slip-on shoes with Crocs Jibbitz, which are fun little charms to show off your personality.
9. Nike Air Force 1 ’07 Sneaker
BEST OLD-SCHOOL STYLE
The Nike Air Force 1 is beloved by college students, dads and welp, everybody. It has clean lines which make it easy to pair with khakis and jeans. It has a removable insole and a nice thick outsole. It’s probably not the first sneaker that comes to mind when you think “dad shoe,” but when you break it down, that’s really what it is.
10. K-Swiss Men’s ST329 CMF Training Shoe
BEST ON AND OFF THE COURT
When K-Swiss debuted this dad shoe it was positioned as a tennis shoe. Yes, you can use it on the courts, but its chunky heel and silhouette screamed “Daaaad.” It has a gum rubber outsole, leather upper, stripy laces and a groovy best-dad-shoe feel.
11. Columbia Vitesse OutDry Hiking Shoe
BEST FOR HIKING
Not every day calls for the best dad shoe to wear on the streets. Sometimes, your choice of the best dad shoe might be something made for the wilderness. If you find yourself hiking in the wilderness from time to time, the Columbia Vitesse OutDry Hiking Shoes are a must for dad shoe lovers. These sneaks are as light as a feather to make your trip on the trail easier than it would be with the best hiking boots. They have a mesh construction that provides breathability but stays completely weatherproof so you can walk right into puddles and rains without fearing the worst. Because who wants to walk around on the trail with wet sneaks?
12. SOREL Kinetic Rush Ripstop
The SOREL Kinetic Rush Ripstops are sure to give you some compliments whenever you wear them out. “I’m not even lying, every time I wear them someone will stop and tell me how cool they are,” says our e-commerce editor Tyler Schoeber, “these are the best dad shoes I own solely for that reason. I mean, come on, who doesn’t love a good compliment from a stranger?”
Not only that, but these sneaks are impressively breathable, comfy and cushiony. You’ll never want to take them off.
13. PUMA Men’s RS-X Sneaker
BEST RUNNING DAD SHOE
Running shoe meets dad shoe in Puma’s RS-X collection. This hybrid sneaker has the now-classic thick outsole that’s topped with lots of color for a bold take on this trend. Reviewers rave about its comfort. If you’re planning on traveling or walking everywhere, this may be the best dad shoe for you.
14. L.L.Bean Wicked Good Moccasins
This was a tough call to make, but in the end, we decided to go with L.L.Bean Wicked Good Moccasins. The Hanes Moccasin Slipper was a close second, and there are tons of great slippers from the likes of UGG, Allbirds and Sperry. At the end of the day, you know that dads everywhere love L.L.Bean. These comfy slippers have a durable sole so they can be worn indoors and outdoors, and the lining is made from genuine sheepskin.
15. Fila Strada Disruptor
BEST CHUNKY HEEL
Fila’s a respected name in the world of tennis shoes and sneakers in general. Frankly, it’s insane that the price is so low for this mixed-leather dad shoe. It has the requisite chunky heel and bungee cord lacing. Walking in them is like walking around in uber cushy slippers. It comes in a whopping 37 different colorways depending on your preference, but you already know that we’re going to recommend the all-white colorway pictured below.
16. Everlane Court Sneaker
BEST FOR THE ENVIRONMENT
Using less waste, energy and virgin plastic than almost every other sneaker of its kind, Everlane’s Court Sneaker is taking the term “dad sneaker” to a whole new level. Everlane offset all of the emissions they could possibly eliminate for this sneak’s creation and uses a 100% recycled polyester lining and natural and recycled rubber.
17. Reebok Walk Ultra 7 DMX Max Men’s Shoes
BEST LOW-KEY COOL PICK
The walking shoe or sneaker is the basis of the dad shoe. Trust Reebok to create one that not only pleases dads, but is also cool-looking too. The blue racing stripes give this sneaker a fashiony edge. The mixed leather and fabric upper sit on a wide chunky outsole. Inside is a cushioned insole for all-day comfort.
18. Allbirds Tree Runners
BEST NEW CLASSIC
Allbirds are great dad sneaks for a variety of reasons. First and foremost, they have a minimalistic, shapely design that is eyecatching to both dads and street geeks alike. They come in an array of cool colors so they can match just about anyone’s style and are totally breathable through and through. Each pair of Tree Runners are also totally environmentally friendly and made from eucalyptus trees. Lastly, the Tree Runners are easy to clean — simply throw them in the wash worry-free and your sneaks are lookin’ sharp again in no time.