Best Tactical Dress Shoes of 2023: How to Select a Pair For Dress Wear16 min read
Here are some picks for 2023. Sadly, many large name brick and mortar stores are no longer carrying shoes in stock and on display. You have to make your purchase online, and can’t test them out in the store. No worries. I put down some guidelines to consider before making your purchase. This weekend I went to two Macy’s stores and found precious little to write about. However DSW is a good store to find a few picks that can work for you, so are Nordstrom Rack and Ecco. My picks for 2023 are listed below my original article written in 2016. This is not an extensive list. Expect to read a fuller list in the coming days. Keep in mind that you get what you pay for. I prefer leather over synthetics for many reasons; durability, and breathability come to mind. Consider your body weight, build, gait and foot shape when finding a good shoe to displace the load.
Pair any of them with a slick suit, holster and firearm and you’re on your way to being James Bond. Well, almost…
In a few movies, the bad guy easily identifies the good guy who is wearing a suit. The good guy asks, “How did you spot me? I’m wearing a nice suit.” The bad guy says, “The cheap shoes you’re wearing make you look like what a cop would wear.” You want to stand out for being stylish, and not for lacking it! Check out the shoes we listed in our article.
Boots, jackets, pants, shirts, guns, and sights, you name it and the tactical world sells it all. Or do they? When it comes to ‘tactical’ footwear there are a lot of boots to select from but in the realm of dress shoes the choices are very limited. In the 2004 movie Collateral the actor Tom Cruise does an excellent job mowing people down all while dressed in a slick looking grey-tonic suit. We never get to see his footwear.
How do you determine what is a good shoe for your foot and for your purpose?
Although the pickings seem to be slim the shoe market is catching up with the demand for a functional, stylish shoe that doesn’t sacrifice comfort over utility. Standing for hours in a suit and tie, running along a motorcade, and having to fight, scuffle, or run at the drop of a hat require you to be trained and outfitted properly. Hopefully, you look cool doing those things. I do not buy a suit, jeans or shoes that I cannot run or fight in.
Look at this image of Bond against his aggressor. They look stylish however they are wearing soft soled, flat-bottom shoes (without heels) for the stunts or for the style.
Bond’s dress pants are also rolled; it appears this is done so that he could perform the stunts. I’m going to assume his shoes were selected for the same reason; comfort and function. Even heroes need some help. Read my article on selecting dress pants.
You do not want your aggressor to have the advantage, whether you are the groomsman at a drunken wedding, or wrestling security while being the drunken groomsman at a wedding, or while on duty as a protective agent guarding your client at a drunken wedding. Think about the kind of ground your feet will encounter while in the line of duty:
- Snowy and icy conditions.
- Drink covered dance floor or hotel lobby with marble tile.
- Muddy conditions while changing a flat tire.
- Scree, and any kind of loose soil.
- Oil stained parking lot.
When purchasing footwear always look for ‘dress’ shoes with good traction ability. In fact, to do your job well, you will need a good pair of shoes with a lot more features than just traction. So how do you determine what are the best shoes for your feet?
The word “tactical” is way overused. A search online for tactical dress shoes turns up very little. Look for dress shoes with a good outsole. Look for good footwear that can be worn with formal, semi-formal or even casual wear. A combination of a good shoe and a reliable shoe insert will get you closer to your goal of a “tactical” shoe and get you away from the clunky styles prevalent in the marketplace.
Make sure your purchase is based on these features:
Look for shoes that have a low, and wide profile heel or outsole. Shoes with a thicker, stiffer heel heighten the probability of rolling your ankle when pursuing or wrestling your opponent. Stiffness in the upper and the outsole also make it harder to run. Responsiveness is key. Remember, low-heeled, softer outsole shoes are safer and more comfortable; they’ll do better for you than higher-heeled shoes. The more surface area touching the ground the better.
I’ve written a lot about the benefits of using shoes with a non-elevated “zero-drop” heel for proper posture. The drop is the height differential between where the heel and forefoot sit. Most dress shoes have a “high” drop between 12 and 15 mm. Many running shoes have drops that are a “zero” drop (no heel), or usually between 4mm-8mm. You essentially want a shoe that mirrors the shape and therefore the responsiveness of a running shoe. The higher the drop of the shoe or the thicker the heel of the shoe will mean the shoe is not as responsive to your toe-off when moving to spring or pivot to react to an aggressor.
AGILITY: Stay with shoes that have a rubber or EVA foam outsole instead of a leather outsole. Rubber or EVA foam mean comfort and they lessen the chance of you slipping; particularly on marble or high shine floors. The best “tactical” shoe will have a cushioned rather than hard outsole that flexes in all directions the way that your foot does. This will give you freedom to move despite most obstacles. Rubber or foam outsoles put a spring in your stride and provide all day support.
COMFORT AND INSERTS: Look for shoes with good outsoles for added cushioning. Look for good memory foam insoles if possible. Good cushioning, whether foam or rubber, ensure you can stand or move for long periods of time. Good shoes reduce foot fatigue. EVA outsoles provide better shock absorption than rubber. A padded heel-collar helps prevents blisters. A good heel cup will cushion your heel. Take a look at the Superfeet brand if you get a chance. If they fit in the shoe give them a try for added comfort.
STYLE: You want to look sharp and have a professional profile. You want good leather that give the shoe a nice appearance and will take a shine. Full-grain leather is easiest to clean and maintain and it will extend the product life. If you don’t like leather, look for synthetics or a durable suede.
STABILITY and FIT: A high density collar provide a good heel lock while also being supple enough to provide all day comfort. A shoe with a shallower fit or collar, especially slip-ons can come off the heel when you run. Your heel should fit comfortably in the shoe with a minimal amount of slippage. The shoes should not ride up and down on your heel when you walk. Try to purchase shoes that use shoe-strings or shoes with a good, heel encapsulating collar. Premium materials give you a glove like fit. A padded heel-collar can prevent blisters. Slip resistant or oil resistant soles are a must.
When a load is applied to your foot by running, your foot will spread up to half an inch in length. One shoe size up is only 1/3″ inch larger. Go larger rather than smaller if you can. You can always wear thicker socks with a larger shoe but you can never make your foot smaller. Get the best fit.
WEIGHT: Go for lightweight, and check for tough material. Thin material can tear at the most inopportune moment. Buy the best that you can afford.
DURABILTY: Look for shoes with anti-microbial linings as they help reduce foot odor and will wick moisture to help keep the foot dry. Synthetic uppers will often dry more quickly than leather but depending on the material used, some can degrade more quickly than others. A good quality leather or synthetic upper will last a long time. Strong material will protect your feet. Some shoe brands have inner toe caps or some kind of reinforced toe guard.
- Have your feet measured. People’s feet size and shape can change over time. Don’t rely on the fact that you have always worn a certain size.
- Most people have one foot that is larger than the other, so make sure you have BOTH feet measured. Fit your shoes to the larger foot.
- Take your time and try several shoes on, preferably at the end of the day when your feet are most flattened and swollen.
- Try on shoes with the type of sock that you will wear for your activity.
- Walk on a firm surface, not a carpeted one.
- Walk quickly in the shoes if you are able.
- Don’t plan on the shoes stretching over time; they should fit well when you buy them. Shoes won’t stretch like pants or shirts do overtime.
- Pivot in the shoes.
- Always stand and walk around in the shoes to see if they are comfortable, fit well, and don’t chafe or rub anywhere. Your heel should not slip or slide while walking.
COLE HAAN GO-TO WINGTIP OXFORD
Look impressive from heel to toe in the Cole Haan Go-To Wing Oxford. The gorgeous wingtip and brogue detailing on the leather upper and welt accents lend a timeless vibe, while the lightweight construction and outsole with rubber forefront and heel provide excellent comfort and traction.
ROCKPORT GARETT WINGTIP OXFORD
Dress the Garett wingtip oxford from Rockport up or down with any outfit for versatile style. A shock-absorbing insole, truTECH® footbed, and thick foam midsole will keep you feeling comfortable all day.
COLE HAAN ORIGINAL GRAND WINGTIP OXFORD
The Original Grand oxford from Cole Haan infuses classic and modern accents to your look. These leather lace-ups feature wingtip and brogue detailing and come equipped with plush cushioning for lasting support.
DEER STAGS OAKLAND OXFORD
The Oakland oxford from Deer Stags rocks the perfect balance of tailored and casual style. A memory foam footbed and lightweight sole will keep you comfortable no matter what you wear with them.
JOHNSTON & MURPHY MILSON PLAIN TOE OXFORD
The Milson plain toe oxford from Johnston & Murphy elevates the everyday. With its classic leather construction, this pair highlights a number of formal or professional looks easily, while the padded leather footbed ensures comfortable steps.
JOHNSTON & MURPHY HOLDEN WINGTIP OXFORD
The Holden wingtip oxford from Johnston & Murphy pairs well with smart casuals. The brogue detailing on the hand-finished leather upper is contrasted with an athletic-inspired functional outsole.
IKE BEHAR BILLY WINGTIP OXFORD
Daring brogue accents define the Billy wingtip oxford from ike by Ike Behar. Leather design of this lace-up derby is complemented by a flexible ultra foam insole and air-infused sole.
ADOLFO WINGTIP OXFORD
Present yourself in a refined way by wearing the Adolfo Wingtip oxford. The classic lace-up design gets sophisticated with timeless wingtip design and decorative brogue details.
JOHNSTON & MURPHY TANNER OXFORD
The Tanner oxford from Johnston & Murphy lends a sporty and functional update to a classic profile. The Axis Chassis System elevates the underfoot support, while the J&M Smart Degree Technology by KulKote ensures precise temperature control.
THOMAS & VINE SAVAGE OXFORD
Sleek and classic, the Savage oxford by Thomas & Vine is bound to become a mainstay in your dress wardrobe. This lace-up is styled with wingtip toe, textured vamp and brogue detailing to give a well-groomed look.
THOMAS & VINE GLOVER OXFORD
Wear it everyday, push it for the weekends, this Glover oxford from Thomas & Vine is good for anything. 8 mm Comfort Foam™ insole keeps you well supported, and the super-light EVA sole doesn’t drag you down.
VINCE CAMUTO EDOM CAP TOE OXFORD
Keep it classic with the Edom oxford from Vince Camuto. This pair features elastic around the topline for a secure fit and a foam midsole for a sporty finish.
VINCE CAMUTO EHEN OXFORD
The Ehen oxford from Vince Camuto can effortlessly be dressed up or down thanks to its versatile silhouette. The sneaker-inspired sole complements the smooth leather upper and lace-up design for your new favorite pair.
VANCE CO. THAD OXFORD
Get comfortable with your casual style by wearing the Thad oxford from Vance Co. Classic lace-up shoe with subtle accent stitching details and massaging footbed is both aesthetically and functionally equipped to be your everyday pair.
MIX NO. 6 BACHE OXFORD
Bring versatile edge to your outfit with the Bache oxford from Mix No. 6. These borderline dress shoes features a sporty midsole that casualizes the traditional upper. Stitched accents add a hint of texture.
COLE HAAN 2.ZEROGRAND LASER WINGTIP OXFORD
Add an upgraded touch to your tailored look with the 2.ZeroGrand Laser Wingtip oxford from Cole Haan. With its lightweight Grand.ØS cushioned footbed and foam midsole, this laser-cut pair provides daylong comfort.
DR. SCHOLL’S SYNC OXFORD
You can’t go wrong with the Sync oxford from Dr. Scholl’s. This lace-up features a classic design with a modern foam midsole for trendy appeal!
MIX NO. 6 BRAIDEN OXFORD
You can’t go wrong with the classic style of the Braiden oxford from Mix No. 6. This lace-up features a subtle textured upper with a contrasting midsole for modern appeal.
COLE HAAN ZEROGRAND WINGTIP OXFORD
The ZeroGrand wingtip oxford from Cole Haan flaunts the perfect balance of tailored and casual style. Featuring a sporty EVA midsole with GRAND.ØS technology, this lace-up can be dressed up or down for any outfit.
VANCE CO. WARRICK WINGTIP OXFORD
A dress shoe that combines high-style with all-day comfort, the Warrick by Vance Co. features a formal wingtip, contrasting textured design, and brogue details. Lightweight EVA and plush memory foam provide superior support.
MADDEN MENS VYLLA OXFORD
Bring some classic stylings to your formal wardrobe with the Vylla oxford from Madden Mens. This mixed-material pair sports a versatile lookthat can elevate the everyday or highlight a more professional look.
JOHNSTON & MURPHY MCGUFFEY BLUCHER OXFORD
Find the right mix of casual and sporty in the McGuffey Blucher oxford from Johnston & Murphy. Along with a textured leather upper, this lace-up silhouette features shearling and fabric-covered footbed, contrasting heel accent and supportive rubber sole.
MADDEN MENS HAYDIN OXFORD
Highlight a formal or professional ensemble with the Haydin oxford from Madden Mens. The perforated design adds texture to this pair marked by a classic silhouette made to match with favorite pieces.
STACY ADAMS TEVEN OXFORD
With the Teven oxford from Stacy Adams, you always put the best foot forward. Made of genuine leather, this lace-up includes RedZone footbed with molded help cup for superior comfort, contrasting welt for added style and molded outsole that offers supportive strides.
THOMAS & VINE HYDE OXFORD
Dress up or down with the tastefully crafted Hyde oxford from Thomas & Vine. Made from leather, this derby oxford sports a contrast topline and bottom for added charm while the ExtraLight sole and Tru Comfort Foam insole make it perfect for all-day use.
ADOLFO CAP TOE OXFORD
Your formal or semi-formal outfits are sure to be distinguished when you pair the Cap Toe oxford by Adolfo. Textured panels, cap toe front and a plush heel cap keep this lace-up unique and fashionable. Its cushioned insole offers sure comfort.
THOMAS & VINE THATCHER MONK STRAP SLIP-ON
Own the everyday look with Thomas & Vine Thatcher monk strap slip-on. This statement piece features leather design for longevity, 8 mm Comfort Foam™ insole for all-day support and a sneaker-inspired EVA sole for lightweight comfort.
THOMAS & VINE FELTON DERBY SHOE
Style your formal look with the Felton derby oxford from Thomas & Vine. This leather lace-up includes an elastic gusset for a secure fit and a 8mmTru Comfort Foam insole and XL Extralight outsole for all-day comfort.
VANCE CO. JEDD CAP TOE OXFORD
A style that can work for any occasion, the Jedd cap toe oxford from Vance Co. is truly a jack of all trades. Supple vegan synthetic upper in classic lace-up design with embossed and stitching accents is sure to spruce up your casual look.
VANCE CO. GRIFF CAP TOE OXFORD
The classic oxford gets a modern upgrade with the Griff cap toe oxford from Vance. This dress shoe features a mixed material upper and sporty sole for versatile styling.
VANCE CO. REYNOLDS DERBY SHOE
The Vance Co Reynolds derby shoe is an ideal pick for tackling the harsh elements with street-smart style. Featuring vegan leather and a cushioned collar top, this lace-up shoe is also designed with a 6 mm Tru Comfort Foam insole and a phylon outsole for extra flexibility.
JOHNSTON & MURPHY PRENTISS OXFORD
Rain or shine, look sophisticated in the Prentiss Oxford from Johnston & Murphy. The XC4 waterproof construction keeps the water out, while the dual width insole accommodates custom orthotic or wide foot.
This pair of casual dress shoes for men is equipped with latex insole instead of ordinary eva. The latex insole can be intelligently fitted to the sole of the foot to provide better cushioning when walking. There is also a thin layer of fur on the latex, which is helpful for absorbing sweat.
- 100% Leather
- Man Made sole
- Shaft measures approximately Ankle from arch
- Soft full-grain leather upper
- Leather and textile lining for comfort
- Removable leather-covered insole for cushioning
- Ultra-light Phorene midsole to absorb shock
- Lightweight and flexible sole with ECCO SHOCK THRU in the heel
- 100% Synthetic
- Rubber sole
- Men’s classic Brogue Wingtip dress shoes infused with premium materials and modern construction
- Crafted from a range of rich ECCO leathers, made in our own tanneries, and premium suede materials
- FLUIDFORM Injection Technology and foot fitted last provide anatomical support and an integral, durable bond between the upper and sole, without the compromises common with stitched and/or glued assemblies
- The all new single density polyurethane (PU) SHOCK THRU point is integrated into the thermoplastic (TPU) outsole, and delivers double the shock absorption and cushioning of the previous ECCO SHOCK TECHNOLOGY
- Removable insoles
- Genuine Leather
- Dyed Cowhide(Fur Origin:China)
- Synthetic Rubber sole
- The men’s oxford sneakers are a hybrid between a casual shoe and dress shoe.
- Classic never-out-of-fashion wingtip brogues pattern on a sport inspired synthetic rubber outsole with genuine leather uppers
- Lace-up closure with slip-on and low cut flat heel casual men’s sneaker
- Lightweight construction with cushioning midsole makes this leather sneakers more suitable for long term use than normal oxfords dress shoes.
- This pair of walking shoes are ergonomically designed to provide great cushion and comfort. The soft insole relieves foot fatigue, lightweight rubber sole suitable to walk for extended periods.
- Dyed Cowhide(Fur Origin:China)
- Rubber sole
- Premium Genuine Leather Upper – Uniquie Embossed Texture Surface, Combined with Plain Leather, Making this Casual Oxford Sneaker Boots Outstanding.
- Wingtip Brogues Oxfords – Classic and Fashion Design, Never Out of Date, Suitable for Any Occassions.
- Soft Flexible Rubber Sole – Comfort for Everyday Wearing, Work or Walk.
- Three Eyelets Derbys – Easy to Take On and Off, Won’t Waste Your Time.
- Quality Assurance – We’re proud of our material and workmanship, we promise to produce the best shoes for men. Any issue, please contact us first.
- 100% Leather
- Rubber sole
- Shaft measures approximately Ankle from arch
- Crafted from textured, vegetable-tanned, full-grain leather that betters with age and was made using organic resources to minimize our environmental impact
- Subtle design twists on the arch and forefoot add a bit of edge to a sophisticated design
- Lined in leather for a luxe feel and textile for softness and breathability. Removable leather inlay sole
Ever since WWII, classic, cap-toe oxfords have been a core part of our footwear lineup. Including our essential Park Avenue that’s sold over a million pairs since it was first introduced in 1982. Today that legacy of timeless American style lives on in our dress sneaker that combines the elevated design and materials of the original with comfortable and recraftable rubber cup soles.
SAMUEL HUBBARDS FOUNDER $249.00
This classic 5 eyelet oxford has an air of authority. The genuine leather welting, the waxed laces and the refined eyelets highlight the soft leather uppers. This dress shoe will elevate your look and give you the confidence to stride into every meeting and dinner.
- Full glove-leather lining delivers buttery soft feel and eliminates pressure points.
- Custom Vibram® soles put a spring in your stride and provide all day support.
- Lightweight shank provides sturdy arch support.
- Triple-Density memory foam insole, topped in silky smooth leather. Easily removed if you wish to use your own orthotics.
- Easily resoled for years of comfort.
- Designed in Mill Valley, CA. Handcrafted in Portugal.
ROCKPORT TOTAL MOTION $179.00
The Total Motion Sport Plain Toe Dress Shoes from Rockport® are all about 24/7 support and style. They feature a removable, cushioned footbed and have exceptional flexibility and breathability. The outsole is shock absorbing for easy footing all day.
- Lace style
- Leather upper
- truTECH® provides lightweight shock absorption
- TPU molded stability plate supplies stability and flexibility
- Removable EVA footbed provides lightweight impact absorption cushioning
- EVA outsole offers flexible, lightweight impact absorption
- Spot clean; imported
Cushy layers of support bring all-day comfort to a classic oxford crafted from smooth leather and defined by relaxed, minimalist styling.
Amberjack Originals feel comfortable right out the box thanks to the soft buckskin lining. The removable insole is three times thicker than memory foam which makes it a lot more comfortable.