June 7, 2023

Spotter Up

In Depth Tactical Solutions

DSW Shoes- Some footwear for the tactically sound

8 min read

I decided to pop into the local DSW Shoe store and see what kind of shoes they had. I like shoes that are for those wanting to dress soundly, or what I call being tactically sound. The market has shifted a lot over the last decade. Less than 10 years ago, there wasn’t much to select from. 20 years ago, there was far less to choose from. We are a privileged nation, and I am glad for that. I’ve been into quality shoes for decades, and how they are constructed. Expensive shoes, of course, don’t always mean that they will be useful to the gunfighter.

There wasn’t as much to select from at DSW as l wanted in the dress shoe category, but there were a few shoes that made my list. There were far more choices in the semi-casual category. I saw a few shoes that I liked and I believe could be good for dress wear. Check your company’s dress policy. Any of these should that I listed here are better than your standard dress shoe, if you want to wear pair them with a suit, gun and holster.

The black dress shoe shown below is not the shoe for you. Look for shoes that have as much ‘rubber to the road’. Don’t select shoes that have a wide or tall heel, in order to avoid rolling your ankle when running, or simply to avoid running slowly or clumsily. Most dress shoes use leather cork, rubber, or wood for the shoe heel. Shoes made today are using lots of rubber and EVA foam. The soles of shoes have changed with new technology, but some of the original materials are still used. Different materials also serve different purposes.

Your dress shoe outsole shape should mirror the shape of a running shoe.

As I’ve done in a few other articles, I listed a guideline to help you determine what is a good dress shoe for you. Enjoy!

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. 

Old school and New school

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Take your time and try several shoes on, preferably at the end of the day when your feet are most flattened and swollen.
  4. Try on shoes with the type of sock that you will wear for your activity.
  5. Walk on a firm surface, not a carpeted one.
  6. Walk quickly in the shoes if you are able.
  7. 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.
  8. Pivot in the shoes.
  9. 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.

The Zero Grande below is a bit pricy. It comes in around $190.00. It’s a good looking shoe. I like the outsole with the flex grooves. I just don’t care for the price.

  • Leather upper.
  • Natural storm welt.
  • EVA midsole with rubber outsole.
  • Lined perforations to keep the elements out.
  • Cushioned with ZERØGRAND technology for ultimate comfort.

I like the Cole Haan Total Motion’s. They are listed at DWS at $159.00 but I see them on sale for $119.00 elsewhere. It has a sleek look, and the kind of outsole you need for running and gunning. Always go with laces rather than slip ons if you have the choices. They also come in black.

The Total Motion® Sport Dress Plain Toes are all about 24/7 support for the modern man who knows how to own every room he walks into. A progressive take on iconic silhouettes, these plain toes feature a footbed inspired by the interior of an Italian racing car. Equipped with molded TPU stability plates for exceptional flexibility and breathability and a double gore upper for maximum fit, these men’s dress shoes will ensure a comfort rivaled by no other.

  • truTECH® provides lightweight shock absorption
  • TPU molded stability plate supplies stability and flexibility
  • Removable EVA footbed provides lightweight impact absorption cushioning
  • Leather welt enhances the classic look
  • EVA outsole offers flexible, lightweight impact absorption

I am not a fan of the Dr. Scholl’s Sync Oxford because they seem cheaply made. There simply isn’t enough padding for the shoe. These shoes look like they’d be comfortable for short-term wear, but I wouldn’t wear them all day if you are walking around alot in a suit and tie. I like the lean, flat outsole. The shoes have a nice rounded toebox. The shoes are flexible, which make it a positive in my book. They come in around $59.00. I see them on Amazon and Scholl’s website for around $49.00-$59.00.

  • Faux leather upper
  • Round toe
  • Lace-up front with wax laces
  • Soft neoprene tongue & collar
  • BE FREE® Energy Technology insole with 3 distinct zones designed for maximum comfort: extra support under the toe, high-recovery foam at the ball of the foot, and dense foam cradling the heel
  • Flexible, durable sole


The Wingtip Oxford in fabric knit is a nice look for a shoe. Excellent outsole for running and walking. Pricey but a good shoe for athletic performance because it has the rubber outsole. It also has a EVA midsole.

  • All-over knit oxford upper.
  • Padded sock lining for ultimate comfort.
  • EVA midsole cushioned with our signature Grand.ØS technology.
  • Rubber outsole.


The Vince Camuto shoe’s had a decent price on them, and looked good. Why can’t companies make these with black outsoles? Sheesh. $79.00 is a good price.

Another Cole Haan shoe


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