Wear ’em With Pride: The 18 Best Dad Shoes to Rock No Matter Your Age
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.”
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.
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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).