The days of Ryan Gosling happily tossing a pair of New Balance dad shoes onto a mall balcony feel like a distant memory — and not because the scene that kickstarted a thousand ad hoc makeovers took place a long time ago. ten years. In the years that followed, the type of big kicks shamelessly rejected by the God Gos in Crazy, Stupid, Love became mainstream, catalyzing a shift in sneaker proportions that the industry is still grappling with.
Today, Boston’s casual cobblers sell an assortment of patriarch-approved versions, but they’re far from the only ones going big – no, gargantuan— moves through space. Walk down any busy city street, and it’s hard do not bumping your feet with the kind of sporty, chunky options Gosling would have tossed into the food court without hesitation.
But what do all these dad shoes have in common? The emphasis on good old-fashioned comfort, often expressed through exaggerated proportions and downright geriatric design flourishes. (Think extra padding, multi-fabric panels and more.) Not exactly the ingredients you thought of when it comes to whipping up a sexy summer cut, huh? Think again. Because we’ve rounded up the best of the bunch on the market, and whether you’re a dad, dad-type, daddy (or, uh, zaddy), there’s a pair here that will change your mind.
Oh, and if you’re looking for a last-minute Father’s Day gift, text Pops and surreptitiously ask for his shoe size now — even without expedited shipping, he’ll be unboxing a fresh pair of shoes long before the 19th.
The classic choice
Made famous by notable wearers like Steve Jobs (and your neighbor Bill, who probably spends weekends trying to strike up conversations about the weather with passers-by), New Balance’s prototypical dad sneakers remain the pinnacle of their genre. The most classic version, as Jobs would attest, comes in gray, but it’s hard to go wrong with this made-in-the-USA build no matter what color you choose. The best way to rock them? Do as Steve does and go for straight-leg jeans (avoid any pair that veers into skinny territory), though we’d swap the turtleneck for a hoodie to avoid full cosplay.
The trail-ready choice
There are, countless automotive commercials assure us, plenty of dads salivating at the thought of waking up at dawn, packing up an SUV and heading out into the great outdoors. If you began to appreciate the appeal of this scenario earlier in life, these waterproof hiking sneakers from Salomon are for you. The most dad detail of all? The easy lacing system, which means tightening your kicks is at your fingertips. Slip on the rest of your most technical gorp styles, like seam-sealed cargos or an on-the-go Arc’teryx jacket, and explore the wilderness with sartorial gusto.
The minimal choice
You know dad’s sneakers have made it big when the Common Projects team jumps on the wave. But the brand’s riff on style is decidedly sleeker than your average pair of geriatric stompers. These Italian leather uppers feature just a few gentle curves, perfectly proportioned to the chunky dad-like midsoles. Even naysayers won’t deny that they’re good looking, and they’ll only look better with casual chinos.
The sports choice
If your idea of a good time is racking up road miles across town, you need a sneaker that can keep up. The Asics Gel-Kayano 14 is a classic running style of the era that boasts durable, sturdy soles and tons of arch support. Don’t you want to admit that the years are finally catching up with you? You don’t have to: mesh running sneakers like these are precisely what the cool kids (and adults) are rocking right now.
the Grandfather-Approved choice
Forget dad shoes: Alexander McQueen’s lace-up Court shoes may be a modern design, but their chunky silhouette channels archetypal grandpa shoes, the kind you see on dripping baby boomers with appreciation hard-earned for arch support. Made from the same grained leather as your chicest dress shoes, they’re specially designed for comfortable, bunion-free wear, right down to the heavily cushioned upper lines and specialized rubber outsoles. If you are looking to be inspired by the style of the coolest members of the generation before your father’s, starts here.
If that’s not enough? Here are 8 more pairs of Dad shoes GQ staffers are loving right now:
Sixty-Four Best Father’s Day Gifts for Discerning Dads
The best New Balance shoes you can buy right now
The best men’s sneakers in the world this week