Best Formal Shoes Reviewed
When going to a significant event or any kind of fancy affair, a regular shoe just won’t cut it. You will need formal type shoes to meet the necessary style. You’ll benefit from style features such as rhinestone strapping, blind eyelet lacing, and/or derby lacing in these options. In addition to these possible features, you’ll find footwear with classic leather looks as well.
Beyond style, you’ll want to be able to find a little comfort in your formal shoes too. While these type of footwear aren’t generally known for having the most comfort, you’ll still find features in them that give you adequate comfort in your walks such as memory foam insoles and EVA heel cups. Another comfort feature you might also find in these options is the trampoline cushioning system.
- Top Moda Hy-5
- Elegant floral design
- Viotti Oxford
- Modern Style Elements
- Dream Pairs Pump
- variety of classic colors
Additional benefits you can expect to enjoy informal footwear are traction and breathability. PVC outsoles are featured in some of these options, and you’ll also find perforated leather linings featured as well. All of these features combined in these formal shoes mean you’ll be getting a great option to keep you looking and feeling good all night when you go to your formal event.
15 Best Formal Shoes
1. Top Moda Hy-5
With lace crocheting across the toe and strappy details to make the foot elegant and sexy, these shoes bring compliment to comfort. The peep toe gives a bit more room to the toes without causing discomfort to the toes. And who doesn’t love a strappy high heel to dress up any casual look? Pair these with your favorite jeans, shorts, or leggings to step out on the town for an evening. For fancy occasions, these will go well with any kind of dress, even wedding gowns!
Usually, high heel peep toes can tend to constrict the toes and cause some discomfort after wearing for extended time frames. However, with a wider than normal toe box, even those with wide feet will find the perfect fit. Suggested to size up half a size for wide feet, and for more narrow feet, it’s suggested to size down.
Cost and Value
Many formal or dress shoes of this type can cost a pretty penny, but the Top Moda Hy-5 is quite reasonably priced for a shoe of this caliber. With the amazing detail and versatility of the shoe for any occasion, it’s a great addition to any shoe collection. For the average price of a formal shoe, you’ll be able to buy at least two or three pairs of these!
- Great value
- Peep Toe
- Lace detail
- Size up or down
2. Viotti Oxford
The Oxford style of shoe is a must-have in formal shoes and can be a versatile style to dress up any outfit. The Viotti Oxford paves the way for the individuality of the wearer, coming in a number of colors to suit your personality and style. It’s flashy yet refined look with allows for almost any occasion, and will let you stand out in the crowd!
The Viotti Oxford boasts a variation on the split toe, with patent paneling that runs along the sides of the shoe, lined with elegant stitching. The top of the shoe has a striped satin that runs to the sophisticated classic oxford closed lacing, and a blocked heel will have you strutting confidently.
Cost and Value
Oxfords don’t need to be incredibly expensive to show you’ve got style. The Viotti Oxford is extremely well priced, coming in on the more affordable side of a formal shoe. Combine that with the variety of hues to choose from, you won’t be disappointed. Sizing up for wider feet is a must, however, as the toe box can be constrictive!
- Color Selection
- Size up
- Color may crack
3. ECCO Helsinki
The Helsinki is comprised of a leather upper, with classic stitching along the side panels and toe. The distressed leather finish gives a sophisticated elevation to the rugged make of the shoe, demonstrating elegance and function.
Believe it or not, the Helsinki from ECCO could even be used for a gentle hike or walk. The functionally built toe box allows for the feet to spread in comfort when walking, without restriction or pain. Built to last, the polyurethane soles can take a beating from dancing, hiking, or racing for a cab at the end of your evening. With their patented Comfort Fibre System, the ECCO allows for a cushion of air to circulate through the shoe, cutting down on odor and heat while providing a cushioned sole.
Cost and Value
If looking for something you won’t need to replace for a while, this shoe is for you. The ECCO Helsinki may be a slip on formal shoe, but the brand prides itself on the construction of durable, lasting footwear. A bit on the expensive side for our list, but still the average price of most formal shoes, you can rest assured to invest in a pair of these for the long haul!
- Slip on
- Wide Toe
4. Calvin Klein Brodie
Distinguished with a textured leather, the Calvin Klein Brodie gives a different look and feel to a classic leather Brodie. The EPI leather upper gives more durability to the top of the shoe in order to better withstand any potential wear and tear. On the underside, the eyelets are reinforced with metal rivets to prevent any additional wear and tear from lacing.
The padded footbed feature in the Calvin Klein Brodie helps to give you a softer feel on your feet that will make wearing and walk in these formal shoes more comfortable. Expect to be out all evening without skipping a step in these shoes, but with a box toe, be sure to size correctly to suit your foot width.
Cost and Value
For a Designer brand name, The Calvin Klein Brodie is quite reasonably priced, coming in at just under average cost for a formal shoe. But if you’re looking to impress with Designer shoes, CK’s Brodie will not disappoint. The unique leather texture gives an added value to the shoe, different than other Brodie styles available on the market.
- Textured Leather
- Reinforced eyelets
- Designer shoe
- Padded footbed
- No arch support
- Restrictive Toe
5. Stacy Adams Dwight
The memory foam insole is an excellent feature in this shoe because it molds to the shape of your foot, providing you maximum softness and comfort to your feet. Being on your feet long in formal shoes can open the door for sweaty feet. The perforated trim allows for more air to get into your shoe to keep your feet cool and dry.
Stacy Adams has been in the business of constructing stylish shoes since 1875. Founded in Brockton, Mass, the company has been part of American culture throughout the years, styling shoes for speakeasy parties, Frank Sinatra concerts, and now the hustle and bustle of the 20th century.
Cost and Value
Coming in under the average cost of a formal shoe, and from a brand name, this is a great buy. With sophisticated styling, classic bits of broguing, this shoe is a current classic to be added to your collection of formal wear.
- Memory Foam
- Perforated Trim
- Tight fit
- Narrow Toe
6. Bruno Marc New York Oxfords
Most Oxford or Derby style shoes are found in leather, typical of many formal shoes. However, the suede designed Bruno Marc NY Oxfords are upping the game in formal wear, making a comfortable shoe as well as delivering a sharp look. Suede is also a great option as it’s easier to care for than leather since the polish is not required.
To add to the comfort, a padded insole helps alleviate any discomfort when wearing these for extended periods of time. Of course, you have the option to add a custom insole to your liking if you tend to be on your feet more than the average person.
Cost and Value
These Oxfords come at the low end of the cost spectrum and are a no-brainer if you’re looking for a stylish formal shoe at a minimal cost. With the variety of colors available, be sure to get a few colors and brogue options for occasions to suit your individual style!
- Padded insole
- Snug fit
7. La Milano Double Monk Strap
High fashion styling doesn’t have to break your budget. Coming in a simple classic style or upgraded with broguing, this loafer not only boasts high fashion, it’s also well made. With a leather stitched sole and rubber heel, suede and leather uppers, these shoes are made to last at an affordable cost. A spray on suede leather sealer will help protect the shoe for years to come.
The double monk strap style of loafer allows to you slide in and out of a stylish shoe with ease, but it’s sure to raise eyebrows in appreciation as well. Two leather straps cross the loafer with adorning simple buckles, and the tongue has an elastic quality to help slide your feet into the shoe. It’s timeless sophistication that will last throughout the ages.
Cost and Value
This shoe by far is the best bang for your buck. With a timeless style to last throughout the ages, suede and leather uppers and a rubber sole, they may become your favorite in no time. Add to this the cost is well under what you would expect to pay for a similar style formal shoe, it’s a no-brainer!
- Timeless look
- Rougher Suede
8. Dream Pairs Pump
Dream Pairs Pump is designed with a 3-inch heel and slight quarter inch platform, giving accentuation to calves and legs without causing discomfort when walking. With a sleek almond toe, sturdy heel, and a slight upward curve at the toe, they are easy to walk in for those new to wearing heels. The latex padded insole will have you strutting in comfort throughout the evening!
With over 25 colors and accents to choose from, you may find yourself buying several pairs! From classic black to highlight pink, shiny patent to suede, even an option for a floral print, the possibilities are endless. Additional options have strappy accents, or you can choose to have a bit of sparkle with rhinestone flowers along the outside.
Cost and Value
For a pump, this comes in around the average cost of many other brand pumps, but the value of having so many options to choose from is unprecedented. These could make a great budget-friendly option for a wedding shoe, and wearable again for a night on the town!
- Classic Pump
- Snug fit
9. TBC President
Well made shoes can sometimes be hard to find, but the President delivers on all accounts for a boot. The rubber studded sole gives added grip, and weather resistant treatment lets you step out without worrying about wet feet or ruined leather. An added bonus is that the boot is resolvable, should you wear them down as your new favorite boot!
An EVA strip and cork footbed give additional cushioning to each step, allowing you to stay out for the duration of the evening in comfort. As an ankle boot, lacing up gives added structure and stability to your foot and ankle, and flat wax laces keep you tied up for the evening.
Cost and Value
The President comes in on the more expensive side of a formal shoe, but compared to other models of boots, is around an average price. Considering the styling and durability of the President, it’s still a great buy if you’re looking for a long-term formal shoe investment.
- Weather resistant
- Requires breaking in
10. Kenneth Cole Reaction Chukka
The Chukka is designed with a clean, simple feel, with added class and style found in the attention to designing detail. Closed lacing gives keeps the boot simple, and with hidden eyelets, contrasting colored laces can give an added pop of style to the shoe. Impeccable stitching along the sole and uppers show detail in the making of the shoe, which any shoe aficionado can appreciate.
Available in leather and suede, this chukka style shoe comes in a variety of colors and patterns, giving you options to suit your individual style. From reds, to browns, blacks, and a textured look, you can dress up any pair of slacks or shorts with Kenneth Cole Reaction!
Cost and Value
The Chukka comes in just a bit above average for a formal style shoe, but with a brand name behind it, it’s worth the buy. With its urban styling, the optional colors and sophisticated contrast stitching makes the shoe stand out.
- Clean look
- Chukka style
- Contrast stitching
11. Clarks Oxford
Clarks has been designing stylish comfortable shoes since 1825. Throughout the years, they’ve employed innovative cushioning, 3D printing technology, and pride their brand on comfort through biomechanical assessments of the foot. Their oxford style shoe is no exception to this, boasting cushioned Ortholite insoles to keep your feet comfortable and dry.
Typical of an oxford style of shoe, Clarks has given their Oxford a rich leather look, with a Tilden cap toe to finish. Detail can be found in the stitching along the panels of the uppers and around the toe. With a great classical design, it’s a staple in anyone’s closet.
Cost and Value
Clarks Oxford comes in at a moderate cost, but average when compared to other Oxford style shoes. However, knowing that you’re buying a shoe build for comfort may sway you to wear these out for that weekend wedding to dance the weekend away!
- Oxford style
- Lace up
- Color Options
12. Aerosoles Petroleum
The Petroleum boot has a 3-inch heel, but that doesn’t prevent comfort when walking due to their memory foam insole. The insole supports and cushions the entire foot, and their heel rest design allows the feet to distribute weight appropriately. With a zip up feature, these adorable boots are easy to step into, although you may not want to step out of them!
The cut out designed boot gives added sophistication to the shoe, and the heel accentuates the calves and legs, perfect for dresses. A soft, textile fabric to wraps the foot, and added delicate stitching along the cut out complete the formal look. Versatile as an all-around shoe, these will go great with dresses, skirts, leggings, jeans or shorts!
Cost and Value
The Petroleum boot is slightly above average in price, but if comfort is a must when selecting your formal style of shoe, this is a option to purchase. It’s versatile look and styling can be paired to dress up jeans or leggings, and can be paired with more black-tie cocktail dresses.
- Zip up closure
- Cut out design
- Snug toe
13. Cole Haan Loafer
This Venetian style loafer proudly gives an aristocratic feel to comfort. Vintage inspired leather designing mixes with comfortable sporty construction, giving flexibility to this slip-on shoe. A textured Vibram rubber sole allows for traction, perfect for boat attire or an afternoon on the docks.
Cole Haan is known for its artisan quality of styling, bringing back a love for the 1920s generation gentleman. Since 1928, they’ve been bringing timeless formalwear to the masses, and their sporty Loafer is a classic for anyone’s footwear collection. Crafted with soft leather, moc-toe, and contrast stitching, it’s clear the classic details of a formal shoe were kept in this sportier option loafer.
Cost and Value
For a designer brand shoe, this hits the average mark on the price list. When comparing to other non-designer brand name shoes it may appear more expensive. However, the simple sporty design mixed with a formal sophistication makes this a good buy.
- Sporty look
- Non slip sole
- Contrast stitching
- Not for walking
14. 4HOW Oxford
The 4HOW Oxford is made from textile corduroy or suede, a comfortable and flexible option in footwear construction. The rounded toe expands on the comfort of the shoe, while classic wingtip design steps up the style factor. An added insole allows for an extra comfort and can be removed if you prefer custom insoles for support.
If you’re new to wearing more formal fitting shoes and styles, the 4HOW Oxford would be a great first step and introduction to this kind of footwear. Many brands or designer name formal shoes do take a little getting used to in terms of fit and preference. 4HOW gives a classic shoe a comfortable design good for business attire or a night out.
Cost and Value
By far the least expensive formal shoe you can purchase, it does have some fall backs in terms of value. Coloring may seem a little off, and the durability of the shoe is best for short-term or intermittent use. However, if looking to buy your first pair of formal shoes without breaking the bank, this shoe is for you!
- Contrast stitching
- Color fade
15. Bostonian Wendell
The textile lining feature in the Bostonian Wendell helps to move away moisture from your feet. This keeps your feet dry of any sweat and cool for your long periods standing in these shoes. The nylon shank in the Bostonian Wendell is designed to give you more stability in your shoe. This allows you to have an easier and natural walking motion in your step.
Bostonian has been around for over 100 years making fashionable and comfortable formal shoes. They introduced a flexible formal shoe as the first brand to do so, focusing on comfort as well as style. Rest assured if you need a comfortable formal shoe, Bostonian has you covered!
Cost and Value
The Wendell comes in at an average price point for a formal shoe, but is big on comfort. Upping the style with a leather feel instead of textile, it’s a great shoe for stepping out on the town or heading to that big business meeting.
- Textile lining
- EVA outsole
- Foam Footbed
- Narrow Arch
Being style ready when it comes time for a formal events such as weddings or business gatherings can leave a lasting impression. Formal shoes will give you just the right amount of style you need to blend in the environment perfectly, or perhaps even get the nod of approval from hosts or distinguished guests. There are a variety of style features to choose from. Handmade calfskin leather, suede, textile, and even shoes that’ll sparkle the night away with rhinestone adornments. In addition to style, you can still have the added benefit of comfort in your formal footwear as well.
Formal doesn’t necessarily mean discomfort, however. Comfort features such as padded footbeds, EVA heel cups, leather collars, insoles, lacing, and heel height can contribute to a more comfortable evening.. Having breathability features like perforated trims, and traction features like PVC outsoles, contribute to a great all around, durable shoe. All of these features together give you plenty of reasons to add one of these formal shoes to your footwear collection.
Criteria Used to Evaluate the Best Formal Shoes
Even though formal shoes reflect a high fashion and style sense, this doesn’t box your individual sense of fashion into a selected few options. Classic styles are usually a good start when just starting to wear formal shoes, or you’re newer to what style shoe pairs best with what attire. If you’re more familiar with what style you prefer, opt to find footwear designed to push the boundaries, something perhaps considered High Fashion Styling.
Classic Styling –
High Fashion Styling –
- Double Monk Strap
- Strappy Heel
Advancing your style tastes in formal shoes comes with time, knowing which combination of edgy high fashion footwear pair well with more casual looks, or even make a statement for a black tie event. If you’re looking to bring up your styling to more of a statement, look for high fashioned styles.
Style Statements –
- Color Contrasting –
Instead of selecting a shoe with a solid, single color, selecting a shoe that has a bold contrast of color or hue steps up the eye-grabbing attention your individual style deserves. Pair a dark black with a tan or rust color leather in your shoe and pair with light gray slacks. White pants or dresses act as a blank canvas, and your accessories act as your palette to paint. Add a bright color shoe, or play with the shoe texture, mixing a cotton attire with a shiny patent leather.
- Stitching –
Contrast stitching usually has a different color than the shoe itself. This creates a visually appealing detail, subtle yet distinct.
- Rhinestones –
Who doesn’t love a little glitter and sparkle? Rhinestones added to adorn strappy shoes give an elevated air to your style and can dress up the most commonplace clothing. Depending on your unique style, you can have a simple design of sparkle, lining the shoe, or go all out with a fully encrusted shoe. In either case, you can always pair with jeans or leggings for a night out in comfort!
- Hidden eyelets –
Sometimes a sleek look requires simplicity, and hidden eyelets accomplish this by removing the usual grommet that is seen on the tongue of the shoe for lacing up. Instead, a small hole is all that is seen on the outside, creating a clean sharp look. Many times, the grommet can be found on the inside of the tongue on the back of the lace hole.
- Cut out design –
Cut out designs are usually done with machinery that utilizes a laser to cut a pattern or design into the shoe. With no limit to the number of designs imaginable, this can dress up any bootie to the next level of style.
- Brogueing –
Found mostly informal men’s footwear, brogueing is the decorative perforations seen along the edges of the uppers, toe caps, wingtips, or other areas of the shoe. It gives an added element of sophistication and flair to a regular oxford style shoe. This kind of shoe is meant to be seen, so pair with ankle length slacks. Anything too long will cover the detail.
- Wingtip –
Wingtips are a decorative design of construction where the toe has backward curving sides extending to a point which looks similar to the shape of a wing. Pair these with ankle length slacks or pants so as not to hide the decor!
- Toe box design –
From pointed to round to square, or tapered toe boxes, this can add some sophistication to your style. A pointed toe shoe will pair well with long slacks, skirts, or dresses while a rounder or tapered toe can go great with just about every kind of clothing.
Combine your favorite shoe style with options for high fashion statements, and you’ll be turning heads at distinguished events. The best part is that once you find that great combination of shoe that suits your personal individuality, you can always tone it down by pairing with something more casual such as jeans, leggings, shorts, or casual skirts and dresses. There’s no going wrong by investing in a formal pair of shoes!
Most formal shoes should have decent construction, that will let them survive wear and tear. Fashion continues to blur the boundaries between what looks casual versus something formal, and many times different shoes can be paired with both. Those shoes should be constructed keeping in mind the fact the wearer will be using them for more than just one evening. You can always check for a decently constructed shoe by the following tips.
Knowing good leather when you see it is an art in itself. Full grain leather has the least amount of flaws or blemishes with color that is consistent. Top and Genuine leather is still great quality but may require some sanding or buffing to correct marks and flaws. Less desirable are Belly or Bonded leather, which tend to be wrinkled and hold less shape over time, or have been pieced together from other scraps.
How to spot good leather:
- Look for a minimal sheen. High sheen suggests the leather had been chemically treated to remove excess blemishes or flaws.
- Stiffness can also be an indicator of excessive treatment.
- Color consistency can likely tell you if the shoe came from one section versus several pieced together areas, however, if a pattern is seen in the leather, consistency in color may not be the best indicator.
- While wearing a good leather shoe, creases will form due to movement in walking, and flexing the shoe mold. However, should cracking begin or appear in these creases, it’s likely the shoe was not made from quality leather.
How a formal shoe is crafted can clue you into how durable the shoe will be. Goodyear welt construction is the best shoe assembly for a formal shoe but can come at a premium. Usually, a thin strip of rubber, leather, or plastic is stitched around the shoe perimeter. The insole, adhered to a gemming, along with the sole and uppers to creating a stiffness to the shoe that prevents wear and tear, and brings weatherproofing to the shoe. This kind of constructed shoe can also be resoled quite easily.
How to spot good shoe craftsmanship:
- Goodyear constructed shoes tend to be stiff, with outsole stitching visible. The uppers are stitched to the outsole, no glue should be seen.
- Blake constructed shoes differ slightly from Goodyear constructed shoes, where the insole and outer sole are directly stitched together, allowing flexibility, and less weighty feel. Blake constructed shoes may lean towards less water resistance but can be more comfortable.
- Hand-welted construction is similar to Goodyear welting, but lacks gemming and are usually hand stitching instead of using machine assistance.
- Rapid-blake constructed shoes offer a similar result as Goodyear welt constructed shoes, contributing to a durable, weather resistant shoe. Whereas the blake constructed shoes stitch the insole and outer sole together, rapid-blake construction adds a midsole for further comfort, weather-resistance, and stability.
Attention to detail:
Take time to inspect the shoe for small details that clue you into the craftsmanship of the shoe.
- Check for frayed stitching.
- Are there missing rhinestones or buckles?
- Most well-constructed shoes keep comfort in mind as well, so check for padded insoles and heels.
- Are the eyelets intact, without cuts or signs of wear?
- Do you feel an area inside the shoe which could cause blistering or discomfort?
You would buy a pair of shoes you can’t wear for an hour, would you? Well constructed, and designed formal shoes were made with not just style in mind, but also comfort. New technologies make leaps and bounds over what footwear was 50 years ago in terms of comfort, using memory foam or supportive insoles, heel cups, adjustable straps or buckles, and wide toe box shoe design.
In addition to the above, well-known brands and designers usually, make a quality shoe. Doing a little bit of research here can help you find what a well constructed formal shoe would look like, and help you make an educated selection if dealing with less-popular or known brand names. Check designers such as Cole Haan, Calvin Klein, Jimmy Choo and Givenchy.
Now, not all quality constructed shoes need be designer shoes. There are a number of boutique designers and shoe cobblers that will construct a well made formal shoe. If you’re looking to purchase a brand that you’ve not heard of yet, just be sure to check any reviews, or ask your local shoe cobbler for their opinion. With so many options available in terms of purchasing these days, you’re sure to find a formal shoe that’s well made, and can suit your budget!
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: How do I polish a leather formal shoe?
A: Polishing a leather shoe is relatively simple. There’s a step by step process that you can follow to keep your shoes looking clean and shiny for a long time. All you need is a cloth that’s soft, a shoe polish, and a brush. See more about polishing and cleaning here.
- Brush whatever debris is on the shoe with either the brush or a wet soft cloth.
- After you’ve gotten all that you can get off with the brush, give your shoes a chance to dry for awhile.
- Apply the shoe polish you have on to the shoe with a dry cloth. You can rub it on with a small circular motion. Shoe experts caution using only a little bit of polish.
- Take your brush again, and rub off any leftover polish on the shoe.
- Lastly, buff the shoe with a dry cloth for a nice shiny look to your formal footwear.
Q: How long should formal shoes last?
A: They can last for a couple of years if you take good proper care of them. One thing you can do is regularly polish your formal footwear, particularly if it’s leather. You can also put in shoe trees in your formal shoe to help have a longer lifespan. They’re designed to soak up the foot sweat that might be left behind in the shoe and maintain the shape of the shoe. With all kinds of footwear, it’s generally recommended not to wear them every single day. You should rotate between shoes instead so there’s time given for drying of any moisture in them and maintaining the shape.
Q: How should my formal shoes fit?
A: Formal shoes have the reputation of being tight on the feet, but they should not feel restrictive or painful. They should give your toes room to stretch and move around inside of the shoe. The sides and heel of the shoe should feel snug, but not too tight on you. Formal shoe experts recommend trying on the shoes in the evening when your feet are more swelled up from a day of walking, then you can get a true sense of the whether shoes will be too tight on you or not.
Q: How long does it take to break in my formal shoes?
A: It can take anywhere from a couple of days to a couple of weeks depending on the type of material and the construction of the formal footwear. It’s suggested in order to avoid too much discomfort, you should wear them a little at a time frequently throughout the day, increasing the amount of time until you can wear them comfortably for up to an hour.
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