Best Derby Shoes Reviewed & Rated for Style
Shoe styles have expanded over the years to include trendier and comfortable day-to-day footwear. And even more so when we start to look at sports shoes and beach-wear. But the derby shoe with its open lace structure and classic design is one of everyone’s favorites. The derby is a similar style to an Oxford, where the main difference lies in the construction of the shoe for comfort and additional styling.
The derby shoe is a very versatile style and can be casual/business casual, business, semi-formal or formal depending on its features. Start with the classic open lacing system of a traditional derby and add a durable sole and some color, and you have a great casual shoe paired with jeans or khakis for around town or business casual. Change it up a little with some additional stitching, perhaps a cap toe and some smooth leather and your derby will take you to the office or formal occasion when paired with slacks or a suit.
- Viotti Formal
- Distinctive Accents
- Clarks Tilden
- Calvin Klein Bram Diamond
- Textured Contrast
Comfort is always important no matter where or when you wear a shoe. It’s important to check the cushion, flexibility and stability features of the shoe to make sure it meets what you are looking for. Some derby’s in this list have special features to keep your feet cool and dry, and some focus more on stability and durability. Other derby shoes have a sense of flair and adventure while others are more subtly elegant. Take a look at these derby’s and consider which features are most important to you as you narrow down your decision to buy.
10 Best Derby Shoes
1. Viotti Formal
The imported silk Viotti will stand out in a crowd with their color choices of red, blue, gold or silver. They also come in the more subtle black, white or grey. A fun striped pattern and metal tip make these shoes a showstopper. You can select the most appropriate style for visual appeal, and to suit any occasion to show off your individual style.
Since these shoes are so unique people will notice them immediately. Gaining in popularity for their versatility, the Viotti still maintains quality with the striped patterned upper and re-enforces durability with synthetic side construction. Comfort can be found with an inner lining to keep spring in your step for all-day wear. A blocked heel gives added height for a confident stride.
Cost and Value
Great value for the cost of a fun, dress shoe for the occasional formal event. It’s sure to get you noticed at the next party, or at a business occasion where you’re looking to impress. It’s the perfect combination of affordable sophistication in footwear where quality and construction are maintained. If you’re looking for your first pair of dressier shoes, the Viotti is one that should find its way to your collection.
- Color Variety
- Unique Design
- Run Narrow
- Metal tip durability
2. Clarks Tilden
While the Tilden looks stylish and is great for the office, it has the expected Clark’s comfort features the company is known for. The cushioned insole reduces the impact of being on your feet, and the elastic panel in the upper stretches for those small adjustments you need during the day. An elastic side gore allows for a more comfortable fit when lacing up, unlike a closed laced Oxford shoe.
This shoe looks right at home in the office or at a semi-formal event. The Tilden goes with suits, dress pants and even a dressy pair of jeans. The cap toe and double stitching give the shoe a little detail without being overdone. It’s a clean classic look perfect for any occasion and comes in a few color varieties to suit your unique tastes.
Cost and Value
The Tilden gives you great value at a good price. Getting this comfortable business and business casual shoe in a basic color is money well spent. Slightly more than the Viotti, the extra comfort Clarks are known for is reflected in the price, so if comfort is of utmost importance, this is a great selection for your derby shoe.
- Elastic Gore
- Clean Look
- Moisture Wicking Insole
- Non-removable Insole
- Run Narrow
3. Calvin Klein Bram Diamond
With smooth leather on the cap toe and quarters and diamond textured leather on the vamp, the Bram Diamond adds a noticeable flair to your ensemble. It gives classic formal shoe styling an upgrade in sophistication. The stacked heel and finished laces complete the look of prestige and sophistication.
The Bram Diamond has an open lacing system for getting the correct adjustment for your foot. It’s padded footbed and rubber sole absorbs shock and keeps your feet comfortable and the partial leather lining protects against unwanted chafing as you walk. The rubber sole allows for durability and stability, creating a non-slip grip to any surface you tread upon.
Cost and Value
This dressy shoe is a little pricier but is still a good value for your money. For a designer name shoe, however, it’s a solid purchase. The Bram Diamond adds flair to your wardrobe and keeps your feet comfy when you’re required to be on your feet, and give that added sophistication to classic styling.
- Textured Look
- Run Narrow
- Limited Colors
4. Dr. Martens Original 8053
Dr. Martens are built to last and these are no exception. The premium leather upper holds up to your day-to-day activities, and the thick sole is attached to the upper with the Goodyear welt for long-lasting flexibility. The 8053 is easy to clean should you get them dirty during wear as well. Simply wipe with a damp cloth and allow to dry!
After that initial breaking in period, the Original 8053 is known for comfort. The traditional lacing lets you tighten and loosen the fit as needed, and the cushioned footbed absorbs impact as you walk. Add to this a padded collar, and walking around a conference or event won’t leave you with blistered heels or irritated ankles.
Cost and Value
Dr. Martens are a great bargain when you look at the longevity and durability of this shoe. They look great and are built to last. Compared to others on our list, they run a tad on the expensive side, but if you’re looking to buy a long-term pair for everyday wear, it’s a solid investment!
- Soft Leather Uppers
- Easily Maintained
- Traction Tread
- Require Break In
5. Dream Pairs Bruno Marc Moda
Most derby style shoes come in selected color options, or toe styles and designs. The Bruno Marc Moda pulls all those options together and makes them available to you! For business attire, cap toe brown or black classic shoes may work, but for something that shows off your individual style, choose a pair with wingtips or brogues to ramp up the flair. Lastly, check the sole for an added bonus of flair, with a patterned sole to leave your mark along the way!
Light footbed cushioning gives some comfort to your step, and the smaller heel of one inch will help keep you grounded and stable. Once worn for a bit, the sole will naturally scuff giving a bit more traction to the sole. These do require a solid week of breaking in, but afterwards molded to the shape of your foot, you’ll be wearing them 8-10 hours a day.
Cost and Value
Coming in on the low end of pricing for our derby list, the Bruno Marc Moda makes stylish derby footwear affordable, and with a variety of options to choose from, your unique tastes can shine through. A great intro pair of derby shoes for those looking for their first pair, you may find yourself purchasing two or more since they won’t burn a hole in your wallet!
- Color Variety
- Patterned Sole
- Wingtip or Cap Toe
6. Ououvalley Tuxedo
Versatile style options exist with the Tuxedo derby, coming in black and brown, or even contrast coloring to give an added statement. Two closure options are available, consisting of the classic open lace system a derby style shoe is known for, or a buckle closure which can amp up the style even more. Choose between patent faux leather with a shiny finish or a textured pattern for the toe and quarters.
Best suited to more formal occasions, the Ououvalley Tuxedo is perfect for those headed to a wedding or black tie event. Comfortable for all-day wear, or dancing the night away at a reception or party, this derby is lightweight and flexible, making sure your walking or dance moves won’t leave you with sore feet.
Cost and Value
Talk about a bargain! Similar to the Bruno Marc Moda, the price point on the Tuxedo is lower on the derby price spectrum. Instead of renting a pair of shoes to go with that tux, you’ll be able to buy a pair you can wear again and again, with the style option to choose something suited to your tastes and individuality.
- Color Contrast Option
- Textured Styling
- Formal Shoe
7. Bostonian Kinnon
This shoe has the classic derby silhouette with a cap toe for to add visual appeal. A one-inch stacked heel adds to the clean look, along with a rounded toe to make this shoe a good choice for your business wear. In addition, to those looking for a uniform shoe or formal occasion shoe, the Bostonian Kinnon pairs great with a uniform dress, or tuxedo wear.
Comfort for Extended Wear
The Bostonian Kinnon is lightweight and gives you all day comfort with a specially designed footbed to cushion and breath. The rubber sole gives you extra comfort when you are on your feet, and gives added traction to slippery surfaces. Open style lacing gives you the ability to tighten the shoe as needed.
Cost and Value
This shoe is a great general dress or uniform shoe for those occasional semi-formal events, but also as an everyday shoe worn to the office. Some colors and sizes vary in price, but it is a great investment for whatever your attire may be. Dress up jeans or slacks, or pair with more formal tuxedo or uniform dress, coming in at an average price on our list for derby shoes, it’s well worth the money spent.
- Clean look
- Textured Sole
- Higher Ankle
- Runs Narrow
8. Allen Edmonds Ashton
The Ashton is stylish without being overly formal. Seen in the quality with the raised stitching and leather upper is a shoe well constructed to last even the roughest of days. And let's not forget the burnished leather look that can appeal to many seeking comfort hidden in sophistication. Doctors or nurses that spend all day on their feet will appreciate the Ashton for its durable comfort, while still maintaining an office style aesthetic.
Durability and Reusability
When you find that favorite shoe, it feels like we found a new friend. And with a removable footbed and depth to accommodate a custom orthotic, you want to keep it as long as possible. The welt on this shoe allows it to be resoled so you can extend the life of the Ashton.
Cost and Value
One of the most expensive on the list, but very well made, it’s a great investment for those looking to buy a pair of shoes that will stand wear and tear of everyday use. It gives the extra room needed for custom orthotics, or just need more space in your shoe. With the option to be resoled, this pair of derby shoes will long outlast the price paid upfront!
- Burnished Leather
- Removable Footbed
- Welt Constructed
- Color Variety
9. Rieker 11615-24
Constructed of beautiful brown leather, this derby is soft and flexible, yet not easily worn down. A stacked heel gives a slight rise in the heel. Quality stitching along the outer sole to the quarters and uppers keeps this shoe’s sole sturdy. Perforations in the leather on the upper allow for a more breathable shoe, allowing your feet to stay dry and cool.
Rieker keep this derby with classic design, but ramps up the detail. The shoe is adorned with a top cap for added sophistication, and the decorative, but functional perforations in the uppers give it a look unlike any other. Rieker’s emblem is stamped on the outer quarter which also gives a bit of style to your footwear.
Cost and Value
Slightly more pricey than some of our budget-friendly option on our top 10 list, it still is by no means expensive when looking for a formal derby style shoe. Compared to other brands, it’s averagely priced, and the added style makes this a solid purchase. Unique and classic mix in this derby without going over the top.
- Open Laced
- Runs Large
10. Anthony Veer Derby
Quality craftsmanship runs throughout this shoe. A Goodyear welt represents the best quality made shoe when it comes to durability and water resistant, as well as supportive. Being made from full grain leather allows the shoe to mold to the shape of your foot over time, adding to comfort, and a unique fit.
Cushioned with a plush insole will keep your feet feeling fresh with every step, and the rubber outsole allows for some give when walking, as well as traction on slippery surfaces. Add in a bonus that this shoe comes with a shoe horn and extra pair of laces, and you’ll have these for some time to come!
Cost and Value
Slightly more expensive than other on our top 10 list, it’s well worth the investment. Quality such as this does come a premium, but with the 100% recraftable sole, you can repair and wear again, instead of purchasing a new pair. This investment is sure to last you a lifetime!
Only Partial Lining
Now that you’ve read through the top 10 of our picks for the best derby shoes around, think about what you are looking for in a derby, how often will you wear it, and where you will go in your Derbys. If you are looking for an occasional dress shoe, you may be able to sacrifice a little comfort for a lower price tag. But if you wear your derbys several times a week and are on your feet most of the day, you may find benefit in spending a little more for a longer lasting, more comfortable shoe. Wherever your derby’s take you, there is a pair waiting for you that fits your needs and your lifestyle.
Criteria Used to Evaluate the Best Derby Shoes
Since most people try on a shoe based on its visual appearance and then determine whether it is comfortable or not, first we looked at the overall aesthetics and type of material for our top picks. When you choose your derby, think about where you will wear them most often. Casual outings with family and friends, to the office where the dress code is a little more formal, or even to a semi-formal affair are all things to consider when finding a derby shoe. Many of those on our list can suit more than one occasion.
- Leather or a quality, flexible synthetic is typically the choice for a dress shoe. Synthetics tend to be lighter and breathe better than leather, and with the right construction can hold up just as well as leather to wet conditions. Suede has a more casual look and with weatherproofing, can stand a bit of moisture. All look nice and have a place in your wardrobe.
- Colors and styles were also considered as most people have some variety in their wardrobe. Many of our choices are in basic black or brown/dark tan, but there a few with more pizazz and contrast. All of our derby shoe top picks have a heel that adds a bit of formality to your look.
- Style was also considered because a little stitching, texture, and contrast make your shoes more interesting without being over-stated. The cap toe shoe adds some formality to your foot-ware, while a shoe textured uppers add depth, and a shoe with brougeing (perforations) adds interest and makes your shoe slightly less formal regardless of the toe style. Wingtips also give a unique flair to your style, creating a festive quality to your footwear.
Many people are on their feet all day, or possibly are not used to wearing a more dressy shoe. So, the next criteria for picking the top 10 was the comfort. The various ways our picks provide comfort are equally important as the appearance of the shoe. There are several ways our top picks met the comfort criteria.
- First, we looked for a cushioned or specialized insole/footbed to absorb shock and provide a better fit for your shoes. A little cushioning and moisture wicking properties to keep your feet dry goes a long way to keeping your feet comfortable.
- We also looked at the outsole of the shoe for stability and traction control. Almost all of the shoes on the list have some level of tread on the sole of the shoe to avoid slipping and sliding. And many of the shoes have at least a partial rubber sole and some also have a rubber heel for additional stability.
- Other comfort items you will find in our top picks are the break-in period for the various derbys. It’s important to know that for the shoes that have a longer break-in period, take your time and wear them gradually until they are broken in and formed to your foot. After that break-in period, you derbys will be ready to keep your feet comfortable.
Derby vs Oxford
Both the derby and the oxford are a dressier shoe. However, the Oxford is typically considered more dressy and formal than the derby. The derby can be identified three main qualities.
- Open Lacing System: This is where you can see the tongue underneath the laces, where the Oxford is a closed lacing system where you can’t see the tongue. Usually, the eyelet facings are sewn atop the vamp instead of underneath as found in an oxford. While the level of detail on the shoe can make it more or less formal, the oxford with the closed lace system is considered a more elegant, formal shoe.
- Quarters and Vamp Stitching: Oxford shoes will have the vamp of the shoe stitched on top of the quarter, creating a snug, cleaner look. A derby style shoe is just the opposite, where the quarters are stitched on top of the vamp.
- Open Ankle: Most oxford and derby style shoes will have an open ankle. A boot or shoe which covers the ankle is not considered a ‘derby’ or ‘oxford’ style shoe.
Most shoes have lining to cover the seams for a comfortable experience and to extend the life of your shoes. Leather lining is soft, lets your foot breathe and absorbs moisture well. But, it adds extra weight to the shoe. Fabric is more commonly used for lining due to its lower cost. But be aware that while some fabrics breath and absorb moisture better than others, they don’t breathe or absorb moisture as well as leather.
To care for your shoe lining and extend the life of your shoe, give your shoes time to air out before wearing them again as the moisture from your foot is absorbed into the lining and other materials in your shoes. For best results, store your shoes on a shoe tree to maintain their shape, prevent odors and aid in drying your shoes.
How to Make Your Shoes More Comfortable
Shoes, like your feet, come in many different depths and widths. Make sure that you get a shoe that is the correct depth and width of your foot. If you have a shallow foot or have a pair that is too deep for your feet, you may want to use inserts such as tongue pads or heel inserts to get a better fit. However, the best approach is to get a shoe that works for your foot shape.
If your shoes are too tight, you may choose to stretch them to make them more comfortable. But be careful not to stretch them too much. An overly loose shoe is almost as uncomfortable as a too tight shoe. Trying on shoes in the afternoon or evening when your feet may have become a little swollen during the day may help you get a better fit that will last all day. And make sure you have enough room in your shoe. Try to keep a thumbs width of distance from your longest toe to the end of your shoe. This gives your foot enough room to move when you walk. If your shoes do need to be stretched or maintain a certain shape, a shoe tree can help to do this.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: How can I tell if it’s a Derby?
A: Both the derby and the oxford are a dressier shoe. However, the derby is typically considered more casual due to the open lacing system. This allows for a gap between quarters on the derby, whereas the Oxford closed lacing system brings the quarters together for a snug and clean look.
Q: Where Should I Wear a Derby Shoe?
A: Derby shoes are versatile, depending on the style, material, and details of the shoe. Your shoes can be more casual, such as a suede, for those weekend and non-business occasions. A touch of brogueing or wingtip toe can amplify your style to bring you along to something fun like a Kentucky Derby style party, or festive occasion. Shiny patent leather and a simpler, clean look of your derby is perfect for formal occasions such as weddings.
Q: How do I Clean My Derby Shoes?
A: It is important to periodically clean, polish and condition or re-treat your investment to keep them looking great and extend their wearability. For all types of shoes, you may want to remove the laces to get dust and grime from around the eyelets. And take a look at the laces. If they are dirty either wash them or replace them. Some styles can simply be cleaned with a damp cloth, such as our Dr. Marten’s listed above, while others require a polish or water protectant spray to keep the material durable and clean.
- To clean leather derby shoes, start with a quality shoe brush. One made with horsehair is considered the best. Use it to remove dirt, grime or other materials from the leather, around the eyelets and other parts of your shoe. If there is dirt ingrained in the leather, clean it with a leather cleaner or saddle soap, water, and a soft sponge. Let them completely air dry before you move on to conditioning. When your shoes are dry, apply a leather conditioner according to the product directions. You will probably need to let your shoes dry again after conditioning. Then you can apply polish and buff your shoes to the desired shine.
- To clean suede derby shoes, make sure your shoes are dry and clean them with a suede brush. Carefully brush the suede in one direction to remove dirt and raise the nap. You may want to use a suede eraser to remove stains left behind after brushing. Apply a coat of suede protector on your derby shoes. Make sure to follow the product instructions.
Q: How long will it take to break in my derbys?
A: Depending on the material the shoe was constructed with, this can vary. Suede or soft leather derbys won’t take much time to break in, perhaps a couple days. Those made with full grain or more durable leather may take a week or longer to break in and mold to your foot. However, if the shoe takes longer than a month to feel more comfortable, you may have the wrong size for your foot. Be sure to size properly, especially if you have a wider foot or more narrow heel.
Q: What kind of socks should I wear?
A: Individual style plays a part in what kinds of socks you can wear, but there is no real ‘rule’ for this. If you’re intending to wear your derbys for work or business settings, regular dress socks that cover the ankle or calves are suitable, and with so many styles, you can still add your own personal touch. For something more casual or festive, you can get away with a thin ankle sock, which can also keep you a bit cooler.
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