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The Ultimate Minimalist Dress Shoe Guide for Men 2024

Updated: Jan 13

You’ve tossed your graduation cap and you're about to start your dream job; or you’ve just received an invite to a friend’s wedding. As the excitement brews, so does a nagging anxiety: Although your outfit is sorted, it finally dawns on you that you strictly own barefoot shoes.


You’re faced with a dilemma... Do you regress to yesteryear and wear the widest conventional dress shoes locally available, and focus obsessively on foot exercises; or do you look for a flat, clown-looking barefoot alternative – constantly explaining to colleagues and guests alike; what these shoes are, why you’re wearing them, and ultimately; turning your outfit into a more casual look.


I'm sure we've all been in this predicament. Some of us braver, more carefree or less committed souls will pull the trigger on a model like the Vivobarefoot RA - I know I've been there myself in my younger days, or when attending less formal functions. However, sometimes we need to go that extra mile for an important event or meeting; heck, some of us even want a more sleek or classic look to pair with an Italian style suit or tux.


If this resonates with you, and you live a life where you're on the lookout for a foot friendly alternative - then look no further, we have you covered with 'Our Ultimate Minimalist Dress Shoe Guide 2024'.


We've highlighted 10 options, split into 3 parts - 'Our Top 5 Minimalist Dress Shoes for Men Who Want to Dress to Impress', 'Our Top 5 Smart & Casual Minimalist Shoes for Men' and 'Our Additional Mens Dress Shoe Recommendations Worth Noting'.


*Disclaimer - this page uses affiliate links.



 

Our Top 5 Minimalist Dress Shoes for Men Who Want to Dress to Impress


In this segment, we cover inconspicuous high-end options that are better suited for more formal events. These options will either have a heel, heel height options or the illusion of a heel, whilst still managing to tick criteria such as a wide toe-box.


Safest Option: Carets

Most Premium Option: The Last Shoemaker

Best For Your Wallet: ZAQQ

Best Bang For Your Buck (Price & Quality): Freeform

Best Range: The Last Shoemaker, ZAQQ & FreeForm

Best Service: Carets & FreeForm

Most Inconspicuous: FreeForm & Carets

Most Likely To Turn Heads: The Last Shoemaker, FreeForm & Loewe

Most Foot Friendly: FreeForm, ZAQQ & Carets

Least Foot Friendly: Loewe


The most renown minimalist dress-specific shoe brand on the market; Carets is a company based in the US, whose presence has been known for the better part of a decade. They’ve been attentive to all the aesthetic and functional requirements that most of us are in need of. They have even cleverly designed a patented hollow/bevelled heel to achieve the illusion of a heel whilst remaining zero-drop, with a wide toe-box that tapers once it has passed your toes - thus, creating a shoe which emulates a conventional dress shoe without all the nasty traits.


Their prices range from approximately $220 to $400 USD; sporting a wide range of styles and colours – including Boots, Wingtips etc. Their customer service is second to none and they have extremely fast delivery options.


I've worn these myself numerous times and can vouch that nobody notices that they aren't conventional shoes, and they're honestly one of the comfiest dress shoe I've worn. I've seen people comment based on the way they look, that 'they look like they don't have a wide toe-box'; however, this is entirely false... They are on par with most barefoot sneaker brands. Yes, they're not as flexible, but why would a mid to high-end dress shoe need to be too flexible?


Pros:

  • Wide Toe-Box & Zero-Drop

  • A decent range of most dress shoe styles and colours

  • Excellent Customer Service

  • Comes with accessories such as shoe trees and laces

  • You still retain a decent amount of flexibility during movement

  • You can resole them

  • They are inconspicuous


Cons:

  • Can be considered expensive if you're not accustomed to buying dress shoes

  • They look chunkier and are not as fancy as a lot of conventional shoes

  • No customisation


See our review here or browse the website here.




 

2. ZAQQ

Based in Germany, ZAQQ are a barefoot shoe company with a vast array of luxe-looking dress shoes for both men and women. They are meticulously crafted to EU standards and use a similar hollow/bevelled heel revolutionised by Carets.


Browsing their catalogue, they have a smorgasbord of styles… From Brogues, to Chukkas, Oxfords, and even Double Monkstraps. I haven’t had the pleasure to test them out myself; however, I’ve been told that they may run slightly narrower around the toe-box - so this may not work for those of us who have hobbit-like feet. Unfortunately, the faux heel models are not available for delivery to the US – so you may need to use a third party shipping service, or a willing friend or family member.


Prices range from approximately 160EU to 250EU, making them one of the best value options available in this list.


Pros:

  • Functional Toe-Box & Zero Drop

  • A massive range of styles, colours and materials available

  • Value for money

  • You still retain a lot of flexibility during movement (assumption)


Cons:

  • They aren't as fancy as conventional shoes and they look a bit rounded

  • You can't resole them

  • People may assume that they aren't conventional shoes

  • No customisation


Click here to browse their models.



 

Freeform emerged following a crowdfunding campaign, during that weird year most of us would like to forget existed... 2020. They are a US based company, and are the gold standard - using some of the finest materials, design and craftsmanship known. If I must say so myself, their Double Monkstrap is one of the most impeccable looking shoes I've seen!


I’ve had the pleasure of wearing their Plain Toe Derby 15mm for my wedding day/night, and they did not disappoint - In fact, I'm thankful I wore them instead of any other alternative available at the time. They were undoubtedly the icing on the cake for my outfit... Bouncing around on my feet all day, and even with a 15mm heel, there were no issues whatsoever - It was barely noticeable. One recommendation I'd make however, is to add an insole from one of your barefoot shoes, as the existing footbed is quite firm.


They are slightly more expensive than Carets on average - ranging from $325 to $425 USD; however, some of their models do compare in price. They do however have 3 different heel heights (0mm, 4mm & 15mm), have 2 welt options, offer a much more premium product and they look indistinguishable from conventional shoes. They also have a few boot options available for all you enthusiasts out there.


Pros:

  • Wide Toe-Box & Zero Drop options

  • 3 different heel options

  • A decent range of styles, colours and materials available

  • You can resole them

  • They look indistinguishable to conventional shoes

  • The heel heights are barely noticeable when wearing them

  • Premium design, manufacture and materials - in my opinion, they are in the top 2 best looking


Cons:

  • They may be considered expensive for people who aren't accustomed to buying dress shoes

  • The footbed is a bit firm for my feet, so I had to add a removable insert

  • No customisation

Click here to browse the website.



 

I was quite surprised seeing photos of models wearing wide toe-box shoes in one of the latest Loewe runway events. This could be seen as a sign of progress, or even cause a chain reaction; with a major fashion label formed in 1846 finally taking these steps in 2023. Having a look through their website, I don't see why they Derby couldn't be a feasible option - with its wide toe-box shape.


The Derby is a high-polished shoe guaranteed to make a statement. They're available in both Burgundy or Black, and range from sizes 39 to 46. They are priced quite high at $990 USD; which can be deemed quite expensive, however we must remember that we are paying for a designer label. It's also worth looking at their other options in general, as they seem fairly foot-friendly - see the Folio here.


Pros:

  • A sharp-looking shoe with a designer label

  • Wide toe-box


Cons:

  • Expensive

  • Chunky, rigid and heavy (assumption)

  • Higher heel

  • No customisation


Click here to check them out.



 

We've saved the most premium option for last (no pun intended). The Last Shoemaker is the creation of Payson Muller & Allan Donnelly. They are a bespoke company based in York, UK - utilising their traditional shoemaking knowledge, to introduce to the minimalist world a truly unmatched range of dress shoes.


I've tried the Skeldergate model myself; a custom made minimalist loafer built exactly to my foot dimensions. They are an amazing looking and super-comfortable shoe, requiring no break-in period. The shoe is unapologetically foot shaped, however they still look quite conventional and make even more of a statement with their odd use of angles. They have the slightest heel, which has been barely noticeable, and being made to your foot; there are no issues with width or volume.


Although most people may be deterred by their initial price point, one must remember that they are a handcrafted shoe, using unmatched techniques and materials - so this is an investment for serious people, which I'm sure will stand the test of time.


Prices range from $425 - $532 USD, and for the result you get - they bring much more value to the table compared to a lot of custom-made minimalist shoe companies.


Pros:

  • Completely customisable to your foot shape, so width is not an issue

  • A massive range of styles, colours and materials available

  • They are the most premium dress shoe on the market and guaranteed to make a statement

  • They are very comfortable, and even with the slight heel, they felt more comfortable than some zero-drop options I've tried

  • You can resole them

  • They come in leather packaging and you can request metal toe protectors

  • Good movement and flexibility


Cons:

  • On the more expensive side

  • Custom made, so there is a lead time if you want a pair


Click here to check out their website.



 

Our Top 5 Smart & Casual Minimalist Shoes for Men


This is our round up of more casual options, which would by default have better 'barefoot' properties. We've had to cut down the choices to shorten the blog post, so we've included a good mix of staples, unknown and top value brands. We've also included a shortlist of other worthy alternatives at the end of this post.


Safest Option: Lems Nine2Five

Most Premium Options: Prime Trotter

Best For Your Wallet: FeelBarefoot by Aintap

Best Bang For Your Buck (Price & Quality): Peerko

Best Range: Prime Trotter & FeelBarefoot by Aintap

Most Inconspicuous: Peerko & Senmotic


1. Lems Nine2Five

The Nine2Five needs no introduction as their reputation precedes them. They've been such a staple in the community long before I had jumped on the scene and give the meaning to the term 'If it ain't broke don't fix it. With a higher stack height (9mm without insole and still zero drop), they pass smart and casual functions with flying colours, and look quite similar to Rockport, Hush Puppies, Clarks etc. and could be a great option if you need a shoe with a similar style and use your feet all day.


They're available in sizes US 6 - 15, are priced at $145 USD and have 2 colours available; Black or Mocha. I haven't tested this model myself; however, I've tested many other Lems models and approve. The Nine2Five shares the same sole as the Lems Boulder, so dimensions should be quite similar, and the brand is known for having a higher stack height - so keep that in mind.


Pros:

  • Readily available in a range of sizes

  • Higher stack height, so they're great if you're on your feet all day

  • Wide toe-box & Zero-Drop

  • A versatile option for casual settings


Cons:

  • Chunky looking upper and sole

  • Not the most elegant, they could perhaps remove the tag on the side?

Click here to browse their website.



 

Want a bespoke, rugged leather shoe crafted to your exact measurements that doesn't break the bank? Then cue the Prime Trotter Oxford. I had the pleasure of reviewing the Oxford a couple of years ago - see here, and these have since been my most worn shoe to date. They are my daily driver for most work days, and they transition perfectly from the office to the construction site, to meetings and beyond - I've even worn them as a groomsman, knowing I'd be on my feet non-stop all day. After over 3 years of heavy wear, the upper is still quite untarnished and feels better than ever; however, it's finally time to look at resoling them.


The Oxford have a stack height of 7mm with a Vibram sole and are priced at 270 EU. Prime Trotter are based in Greece, also have boots available and can accommodate complete custom designs. They have been somewhat inactive on Instagram for some time, so please exercise some caution.


Pros:

  • Completely custom-made

  • They use a vibram outsole, so they're great if you're on your feet all day

  • Wide toe-box & Zero-Drop - as they're made to your foot measurements

  • Can be used for a wide range of settings

  • Can be resoled

  • Flexible


Cons:

  • They may get called out in more formal settings

  • They have a rounded toe area

  • No heel options if you wanted one

  • The price can be a bit of a deterrent


See website here.



 

Peerko are a Czech based company with several sleek, all-leather options, destined to earn compliments. They have a stack height of approximately 5mm and they seem to have a roomy toe-box (I haven't had the chance to test them - so this is an assumption). The 'Smart Boss' would be a perfect Doc Marten 1461 alternative.


Sizes range from EU 37 - 45 and the price is 131.60 EU, with 4 colours available.


Pros:

  • Wide Toe-Box, Zero Drop & Flexible (assumptions)

  • They look quite sleek

  • Competitive pricing


Cons:

  • Better for smart casual

  • They only have a small range available

  • No heel options if you wanted one

Check our their website here.



 

FeelBarefoot is a sub-company of Turkish based Aintap Shoes. They offer a range of affordable and handmade barefoot sneakers, boots, sandals, slip-ons and dress shoes.


The mens dress shoe range consists of Brogues and Oxfords, in a range of colours - with a 7mm leather sole as standard, and they have the option of adding a 2mm Vibram sole and a copper earthing rivet.


The shoes have a natural foot shape, are flexible and a great choice for high-volume feet. As they are handmade, they wouldn't be advised for more formal events. However, with their competitive price point, they are the perfect choice for a smart and casual daily driver. Prices currently range from $84 - 106 USD.


Pros:

  • Wide Toe-Box, Zero Drop & Flexible (assumption)

  • Semi-customisable

  • Large range of models/colours

  • Competitive pricing

  • Great option for smart and casual

  • Option to have a copper earthing rivet


Cons:

  • Quality isn't as polished as other dress shoes

  • A bit rough looking for more formal event


Click here to browse their Etsy.



 

German based company Senmotic have 3 models available, that would be a perfect daily driver for most needs; The Bright, The Fine & The Empire - all available in Black or Brown. They are handcrafted, have a 2 year warranty, and include a number of cool customisation features - such as being able to choose different sizes for each foot, or modifying width and volume. They can also be resoled. Prices range from 209 - 229 EU, with sizes starting from EU 39 and all the way to EU 47.


Pros:

  • Wide Toe-Box, Zero Drop & Flexible (assumption)

  • 2 Year warranty

  • Semi-customisable


Cons:

  • Better for smart casual

  • They only have a small range available

  • No heel options if you wanted one

  • The price may be on the higher side


Click here to access their website.



 

Our Additional Mens Dress Shoe Options Worth Noting



 

1 Comment


Max R.
Max R.
Jun 04

Aintap shoes are definitely my favorite brand. Even though they cost more, you really get what you pay for in terms of quality - they're worth every penny. They're probably not the most appropriate choice for fancy occasions. But I've been wearing my shoes for over three years now, both for casual and dressier events, and they still look great. Aintap shoes are my top picks!

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