Men's Shoes Buying Guide

A man's outfit isn't complete without the right shoes, but finding the perfect pair of shoes isn't always easy. This buying guide will help you analyze the men's shoe market as it stands today so that you can purchase shoes that maximize comfort while looking great when you walk into the office, cruise through the gym, lounge on vacation or step out for dinner.

Types of Men's Shoes

Sneakers and athletic shoes are designed to support your active lifestyle. You may need a pair of cross trainers that you can wear when passing the football outside with your son or going to an amusement park with your family or friends. You may also select athletic shoes that are specific to activities that you enjoy, such as running, walking, golfing or skateboarding. While athletic shoe designers try to introduce models that are visibly attractive, foot support is the most important feature. Your shoes will either enhance or interfere with your athletic performance, so you may want to have your feet professionally fitted to ensure proper arch support.

Men's boots range from cowboy boots and work boots to designer boots crafted from fine leather. You may shop for work boots with steel toes if you need durable footwear that will protect your feet in a construction zone or warehouse. Cowboy boots are often worn for style, but they're also essential when working with horses or on a farm. Designer boots are different because you can wear them to work, out to dinner or to any dressy event. Pay attention to the height of your boots to ensure that they will work well with the pants that you intend to wear with them.

If you need shoes to wear with a suit or into an office with a strict dress code, you probably need a pair of oxfords or dressy loafers. These shoes come in various styles and are often crafted from high-quality leather. If you're searching for comfortable shoes that you can wear around the house, while running errands or to casual events, you should shop for casual loafers, sandals or slippers. A pair of sneakers designed for general wear can work for these everyday purposes as well.

Pay Attention to

Full-Grain or Corrected Leather

Most dress shoes are crafted from leather, but full-grain leather will last longer than leather that was corrected to remove imperfections prior to shoe construction. You will pay more for full grain, but it's worth the price if you want your shoes to last for years. If an online shoe description doesn't state what type of leather is used and the shoe sells for under $200, you may assume that you're buying corrected leather.

Cemented or Welted

This applies mostly to men's oxfords and some other types of dress shoes. When the uppers and lowers are welted together, a more durable shoe that provides superior ankle support is created. Welts are firm pieces of leather that attach to the shoe's upper, and the sole is attached to the welt from the bottom. Cementing refers to the application of an adhesive to hold the shoe together, which is much less expensive than welting. Cemented shoes may not last more than a year or two while quality welted shoes will last for much longer with proper care.

Your Proper Size

Don't assume that you wear the same shoe size across all brands. Manufacturers may differ in how they measure and craft each size, and the right fit is critical to your comfort and the health of your feet and legs. Many men also find that they prefer different sizes for athletic shoes than for dress shoes or everyday loafers. If you shop online, make sure that you can return or exchange the shoes if you select the wrong size.

Intended Purpose

Many men get comfortable with one pair of shoes and wear them all the time, but this is a mistake. You'll wear your shoes out quickly doing this, and you'll sacrifice comfort in some situations. Invest in at least one pair of shoes for each activity that you enjoy. This means that you wear your running shoes when you're running and switch into a pair of oxfords when you head into the office. Your shoes will last longer, and your feet will appreciate having the proper support for each activity.

Proper Shoe Care

If you're going to invest in high-quality shoes, you should prepare to take proper care of those shoes. For men's dress shoes made of fine leather, this often means storing them on a shoe tree and rotating between multiple pairs so that perspiration doesn't get the best of the leather. You may also need to learn how to shine your shoes or repair scuff marks. If you don't want to take the time for this type of care, you may want to purchase cheaper shoes that you can simply replace every six months to a year.

Designer Updates

Don't feel pressured to replace your designer shoes every year just because a new line is released. If you look at the differences between similar shoes released from one year to the next, you will find that they are often quite subtle. This means that your boss, girlfriend or best friend won't notice if you're wearing the latest release or last year's model. This allows you to purchase the shoes that you want at the most affordable price, regardless of the release year. There are times when you may notice a substantial update in a particular shoe, so you may want to spend a bit more money to get the latest model in that case.

Top Brands and product Lines

Kenneth Cole

This is a luxury brand selling fashionable men's shoes crafted from premium-quality suede and leather, including oxfords, boots, sneakers and unique designs like the oxford sneaker.

Gucci

You've probably heard the women in your life talk about Gucci, but they make quality shoes for men as well. The line up often includes a large selection of loafers with some quirky sneakers thrown into the mix. The sneakers are better for making a fashion statement than for sports.

Timberland

This brand is best known for their well-crafted work boots, but they also sell men's loafers and oxfords with a rugged appeal. You can also order custom hand-sewn shoes.

Nike

This is where many men turn when they need comfortable athletic shoes that will hold up to intense activity.

Red Wing

This brand competes with Timberland in the work boot category. They use quality leather and other durable materials to create boots that will stand up to intense work environments.