Why use driving shoes? For the same reason you use a hammer to drive a nail into a wall: It's the best tool for the job at hand. This is what I look for in a good driving shoe:
1. The sole should be thin enough so you have a good feel for the pedal under your foot, but should be rigid enough so your foot is well supported.
2. It should have enough grip to not slip around the pedals, yet not be too sticky for switching pedals easily.
3. The sole should curve around the heel to allow you to rest your foot on the heel. This prevents notchy foot movement and that translates into smoother driving.
4. Ideally, the outside of the right shoe should be covered in rubber to protect it during heel and toe maneuvers.
One of the most popular driving shoe brands in paddocks is Piloti. And for good reason. Piloti makes shoes that fit all the criteria listed above, are fairly priced, can be worn casually, and look good to boot. I have had a couple of pairs for track days in the past and even like wearing them around town and at the office. More recently, I decided to upgrade to dedicated driving shoes. Just the way many of us have dedicated track wheels and tires, I wanted the best shoes for the job. My new driving shoes are the Stand21 Daytona II and I've been very happy with them. It's an added benefit that they come from my hometown: Dijon, France! As dedicated track shoes, they work better for driving but unlike the Pilotis, they are not that great to walk around town. Come to think of it, they are just like race tires. All worth it if you do a lot of track days!
Piloti is Italian for racing drivers and even amateur driving enthusiasts will appreciate the shoes' comfort and fit. They come with asymmetric rounded heels that facilitate a well-executed heel-and-toe downshift. I have been using Pilotis for over 10 years and I am on my fourth pair. They have thicker soles than pure racing shoes and they are still great for driving, as well as walking around the paddock and even as everyday casual shoes. My current pair is Piloti Stradale, which is reasonably priced and fits all criteria for great driving shoes.
For me, the most important quality I look for in a driving shoe is a sole that is thin enough to optimize feedback from the pedals. I have been using Puma Repli Cats for the past two years. They are simple, stylish and reasonably priced at around $70, while serving as a very effective shoe for autocross and track use. However, they are not fire resistant and I would recommend a more flame adverse option if your car is prone to spontaneous combustion (i.e. you own a Ferrari or built your car yourself).
For day-to-day use, I want a shoe that fits with my business attire, yet doesn't compromise my driving experience during my commute. In this case, I look for a shoe that has a sturdier sole than my "race" shoes, with a less pronounced heel and narrower toe than typical dress shoes. Ecco makes some very high quality shoes with these characteristics, such as their "Welt Sneaker Tie" style. I've been wearing a pair for the past two years, and it still feels and looks fantastic.
Chicks dig my shoes. They're big, and offer protection. We all know what that means. I tie them at the joint for more control of "things" and release the laces when I'm ready.
Jameson with no dinner is a thing of beauty, btw!
These are my favorite "driving" shoes. Cheers!