For serious track days, there must be serious footwear. Driving shoes that go up the ankle can bring support and also some protection against those really hot transmission tunnels. Yet they also need to allow for some nifty footwork on occasion and not detach the driver from the feel of the pedals. A tall order, but this Driving Shoe Buyer's Guide highlights some shoes that deliver. We are deeply grateful to the excellent Sube Sports of Huntington Beach, California, for allowing us to raid their shelves and set up our cameras in their workshop. Check out subesports.com.
1. Puma Trionfo Mid Pro II
A pricey one, but check out the stabilizing carbon-fiber cup around the heel and the "twin runner" arrangement at the same location. Buy these shoes and you'll want to get into a race car just to do them justice. The body is made from Schoeller canvas (Schoeller makes high-tech fabrics for all sorts of applications) and soft suede, and the lining is Nomex. A "tongueless" design means a snug fit as well as keeping weight to a minimum, while the wearer enjoys good blood flow thanks to the asymmetric lacing arrangement. FIA 8856-2000 and SFI 3.3/5 approved. Available in black, red, or blue.
2. Sparco Slalom SL-3
Sparco is one of those trusted names in motorsport. The reason why is because the company makes stuff as good as this. It's a lightweight suede upper/rubber sole racing boot with a Nomex lining. The sole is oil- and fuel-resistant as well as being anti-slip and anti-static. FIA and SFI approved. Available in black, blue, or red.
3. Puma SL Tech Mid Pro
Full-grain leather combines with an oil-resistant rubber sole and an anatomically shaped footplate for an ideal driving shoe. Asymmetric lacing keeps the blood circulating nicely and a "split heel" feature brings support, sensitivity, and agility, making it comfortable enough for endurance racing. The company says this shoe is 25 percent lighter than "other conventional designs." FIA 8856-2000 and SFI 3.3/5 approved. Available in black, red, or blue.
4. Alpinestars Tech I-KX
A lot of great racers cut their teeth on karts. It's also a relatively inexpensive way to get some big driving thrills. And naturally, the right kit is important. This karting shoe from Alpinestars is light yet feature-packed, all at a reasonable price. It has the company's lateral forefoot support and is made of microfibers and mesh inserts for the tongue, heel, and sides. So there's excellent ventilation. The sole is made of a special rubber compound for grip and sensitivity in wet and dry conditions. This shoe even has a Kevlar speed-lacing system for a quick, precise, and secure closure. Available in black/white/red, blue/white, black/white, or black/yellow. FIA and SFI approved.
5. Sparco Top 3
This is the company's most popular high-top racing shoe. It's made of super-soft yet durable suede, with a rubber sole that is (like the Slalom) oil- and fuel-resistant, and anti-slip and anti-static. Note the reinforcement at the heel and the fairly sharp angle at the pivot point for ultra-precise pedal modulations. FIA and SFI approved. Available in black, blue, gray, red, or yellow.
6. Alpinestars Tech 1-T
Note how the ankle-cut profile provides support yet still allows freedom of movement. We're talking full-grain leather upper, lateral forefoot support for stability, rubber compound sole for ideal feel and vibration resistance, plus a Nomex lining. Available in red/black, black/gray/white, blue/white, black/orange/white, black/yellow fluorescent, gray/black/red, or anthracite. So there ought to be some color combination there to please a sponsor or two. FIA and SFI approved.
7. Puma Repli Cat III Low
Not strictly a driving shoe in the accepted sense, since it doesn't have ankle support/protection. But it can be an excellent crew shoe, pull duty as a stylish piece of general-use footwear, and still provide some useful feel for an impromptu blast. Made from suede and available in black/white, red/white, or white/black. The white-bodied version is not too bright, more kind of ivory.