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Black Dress Shoes (How to Wear Dress Shoes, How to Buy & What to Avoid)


Black women's and men's dress shoes

When shopping for black dress shoes, it’s easy to grab the first pair that fits or the one that has the style you’re looking for. But if you’re looking for a good pair that looks awesome, won’t hurt your feet, and is made to last, there are a few things you should keep in mind. This guide is going to tell you what to look for to get a great pair of black shoes that are easy on your feet and make the most sense for your wallet.

Materials

If you find the perfect pair of black dress shoes, you want them to last as long as possible. The best way to make sure that happens is to find a pair that’s made of high-quality materials.

In this respect, leather is the best choice. When you’re shopping for shoes, though, you may notice that there are multiple types of leather to choose from. Not all leathers are the same, so it’s important to understand the differences between them.

Full-grain leather is the best time. It’s moisture-resistant, extremely durable, and wears well. Top-grain leather is a step down from full-grain, though it’s still pretty good quality and more affordable.

Corrected leather is sanded to remove imperfections. It looks shinier than full-grain leather but is not nearly as durable.

Other types of leather you might see are patent leather and pebble-grain leather. Patent leather has an extremely shiny finish and should only be worn for formal occasions. Pebble-grain leather has a textured surface that looks like small pebbles. It’s a great choice for casual dress and tends to wear well because the pebbles hide scuffs and creases more than other types of leather do.

Soles

Man and woman's legs wearing black dress shoes.

Dress shoes have a reputation for being uncomfortable, but they don’t have to be if you know what to look for. The sole is the most important factor when it comes to long term comfort. If you’ve ever put on a pair of dress shoes that felt fine at the beginning of the night, but by the end, you could barely walk, it’s likely because the soles were not supportive enough. While this may be bearable for a short time, you don’t want a pair of black dressy shoes for work that you wear a few times a week to leave you with sore feet.

Not all soles are alike. Crepe soles are what you usually find with expensive shoes. They’re made of textured rubber and usually don’t last very long. High-quality rubber soles are usually pretty durable and have great grip, but they’re better for casual shoes and sneakers and not suited for dressy occasions.

The highest quality dress shoes have leather soles. They usually feel really good when you wear them and last a long time. That said, they don’t have a very good grip; so, while they’re suitable for formal occasions, you still have to be careful in places where the floor might be slippery.

There are a few other things to consider when it comes to women’s shoes. Because most women’s dress shoes have a high heel, a supportive inner sole is important. Ideally, you should look for shoes with good arch support, though this is sometimes difficult to find. Look for padding with thicker edges to naturally support the arch. Good cushioning under the heel and ball of your foot is important, too, especially for shoes that you plan to wear frequently.

Women also have to make sure their shoes fit properly, as high heels place a lot of pressure on the feet and can affect the knees, hips, and back if they don’t fit properly. Make sure there’s about a thumb’s width of space between your toes and the tip of the shoe.

Construction

To make sure that the high-quality soles of your black dress shoes stay in place for as long as possible, pay attention to the way the shoes are instructed.

Goodyear welting is what you usually find on high-end dress shoes because it’s extremely durable and makes the shoes easy to resole. A Goodyear welt consists of a strip of plastic, rubber, or leather running along the edge of the outsole of the shoe to hold the upper to the sole.

The other method used to do this is cementing, which is strong glue holding the top and bottom of the shoe together. This method does not last as long as Goodyear welting and cannot be resoled, so if you are looking for a pair of black dress shoes that last a long time, avoid those that use cementing.

Budget

Pair of black men's and women's dress shoes

Budget shouldn’t be the only thing you consider when choosing a pair of black dress shoes, but it is important. When deciding how much you are willing to spend, consider what purpose the shoes will serve. If you’re looking for a pair of shoes to wear for a single event, getting a high-quality pair may not matter as much so you can spend a little less. Just don’t expect them to last for years.

That said, if you want to invest in a good pair of black dress shoes that will last for years and years, it’s worth investing a little bit more. An investment like this may even save you money in the long run because you might not have to buy shoes again for a long time.

To give you an idea of what you can expect, here are some good options to choose from at different price points:

Under $100

Men – VOSTEY Men’s Dress Shoes Classic Wingtip Brogue Men Oxfords

VOSTEY Men's Dress Shoes Black Classic Cap Toe Brogue Men Oxfords (7,Black)
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These affordable black dress shoes have a classic Oxford wingtip look, complete with broguing. They’re made of synthetic material and have a black rubber sole that gives a little more grip than you might expect from a dress shoe. That said, remember that inexpensive rubber soles don’t last very long. This is a pretty comfortable shoe, with a soft lining and insole to keep your feet cool and dry, and the fully cushioned memory foam insole keeps you comfortable for hours.

Women – DREAM PAIRS Women’s Swan High Heel Platform Shoes

DREAM PAIRS Women's Swan-30 Black Suede High Heel Plaform Dress Pump Shoes Size 5 M US
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When it comes to women’s dress shoes, there are a lot of styles to choose from. One of the most popular and affordable designs are these high heel platform shoes from Dream Pairs. They are made of synthetic material and have a rubber sole, two signs that these shoes are of lower quality than the more expensive options. The faux leather insole is slightly padded and provides some comfort.

Keep in mind that if these high platforms aren’t your style, there are plenty of decent shoes in this price range, so you should be able to find something that suits you. We chose looks that are a little more timeless for the next few price points.

Under $200

Men – HUGO by Hugo Boss Men’s Appeal Derby Dress Shoe

HUGO by Hugo Boss Men's Appeal Derby Dress Shoe Uniform, Black, 9.5 D(M) US
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You can find some pretty decent shoes in this price range, like these black Derby dress shoes from Hugo Boss. They’re made of 100-percent leather and have a leather sole, which is a step up from the previous price point. The sole has a rubber injection for additional shock absorption and a flex-foam insole, so they’re super comfortable, too.

Women – Stuart Weitzman Women’s Leigh 95

Stuart Weitzman Leigh 95mm Pump Black Dress Nappa 5
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Here’s a great women’s dress shoe that shows you exactly what you can expect at this price point. The smooth, elegant silhouette is ideal for any formal occasion, and the pointed toe and stiletto heel bring a classic, sexy look. These shoes have a leather upper and outsole, which are again a step up from the $100 price point, and the cushioned footbed adds a bit of comfort.

Under $300

Men – Allen Edmonds Men’s McAllister Wing Tip

Allen Edmonds Men's McAllister Wing Tip,Black,7 D US
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Now we’re getting to a level of high-quality, sophisticated black dress shoes. These wingtips from Allen Edmonds are made of 100 percent premium calfskin leather and also have a leather sole. These are a true Oxford shoe, featuring a wingtip design and decorative piping, pinking, and broguing. They use Goodyear welting, which is a sign of quality and an indication that these shoes will last a very long time.

Women – L.K. Bennett Women’s Floret-nap Pump

L.K. Bennett Women's Floret-nap Pump, Black, 40 M EU (9.5 US)
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Here’s another classic look for a pair of women’s black dress shoes. This sleek pump is made of 100-percent leather with a leather sole. They’re chic and feminine, and the high-quality materials were chosen because they will hold up over time. These shoes are comfortable, too, thanks to the memory foam footbed.

Over $300

Men- Mezlan Argento Men’s Luxury Lace-Up Dress Shoes

Mezlan Argento - Mens Luxury Lace-Up Dress Shoes - Diamond Patterned Etched Calfskin and Deeper Toned Burnished Wing-Tip - Handcrafted in Spain - Medium Width (Cognac/Honey, 8)
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These gorgeous shoes from Mezlan Argento feature a leather sole and hand-burnished calfskin upper with diamond pattern stitching. They’re exceptionally comfortable because they have an injected memory foam insole. The most impressive thing about these is that they’re handmade in Spain by master shoemakers. Yes, you will pay a bit more for these shoes, but you can trust they’re of the highest quality.

Women – SJP by Sarah Jessica Parker Women’s Windsor Pump

SJP by Sarah Jessica Parker Women's Windsor Pump, Habana mesh, 36.5 B EU (6 US)
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Here’s a good example of what you get when you’re willing to splurge on a good pair of black shoes. These pumps from SKP by Sarah Jessica Parker are handmade in Italy by a third-generation shoemaker. The fabric and materials are all hand selected for style and quality, and each shoe is lined with Italian Nappa Leather.

Mistakes to Avoid When Buying Black Dress Shoes

To make sure your black dress shoes are a good fit for your feet and your budget, here are some of the top things to avoid.

1. Equating expensive with high quality.

Yes, shoes that are made out of high-quality materials are going to be more expensive than those that are not. But just because a shoe is expensive, doesn’t mean it’s made out of high-quality materials. Before buying any shoe, take the time to make sure it has the qualities we mentioned. Is it made of leather? Does it have Goodyear welting? What are the soles made of? There’s nothing wrong with paying a lot of money for quality. But you have to make sure you’re getting what you pay for.

2. Not considering the true value of the shoe.

If you buy a good pair of black dress shoes for $300, they may last a decade or so, depending on how often you wear them. But if you buy a cheap pair of shoes for $50 every year or so, you’re going to spend much more in the long run than if you’d gone with the high-quality option in the first place.

3. Choosing something flashy.

Black dress shoes are timeless, but some styles are pretty flashy. When you invest a lot of money into a pair of shoes, you want to be able to wear them as much as you can. Skip eye-catching details like weaving or gemstones and stick with something simple to get as much wear as possible out of them. Remember, a good pair of black dress shoes should go with everything. The simpler the style, the better.

4. Not taking care of your investment.

Good shoes need proper care if they’re going to last. If you have a good pair of leather shoes that you expect to last a long time, a leather conditioner and an occasional polish are essential. A thin layer of wax is a good idea, too, as it serves as the first line of defense against abrasions and moisture.

5. Tossing them on the bottom of your closet when you’re done wearing them.

Leather shoes should be stored properly. You shouldn’t just leave them by the door, and you definitely should not set them near a radiator. Leather shoes should be stored in a shoe bag when not being worn. When you put them away for the season, keep them in the bag, place the bag in the shoebox, and place them in your closet.

6. Getting shoes that don’t fit properly.

For men, a good fit is so important with leather shoes, especially when you’re investing a lot of money into a pair of shoes that you plan to wear for years to come. Leather stretches, so you have to make sure you get the right fit from the start, since the longer you wear them, the more likely it is that they’re going to stretch too far to be comfortable.

This is an especially important point for women. As we mentioned, the wrong size in a pair of high heels can cause a lot of pain in the legs and back. If you continue to wear shoes that don’t fit properly, this pain will only get worse, especially if you’re wearing them every day.

7. Going for style above all else.

If you fall in love with a pair of shoes that seem like they’re everything you’ve ever wanted and then you put them on only to find out that they don’t fit or are impossible to walk in, keep looking. Style is important in black dress shoes, but at the end of the day, you have to be able to function while you’re wearing them. You don’t want to spend hundreds of dollars on a pair of shoes that you’re only able to wear for an hour or two before you have to take them off again. Comfort is important, so make sure you keep that in mind when shopping.

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