This Podiatrist Says It’s Time to Hop on the Dad Shoe Trend Already
Chunky dad shoes are not only in style, but good for you too.
It’s rare that a style comes along that’s both trendy and comfortable. Like the uber-functionable fanny pack that has also seen a recent resurgence, comfy ugly-chic “dad sneakers” are all the rage today. Stylish TikTok teens tout their chunky-soled sneaker finds in try-on hauls, while celebs like Dua Lipa and Bella Hadid have been photographed in shoes straight out of Jerry Seinfeld’s closet. The kids are onto something: These kicks—unlike high heels such as, say, stilettos—are much more comfortable and good for your feet.
According to Dr. Sujeet Gupta, president of the Manitoba Podiatry Association, chunky shoes have an advantage over flatter styles and ultra-high heels because they typically have some extra cushioning for the sole and added ankle support. He says, “You want the shoe to feel supportive around the ankle so you know that you won’t be excessively pronated or supinated.” Basically, that means that your weight won’t roll onto the inner or outer edges of your feet.
If an over-exaggerated sole just isn’t for you, you can still take advantage of fashion’s turn toward the functional by shopping for other comfy sneaker styles. The most important thing to look for when shopping for shoes is a “Cinderella” fit: Gupta says that finding the perfect size has solved many of his patients’ foot woes. “You don’t want too big of a shoe, because then your foot will slide back and forth, which causes friction, calluses and corns,” he says. A too-small fit, meanwhile, will cut off your circulation, or cause ingrown toenails, corns and more.
To find the perfect fit, advises Gupta, shoe-shoppers should first make sure there’s enough space in the toe box, which accounts for the front quarter of the shoe. “You always want to allow adequate room between the end of your longest toe and the front of the shoe,” he says, recommending about five-eighths of an inch as a guideline.
Then, consider the sole—opt for something that isn’t totally flat, since those shoes lack arch support, which helps your feet distribute your body weight evenly and avoids rolling your weight onto the edges of your feet. Gupta says he’s seen patients come in with ankle sprains and partial tendon thickening or tears from wearing flat skater-style sneakers, like Converse or Vans. “A lot of those skate shoes, in my opinion, are not the best, and they don’t have the support you want,” he says. “For people who swear by skate shoes, make sure you get a good insole to support your arches.”
Everyone’s feet are different, and while it seems like a no-brainer, the best way to find the perfect sneaker for you is by trying them on—which means making sure you can get to a shoe store IRL, instead of clicking “add to cart.” Once you’re in the store, finding a shoe that fits best may require checking out alternative sizes, like “wide” or “narrow” sizing, which are now offered by most mainstream shoe brands. “You don’t want a super wide shoe, or your feet will be swimming in it and you’re not going to get that support,” says Gupta. However, if a shoe is too narrow, it’ll constrict your feet and cut off blood circulation. On that note: Aim to go shoe shopping at the end of the day. After a few hours of walking and standing, your feet will be a little swollen, and your new shoes will be fitted to that size, which avoids the risk of buying shoes that will fit in the morning but be too tight by evening. As well, most people don’t have identical feet: Usually, one is ever-so-slightly bigger, so make sure you fit your sneaker to the larger foot. And don’t forget to wear socks when you try shoes on, preferably whatever you’d wear normally, not the paper-thin hosiery they offer you at the store.
Materials are also important to consider when shopping for shoes. Gupta suggests leather because it’s really durable. Plus, leather is breathable, easy to clean and always stylish. And major bonus: It conforms to your feet over time, leading to a custom fit. Canvas is another great option for an everyday sneaker. “It’s lightweight and easy to pull on right at a moment’s notice,” he says. Having some mesh in the shoe (like on the top) is especially ideal in the summer, when your feet need to breathe. If your feet are trapped in stuffy shoes all day, especially if they’re a snug fit, you’re more likely to end up with blisters or corns. Gupta also likes suede for sneakers, “because it’s naturally soft, cozy and warm, so it’s good for autumn and winter.” Synthetic materials like faux leather and PVC aren’t bad, but they might be less breathable.
In the end, it all depends on what you want out of the shoe. Do you want to be able to pull it on and head out the door quickly? Do you need a bit of warmth for your feet? Or maybe you need some air. All of this will determine the exact materials you pick.
And, of course, there’s personal style to consider. I, for one, love chunky soles. They look fantastic and, being all of five feet and two inches tall, I appreciate that they give me a slight height boost without wrecking my feet. I also love the literal bounce in my step that I get from all the extra material.
If you’re looking for a dose of nostalgia to go with your kicks, grabbing a pair of trendy dad sneakers will take you back to the pragmatic ’90s—comfort included. Plus, if the cyclical nature of fashion has taught us anything, these kicks will be just as hot 25 years from now as when you strap them on today.
Image: Steph Martyniuk
New Balance 574
New Balance is the original dad shoe—their funky colourways, thick soles and sleek designs have made their sneakers icons. This new design is a bit wider than the narrow silhouettes of previous generations, but still boasts a cushy sole, lightweight materials and a durable build.
Steve Madden Possession Sneaker
These chunky bubble-gum-pink runners are the statement sole you need. With mesh for breathability and a molded insole, these shoes are both stylish and functionable.
Hoka Bondi 8
Hokas have become the “it” sneaker for runners, but they’re also great for everyday wear. The Bondi 8 has a chunky sole for maximum comfort as well as a memory-foam collar so your ankles will be perfectly supported, whether you’re out jogging
or walking to the coffee shop.
Asics Gel-Nimbus 24
These sneaks feature a light heel, a pull-on tab and a mesh top for breathability. The latest version of this shoe is 10 grams lighter than the previous iteration, making it a great option for walking and running. This specific model comes in “wide” sizing for the perfect fit.
Vessi Everyday Classic
Lightweight and waterproof, these designed-in-Vancouver sneakers are your new 24/7 shoes. Made with Vessi’s upgraded sole, the kicks have seamless, supportive movement so your feet stay happy all day long.