I always say that tires are the most important part of a car. They’re the only thing on your car in contact with the road. Without them, there’s no grip, no fun in the twisties, no stopping, and no mind bending acceleration. With that in mind, you might say that shoes are the most important accessory a human wears. They keep our feet dry, cushion them from hard surfaces, and protect them from sharp objects. They also help us mash the go pedal to the floor.
Any auto enthusiast knows about racing shoes. They are part of any race day garb. They are light weight and fire proof; a seriously important feature should something go catastrophically wrong. But those are racing shoes. They don’t really provide much support for everyday living. Other sneakers are great for walking around, but sometimes are clunky or don’t feel right when driving a car. This is where Piloti thinks there is an opportunity to profit and a niche to fill.
Racing shoe companies like Simpson and Piloti make incredible products, but now they’re branching out and making combination racing and casual footwear. Piloti is a perfect example. They make a wide array of options from hardcore racing shoes to something you’d consider an exquisite, high fashion, statement maker. They are world famous, but had fallen off the radar in recent years. Now, they are going through a rebirth and their product line is showing signs of an auto shoe renaissance. But there’s a pressing question here: do these casual driving shoes really matter? Do they make a difference for the everyday driver? I picked up a pair of Piloti Spyder S1s to find out.
The Spyder S1s are the classic Piloti shoe that anyone and everyone can pick up as an everyday sneaker/driving shoe. The pair I got are black with white stitching and yellow trim. This particular model also comes in gray and red, so you can mix and match for any outfit. You can see the quality right off the bat with no fraying on the stitching or seams. Fine Italian craftsmanship.
These shoes are like walking on clouds. They are indescribably comfortable. The most comfortable pair of shoes I’ve ever owned was an old pair of Globe skate shoes. Those were padded beyond belief since skateboarders need the padding to help with the harsh landings. The Pilotis are better. Not as much padding as a skate shoe, but it’s not needed. The way they hug the foot is unmatched. Walking is a dream in these. But we’re not here to determine their comfort level, even though it is off the charts. Do they really help with driving? That I can answer with an profound and emphatic yes; by miles.
My favorite shoes to drive in are a pair of Onitsuka Tigers, a shoe made by Asics which is most known for their sneakers. The Tigers are a casual shoe and not a true driving shoe, but they give great feedback. So this is my natural choice for a comparison.
Without going into lots of flowery and useless details, I’ll get right to the point. The Pilotis trounce the Tigers in every category I can think of. They are more comfortable, easier to slip on and off, and give more enhanced pedal feel. Even advanced driving techniques are better with rev matching and heel-toe’ing much improved with the Spyder S1s. I was very surprised about this particular point since the sole of the Spyder’s is much thicker than the Tiger’s. I though this would lead the Spyders to be clumsy and heavy in the cockpit. Not so at all as the shoe is still light and controllable.
I recently attended IMPA test days at Monticello Motor Club in Monticello, NY. I’ll be reviewing and talking more in depth about the cars I drove in future articles, but just to give you a run down here’s a small sample of the cars I drove:
Mercedes AMG GT S
Nissan 370Z Nismo
Jaguar F-Type V6 S
Volkswagen Golf R
Lexus RC F
Chevrolet Corvette Stingray
I can tell you that I drove each of these cars while wearing the Pilotis and I never had a single problem with pedal feel, heel-toe, rev match, or space in the footwell. The Pilotis were amazing. And the best part is that these shoes won’t break your bank card. Typical driving shoes can run anywhere between $250 to $500 for a more hardcore model. The Spyder S1s are $150 at your local retailer (here’s Piloti’s store locator), but you can get them for on Amazon at the link below where they are sometimes on sale.
So at this point you might be asking, “Why should I even buy a driving shoe at all?” There are plenty of advantages that a driving shoe offers even the most casual of motorist. Well, there are several important advantages a casual driving shoe has over a casual every day shoe. As you can see by the pictures above, the sole is thicker and provides greater support for everyday use as opposed to a lounge shoe, like the Tigers. The rounded heel of the Sypders helps with how your foot rolls off of each pedal. This is especially helpful when making fast foot transfers between pedals while keeping your heel in one place. They also breathe well so your foot doesn’t get too hot or cold during spirited driving. They provide ample arch support while walking and have individual pressure point supports for both the ball of your foot and the heel. And to top it all off, they’re no heavier than a pair of off-the-shelf sneakers you can get a Kohl’s. All things considered, the Spyders are a better all around shoe than pretty much anything you can buy at your local Foot Locker or Journey’s.
Overall the Piloti Spyder S1s are a world beater of a driving shoe. Comfy enough for every day duty, durable enough to last, and utilitarian enough for track duty. Do driving shoes make a difference in how you drive? Yes. Unequivocally, yes. And if you are looking for an entry into the world of driving shoes, the Piloti Spyder S1s should be your first purchase.