Best Shoes for Male Lawyers

A while ago, someone asked me to write a post about the five best lawyer shoes. But really, a male lawyer needs only one style of shoe, which he ought to buy five times.

There’s an adage that a man’s shoes are the first thing a person notices when a man walks into a room. Let’s make sure that the image you convey is professional. Here’s an overview recap of the one professional shoe every lawyer ought to own.

The Lawyer Shoe Buying Checklist

The one shoe that you ought to own has no fancy broguing, wacky colors, pointy toes, or exotic leathers. Instead, it’s simple, straightforward, and professional. Here’s a checklist of the characteristics it ought to have:

  1. black;
  2. full-grain leather;
  3. captoe;
  4. lace up; and
  5. goodyear-welted.

Let’s run through them one by one.


You’re a professional, and your professionalism needs to be reflected in your wardrobe, shoes included. Black is not only the most formal color for a shoe but also the most versatile. Whether your suit is navy, grey, charcoal, olive, or tan (the only suit colors you should be wearing) — it doesn’t matter, because they all work with black.

Furthermore, if you don’t like to spend more than 30 seconds thinking about what you want to wear in the morning, black’s the best shoe color option. And even if you do like spending more than 30 seconds on any given day thinking about what you ought to wear, black’s the best professional choice.

Full-grain leather

Make sure your one shoe is made with full-grain leather. Not top-grain, not corrected-grain, not patent. Full-grain.

Full grain leather is made from a complete hide that’s been tanned and dyed, but otherwise is minimally processed. It’s more expensive that other types of leathers because it’s not been altered in any way — whether sanding or buffing — and that showcases the unique qualities of the leather. Because the hide isn’t buffed or sanded, the leather retains its grain, and it’s stronger, more flexible, and more breathable the other types of leather. It’s used in higher quality shoes and furniture. You want to make sure your shoes are made of this type of leather.

Many cheaper shoes today are made with “corrected grain” leather. Corrected-grain leather is cheaper than full-grain leather because manufacturers sand off imperfections, then press a faux grain into it. Often, corrected-grain leather has a plastically sheen to it. It does not have the same durability as full-grain leather. It’s decent for a penny loafer or another less-formal shoe, but not for the one shoe.


A cap-toe shoe is the most classic, conservative, business shoe you will find. It’s called a cap-toe because, somewhat obviously, there’s a leather cap on the toe. Keep it simple here, and avoid decorative stitching or broguing on the cap.

Lace up

A formal business shoe laces up. Slip-ons are for slippers. You’d not go to a business meeting in fuzzy bunny slippers, would you? Listen, before all you loafer lovers start giving me a hard time, I own loafers too, but they’re meant for office hours, not court.

Goodyear welted

A quality shoe is made with a welt. No, not like what you’re left with after you’re bitten by a mosquito.

Rather, a welt is a strip of leather that’s stitched to the upper of a shoe that’s used at the attach point for the shoe’s sole. The leather outsole of the shoe is then attached to the shoe by being stitched to the welt. The benefit of a Goodyear welted shoe? It can be resoled several times. If you walk as much as I do, you’ll run through a shoe’s sole every several months. In fact, I have a pair of shoes I’ve resoled 3 times now, and they look almost good as new.

Instead of tossing a pair of shoes every time you start to get holes in the sole, you can save your money and be less wasteful by simply having them resoled. Cheap shoes manufacturers simply glue the sole on, which doesn’t last as long or lend itself to re-soling.

Why is it called Goodyear? You know that guy who got the patent for vulcanized rubber? His son invented the method in 1869. Pretty talented family.

The Best Lawyer Shoes: Allen Edmonds Park Avenue

The best shoe for your buck is the Allen Edmonds Park Avenue. It’s a timeless design, made in America, and, though expensive, is still an excellent value at $425.00. It has all the qualities that make an excellent one shoe.

Allen Edmonds Park Avenue Shoes

Allen Edmonds Park Avenue – $425

Is it more than you might spend for a department store shoe made overseas? Definitely. But they’ll last you the rest of your legal career, and there’s something to be said for that. You’re better off buying this one shoe that will last 20 years than 4-5 cheaper, poorly made pairs that you’ll replace every year.

You don’t need fifty different styles of footwear. You need a serviceable, professional, durable shoe. You can’t go wrong with the black cap-toe.

Don’t forget to keep them polished.


Allen Edmonds Park Avenues are the best lawyer shoes that every male lawyer should own. Though they are expensive at $425, with care they will last a decade or more and always look classic.

Rating: 5 (out of 5)

Best Lawyer Shoes: Allen Edmonds Park Avenue, reviewed by Leo Mulvihill, Jr. on .


  1. Avatar Guest says:

    Allen Edmonds Park Avenues are often less expensive during Nordstrom’s Anniversary Sale.

  2. Avatar Anon says:

    Currently park aves in black at the AE Factory sale for $200. Call their number and find out…

  3. I’m as cheap as they come and I refuse new shoes until my old ones are no longer “operational.” I will never pay more than $100 for a pair.

    Also, I am a firm believer in brown shoes for every occasion.

    With that said, this article has really got me thinking about shoes as an investment rather than an item of clothing. Hmmmm.

  4. Big fan of Clarks’ dress shoes with padded insole which can be a life saver for long court days on your feet. I’ve had 3 pairs of these:

  5. Avatar Daniel Andoni says:

    This is a good article however I think it is incomplete, Allen Edmonds will not last a lifetime unless you take care of them. That means spend twenty bucks and get yourself some wooden cedar shoe horns. Also you must water seal your shoes once a year. Finally it doesn’t keeping them shined will also help to prevent scuffs and for us Northerners salt stains. I would reccomend rubbers when salt it present. Finally, when your not wearing them keep
    For the last ten years I have worn one of four pairs of shoes to court. Either black shoes, brown shoes, black boots or brown boots. Shoes May through November and Boots through the winter.

    • Avatar black_metal_lawyer says:

      1) Nothing lasts unless it’s taken care of.
      2) I think you mean shoe trees.
      3) Never water seal; that ruins the point of breathable full-grain leather. Conditioner and polish, though, are essential.

  6. Avatar Kate Graham says:

    I guess the title was meant to read “The One Shoe Every Male Lawyer Ought to Own.” I’m a lawyer, but I don’t know what I’d do with these shoes. Perhaps use it to beat the cognitive bias out of other lawyers???

    • Avatar Brady Kriss says:

      What would I do with a pair of men’s shoes?

    • Avatar black_metal_lawyer says:

      Kate: my column has been a men’s column since day 1, as I am neither cross-dresser nor drag queen — at least not while lawyering (though that might be a great marketing niche). There has been a women’s column on clothing as well, and I never through once to complain about the likewise non-gender neutral subject matter of each column.

      Why not submit a post to Sam about appropriate women’s shoes? Or you can keep complaining about cognitive bias — whichever you find more useful

      • Avatar Kate Graham says:

        My beef is not with your column, but with the headline, which presumes that “lawyers” = “male lawyers.”

        • Avatar black_metal_lawyer says:

          Since this is and has always been a column by and directed to only male lawyers, it was assumed and presumed.

          • Avatar bandito says:

            I beg to differ. Show me one example that gives any indication that this column is male only. What about all of your female contributors?

            • Avatar black_metal_lawyer says:

              Take a look at the clothing articles I’ve written. I think you’ll notice a trend.

              • Avatar bandito says:

                Especially, “Simple Interview Dress for Men.” Not “every lawyer.” You specifically address men.

                Sorry Leo. I have to agree with Kate. You cannot say “Every Lawyer,” and assume/presume only men.

                • Avatar Groton '74, Harvard '78 says:

                  Is it really that big of a deal?

                  • Avatar wialno28 says:

                    Yes, it really is. It perpetuates a disgusting idea (male = lawyer) that needs to die. I was directed to this article this morning from Twitter. There was no context, just a link with this headline. To the best of my knowledge, Lawyerist has never been a male-only site. Even if I did see the author’s name, it would have meant nothing to me. Leo assumes that everyone who comes to Lawyerist and stumbles upon one of his articles must know who he is and the type of column he writes. How arrogant! The presumption in the title is alienating to women and Kate gets it exactly right. Almost 1 year later, and the author could not find the time or make the minimal effort to add the word male to the title? That tells me everything I need to know about him.

          • Avatar wialno28 says:

            And that assumption makes you an ass.

      • Avatar Jane says:

        I am not a lawyer, but ran a Google search for “full-grain leather shoes” and came across your column. Like the other people who commented said, if the title had been “The One Shoe Every Male Lawyer Ought to Own,” I never would have clicked on the link, as I am a woman, looking for women’s style shoes. You can’t assume that everyone who stumbles across your page knows what the subject or trends of your blogs are, and clear titles will help ensure that you attract the audience you want. I’ve never heard of, you, or your column. So how am I to know that you were talking about men’s shoes based on the title?

  7. Avatar joe bahgat says:

    I can’t agree that one pair of good shoes is sufficient as the only pair of dress shoes in a lawyer’s closet. The main reason for that is that if you only have one pair of shoes, you’re going to have to wear those same shoes every single day. Leather shoes don’t last long when they don’t have time to dry out between wearings. At a minimum, everybody needs two pairs of dress shoes, so you can alternate them every other day. Even so, good shoe trees are essential to making those shoes last.

    Additionally, I believe you’re doing the bar a disservice by advising that everyone only needs black shoes. True, black is more dressy, and the preferred color for evening functions, but black is also way overdone—for the simple reason that many guys stick with black because they’re not sophisticated enough to make anything else match. Many sartorial authorities firmly believe that brown shoes are more appropriate with a navy suit. Brown shoes also go great with some shades of gray. Sure, brown is less dressy, but who’s arguing in Supreme Court everyday?

    • Avatar black_metal_lawyer says:

      “I can’t agree that one pair of good shoes is sufficient as the only pair of dress shoes in a lawyer’s closet.”

      Agreed. But you could own 2-3 pairs of black captoes and be set for life.

      “Many sartorial authorities firmly believe that brown shoes are more appropriate with a navy suit.”

      Black is business. Black is more formal, period. Brown shoes are fine too, but they’re a step down in formality from black. I’m not aware of contrary authority on that point.

  8. Avatar John Harding says:

    Hear Hear on the Allen Edmonds Park Avenue! My first big boy shoes when I passed the Bar, and still wearing them. You can also ship your Allen Edmonds shoes back to the factory for a complete rebuild for a bit more than a $100. See “recrafting” on the Allen Edmonds website.

  9. Avatar Geoff Wild says:

    There is only one pair of shoes that any lawyer should wear. Their customers’.

  10. Avatar John Dorsey says:

    I understand that the old black dress shoe may be good for a litigator who regularly needs to appear in court, but as a transactional lawyer I can get away with wearing a nice boot. I like my Helm Boots from Austin, Texas, which I have worn with everything from suits to jeans.

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