at how some fit guys that I know can meet attractive, stylish women and keep them relatively engaged for a while. Not because they only talk about training or eat weird shit or have really skewed priorities — you can have that and still close the sale — but because of their style choices. Namely, footwear.
Shoes are a big deal. Especially to women. It’s among the first thing they notice (after your ring finger), and it’s on you to accept it, respect it, and act accordingly.
Van Halen and Brown M & M’s
Back in their heyday, the rock band Van Halen had a reputation for having some ridiculous items on their tour rider.
Among the most famous/infamous was the demand, “One bowl of chocolate M&M’s, brown ones removed.” The story goes that if front man David Lee Roth arrived at the venue and found a single brown M&M, or worse, no M&M’s at all, he’d have a fit and halt setup in its tracks.
However, lest you think megalomania, understand that the “M&M clause” was carefully written into the back of the contract, in the middle of hundreds of technical and safety speciﬁcations.
Verifying each and every spec would’ve taken hours. So when the band arrived at a new venue, Roth would immediately head backstage. If the M&M’s weren’t addressed, he’d know that the promoters hadn’t read the contract thoroughly and as such the safety of the band or concertgoers might be at risk.
Guys, shoes are like brown M&Ms. They immediately tell a woman — one that spent hour getting herself ready to meet you — that you may just have your act together and perhaps don’t live in a spider hole with three deadbeat roommates and months of dried pee on your well-worn toilet seat.
Good shoes also show respect. Before she met you she did her hair, make-up, slipped on a nice outfit and decided on accessories — and if she’s in Texas, whether her Glock would fit into her Louis bag. So the least you could do in return is adorn your feet with something other than old Chuck Taylors or Vibrams that smell like Paleoman’s fur toga.
Vibrams Five Finger Fiasco
Oh yes, Vibrams. The fitness scene is awash in mass schadenfreude as guys like me chuckle at the legal troubles facing the famous five-finger shoe company. You mean the shoes didn’t really meet the dubious claims being made? Better call Saul, I sense some checks are about to be written.
I don’t have a problem with five-finger shoes. Sure they look utterly ridiculous in non-gym environments, but if Paleo-approved footwear feel like pillows on your weathered feet then have at it. Wear ‘em all day every day, at the gym, on the street, even at airport lounges. (Picture Paleoman, eating wings at T.G.I.Fridays while waiting to board the redeye to Shreveport. Oh the irony).
However, if you’re single and looking for a smart, sexy woman to take you seriously outside the gym, perhaps consider a more stylish alternative.
The following shoe recommendations are not about fashion. As much as I’d like front row seats to the Victoria’s Secret Fashion show, I don’t have the patience, inclination, or economic means to concern myself with fashion.
I spend a lot of time across the street from the Fashion Institute and what I see shuffling down 7th Ave usually just confuses the shit out of me. And most guys over 30 tend to feel the same way. Especially guys that lift (heavy).
This is more about style. Style is individual. It’s rooted in who you are, where you come from, and where you’re going. Unlike fashion, you don’t need much time or money to have style. You just need to know what you want and care about getting it. That takes confidence. And confidence is attractive.
Next, while no one wants to get hosed, always pay for quality. Dorks buy whatever’s on sale and replace it in a year. A man buys something once and takes care of it so it last a lifetime. I have a (relatively) expensive pair of Hugo Boss dress shoes. They’re 5 years old and look brand new, not to mention feel awesome. Granted I don’t wear them much, but every time I do I feel like, well, a boss. See what I did there? #punny
Third, don’t confuse style with trends or swag. Swag is dope when it’s done right and in the right context. My colleague Louie Guarino across the river in NJ can pull off mad swag – for me to try that would look hopelessly affected. But you can still rock your kicks, even pair them with a New Era fitted (Yankees of course).
Finally, never, ever wear shoes you can’t perform basic life skills in. Head to the Meatpacking District during the first snowfall of the year and you’ll see scores of barhopping women awkwardly negotiating the frozen cobble stone streets in 4-inch stilettos.
They look kinda cute in a helpless sort of way, like herds of awkward young deer on a frozen pond except in micro-skirts and red-soled Christian Louboutins. It tugs at that one chivalrous bone in my otherwise curmudgeonly body.
But seeing some dorky guy (invariably a tourist) in douchebag wingtips shuffling along beside them? It makes me want to run out and bury my shoulder in his grill and put the hapless bastard out of his misery.
I don’t own a single pair of shoes that I couldn’t sprint for a cab in or cut a rug in, even throw a mean front kick. I know the whole “ready for anything” schtick is played but a guy should always have his shit together. You think Liam Neeson stops to slip off his Bruno Maglis before he kicks ass across three time zones?
Let’s get to it. Here’s what every fit, heavy lifting guy should have in his shoe collection, according to me, from the mean streets of NYC. You don’t need everything, just whatever fits your style. Still, if you have 13 pairs of Chucks and no decent dress shoes, methinks you have some issues down below.
Black Dress Shoes. Look for a pair of lace-ups with a clean toe. These can and should last you years, so buy quality and don’t get anything too goofy. Obviously if you wear a suit every day you might need more than one pair or at least a nice pair of black loafers.
Brown Wingtips. These are my go-to “going out” shoes. I wear the shit out of mine cause they go with basically everything. Buy dark brown, as it’s the most versatile, but if you’re really above the rim and wanna show you ball, go light brown and then grab a second set of monk-straps or double-monks in a darker shade. I stole this inspiration from my colleague Rob Sulaver of Bandana Training, another shoe aficionado.
In NYC they go sockless — some go sockless 8 months out of the year. Canadians always trip when they see it because we take our shoes off before we enter your home. Americans don’t seem to do that — they’ll just wear their shoes all over your house (#freedom) so who gives a shit if they have socks on?
My advice? Do what feels comfortable. But please take your shoes off at my door. I’ll even provide red & white maple leaf slippers.
Loafers. A classic penny loafer is another idiot-proof staple that looks casual yet classy. They’re my preferred shoe for travelling as I can slip them on and off with ease. Obviously go sockless here. That was obvious right?
Boots. What dude doesn’t love a good pair of boots? Buy what you want – dress, biker, workboots – just buy quality. I bought my favorite pair of brown dress boots 2005 and have had them resoled, twice. They’re my standard “winter shoe” — I can literally sprint across ice in them.
Sperry Top Siders or Vans. The summer classic. A few years ago everyone was buying those goofy Tom’s shoes. I like that a portion of the profits went to buying kids in the Third World new shoes; I just wish the shoes were better. Buy a pair of these and donate $50 to the World Food Bank. You can also substitute a pair of low-cut canvas Chuck Taylors in a neutral color.
Here’s where a guy has fun. Even an old bastard like me can show a little swag by sporting a fresh set of kicks. Typically I buy 3 pairs a year or so (they’re cheap) and wear the piss out of them — shorts, jeans, chinos, everything. Often I’ll even grab a workout in them. At the end of the year I’ll hang onto the pair I really liked or even replace them new.
For example, I still have my Adidas ROMs that I got in Japan in 2002. They’re all black with white stripes and fluorescent orange soles. In other words, they’re dope. Whenever I wear them I think of roaming the streets of Tokyo, looking for a set that actually fit. I am not built for Japan.
Speaking of Adidas, while I used to be a serious Puma guy, being in NYC I now gravitate towards Adidas. I love being on the train in Brooklyn and seeing dads and kids sporting matching shell-toes; it’s just a classic example of urban Americana. Plus they fit my feet well and feel good. Which is the most important thing.
My current favorite are classic all white Stan Smiths, which are making a huge comeback, even with women.
I gotta give props to my buddy Steve who was rocking these in ’89 when I was wearing imitation Timberlands. It only took me 25 years to come around. Speaking of all white runners, it’s funny how Jax from Sons of Anarchy has almost single-handedly brought back the all white Nike Air Force 1.
I also have all black Stans cause, well, Stans are the shit. These are great if you plan on cutting a rug but don’t want to test the doorman at the club with your lime green Air Jordans.
To round things out, I also grabbed some cool Nike throwbacks that feel like heaven on my feet, not to mention some New Balance 574’s that are super cool and look fresh with jeans, even a suit if you got serious swag. I certainly don’t so just jeans for me.
Yeah, yeah, we all lift. Here’s my checklist for your gym bag.
Olympic Lifting Shoes. I squat high bar, and as such will not squat without my Adi-Powers. These should last you a lifetime unless you wear them outside of the gym — and why would you do that? I also use them for any overhead pressing or Olympic lifting variations.
New Balance Minimus. I kind of hopped on this train and to be honest, I am not terribly impressed. I mean, they’re fine, and I’d certainly do pulls in them before I would in lifting shoes (or “cross trainers”) but they’re not “life changing” – at least not in the way squatting with heel lifts was for me.
I’d almost prefer to do my pulling in just socks, switch to Oly shoes for squatting and pressing, and then something like low-cut Chucks for the balance of my training. Still, they’re super light, which is nice when you’re hauling multiple pairs of shoes in your bag.
In terms of other shoes, I guess if you’re a runner, wear good running shoes. Hell you can do 90% of your weight training in runners and still make progress. Seriously. It doesn’t freaking matter.
If the Shoe Fits
I’m not saying a decent shoe collection is all that stands between you and getting booty calls from Bar Rafaeli. But at a certain point you have to step up your game and start acting like you have a life outside of the weight room.
And here’s the secret — the more you step up your game, the more fun it is to play.
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