The 6 best men's shoes to wear without socks
Although socks provide a layer of protection against sweat, sometimes you just want to pull on your damn shoes and go. However, that often results in a smell that could stop anybody in their tracks. Sweat combines with bacteria that live on your feet to create the perfect storm inside your shoe. Therefore, the best men's shoes to wear without socks are the ones that are least likely to make your feet sweat, whether that's from a breathable fabric or a strategic design.
Material matters here. Look for breathable mesh or natural canvas —even a leather loafer, since leather lets cool air in. You might also want to look for options that can be tossed in the wash (a handy feature should a stench start to develop). You'll want to avoid solid synthetic materials, since they trap moisture and don’t let your soles breathe. In addition to airy fabric, some shoes will offer additional ventilation through side panels and woven designs.
There are also a few things you can do to prevent a sweat-induced shoe disaster. Don’t wear the same pair of shoes for two days in a row so they have a chance to thoroughly dry out. You can also stuff them with a deodorizing insert if you want extra protection.
From trainers to loafers and a few that fall somewhere in between, these stylish shoes won’t make you reexamine your life choices when you take them off at the end of the day.
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1. The boat shoe
Water-resistant 100% leather combines with a slip-resistant rubber sole in this classic summer slip-on shoe that only gets better with age. A boat shoe's timeless, versatile style upgrades even the humble jorts and is nice enough for a pair of khakis and a sport coat. Once they're broken in, they mold to your foot like you've had them forever — and the side air mesh panels mean breathable wear day in and day out. "These are wonderful after a very short break in period. Great with or without socks, and they look very good," an Amazon reviewer noted. "I have worn them for a few days now both for work and casually and they feel great."
- Available colors: 31, including brown, white, and amaretto
- Available sizes: 7 – 15 (regular and select wide sizes)
2. The woven loafer
These woven suede loafers are a super-breathable option for a dress shoe you can wear without socks. The design is naturally ventilated and they have a heavy-duty rubber sole for shock absorption, although a few reviewers wished it had a little more bounce. "Very stylish, extremely breathable, not too narrow or too wide," one shopper commented. The suede will only get softer with time, but you might want to hit it with this version of Scotch Guard to prevent stray salt or water marks if that's a concern.
- Available colors: Dark taupe and navy
- Available sizes: 7 – 13
3. The mesh running shoe
These mesh sneakers couple an absurdly breathable upper with a super springy insole for a comfortable all-purpose shoe you can wear for training and recovery. "Well vented, I could feel the cool air flowing through the shoe as I was running outside," one shopper noted. The precision-engineered "Fresh Foam" midsole is designed to be ultra lightweight despite its cushy feel. They have a contoured heel and higher-cut bootie style that stays securely on your foot, and the durable rubber sole was designed to withstand everything from sidewalks to off-roading.
- Available colors: 26, including black, velocity red, and gunmetal
- Available sizes: 6 – 20 (regular and wide)
4. The knit chukka
These woven chukkas are the lovechild of a sneaker and a boat shoe, in a breathable canvas-like knit you can toss in the washing machine. There’s a memory foam insole with a wider toe box and an anatomically correct heel pocket for enhanced comfort, and the flexible outsole is light enough to float on water. "The first day of wearing them I was touring the Biltmore Estate so did a ton of walking, climbing stairs, hills, standing, etc. I felt like I was wearing incredibly cushioned slippers," one sock-free reviewer testified. Note: The brand does recommend sizing up if you usually wear half sizes.
- Available colors: 17, including brown, gray, and stone white
- Available sizes: 8 – 15 (regular and select narrow sizes)
5. The European espadrille
These high-quality espadrilles are a worthy alternative to sneakers and boat shoes, with a little more style than your well-worn Toms. They’re hand-made in Spain with breathable canvas, plus a genuine leather lining and a durable rubber and jute outsole. You can’t throw them in the wash, but they’re easy to clean: just brush with a little soapy water, then air dry. They need to be broken in first, but are beyond comfortable once they contour to your feet. "Pretty low-profile," one reviewer commented. "They're simple enough that I've worn them with chinos and a button down to the office, as well as to summer parties and the park...They really let your feet breathe and they stay odor-free, even in the humid Maryland weather."
- Available colors: 12, including black, ash, and brown
- Available sizes: 8 – 13.5
6. The canvas slip-on
This classic canvas slip-on has an Oxford cloth upper with cotton drill lining for a durable yet breathable low-profile sneaker. The vulcanized rubber sole is slip-resistant, and there’s an elastic gore for easy on and off. Shoppers reported that the shoes were easy to clean — in fact, you can throw them in the wash — and they break in well for a comfortable fit. "Was tight at first than relaxed after a day or so. But over all a well made shoe. Deep color no fading. Breathable and comfortable," commented one fan.
- Available colors: 13, including black, golden tan, and white
- Available sizes: 6.5 – 13
Also handy: the ventilated insoles
These full-size ventilated gel insoles are infused with activated charcoal and baking soda and feature a moisture-wicking lining so your feet stay cool, dry, and odor-free. The honeycomb design promotes airflow within your shoe, while the wicking lining helps absorb moisture before bacteria can feast. The activated charcoal and baking soda neutralize smells, and the cushioning provides an added layer of shock-absorbing comfort when you’re on your feet all day.
"Excellent for going 'sockless' in the summer," one shopper wrote. "Also, absorbs sweat and the accompanying odor." Just note that you have to swap them out every six months.
Another helpful add-on: the odor eliminating bags
Tuck these bamboo charcoal odor-eliminating inserts into your shoe after a long day to absorb excess moisture and neutralize any lingering smells, all without any chemicals. You get a pack of 12 with each order — enough to reinvigorate six pairs of shoes — and they "recharge" if you leave them in the sun for a few hours. They're also great for gym bags, closets, cars, or anywhere that's prone to mustiness. "I have lots of issues with my gym shoes and work shoes smelling due to my feet sweating. I put these in overnight after a long day and the smell is definitely mostly (if not completely) gone in the morning," one reviewer testified.