The days of Ryan Gosling gleefully chucking a pair of New Balance dad shoes over a mall balcony feel like a distant memory—and not because the scene that launched a thousand ad hoc makeovers took place a decade ago. In the years since, the type of unabashedly chunky kicks spurned by the Gos God in Crazy, Stupid, Love went mainstream, catalyzing a shift in sneaker proportions the industry is still grappling with. Today, the casual cobblers up in Boston sell an assortment of patriarch-approved versions, but they’re far from the only ones making big—nay, gargantuan—moves in the space. Take a walk down any bustling city street, and it’s hard not to bump toes with options Gosling would’ve tossed into the food court without a second thought.
What do all these dad shoes have in common? An emphasis on good ol’ fashioned comfort, often expressed through exaggerated proportions and downright geriatric design flourishes. (Think extra cushioning, multi-fabric paneling, and much, much more.) Not exactly the ingredients you were thinking of when it comes to cheffing up a sexy summer fit, huh? Think again. Because we rounded up the best of the bunch on the market, and whether you’re a dad, dad-type, daddy (or, uh, zaddy), there’s a pair here that’ll change your mind.
Oh, and if you happen to be looking for a last-minute Father’s Day gift, text pops and surreptitiously ask for his shoe size now—even without expedited shipping, he’ll be unwrapping a box-fresh pair of kicks long before the 19th.
The Classic Pick
Made famous by notable wearers like Steve Jobs (and your neighbor Bill, who spends weekends coaching Little League), New Balance’s prototypical dad sneakers remain the pinnacle of the genre. The most classic version, as Jobs would attest to, comes in gray, but it’s hard to go wrong with that made-in-USA construction no matter which color you choose. The best way to rock ‘em? Make like Steve and reach for some stone-washed jeans (steer clear of any pairs that veer into skinny territory), though we’d swap out the turtleneck in favor of a hoodie to avoid full-on cosplay.
The Trail-Ready Pick
There are, countless car commercials assure us, plenty of dads who salivate at the idea of waking up at the crack of dawn, packing up an SUV, and setting out for the wilderness. If you’ve started to appreciate the appeal of that scenario earlier in life, these waterproof hiking sneakers from Salomon are for you. The most Dad detail of all? The easy lace-up system, which means tightening your kicks is just a pull away. Throw the rest of your tech-iest gorp styles on with them, like taped seam cargos or an of-the-moment Arc’teryx jacket, and explore the wilderness with gusto.
The Minimal Pick
You know dad sneakers have made it big when the team at Common Projects is hopping on the wave. But the brand’s riff on the style is decidedly more elegant than your average pair of geriatric stompers. Those Italian leather uppers feature just a few soft curves, in perfect proportion to the thick dad-like midsoles. Even the naysayers won’t deny these are good-looking—and they’ll only look better paired with some relaxed chinos and a slouchy, Armani-inspired jacket.
The Sporty Pick
If your idea of a good time involves racking up road miles hightailing it across town, you need a sneaker that can keep up. The Asics Gel-Kayano 14 is a classic aughts-era running style that boasts durable, sturdy soles and tons of arch support. Don’t want to admit the years are finally catching up to you? You don’t have to: mesh-y running sneakers like these are precisely what the cool kids are rocking right now.
The Grandad-Approved Pick
Forget dad shoes: Mephisto’s handcrafted lace-ups are archetypal grandad shoes, the kind you see on drippy Boomers with a hard-earned appreciation for heavy-duty arch support. Built from the same grain leather as your swankiest dress shoes, they’re specifically designed for blissful, bunion-free wear, down to the heavily-padded toplines and specialty rubber outsoles. If you’re looking to score some style inspiration from the coolest members of the generation before your dad’s, start here.