Primal Professional Review: Comfortable Dress Shoes

Barefoot Dress Shoes

Any man who gives a damn about his appearance is constantly dealing with the tension between style and comfort. Ideally, your clothes should fit well, look great and feel comfortable. But let's be honest: sweats are more comfy than trousers. Untucked shirts are almost always more comfortable than tucked shirts.

And, strictly from a comfort standpoint, most guys would choose sneakers or flip flops over dress shoes any day of the week.

But you can't where sweat pants and grandpa shoes to the office – or anywhere, for that matter – and expect to be taken seriously. So what's the stylish man to do?

A new company – The Primal Professional – is solving this dilemma by merging comfort and style with a first-of-its-kind product – The Barefoot Dress Shoe:

Primal Professional

Avid runners know all about the barefoot movement, but most people (like me) reserve bare feet for the living room, shower or beach. If you're not familiar with so-called natural running, the theory goes as follows:

People were meant to walk and run in bare feet, not bulky shoes with thick padded soles. Barefoot running requires you to land on the balls of your feet, rather than using the standard heal-toe technique that most people are used to.

Barefoot enthusiasts claim that stuffing our caveman feet into heavily padded shoes every day causes all sorts of problems, like chronic joint pain and plantar fasciitis. Supposedly, going barefoot can prevent these problems.

Of course, most people don't want to go shoeless – it's dangerous and socially unacceptable – which is why barefoot shoes were invented. Up until recently, however, the focus has been on casual and athletic shoes, rather than formal, office-appropriate footwear. And most of the orthopedic (built for comfort) dress shoes I've seen are pretty ugly.

Now, you're probably thinking, “This is all very interesting, but I don't have any join pain or back problems.”

Fair enough, but if you're like me, your feet are probably sore after 10 hours in dress shoes. What man doesn't love to take off those stiff Oxfords or heavy boots at the end of a long day? Heck, I'll take my shoes off under the desk for some mid-day relief!

If you can identify with this, the barefoot dress shoe is worth checking out. It was created by a fellow modest man – Evan “Mountain” Chang (epic name, right?). I got a chance to get to know him when he stopped in DC on his way across the country from California, and he is one interesting dude.

Brock and Evan

Me (right) and Mountain

Mountain is a champion power lifter and outdoor enthusiast. By day, he practices accounting, but he's been moonlighting as a cobbler, and his shoes are ready to be worn. He went with a classic black Oxford (available with a plain or cap toe), a design that never goes out of style. The cap toe version is similar to the Allen Edmonds Park Avenue, one of my favorite dress shoes.

Barefoot Dress Shoes

Tying ShoesAfter trying out these shoes myself, I can confirm that they are, in fact, more comfortable than other dress shoes that I own and wear regularly – even high end ones. They are slightly wider than my Allen Edmonds, which is great for anyone with a wide foot.

They're made with premium quality leather that's a little softer than what you're probably used to. This is nice because it flexes over the top of your foot (perfect for people with a high instep).

These shoes are available down to size 7. Like any dress shoes worth investing in, they are resoleable, so you can get them restored after a few years of heavy use. They also come with an unheard of 365 day free return policy, which is great because they are not a cheap pair of shoes.

I also love the fact that they're made in Wisconsin. In my opinion, any company that keeps their manufacturing stateside deserves a little extra respect.

If you are interested in a more comfortable dress shoe but don't want to compromise on style, head over to

What do you think about these shoes? Would you buy a pair? Leave a comment!

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  1. Good lookin shoes. Do they make these for WOMEN?? Tell Mountain to get on that!

  2. I guess converse or chucks are out of the question?!? Lol jk

  3. As a man of modest height, how did you feel about the zero drop false heel? I feel like I’d miss that extra 3/4 inch…

    • Good point. I actually talked to Evan about this. My opinion is, just as you shouldn’t buy shoes with thick soles for a boost in height, you shouldn’t avoid shoes with thin soles because of the loss. To be honest, I don’t really notice the 3/4 inch drop when wearing them.

      That said, it’s something to consider. If you enjoy the slight boost that a dress shoe or boot gives you, these probably aren’t for you.


      • Hey David, I actually brought this up when Brock and I met up. We both agreed that confidence increases perceived height, and that physical comfort has a profound effect on confidence. I’m 5’4.5″ but most people think I’m at least 5’7″.

        Also, the low profile of our shoes (vs clunky orthopedic dress shoes) also helps. I can’t believe I ever wore moon-man style skate shoes.

        So yea, speaking as a short guy myself, I think it’s a net gain in height with our shoes. Except in pictures. Freakin’ pictures, man =P

  4. James Donabed says:

    Brock-Thanks for the heads up on this project. Mountain was responsive to my questions.

    I await the cap-toe bal in Merlot.

    That’s the missing pair in my closet.

  5. Brock – I know this is kinda off topic, but it is still related to style. Do you have any recommendations on good rain boots/shoes for professional men? I walk to the subway and I’m considering getting some good rain boots that could also function as snow boots (now that winter is coming). LL Bean’s rain/snow boots come to mind, as do the Keen’s. But was wondering if you had any recommendations…

    • Ian – I’d go with something cheap from Amazon (in black or dark blue…not yellow or anything like that). If you want something to wear all day, I think you’re right on with LL Bean.


  6. Brock – How do these look after a few weeks of wear? I’ve seen some pictures and I’m worried they look like they “soften up” quickly and you can see this. That is, with formal shoes, the leather usually stays stiff looking and flat – you don’t quickly get horizontal lines, say, across the top of the shoe. I don’t want $300 shoes that look like soft leather slippers after a few weeks.

    • Hi Chris,

      Mine are looking okay. They are definitely softer than other leather shoes (although I think this was going to be changed in the next round of manufacturing). But I don’t see more wear than expected. That said, I haven’t worn them that much. I only wear black shoes once a week, at the very most.

      Perhaps someone else can chime in (I know Mountain wears them all the time…).


      • The pair that Brock has is our Version 1, with a leather called Black Sensuous. I picked it because it was the softest, smooth-texture, full-grain leather that Seidel Tannery had. Back then, I thought of our product as a comfort shoe that happened to be dressy, but we’ve since transitioned more into being a dress shoe that happens to be comfortable. As such, I felt that the soft Sensuous leather was no longer appropriate for our new direction. Therefore, on our Version 2, due December, we’re using a new leather called Black Trek. It has more of that structured look you describe, but it may need 2 or 3 days to break in. V2 will look and perform better and longer than V1.

        To answer your questions specifically, they will continue to look formal and dressy over time, even the V1. Especially if you take care to clean, condition, and polish them like any other dress shoes =)

        • Thanks Brock and Mountain!

        • Hello! Impressive work on the primal professionals!
          I also enjoy barefoot living and almost exclusively wear vivobarefoot lately. However, I have been looking for a dressier shoe to wear with a suit or a tuxedo lately since the vivobarefoot Ra just isn’t dressy enough. I was just looking at your shoe and my concern is also that the leather seems a bit too soft compared to other dress shoes. I am happy to read that you will launch a second version with a different leather. When in december do you expect to launch this next version? I am very interested to make an order!
          Best regards,
          Jonas Ohlsson, Sweden

          • Hey Jonas! Yes, everyone who has seen both versions agree that the new leather is an improvement. I have the version 2 shoes with the new leather in my headquarters now. My wife and I have been busy sorting, inspecting, packing, and shipping them out. If you order now I’ll have yours out the door before the end of the month. Also, I did receive your email today. My apologies for not getting back until now, I have been bedridden all day with a fever but am feeling better, ready to work!

          • When and where can I see a photo/video of this new leather shoe (before ordering)? Thank you!

  7. I usually order custom shoes from J Adler. Do you know how the quality of these shoes compares to the wing tips J Adler sells?

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