I acknowledge dress shoes as a general aviation pilot may not be the most comfortable thing to settle on.
There are many shoes out there that go well with the pilot uniform and are perfect for practice in the general aviation area.
Being a charter pilot, I have tried multiple shoes, and I have listed some good ones in this article.
Not all shoes are suitable for the general aviation area. Unlike airline pilots, general aviation pilots have to endure harsh conditions.
In general aviation, you may need to walk on diverse kinds of the territory as well as withstand bad weather.
General aviation pilot shoe vs. Commercial aviation pilot shoes.
Not every shoe in demand is suitable for pilots. Let me tell you this whenever I go out in the mall; I always get attracted to various kinds of shoes.
However, most of the time, I wear shoes only in the general aviation area or inside the airplane.
Thus before purchasing any shoe I fancy, my first thought is to answer these two question:
- Is this shoe suitable for wearing in the general aviation area?
- Am I going to have a good feel on the airplane rudder pedals wearing these shoes?
I regard these two factors before buying any shoes.
See, I understand this;
You may find so many shoes in the market which you deem will make you look sexy in your pilot uniform.
Nevertheless, always remember buying a shoe that will make you uncomfortable during your flight is not reasonable.
Much worse if you can’t control the rudder properly because the shoe has a rock hard bottom.
I can guess an airline pilot has to wear dress boots or dress shoes as part of the airline dress code.
No doubt they look sexy, but I can’t say much about comfort. Similarly, an airline pilot can probably afford a pricey dress boot which is comfortable too.
There are comfortable shoes made for pilots; however, a general aviation pilot like you may not need to spend a few extra bucks.
I do not see it is essential at all for pilot shoes in general aviation need to be pricey.
I will explain more.
Why do I not spend much on general aviation pilot shoes?
I work in the Philippines as a charter pilot. As part of my job, I have to fly to destinations that are merely any airport.
I fly cross countries to places where it is only an airstrip surrounded by grass fields and mountains.
Let me tell you about my general aviation experience and the shoes I wear to make a distinction.
The destinations I often fly to are isolated airstrips in the middle of nowhere. Grass fields surround the runway.
I had to park my aircraft on grass countless times.
To make the circumstances worse, the weather here in the Philippines changes frequently.
You may see the sky is clear, and it is sunny now, but expecting the weather to remain the same later will be a fool’s act.
In a matter of an hour, the sun can hide behind the clouds, and the sky will be dark.
Well, that’s not too bad. At least I do not have to face the snow.
However, as a charter pilot here, it is convenient to wear waterproof shoes.
As a general aviation pilot in the Philippines, I prefer wearing shoes that will allow me the flexibility during the rain and wet ground.
Let’s assume; I am to land in an airstrip out somewhere on a remote island.
When I took off from my origin, I expected it to be a dry, sunny day like all tropical places.
Unfortunately, it started raining at my destination. And the ramp in that airport is just over grass.
I can’t expect the grass field over there to be dry after heavy rainfall.
As I walk on the grass field for various reasons, which is typical for charter pilots, an expensive shoe non-waterproof shoe is not viable.
If you, as a pilot, choose to wear a shiny new dress boot in this kind of condition, then I must say you are wasting money.
Well, I have learned my lesson the hard way.
As a student pilot in the Philippines, I had to walk through the grass filed to reach my hangar. We weren’t supposed to walk on the taxiway, and there is no other alternative route for pilots except the grass.
Now, as a new student pilot, I purchased a shiny leather dress boot to wear with my pilot uniform.
I knew I would look sexy.
But that shoe was not made for general aviation. That dress boot was right for use in commercial aviation, I believe. The ankle boot had a comfortable soft sole, perfect for flight.
The ankle was well supported, and the feel on the rudder was excellent. So any commercial pilot would love wearing those exact shoes and, at the same time, look sexy.
Nevertheless, the leather boots only lasted for two months for me before it broke down.
No wonder the top section of the boot ripped apart from the sole. That happened because every morning when I walked passed the grass field, the grass had dew drops. That softened the leather section of the boot I was wearing.
And a few times after heavy rainfall overnight, there were puddles in the grass field. Multiple times I stepped on them and soaked my shiny ankle boot in mud.
But I loved wearing my boots, and nothing could stop me until my kick fell apart.
Only then I judge it is time I choose some sturdy shoes. After all, I work in harsh conditions. Well, general aviation is not the same as commercial aviation.
In commercial aviation, you can wear something expensive, but in general aviation, you must buy something inexpensive yet durable and comfortable.
Below is a list of pilot shoes I prefer for general aviation. I have tried and tested.
I can’t mention it enough, but in general aviation, I choose to buy inexpensive shoes. Due to harsh conditions I might encounter every day, no matter how sturdy the boots are, they are bound to get ruined after a while.
So, why shall you buy expensive general aviation pilot shoes?
You do not need to show off.
I am a charter pilot and prefer shoes that are comfortable, durable, and the sole is flexible enough for a better feel on the rudder and, most importantly, modestly priced.
The list I have created of my ideal shoes for general aviation. I have owned and tested all these. And in the future, once I use many other shoes, I will add more to this list:
Moab 2 Mid tactical by Merrel:
This ankle boot is my first choice. I know it may sound odd. But these hiking boots are not pricey and perfect for all kinds of weather and harsh condition.
I have worn it in the rain, and I have walked pass through the mud. Boots will get dirty, and cleaning these pair of boots is relatively straightforward. So mud and rain is not an obstacle.
They will serve a long time for you. Meaning these boots are stiff. The only downside of this pair of shoes is the soles. The soles are Vibram soles and rock hard.
Although the midsole is comfortable, the sole is too hard to be flexible. It will give you less feel on the rudder. Another downside of these shoes is related to the bottom section. Vibram sole is made for walking on rough terrain, however not suitable if you are in the hangar and a place where the floor is slippery. Not ideal for walking on the oily ground.
Puma suede classic sneakers:
I love this pair of shoes. Trust me; it has everything I want in pilot shoes for general aviation. The typical suede by puma is waterproof. I know that it is a perfect sneaker that is waterproof looks functional and durable. Puma suede classic sneakers have a rubber sole, which is comfortable. Not particularly soft, but this pair of shoes also have a foot that will allow you to have proper control of the rudder. These sneakers are comfy, durable, and the character you will get on the airplane rudder is outstanding.
Lift aviation shoes:
Lift aviation shoes are fantastic. Well, lift shoes are supposed to be the best. Because they have tailored these shoes fundamentally for pilots, I can assume while designing lift shoes; they considered all the factors for a pilot’s flight susceptibility. A pilot’s comfort was the absolute priority. And that priority has worked for all pilots’ advantage. The pilots will be ready for long flights and using rudder the conventional way. Lift knew what they have to create for a pilot, and they did it just right. There are many designs, and the price is affordable too.