OAKA Barefoot Dress Shoes

Less than two years ago, OAKA set out to create the “World’s Healthiest Dress Shoe.” After a successful Kickstarter campaign last year, they’ve reached production and are steadily garnering support

In the past, dress shoes have been called many things; however, I’m not sure that healthy is one of them. What is OAKA doing differently, and have they successfully bridged the seemingly opposite worlds of formality and comfort?

In the following review, I’ll be determining this and more via the following categories:

OAKA The Derby Specifications

Given that OAKA is a freshly established shoe brand, its catalog is only composed of a Derby style at this time. It is available in an Ink Black (reviewed here) and Ash Gray color.

If you’re looking for the most formal of these two colorways, I’d say stick with the black version. On the other hand, the gray tone is likely to be the most versatile when it comes to pairing the OAKA Derby with different ensembles.

While OAKA’s Derby is only available in whole sizes (8-13), the stretchy nature of the upper means these will be much more forgiving when it comes to achieving a comfortable fit.

OAKA Derby Shoe In Black

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Style & Appearance

OAKA’s shoes are intended to be worn as dress shoes, and on their surface, I think they achieve this to a large extent. The shoes have a long silhouette and are relatively unadorned, much like traditional derby or blucher dress shoes.

OAKA Derby Shoes with Flyknit Upper

Likewise, the thin rubber sole emulates the leather welt & outsole of classic leather shoes and blends with the overall design quite well, particularly in this Ink Black colorway. Moreover, the “notches” cut into the faux heel do a proper job of making it look like the OAKA Derbies employ a stacked heel.

With this being said, the texture of the flyknit upper and the elastic laces undoubtedly give away that these are more modern shoes.

Overall, the OAKA Derbies are sleek and appear to be very well constructed; the stitches are neat and precise, both inside and out. Additionally, the rubber sole is tidily cemented to the upper with no extra compound showing at the junction between the two (a common issue with cemented shoes).

Black Flyknit Upper OAKA Shoes

Fit & Comfort

When it comes to sizing, these are about as close to True-to-Size as it gets. I ordered them in my regular sneaker size and they fit wonderfully.

If at first you’re not entirely convinced by the look of the OAKA Derbies, then slipping them on for the first time will surely sway your opinion – these are decidedly comfortable!

The interior is lined with a very soft fabric, and the no-tie elastic laces eliminate the hassle of tying your shoes. Inside, the removable foam insole offers cushioning as you walk and is designed to cup around and support the heel.

Blue Fabric Lining Interior of OAKA Shoes

As you may know by now, the OAKA Derby is a barefoot shoe, meaning they have zero drop between the toes and heel. They’re also very lightweight, and the rubber outsole is very flexible, so your foot will naturally mold to the ground as you walk.

This effect is not too pronounced; for instance, stepping on a rocky surface is not painful but offers a different, “closer” sensation. I hadn’t experienced barefoot shoes in the past and found these to be very comfortable, even after spending long days entirely on my feet. I imagine the flyknit upper also helped in this regard, as do the perforations on the back of the shoe, which allow the feet to breathe throughout the day.

OAKA Shoes On Feet

If you’ve worn shoes with flyknit uppers before, such as those made by Nike or Adidas, you’ll know how cozy it is; basically, it feels like wearing a taut sock (with an outsole) on your foot. The OAKA Derby is just as satisfying, and the stretchy nature of the upper gives the toes plenty of room in the toebox.

Naturally, what OAKA has over those name-brand shoes is their formal design, which the large shoe manufacturers have evidently glossed over.

Lastly, I know what you’re thinking… are these OAKA shoes the healthiest dress shoe ever? I’m not sure. I’ll leave this question to a podiatrist. Yet, after wearing them for a few weeks, they are remarkably pleasant to wear, even if they sidestep the look of more traditional dress shoes.

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Dress Code & Formality

As I alluded to above, the OAKA Derbies have a sleek profile that helps them appear formal. At the same time, the sporty flyknit upper counteracts this. Ultimately, I’d say their formality lands somewhere between business casual and smart casual.

OAKA Derby Shoes with Jeans Fit

Are these the most appropriate shoes for an office? Likely not, though it will depend entirely on the norms in your workplace. Nevertheless, they are absolutely ideal for going out to dinner with friends or family. Additionally, if you are traveling and need a more formal pair of shoes that don’t take up much space in your luggage, they will also fill this niche impeccably.

I’ve enjoyed wearing the OAKA Derbies with deep blue denim and gray trousers. I do have some gray trousers in mind for these as well, but it’s the middle of summer in Florida and there have not been many formal affairs for me to attend around this time of year.

Presentation & Value For Money

The OAKA shoes were delivered to me in a branded shipping box that doubled as the shoe box. Packed inside were the shoes in a plastic bag, and each shoe was stuffed with paper to prevent deforming during transit.

OAKA Derby Shoe In Black

Given that they’re priced at $165, you wouldn’t really expect more than the shoes themselves. Additionally, sustainability is also part of OAKA’s mission, so any unnecessary accouterments have been omitted.

When it comes to value, I think the OAKA Derby shoe provides a ton of it.

For one, they’re not nearly as expensive as traditional dress shoes. Furthermore, they wholeheartedly accomplish what I understand to be their goal: appearing as a stylish pair of dress shoes that are also uber comfortable.

OAKA Barefoot Dress Shoes For Men In Black

As I mentioned above, I had never dabbled in barefoot footwear in the past. However, the OAKA Derby has left a significant impression that will likely lead me to purchase one or two more pairs for different occasions in the future.

Closing Thoughts

If you have tried dozens of different dress shoes and haven’t found a pair that wholly prevents foot pain stemming from traditional materials and construction, the OAKA shoes are not a pair you should skip out on. To help with this, OAKA also offers a generous 30-day return or exchange fee which makes this trial even more pain-free

Even if you’re an avid collector of traditional leather shoes, the OAKA shoes are still a worthy alternative for when the typical leather-sole, leather-upper dress shoe is too inconvenient to wear for an extended period.

All in all, the OAKA shoes have a unique style and design philosophy to match, one which is sure to continue earning them loyal supporters not only of this Derby style but any new models they release in the future.

"OAKA's barefoot derby shoes tick all of the boxes when it comes to ensuring foot health without sacrificing style or plush comfort."
Bespoke Unit Rating: ★★★★★

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Further Reading

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