Shoes for driving, and fine dining, from Piloti

Piloti Competizione shoes are designed for the race track | Piloti photos
Piloti Competizione shoes are designed for the race track | Piloti photos

So you love the red, white and black Piloti Competizione shoes you wear when you drive your vintage sports car on the track, but they really aren’t appropriate in the office, let alone the evening when you’re dining in a fancy restaurant.

But driving-shoemaker Piloti — Piloti is Italian for “drivers” — now has a solution, a new line of Italian-made luxury footwear that, managing director Michelle Massicotte said, can go “from the car to the office to the opera or to the cafe.”

For those who may not be familiar with Piloti, the brand was launched in 1999 by Kevin Beard, a graduate of the Art Center College of Design and his business partner. Beard wanted to design cars, but one of his student projects had been a pair of shoes and an Art Center professor pointed the young graduate to an opening at adidas, the German sports-shoe company that had a group of biomechanical engineers working within its advanced design department to create “feet you wear” for Olympic and world-class athletes.

From there, Beard became design director for Reebok and then K-Swiss, but his passion remained cars and their drivers and he wanted to apply what he’d learned about sports shoes to footwear for drivers, be they professional racers or weekend road-trippers.

Beard designed and developed and patented Roll Control technology to remove pressure from the driver’s heel, a sole designed to look like vintage racing tire tread, and other features, including a surface along the inside edge of the right shoe designed to enhance heel-and-toe braking.

Piloti launched with Nomex-lined shoes for racers and with similar shoes for other drivers, though without the fire-resistant material. Additional styles were added, though the company did not survive the recession. The business closed in 2012 and later was acquired by Canadian Tire, which not only sells tires but owns a chain of sporting-goods stores and another that sells work-and active-wear clothing.

Officina is made in Italy
Officina is made in Italy

Canadian Tire relaunched Piloti in 2014.

“Over the past two years, while the brand was in transition, we noticed an unwavering demand for Piloti driving shoes from both professional drivers and general car buffs,” Piloti president Andrew Davies said at the relaunch. “As new owners, we are pleased to bring Piloti back to market with exactly what North American car culture has been asking for: The only technologically advanced driving shoe that is also stylish and comfortable enough for the street.”

“We have designed every pair of Piloti driving shoes for people who love to drive,” Davies added. “Perfect pedal feel and enhanced control are what the professional drivers who wear Piloti dream about. Yet unlike traditional racing shoes, Piloti driving shoes are also comfortable and stylish enough to wear at the café.”

The Campione is part of Piloti's new luxury shoe line
The Campione is part of Piloti’s new luxury shoe line

While bringing back some of Piloti’s favorite models, the new owners have expanded the brand with new casual and luxury lines, both offering moccasin and boot styles.

For example, Pistone casual shoes are available in black, charcoal, red and rust colors. Italian-made Officina luxury loafers come in black, brown, smoke grey and cobalt blue. Other luxury lines include Primo, Mille and Campione.

Also new are leather luggage, belts, gloves and even a Florence leather jacket.

“We’re trying to expand beyond our roots,” Massicotte said at the recent Barrett-Jackson collector car auction, where Piloti had a huge display. However, she added, while expanding its lines, Piloti continues to root its shoes in the company’s motor racing heritage.

Shoe prices range from $130 to $240 for performance and casual lines and from $350 to $500 for luxury lines.

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