SwiftKnit Derby Review: Are Wolf and Shepherd’s Lightweight Shoes Versatile Enough for the Price?

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In this review of the SwiftKnit Derby shoes, I examine how lightweight, attractive and versatile Wolf and Shepherd’s hybrid shoe-sneakers are in real life.

About Wolf and Shepherd

Wolf and Shepherd is a posterchild for the kind of direct-to-consumer, digital native apparel company helping men dress sharp.

Wolf-and-Shepherd-Founder-Justin-Schneider-NYC
Wolf and Shepherd Founder Justin Schneider. Photo courtesy of Wolf and Shepherd.

Founder and CEO Justin Schneider launched Los Angeles, California-based Wolf and Shepherd in 2015, after working in footwear design for Reebok, New Balance and adidas, with a goal of creating the world’s most comfortable dress shoe.

From Dress Shoes to Crossovers to SwiftKnits

Wolf and Shepherd has come a long way since Justin began testing his concept by gluing sneaker insoles to dress shoes after hearing friends complain that their dress shoes were uncomfortable. 

Justin told me a while back that, “this seemed to be a consistent problem among my peers.”  By the end of 2014, Justin had procured a prototype and found a factory in Portugal to make luxury and ridiculously comfortable dress shoes.

I had a chance to review Wolf and Shepherd’s Closer cap-toe lace-up oxfords, and found them to be lightweight and exceptionally comfortable.

All of this, obviously, was pre-pandemic. 

In March 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Wolf and Shepherd’s sales declined to about 10-20% of their normal volume over a 5 day period.

The company went into crisis management, closing stores, furloughing employees snapping to attention to comply with local ordinances, and applying for a disaster relief loan and the Paycheck Protection Program.

Wolf and Shepherd also began producing new lines of shoes and sneakers for the moment.

In October 2019, Wolf and Shepherd debuted the Longwing Crossover, a unique hybrid dress shoe-sneaker that could be dressed up or down.

Finding success with the more casual shoe during the pandemic, they quickly doubled down on the concept, releasing crossover wingtips, chukkas, city hiker boots, loafers and suede lace-ups.

In researching this article, I asked Founder Justin Schneider what shoe has been the most popular as demand soared for work-from-home, workleisure and casual wear.

Justin told me that the Crossover Longwing is now Wolf and Shepherd’s most popular hybrid shoe.

He said that the honey and white colorway is the company’s best seller (it’s also my favorite), but that “we have been getting a lot of requests for an all black version since we launched.”

In March, Wolf and Shepherd finally launched an all black version of the Longwing Crossover in Onyx/Onyx, which he hopes will resonate well with their customers.

Today, with the SwiftKnit Derby, Wolf and Shepherd has come around to making a truly casual, yet still elevated, shoe.

How much do Wolf and Shepherd’s SwiftKnit Derby shoes cost?

Wolf and Shepherd’s SwiftKnit Derby Shoes cost $195.

Review: Do Wolf and Shepherd’s SwiftKnit Derby shoes deserve a place in your collection?

Are the SwiftKnit Derbies worth considering?

I asked Justin to tell me what differentiates the SwiftKnit Derby shoes from other options out there, and where it would fit into a guy’s wardrobe.

He responded that, “the SwiftKnit Derby has a sleek, clean silhouette that allows effortless styling for both formal and casual looks.”

Justin added that, “when we designed the SwiftKnits, we put comfort at top of mind, but without sacrificing style to make a truly versatile shoe.”

Wolf and Shepherd’s SwifKnit Derbies ship free and, according to the website, are backed by a 365-day guarantee.

Here’s how my experience stacked up:

These are slip-on shoes disguised as lace-ups.

I did a double-take when I slipped my foot into my new SwiftKnit Derbies for the first time. While I was expecting traditional sneaker components, there is no tongue separate from the vamp and quarter on Wolf and Shepherd’s SwiftKnits.

Justin previewed this feature for me prior to my order. He highlighted that, “the zoned knit upper is made with a single thread for a sock-like fit, which is built on our signature dual-density footbed lined with supple sheepskin leather.”

These are intended to be slip on shoes with a sock-like feel, not traditional lace-up sneakers.

While the laces aren’t entirely decorative, and the eyestays bolster the shoes’ structure, you really don’t need to lace and unlace the SwiftKnits on a regular basis. You slip them on much as you would a water shoe.

The SwiftKnits are lightest shoes I own

Right out of the box, my first impression of the SwiftKnit Derbies was that they were exceptionally lightweight.

Each SwiftKnit Derby shoe weighs just 11 ounces.

The SwiftKnits are markedly lighter than Wolf and Shepherd’s Longwing Crossover Shoes, which are noticeably heavier at 1.2 pounds apiece, and my everyday GATS sneakers from Beckett Simonon, which weigh 14.5 ounces each.

You can dress the SwiftKnits up or down

The best feature of the SwifKnit Derby is its versatility.

The combination of the attractive knit upper, classic derby silhouette and Wolf and Shepherd’s signature thick heel allows the shoe to work with everything from sweatpants to jeans to shorts to chinos. (I personally wouldn’t wear the SwifKnits with a suit, though there is a pretty stylish picture of a guy wearing chalk-stripe slacks with them on Wolf and Shepherd’s website.)

The brilliance of the SwifKnit Derby is that it packages lightweight slip-on shoes into a stylish lace up that can be dressed up.

The SwiftKnits are very comfortable

The other striking feature of Wolf and Shepherd’s SwiftKnit Derbies are how comfortable they are.

They’re extremely lightweight and feel great all day long. While the top of the shoe features the stretchy knit fabric, the footbed underneath grounds the shoe, providing comfort and support.

My advice: Size up

Wolf and Shepherd’s SwiftKnit Derbies are only available in whole sizes. The idea is that knit material and foam footbed can adjust to your feet and minimize the need to produce in half sizes.

I have wide feet, which feel great inside the shoes, but the elastic knit upper bulges out slightly from its normal form to accommodate my foot.

In retrospect, I should have sized up to a 10, though the nines are comfortable as they are and easy to slip on, so I don’t see a need to return them now that I have them.

My advice is to size-up if you are in-between sizes.

Replacement footbeds for narrow or wide feet

The SwiftKnit Debry is sized for normal-width feet, though they can definitely accommodate narrow or wide feet.

If your feet are particularly wide or narrow, the company sells replacement footbeds in narrow and wide widths, which they say will allow you to adjust the sizing of the shoes.

Those replacement footbeds cost an extra $40, however. (It would be nice if Wolf and Shepherd would allow customers to replace the standard footbed with a narrow or wide option for free at checkout.)

SwiftKnit Limited Edition Storm. Photo courtesy of Wolf and Shepherd.

SwiftKnit Derbies for women

Wolf and Shepherd has started providing equivalent women’s sizing for their Limited Edition runs of Swiftknit Derby shoes.

Those limited edition runs are available in pine green, stone and, my favorite, “storm,” a dusty pale blue that I would have definitely selected had it been in stock when I ordered.

The reality is that all of Wolf and Shepherd’s SwiftKnit Derby shoes are unisex.

I appreciate how brands such as Japan’s Onitsuka Tiger advertise their shoes as unisex and provide corresponding sizing for men and women.

It will be interesting to see how much Wolf and Shepherd cross-promotes their SwiftKnit shoes to women.

Shoe sizing chart for women and men

The below chart illustrates the women’s shoe sizes that correspond with men’s shoe sizes for the SwiftKnit Derby, according to Wolf and Shepherd’s website:

SwiftKnit shoe size converter for women and men

Men’s Shoe SizeWomen’s Shoe Size
68
79
810
911
1012
1113
1214
1315
1416
1517

Next up: The Crossover Loafer LITE

Justin previewed that Wolf and Shepherd will release a new Crossover Loafer LITE, an unlined version of their loafer style of hybrid shoe that the company released in 2020.

“We’ve had various members of our team try them on and think that they may be our most comfortable shoe yet,” he told me, adding that he’s really excited to come out with these later in the spring.

Verdict: Wolf and Shepherd SwiftKnit Derbies are stylish, versatile and appealingly different

I am a creature of habit.

I pull on my leather sneakers to stroll around the neighborhood, my New Balance kicks to jog, my driving shoes to walk my dog.

It takes me a while to incorporate new shoes and sneakers into my rotation.

When I removed the SwiftKnits from the box for the first time, I was struck by the sock-like fit, and was frankly a little hesitant.

But after wearing them for several weeks with everything from joggers to jeans to corduroys to chinos, they have become an essential component of my work-from-home outfits.

Ministry of Supply CEO Aman Advani told me that, as society approaches a new normal, he predicts consumers will gravitate towards fewer, versatile, high quality items that can be dressed up or down as part of a “singular closet.”

Wolf and Shepherd’s SwiftKnit Derby shoes offer a great example of that kind of versatile, go-to item that can be worn at home, work, the coffeeshop and bar. They are comfortable, deceptively easy to slip on and off, and appealingly different.

They are also now a mainstay in my shoe rotation.


About Jake

Jake is passionate about exploring entrepreneurs' global journeys. He founded Modern Fellows in 2012 to get to know the entrepreneurs behind the innovative brands helping men dress sharp in the digital age.  Jake has written about entrepreneurship, international business and/or fashion for outlets including Business Week, Forbes, Inc., Details Style Syndicate and Primer Magazine, and has provided analysis on international business for BBC Radio, NBC News, CNN and Time Magazine.

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