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By Larry Edsall

Piloti helps you push the pedal to the metal

Would you play golf in flip-flops? Try snow skiing in sandals? Shoot hoops in golf spikes? So why drive in shoes not designed for, well, for driving?

Piloti is Italian for "racing drivers" and Piloti is the brand of shoe worn by many professional racecar drivers. But Piloti also has several models of shoes for those who put their miles behind the wheel on the road rather than the track.

Piloti was founded in 1999 by Kevin Beard, who went to school to become a car designer. Beard graduated from the famed Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, but instead of designing automobiles, he accepted a job with adidas, the sports shoe maker.

Working with biomechanical engineers in the German company's advanced design group, Beard helped create the "feet you wear" sports shoe concept and designed specialized and sport-specific shoes worn by Olympic and other world-class athletes. He left adidas to become a design director for Reebok and K-Swiss, but his passion remained cars and their drivers and he launched his own company to apply what he'd learned about custom sports shoe design to shoes for racers and other drivers.

To provide the proper cushion and feel needed for racers' feet, Beard developed and patented Roll Control heel technology. His racing shoes also feature Nomex fire-resistant, reinforced heel and toe areas, double row stitching and soles reminiscent of racing tire tread patterns from the 1950s heyday of sports car racing.

Piloti also produces so-called street-legal driving shoes that are basically the same shoes minus the fire-resistant Nomex layer.

Piloti shoes are available through automotive specialty catalogs, Nordstrom and other retail and specialty stores, as well as some Ferrari dealerships and the Bob Bondurant School of High Performance Driving, or through the shoe company's website.

The most popular street shoe is the Spyder SV, priced at around $75, available in five color combinations and available in men's sizes 4 – 13 (women's 5 1/2 - 14 1/2). Nomex-lined shoes run in the $110 (low-cut) to $180 (high-top) range.

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