No matter what kind of work you do or how many hours per day or week you spend on the job, choosing the right shoes - ones that look good while also being comfortable - is very important. Knowing where to shop and what to look for can help you find the best footwear for you.
Selecting Comfortable Shoes for Work
According to Nicole Bush, a Personal Stylist with Share Some Style, the first selection consideration for comfortable shoes is this: "If it is not comfortable once you put it on, don't purchase it! Shoes are not something that you want to 'break in' for weeks on end. Larry Schwartz, CEO of Aetrex Worldwide, Inc., agrees, stating "You should never need to 'break in' shoes. They should be comfortable from the start."
You can avoid sore, aching feet and look appropriate for work by choosing footwear that combines style and comfort for the best of both worlds. The suggestions below are backed by solid ratings or reviews, or have been tried and tested for comfort. There are recommendations for a variety of occupations that will keep you going strong throughout the work day.
Women who hold professional jobs must wear stylish shoes that look great with business attire, but comfort is still an important consideration.
- Aetrex Erica Ballet Flat - It's hard to find a more comfortable professional-looking flat shoe than the Erica Ballet flat from Aetrex. Schwartz describes this shoe as the "only ballet flat on the market that includes a built-in orthotic to support the arch, making it a healthier option than traditional ballet flats." It also features thick memory foam cushioning and has anti-microbial technology to help protect against fungi, bacteria and odor. This shoe runs true to size and is priced around $100.00.
- The Cobb Hill Adele from Rockport - Find My Footwear recommends this shoe (about $100.00) for its design (European-inspired), style, tailored look that surprisingly increases the level of comfort women experience in the shoe, the cushioning from the EVA footbed, and breathable lining. It's available in sizes five through 11 in black, merlot, and navy, and medium. Wide widths are also available.
- The Dansko 'Josie' Mary Jane Pump - Find My Footwear also suggests this shoe, which is available for just under $150.00. They love it because of its secure fit and versatility. No special features make it stand out for any one group of office professionals, but that means it's likely to work for a variety of people and foot shapes. There's also a cushioned footbed and small heel, for ladies who like the idea of wearing heels but can't wear anything too high without pain. Get them in a size 5.5/6 to 11.5/12.
- Mansur Gavriel Calf Classic Loafer - This shoe (just over $400.00) gets a recommendation from In Style for its smart, preppy look as well as its comfort. It's done in Italian calf leather with a flat heel and is available in six different colors: Black, White, Flamma (red), Blush, Chocolate and Blu (navy). They come in sizes 5.5 to 10. They're chic, comfortable, and can be paired with almost any kind of outfit.
Bush states: "If you are in retail, most likely your feet have taken some abuse." Finding shoes appropriate for your store that feel good is critical. However, fashionable shoes are also essential, especially if you work in a clothing or department store.
- The Anne Klein iFlex Line - These shoes are wonderful when looking fashionable is a must, according to Corporette, and you can get a comfortable pair of pumps for under $100.00. The iFlex technology ensures a comfortable, flexible fit (they bend 90 degrees). You can find classic pumps as well as those with stylish ankle straps in a range of colors that include neutrals, metallics, and animal prints.
- The Merona wedges from Target - These are a reader favorite, according to Corporette. The styles vary from season to season and many of them are casual, so you'll need to keep your store's dress code in mind before counting on these to get you through your shifts. The good news is, they're only about $30.00 per pair so you'll be able to stock up on a few styles if your workplace doesn't require anything dressier.
- The Clarks Channing Ann Slip-On - This shoe (about $70.00) is a good choice for women who have to be on their feet all day, according to Find My Footwear. They come in black and brown in sizes six through 12 in medium and wide widths. They offer a few small details to make them more interesting to look at (like a cute metallic button detail on the side), but overall they're a basic, versatile style. They're easy to slip on and off and they have enough of a heel to give you a little lift without causing pain.
- Aravon Portia - Boot Bomb recommends this one (about $150.00) for women who need a stylish shoe that will be comfortable as they walk around all day. This one comes in black, navy, and brown, in sizes six through 13. If you need a special width, this may be your perfect shoe. It's available in narrow, medium, wide, and extra-wide widths. They offer a leather upper, two-inch heel (with 1/2-inch platform), strappy Mary Jane style, arch support, removable padding and a breathable lining.
Food servers spend long hours on their feet, and they are very active throughout their shifts. They need non-slip shoes that hold up to brisk walking, standing for long periods of time, lifting, carrying, bending, and more.
- The Dansko Women's Professional Clog - This one is recommended by RestaurantInsider.net for food servers who work in an environment where professional-looking shoes are required. These shoes are designed for maximum comfort and shock absorption and also provide strong arch support and a roomy box for the toes. Not only are these shoes comfortable, they are also easy to clean - you can simply wipe them clean using a soft cloth any time you need; the cloth does not even need to be damp. These shoes sell for around $120.00 in sizes 4.5 through 13 and come in a wide range of colors: 15 different colors and patterns in patent leather, four colors in oiled leather, and seven shades in tooled or other leathers.
- New Balance 626v2 - This one gets a vote from Comfortable Shoe Guide. It's great for people who need to make lateral movements, not just walk forward all day. If you're in and out of a restaurant kitchen and dodging other servers and guests all day or night, that extra stability will be appreciated. These New Balance shoes are also slip-resistant and less than $100.00. They come in all black (leather) in sizes five through 13 and offer support, cushioning, and durability. They're designed for people who are on their feet all day.
- Skechers for Work Women's Burst Slip Resistant Gwinner - These are under $100.00 and good for those who will be spending a good bit of time in restaurant kitchens (or warehouses) because they offer a relaxed, secure fit, according to Find My Footwear. They are waterproof, and there's memory foam in the insole to keep them comfortable all day. Get them in black in sizes five through 11, in medium or wide widths.
- The Dansko Hazel Flat - This shoe (about $100.00) is one of Boot Bomb's recommendations for food servers. This shoe is great because of its stain-resistant Scotchguard protection, antimicrobial footbed, leather upper, flexibility and "grippy" sole. They even have memory foam and extra arch support in a fun flat style with straps. Get them in black, navy, or taupe in sizes 5.5/6 to 11.5/12.
Teachers need shoes that perform as well as athletic shoes, but look good enough for a classroom environment.
- Alegria Mary Janes - The WeAreTeachers.com website lists Alegria as one of the best shoe brands for teachers, indicating that "one teacher we talked to said that she felt like she was walking on pillows in her Alegria shoes." The brand's Mary Jane style is particularly good for teachers, as these shoes feature closed toes, a closed heel, and a signature Mary Jane strap for added style and sturdiness. They feature thick, cushioned soles and are done in soft leather for maximum comfort. A variety of solid colors are available, as well as several patterns. These shoes retail for around $120.00 and come in sizes five through 13. Comfortable Shoe Guide also recommends this shoe for people who have to be on their feet all day.
- Birkenstock and Salt-Water Sandals - Education blog Maneuvering the Middle recommends these brands as the top shoes (they tied for the number one spot) for teachers who are all their feet all day, and ultimately says Birkenstocks are more comfortable but have a longer breaking-in process (about a week). Prices vary by style, but expect to pay at least $80.00 to 100.00 for Birkenstocks and about half that for Salt-Water Sandals. Of course, sandals like these will only work in schools with a casual dress code or on special casual days.
- Aerosoles - These made the list of top shoes for teachers after a round of voting, according to Cornerstone for Teachers. They claim they are a wonderful combination of heels and comfort. Though you may not want to wear high heels every day as a teacher, having a comfortable option in your closet is nice for days you want to dress up or during events like conferences. Prices vary, but you can expect to pay between $60.00 and $100.00. Most styles are available in sizes five through 12.
- B.O.C. Shoes - These also got a mention from Cornerstone for Teachers. These clogs are sometimes compared to the Danskos everyone raves about. They come in a variety of colors (mostly neutral, though) and styles and generally cost between $60.00 and $80.00. They are recommended because they're lightweight and even comfortable enough for people who have past foot injuries that can still bother them in the wrong shoes. You can find the majority of their styles in sizes six through 11.
- Exact by Anywears - Selected by Shoe Finale as some of the best shoes for nurses, this is a clog-style shoe with a closed back and slip-resistant sole. The outsole is rubber, and the body is made from a flexible, injection-molded compound material that is washable. These shoes come in a variety of colors, from basic white or black to super-bright neon tones. Sizing is unisex (five through 11). Expect to pay around $40.00, which makes these shoes a very affordable option for nurses.
- Align Velocity - These shoes were tested by both nurses and women on other fields, and according to Women's Health Mag, were a winner when it came to function, comfort, and even style. Available for about $90.00 in sizes six through 11 (wide-widths are also available), these are designed with orthotic support, a slip-resistant sole, and include both adjustable stretch and traditional laces. They are done in full-grain leather in and come in several fun patterns and colors, along with traditional back and white.
- Skechers for Work Women's 76536 Sure Track Slip-Resistant Shoe - These are a Boot Bomb pick for nurses for their memory foam insole, supportive midsoles, shock-absorption, durability, and the shoes' ability to protect your feet from chemicals, oil, and electrical hazards. Available for just over $60.00, they come in sizes five through 11 and have Skecher's exclusive Relaxed Fit® design, as well as professional looking stitched detailing for an extra touch.
Additional Selection Considerations
According to Stefani Hackl, Women's Category Director for Rockport: "It's most important to try the shoes on and walk around in them before making a purchase." When doing this, you'll need to determine if the shoes fit well, feel good and will work for your purposes. Other factors to consider include:
Schwartz states that "material technologies are key when it comes to identifying healthy options." He recommends choosing "shoes that are designed with soft leathers and stretch fabrics to allow your feet to breathe and promote a healthy foot environment." These materials will not only allow your feet to breathe, but they will also conform better to the foot, ultimately making them more comfortable.
Hackl says that footwear "made out of soft leathers or materials will help create a glove-like fit on your feet." She suggests the following test: "Hold the shoe in your hands and try and bend them slightly. If they're stiff this is likely a sign that they won't be that comfortable to wear for long periods of time."
Additionally, Share Some Style stylist Samantha Brown shares that she finds that "a suede or leather shoe will always break in better than patent. Patent is beautiful, but tends to be a lot more stiff and restrictive."
Arch support is also an important feature to consider. According to Schwartz: "So many of the shoes on the market today lack any form of arch support and in the long run can harm your feet and lead to injuries or foot conditions. Arch support is key to providing proper body alignment and balance to help achieve maximum foot comfort and prevent unnecessary injuries."
Schwartz also urges readers to also consider shape. He states: "The shape of the shoe, called the last shape, is extremely important when it comes to maintaining healthy feet. A shape that is too narrow, especially at the forefoot, constricts bones and may lead to ball-of-foot pain and other foot deformities such as bunions." He suggests selecting footwear constructed with a roomy toe box to reduce forefoot pressure and allow toes to move freely.
Brown suggests the platform shape for people who like heels. She states: "A hidden platform also works wonders when it comes to heels. The less pressure you put on the ball of your foot, the more comfortable a shoe will be."
Schwartz also emphasizes the "ability to customize footwear" as an important factor in comfort. He says that footwear with "adjustable features such as straps, elastic gore, and laces help customize the shoes to your specific footwear needs to ensure a comfortable experience."
Bush also offers some tips specific to selecting shoe designers and brands. She says: "If you are looking for comfort, some brands I direct my clients to are Paul Green, AGL, Cole Haan and Naya. Most people are familiar with Born and Neutralizer," which also tend to be comfortable. Brown points out, "Cole Haan is an excellent brand for ladies who stay on their feet all day because of the Nike Air technology used in their soles."
"Knowing your body type is also instrumental" when deciding which designer shoes might work best for you, according to Bush. She points out that "some designers work well for people with wide feet," including Prada, Chanel and Gucci. She recommends Christian Louboutin and Manolo Blanhnik for those who have a narrow toe box.
Finding Your Perfect Fit
The styles described here are just a few of the many options when searching for comfortable shoes to wear to work. Your feet are not the same as anyone else's. While one or more of these styles might be ideal for you, there may be an even better shoe out there for your needs.
Follow the expert selection considerations when making your decision about what works best for you. When you find a style that feels great, looks good, and is appropriate for your profession, consider investing in more than one pair. Get a few different colors or even two pairs in the shade you wear the most.