Recently, we've seen more and more professionals returning to the office, and with that comes the need for a business wardrobe upgrade — starting with footwear as we prepare for more walking and commuting.
Over the past few years, many have come to cherish the socks and slippers life that came with working remotely. And we wouldn't blame you if you're worried about going back to a time when sacrificing comfort for fashion was standard practice. We hear you, which is why we spoke to podiatrist Dr. Miguel Cunha to get his tips on the kinds of shoes that can give you long-lasting comfort when you're on your feet a lot.
How to shop for work shoes
If you want to ensure optimal comfort, Cunha recommends getting your feet measured regularly. "Just because you’re [a size] six and a half [or] seven and a half with one manufacturer doesn't mean that the shoe is going to feel the same with another brand," he told Shop TODAY. This tip is especially relevant for pregnant or postpartum women, whose feet can widen due to hormonal changes. "Overtime, you develop ligament laxities, especially after having kids, so your feet do change size over time," he explained.
When you finally make the purchase and get that shoe delivery you've been waiting for, don't believe you can just try them on and call it a day. According to Cunha, it's important to consider when you're trying on footwear. "Your feet tend to swell with the cumulative effects of gravity, so your feet and legs are going to be more swollen at the end of the day than they are at the beginning of the day." He added that it's best to test new shoes in the evening when your feet are in their worst shape. "If the shoe feels comfortable then, most likely it's going to feel comfortable throughout the day," he says.
If a shoe is painful from the get-go and your plan is to allow for time to break them in, you should probably re-think that strategy. "If you feel like you have to break them in in order for them to be comfortable, then you're not getting the right size shoe," Cunha says.
What shoes provide the most support?
To pretty much guarantee long-lasting comfort, Cunha recommends sporting an athletic sneaker over anything else. "Those are the shoes that are best equipped to provide the shock absorption to support [and] withstand the pressure of the ground forces impacting your feet with every step," he says. And luckily, with heels becoming less expected in the workplace and office-wear trends gravitating more towards "elevated casual," sleeker options in this style are becoming easier to find.
A sneaker also provides the best design for long-term wear — as long as it has the right features. "Make sure that the shoe has a wide toe box to accommodate your forefoot; that it has a rigid heel counter, which is the support on the back of the heel, so that it prevents any type of ankle sprains; [and] that it has an arch," says Cunha.
Cunha also suggests going for mules, flats or ballet slippers since these styles won't aggravate the foot as much as a heel. Just be sure to stay away from pointed shoes, since they can cram your feet in the toe box.
Though if you love wearing heels, Cunha notes a little bit of lift is OK, but he doesn't recommend a heel height above an inch and a half, since anything higher can start to put stress on the forefoot and Achilles. "The higher the heel the more your momentum and center of gravity is placed forward, putting pressure on the front of your foot," he says. Style-wise, you should focus on heels made of leather or suede — as they are likely to be more comfortable and last longer — as well as options with a thicker, clunkier heel, like a wedge.
At the end of the day, Cunha's No. 1 rule for shoe shopping is to remember that your shoe should accommodate the foot — not the opposite. "Is it durable? Is it supportive? Does it have shock absorption? Does it have an anatomical arch? Does the shoe have a wide toe box? Those are the things [you want to look for]. It has to serve its purpose to allow you to get from point A to point B, pain free."
Based on his recommendations, we found we found 14 styles that you can wear the next time you're headed into the office.
Comfortable work shoes
When opting for heels, Cunha recommends pairs with a strap around the heel or ankle to offer more support. This sandal is perfect for sporting year-round and is available in four different colors and materials to match a variety of outfits.
This round-toe flat comes in 19 different color and pattern options, making it easy to pair with your favorite office outfits. More importantly, the brand says each pair is made with a flexible outsole and soft footbed for increased comfort. They're also said to be durable and lightweight.
On rainy days, we recommend reaching for these classic all-black Chelsea boots. According to Target, 87 percent of the over 400 reviewers would recommend this pair to other shoppers, and many of them rave about their comfortable fit and ability to keep their feet cozy and warm.
If you're a fan of the pointed-toe style, but don't want to sacrifice comfort, these popular flats might be the perfect choice for you. They are made with a memory foam insole, which is designed to provide comfort. Plus, the brand says that they also have a breathable upper and anti-slip outsole.
The heel on this mule is practically just what the doctor ordered. "You want the heel to be short in height and thick in width. If it's thick in width then you have more support distribution throughout the whole bottom of your heel, [and] you’re less inclined to sprain an ankle or invert your foot and fall," Cunha says. Not only is the barely-there heel in this pair perfect for all-day wear, but it also features a cushioned footbed that is said to be supportive and comfortable.
For a faux suede option, Old Navy pulls through with a penny loafer that is as stylish as it is affordable. It's available in three shades, each of which feature a cushioned footbed and a Cunha-approved half-inch heel.
If you're looking for height, but don't want to risk the discomfort of a traditional heel, Cunha recommends trying platforms. "They help distribute the weight across the entire foot instead of just the ball of your foot." Consider trying these Mary Janes, which feature a trendy patent leather look and a secure strap.
We're not sure if you can do any better than these chic mules. It features a square-toe design, a flexible sole and a floral pattern that we can't keep our eyes off of.
Cunha says suede can be a more comfortable style option for office footwear, so we consider these ballet flats a must-have in your work wardrobe. They feature a slim silhouette and are currently $50 off.
This shoe had us at "around-the-clock comfort." We're also pretty sold on its other key (and cozy) features, which include a Soft System insole and arch contouring, according to the brand. Plus, we can see this style pairing nicely with a pair of relaxed slacks and a button-up for casual office wear.
Featuring a cushioned footbed and a thermoplastic rubber midsole, these sneakers were clearly designed with comfort in mind. And they look office-appropriate, too. "Nice every day sneaker. Extremely comfortable," said one five-star reviewer. "Ordered size 10, which is my usual size, and they are roomy but comfortable. Very happy with the style." Right now, the style is on sale, plus you can grab an extra 40% off at checkout.
When shopping for a sneaker, Cunha says to opt for a more breathable option that provides proper airflow to prevent bacteria growth and odor. According to the brand, this pair by Dr. Scholl’s is designed with anti-microbial and anti-odor technology embedded into the cushioned insole to keep your feet comfortable and fresh.
You want arch support? Comfortable insoles? Heels that won't give you blisters no matter how long you wear them? According to Vivaia, these flats can do it all, plus some. All while looking pretty chic, we might add.
If your dress code allows for an athletic sneaker, Cunha recommends the brand Hoka One One for the most support. The Bodi SR option might be on the pricier side, but its memory foam collar, slip-resistant outsole and cushioned inner seem like they make it well worth it.