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In your 30s? Experts say you should prioritize these shoe features

As we age, we need shoes that support our everyday needs and activities.
Vivian Le/ Kara Birnbaum/ TODAY

Shoes are one of the most important accessories in a woman's wardrobe. From dressing up a basic T-shirt to elevating your office attire, shoes support your everyday activities and elevate your personal look.

When we hit our 30s, though, our tastes in footwear begin to shift. Heels begin to feel uncomfortable, flats aren't supportive enough and your staple going-out stilettos may start collecting dust in the back of your closet. This doesn't mean that you should kick your entire shoe repertoire to the curb!

A variety of experts share some must-have shoe styles to keep and which ones to avoid once you hit your 30s to keep your feet feeling healthy and ache-free.

What shoe essentials do women need in their 30s? | Common foot problems in your 30s | Shoe features to look for | Shoes to avoid in your 30s | Shoe trends for your 30s | Dressy shoes to shop | Everyday shoes to shop | Athletic shoes to shop | Meet the experts

What shoe essentials do women need in their 30s?

According to board-certified podiatrist Dr. Najwa Javed, women in their 30s "lose a lot of their biomechanical support."

"One of the best investments they need to do is to buy an everyday shoe that they can wear on quick errands, that is also chic and easy to slip on and slip off," she says.

Javed also recommends an athletic shoe that focuses on their foot type. Are your feet supinating? Do you have collapsing arches post-pregnancy? Do you have flat feet or pronation? Depending on where you are in life, these may be some questions to ask yourself before committing to a shoe purchase.

"If they are going to have a staple shoe in their closet, I would highly recommend that every woman has at least one pair of wedges. Wedges are fantastic because they go between two to three inches high, but the reason why is good is that wedges have better distribution in the surface area," she suggests. This type of shoe helps to lift the forefoot while having the heel elevated.

If you happen to gravitate towards stilettos, she recommends a pair that has an inclination or a pitch angle. "That's at least three inches from the heel to the toe box, because that helps to keep it too steep or too vertical, so their ball of the foot is not getting crushed and they're not getting Morton's neuroma or strain in their ligaments that can end up being damaged by the time they hit 50," she adds.

What are common foot problems in your 30s?

According to Javed, you may start experiencing more soft tissue injury in your 30s. "A good study followed people [for] 10 to 20 years, and they saw that, usually during the first 10 years, you'll have soft tissue damage and then it progresses to bone or joint damage as we say — osteoarthritis."

Women in their 30s may feel irritating sensations more regularly around their foot area, including burning on the ball of the sole, chafing, blisters and bruises.

"Most of the pain that women feel is more because of pinched nerves, straining of their ligaments and a lot of strain on their tendons, so a lot of the time, that lateral ankle will feel like you're walking in heels and start to burn," she comments.

Another thing that some women notice in their 30s is that their arches are starting to collapse or develop flat feet, which means they'll need more stability on their midfoot.

What features to look for when shopping for shoes

The most important thing to look for when shopping for shoes for your 30s is the right fit and width. According to LifeStride's senior design director Danielle Kalish, women tend to "overlook the importance of proper fit and construction when shopping for shoes."

While we all love good-looking shoes, it is crucial that we don't compromise feel for style. "These qualities can make a significant difference in the longevity and comfort of your shoes," she says.

"There's this notion that if you have more foam or more cushion, your foot will be supported and more comfortable. That's actually not true," shares Javed. "They collapse and, as humans, we're not made to walk on cushions. We're made to walk on hard surfaces, the earth, the ground."

As you age, she recommended buying shoes with a semi-rigid construct. "For example, Birkenstock shoes have a really good footbed because they are made of cork, it has stability and has the ability to mold to your foot. But if you ask a patient with flat feet to wear Birkenstocks, they can't tolerate it because it is too rigid for their foot. So we tell them to find something with enough density, that it doesn't collapse under their arch and also can hold."

Another thing to consider is the width inside your shoe. Javed suggests having one finger of distance between your longest toe and the end of it. She usually tells her patients to buy a half-size bigger for sneakers so their toe is not moving inside the shoe.

"What happens is, if you're wearing closed-toe shoes, your toe is not moving inside the shoe and it hits the tip of the shoe, causing micro trauma and then the nail starts pulling away from the nail bed. That's how you get nail damage, fungus and other issues," she alludes.

However, if you're wearing a pump, she recommended going for your usual size to avoid forefoot slippage and your toes contacting, which causes hammertoes.

She also mentions that your shoelaces should be tightened properly and that your foot is not going in and out. "Your foot has to stay stable in the shoe. If it's sliding around or slipping around, you will get other issues such as blisters, friction, nail trauma, ingrown [nails], etc."

Shoes to avoid in your 30s

Javed recommends staying away from patent leather or PVC, which is really detrimental to your feet because there is no breathability and causes a lot of friction. Instead, she notes opting for shoes with leather in the upper part or those made with soft suede and canvas materials.

For warmer weather, "I would avoid sandals that have very thin straps because they cut the cross nerve endings on your feet and they can cause what we know as apraxia," she adds. "Wear the shoe you want to wear, but be sensible in the type of style that you're picking. The more foot coverage you can have so your toe cleavage isn't showing, the better."

Javed also suggests that it's important for women in their 30s to gravitate away from ballet flats due to the design's lack of support.

What are the shoe trends women in their 30s should own?

According to Franco Sarto creative director Gionata Pagni, some essentials women should keep in their shoe repertoire include a Mary Jane, a three-quarter bootie and a tall shaft boot. "That, to me, means the woman is chic and trendy with the vision that with whatever she buys she can wear for the next two years," he summarizes.

Women in this age group "often prefer shoes that can be dressed up or down, making versatile designs like slip-ons, loafers and sandals a must-have. Comfort is also a top priority, and incorporating cushioning insoles and breathable fabrics can help keep feet comfortable and cool," shares Kalish.

Kalish also suggests incorporating bright colors such as pink and orange into your shoe collections to add a pop of color to your outfits. "Natural materials such as raffia and espadrilles are popular choices for their lightweight, breathable qualities," she adds.

Must-have shoes for your 30s

Kelly & Katie Goldie Espadrille Wedge Sandal

With a comfortable structure, these espadrilles feature a textile upper that is not too rigid and a padded footbed for comfort. These shoes can be worn in an office setting or during evening outings thanks to their laidback look. Reviewers said these are the best wedges for their "feminine" style and these aren't "too high" for a special occasion.

Crown Vintage Sage Penny Loafer

If your rotation of clothes included dressy slacks, jeans and jumpsuits, these loafers will complete most of your outfits. The slip-on shoes feature a round toe box for comfort, a padded footbed and lug sole that will resist the outdoor elements.

As a footwear-obsessed writer, I love these polished loafers for their wide design and ability to provide a roomy feel even when I wear socks. They are classy, functional and, best of all, resistant to rainy days.

Soda Lug Sole Mid Heel Chelsea Bootie

According to Pagni, a bootie is an essential shoe to keep in your closet. These Chelsea booties are made for in-between weather and will transition from fall to winter to spring in a breeze. The chunky construction and elastic side panels allow for easy wear. Customers say these are comfortable and warm enough for rainy days. Aside from their urban aesthetic, these boots can take you from day to night effortlessly.

"They also go with so many outfits because they can be dressed up or dressed down easily. I've worn them to work every day this week and traveled with them on a vacation," said one Amazon reviewer.

Seychelles Lock and Key Heel

If you're looking for a chicer option, Javed suggests buying a shoe with block heels and thick straps. This one from Seychelles features a lug sole and platform design for ultimate comfort. The shoe also has a roomy toe box and leather construction that will expand over time.

Reef Lofty Lux Hi

For days when you need to let your toes breathe, this chunky sandal features a compression molded footbed and midsole for a comfortable stride. It also has two thick straps to hold your foot in and a platform heel that gives you that height boost. It's a great pair to wear on vacation and summer strolls.

Birkenstock Arizona Big Buckle

While most sandals have flat inlays, Birkenstock focuses on providing ample wellness to your feet with its cork footbed. These sandals are great for women in need of arch support since the shoes are anatomically shaped to fit your foot.

Vivaia Pointed Toe Sling-Back Heels

If you can't quit your heel rotation, trade your stilettos for something sturdier like these slingbacks from Vivaia. They're breathable thanks to the soft knit uppers and are perfect for days you need to look chic all day. You can pair them with jeans, dresses or skirts and feel comfortable no matter the occasion.

"They are really comfortable and the heel height is perfect — not too high and not too low," said one reviewer.

Birdies Starling Flats

This cult-favorite brand receives high praise for its seven layers of cloud-like comfort. The shoes feature no-slip rubber soles and feel more elevated than traditional flats. The Starling design comes in different hues and prints to choose from. Customers rave about how sophisticated they look and the comfort they provide throughout the day.

Though flats are not mostly recommended for women with flat feet, these are the most comfortable shoes I own. They feel like luxury slippers and they leverage my office attire. These shoes are reliable and they deliver comfort every step of the way. I can wear these all day and I love how I feel the curvy layers of the inlays.

Sorel Zip Wedge Bootie

Every woman in their 30s needs supportive boots that will match with jeans, dresses and more. Sorel specializes in comfort with their ECA foam footbed and this pair in particular is designed for rainy days. The bootie is excellent for all-day comfort and features a sleek leather upper that make it look cool yet casual.

"I'd say that these are comfortable enough to walk for miles in (something that I've done several times in the city). They're also waterproof, making them a smart wear for surprise showers in the forecast," said Shop TODAY senior SEO editor Jess Bender.

Everyday shoes for your 30s

New Balance Women's 574 Core Sneaker

These New Balance sneakers are a true classic for their retro design and overall support. The shoe features a midsole foam, rubber outsole and rubber material that help to absorb shock. It provides a decent level of support and comfort when standing all day. While these aren't made for high-impact activities, you can walk miles in them.

Reebok Walk Ultra 7 DMX MAX

Whether you're dancing at a concert or sweating at the gym, these sneakers will adapt to your fave activities. This shoe is dependable and won't compromise comfort, even if you wear it all day. Reviewers love the "arch support" and one mentioned how this shoe helps them as a waitress. "My feet do not hurt at the end of a very busy 7-9 hour shift. Well made for my 9,000 to 16,000 on-the-go movement steps each day."

"I take pretty extensive nature walks — sometimes up to five miles at a time — as my main form of exercise, and these kicks give me equal amounts of comfort (thanks to its plush cushioned insole scanning the entirety of my foot) and support (with its textile / leather upper that allows for a good amount of movement). Long story short, my strides are feeling pretty fine!" Bender adds about their long-lasting appeal.

Gola Varsity Sneaker

Take it back to varsity days with this pair from Gola. The retro design and comfortable features make this an essential shoe to wear all day. These are great for casual wear and are lightweight enough for a walk around the city. The added stripe details provide a fun vibe to a classic white sneaker and, according to shoppers, they're roomy enough for wider feet.

Vionic Miles II Sneaker

Vionic is recommended by many foot doctors for its durable construction and podiatrist-designed orthotic. This shoe feels lightweight and is a great everyday shoe for work, play and running errands. The sneaker combines the Advanced Motion System technology and cushioning, which ensures the foot has a proper bend and stays in place while walking.

"The arch support helps me keep my balance and seems to support my lower legs. I walked the treadmill for 1/2 hour and did all my floor exercises, ran errands and my feet are still very comfortable," said one buyer.

Frankie Nat II Sneaker

For a chicer aesthetic, this sneaker is great to wear with work pants, jeans and maxi dresses. Frankie is a podiatrist- and woman-owned brand dedicated to delivering comfort and style to women on-the-go. The shoe features a forefoot cushioning system that provides heel and arch support and reduces pain while walking. Plus, as a writer going from events to the office to the gym constantly, this sneaker is my favorite to style with my basic pieces.

Adidas Superstar Shoes

One of Javed's favorite everyday shoes "to run around in is the Adidas Superstar because is chic and goes with everything." This classic style comes in many different colors and is a streetwear staple that pairs with athletic gear, casual outfits and flowy dresses. The shoe features a rubber outsole and a wide toe box that will feel comfortable even when you walk for miles.

"Incredibly comfortable! Especially for someone who's on their feet for more than 8+ hours a day," said one reviewer.

Nike Air Force 1 Premium

Another popular option is the Nike Air Force because of its sturdy structure and easiness to slip on. This is a shoe every sneakerhead will appreciate for its performance, durability and lasting comfort. The velour inner lining of the shoe adds comfort and it features quality laces to keep your feet strapped in. It comes in three different neutral hues for a more minimalist aesthetic.

Athletic shoes for your 30s

Nike Revolution 6 Next Nature Premium

If you're a beginner, these running sneakers will enhance your workouts. The classic Nike Revolution features a flexible design with breathable materials. While they are not as high-performance, this is a budget-friendly training shoe for easy gym workouts and other low-impact exercises.

Hoka Gaviota 4

Hoka has gained popularity for its premium cushioning and stability the shoe provides to trainers. If you tend to overpronate, this is a great sneaker to minimize the issue and enhance support. The J-frame midsole support prevents your foot from rolling into the inside while keeping your heels stable.

Brooks Ghost 14 Sneakers

This is a top favorite from Javed for its ability to hold your foot in place while providing flexibility to your toes. This shoe has a DNA LOFT cushioning that feels soft yet stable. It's a great shoe for runners that run for miles and need solid support. The heel counter is stiff and the toe cap has a slight bend, which offers the right amount of mobility.

"These make me feel like I’m walking on clouds and I don’t experience all of the discomfort and pain I did before," said one reviewer.

Altra Running Escalante 3

Altra is a great choice for athletes looking for a wider toe box. As a beginner runner, this shoe is excellent to hold my ankles and feet in place. The Escalante is roomy and is designed to offer balance while running. It's a great shoe if you are looking for better alignment and flexibility. Additionally, the shoe has Footpod technology, which encourages natural movement underfoot and is great if you tend to get swollen feet after a few miles.

Meet the experts

  • Dr. Najwa Javed is a board-certified podiatrist and foot surgeon with a mission to educate women on proper foot health. She is also the owner of E'MAR, a brand focused on comfortable heels that support your feet all day. She previously talked to Shop TODAY about the best shoe brands for women with big feet.
  • Danielle Kalish is the senior design director for LifeStride, a brand focused on sophisticated comfort and chic styles for women on-the-go.
  • Gionata Pagni is the creative director for Franco Sarto, a brand that offers modern shoes with Italian shoemaking techniques and comfort innovations.