Shoes say a lot about a man. Every time you put on a pair you are essentially broadcasting a lot about your personality to everyone around. Unfortunately, expensive dress shoes aren’t always the most comfortable work shoes, or very affordable for that matter, and your home slippers aren’t exactly appropriate in the workplace.
Consider the following tips which strike a nice balance between comfort and style whilst still being office suitable.
7 tips for choosing a really comfortable everyday work shoe:
- Choose a Lightweight Shoe
- Get Shoes with Low and Wide Heels Close to the Ground
- Consider Any Pronation Issues and Your Arch Height
- Look into Custom Orthotics, Insoles, and Cushioning
- Purchase Heel Grips and Silicone Strips
- Pick a Well Cushioned yet Supportive Shoe
- Don’t Forget About Getting the Right Size Shoes!
These tips go beyond simply getting the right sized shoe, they really dig deep into easy tricks you can apply today to make your shoes more comfortable throughout the day.
Choose a Lightweight Shoe
Let’s start with the obvious. Unless you work at a tech startup in Silicon Valley or have a boss who just doesn’t care, it’s not likely you will be allowed to take your shoes off during office or work hours.
Plus no one wants to see a grown man’s feet – or his socks with or without holes!
So be smart with how you choose your work shoes. Going for the lighter options will always pay off at the end of the day.
Heavy shoes take way too much energy to move around and can leave you feeling tired and stiff. Not to mention, heavy shoes are usually less flexible which gives the footwear a more constricting feel.
The only time you might pick up a heavier pair of shoes would be if you need protection at work where steel toe caps, special sole requirements etc., are necessary. Since these all add weight you have no choice but to accept a little heavier shoe type.
The following list of tips doesn’t dive into specific materials or shoe styles you should buy. Instead, these are general guidelines for any type of work shoe to ensure you are comfortable throughout the day.
So the first thing to keep in mind… get light shoes!
Get Shoes with Low and Wide Heels Close to the Ground
Gentlemen, believe it or not, this tip is also for you. The ladies aren’t the only ones rocking heels.
A lot of men’s work and dress shoes have thick flat heels with large surface areas. Think of the old policeman’s shoes that British bobbies used to wear.
These are often found on Oxford’s and similar shoes and offer a certain stylistic component that adds to the aesthetics and the overall feel of the shoe.
The midsole and outsole of your shoes are important when your walking or running but if you’re going to be sitting down at a desk all day, it’s better to avoid shoes with high but narrow heels.
The closer your heel is to the ground the less likely you are to sprain or injure your ankles, especially if its a work shoe like a Derby or Brogue where you don’t have a lot of padding or spring action.
High heel shoes and shoes with a high heel to toe drop, also leave your Achilles contracted which is an issue if you are wearing these all day long. The problem comes when you later wear flatter shoes, such as slippers, at home when your foot is flatter and the Achilles is stretched. You can easily strain or even tear your Achilles which shortens with prolonged high heel shoe wear.
Yet another problem with high heels is the increased pressure on the balls of your feet. With the front of your foot taking most of your weight, there is extra pressure on your metatarsal joints which will eventually cause pain.
The American Podiatric Medical Association reports that approximately 50% of adults suffer from some kind of foot injury, so beat the statistics and go for office shoes with low heels with a wide surface area to support your foot properly.
Pick a Well Cushioned Yet Supportive Shoe
Finding a well-cushioned dress shoe for the office might exclude a lot of athletic shoes. These shoes typically have a lot of cushioning which usually takes the form of some type of fabric or mesh covered foam. Along with the thicker soles and fabric/mesh uppers, this cushioning around the heel and generally gives the shoe its style.
But it’s a style that is not at all formal. There are some multi-use shoes that you might label casual sports shoes, that have a leather upper but still have a thicker sole, something like the Brooks Addiction Walker.
These are shoes you might wear out at the mall or even casual evenings out. They typically still have ample cushioning, especially noticeable around the collar of the shoe (around the heel) which gives them the sports style look along with a relaxed leather upper. Many people might call this type of shoe sneakers.
Moving towards formality a little closer are shoes that are still casual with more formal type uppers yet still not totally formal such as an all leather upper and sole Oxford or Brogue. An example might be the Clarks Cloud Stepper Sillian Paz shown above. It has an upper that is no longer a sports style whilst retaining the thicker soles of a sporty walking shoe to some degree.
Then there are the truly formal shoes with polished leather uppers and in the past thinner leather soles. The leather soles are beginning to gradually be replaced with rubber soles which have better grip and cushioning.
Even so, there are still shoes that in between the semi-formal and formal shoes such as the Cole Haan Grand Plus Essex Wedge shoes below which give excellent cushioning, a hybrid rubber sole yet still look formal. Note the cushioned collar around the heel. They have excellent cushioned and supportive insoles as well.
The level of cushioning tends to decrease with formality. So if you cannot wear an athletic shoe or sneaker then you will get the most comfort from a hybrid such as the Clarks shoes above. These are suitable for all but the most formal working environments. If even those are not formal enough then my advice are shoes like the Cole Haan or similar if you want cushioning and comfort for all-day wear at work.
Women have a lot more options than men because there are a greater number of style that are accepted as formal. They do however have the disadvantage of higher heels and so many shoes that cramp types together in an effort to force style on the anatomy to look more – dare I say it – sexy!
Rather than go for the stiletto high heels you are better looking at stylish shoes with a lower heel yet still manage to look fantastic like the L'Amour des Pieds Brenn Sandal shown below. The possibilities are numerous but again it all depends on the dress requirements of your work.
Consider Pronation and Arch Support
Our feet have an arch to them which allows us to naturally harvest kinetic energy while walking and spring up off the ground. It’s probably also because our ancestors climbed trees but that’s less likely today at the workplace!
Depending on how high your foot arch reaches, you may need to buy shoes with arch support.
It may sound weird but paradoxically if you have flat feet you also need arch support and it is often a point of confusion that both supinators and overpronators both need arch support. The difference is that overpronators also need stability control or motion control to stop the foot rolling to the inside too much. Supinators, on the other hand, need the shoe to allow inward rotation to compensate the supinators lack of it.
People with a high arch generally have supination. This is when you place the majority of your weight on the outer edge of your foot.
If you have a high arch, consider buying an office shoe marketed as having arch support. These shoes have been shown to relieve pain during long exposure especially if you are just sitting at a desk with your work shoes on.
People with an average or neutral arched foot should get shoes with a firm midsole. If you are in this category you are in luck my friend because most work shoes have very form midsoles and should prove comfortable throughout the day as long as you grab a pair of shoes with good cushioning which is often missing in dress style shoes.
People with flat feet or low arches often suffer from overpronation. Choose a shoe with less flexibility and with decent arch support.
When we walk we have natural pronation towards the inner parts of our feet. Some people with low arches or because of other physiological reasons will often exaggerate this action and in other words, overpronate.
This is among the most common types of pronation so there are a few options you can go with. Often times shoes will be marketed as over pronation friendly or a stable shoe which is fine if you are not walking long distances. A shoe like the Rockport Almartin Oxford provide a limited amount of stability with a reasonable quality footbed which makes for comfortable all-day wear formal shoe but the cushioned collar at the heel has gone and with it some level of comfort.
Of course, every now and then you might actually find a shoe with a comfortable midsole and quality supportive insole but it is more often than not a fitness walking or marathon running shoe so it’s probably a good idea to go for the second option which is…
Look into Custom Orthotics, Insoles, and Cushioning
This is a good tip for most people in general, not just overpronators.
Look if you’re like most people reading this article you probably work a 9 to 5 job and after working overtime and listening to your annoying colleagues talk about their kids for the tenth time in the last hour the last thing you need is shoes with rigid and unsporting insoles.
One easy and cheap way to add some support to your work shoes is to get cushioning and off-the-shelf insoles.
These elements are very comfortable and soft, allowing you to go on with your day without feeling a throbbing pain in your feet.
Now if you suffer from overpronation you may need to get custom orthotics which are a bit on the expensive side, even with insurance coverage.
Of course, orthotics are a great solution to foot pain and are generally a good investment especially if you have a desk job where your feet don’t get much movement and have to remain constricted in work shoes that aren’t necessarily made for comfort or with the softest and most supportive insoles.
If you see a shoe you really like but it doesn’t have the support you need then all is not lost if you can add custom orthotics.
To do this the shoe should have removable insoles ideally. Although you can fit custom orthotics on top of those in the shoe if they are fixed, most often the shoe will end up either way too tight or fitting badly. So the style of shoe will be all important. Any enclosed shoe will almost certainly not work but some more open styles may work.
So if you are going that route, make sure to get a slightly wider and roomier fit because custom orthotics are regularly thicker than the supplied ones and take up space in the shoe. That can leave a good fitting shoe feeling tight once you make the swap.
Purchase Heel Grips and Silicone Strips
Like the low heels tip, this also seems a bit ‘girly’ but trust me guys there is nothing wimpier than whining all day because your feet are chafing and you have blisters.
The back of your feet and your heel area is the most prone to getting blisters. Even if you're just sitting down and have nice thick socks you are still at risk of developing painful blisters.
Unlike walking, shoes or other sports shoes, most work shoes don’t have soft heels that curve up and out at the top with added support for extra softness. Most office shoes have thin and rigid heel areas that rub against your feet and cause chafing.
Heel grips are great because they stabilize your feet preventing them from moving around and causing blisters. They also act as a layer between your feet and the rough heel area.
Need I remind you of the terrible burning sensation from blistering? I didn’t think so. Get yourself some heel grips!
Similarly, silicone strips can save the top of your feet.
If the upper or the seam running across the width of the shoe has a bite to it or is occasionally loose, you could develop a painful blister.
You can easily avoid the pain by inserting thin silicone strips along these areas to keep your foot in place and reduce chafing.
The other thing silicone inserts can be used for is this. Shoe widths are relative to the shoe size. Sometimes a shoe is slightly too tight in width for the ideal length. Buying a half size larger enables you to get a better width fit and you can use Gel Heel Pads such as shown to effectively reduce the extra length of the shoe for a better fit.
Voila! A cheap and easy solution, So what if you're wife also uses them too?
Don’t Forget Foot Size!
Like the last tip, this one isn’t all that concerned with the picking of the right shoe but it is a valuable consideration when purchasing office footwear, one that is often overlooked.
If you don’t have the right shoe for your foot size you aren’t likely going to have a comfortable shoe.
Either you’ll have a pair that is too small and leaves your feet feeling like they've been in a jar full of bees for eight hours a day. Or you’ll have shoes that fall off because they are too big.
Need I remind you of blistering again?
Unlike a fine wine, your feet don’t age well so even if you’ve stopped growing that doesn’t mean your feet have.
With age, your feet can change size so always measure your foot size when shopping for shoes. And bear in mind that shoe manufacturers all have different shoe lasts with slightly different sizes which means a perfect size for you in one brand may be quite different in another.
If you don’t know your size or want to check how a certain brand typically measures up then head on over to our shoe size by brand tables to get a better idea which size might be best.
When you get your shoes, try them on and stand up making sure to lace up properly.
The shoes should:
• enable your toes to spread out a little without excessive wiggle room.
• feel SLIGHTLY tight across the widest part of the sole your foot
• not slip at the heel much when you walk back and forth
• not push into your toes where they crease at the forefoot
• lace up with the sides evenly spaced where the laces go through
• if those sides are pinched together then the shoe is too big in size or style
• if those sides are splayed apart then you have a high instep and need a different style and maybe different width fitting or size or both.
A pro tip is to always buy shoes in the evening because that is when your feet are the largest as they swell through the day.
Your job is important but so are your feet so take good care of them especially since you lock them up in those work shoes all day!
If you’re waiting to get home so you can throw your pair halfway across the living room then you should consider a change in footwear, keeping the information above in mind.