Looking for shoes I *can't* keep my lunch money in.
April 29, 2009 7:18 PM   Subscribe

Are there any casual women's shoes that could replace sneakers for general everyday wear? Or should I just stick with sneakers if comfort is my main goal and style is secondary?

Okay, so I've read the many threads on comfortable work shoes for women, but I'm looking for something slightly different. I'm a mid-twenties female grad student and I've been gradually trying to "age up" my wardrobe so that I'm no longer mistaken for an undergrad. My sneakers are due for their annual replacement, and I'm realizing that Kangaroos (which are what I buy every year), while certainly adorable, are maybe not doing me any favors in the maturity department. I'd love to replace them with a pair of comfortable, supportive, stylish non-sneakers, but I'm concerned that sneakers might be the only shoes that could be comfortable for long periods of walking.

I'm not looking for work shoes; I have plenty of pairs of nice shoes that I can wear to "work" when I dress up, and they don't have to be particularly comfortable because my "job" consists mostly of sitting around. I'm looking for something to wear with jeans and walk around in all day (something I could walk, say, 5 miles in). My primary concern is comfort, so if the answer is that sneakers really are the most comfortable option, then I'll just buy another pair of 'Roos.

So I guess my question is twofold: one, is there a reason why I shouldn't replace my sneakers with quality non-sneaker shoes? Two, if not, does anyone have experience with particular brands or styles? Difficulty level: I have small (6 - 6.5) but somewhat wide feet, and I wear half-length orthotics because I have low arches.

Aesthetic specifications: I don't want something clunky (e.g. Dansko and Born). I'm very petite and clunky shoes will make me look like either a teenager or a huge dork. I love the way the Keen Sienna Mary Jane looks -- not too sporty but also not too dressy, I like the suede, and the strap looks like it would keep the shoe on your foot well. This Palladium ballet flat is also the kind of style that appeals to me.

Under $100 is an absolute necessity, and under $75 is very preferable, although I realize that you get what you pay for. I am not averse to buying weird colors on clearance.
posted by pluckemin to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (41 answers total) 64 users marked this as a favorite
Are you going to stay warm? I am on my third pair of Dansko Lolita sandals. (I realize the link says $110, but keep checking Zappos or other places -- I have bought them for $75.) These look like ordinary chunky/strappy sandals, but I have worn them at least three miles, and done short light hiking in them.

I'm impressed by the 'Roos, anyway. I didn't know you could still get them. I remember being so proud to have my milk money (25c) in that little old pocket.
posted by Countess Elena at 7:24 PM on April 29, 2009

Oh, crap, I'm sorry, I missed what you said about Dansko. Nemmind.
posted by Countess Elena at 7:25 PM on April 29, 2009

Earth Shoes.
posted by dreaming in stereo at 7:25 PM on April 29, 2009

Best answer: Wow, I'm actually wearing that exact same Palladium flat right now! I can't recommend it highly enough. It's sneaker-comfortable and stylish enough to get away with at work. I've definitely run to catch the bus and wandered around apartment hunting in them. They also do fairly well in the rain- obviously not waterproof, but they did dry well.

I think they run a little big: I got mine in a Euro 39 (theoretically a US 8.5, according to my trusty Moleskine) and could definitely have gone down to a 38. The width should be fine; I have pretty narrow feet and find it a little too wide, though that might also be a factor of size.
posted by charmcityblues at 7:29 PM on April 29, 2009

I don't know much about specific shoes, but I stick SuperFeet insoles in all my shoes. Gives me good arch support in all my shoes (if that's the comfort issue).
posted by alohaliz at 7:29 PM on April 29, 2009 [1 favorite]

I don't know if they're as grown up as what you want, but I love my Toms. They're the most comfortable shoes I own, and as a bonus, when you buy a pair (they're pretty much all at $50 or under), they give a pair to a kid in need. I wear them to my casual workplace.

I also wear Asics Onitsuka Tigers, and think they look a little more polished than a bulkier sneaker, and they're more comfortable for me, too. I have black and white ones, but ones like these are even a little nicer-looking.
posted by fructose at 7:29 PM on April 29, 2009 [2 favorites]

p.s. I'm also very petite and find that the shoes I mentioned are especially flattering if you're trying to avoid the tiny legs-giant shoes thing.
posted by fructose at 7:30 PM on April 29, 2009

Best answer: I have some Mary Janes from Naturalizer that are pretty darn comfy. I work in a lab, so I'm on my feet a lot, and am allowed to wear sneakers, but these are just as comfy and make me look more like a grown-up. There were several styles of them available last time I was at the store. I also have a pair of Naots, which have lasted me 8 years, and will last another 5. They're pricey to start, but have been well worth it. They have a million styles.
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 7:34 PM on April 29, 2009

you don't have to stop wearing sneakers, just wear more polished sneakers—lots of very stylish people of all ages in nyc (designers, architects, etc) wear asics onitsuka tigers, pumas or adidas to work. they look great, some sleek enough to wear with suits, and you can walk miles in them.
posted by lia at 7:49 PM on April 29, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I would recommend you have a look at Privo shoes. I have a pair and I find them really light and comfortable for walking around all day (and I normally have to wear orthotics to prevent my feet from killing me). They have a number of different styles, most of which are on the non-clunky side. They also seem to start at size 5 for women. They're listed on Zappos from $70-90, but I have seen them at that price or less in Canada.
posted by flying kumquat at 7:49 PM on April 29, 2009 [5 favorites]

I'm in a similar boat (grad student, trying to age-up my wardrobe), only I was trying to go from flip-flops/sandals to something equally comfortable. Recently I've fallen in love with simple ballet flats like these.

I've seen much more expensive alternatives out there that will last much longer, but for $13, you can afford to replace them several times over and never feel the ding (a major plus to me, living on a grad student budget). These pull even jeans and a t-shirt together and make me feel way fancier while still feeling comfortable than anything I've found before.
posted by messylissa at 7:50 PM on April 29, 2009 [1 favorite]

My pair of Ecco shoes has lasted me 5 years and counting of pretty heavy usage, and are very comfortable for walking. They're not under $100, but they're the only non-running shoe non-dress shoe I've had for the last 5 years, and they're still in good shape. Mine go quite well with dark jeans, and I can get away with them and khakis too, which means I generally don't need to pack two pairs of shoes when I travel and need to look nice for something. Their women's selection is a little bit weirder than their men's, though.. maybe you could get away with something like this though?
posted by devilsbrigade at 7:50 PM on April 29, 2009 [1 favorite]

I pretty much live in these Sketchers. I have these in brown and a similar pair in black. They don't look like sneakers at a glance, but they feel like them. I'm a 6.5 wide and they're perfectly comfy to me.
posted by cobaltnine at 7:52 PM on April 29, 2009

Best answer: I walk everywhere. These are the brands I like:

Merrell has some flats similar to the Keen shoe you linked. A friend had a supercute, non-clunky pair of Merrell Maryjanes that she wore all over Asia while traveling. I can't find the particular style--you might try looking at them in a store rather than online, I think they look clunkier in photos than on actual feet sometimes. Anyway, they'd be in your price range, and I can vouch for them comfort-wise.

The Tsubo brand would also be in your price range. I practically live in these, though they may be more casual than you want.
posted by Meg_Murry at 7:57 PM on April 29, 2009

Danskin, Doc Marten, Duck Brand. All insanely comfortable - perhaps even more than sneakers, because they have more structure. Yes, you should replace sneakers if you want to look more mature.
posted by Miko at 8:00 PM on April 29, 2009

Best answer: I love love love Keens. I look for last years colors/remainders online to keep 'em in my price range.
posted by desuetude at 8:05 PM on April 29, 2009

Best answer: Seconding Merrells. Don't be alarmed by their collection of clogs; they do have some cute styles. The Circuit MJ Breeze is attractive, and are still fun while being a bit more polished. I have average-width feet, and they feel a bit wide to me, but you can read more info on the Zappos site. They also offer flats, and there's a sneaker-flat hybrid kind of thing, but they're $100 while the other two I linked to are $85.
posted by runningwithscissors at 8:07 PM on April 29, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I'm a graduate student who has permanently switched to leather shoes because they are longer lasting than sneakers, especially if you treat them with mink oil and polish. I shop at the Salvation Army and Goodwill - you can find $100 shoes at thrift stores, high quality stuff like Clarks. I bought a pair of Clarks for $2 that lasted for 2 years; I have just replaced them with some super comfortable loafers for $3.

I found the Clark's to be a wonderful all-purpose looks-somewhat-formal-but-feels-as-comfy-as-a-sneaker shoe. Other people I knew with feet problems also liked Clarks.
posted by jb at 8:12 PM on April 29, 2009

There's hardly a single professor, grad student, or librarian at my school who doesn't own a pair of Keens. They're so comfy and I've walked for miles and miles in mine.
posted by MsMolly at 8:13 PM on April 29, 2009

I'm another Onitsuka Tiger wearer. I did recently branch out into some mary-janes, but as a narrow-footed person, those kinds of shoes never work well for me. Check out the tigers!
posted by Joh at 8:14 PM on April 29, 2009

Best answer: I have a pair of Keen mary janes (not the ones you linked, but similar ones) and they are SO comfy and cute and perfect for walking around. Nthing the comments on how awesome they are!
posted by leesh at 8:19 PM on April 29, 2009

Best answer: I mostly wear Clarks. I honestly don't find sneakers very comfortable, especially for walking. I like a shoe with a sturdy sole. Eccos are nice too but they are more expensive.
posted by interplanetjanet at 9:46 PM on April 29, 2009

Those elastic bands on the tops of shoes aren't always comfortable. They kind of dig into the top of my feet. And sometimes they stretch out faster than the shoe wears out, leaving a somewhat floppy feeling. I'd go for something with a bit more structure to the shoe.
posted by barnone at 9:49 PM on April 29, 2009

Best answer: I depend on my orthotics, so your comment about orthotics jumped out at me.
Sometimes it's hard to find shoes that comfortably accommodate the extra layer of stuff in your shoes. If that's an issue for you, use Zappos (zappos.com) and search for "removable insoles". Zappos has such a huge selection that you're bound to find something cute, and their shipping/customer service is excellent ifyou need to go through a few returns before you find something you love.
posted by Sublimity at 9:54 PM on April 29, 2009

I was specifically going to recommend the Palladium Kassel flats, and then you linked to them!! They are amazing, and I can walk a few blocks in them to grab lunch during work and be totally comfortable, and then go back and not look like a slob. I hate dressy shoes, and can't really wear sloppy shoes for my job, and these have been amazing. I have been wanting to get the Palladium Marrakech too because the Kassels I have are so insanely comfortable.
posted by so_gracefully at 10:06 PM on April 29, 2009

Royal Elastics Bolta shoes are good- comfy and cute- the little knotted elastic detail looks great in person. Actually, Royal Elastics, in general, have some good flats (scroll down & check next page, too).
Lacoste also makes some good flat maryjanes. I like the ones with the slanted straps, like Lacoste Papillons.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 12:08 AM on April 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

Since it's summer time - you could do worse than sandals. I'm a sneakers junky, and I just got a pair of timberland sandals. Walked a couple of miles in them without a problem. while their sole is harder than a sneaker's, they're much more comfortable than any other sandal/ballet flat I've tried. after a few years in sneakers they're quite a relief - roomy, light and breathable. many more awesome styles on the site.
posted by ye#ara at 12:53 AM on April 30, 2009

I love my Keens and my sister like the Earth Shoes. But you should go check them out in person. You may consider them too clunky. Dillards has a cute comfy shoe (I think that they might be their own brand) called Nurture. and I think that J-41's are super cute.
posted by nimsey lou at 3:37 AM on April 30, 2009

Best answer: I am always looking for shoes along this line too. My current winners, which remind me of your Palladiums (Palladia?), are these Privo Spangles. They're comfy and cute and I love them. I'm considering getting a second pair in black.

Disclaimer: My foot problem is high arches, not low, so I don't know if that makes a difference in the shoe comfort. But I can vouch for them having room for a support insert!
posted by Stacey at 4:20 AM on April 30, 2009

Best answer: I asked a near-identical question somewhere else a few weeks ago, and ended up buying these Simple Planet Walkers. They are insanely comfortable and can go for miles, go with everything, made with recycled car tires, and THEY ARE $30 WITH FREE SHIPPING. (The insoles are removable if that's a necessity, and they run just slightly small, so I'd recommend going with a 6.5 instead of a 6. I got mine a full size larger than what I usually wear and they're still comfy but just a tad loose.)

Naturalizers were recommended to me several times as well, as were Danskos (neither of which I was too into). I do have a pair of Palladium ballet flats, though not the Kassels, and although I adore them the sole is kind of flimsy and they don't provide much support or cushion.
posted by Metroid Baby at 5:00 AM on April 30, 2009 [4 favorites]

Sometimes it's hard to find shoes that comfortably accommodate the extra layer of stuff in your shoes. If that's an issue for you, use Zappos (zappos.com) and search for "removable insoles".

It's worth noting that most Keen shoes (except the sandals) have removable insoles.
posted by desuetude at 6:21 AM on April 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Van Eli, Softt and munro (all available at Nordstrom and the usual online discounters) make grown-up shoes that are extremely comfortable for all day. They are all a little more expensive than sneakers, but I had a pair of Van Elis that I wore every day for four weeks straight taking walking tours of foreign places and then regularly for the next five years before they gave out. I also find Fluevogs insanely comfortable and seriously stylish.

I walk a couple of miles every day (I live without a car) at a minimum and I have no trouble walking all day in any of those brands, heels or flats.
posted by crush-onastick at 7:05 AM on April 30, 2009

Response by poster: Wow, lots of great answers! Thanks everyone! I'll stop by my local classy shoe store and seek out some of the brands that were mentioned.
posted by pluckemin at 7:38 AM on April 30, 2009

You'll need to catch them on sale, but I'm a huge fan of Camper shoes. Well made, very comfortable, and just kooky enough to make you feel young. (They make me feel young, anyway.)
posted by orrnyereg at 7:46 AM on April 30, 2009

If you like the look of the strappy maryjane, like the Skechers mentioned above, check out these or these from Lands End for $39. They are quite comfy - and I am fussy about my shoes, generally wearing Danskos, Clarks and Keens.
posted by sarajane at 8:03 AM on April 30, 2009

I walk everywhere (no car) and just discovered Corso Como brand shoes. They are stylish and super-duper comfortable - even the heels. They're also a bit more pricey - but totally worth it if comfort is important to you.
posted by jrichards at 8:07 AM on April 30, 2009

I don't know if it's because I have exceptionally sweaty feet, but I have that exact pair of Keens, and you don't want to stand within 15 feet of me or so when I take them off in the summer. Ridiculously comfy, though.

These are possibly the most comfortable shoes I've ever owned, sneakers included. I put nine months of walking over two miles each and every day and would go walking on jaunts of 3+ miles without a thought before the heel started coming apart.
posted by joyceanmachine at 8:32 AM on April 30, 2009

In addition to the great shoes linked above, get a shoe brush so you can remove dirt from suede, and consider getting leather shoes, and good shoe polish. I have shoes that I've kept alive for a long time with polish. Freshly polished shoes really look nice, and professional. Embarrassingly, the shoes I have on right now, could use polishing. [tucks feet under desk]
posted by theora55 at 8:50 AM on April 30, 2009

I just bought these, with exactly the same purpose in mind. They are stylish & very comfortable without the orthopedic look. These are neutral with a dull touch of metallic which makes them current & very easy to wear with any outfit. (I totally disagree with the 1 reviewer) In general, I find it best to always try on a shoe and walk around in a store if at all possible. The more tired your feet the better, end of day is best. Once you know what size works for you you can always order online for a better price. You can find above shoes in most dept. stores. My colleague who is pregnant and looking for a comfortable shoe got a similar pair. I have walked long distances in them & can safely say they do the job in the city. They are not appropriate for nature/country walks. They look great with jeans & I do not feel I am sacrificing aesthetic for comfort. You can also purchase last years styles on ebay & such like for a better price.
posted by sequin at 9:16 AM on April 30, 2009

nthing the recommendation for Keens. I usually get mine at Sierra Trading Post which has fantastic discounts on shoes. (Also, check these out! Super cute and comfortable.)
posted by hooray at 10:03 AM on April 30, 2009

Nthing Palladium. I have two pairs of their shoes: a pair that is either the Kassel or a very similar style, and the Bastia. Both pairs are extremely durable, comfortable, and took only a day or so to break in. One note: if you do end up going for Palladiums, you are wise to go with endless.com. I did a lot of searching for the Bastia, and they had the best price by $20 or $30.
posted by rebel_rebel at 5:46 PM on April 30, 2009

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