Soled survivors
June 7, 2010 1:55 PM   Subscribe

Lo, for I am become Death, the destroyer of sneakers. Does the hivemind know where to find the perfect work shoe?

I work retail, and the average shift of running around the store amounts to 20km of walking and climbing. Five of those a week combined with the regular wear and tear of walking around town annihilates the average pair of sneakers in a matter of a few months, and I'm beginning to think it's time to try something different. Does anyone have any recommendations for a nice light/flexible shoe that can take a lot of abuse?

My ridiculous criteria:

1) As you might guess, working retail (and being a student) has not made me a rich man. I realize that good shoes will not be cheap, but please don't break my bank.

2) I live in Toronto. The best answer will be something I can buy in the Greater Toronto Area.

3) Depending on the brand I'm a size 11 or 12, usually 11W. I have weird duck feet, though (narrow heels, wide toes).

4) Thanks to the joys of retail dress codes, solid colours would be best.
posted by Schlimmbesserung to Shopping (12 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Doc Martins are super duper comfy when they're worn in and you can stand for hours in them. If they're out of the budget try looking for Post Office surplus shoes. Neither are lightweight but they fit the wide toe issue and they can last for years, especially if you bother with their upkeep.
posted by shinybaum at 2:10 PM on June 7, 2010

Blundstone boots. Full stop. I'm a chronic shoe assassin myself, and these boots are as worthy an adversary as I have ever encountered.
posted by sarastro at 2:14 PM on June 7, 2010 [2 favorites]

When I worked full time retail I was saved by hiking boots with a good heel insert.
posted by TooFewShoes at 2:18 PM on June 7, 2010

I have good luck with Sketchers, working in a shop all day.
posted by Jon-o at 2:51 PM on June 7, 2010

Agreeing with the Docs and hiking boots recs and adding 'a good walking shoe' to the list. Leather, not canvas or cotton or wevs, and no sneakers. I had luck back in my retail days with Rockports, though I picked that brand specifically because they fit my wide feet best. I still wear my first pair occasionally six years later, though they're really ragged.

Here's the rub: You're probably gonna wind up spending between $80 and $130 on a decent pair of shoes, and you oughta expect to wear them out in about a year. Shoes today that don't cost $250+ aren't designed to last much longer than a year, given normal wear and tear, and since you're abusing them heavily you can't expect them to last even that long. Another fun aspect of 'normal wear and tear' is not wearing a given pair daily. Start out with one good pair, but before you run those ragged invest in a second pair and start alternating. Two is the minimum, and though it hurts my ascetic heart, three pairs is probably the best. Wearing one pair every day to your retail job will wear them out in about a year, but if you start alternating two or three pairs expect to extend that lifetime to four to six years, per.
posted by carsonb at 2:59 PM on June 7, 2010

Also, even though you're gonna get lots of recommendations for sexy sexy shoes from us internet answerers, your best recommendation is going to come from an old man (probably in a department store) who will look at your feet, take your measurements, listen to your wants and needs, and then apply all of that to the massive table of shoe brands and styles that he keeps in his head before handing you a pair of shoes that will change your life. It's just a matter of finding him. (He was in a Dillard's in Tucson for me.)
posted by carsonb at 3:04 PM on June 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

i feel your retail foot pain. what got my feet through 6 years of kinko's were the old-school saucony jazz. the link is to the solid black version at zappo's for $50. you should get at least a year out of these bad boys.
posted by ashabanapal at 4:17 PM on June 7, 2010

Birkenstock Footprints
I have 3 different styles that I wear regularly. They've helped not only my feet, but my back as well.
posted by nickthetourist at 6:45 PM on June 7, 2010

N'thing Docs. I managed a restaurant full time for a couple of years and if you think retail is hard on shoes, try adding food scraps and wet floors. I had a pair of mary janes that lasted two years and still looked good. In fact the only reason I got rid of them was that they smelled so bad I couldn't even take them inside my house anymore. They were really comfortable and forced me to stand properly so I didn't hurt my back nearly as much. Really worth the investment.
posted by Wantok at 7:28 PM on June 7, 2010

Best answer: My feet are about half the size of yours (though I also have narrow heels). Dansko/Sanita Professionals were my lifesaver when I was working retail, but they might not look quite the same on larger feet.

My boyfriend won't even agree to try on my beloved clogs (he thinks they're funny-looking!), but his most recent retail work shoes are Red Wings and they've been working well. They appear to be sold in a bunch of stores in Toronto and they come in wide sizes and work-appropriate styles.

I do love my Docs and their fabulous shock absorption, but the arch support in them is kinda meh.

I think you'll get longer wear out of something with a sturdier build than most sneakers have. Heavier, yeah, but it's worth it for better arch support. I was always in better shape after a day in my oh-so-fashionable orthopedic clogs than I would be on days I wore even my best sneakers. Plus the clogs work great for narrow heels as there's no need for them to grip your heel.
posted by asperity at 7:33 PM on June 7, 2010

2nd Dansko professional clogs. You can buy them at uniform stores (stores that sell nurses scrubs and chef uniforms) for cheaper than in fashion stores.
posted by WeekendJen at 1:46 PM on June 8, 2010

Red Wings are good shoes, they will last a long time.

Try on a pair of Merrell shoes if you get the chance usually they sell them at sporting good stores or department stores, they are quite comfortable.
posted by ibakecake at 2:45 PM on June 8, 2010

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