I'm not Steve Jobs (...yet). Help me find semi-dressy work shoes for an every day, active lifestyle with solid soles -- NO METAL SHANKS -- to replace my unprofessional New Balances
August 23, 2010 1:08 AM   Subscribe

What brands or specific models of men's dress shoes offer a solid sole, quality materials and support that work well for active on-the-go folks? (I'm looking for kind of a running shoe in dressy disguise)

I'm starting to realize I need to become an "adult" sometime and I should start dressing like one. I know shoes are more important than anything else you wear (at least according to all my female friends and fashion magazines -- I'm not here to debate this, so if you're going to make a snide comment about it, please direct your energy elsewhere) but I've never found any dress shoes comparable to the New Balance running shoes I wear regularly to the office and around town after work.

I had an old pair of black dress shoes with a square toe that I LOVED four years ago, but I have no idea what brand they were. I shined them weekly. I replaced the insoles on them three times and the soles once. They were getting really worn though and I had to move on though.

Since then, I've gone through 3 pairs of dressy shoes over the past year and a half, never getting more than a month out of them (and falling back to the new balances) because I keep seeming to only find ones I like that have metal shanks in the bottom and these empty air pockets in the heel that collapse if you're at all active in them for extended periods of time and on the larger size. Specifically, I've torn through a pair of Kenneth Cole, Deers Stags and some other brand I can't remember the name of. All looked good, but didn't have solid heels and after a month the Kenneth Cole shoe shank actually cut my sock stabbing into my heel.

Zappos customer support failed me. And searches on Meta Filter and the Internet in general hasn't yielded any sort of way to find out if shoes have solid soles. I've gone to stores to check out shoes, but short of pulling out a knife and cutting into the soles or ripping the glued insoles out, I can't find this information anywhere.

So I'm asking the hive mind's feet -- anyone have advice on specific brands or models of shoes I should look at with solid soles that work well for active folks? Kind of a running shoe in dressy disguise?

My dream shoes would be:
+ A solid rubber/fancy space age polymer sole (no empty plastic grid heels with a metal shank to fake support)
+ Black (or charcoal)
+ Offer great support
+ Relatively stylish and simple, not too flashy or flamboyant (Shine is nice, but not mandatory. A square/"bicycle" toe is preferred too. I have wide feet so nothing really narrow)
+ A lift or raised heel is ok too (height is supposed to be important too according to the ladies and the magazines) :)
+ Good quality that will last at least a year of regular, active, 9-5+ wear
+ Cheaper is better than extremely expensive, but I'm willing to splurge on a perfect pair mixing class, quality, support and durability

Just to be clear, I don't really care about any specific name brand, I want quality. Having said that if a brand is consistently excellent and builds all their line with solid soles and quality materials, I could be swayed that direction. I've heard good things about Hush Puppies (largely from my dad many ages ago), ECCO (from a stylish friend) and Merrill, although they're more active-style and less dressy. Thoughts or suggestions are very welcome!
posted by jkl345 to Shopping (16 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
One other thing -- no squeeky soles, too btw! I don't know what causes this, but I have one pair of shoes that I can't wear out to office buildings because they squeak. It's embarrassing. :\

Thanks for any help you can offer!
posted by jkl345 at 1:18 AM on August 23, 2010

Ecco. Super comfortable (I don't wear my Rockports much anymore), durable, and they do a reasonable job of not looking out of place with a suit.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 2:26 AM on August 23, 2010

Cole Haan is owned by Nike and makes dress shoes with the Nike Air squishy stuff in them. They look like normal dress shoes.
posted by twblalock at 3:03 AM on August 23, 2010

I like Rockports they are moderately priced and very comfortable.
posted by jmsta at 3:31 AM on August 23, 2010

Anecdotal and not necessarily applicable to dress shoes, but the last pair of Hush Puppies sandals I bought fell apart within a month of buying them.
posted by reptile at 5:58 AM on August 23, 2010

What about New Balance? You wear the sneakers - why not the dressier shoes?
posted by KogeLiz at 6:49 AM on August 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

Clark's is an excellent brand of shoe I've been wearing for years. They have a great selection of dressy-casual.

Definitely second Cole Haan and Ecco.

I recommend buying heirloom shoes. The kind you get resoled several times. Expensive, but an incredible investment in your happiness and health. Don't know what the fashion mags say, but life is too short to wear cheap choes.
posted by cross_impact at 7:00 AM on August 23, 2010

I've been pretty happy buying used Allen Edmonds off ebay. Classic design, sturdy, and available in wide sizes. You can also send them back to AE to get refurbed/resoled. Aldens are a higher quality shoe and offer similar services to AE, but I haven't been able to find a pair in my size yet.
posted by electroboy at 8:48 AM on August 23, 2010

Clarks is the brand you want: Comfortable, well-built, serious looks coupled with geeky stuff like airsoles and goretex lining. I've got a pair that cost me about 100 euros and have been my main work-type shoes for the past few years.
posted by Dr Dracator at 9:27 AM on August 23, 2010

Have you ever tried wearing clogs? They definitely have an individual look, but I really like the way they look. I'm 5'9" and I can't say that I mind the 2 inches in height they give me. They are stupid-comfortable. They feel like walking barefoot, but better. Your feet don't smell because there is air all around them. Personally I think they look cool.

If you try them, Sanita is the brand that Dansko used to import. Apparently Dansko is now importing lesser quality shoes from China, so look for Sanitas, they are priced similarly.

It's hard now to wear any other shoes.
posted by sully75 at 10:17 AM on August 23, 2010

Wow! Thanks for all the tips. I'm going to start shopping around now.

@KogeLiz - I can't believe I didn't even think about New Balance having dress shoes. Thanks for the link!

@reptile - That's what I was afraid of since it's been decades since he wore them, so many companies that used to be known for quality get bought out and turn into junk.

Thanks again!
posted by jkl345 at 10:39 AM on August 23, 2010

The first thing that sprang to my mind was Allen-Edmonds, like electroboy suggested. I own several pairs of their shoes and they're phenomenal. They look great, they're built well and when they wear out, most of them can be "recrafted" (reheeled, resoled, relasted, etc.) at the factory and they come back good as new for a fraction of the cost of a new pair. They have rubber soled shoes, but I would recommend you get leather soled anyways. They're probably more expensive than most of the shoes you've been looking at but, they're cheaper than most shoes that are built as well and look as good. Seriously, look around the web and I'm sure you'll find a lot of fans with great stories and information about them.
posted by Michael M. Tripp at 11:19 AM on August 23, 2010

@jkl345 - I didn't realize they sold "regular" shoes until a few months ago. I bought a pair of womens shoes and they were pretty awesome.

I've been a New Balance fan since a chiropractor advised that I buy a pair of NB sneakers to rid my heel spurs and back pain. Went away within 2 days!
posted by KogeLiz at 12:02 PM on August 23, 2010

3rding Allen Edmonds. They may take a week or two to break in, but they are the most comfortable shoes I have ever worn. A couple suggestions though. Buy them by calling the Shoe Bank in Wisconsin. You can get discontinued shoes and seconds (which look perfect) at a fraction of what they would usually cost. And they can be returned if they don't fit. If you take proper care of them, they will last for years. It would probably be best to get at least 2 pairs of shoes to rotate their usage. I've found shoes wear out much quicker if they are worn everyday. Also shoes trees usually help to keep them looking nice.
posted by mtheshark at 3:34 PM on August 23, 2010

My husband had the same issue and really likes his Sketchers - they have several styles some that look more like work shoes and some that look like that sneaker-work shoe hybrid (that's what he has) and he really likes them.
posted by echo0720 at 6:11 PM on August 23, 2010

Eccos are more comfortable than Rockports, Cole-Haan, and Allen Edmonds. I've worn them all and have come back to the Eccos. I teach and pace between 8-14 hours a day, seven days a week, and have done so for coming up on nine years, with a few vacations, and I'm on just my second pair of Eccos (I have them polished frequently). I have perfectly serviceable Rockports gathering dust in my closet, unworn for three years or so.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 2:27 AM on August 24, 2010

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