Shoe shopping makes me angry.
December 7, 2010 11:55 PM   Subscribe

Men have Allen Edmonds, Aldens, etc. But where should I turn for classy women's dress shoes that I can walk miles & miles that will last 5 years or more?

I've seen plenty of comfortable-for-walking-but-classy-looking women's shoe questions here, including this one quite recently.

I've got money to spend on good-quality items. I've read, bookmarked, namechecked and regularly returned to this post inspired
by the Sam Vimes 'boots' theory of socioeconomic unfairness. In the spirit of this post, I see the men of MeFi keep recommending Alden & Allen Edmonds when it comes to high quality footwear that looks great & lasts forever. But what's a financial district-working, sock+flats loving, 2+ mile a day walking girl who regularly wears business suits to do?

Right now I'm on my second pair of these Franco Sartos in under 12 months. I'd love them if they didn't start losing structural integrity after 400 miles (I actually walked my first pair into the ground in Europe this summer). But I'm open to other styles that would still let me wear socks (I have very cold feet) if they're equally or more business-suit-to-jeans friendly.

From previous posts, I am aware that if I buy high end shoes I should be resoling (haven't gotten a good pair of work shoes to last that long yet), polishing (need to learn how to do this), and alternating two pairs of shoes so that the first pair can air out completely before going back on my foot. But where should I turn for this mythical, classy but indestructable girl-shoe? Tiny European men's styles? Bespoke cobblers in San Francisco? Or am I missing a better solution? Hope my feet, MeFi.
posted by deludingmyself to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (25 answers total) 42 users marked this as a favorite
I've had these campers in black suede for at least a year and a half, have walked miles in them, and they look exactly like they did when I bought them (except for the fact that I added an ankle strap, because ankle straps make my legs look damn good)
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 12:17 AM on December 8, 2010

I love my Dansko heels. I live in Las Vegas and a lot of the cocktail waitresses (who are on their feet all day) wear them too. Additionally, there's a great comfort shoes store here with a very skilled cobbler and crafter of orthotic inserts. He gave my heels the cocktail waitress treatment by adding extra padded to the soles (to change the angle to something better for one's feet/legs/back) and personalized inserts -- now my heels are as comfortable to walk in as flats!

So, if you find some heels you like but they're not quite perfect, try to find a good cobbler in your area and find out what he/she can do to them to make them more comfortable. (Or just make a shoe-shopping trip to Las Vegas and get Casar and sons to hook you up with the cocktail waitress shoes, soles, and custom inserts.)
posted by Jacqueline at 12:30 AM on December 8, 2010

I can't even begin to describe how much I love my Salvatore Ferragamo nappa leather (low) heels that I've walked miles and miles in, and are still my first choice for dress-up-any-outfit or everyday shoes, year-round. Unfortunately, I can't find a link – most of the models that I currently see for sale seem to be designed for middle-aged women. I bought mine when I was 21, still wear them at the age of 26 and don't think they'll ever go out of fashion.
posted by halogen at 12:31 AM on December 8, 2010

Best shoes ever, in all their glory. I put in a Foot Petals insole about 5 years ago so I could walk in them barefoot in the summer.
posted by halogen at 12:39 AM on December 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks to you all so far. Please keep the responses coming!

Just to clarify, between my desire for socks and 2 miles of fast walking for my commute each day, I'm not a huge fan of heels. (I may come around someday, but not for everyday wear.) But all the brand/cobbler advice is still helpful for applying to a really nice pair of loafers or something.
posted by deludingmyself at 1:02 AM on December 8, 2010

Best answer: For women's shoes built to last, my friends seem to swear by Fluevogs
posted by -harlequin- at 1:11 AM on December 8, 2010 [6 favorites]

Crockett and Jones make an increasing range of excellent women's shoes and boots.

Not cheap but the only place to get some when my wife ask for some "shoes like mine"
posted by tkbarbarian at 2:53 AM on December 8, 2010

Enthusiastically seconding Campers! I have a pair of mary janes that are about 5 years old. I spent about 18 months of that walking between 5 and 15km a day. They could use a trip to the cobblers, but they basically look better than when i bought them.
posted by Emilyisnow at 4:01 AM on December 8, 2010

Seconding Fluevogs. LOVE!
posted by min at 4:14 AM on December 8, 2010

Came in to say Fluevogs.
posted by thegreatfleecircus at 4:40 AM on December 8, 2010

I just bought the Cole Haan Mackenzie oxford and I love it. Well made, leather sole, very comfortable, etc. It's a classic style and should last quite a while.
posted by belau at 4:43 AM on December 8, 2010

Best answer: This is a great question and I will be reading along with interest.

One strategy you might take, if find shoes you love, is to be very proactive about prolonging their lives. I have incredibly hard to fit feet (size 12 or 13, and need big custom orthotics in my shoes besides), and finding boots that fit my feet and calves is practically impossible. So, whenever I find a shoe or boot that really works for me, regardless of manufacturer, I get an additional sole put on (vibram or otherwise) ASAP to give an extra buffer against wear. The cobbler I used to patronize in my old hometown said that some of her clients would bring in *every* pair of shoes to get a Vibram sole, including pumps.

Another thought: Allan Edmonds shoes don't just have to be for boys. Because of my big feet I often peruse mens' shoes, because the selection of womens' styles is so limited. There are some classic styles (say, a plain oxford) where there is essentially no difference between mens' and womens' styling. I picked up a pair of AEs relatively inexpensively at a Nordstrom Rack several years back, before I had ever heard of the brand otherwise, and they're awesome (and had a nice removable insole so they can accommodate my orthotic--win.)
posted by Sublimity at 5:59 AM on December 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

I used to be a Dansko loyalist... but the quality has suffered mightily over the last couple of years since they split with Sanita and started being made in China. I have pairs that are five years old that are still holding up well, but a pair I bought in May of this year started falling apart in August, so I returned them.

I'm going to nth Fluevogs and Campers. Fluevogs are twice the price I was paying for Danskos, but they are worth every penny. However, they aren't particularly conservative. Even the most basic styles usually have a bit of whimsy (which I personally love).
posted by kimdog at 6:38 AM on December 8, 2010

Expecting a pair of women's shoes to last for five years of regular wear is overoptimistic, I think. Women's shoes just aren't built to that level of sturdiness, unless you get some kind of completely hand-lasted super-expensive shoes like Lobb or similar.

You can probably get three years of regular wear out of a good pair of shoes at the $200-$300 (US)-ish price point, though. Fluevogs, Campers, Cole Haan, Taryn Rose, Munro American--these are the labels you'll be looking for.

And you can probably get two years of regular wear out of a good pair of shoes in the $100-$200 (US)-ish price point. Sofft, Clark, Born, Naturalizer, Merrell, Keen, Sanita (as others have said, don't get Dansko, but get Sanita) and others.
posted by Sidhedevil at 7:33 AM on December 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

And good luck with resoling. I don't even remember the last time I bought a comfortable pair of women's shoes that were resolable--women's shoe designers have moved away from leather soles to various rubber/resin/composite cushinesses.
posted by Sidhedevil at 7:35 AM on December 8, 2010

Best answer: Cole Haans. Definitely Cole Haans.

I've had a pair of knee-high dress boots, with three inch heels, for 3 years now (four seasons). I literally put them on in the store and walked a mile home and my feet felt fine. When a heel came loose after the first two seasons, they tried twice to repair it, then just ended up replacing my boots entirely (as in, a completely new pair, for free). Can't beat the customer service.

I have a few pairs of pumps from them as well. They've held up over three seasons so far, with lots of walking, and they're great. They're made of high quality pieces in a modular way -- so the sock liner in one pair is getting weird, but for $15 I can have my local cobbler replace them and the whole pair is good as new. This is as opposed to the cheaper Nine West type stuff that isn't really designed to be repaired or maintained.

They're pricey, but I have never had a pair of sub-$100 dress shoes last more than one season before. And I literally walk miles in these, on crappy brick sidewalks that love to eat shoes, in rain and snow and slush and salt. Absolutely worth the investment.
posted by olinerd at 8:38 AM on December 8, 2010

Best answer: I think the problem is that women's shoes tend to have a very sleek, lean appearance, which isn't really compatible with having a strong welted construction. Whereas with mens shoes, the slight chunkiness you get from a strong welted construction is a desirable part of the aesthetic.

Since Allen-Edmonds does come in narrow sizes (B width = standard womens width), there is nothing stopping you from wearing them, if you do find a style of them you like.
posted by Hither at 8:51 AM on December 8, 2010

Best answer: I must congratulate you on your excellent taste in shoes (I've gone through many Boccas in many colors myself).

The first thing I do when I get a new pair is to have the local shoe guy put heel taps on them to help the heels last longer. I've also had them resoled/reheeled and found it to be well worth the expense.

I also have two pairs of Lands' End Chelsea Boots that I wear a lot in the colder months. They're dressy enough for work, but also great for walking.
posted by mogget at 9:10 AM on December 8, 2010

I also recommend Campers. They are attractive, sturdy, and comfortable. You can find great deals on them at Amazon of all places. I have gotten shoes in off-season colors there for 1/3rd of the regular price.
posted by apricot at 10:13 AM on December 8, 2010

Have you looked at Finn Comfort? Handmade in Germany, they're resoleable. (And most of their styles are godsends for wider feet.) I've got 4 years and many, many miles on my Tofinos, and they're still in terrific condition.
posted by mimi at 11:30 AM on December 8, 2010

I've had Cole Haan loafers that lasted for about 10 years (suede, lug sole). Brooks Brothers has slightly dressier ones, as does Ralph Lauren. Both are expensive, but very well made.
Gorusch sells Italian and German shoes--maybe pricey, but again, well-made.

All of these are on the conservative side of fashion, but if you're going to wear them for years, classic trumps trends. I also think that you get what you pay for in shoes.
posted by Ideefixe at 12:12 PM on December 8, 2010

R. M. Williams makes boots for women, and they're pretty well respected for their materials and construction, though some trouble to get ahold of if you aren't in Australia.
posted by Hither at 3:50 PM on December 8, 2010

Frye. I have some boots that are great that I wear constantly and look as good as the day I bought them. They have leather soles so I plan to just have them resoled when necessary.
posted by sulaine at 4:48 PM on December 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

Tod's. They are ridiculously expensive, but they are really well made, comfortable and last ages.
posted by msali at 2:27 PM on December 9, 2010

Response by poster: Oy. After a less than comfy pair of Fluevogs (I may have misjudged the sizing in-store) and churning through another pair of Boccas, I think it's time to revisit this post. I've picked up a bargain pair of Anne Klein Manny loafers, which are rubber soled with really thin leather. They're not bad. Here's hoping they'll tide me over while I hunt for thrift store cast-offs from well-heeled men with tiny tiny feet.
posted by deludingmyself at 10:31 PM on July 30, 2011

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