Which Shoes Were Made For Walking?
January 10, 2012 8:05 AM   Subscribe

What shoe style is best for walking and for pairing with skirts/dresses? Specific recommendations?

I know the obvious answer is 'flats'. But, I am paranoid that my legs look stumpy in plain flats. It's not really a flattering look with skirts. I would like to find a style of shoe, or specific shoe, that is comfortable for walking long distances AND looks cute.

Black is preferred; I will also be needing a beige/tan/nude pair eventually. This is for mainly summer use so boots or anything too hot would be out.

How high of a heel is too high for walking? It's tough to gauge in the store. They can be plain but I would shy away from 'dowdy'. Any help is greatly appreciated!
posted by amicamentis to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (23 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
If you don't want to go with flats, wear a low wedge, like Cole Haan's Air Tali. You'll want to have your skirts hemmed so they hit at the narrowest point of your leg, which is generally a few inches above the knee.
posted by evoque at 8:16 AM on January 10, 2012 [4 favorites]

I agree that a low wedge will be the most comfortable shoe for you. I love these sandals - they are very comfortable for walking. I have them in black and beige.
posted by insectosaurus at 8:19 AM on January 10, 2012

Back in the nineties, I used to wear relatively wide, round-toed platforms that had about a 1 - 1.5" inch difference between the platform and the heel. I walked anywhere from four to eight miles a day in them. I learned through experience that a heeled walking shoe needed these things:

1. Good quality material that molds to the foot, especially the back of the ankle - in my case, leather and a leather lining. No inconvenient seams that will rub against the foot and blister. Most of mine were ankle-strap, which is supposed to shorten the leg but which held the shoes on.
2. Enough room for socks/tights without cramping the toes
3. The correct width for my foot to move comfortably - shoes that were comfortable for short walks or had pointy toes did not work, as longer walks squished my toes down into the pointy part.
4. A sturdy heel that distributed my weight.
5. Above all, a SOFT sole - the best platforms had a soft but sturdy rubber sole. I often see young women walking in cheap heels with plastic soles that basically don't bend so that their feet can't really bend either and they have to sort of clomp their feet. I had platforms once that had a solid sole and even walking a half mile in them was horrible.

Camper shoes tend to be fairly good quality and their heels are always soft. Some are a little whimsical but not all. When I wore girl shoes, I ordered from their main website and never had any trouble.
posted by Frowner at 8:20 AM on January 10, 2012 [4 favorites]

I would say think about the size of the heel as much as you think about the height of the heel. A broad (chunky) heel is going to be more comfortable than a narrow or spiky heel even if they're the same height. And chunky heels don't have to look dowdy. How cute are these? Or these?

Also: I know you don't like flats, and I get that. But when you're walking, your legs look better than if you're just standing around in flats.

Finally, if you do walk a lot in heels, make sure you get the little heel dealie replaced at the cobbler's frequently; your shoes will last much longer. But ultimately, I really think this just depends so much on the individual. And they type of walking and the distances involved. Like, I can walk a couple of miles once in a while in a 3 1/2 inch heel, but I wouldn't do it every day. And I can wear a heel more comfortably on even pavement than on bricks or cobbles.
posted by mskyle at 8:21 AM on January 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm a huge fan of the way Danskos feel for walking or standing, and they've come out with more cute styles recently. I have these mary-janes in a different color and they're incredibly comfortable. I wore them a lot on vacation where I was walking all day every day. They look great with skirts with or without tights, and can work with a lot of pants too. This style is also cute and I hear from my cousin that they're very comfortable too. As a bonus, I've found that Danskos last forever.

I'd also second the recommendation for Camper. They've got a lot more dressy-looking styles than Dansko, and while I've only worn their flats, those are very comfortable and I've heard nothing but good things about their shoes as a whole.
posted by duien at 8:27 AM on January 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

Oh, I forgot to mention, I'd advise always buying Danskos in a brick-and-mortar store. The sizing varies quite a bit from one pair to the next (even in the same "size" and style), so I've found it best to try on a few sizes and go with whichever pair is comfortable regardless of the size it says. I've tried on two pairs and had the one that was marked a bigger size actually fit tighter than the one marked smaller.
posted by duien at 8:32 AM on January 10, 2012

I love kitten heels. Also, Louis heels are a variation that might be more comfortable for some folks.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 8:46 AM on January 10, 2012

Context: I am a lady who lives in NYC and wears only skirts and dresses. I regularly walk 40+ blocks in the types of shoes I'm describing, in addition to spending whole days on my feet at conventions and other professional events.

In the winter I wear a lot of flat or low-heeled black boots with skirts, and it looks very nice in addition to being super compatible with lots of walking.

In my experience, heels under about a half inch are barely noticeable when walking -- the problems have more to do with stability. I would advise against kitten heels, for example, unless you have ankles like iron.

That said, I also have shoes with one-inch heels that are among my most comfortable -- it really comes down to fit and quality. If you can afford to splurge a little on some campers or fluevogs or something similar, you'll be able to wear higher heels in better comfort. If that's a little expensive for you, I've had very good luck with both shoes and boots from Sketchers.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 9:03 AM on January 10, 2012

I like Danskos for standing but I do not like them for walking. I find that the clog sole wears down (and is not replaceable). And even the "cute" styles are pretty dowdy-looking.

Kitten heels are cute but so unstable! I don't understand how people walk in them.
posted by mskyle at 9:19 AM on January 10, 2012

Pick whatever shoes you like, and carry foldable ballet flats in your purse, just in case.
posted by leigh1 at 9:21 AM on January 10, 2012

I second the chunky heels. It doesn't really matter how high the heels are (I had a pair of 3.5 inch heels that I could go around all night in) as long as there is enough heel to support your freaking weight. Stiletto heels? Fuck 'em. Wobbling is not sexy.
posted by jenfullmoon at 9:24 AM on January 10, 2012 [2 favorites]

Chunkiness of heel is absolutely more important than height. My everyday shoes (when it's not icy) are a pair of ankle boots with a 2.5" heel, and since it's a chunky heel I got used to it remarkably quickly. Add a pair of gel inserts and you'll forget you're even wearing heels in a week. (Agreed that you should carry some ballet flats in your purse just in case.)

My winter/ice shoes are a pair of knee-high leather boots with basically the same heel, but the sole is rubber and they're well-treaded. Again, because the boot interior is comfortable, I forget I'm wearing heels about 90% of the time.

I also own Danskos in both the Professional and Mary Jane style, and they're very very comfortable for standing, but aren't great for walking (or jumping over puddles-- no shock absorption, ouch). I also find them pretty insalvageably ugly with skirts, and only wear them with jeans on my relaxed days. Some people think they're just fine with a dress, but if you think flats make you look stumpy, a clog probably won't help. (I think if you have smaller feet it tends to look cuter. They can also be really cute with thick socks/folded up jeans.)
posted by stoneandstar at 10:21 AM on January 10, 2012

If you want to wear a heel:

Heel that is about 2 inches, no platform, slightly thicker heel (not chunky, but not stiletto). If you wear these daily, they can come to feel so comfortable that they are essentially the same as wearing flats. Nearly everything in stores has a platform this season, so it is a tough time to shop. I do not like wedges, personally. I think that they tend to look clumsy, and make your gait awkward.

You are looking for something about this height:
http://www.zappos.com/vigotti-henia-black-patent or http://www.zappos.com/vigotti-unger-navy-patent


On Zappos you can even search by heel height! Here are all the ones from 2" to 2.75": http://www.zappos.com/heels~p#!/heels/CK_XARC41wGqAQEE4gIDAQIV.zso

You can also wear a pair of ballet flats while commuting, and put on your heels when you get to work (I often do this even when wearing low heels, to preserve my expensive shoes - wearing heels on concrete really tears up the soles).

If you want to wear flats:

Look for something that is not at all clunky - you want something very feminine and slender in order to avoid looking "dowdy" or "stumpy" in flats with a skirt. A thin sole, and a toe box that is almond shaped or slightly pointy (not completely round, which looks childish). A slightly square shape can work, too - especially if it is a loafer.

One good trick in the summer is a flat with a peep-toe or a cut-out along the inner side of the shoe.

These are very summery: http://www.zappos.com/bottega-veneta-270276vk851-stucco-stucco

Once you have decided to wear a cute shoe instead of a padded walking shoe, comfort is mostly about fit. Make sure that the shoe isn't too tight or too loose, that it doesn't have seams or stitching that are rubbing your skin and causing blisters.
posted by amaire at 11:09 AM on January 10, 2012

Sorry I forgot to link my links! I'm new around here.
posted by amaire at 11:10 AM on January 10, 2012

I've had good luck with ECCO shoes and sandals, and other women in my office swear by Sofft and Beautifeel. I've worn Campers successfully for heavy walking in the past. I would say that 1"- 2" heels tend to be the most comfortable for extended walking. As far as what I look for in the store, it's a comfortable fit in the arch and heel (this is really obvious on my feet now, it was less so when I was younger, so ymmv) and stability in the ankle. If my ankle feels at all wobbly in the store, it'll be 100 times worse on the sidewalk.

If you have a Comfort One anywhere nearby, particularly a larger stand-alone store, rather than one in a mall, you'll have a chance to try on a lot of the styles mentioned here.
posted by EvaDestruction at 11:22 AM on January 10, 2012

These are all great suggestions and I wish I could take a pair of the Kate Spades linked above home with me! Just wanted to add that yes, absolutely take care of your shoes-- I walk all the time, frequently several miles a day (not necessarily in dress shoes)-- and finding a cobbler that I trust has made a huge difference. You can get places reinforced on shoes, have them re-tapped, and all kinds of other tricks that will make your walk easier and your shoes last longer.

I also swear by this, a stretchy, cushioned tape. I keep rolls of it in every bag and in with my first aid things. I wrap anything that has started hurting or if I'm in shoes that I know will cause rubbing. I used to use it when I danced en pointe in ballet and it is seriously a lifesaver. Also, find a good brand of gel pads. I like the ones that are large and extremely cushioned, but your mileage may literally vary. The ones I have will let me walk four or five miles in a five inch platform pump.
posted by jetlagaddict at 11:26 AM on January 10, 2012

Forgot to mention that if this is mainly for the summer, look for espadrilles! Many of them have straps and cute patterns, and they'll give you more support than a plain flat or a true heel. They also usually get made in everything from a flat to a true wedge, so you can try different heights and see what works best.
posted by jetlagaddict at 11:27 AM on January 10, 2012

And I meant to add: if all of these are looking like budget busters, I have occasionally been lucky with Naturalizers, but they're not quite as comfortable and definitely don't last as long. I have a couple pairs of toe pads, too (can't locate my specific brand but I found them at Rite Aid), and they're helpful for shoes that get painful in the toe by the end of the day.
posted by EvaDestruction at 11:35 AM on January 10, 2012

Another vote for heel width being important. I've been able to walk in some rather high heels (I love my Nayas) because the heel is sturdy and the soles padded/cushiony enough to absorb walking on hard surfaces.

I never, ever attempt to walk any distance bare-legged in heels. I absolutely have to wear tights or socks or some kind of foot covering or my feet turn into hamburger. I also carry Blister Block and anti-blister bandages with me (Jetlagaddict's suggestion of stretchy cushioned tape is excellent and I'm definitely going to get some myself). You may or may not find those cushioned insoles, heel inserts and so on helpful - it depends on the shoe and your foot. I love them, but some people don't.

Finally - this should go without saying, but do make sure your shoes fit! I grew up in a time when it was very very very hard to find wide widths that weren't granny shoes or sneakers - so I just assumed it was normal for a shoe to fit like a vise and give me blisters and red marks galore. I always carried "walking shoes" with me - and lo, there came DSW and Zappo's and beautiful shoes in wide widths that fit my peasant feet, and behold, I now have a closetful of pretty shoes that I love wearing. Get your feet measured and find out your exact size and width (and, alas, feet tend to grow with age and/or pregnancy - I'm a full size larger now than I was in my 20's).
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 2:28 PM on January 10, 2012

Thierry Rabotin shoes are exceedingly comfortable, and I say this as someone who hates high heels because they hurt me so much. When I switched to my Rabotin pumps from a newish pair of Ferragamo loafers for a recent dinner date, I practically heard my feet sing. The Rabotins were solid and comfortable like Uggs even though I never really broke them in, having worn them only twice before. The first time I wore them, I walked three blocks--no problems whatsoever. Two things against Thierry Rabotin, however. One, they're really expensive; two, they're so conservative (the vamp is cut very high) they border on dowdy. I got lucky and scored a pair of grey suede open-toed pumps at a steep discount from a store in Melbourne that I swear catered to grannies. They're no Louboutins, but vintage-loving young women seem to adore them!

I've also heard very good things about Chie Mihara shoes, and I think it's encouraging that you won't find a single vertiginious, stiletto-skinny heel among the designs. They may not be the basic black/tan/nude shoes you're seeking, but they're pretty classic, and would look great with midi-length skirts that seem to be making a comeback. Good luck with your search!
posted by peripathetic at 2:33 PM on January 10, 2012

I have some very comfortable and exceedingly gorgeous Fluevogs and generally think every interesting person should.
posted by Heart_on_Sleeve at 7:35 PM on January 10, 2012

I have a pair of Born boots that have a very slight heel, are flexible, and quite comfortable. They look great with lots of skirt lengths. I wear Merrells with pants or skirts, and sandals in the summer. However, I'm in Maine, where people tend to put function over style.
posted by theora55 at 8:30 AM on January 11, 2012

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