How can I wear supportive shoes and look cool at the same time?
January 22, 2013 10:35 PM   Subscribe

I need supportive shoes for lots of walking, but I want to look good too. What's a young lady in an old lady's body to do?

I have terrible messed-up knees and weak arches and need very supportive shoes. I also walk extensively around San Francisco. Lately, I've been resorting to wearing my running shoes with skinny jeans and I look like a clown, or running shoes with yoga pants and I'm afraid the hipster fashion police will kick me out of SF. I'd like to find a way to feel good and look good at the same time. Please help me figure out a) shoes I can wear, and maybe put my orthotic arch supports in, that will keep my feet/knees/hips happy, and b) outfits I can wear with said shoes. I've tried more casual shoes like Keds and there's just not enough support or room in them for orthotics, and I've never found flats that have enough support either. My style (such as it is) is pretty simple, like skinny jeans, tight t-shirts, sweaters, in mostly neutral colors (lots of black), or short skirts with tights.
posted by Dilemma to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (25 answers total) 46 users marked this as a favorite
I just got these Dansko sneakers--they're very supportive (have basically cured most of my foot problems) and I get compliments on them often!
posted by exceptinsects at 10:44 PM on January 22, 2013 [2 favorites]

I don't know if this would work for you, but my orthotic arch supports fit in boots, which I find more stylish than running shoes. I wear mid-calf boots with jeans or long skirts.
posted by Surprised By Bees at 10:53 PM on January 22, 2013

Ziera designs its shoes to be orthotics-accommodating, with removable footbeds. They have some pretty cute shoes:

dressy--some heels
casual--flatter and sportier styles

The Barking Dog Shoe Blog has excellent recommendations--there is a whole category of posts called Shoes for Problem Feet. (This and the Roomy Toe Box category are my friend.)
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 11:14 PM on January 22, 2013 [14 favorites]

OMG those Ziera shoes are too cute and the come in huge sizes. OMG!!! [/looks frantically for credit card]

I's also suggest Camper which have a nice flexible sole and heels if that happens to be more your thing rather than stiff soles like Danskos. They used to have a store in SF somewhere so you could try them on.
posted by fshgrl at 11:28 PM on January 22, 2013

Go to On the Run at 9th & Irving - they have lots of fashionable comfort shoes. There's also RIA on Grant at, I think, Kearny. And Rabat on 24th (the smaller of the two Rabat stores, which is just shoes).
posted by judith at 12:31 AM on January 23, 2013

I have seen this topic tons of times here, so might be worth searching for "orthopedic shoes" or something like that.

If you think clogs are comfy but can't actually bring yourself to wear true clogs--check out Swedish Hasbeens. I have trouble with Dansko style clogs because I always feel like I'm going to twist my ankle.

I also like Worishofer but they are all open toe so maybe for later in the year.

I too have been told by my podiatrist that I need to wear orthotic inserts but haven't gotten the hang of fitting them into shoes. The only ones I've gotten to work so far have been Sperry Topsider Boat shoes with my inserts.
posted by dottiechang at 1:08 AM on January 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

I have orthotics and knee problems too. My orthotics are quite solid so actually buying shoes designed to give support on their own often backfires, because they have weird arch support moulding and crap inside that means my orthotic won't sit in there properly.

Instead I've tried a whole bunch of sneakers and found a bunch of brands which work: Converse, Diesel, Simple and Sketchers (Simple are my favourites). They are fashionable enough, are flat inside so the orthotic fits, and have (just!) enough bounce in the sole to help me knees. They do need to be replaced every 8-10 months but I wear them nearly daily in that time and am on my feet all day. I have some Camper shoes in my cupboard but have only worn them once, they were so so uncomfortable and horrible with the orthotics (way too cramped, soles way too thin). Other people love them though so you might too.

I also have black lace up shoes I brought from a sports shoe store which are orthotic friendly and designed to be supportive etc. They're kind of ugly but inoffensively so, and dark leather shoes are always going to be less obvious than sports shoes.
posted by shelleycat at 1:11 AM on January 23, 2013

The problem with removable footbeds like Ziera has is that you're also removing all the padding from the shoe, so no more bounce. This can be really hard on your knees and ankles and just generally kind of sucks. Plus, in my experience anyway, the orthotic never fully replaces what's been removed so it slides around and the shoes doesn't fit well and blisters. Plus many of the Ziera shoes have a small heel which is just totally not useful at all, orthotics need totally flat shoes.
posted by shelleycat at 1:16 AM on January 23, 2013

I like Sofft and Born. Not the cutting edge of fashion, but not Dansko and Birkinstock totally giving up.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:58 AM on January 23, 2013 [2 favorites]

I've tried the New Balance brand Aravon and they seem to work ok for my terrible feet.
posted by CathyG at 6:45 AM on January 23, 2013

I like Clark's for comfy and supportive shoes -- and their semi-annual sale is going on now.
posted by trillian at 7:25 AM on January 23, 2013

My mom (75 and not slowing down, either with the walking or the dressing nice) swears by Clarks, specifically their sandals with the Wave footbed. I'm not a sandals person - I tried the Wave in regular shoes and didn't like the fit. You might try something in their Unstructured line. They have a store in SF.

And I have to put in a plug for men's shoes. Better quality for the price, lower heels by default, no crazy toe-squeezing action, often with free resoling plus reconditioning. If your feet are big enough (8 women's or larger) you will find plenty of options.
posted by expialidocious at 7:32 AM on January 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

I've had good luck with Clark and Born, although my foot and knee problems are different to yours. Also the Barking Dog blog mentioned above has been invaluable for finding alternatives.
posted by immlass at 9:41 AM on January 23, 2013

These Naot Seas are rather a bit more attractive than I was expecting when I first ordered them online, look great with jeans, and my (expensive but off-the-shelf) orthotics fit in them perfectly--though the (removable) insoles they come with are pretty supportive, too.
posted by rhiannonstone at 10:32 AM on January 23, 2013

Like shelleycat, my orthotics don't work in most shoes. Almost all of the shoes in this thread won't work with my orthotics. Shoes with removable soles are step one. Next, I need to be able to fit my orthotic in the shoe, which proves to be a challenge for most shoes.

The only brands I have found that work for my feet - and they are wide in the heel, toe box, and height - are Merrell and New Balance.

I've given up on finding pretty shoes.
posted by frizz at 10:49 AM on January 23, 2013

My orthotics work really well in Keens. I have a cute-ish pair of Keens maryjanes. I wear them with skirts and tights a lot. I don't know if that meets SF fashion standards but it works OK for me.
posted by not that girl at 12:08 PM on January 23, 2013

I'll add, though, that when I first started dealing with my foot problem, people recommended a lot of brands to me, and I did a lot of trial-and-error. I bought shoes from a local store with a generous return policy, and took advantage of it, and for awhile I was sure Zappos was going to ban me because I was buying and returning so many things. I think so much depends on your own feet, the style of orthotic you have, and so on, that it's hard to share advice on this subject. Also, I simply decided that I was going to wear whatever I chose, with such aplomb that I could carry it off. Last summer, for instance, pre-orthotics, instead of limiting myself to outfits that "worked" with the big chunky pair of sneakers that were the only shoes I could wear without pain, I wore fabulous flirty dresses and skirts. I'm not sure how well that worked for on-lookers, but in my own head it worked great. I felt like I was sending a really confident message instead of letting my clunky shoes bring me down.
posted by not that girl at 12:13 PM on January 23, 2013

I've found The Walking Company to have some fairly cute and supportive options for my very high arches.
posted by chaiwawa at 12:14 PM on January 23, 2013

None of these are cheap, but I've had good luck with Arcopedico, Merrell, Ecco, and Sanita. None of them are dainty shoes or the height of style, but they're sufficiently attractive for my purposes. My Merrell boots and Ecco slip-ons (sort of like these, but more streamlined) both have removable foot beds to accommodate orthotics, and the Arcopedico flats (kind of like these) seem like the sock liner should come out easily enough, although I haven't tried.

If the men's shoes recommendation above interests you, Fluevog men's shoes are designed with removable foot beds.
posted by EvaDestruction at 1:49 PM on January 23, 2013

My cranky feet love Doc Martens so much that I have 4 pair in different colors. They have a variety of styles, colors and patterns, so something might fit your personal style.
posted by lawhound at 5:36 PM on January 23, 2013

Well, if it makes you feel any better, I have been wearing running shoes with a pair of skinny jeans, and (possibly since I had no idea it was a faux pas) nobody has ever said anything about it... Maybe you could wear some more minimalistic running shoes? Not the big clunky ones?
posted by Cygnet at 5:59 PM on January 23, 2013

Or, something intermediate like this? I honestly have no idea if they are good-looking or not, but I like them.
posted by Cygnet at 6:01 PM on January 23, 2013

These are not remotely cutting edge fashion, but they are crazy comfy and, most importantly, unobtrusive. I wear them all the time with black tights, but I think they wouldn't look bad with skinny jeans either. There are other styles in the same line if that particular style doesn't suit your fancy.
posted by MsMolly at 7:51 PM on January 23, 2013

I wear and love Doc Martens too. I edited it out of my original answer because I don't think they're hipster stylish enough, whereas Converse seem to be worn pretty universally. Also some of the shoes have weird moulding and horrible heels, you really do need the old fashioned big clunky ones (mine are giant boots). But they are really great.
posted by shelleycat at 10:20 AM on January 24, 2013

Oh, a specific brand suggestion: I recently acquired a pair of El Natura Lista shoes and they are GREAT. Now, I don't use orthotics so I don't know if they will accommodate them, but they do fit my weird feet, they are supportive and they are really comfortable, especially for walking. I think they're cute, though I guess YMMV. I also like that the company pays attention to eco and fair trade issues in their shoe production. Some styles fit differently than others, so I recommend you go to a brick-and-mortar store to try on a variety.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 11:39 AM on January 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

« Older Portland/vancouver spaces for private nerd event   |   What address to use when you are traveling with no... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.