Good looking, tough, comfortable shoes
September 23, 2013 11:14 AM   Subscribe

I have a job that calls for a very particular combination of attributes in (men's) shoes, and I'd like any recommendations you all can give me on pairs to try.

Most of my job is in an office, and all of my previous jobs have been office-bound. I typically wear Allen Edmonds and similar dress shoes to work, and they're great. But I have a new set of responsibilities which make those shoes less appropriate.

I now sometimes need to be at events that have me standing and walking effectively all day long. So I need shoes that are extremely comfortable for long days of standing and walking on various surfaces. The events are sometimes indoors and sometimes outdoors, so the shoes need to be able to handle occasional water, mud, etc. They need to be durable enough that they won't be destroyed if someone steps on my toes or I scuff them (though I don't need or want steel toed boots).

Finally, and this is the one that I have found makes all the other stuff difficult, they need to look reasonably dressy because on those same days I'm often meeting with important clients. I can't be wearing work boots, clogs, athletic shoes or anything like that. They don't need to be as dressy as my office shoes, but they should look like "business shoes." Maybe a very nice boot would be ok, but I'm not sure.

Cost is pretty much no object if the shoes are really perfect.
posted by primethyme to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (18 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
Uh....if the brand of magical shoe described above had a women's version, I would be very interested to know, as I'm in the market for same.
posted by Diablevert at 11:24 AM on September 23, 2013 [3 favorites]

Dressy ankle boots would work. If I had my druthers, I'd be working my 16-hour runrunrun days in a pair of 1000-milers. Some trendier brands make wing-tip versions, which are a bit more dressy.
posted by carsonb at 11:25 AM on September 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

You could also make a go at bringing back the dress cowboy boot, to be worn with a suit. I'm not saying you should make a go at bringing back such a cringe-inducing style, but I think the right guy could maybe swing it.
posted by carsonb at 11:28 AM on September 23, 2013 [2 favorites]

Sounds like a job for Rockports, maybe one of their Oxfords. The pairs that I've had have lasted for a long time and have been comfortable for long days on my feet, including the time I walked five miles home after the earthquake in DC. I have heard that their quality has declined but haven't bought any in a few years.
posted by exogenous at 11:33 AM on September 23, 2013 [2 favorites]

I think dressier ankle boots would be ok as well. However, I'm not sure sticking with heavy, goodyear welted shoes will meet your criteria for all-day-on-the-feet comfort. Would something like this work? They are a far cry from your AEs in terms of classiness, but the last pair of Clarks dress shoes I had felt a lot more like sneakers and were very comfortable for extended wear.
posted by voiceofreason at 11:34 AM on September 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

Allen Edmonds makes several different dress boots. I'm unsure from your description if those are not appropriate.

From their website:



and some much more casual boots as well (which I assume are not appropriate.)
posted by blob at 11:36 AM on September 23, 2013

Seconding dressy ankle boots. I quite like my chisel-toe Blundstones, which have all the qualities you're looking for. And they look just fine with a suit.
posted by Capt. Renault at 11:36 AM on September 23, 2013

Mephistos, the welted line made in Germany [oops, made in France]. Look through the ones here on Zappos - a lot of them are standard puffy "comfort" shoes, but they have eight or nine models of nice, welted walking shoes. The "city shoes" on the Mephisto website are also pretty handsome, although you might have to google around to find a place that stocks all of them. (I mean, if you're paying AE money, I assume Mephisto prices won't break the bank either.)
posted by Frowner at 11:39 AM on September 23, 2013

These keens would tick all your boxes, as long as they aren't too casual.
posted by Requiax at 11:43 AM on September 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

I really like Born shoes for this sort of thing.
posted by jon1270 at 11:44 AM on September 23, 2013

I would try Paraboot (their website seems to not be working). Despite the name, most of their products are normal shoes and not boots, with heavy rubber (Goodyear welted) soles and tough leather uppers.

If you really want to go fancy, I would also consider something in shell cordovan, probably still with a rubber sole if you're going to be out in the muck. Shell cordovan is nigh indestructible with a price to match. You could also get overshoes like Swims and use those when you have to be outside.
posted by backseatpilot at 11:46 AM on September 23, 2013

posted by notyou at 12:00 PM on September 23, 2013

I would get these Crockett and Jones boots
posted by So You're Saying These Are Pants? at 12:04 PM on September 23, 2013

I wouldn't get shell - if it gets wet, it gets little bumps. They go away, of course, but to me it's more of a "like it for its own sake". It's also very heavy - I find shell shoes too hot for year-round dress wear.

Paraboot shoes are super-nice. So are Heschung. Or you could click around on the Pediwear site - they're based in the UK but very reliable for international shipping.

Crockett Jones shoes tend to run a little narrow, IME. If you have an average/slightly narrow average foot they will be fine; I have an average-wide foot and need to take a wide shoe with them. They make beautiful shoes.

I think a consideration here is really just how much hard wear these shoes are going to get. If you're really talking about mud and mire and people stepping on your toes, I would be tempted to get the Rockports or Clarks - they'll probably wear okay and you won't be gutted when they get broken down. The thing about all those robust English and French tramping shoes is that they're meant for the wet, for standing and walking, but not really for getting kicked around, abrasive surfaces, etc. I have a pair of Trickers, for example - I love them to pieces, I wear them every winter, I wear them on my bike, and they're dinged up. They're structurally sound, but they

It sounds as though you want a cushion-y sole. Dainite and similar (like the C&Js and Paraboots have) is comfortable but not cushiony like Vibram. Mephistos are cushiony but not as pretty as the others - although those double monk Mephistos are pretty sweet.

If you see a pair that you really like that doesn't quite have a soft enough sole, you can take them to a cobbler and have the cobbler strip off the heel and add a Vibram layer. (The Vibram sole is sort of cast as a whole thing with a thicker heel, unlike the separate heel on a leather shoe.) You get a pretty thick sole out of it, but it's much much softer. I've had this done to some chunky-yet-dressy shoes including a pair of Crockett Jones (that I got gently used via Ebay, it's not as though I have a million dollar shoe wardrobe, I should say) and it's a really good compromise. In fact, if you like Allen Edmonds, you might want to do that - get a chunkier style shoe and just have the leather sole built up.
posted by Frowner at 12:32 PM on September 23, 2013

And I have to tell you, everyone - especially Diablevert - Meermin now has a limited line of women's shoes. OMG!!!! The boots they show are suede, but I expect they'll expand the range and as they're semi-custom, you could probably contact them about calf.

Also, try Rancourt - made in the US, they have robust, dressy chukkas at a very nice price that come in women's sizes.
posted by Frowner at 12:37 PM on September 23, 2013

You might also consider getting these tough shoes and some dressier ones that you keep in your office or car for when you need to dial it up a notch.

I can stand all day in my Cole Haan dress shoes, but if I had to do it day in and day out, I think I'd get orthodics to raise the arch.
posted by advicepig at 2:11 PM on September 23, 2013

Seconding notyou's recommendation for Clarks.
posted by Wild_Eep at 3:24 PM on September 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

In addition to Allen Edmonds, Alden also makes a pretty good dress boot.

The commando soles are also more comfortable and will be able to take more of a beating than leather ones outdoors. If you have slacks on, nobody's really going to be able to tell the difference between those boots and a pair of regular bluchers so if bluchers are dressy enough for your meetings these should work too. You can also get them in wingtip / captoe / plain fronts depending on what you fancy. I'd also recommend calfskin since shell cordovan is a bit more sensitive to getting wet.
posted by C^3 at 2:19 AM on September 26, 2013

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