Shoefilter: flat feet, city walkin' shoes?
September 14, 2015 1:10 PM   Subscribe

I am looking for a pair of durable, nice-looking, women's flats that won't kill my ankle. Basically, if Birkenstock made a ballet flat, I would buy a hundred pairs. Specific wishes inside...

I am a woman in my late 20's and I have very flat feet. Last year I started developing pain in my left ankle, probably exacerbated by the fact that I typically wear the crappiest pair of $20 ballet flats I can buy at Payless. I self-medicated with a pair of Birkenstock Gizeh sandals and my life was changed. Ankle pain gone, after the initial breaking-in period the shoes feel incredibly comfortable, and I've lived in them all summer.

But now it's fall and I have to get a pair of shoes I can wear on the daily that won't send me back to my ankle misery. Can anyone recommend some brands or specific shoes I could try that conform to these requirements?

- I walk a lot and it's all city walking (I live in NYC).
- I wear mostly skirts and dresses, so has to be something I can wear with tights.
- Must come in black or gray and nice for a professional office. Nothing plastic-y or clog-like (sorry, Birkenstock London clog...)
- I'd love to spend ~$100. I've been burned before with "nice" shoes that didn't last more than a season (see above re: lots of walking), but maybe I could go higher if everyone *swears* they will be durable.
- I say flats, but honestly any non-clog style of flat shoe would be fine (loafers, mary janes, ankle boots, those lace-up shoes that cute hipster girls are always wearing).

Bonus question: you are not a podiatrist, but what is it about the Birkenstocks that's helping me so much? Should I be googling "arch support" or "shoes made of cork" or what?

Thank you so much, flat footed people of the world (or at least Metafilter)!
posted by cpatterson to Shopping (18 answers total) 40 users marked this as a favorite
I wear Geox flats and swear by them.

I have also had *really* good luck with Ecco as far as comfort and styling go -- they are more expensive and don't seem to go on sale very often.
posted by janey47 at 1:18 PM on September 14, 2015 [2 favorites]

I'm in the UK so I'm not sure if my direct links will work for you, but try googling "Skechers Black biker ribboneer" - they are not as punky in real life as they look in the fashion shots, and I think could pass as smart shoes most places. They're padded with some sort of memory foam on the inside, and have a pretty robust sole and heel; I have 'problem feet' (wide and flat) and these are some of the comfiest flats I've worn in a long time, and should be at the $100 or under mark.
(downside; it's a velcro fastening so you have to be careful with it - if you're a klutz like me you will catch it on your tights and bobble them more than once...)
posted by AFII at 1:41 PM on September 14, 2015

I've never regretted buying Clarks, and while my taste these days runs more toward their 'comfort shoes' lines which have *lots* of support, they do have some more fashionable flats on their web site. I'd suggest trying a pair on in person if at all possible to see if a particular style suits your needs.

Also, once you find a style you like, you might find it on eBay, as I have.

One of the best decisions of my life was to steer clear of shoes that provided no support / hurt my feet. Much happier now.
posted by apartment dweller at 1:48 PM on September 14, 2015 [2 favorites]

Footprints shoes is another brand that uses a footbed similar to Birkenstocks, though many styles are still a bit clog-y. Naot is supposed to be good, but they're a bit too narrow for me. I have been able to do all right in Aurora Shoes, though I am not entirely sure why.

I also had ankle pain (and plantar fasciitis, unfortunately) which was resolved by wearing birkenstocks. I can now branch out a bit, since my ankle is better. What I look for, and what the podiatrist recommended, are arch support and shoe heels that won't cause rolled ankles (so dansko, for example, are very dangerous). I rotate between Birkenstocks and Auroras and then at home, Chacos and running shoes. Best of luck! Foot pain is awful.
posted by umwhat at 1:52 PM on September 14, 2015 [1 favorite]

Seconding Ecco as a great comfort+style brand. I haven't worn Birkenstocks before, but arch support and cork footbed makes me think of Naot. Very supportive, but some collections run medium-to-narrow and the sizing is whole Euro sizes only so you need to try them on. (I'm between 5 and 5.5 in US sizing, usually a solid 35 European, but Naot's 35 was too short for me and the corresponding 36 in the sandal style I tried was way too tall/voluminous in the straps.)
posted by serelliya at 1:53 PM on September 14, 2015

Hush puppy Janessa flats are very comfortable. I also have some Teva flats which are very cushioned / you'll have to hunt around for ones that aren't garishly coloured, but I have some plain black ones.

Clarks shoes are very variable in fit - there are some which are normal width that fit me fine, and some wide fit that don't fit at all. It's not very predictable at all. They are very comfortable when they fit right, I'd suggest you try lots of styles on.
posted by tinkletown at 1:58 PM on September 14, 2015

You may want to adjust your expectations re durability - daily, heavy use in shoes is unlikely to result in more than one season. In fact one season sounds pretty good for ladies shoes in that price bracket. If you want a longer life you need at least two pairs to alternate.
posted by koahiatamadl at 2:03 PM on September 14, 2015

3rding Ecco. I've had decent luck with Naot as well, but the ones I have seen have been slightly clunkier (more like berks, though a bit more office-friendly at least for casual offices) while the Eccos have been nicer.
posted by 2 cats in the yard at 2:26 PM on September 14, 2015

Tossing out another idea - if you are having ankle pain then a correctly fit boot would provide additional ankle support. Bonus - they are stylish and will keep you warm into the winter.

I love these tall Ecco boots. These boots from last year would work (and depending on your size, are at your price point). If you're going to try to buy last year's styles don't jerk around - even the online stores are going to sell out of last years model and you'll be stuck paying full price.
posted by 26.2 at 2:37 PM on September 14, 2015

I have the same problem and in addition to the brands above I've found Calvin Klein shoes to be surprisingly comfy once you get the right size.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 2:46 PM on September 14, 2015

I always recommend Keen in these threads. I'm a big fan of my Keen Sterling Maryjanes for your purposes--they are great fall/winter shoes.
posted by hydropsyche at 2:48 PM on September 14, 2015 is a great place to browse for stylish shoes that meet these requirements, and they've introduced me to most of my favorite brands. They even do free shipping & free returns, just like Zappos. Highly recommended (not affiliated at all, just a happy customer with problem feet).
posted by veery at 4:27 PM on September 14, 2015

As a teacher, I got sick of my Danskos (took about 8-10 years?!) and switched to Mephisto (as I was told they are what 'European teachers' wear). Anyway, they are (both) the only types of shoes that make my legs/feet not hurt. However, you have to pay for them. BUT I wore my Mephisto ankle boots EVERY DAY from Sept- May? last to me, it's worth it. It's definitely all to do with the materials, cushioning, breathability and allowing feet just to "be". That's what I think anyway.
posted by bquarters at 6:20 PM on September 14, 2015 [1 favorite]

I never thought I would say this, but have you considered Crocs? I do a ton of walking and developed some foot pain, and my doctor recommended a pair of the Alice Work shoes. I'd been wearing Birkenstock sandals before, and the Alice shoes have been a big improvement. I know you said no plastic-y shoes, but for what it's worth I haven't had a problem with them in my (pretty professional and conservative) office. Hope you get some good shoes; I (literally and metaphorically) feel your pain.
posted by ferret branca at 6:31 PM on September 14, 2015

Fitflops! They have a wide range of shoes (and boots and sandals) in lots of styles which seem to be aimed at semi-fashion conscious people with terrible feet. I am flat-footed with hypermobile joints and have pretty much given up wearing anything else other than trainers - it has helped my ankle pain no end.

posted by intensitymultiply at 2:04 AM on September 15, 2015

Response by poster: THANK YOU ALL! I knew Metafilter would come through. It's so helpful to read from people who have experience with weird feet and actual experience-based recommendations, and some of these look perfect. I am off to order and try on a bunch of shoes now...
posted by cpatterson at 12:15 PM on September 15, 2015

My work shoe wardrobe is nearly exclusively Clarks and Aerosoles, sometimes with an arch support insole.
posted by oblique red at 12:44 PM on September 16, 2015

I can help by telling you what won't work: Last year I ordered some Birkenstock insoles, with the idea of putting them in a regular pair of shoes. [I'm also a big Gizeh fan.] The insoles never fit any of my shoes properly, and they also didn't feel as supportive as the real Birk shoes.
posted by Jane Austen at 7:08 PM on September 16, 2015

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