Help me find work appropriate flats that I can walk 5 miles in every day
December 1, 2015 7:40 AM   Subscribe

I need to wear nice shoes to work, and I also walk commute. I prefer ballet flats for style but need something with more of a sole that won't wear out. Link me?

I'm looking for work shoes that I can walk commute in:
- Weather not a consideration
- Closed toe
- Hefty enough to not fall apart when I walk 5 miles a day in them
- Stylish
- Extremely FLAT! (I can't wear shoes with any heel for back pain reasons)
- Comfy
- Round toe
- Not huge and heavy, like boots (prefer ballet flats and similar)

Thank you, Metafilter!
posted by 3491again to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (39 answers total) 56 users marked this as a favorite
Is it not possible to walk in sneakers and then change when you arrive?
posted by k8t at 7:41 AM on December 1, 2015 [9 favorites]

Seconding sneakers! I also walk-train-walk commute. It's always sneakers in, pants cuffed up, then as soon as I get to work , sneaks off, shoes on (that I keep in my desk) and pants I cuffed.

If going out after work I leave sneaks at home and wear either Dansko clogs or Clarks.
posted by floweredfish at 7:48 AM on December 1, 2015 [2 favorites]

I have these Mudd Ballet Flats that have a nice padded bottom for walking long distances, as well as a thick rubber bottom sole that holds up over time. I've had them for over a year and took them on my trip to France where we easily walked several miles every day for a month and they held up structurally just fine.

My only complaint about these shoes is that they will absorb smells. So if you have odorous feet, you must wear foot liners/socks with these shoes.
posted by Suffocating Kitty at 7:50 AM on December 1, 2015

Nordstrom has quite a few "comfort ballet flats" on offer. I also love ballet flats and prefer shoes I can walk in. I have some pairs of Clarks and Easy Spirit, as well as Naya (which I think are not being made any more). I also like Yosi Samra ballet flats but I don't know if they meet your super-sturdy criteria. They're not super flimsy-soled, and I've walked quite a bit in them, but I don't know if they would stand up to several city blocks of walking.

Believe it or not, Crocs has a brand of flats called Kadee that is cute and stylish, or as cute and stylish as Crocs can get. Depending on how dressy your workplace is, these could work - if you're in high-tech or healthcare, yes, but maybe not in a law office. They are super-comfy, though, and even come in leopard print.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 7:51 AM on December 1, 2015 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I can't change shoes, sadly. (No place to store them, no way to carry them, prefer not to, etc. etc.) Keep them coming!
posted by 3491again at 7:53 AM on December 1, 2015

Several years ago when I worked in an office with "nice shoe" requirements I had a few pairs of naturalizers like these. I walked a lot, like minimum 2 miles a day to get back and forth to transit, and they held up really well and were super comfortable. There are a lot of flat styles in their line to choose from, but because I walk stupid I like the added security of a mary jane strap. YMMV
posted by phunniemee at 7:53 AM on December 1, 2015

If you don't want to carry around a whole pair of shoes, which I relate to, what about foldable ballet shoes (like Yosi Samras)?

Otherwise, yeah, Naturalizers. But for real, if you're wearing them for 5 miles a day outdoors, they are not going to hold up forever.
posted by goodbyewaffles at 7:55 AM on December 1, 2015 [1 favorite]

Earth Shoes are really comfy. Maybe these?
posted by the_blizz at 7:56 AM on December 1, 2015

I walk about 3 miles a day, so I perpetually have an eye out for durable, walkable flats that don't veer too far into the Merrelly-Keeny comfort-shoe aesthetic. My current commute flats are from Vivo Barefoot; they're comfortable, have held up a really long time, and are flat as a pancake. I have a Mary Jane style, but their ballet flats look decent.
posted by Metroid Baby at 8:02 AM on December 1, 2015

I regularly walk 10 miles in French Sole NY flats with a rubber sole (like these). But not every day in the same shoes -- alternating between several pairs is key, and even then they do have a limited life. I like that they are subtle and don't scream "comfort shoe."
posted by The Giant Rat of Sumatra at 8:07 AM on December 1, 2015 [2 favorites]

Wolky! They are so very comfortable. My favorite shoes ever. Maybe you won't think they are stylish, but I am a (very stylish) child of the 90s...
posted by goneill at 8:08 AM on December 1, 2015

I have some Skechers flats that are very durable and comfortable. I get lots of compliments on them, too. Maybe something here will work for you.
posted by sister nunchaku of love and mercy at 8:15 AM on December 1, 2015

No place to store them, no way to carry them, prefer not to, etc. etc

A pair of ballet flats fits into most handbags/backpacks/small bags and indeed any drawer at work (in a shoe bag). Any shoe that fits your stylistic preferences and allows you to walk 5 miles/day without being a walking shoe is going to be a compromise in terms of comfort and durability. Question is if you end up compromising on the side of bag/drawer or style of shoes/how frequently you replace your shoes.
posted by koahiatamadl at 8:18 AM on December 1, 2015 [2 favorites]

I walk a ton, but require extremely sharp shoes almost all the time. I have gone on entire day long rambles in all of the shoes I'm about to recommend.

I like Born shoes for a professional look that also allows for miles on your feet. I find that they take quite awhile to wear in, however. I've gotten around that by wearing them with very thin socks when I have to walk very long distances for the first month. (Socks are easier to take off and store!)

Patagonia flats are often lightweight to the point of feeling flimsy, but withstand a great deal of abuse. I have a pair of these in gray that I routinely walk ~3-5 miles in in the summer for the last six years. When they started to look worn, I just threw them in the washing machine and they were like new.

If you're willing to lay down some serious cash, both trippen (I especially recommend the cups line) and cydwoq (normal and vintage styles) make unbelievably comfortable and long lasting shoes with very interesting styles. Ideally, you'll want to try cydwoqs on in a store with a decent selection - different styles work for different people's feet and they're handmade so that can vary a bit from person to person. Cydwoqs have a metal shank and can be heavier than other shoes for that reason. I thought this would be a dealbreaker for me, but I wear mine incessantly when it's warm.

I've found that the life and comfort of flats (and most shoes) can be extended considerably by good inserts. I hate basically everything sold at the drugstore, but don't have a single pair of shoes without a pedag insert of some kind. They're quite thin and last a very long time. Some are even washable.
posted by congen at 8:20 AM on December 1, 2015 [8 favorites]

I really like Keen flats--very solid soles and comfortable, round toes. They have several styles of ballerina flats. I find them stylish, despite having a little more heft than traditional ballerina flats.
posted by gladly at 8:21 AM on December 1, 2015 [1 favorite]

I'll also second the French Sole NY recommendation. I've never tried them, but my sister swears by them. She wore them incessantly for years and was frantic with worry when they finally started to wear out until she could find them for sale again.
posted by congen at 8:24 AM on December 1, 2015

Sketchers and Born are the most comfortable. Born will look very professional, but will be a little pricey. Professional looking Sketchers can be found, but will take a little more detective work.
posted by raisingsand at 8:31 AM on December 1, 2015

I understand where you are coming from, and as the answer to your immediate question, I recommend these Frye flats.

However, as a person who has asked this exact question, I really recommend that you consider whether or not you would be better served in the long run by a very compact pair of running shoes that take up about the same amount of space as flats and/or get a slightly larger bag. The impact of 5 miles a day in non-walking shoes is hard long term, especially when you are wearing fancy shoes the rest of the day and already have back problems.
posted by Nimmie Amee at 8:34 AM on December 1, 2015 [6 favorites]

LL Bean has good flats. I have a pair of the Mary Jane style shoes that I wear for my commute. I can usually change shoes at work, but these have the advantage of being comfortable for my ~2 mile walking commute and still looking good in case I have a surprise meeting when I get to work. They've also stood up really well to the weather.

And as a side bonus, they don't tear up my feet and offer good support (this is an issue I have with a lot of shoes). Also, since they're durable, they're worth the price. (And LL Bean has great customer service if you have issues).
posted by scififan at 8:40 AM on December 1, 2015

I've walked many miles in my pair of Tieks. They're well made, look nice and mold to your feet after a few wears. They are a bit pricey, but they do last. I've had my pair for about 3 years, one of those years where they were one of three pairs I had while traveling around the world.
posted by Maeve at 8:49 AM on December 1, 2015 [4 favorites]

Keen and Merrell both generally have Mary Jane styles in stock, and are comfy and last well. I have a pair of Born for 8 yrs, though I don't wear them every day.
posted by jrobin276 at 8:58 AM on December 1, 2015

I've done well with Camper, Ecco, and Arcopedico for ballet flats to walk around a lot in. I almost always get Mary Jane styles, which give much more support.
posted by jeather at 9:05 AM on December 1, 2015

Camper shoes are great - long lasting, stylish, and designed for walking.
posted by veery at 9:05 AM on December 1, 2015 [1 favorite]

I pretty much exclusively wear these emmie flats in black and often walk 5-10 miles a day. They last a good year, and all they need is a bit of TLC conditioning on the leather, and I occasionally sponge them out inside when they get groddy. I would say they might be a tad tight at the back when you first get them, but they stretch out within a few days to feeling perfect!
posted by amileighs at 9:08 AM on December 1, 2015

How about Keen ballet flats? Their shoes are incredibly comfortable, and that sole looks solid.
posted by thegreatfleecircus at 9:11 AM on December 1, 2015

I walk about three miles a day, and have found that Born shoes wear out rapidly under those conditions.
posted by yarntheory at 9:15 AM on December 1, 2015

My most comfy flats are from Geox, Tods, and Cole Haan. However, I'm going to nth all the suggestions to get a bigger bag and walk to work in shoes with proper support for your back's sake.
posted by evoque at 9:20 AM on December 1, 2015

Try Cobb Hill, which is a brand owned by New Balance.
posted by that girl at 9:39 AM on December 1, 2015 [1 favorite]

I've been really pleased with Clark's "Recent" line of flats: Recent Drive, Recent Alley, Recent Dutchess, Recent Panther. Very comfortable for walking. They are pretty much the only shoes I wear anymore. I'm working on getting them in every color!
posted by platinum at 9:42 AM on December 1, 2015

I live in Geox. Like for real. I walk only about 3 miles a day. I watch for sales and buy them when they're cheaper, not when I need them. I wear them until the tread is flat, and then, because my walk to and from work has a lot of hills and can be really slick after a light rain, I get rid of them. I often buy them on amazon, but I keep an eye on the brand's online store.
posted by janey47 at 9:59 AM on December 1, 2015

Seconding Tieks. They are too expensive but otherwise are the perfect flat. They are absolutely beautiful, wear forever, pack small, and are super comfortable. Yes, I am Tiek addicted.
posted by bearwife at 12:06 PM on December 1, 2015 [1 favorite]

And FYI so far I own these Tieks, which traveled all over Europe and Israel on my feet, and these, which I wear on every evening out. For work I have my eye on these, but any of their "classic" collection would do the trick.
posted by bearwife at 12:12 PM on December 1, 2015

Another vote for Clarks. I cannot destroy their shoes and I am very good a destroying shoes. Also, they are very stylish (though I have zero style so maybe I just think they out-fancy me, YMMV). Not sure about their flatness though. I have flats that might have too much of a heel for your back, not sure of your tolerance.
posted by danapiper at 2:31 PM on December 1, 2015

I've been wearing Merrell flats to and from work. They're extremely minimalist and some are barefoot, so if you're not into that, then tread carefully. (pun intended) They have Vibram soles and can easily last a while. Usually I wear out the leather top before the bottom. I imagine any flat with Vibram soles would last a while.
posted by ethidda at 3:02 PM on December 1, 2015

I basically live in these ballet flats from Aerosoles. They're super comfortable and hold up reasonably well to a strenuous walking regime, although I do usually end up resoling them at some point (or just getting a new pair).
posted by eponym at 5:36 PM on December 1, 2015

I see a lot of people suggesting the brands I would (as a person who spends sometimes 13 hours a day on her feet). But I think the key to the shoes holding up and staying comfortable is to make sure you have more than one pair and that you rotate through them.
posted by i_am_a_fiesta at 6:23 PM on December 1, 2015 [1 favorite]

I have fussy feet, and the only ballet flats I've found comfortable for walking more than just door to car kinds of things (though I haven't gone for any of the pricey ones because I am a cheapass) are Puma brand ones. Specifically, any of the ones with the elastic edge - the soles are different in that line (I have these, but I believe the Axel and Rhythm ones have the same soles, just different upper/trim styles) and the non-elastics have a different (and for me, crappier) sole. I know there's also a version with a contrasting patent-leather-metallic toe cap, and one with a fuzzy lining, but they're all clearance/discontinued, so you'd have to troll Zappos/Amazon/ebay to see who's still got them in stock. But they're the only ballet flats I'll chance running across the street in.
posted by dust.wind.dude at 3:13 PM on December 2, 2015

Good shoes are $100 these days. Flats wear because the soles are thin and under constant friction. 5 miles is a lot of wear and tear. And you significantly decrease the life of shoes by wearing the same ones every day instead of rotating them.

So, I would honestly go to Payless or something and buy $20 - $30 rubber-soled flats and plan to replace them 3 - 4 times a year. This is vastly more practical and achievable than Plan A, IMHO.
posted by DarlingBri at 9:40 AM on December 5, 2015

Seconding Tieks. The most comfortable and worth the dear price!
posted by knmr76 at 6:15 PM on December 5, 2015

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