Professional-looking shoes for a workday of biking and standing in lab
September 2, 2017 8:46 AM   Subscribe

I want a shoe that I can bike in (~2 hours per day), will tolerate light rain, is suitable for chemistry lab work, and is comfortable enough to stand in for most of a day. They also have to look professional and have woman's wide sizes (or men's sizes). I've read through a bunch of AskMeFi shoe threads, but nothing was quite right for my needs. Any recommendations? More details below.

I've been wearing Merrells for many years as my work-shoe, but I'm becoming disappointed with them (or maybe I'm just getting more picky). My most recent pair didn't last a month before it started looking ragged. I've also liked Clarks and Naturalizers at various points. I'm pretty hard on my shoes, so maybe there isn't a solution, but I'd love recommendations for a professional-looking shoe with some specific features:

1. Good for bicycling, which mostly means they need to be comfortable for activity but also requires no heel-slippage, and a firm enough sole that my pedals won't chew them up.
2. Are (somewhat) weather resistant. I'm talking biking through light rain or walking in salty snow slush. For downpours or snowstorms I have dedicated shoes (but don't want to wear them all day).
3. Protective uppers for chemistry lab work - this is not a special technical requirement, just that they need to be full-coverage and non-mesh.
4. Comfortable for 6+ hours of standing/walking per day
5. Professional looking - obviously subjective, but for my workplace something like these are ok, but these are not so good
6. Wide women's sizes, or men's shoes are ok if the style is appropriate
7. Ideally - long lasting, repairable (I've never had a shoe repaired so I don't know anything about what's required, but I like the idea of repairing instead of trashing & rebuying)
posted by chemicalsyntheticist to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (14 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
I should add: I have weirdly wide calves (bicycling), so boots have generally not worked well for me.
posted by chemicalsyntheticist at 8:47 AM on September 2, 2017

Is bringing a second pair of shoes to change into after your ride an option? That's a long ride, one that I would be real hesitant about doing on a daily basis without bike-specific shoes with stiff soles, and maybe SPD cleats. That should open up options for the second pair (and make them last longer). Personally, I used to just leave a pair of shoes at work instead of bringing them back and forth.
posted by supercres at 9:06 AM on September 2, 2017 [5 favorites]

I really like Ecco tennis shoes - I have a black leather pair that are professional enough for the office but also hold up for biking and rain. They have a ton of different styles which might fit what you are looking for.
posted by tooloudinhere at 9:15 AM on September 2, 2017 [1 favorite]

I've been really into Sebago shoes lately. I mostly wear their boat shoes, but I can vouch for those being pretty durable, especially the soles. I assume their non-boat shoes and ankle boots are built with similar-quality materials.

(Though I'll note that I wear the men's shoes, and I know that there can often be differences in quality and construction between men's and women's stuff from the same brand.)
posted by tobascodagama at 9:43 AM on September 2, 2017

I've had good luck with Keen Presidio shoes. They've been durable and comfortable. Hopefully not too casual for your workplace.
posted by bighappyhairydog at 9:48 AM on September 2, 2017 [1 favorite]

Yes to leaving a few pairs of nice shoes at work, and wearing whatever works for biking and bad weather on your commute. I've done this and it made my feet and shoes much happier overall.

As a side note, I've noticed that it's not too unusual for women in biotech to keep task-specific shoes at work: some for lab work and others for desk work. As long as your spare shoes are out of the way (e.g., under your desk) and olfactorily undetectable, nobody will care.
posted by Quietgal at 10:00 AM on September 2, 2017

What about old-fashioned doc martens? The ones that are made in England are not as good as they used to be (almost nothing is, anywhere) but they're not bad. They're a stiff shoe, but they soften up and if you're just biking distances and not, like racing or hill-climbing, there's no real reason not to bike in them.

Mephisto welted men's shoes would be my other suggestion (they meet all your specifications but they're expensive), or a pair from Solovair or one of the other lower-cost UK bootmakers. Aquatalia shoes are hugely, hugely overpriced (like, they are $200 shoes that get sold for $400 - mass-produced, medium-quality leather, etc) but if you can find them on clearance, a pair of their ankle boots would work well.

The reason you're getting disappointed with Merrells is because shoe production is polarizing into luxury/expensive and super cheap. Merrells, Ecco, etc, used to be medium-quality durable shoes, but they are cheapening to keep up with fast fashion. It kills me when someone is all "oh, you should get some Clarks, I got a pair ten years ago and they're still going strong". Yeah, I had a great pair of Clarks in 1996 - I walked and biked and got rained on and stepped in puddles in them and they were fan-fucking-tastic - hardly ever showed wear. I would never, ever recommend Clarks as a shoe for heavy use now. (Also, women's shoes are usually garbage - with doc martens, note that the "Made in the UK" page for men has like twenty pairs, and there are three or so for women.)

The cheapest way to solve your problem will be bike shoes and work shoes - two pairs of cheap shoes worn lightly will be cheaper than one pair that's good enough for all purposes, unless you're really good at Ebay and get them used or as seconds.
posted by Frowner at 10:21 AM on September 2, 2017 [4 favorites]

Would you consider Danskos or Sanitas? Not necessarily the clogs.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 11:11 AM on September 2, 2017

I love Keen shoes for this. They used to make the Austin as a bike shoe. I have it and the regular version. Both are great on the bike and for long hours standing. I have Superfeet insoles in mine.
posted by advicepig at 12:01 PM on September 2, 2017

Alegria has some shoes that seem like they'd work. I've only worn their mary janes (which wouldn't meet your needs), but perhaps these?
posted by kbuxton at 12:29 PM on September 2, 2017

Heh, this sounds like a question I might have written back when I was in grad school.

This may seem a little weird, but Allen Edmonds makes sport shoes that might fit the bill. They cost an outrageous amount of money when new, but they are also built to last forever and the vast majority of styles can be resoled. I got my first pair at Nordstrom Rack for much less than list price, and if you find a style/size that works for you, they can be had for far, far less money on Ebay. Traveler is a walking shoe with a bike-shoe like toe, if you have clips (though these can't be resoled, I think).
posted by Sublimity at 4:47 PM on September 2, 2017

Check out Aravon by New Balance. (Linked to top of Google returns—available many places.)
posted by she's not there at 7:09 PM on September 2, 2017

For the same needs, including bike commuting in rain and slush, lab work, woman with wide calves, etc., I was very happy with Blundstone boots. Their half-sizes are wides, so a 5 and 1/2 boot is a 5 wide. The first pair lasted me ten years and I got them resoled. (I think the soles only gave up because I sat with my feet on heaters sometimes.) They feel like slippers (to me, obv that's subjective). I wear them with skirts, tights, jeans, footy pajamas... And they can be polished when they start getting scuffed. Which I have done (they sell the exact right stout brown polish and all) but I prefer them scuffed and I have been able to get away with that so far.
posted by you must supply a verb at 6:03 AM on September 3, 2017

Red Wing makes some slip ons that might work. They are a little heavy, but I think that's somewhat necessary given your requirements. Maybe some of the water resistant Shoes for Crews? I think the toughest criterion to satisfy is the repairability. Shoes that are long-lasting in that way are usually $$$.
posted by bluefly at 10:45 AM on September 3, 2017 [1 favorite]

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