Eric writes: What dress shoes would you recommend to someone living and working in a major metropolitan area who takes public transportation almost everywhere? For years I’ve worn rubber-soled Rockports, simply because I can walk a mile (or three) in them and my feet will generally do fine – but I understand they are certainly not going to win style points. How can we balance the need to wear shoes that go with relatively formal business suits with practicality?
A classic problem.
There are a few options here, but none of them is perfect.
- Switch shoes when you get where you’re going. This is what women in the same position do all the time, and it’s certainly a reasonable choice. Just carry your dress shoes with you or leave a pair at work, and wear walking shoes or even sneakers on your way there. You will, of course, look dumb waiting for the bus, but it may be worth it to you.
- Wear “tweener” shows. For example: shoes with dainite soles merge some of the comfort and practicality of rubber-soled shoes with some of the formality and style of dress shoes. Similarly, less-stylish shoes like dressy Rockports and lower-quality shoes like Nike Air Cole-Haans can be comfortable, if a little dumpy. They might not quite pass muster in front of a judge, but there are relatively few offices where they wouldn’t pass the formality test.
- Just buy shoes that really fit. You know, rubber-soled shoes have really only been worn regularly by human beings for a century or so. Before that, soles protected our feet without much cushioning. The barefoot running movement demonstrates pretty clearly that cushioning in and of itself doesn’t protect you from fatigue or injury. If you find leather-soled shoes that fit very well, say by visiting an Alden store where a variety of lasts and widths are available, and you allow yourself to get used to hard-soled shoes, a couple of miles of walking will be fine.
Are any of these an easy solution? No. But any of them should work well enough.