- If you work in a corporate setting, you can opt for comfortable pumps, flats, low block heels or mules.
- For a transitional setting or role that involves working outdoors, you can wear black heeled booties, knee-high boots or sturdy construction boots.
Stylish, comfortable work shoes are a must-have for women in any work environment. Whether you're in a casual office where you can roll into work in jeans and a sweatshirt on a daily basis or a business formal environment where heels are a day-to-day necessity, shoes that meet the demands of your workplace are essential.
1. Comfortable pumps for women who work in business formal offices.
Many women who work in business formal environments still find themselves expected to wear heels in certain contexts. This is may be especially true in certain professional services professions, such as consulting, banking, or law. However, the mere fact of wearing heels doesn't mean that one has to resign themselves to discomfort.
If you're looking for comfortable, walkable heels with cushy insoles, Cole Haan, M.Gemi, Michael Kors and Sam Edelman make sleek, classic heels with clean lines and minimal branding.
Sam Edelman's Hazel pump
, which is available on Amazon, is a classic pump that is available in numerous colors, patterns and textures.
2. Sleek flats for women who work in business formal offices.
If you're a woman who needs to wear sleek, pulled-together shoes for work but doesn't want (or need) to wear heels on a daily basis, sleek flats may be preferable to pumps. Everlane's 40-Hour Flat
, which retails for $115, is a modern classic that many professional women love. The flat comes in classic tan and black or seasonal statement colors such as coral and mauve.
3. Low block heels for pulled together, yet laid-back, offices.
For women in fashion-forward yet laid-back office environments, low block heels are an excellent compromise between adding a little height with a heeled shoe and keeping their overall look appropriately laid back. Everlane's Day Heel—which is frequently seen on creative types in major cities—is a great choice for these women. It comes in both Nappa leather and suede, with both classic colors (such as black, beige and tan) and statement colors (such as bright red) available for $145.
4. Fashion-forward sneakers for women at casual startups.
Those who work in jeans-and-sweatshirt environments, such as tech startups, may be most interested in cool-girl sneakers that pair well with jeans and t-shirts. At only $50 a pair, classic Vans sneakers
, which are comfortable and surprisingly well-received by the fashion set, are a great choice for budget-conscious shoppers in this category. The brand's signature checkerboard slip-ons, which many shoppers may recall from their middle school years, are available in a dizzying array of colors, including an understated silver lurex pair that will go well with anything.
5. Cool-girl organic sneakers for eco-conscious fashionistas.
Women who are both environmentally friendly and fashion-forward may want to consider investing in a pair of Vejas
. These incredibly trendy sneakers are routinely seen on celebrities and Instagram influencers alike. Ringing at $100+ for most styles, they're not cheap—but they are undeniably cute with jeans, skirts, shorts and more.
Source: Saks Fifth Avenue
6. Comfy clogs for women whose jobs keep them on their feet all day.
Nurses, teachers, waitresses and others whose jobs keep them on their feet all day long have sworn by Danskos
for many years. These clogs, which come in a broad range of colors, normally retail for $100 or more, but can sometimes be found on sale at Nordstrom Rack and DSW for less.
7. Sleek rain boots that can be stored under one's desk on rainy days.
Women who commute to their offices via public transportation are well-acquainted with the need for a decent-looking pair of rain boots that can be easily stored under their desks at work. While a good pair of Hunter rain boots is nice to have for heavy downpours, the tall shaft of those boots makes them difficult to store under one's desk at the office. For commuting in the rain, Sam Edelman's Tinsley rain boot
, which comes in a sophisticated Chelsea boot silhouette, is good-looking and easily stored under one's desk. At $55, it's also much cheaper than Hunters often ring in at.
8. Black heeled booties for transitional dressing.
When temperatures start to dip, a good pair of block-heeled booties is a great item to have in one's professional wardrobe. Women who work in any type of office environment can find a use for these shoes, as they can be be dressed up with dark tights and a dress or dressed down with jeans and a chunky knit sweater. Nine West
makes consistently good black heeled booties; while you can buy them at full price, you can also often snag excellent bargains at about 40 percent off during sales.
9. Sturdy work boots for construction and other high-impact jobs.
If you work in construction or another job where you're swinging heavy items around on a regular basis, appropriate footwear that protects your feet from injury if anything falls on them is essential. Carhartt, Timberland, and Caterpillar are a few of the leading brands for sturdy work and safety boots. Timberland's boots
are both good-looking and highly functional.
10. Classic knee-high boots for colder weather.
Knee-high boots can be excellent cold-weather office wear when paired with knit dresses or with dark jeans tucked into them. With the proper care, a good pair of knee-high boots can last for years. Look for solid construction, high-quality materials and a good fit. Nordstrom
often boats good options at all price points.
11. Cool mules for breezy spring and summer outfits.
Mules—with their backless fit and slipper-like feel—are an excellent spring and summer office shoe. While Gucci's $695 horsebit mules
are the thing of fashionistas' dreams, similar-looking options can be found at much lower price points from Sam Edelman (try the Linnie
, and others.
If you want a cleaner-looking mule, an unadorned style from Lucky
, Madewell or others could fit the bill.
Tips: what to look for in work shoes
Regardless of the type of work shoe(s) you eventually buy, there are a few useful tips you should keep in mind when making these purchases.
- Buy well-constructed shoes that will stand up well to daily wear and tear.
- Walk around in the shoes in the store to ensure that they're comfortable.
- Check the care instructions to make sure you'll be able to care for the shoes properly (this will help them last longer).
- Keep your office environment in mind—if you're at a company where no one else wears major designer labels on a regular basis, you should try to follow the same general rule of thumb.
Lorelei Yang is a New York-based consultant and freelance writer/researcher. Find her on Twitter and LinkedIn.