It’s a problem that has plagued stylish women in the workforce for decades: a stylish shoe and comfortable shoe are rarely one in the same. But don’t resort to the 80’s-era sneakers-with-a-suit just yet… you can find cute and comfy shoes for the office if you follow the tips below…
Quality counts and yes, sometimes this does mean paying more. Pricier shoes often mean better materials, greater durability, more cushioned insoles, solid construction (instead of veneers), and leather soles and linings. You can usually find a shoe like this in the $200-range (retail), so you don’t always have to spring for designer to get a quality shoe.
Opt for a shoe with as much leather construction vs. synthetic as possible (barring ethical objections). Leather is essentially skin- it breathes, stretches, and softens with use, while plastic doesn't. Leather linings won’t give you as many blisters as synthetic ones. Man-made soles can be stiff, while leather ones are more flexible. Leather uppers (read: the outside of the shoe you see) can usually be repaired if scratched or scuffed*, while synthetics usually can’t (or don’t warrant the cost to fix).
*Save patent leather for special occasions; once these shoes get a scuff, it’s nearly impossible to remove it. Nubuck is also a tricky finish- it’s similar to suede but shows wear much more quickly.
Thicker, stacked heels offer greater stability, which usually translates to comfort; the weight of your heel is distributed over a greater area, and greater stability means less wiggling around in your shoe (which is potential for friction and blisters). A bit of a platform can also make a shoe more comfortable, since it will absorb some of the impact at the ball of your foot, and makes heels feel lower without sacrificing height.
Unless you have very short toes and narrow feet, pointy-toed shoes are just not going to offer you long-term comfort, and may result in foot problems down the road (like bunions). A round- or almond-toe shoe allows your toes a little more room (which=comfort). If you can’t help your love of the pointed-toe look, try to find one with a shorter toe box (the angle of the point will be wider), or see if it comes in a size ‘W.’
If you can't resist a heel higher than 2”, a gel insert under the ball of your foot can make a world of difference. If you’re between sizes, go for the ½ size larger to accommodate the width of the insert (usually 1/8” thick).