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If You Need Summer Shoes For Walking To Work

One of the serendipitous joys of my job is a 30 minute walk to work. On those summer days when San Francisco presents its usual fog and and cloud cover, I’m happy in my uniform of pants and low Beautifeel heels. Dang those things are comfortable.

But come a warm morning I hate to put on socks. Toes demand liberation. And I might even wear a dress, these days. Beautifeel, unfortunately, gives bad sandal. And it turns out to be harder than one might think to find open-toed shoes that are both reasonably work-appropriate – even for my astonishingly informal office – and comfortable enough for a brisk long-ish walk. I know the comfort brands beyond Beautifeel, i.e. Naot, Earthies, Sofft, Mephisto, Arche, Birkenstocks – but I’ve had trouble finding models that fit my particular parameters.

Oh, and despite my love of flip-flops, I will not wear them nor any other thong shoe to the office.

So first I bought these. They were comfortable for the first 15, but no good for a 30 minute walk. Back to Nordstrom they will go. Too bad. I rather like their look.

Then I bought these, online. They were a) too big b) uncomfortable c) ugly. Three strikes when one was good enough for disqualification. Boy I hate trekking to the post office, with the focused beam of German car headlights I hate it, but back they will go too.

Finally, I trotted off to my local Shoes That Don’t Hurt store (that isn’t its name, but it should be), and brought these home. Even in Artsy Fauxlaroid World they are what they are, serviceable, not-too-ugly, black, sandals. That in fact allow a brisk morning canter to the office.

Hmm. Perhaps an Instagram filter will make these hip?


I wear them with jeans, and even with Dries. One does what one must.

Then yesterday the Highland Fashionista posted some Sofft open-toe booties with a little more edge. Hmm. The Sturdy Gal is fine with her black sandals. The Artsy Cousin within is considering the implications of a foot zipper, with a degree of desire.

Any more leads on truly comfortable, casual work-appropriate, a little bit hip, hot-weather-wearable shoes? Of course, this being San Francisco, the City that lives to shiver summer tourists, I may be fine with just one pair.

Jeffrey Campbell via Nordstrom
Earthies via The Walking Company
Oddly, I can’t find an online link to the Earthies I actually bought. Perhaps they are aliens. That would explain so much.

71 Responses

  1. Have you ever tried Swedish Hasbeens? I think they’re sandals are very comfortable. Great colors and I love their “natural” leather that ages with a great patina. Too bad about the first ones, they’re great, nice retro vibe.

  2. I wore Earth sandals to work every day for 2 years at a flower shop. They were the BEST investment! They handled everything from long 12-hour days to being accidentally doused with icky flower bucket water. I finally had to give them up because they were just too grody to wear in public. Twas a sad, sad day.

    1. I agree about the Earth shoes. My favorites along with the classic Bernardo thong. You know, the ones that go on your feet.

  3. Fluevog Adelina open-toed bootie with a back zipper. Cinnamon or black, 2-inch heel. More comfortable than I can say. The cut of the ankle makes it very flattering on the leg. I have worn them with dresses, skirts, pants, and jeans. Lucky you, you have a store on Haight Street.

  4. Sofft is a great brand. But I will tell you that I honestly walk the 10 minutes from my parking place to my office in Jack Rogers sandals and immediately put on my work shoes which hide under my desk…

  5. I used to do the walk (on those isolated occasions when I could) in old fashioned tennies and then change into heels at the office. Tragically unhip, I know. :)

    I like many of the pair you have shown and concur on the Sofft mention as well. :)

  6. That is why I purchase neither shoes nor clothes online – it’s hard enough to find things that fit me when I try things on. It’s a shame you couldn’t make the walk in the beige sandals; I like them.

  7. My Jambu sport wedge design sandals are great for walking all over town doing errands. I easily clock in 30 minutes with no foot discomfort.

  8. Remember in the 80s when women wore suits with sneakers and carried their shoes in a separate bag? I guess that’s probably way out of fashion now!

  9. I’ve been looking at earthies for a while now… in the market for some good sturdy walking shoes during the summer. This review has definitely been helpful!

    oh and as per what susan tiner mentioned about the carrying shoes in a bag but wearing sneakers… STILL in fashion! I kid you not. A year and a half ago when I was still working but oh so largely pregnant, I used to see women wearing sneakers or very comfortable flats while carrying Victoria secret bags or DSW bags with fancy heels in them. It always seemed like too much work to me.

  10. I’m with Kathy, I have my first pair of Swedish Hasbeens this summer and I wear them all the time. I actually think they are good for my feet. You wouldn’t think that wooden sole would be comfortable but it is.

  11. I concur with your opinion on all the ones you’ve shown. I do think those Sofft booties are cute. I’ve been contemplating trying that brand, but was never sure they were actually comfortable. Maybe I’ll take the plunge!

  12. It shouldn’t be this hard to find a pair of attractive, wearable, walkable sandals. I’ve had success with Hush Puppies in the past, but they weren’t anywhere near as beautiful as I like my shoes to be. A little frumpy, almost.

    Also, I can’t help thinking that as gorgeous as all these gladiator sandals with foot zippers are that they don’t look particularly walkable. Wouldn’t the zipper rub against the heel? I don’t even want to think about those blisters.

  13. I’m drooling over a pair of Gabor ballet flats myself. Very comfortable, very expensive. I do like the Arche shoes I own – and need to replace.


  14. Check out Born and their lower priced line, b.o.c. I’ve always found comfy but work appropriate sandles from Born.

  15. I like Sofft but their heels tend to be a little high for me. I typically wear their cousin (I believe it’s the same company) Softspots. I also have an old pair of lace-up Dansko black leather sandals I adore but cannot find a replacement for, so the cobbler is my best friend!

  16. I agree with Catherine. Born are awesome but the absolute best work shoes come from Rockport. A friend of mine and an airline stewardess for the last thirty years agree these are the best if you are on your feet all day. The Rockport Keira or Trujoris sandals are great. I am about to buy a leather teva sandal with a wedge sole, looks so simple and yet stylish.

  17. The black sandals must look lovely peeking out from underneath a nice, long, boot cut or straight cut pair of pants. Your arty cousin side might be able to do a “cage bootie”…sort of halfway between a sandal and the Sofft booties from my post (thanks for the mention, BTW, you are officially my first blogging BFF).

    1. I just can’t bring myself to do that. It has to do with a something drilled into me in childhood. Everything you wear is supposed to “go” with everything else.

  18. Try the Cole Haan Air Tali wedges. They come in open-toe and closed-toe styles in a variety of colors. They’re literally the only heels I can walk more than a block in.

    Also, Dansko makes a few styles of sandals that are comfortable and chic. Check out the Dansko website for all the styles. And if you haven’t already, you should follow the blog Barking Dog Shoes.

    But why do you have to wear the same shoes for your commute that you wear in the office? I normally commute in FitFlops (so comfortable and supportive) and keep my nice shoes at the office. That way, my nice shoes aren’t damaged by walking on city streets, and my knees and back aren’t damaged either.

    1. I will take a look at Dansko. Traditionally Cole Haan shoes are narrow on my metatarsal:(.

  19. As as Aussie comfort shoe addict– I can reccommend Ziera shoes– formerly Kumfs– who now have stores in the US– they are NZ made. They have had some gorgeous styles and despite many pairs of black shoes– the ones I reach for most days.

  20. I’m rather fond of KorkEase — even in their insanely high versions, they’re very comfortable.

    Also, Tsubo and Camper make fashionable and comfy shoes/sandals. Maybe a little more Artsy Cousin than Sturdy Gal, but worth a look.

  21. One challenge you Bay Area dwellers probably don’t face is the 5 p.m. thunder storm. I have a set of shoes that as they age get relegated for walking to work on days when rain is expected.

    It’s painful to pay big bucks for comfortable shoes and then watch them get drenched and fade all over your feet, at least when the memory of the payment is fresh.

  22. Hey now, I have the “ugly” rejected Earthies sitting in the wrong size in my bedroom right now. If the replacement fits, I’ll be keeping them. [They’re slightly less ugly in “Putty,” which blends with the orthopedic footbed..

    I’ve tried a variety of the brands mentioned by you and others, but generally my biggest 2-3″ heel successes have come with Clarks/Indigo. [Apparently best for a M-W foot.]

  23. You got so many great suggestions! Your readers are so kind and experienced and wise in the ways of shoes and comfort. Also, I think no one wanted to say this:

    Those earthies are fugly.

  24. I might close the column with the observation that this is one subject that is guaranteed to get a lot of women’s attention!

    And I will throw in the suggestion of Donald Pliner….I have some black platform sandals that are stretchy on top and a joy to wear. They were a great find a couple of years ago, and I count myself lucky to have them..

    Good night and good read, as always!

    1. But isn’t it reassuring to know that SO MANY of us want comfortable non-ugly shoes? Get on it, oh you shoe industry!

  25. How I can empathize! I walk 40 minutes uphill back from work and only a shoe or sandal made for walking will do. Actually I like the ones you bought and find that with painted toenails (for the “intentional” part) such shoes also look good. Nothing worse than blisters and nothing less sexy than a limp from sore feet.

  26. Gabor shoes are great for walking so comfortable,I use to walk all over London in them.
    They do them in various sizes,widths and they look good as well. Ida

  27. My dear Father tells me all the time, “I have had many cars in my lifetime….but the same feet have carried me further.” So true.
    I really would love to have new feet….

  28. Now you’re singing my song. I recently purchased these

    They run true to size, but become a little wide as they are broken in-but no “slipping off the foot loose”. Still if you run narrow, maybe not a great choice unless you get the ones with an ankle strap. As industrial as they may appear in the photo, they are actually quite cute:

    I’ve worn them all day without the need to ever kick them off-in spite of ankle/foot swelling humidity.

    1. Yes, these Worishofers are very popular. They aren’t too old lady for us actual old ladies?

  29. I have bad feet with bunions and love to walk, Josef Siebel does make some cute slides every few years that you can walk without break in time, this year the styles are off. But my mainstay for shoes and the only brand i can count on is Munro American, they have cute summer shoes, their boots are also stylish but their winter shoes are hit and miss often times grannyish, than they will throw in a couple of nice pairs. They are the only shoes I can wear now, nobody else makes shoes in 4 widths and such.

  30. RE: Worishofers…I think the key is getting them in an not “already old lady” color i.e. the snake skin or the red (but you don’t strike me as a red shoe gal)

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