Quality work shoes can make all the difference. Here's what to look for as you hunt the perfect pair.
The best $90 I ever spent was on my feet.
I walk an average of 2.3 miles a day, which is on the low end for a typical New Yorker. Still, that's a considerable amount, especially when you're wearing uncomfortable shoes to work.
For a while, I wore heels that pinched or unsupportive flats as I scaled subways stairs and navigated cracked sidewalks. When I had room in my bag, I brought a back-up pair to change into, but lugging footwear around was cumbersome.
I thought about how much I do on my feet everyday: commuting, coffee meetings out of the office, after-work appointments. And I asked myself: Why not invest in a pair of shoes that will make me feel and look great at my job?
Looking around for inspiration, I realized that I wanted the type of loafer or Oxford men slip on to work everyday. I wanted the professional look without the pain.
I walked into the nearest DSW with a mission and tried on 16 different pairs of shoes, including some from the men's section. They were comfy but didn't fit right. Finally, I found a pair of black, shiny, menswear-inspired Oxfords in the women's section that fit the bill.
But they cost $89.85.
I realize ninety bucks may be nothing for many professionals, especially my fellow Manhattanites. But for me, shoes and items of clothing over $60 generally require an internal struggle as my frugal and lavish impulses duke it out.
I hesitated, but ultimately I knew they were worth it. They met my criteria: Comfy, stylish and simple. So I bought them. And I don't regret it.
My trusted pair of Oxfords go with pretty much any outfit, won't get ruined in the rain, and are kind to my feet. They've saved me countless minutes of figuring out what to wear, since I just slip them on and go.
Having one great pair of work shoes has likely saved me the money and headache of trying to buy other mediocre shoes.
And, perhaps most importantly, they make me happy.
I learned that, whether you prefer heels, flats, loafers, boots, or sneakers, a great pair of shoes is a great investment in your career. And it doesn't have to cost you more than $100.
Here's what I suggest paying attention to when finding your perfect pair of work shoes.
Make sure they are a color that goes with many outfits: black, dark brown, grey, silver, even light pink.
Walk around in them in the store. A lot. Then even jog a few steps. Do they tug, snag or poke? Do your feet feel crammed or like they are too small for the shoe? If so, don't try to force it. Move on.
Try on the shoes you're drawn to. Then try on a few that you're not drawn to. Sometimes you might be surprised: that "boring" shoe could turn out to look great on you.
Think about rain and snow. Are the shoes suede, patent leather, or velvet? If so, they could get ruined. Ask the store owner about waterproofing sprays or keep looking for something more practical.
If you find a pair that seems comfortable, try them on with thin socks. Then try them on with a different pair of socks. Are they still comfortable? If you can only wear them with a certain type of sock, that might work, but it would be important to know.
Ask yourself, "Do I feel comfortable in these shoes?" Then ask, "Do I feel confident?" The right pair of shoes will help you feel like you can do anything you set your mind to. Mine do.