In an ironic twist of fate, change has become the only reliable constant of late—look to your work-life, for instance. While just two years ago you were googling “What is a ‘Zoom?'” you’re now adept at virtually leading a meeting from the comfort of your couch. And in terms of actually going into the office, wardrobe guidelines have evolved to become more laidback, too. Case in point: Wearing sneakers to work is not only accepted but encouraged—especially if you opt for one of our picks for 2022’s best sneakers, which masterfully merge comfort and polish.
Stylist and fashion commentator Heather Newberger offers insight into the recent flux of in-office dressing and sneakers becoming work-appropriate. “We’ve witnessed a massive shift in the way we think about workwear over the last three years,” she says over email. “Gone are the days of your boss taking you aside to tell you your outfit doesn’t cut the mustard. Instead, [the office has]become a place where personal style can reign supreme.” Thus, if you’re personally fond of a sporty-meets-polished aesthetic, you can safely swap your heeled pumps and neutral ballet flats for trainers and high tops.
However, this isn’t the go-ahead to wear your once-white, now-gray tennis sneakers to your next team touch-base. “Sneakers are now widely accepted on corporate floors, [but]there are still some basic guidelines one needs to abide by,” explains Newberger.
Ahead, the stylist details the rules of wearing sneakers to the office, and you’ll find insight from a podiatrist on how to find the best comfortable work sneakers, too. Oh, and as always, there’s also an edit of our favorite pairs to shop.
What to Look for in Work Sneakers
“For the office, you want to choose sneakers that are smart and reflect minimal flair,” says Newberger. “Premium materials like vegan leather always signify status, while metallics, platform silhouettes, and hints of color bring in more personal style.” the stylist says, “the soles of your sneakers are important too, whether they be a platform or close to the ground. You also want to stay away from shoes with strong tread, as they will signify you’re ready for a more athletic experience than a work-oriented one. A chic pair of faux leather kicks are a no-brainer. But running shoes? Leave those at home.”
How to Keep Sneakers Clean
Newberger says proper upkeep of your work sneakers is also paramount. “It’s important that your work sneakers stay clean and clever. Make sure to invest in sneaker wipes and don’t be afraid to use them.” She implores you to also keep your in-office styles separate from your “‘play sneakers,’ as those can get as dirty as you want, but your work sneakers should stay in tip-top shape.” Another tip she has for you: “Invest in shoe boxes that will always keep dust away from your favorite sneakers.”
How to Find Comfortable Work Shoes
“Of course, style is up to you,” New York City-based podiatric surgeon Dr. Jacqueline Sutera details, “but when looking for sneakers to wear to work, make sure they have foot-loving features.” Keep the following in mind when shopping for sneakers to wear to work.
“Sneakers should be wide enough so the toes are not jammed or crammed and must fit your foot well without having to be ‘broken in,” she explains. “They should also be able to accommodate any corn, callous, hammertoe, especially in the toe box.”
“Everyday shoes that are worn a lot and for long periods of standing and walking should have a thicker sole,” says Dr. Sutera. “The sole should also, preferably, have a heel-to-toe drop, meaning that the heel and back part of the shoe is thicker than the front. Chunky sneakers, especially if they have a flat insole, should really be worn for short periods of walking and standing.”
- Arch Support
“I cannot stress enough how important arch support is! It can help set a more neutral foot, keep you from overpronating, and stabilize the foundation for the entire skeleton,” details the podiatrist. “And if the arch is abnormally flat or pronated, many problems—such as bunions, hammertoes, tendonitis, back, hip, knee pain, etc.—can occur or be made worse.”
Best Work Sneakers
Meet the Experts