Might I Suggest: The Perfect Everyday Shoes That Aren’t Sneakers

As a team, we’re often fielding fashion-centric quandaries via Twitter, texts and Instagram DMs, so we figured, why not make it dot-com official? Welcome to Might I Suggest, our brand new column wherein we attempt to solve your most elusive market searches and enduring style challenges. I’m kicking us off with the following transitional-weather-query, a qualm voiced by MR community member, Ava:

Can you help me find the perfect everyday non-sneaker shoes? 

This is a vexing one I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about, as someone who isn’t averse to sneakers and finds them useful in my day-to-day but also would rather not rely on them as a crutch. It’s also a question that has to be reinvestigated seasonally, and somehow feels most daunting when the weather warms up.

To me, a true everyday shoe fits the following criteria: comfort-wise, it will not influence my decision to take the subway over walking to my destination, while aesthetically, I will not feel bashful if I walk into a New York restaurant while wearing them. Others have deemed those that meet this criteria as “museum shoes”: shoes that will not pale in comparison to a Picasso or an El Greco. Shoes that can ascend the Guggenheim’s spiral or traverse the labyrinthine Met without giving in, even when your legs are ready to.

I can only speak from the personal experience of walking a mile in my own shoes, and the one duo in my closet that I have found to be The Perfect Everyday Pair are the Lady Yearling Chelsea boots from RM Williams. To be crystal clear about what kind of pedestrian standards I hold these to, sometimes I walk home from work—I live three miles from the office—and I’m not stopping at CVS for blister bandaids. These Chelsea boots are 100% an investment, but three years later, my cost-per-wear for a pair of shoes that show no signs of falling apart has rendered that original investment pretty insignificant. I wear them all fall and winter in any weather short of a blizzard. Additional perks of this trek-worthy shoe: they give me a little bit of height and look particularly sleek when worn with tights. They also enable me to break into a full-on Frances Ha jog if I’m running late.

In the same way that Birkenstocks and clogs can be divisive, you either consider yourself a loafer person or you don’t. I do. I have a pair of leather Gucci loafers that have lasted me years (there’s a whole swarm of them on TheRealReal) and they are my second go-to Everyday shoe following the aforementioned Chelsea boots. These loafers earn points for being seasonally appropriate in spring, summer, fall or winter.

East 55th Street’s best-kept secret is the unassuming Belgian Shoes store tucked between Lexington Avenue and Park. Though not eponymous, the shop was actually started by Henri Bendel. Belgian Shoes are the most comfortable loafers my digits have ever settled into, though this comes at a price. I feel morally obligated to alert you to the existence of these slipper-like shoes despite how cost-prohibitive they can be (discounted pairs can be sourced on Etsy and eBay). They can make you feel as cozy and self-assured as a personal essay penned by Haley Nahman. They are the perfect salve for when your feet feel like piñatas that have narrowly survived a children’s birthday party. A fun fact that Nora could have DM’ed to a celebrity: Bernie Madoff amassed a collection of Belgian shoes, about 300 pairs in total.

A more cost-effective multi-seasonal option is Everlane’s leather Modern Loafer, which traveled the length of Manhattan with me enough times that I wore them to shreds (they run a bit narrow so size up at least a half size). I’ve found that a thin pair of socks improve my staying power in any pair of loafers and I often pack a spare pair in my bag in case: these beautiful ones by Comme Si do the trick, I also swear by these HUE socks because they hit the sweet spot at ankle height and this Falke SKU feels cobweb-thin.

In the spring and summer, I’ve been wearing out a pair of Mariella Mules by Nisolo over the past few years—I also wear them by the pool on vacation. I loved Nisolo’s more clog-like mule as well, which seems to have been retired from the site (though there are still a few Sofia Slip-ons for sale on Poshmark). The impressive track record of those two silhouettes definitely makes me curious to try out their five-starred Paloma Mule. Aspiring to a circular fashion model, Nisolo also offers a Shoe Reclamation Program: by collaborating with Soles4Souls, they collect worn shoes and recycle them in developing countries. The company also focuses on ethical production at their own factory in Trujillo, Peru.

Last summer, while feeling the burn of mediocre footwear that couldn’t painlessly take me from point A to point B, I crowdsourced recommendations for the perfect everyday summer shoe that didn’t sacrifice optics for practicality. My esteemed colleague Harling Ross and the inherently stylish Ruby Redstone both volunteered Maryam Nassir Zadeh’s Palma Sandals as their summer defaults. A second Ruby Redstone recommendation was echoed by another friend: they both endorsed Repetto’s Camille ballerinas with a three centimeter heel. Happy Menocal, the chicest painter I know, nominated Emme Parsons’ Cecilia Sandal. I received an overwhelming number of responses championing the brand Marais, including one advocate insisting that she had worn the shoes while walking 3.5 miles in 90 degree heat and another sent the news that they’d withstood long hours on her feet all day working in retail: “They’re the only low heels that haven’t caused me serious pain.”

I heard from Caitlin Burke, the Style Director of Moda Operandi, who told me about Marion Parke, a former podiatric surgeon who now designs shoes. Burke wears Marion Parke’s Bernadette sandals all day on set and says she could walk miles in them. (They come in a bevy of colors too!)

In my crowdsourcing efforts, there were a few more promising styles that respondents had singled out: Madewell’s Noelle slingback sandal, Carel’s tri-buckled Mary Janes with socks, Hopp’s Collared Mules and Charleston Shoe Company’s Monterey style. I’ve heard great things about the arch of Sania d’Mina’s slingback. And at the end of the day, how comfy do Caron Callahan’s Mary Janes look?

If you’ve cracked the everyday shoe code, or have a question of your own, don’t be shy to let us know below. And, in the immortal words of one David S. Pumpkins, “Any questions?”

Image by Edith Young; Paintings by Alonzo Sánchez Coello, Portrait of a Woman, and Frans Hals, Merrymakers at Shrovetide, via The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

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