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 2023'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
The Best Metallic Sneakers
If, like a crow, you're drawn to all things shiny, add P448's silver sneakers to your online cart. Statement in look yet classic in silhouette, they're the ideal pair to infuse a bit of personality into your in-office footwear collection. "And to make your silver metallic sneakers pop, try wearing silver jewelry," offers Newberger.
The Best Leather Sneakers
"I love pairing sneakers with a suit or pair of trousers, especially with a pant that stops at ankle length," Newburger says on styling a sleek pair like Loewe's Flow Runner. "[Cropped pants] highlight the sneaker, and also offer the opportunity to pair them with some fun socks that can bring even more personal style into your look."
The Best Colorful Sneakers
"My rule of thumb is that you always need to make sure your outfit feels fully resolved," details Newberger. "As an example, if your sneakers have a hint of yellow in them—like Veja's sunshine style—try wearing a yellow top of the same hue to bring it out."
Best Sneakers for Standing All Day
"[Sneakers] made of mesh or softer fabric usually are fan favorites for people with sensitive areas," says Dr. Sutera. Thus, if you're someone who's prone to foot discomfort even when wearing easy sneaks, try Chloé's Recycled Mesh pair.
The Best Chunky Sneaker
"Pairing sneakers with a classic pencil skirt always reminds me of the days when women would wear sneakers to the workplace before putting on their 'real shoes' (aka heels). However, pairing work sneakers—Loeffler Randall's chunky cream-colored kicks, for instance—with a plissé midi skirt or ribbed maxi dress will come across as more playful and on trend."
The Ultra-Trendy Work Sneaker
ICYMI: Mary Janes are one of fall 2023's leading shoe trends. And these babies from fashion girl fave Lisa Says Gah's collaboration with Vans are a playfully sporty take on the coquettish style. Team these strappy sneakers with cropped trousers and a nubby turtleneck in sage green.
The Best White Work Sneaker
There's nothing quite like a pair of cool white sneakers. Limitlessly versatile with a reliably crisp and clean look—that is if you take care of them properly (see: Newberger's above tips)—they're absolutely a shoe to have in your workwear rotation.
The Best Black Sneaker
For the uninitiated, Adidas' Sambas (opens in new tab) are the It sneaker of 2023. Beloved by Bella Hadid, Kendall Jenner, and other folks of their A-list ilk, there's a great case as to why they should be in your workwear shoe collection. In addition to being one of the best trend-driven black sneakers (opens in new tab) on today's market, this particular style is made without any animal products so it's also an ethical option.
The Most Comfortable Work Sneaker
This slip-on sneaker from Vionic is Dr. Sutera's personal favorite pick. The podiatrist, who's a member of Vionic's Innovation Lab, shouts out this shoe for offering built-in comfort features like a removable cushioned insole and soft leather upper, "which makes them ideal for an active and working lifestyle."
Meet the Experts
Heather Newberger is a fashion stylist, author, and television commentator. Her mission is to help people find joy and self expression through clothing. An imaginative and discerning creative, Heather’s inspired point of view uniquely reflects her commitment to championing all genders, shapes, and sizes. She is devoted to creating inclusivity within the fashion industry. Heather’s first book "How to Date Your Wardrobe" is available for purchase wherever books are sold.
Dr. Jacqueline Sutera is a surgically trained doctor of podiatric medicine specializing in the prevention and treatment of foot pathology.
Dr. Sutera is Board Certified in Foot Surgery and is a Fellow of the American College of Foot & Ankle Surgeons. She is also a proud member of Vionic's Innovation Lab, spokesperson for the American Podiatric Medical Association (opens in new tab) and the New York State Podiatric Medical Society.
As one of NYC's premier podiatric physicians, she is a caring, conscientious and extremely personable doctor who prides herself on being holistic in her approach to foot care. Where other doctors treat feet only locally, she has a unique gift of being able to link some foot problems to other underlying conditions taking place in the body.
Emma Childs is the Style Editor at Marie Claire, where she researches up-and-coming trends, curates shopping guides, and gushes about the must-buy items she can't stop thinking about. She previously wrote for TZR, Editorialist, Elite Daily, and Mission Magazine and studied Fashion Studies and New Media at Fordham University. When she's not writing up fashion deep-dives or finding the season's best pieces, you'll find her fiddling around in Photoshop and perusing HBO Max for the next show to base her personality on (currently, it's "Succession").
Everyone Wants Lindsay Lohan on Season 3 of 'White Lotus,' And It Could Actually Happen (If We're Lucky)
By Iris Goldsztajn
Small Business Spotlight: Rebel Nell
The women-led business creates social change through handcrafted jewelry.
By Sara Holzman
Beauty Inside & Out: Annie Murphy
The 'Schitt’s Creek' star on the BIC razor that saves her time shaving, joining Cody Rigsby's Peloton cult, and why she’s used the same mascara for decades.
By Samantha Holender