Which business casual shoe is best?
With offices everywhere reopening with newly adopted hybrid models, many professionals who have spent an extended time working from home are now being tasked with in-person obligations. It’s time to kick off your slippers and slip into a new pair of business casual shoes — footwear that is less formal than dress shoes while still being office-appropriate. These shoes should play as well in a laid-back meeting as they do at happy hour.
Our top pick, Clarks Emslie Warren Slip-On Loafers, have lower heels, so they won’t be uncomfortable to walk around in all day. No matter your gender or style, a reliable pair of business casual shoes should be a wardrobe staple.
What to know before you buy business casual shoes
Business casual styles
There are several shoe styles, both familiar and boutique, that make for work-appropriate business casual footwear. For men, Oxfords are a popular style that comes in an array of styles from dressy to laid-back, and right in the middle, some pairs are great for an informal day at the office. Similar styles, like brogue and derby, are also solid choices for a semiformal workplace, with many being designed with the hybrid office in mind. Penny loafers can also fit the dress code as long as they’re a little classy.
Of course, most of those shoes are also available in women’s styles, but there are a few business casual shoes that are geared toward ladies. Flats are popular for their simplicity and comfort, while wedges provide the lift of a heel in a casual and comfortable body. Simple heels are also well tailored for business casual workplaces, as are ankle boots and other similar styles.
For men’s shoes, the range of appropriate colors for business casual shoes is limited to neutral shades of brown, tan, dark blue, gray and black. These are usually easy to mix and match for frequent use with multiple fits. For women, there is a bit more variety to their acceptable shoe colors as long as they are muted. Typically, they complement the theme of the outfit and avoid clashing.
Every workplace has a different definition of business casual, as does every position for that matter. The CEO of a Fortune 500 company could be dressed to the nines daily or walk through the office in shorts and boat shoes. However, that doesn’t mean you can get away with over or underdressing. Make sure you have a clear understanding of exactly how casual you can get without showing up to work in Nikes or espadrilles.
What to look for in a quality business casual shoe
Comfort and fit
No matter how attractive your footwear maybe, if your shoes aren’t comfortable, they’ll be lousy for eight-hour days at the office. Many Oxford-style shoes run narrow, but with a bit of effort, you can find suitable shoes available in wide sizes. If your workday involves a lot of time on your feet, cushioned insoles and inner padding go a long way toward protecting your feet from fatigue and aching. For women, you may want to think twice before slipping into heels — unless they are supportive and comfortable, like wedge shoes.
Complementing your wardrobe
This goes hand-in-hand with fitting your office dress code, which will dictate your daily outfits and inform your decision when selecting complementary shoes. If you have a consistent style that fits your office, it should be easy to find shoes that match your daily wear. Matching colors and styles properly will keep your business casual shoes from sticking out, not to mention boost your confidence.
One of the advantages of wearing business casual shoes is the ability to comfortably transition from work to free time. Whether your office has a weekly happy hour or you need to make a last-minute dinner date, they will keep you feeling and looking good. If your shoes are particularly comfy or stylish, you might find yourself sporting them on a weekend night out. In the case of office-appropriate boots, they might be rugged enough to handle rough weather, too.
How much you can expect to spend on business casual shoes
Business casual shoes for men and women range from $40-$100 with some high-end shoes running about $100-$120. Designer brand business casual shoes run about $150-$300.
Business casual shoe FAQ
What types of shoes are not considered business casual?
A. Although some dressier sneakers work for professional settings, standard athletic shoes are not business casual. Casual loafers like boat shoes, golf shoes and espadrilles are not considered formal enough for business casual, which goes the same for even the dressiest of slippers.
What kind of materials are appropriate for business casual shoes?
A. Leather and synthetic variations are popular and versatile textiles, as is fabric, suede or microsuede. Some modern companies make attractive business casual shoes with sustainable materials, as well. Avoid flashier materials like patent leather and velvet.
What’s the best business casual shoe to buy?
Top business casual shoe
What you need to know: These 100% leather loafer-style pumps are a great balance between formal and casual, ideal as an alternative to heels.
What you’ll love: Featuring an Ortholite footbed, cushion soft padding and a soft fabric lining, these add a bit of height while remaining comfortable.
What you should consider: It’s available in narrow, medium and wide, so be sure to measure for width before making a purchase.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
Top business casual shoe for the money
What you need to know: These casual Oxfords are classic and fashionable without veering too far into formal or relaxed.
What you’ll love: A thick padded collar keeps the ankle and heel comfortable while the removable insole provides good, comfortable support.
What you should consider: The narrow profile might not be comfortable for those with wide feet.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
Worth checking out
What you need to know: Made from renewable materials, these Allbirds flats are a great compliment to almost any look.
What you’ll love: Not only are these flats comfy and breathable, they’re machine washable, too.
What you should consider: Flats leave more exposed skin, so these are not ideal for colder weather.
Where to buy: Sold by Allbirds
What you need to know: With their 1-inch heels and genuine leather construction, these penny loafers look and feel classy — and they’re available in enough colors to find a perfect match.
What you’ll love: They boast additional padding in the heel for shock absorption and a sponge EVA footbed designed to conform to the shape of the foot.
What you should consider: Some purchasers complain of the tightness of the material.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
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Matt Fleming writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.
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