@AskEmmi - Comfortable Conference Shoes? / by Emmi Sorokin

Q: I'm going to be on my feet all day for several days but I don't want to wear sneakers! Any advice?

A: Kudos for knowing not to wear athletic sneakers to a conference.  Barring a medical reason, bulky sneakers instantly deplete your coolness factor by 97%, tough to recover from. 

There's an entire category of men's shoes called comfort footwear.  Makers include Johnston & Murphy, Børn, Patagonia, Keen, Merrell and Dansko, to name a few. Comfort styles range from rugged (not good for professional wear) to business casual and it's key to select the styles that work with your level of attire formality.  Since shoes that have been pimped out comfort wise are usually not labeled as such, here are the qualities to look for in shoes you're considering bringing/buying for the conference.

Men's comfort footwear - Merrell & Patagonia
Men's comfort footwear - Merrell & Patagonia

1. Sole - Feel the rubber (resisting the low brow humor here with all my might...) sole.  If it's rock solid the shoe will be very stiff on your foot, if the sole has some give when you bend it, the shoe will be much more comfortable.

Comfortable business casual shoes - Johnston & Murphy & Kenneth Cole
Comfortable business casual shoes - Johnston & Murphy & Kenneth Cole

 2. Versatility - SXSW or any conference can be a personal and professional networking mecca, so select shoes that will style up a relaxed look and can be worn with the most professional attire you are taking, like a sport coat.  Your feet (and shoes) will thank you if you take two pairs and switch them out daily.

Men's comfort footwear - Born & Keen
Men's comfort footwear - Born & Keen

 3. Cushion quality - Don't scrimp when it comes to your shoes.  Cheaper brands that sell by price point or trend rarely have good support or shock absorbency.  If you solely (Ha! Sorry.) choose by looks or price, after 11 hours on your feet in cheap shoes, you'll be kicking yourself for not spending the extra $30 to prevent your suffering in the first place.

 

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