You can pick up a pair of paper thin faux leather flats with zero arch support for rock-bottom prices at any suburban mall, and we totally get why you’d want to. They look super cute in the store and for the first few days, and who doesn’t want to choose comfortable flats over stilettos every once in a while? The problem is that in the long run those cheap, cute, comfy flats end up scuffing, tearing, or wearing out, not to mention failing to protect your feet from the pavement with their flimsy construction. Not very cute, not very comfy, and suddenly not very cheap, either, since your $15 only bought you the chance to wear them a few times.

The problem only gets worse if you’re trying to wear these shoes during the work week. Even before they start to fall apart, what message are you sending by wearing something so simple and cheap in the office? The right flats can be fabulous with a pantsuit or even a skirt, but when you give up the instant polish of high heels, you need to make up for it with a carefully-chosen, impeccable-looking alternative. Every choice you make about your appearance in the workplace is a chance to communicate about yourself. Don’t waste this opportunity with shoes no one will notice. Don’t let it work against you by choosing shoes that make you look sloppy or out-of-touch. You need to use it to your advantage by choosing footwear that says you’re a professional with good taste and an eye for detail.

Naturally, we’re not suggesting you sacrifice comfort for your appearance (nor will we ever on this blog!). In their own way, super-high heels with trendy features like platforms or peep toes can look just as unprofessional as crummy flats. We’re also not telling you you need to go into debt clothing your feet in designer fashion. Who can afford that kind of wardrobe “investment” these days? Finding the perfect comfortable, professional, fashionable, AND affordable shoe for work is much harder than walking into Payless and buying the first thing that’ll do; we won’t deny it. But don’t worry–we’ve got your back with this list of sturdy, stylish, and price-is-right shoes. Buy them without fretting over the credit card bill. Walk wherever you want with a spring in your step. And wear them to meetings with your classiest of clients, feeling confident that you look fantastic.

 

Etienne Aigner “Actor”
Comfortable Flats - Etienne Aigner Actor

The subtle print makes this sleek ballerina flat a little more young and fun than other businesslike flats. We recommend this shoe in nude with a skirt and a bare leg or pantyhose that very closely match your skin tone. The red color is also a fun option with a dark suit and another pop of red somewhere in the look (maybe your blouse) to pull the look together. Of course, the black goes with everything. The footbed is cushioned and the sole has plenty of traction, making this shoe a comfortable, practical option as well as a fun one.

 

Libby Edelman “Alpha”
Comfortable Flats - Libby Edelman Alpha

Also with a cushioned footbed, this luxurious-looking patent shoe turns sole traction into a fun, modern detail with a zigzag edge. Alpha would look fabulous in black with a dark pantsuit.

 

MIA Limited Edition “Audrey”
Comfortable Flats - MIA Limited Edition Audrey

One of the lamest things about switching to flats from heels is that you lose some of that lovely, leg-lengthening effect. For petite ladies, a pointy-toed flat like this one offers a bit of that same visual elongation. The “Audrey” comes in black, nude, and an array of fun candy colors to match or contrast with your bright spring wardrobe.

 

Calvin Klein “Patti
Comfortable Flats - Calvin Klein Patti

Like most round-toed flats, this one looks great with a pantsuit. Our favorite hue is the rich brick-red, which would make a fabulous accent piece for a dark-colored ensemble. Also available in black and tan.

These are just a few options. Now that you know what you’re looking for–a cushioned footbed and textured sole, a pointed toe if you want your legs to look extra-long, and a sophisticated finish, you can conduct your own search!

Have you found a “holy grail” work shoe–one that’s comfortable, professional-looking, stylish, and reasonably-priced? Let’s hear about it in the comments!

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