Socks, Cold Feet, and Professional Shoes

Feet in the snow, originally uploaded to Flickr by BuzzFarmers.What shoes look professional and can be worn with socks? I keep getting questions about this, so let’s discuss. (Pictured.) First, reader J wondered:

I was wondering if you have ever covered where to find great workplace-appropriate shoes that you can wear with socks (that aren’t tall boots). The weather where I live is often cloudy and rainy so wearing shoes without socks leaves my feet cold, but I don’t want to wear boots all the time. Any suggestions? It seems like all I can find are very casual shoes or something that looks like it belongs in the men’s department.

Then, Reader L asked:

I’ve been searching your blog and others for advice about what shoes to wear to work when you have to wear socks. I mean real socks, not trouser socks. Did you already do a post about this? If not, would you consider it?

Great questions! I’m one of those people who constantly suffers from freezing feet, so here are the solutions that I’ve found in the past:

- Wear medium-height boots. Whether they’re flat-footed, wedge-heeled, or high-heeled, there are a ton of great options out there. We just did a roundup of knee-high boots, but in the past my go-to boot with pants has been the medium boot (above the ankle but below the calf) — I find the medium boot to be much more comfortable and less restrictive than the knee-high boot.  We did a roundup/Hunt feature on the medium/ankle boot back in 2010, and I was shocked when a few commenters seemed to really, really hate the medium boot — and I still don’t understand the hatred. I’ve only worn the medium boot with pants (never, ever, ever with a skirt — although I have seen a few professional women pull the look off with matching tights), and have always found it a great way to stay warm, stay dry, and look professional at the office. (That said, the ankle-length (just below your ankle bone), slightly wide-lipped bootie is a big look this season, and everyone is showing it styled with skirts and skinny pants. Personally I don’t think the look is conservative and professional enough for the kind of office style we talk about here, but maybe I’m wrong.)

- Commute in boots, then switch to pumps at the office.  If you don’t like the look of medium boots, they can still be great commuting shoes — easy off and on, lots of heel height options, usually extraordinarily comfortable.  This doesn’t solve the “feet are freezing at the office” problem, though.  This depends on your office and your workload — if you tend to sit at your desk for long, uninterrupted periods of time, bring socks in (or even, hey, slippers — I’m not ashamed to admit I had a pair of slippers in my office for the longer days and nights).  (Space heaters are another option, but most offices really frown upon that because of the fire hazard, so proceed with caution.)

- Choose your hosiery carefully.  For example, these Plush knee highs — also available in thigh-highs, tights, and ankle socks — are lined with fleece. (I have a pair of the tights. They’re super soft and warm, but they are quite a bit thicker than regular tights. I don’t think you’d need to go up a shoe size, though.)  You can also get silk liners for your socks and knee highs, as well as just doubling up on your knee-high trouser socks (wearing two at once).

- Switch to shoes you can wear socks with, like oxfords, loafers, the “smoking slipper” look out right now, or even the aforementioned low, wide boot.  Your socks will show when you cross your leg, but if the first three options aren’t acceptable to you, this is the only fourth option I can think of.  This choice takes you to two very different categories of shoes: the orthopedic-friendly look (e.g., these $170 Munro heels) or the jolie-laide “I’m so stylish I don’t care about being pretty in a conventional way” trendy stuff (which they all intend for you to wear without socks anyway) (e.g., this $545 pair of Alexander Wang oxford booties).  I’m not a huge fan of this look for the office, but I have seen many a woman do it.  Did I think she was the most fashionable person I’d ever met?  Probably not.  Did I think she was less professional for wearing the shoes?  Nope.

I’m really curious to hear what readers say — how do you stay warm when your feet are always freezing?  Is there a recent shoe purchase that you wear with socks, and you think it looks great at the office? 

Comments

  1. Merrell has a great pair of shoes that can be dressed up or down in my opinion – Spire Stretch. I’m now on my second or third pair (lost count!). I also like how they are a cinch to put on and make my feet look small. My only complaint is that they only come in black. Don’t know if these are too casual for attorneys, but they are certainly appropriate for many other work environments.

  2. I was going to ask about something very similar. I have bad circulation and am always called. I also wear exclusively pants and flats to work — sometimes loafer-type shoes, sometimes ballet flats, sometimes something in between. I often wear argyle or striped socks (the kind they sell at Gap and JCrew) rather than flimsy knee-highs. Is this way uncool, and I need to be wearing stockings? Or is it okay to have fun with your socks?

    • I love fun socks. I see stylish men wear fun socks all the time (e.g. fuschia socks with an otherwise very conventional grey suit), so why can’t we do it? The only thing you need to be careful of when wearing socks with flats is that the socks are not too thick for the flats, if you understand what I mean. For example, I have found that many ballet flats are simply not structured enough to take the bulk of a good pair of socks. Loafers may work better for that purpose.

    • Diana Barry :

      I love wearing argyle, etc. socks. I have a bunch of ‘regular’ socks like that and then also a bunch of Smartwool socks with fun patterns on them (mostly stripes). The Smartwool ones also keep your feet warm. :)

      • I also love fun socks! They make even the most conservative outfit (trousers & a white button-down) a little more interesting. I wear mine with heeled loafers – most recently from Naturalizer. I’m not much of a heels person, but the loafers are a 2 inch heel and it’s a little wider than a pump, but not too thick to make my leg look stumpy. For rainy areas – make sure to use weather protecting spray on leather shoes!

    • I wear socks every day. EVERY DAY. Sometimes they’re trouser socks or knee-highs, which means my feet are sliding around in my shoes. I wear them with flats and heels. And I post photos of my favorite socks on tumblr, like my polka dot ones. I do wear pants every day, so I have no recs for the skirted ladies.

      Wearing socks can also be industry specific. I would look like a total tool if I showed up with bare-feet-in-shoes. YMMV.

      • Oh and I never wear ballet flats and only wear boots during blizzards. Most of my flats are mary-janes.

        • just a lurker :

          what kind of socks do you wear with Mary Janes? I’ve been sticking to lace-up oxfords, but I’d like some Mary Janes if I could wear socks with them. I wear pants every day too

          • As sophisticated as it sounds, I wear novelty socks. Subway map, polka dot, neon colors, you name it. I like argyle, chevrons and other “neutral” patterns as well.

    • I have the cold feet (and legs) problem year-round in my over-air conditioned Florida office. Unfortunately, my office is coldest in the summer, when tights are seasonally inappropriate. This has made skirts a spring/fall thing only for me, which is a shame since I look like s^it in pants.

      I vote for the return of knee socks and mary janes with skirts. Like my brownie uniform.

  3. This might not work for all – especially since they are clunky – but I LOVE my Dansko Clogs (http://www.dansko.com/Womens/Footwear/Styles/Clogs/Professional%20XP/Ebony%20Pull-Up/). They often run big, so I can wear wool knit socks. Bonus: waterproof.

    Also – look for warmer boots. I have a pair of Le Canadienne boots that are fleece lined (http://www.lacanadienneshoes.com/us/boots.html). For winter, they are just divine.

    • AlaskanAnon :

      In Alaska, we LOVE our Dansko’s. They’re especially great in the wintertime as a sturdy, comfortable shoe that looks appropriate (almost every office up here is business casual or casual – I work in Government, btw). I have three pairs, all in the patent finishes, and they always look great with a good trouser or trouser jean. Can’t find the exact pair, but wearing a style similar to these in the black cherry patent today! http://www.dansko.com/Womens/Footwear/Collections/Stapled%20Clog/Maryjane/Black%20Cherry%20Patent/

      • lovelyrita_metermaid :

        Threadjack, but I just wanted to say hi from a fellow Alaskan! I’m in law (I’m a state employee), and just moved up here a couple of months ago, so I’m settling in for my first Alaskan winter. I’ve seen lots of women wearing the Dansko clogs since I moved up here and keep thinking about getting some, so this post may just be the push I need.

    • Turtle Wexler :

      I love my Danskos and can get away with them in wider-legged pants, but I once made the mistake of wearing them with slimmer pants and felt like I was wearing clown shoes all day. I have a pair of Dansko medium-height boots that are much more stylish than the clogs, though, as well as a couple more pairs of medium boots from other brands. These are generally my go-to winter footwear when something nicer than the Dansko clogs is required.

  4. I always wear comfortable warm boots or rain gear with socks during my commute to the office and then change when I get there. My “work” shoes last longer that way too as I only wear them indoors.

  5. Perhaps this totally dates me, or puts me in the “orthopedic” camp, but I still like wearing loafer pumps, particularly with pant suits. Maybe because the style is based on men’s shoes, they look “right” with socks and pant suits. And they’re often more comfortable than heels. I have black ones from Brooks Brothers similar to these: http://www.brooksbrothers.com/Loafer-Pump/0Z43,default,pd.html

  6. I’m a big fan of stacked heel oxfords – they are easy to wear with socks & are pretty sturdy for walking on wet slippery surfaces. They definitely have that menswear vibe, but I’ve seen a lot of cute feminine options.

    • I think I am a big fan of these – the ones that look like men’s lace-up wingtip shoes, but more feminine and usually with a heel? Love those, and they do accommodate socks. I also have some maryjane style heels and wear socks with those, I just try to make sure the shoes-socks-pants all blend.

      Also, Smart Wool socks if you have cold feet. Worth every penny.

    • Me, too. Heeled oxfords, spectator pumps, you name it.

      Also, I love my Frye Carson oxfords. So fun with a three-piece pantsuit.

    • I wear these almost exclusively, especially ones with a 1 to 1.5 inch heel, along with the loafer heels listed above. I have a fairly androgynous style anyway and would rather have solid footing than wear shoes that look 20% more awesome.

  7. Minor threadjack – I just bought a darling pair of boots on sale but they’re a little big (I wear 7.5-8, they’re 9.5). I can’t find any others I like as much, that meet all of my criteria. These are for skinny jeans. These are brown leather, 4 buckles going down the side, low stacked heel (probably 1.5″), wider shaft, knee high, and around $100. The ones I bought are Me Too – maybe called Shade? That might be the color.

    Two questions:

    - Is it a bad idea to keep these if they fit everywhere but have an inch of clearance at my toe? Even with athletic socks which are most likely accompaniment, there’s some wiggle room.

    - If this is a bad move, has anyone seen boots that fit the description, from whatever brand? Or these in particular? Checked Piperline, Zappos, DSW, and Famous Footwear quickly.

    • I do this and put nice thick insoles in them. I wear a women’s 8/8.5 but buy men’s shoes in size 7. Men’s shoes are wide enough for my platypus feet.

    • Anon for this :

      I used to do this all the time because of my ultra-wide feet. (They’re about a 6.5 in length and and an 8.5 in width.) I finally got rid of all my too-big shoes because they made me trip a lot and my feet tended to move around in them. (I also realized I needed more arch support and padding than any of my shoes had.) I have seen recommendations to stuff the toes with lamb’s wool that’s sold for ballerinas to use in their pointe shoes. You could give that a try.

      • Lady Harriet :

        Whoops, that was me!

      • I have also decided to stop buying too-long shoes to get them wide enough. Everyone thought I was clumsy in high school and college, and then I realized I just had shoes that didn’t fit. It now sevrely limits my shoe selection to buy only those available in E, but I have fewer bruises.

  8. For those who read the belt thread yesterday, I’m wearing a belt today and have loosened it one notch for the post-lunch period. Ugh. Glad I’m not the only one with this problem!

  9. I don’t understand why the only choices in the OP’s question are boots and shoes without socks. What about shoes WITH socks? Or at least knee-highs? They can be worn with almost all pumps and flats. Or am I just hopelessly old-fashioned? Have knee-highs been jettisoned along with the panty hose?

  10. Random threadjack – is anyone else on the East Coast concerned about Hurricane Sandy? I don’t know what to think at this point. I live in MD near DC, so I’m not so worried about flooding, but living in Pepco territory, there’s a good sporting chance of a power outage if it gets bad. After 3 days without power after the derecho, I’m not in a hurry to experience that again.

    I get all out of proportion worried about weather now. Obviously I need to buy a house into which I can install a generator. To give you a sense of our electricity woes, last night a friend of mine who does freelance web design/ web site running (not sure what the real word is – maintains and updates websites for people) told me that one of her clients offered to buy a $7K generator to install in friend’s house, to be sure they can always update the website when needed. My friend had no power for 3-4 days after the derecho and probably about 4 days during one of the snowstorms that happened a couple of years ago.

    It’s ridiculous that I live about 5 miles from the freakin’ White House and have to consider having a generator to have truly reliable power, like I live in India or something (no offense to Indians, who, from what I understand from another friend working there, have quite reliable generators).

    • It looks like it may be a major event. You can buy portable generators – they don’t have to be installed per se. I plan to do so this weekend if I can.

    • I’d forgotten about it, but now I’m watching it. I hope all the marathoners get to run on Sunday.

    • Brooklyn, Esq. :

      I did not know about this! My best friend’s wedding is in Baltimore on Saturday and I’m planning to drive down Saturday morning and back up on Sunday…yikes! I’ll have to keep track of it now.

    • SoCalAtty :

      I’ll weigh in as the resident disaster prepper! My grandparents raised me, and they grew up during the depression. We also lived in an area very prone to fires causing power outages. We always kept on hand a generator large enough to just run our fridge and freezer. We had a gas range so we could still light that manually, or we would just boil water/cook on the barbecue outside. We had a week long outage happen more than once, and it always ended up a party at our house because we had power and hot food!

      As for generators, you can get one that will run everything you need most likely for under $1000. BUT, you should get in touch with a local electrician to show you how to get it going and how to hook it up. You can blow yourself up or burn your house down. You should also know how to check the fuel, and do minor troubleshooting. If you are in a condo/apt, you can theoretically still run a generator if you have a patio to put it on (they need to be outside) and run power into your panel. Then you have to either keep stable fuel in it (gas expires) or rotate your fuel out. We have a lawnmower so that was working fine, until we hired a gardener…so now we need to put in the additives.

      Anyway. Disaster prep is one of my favorite topics if you can’t tell. It doesn’t help that I’m married to a commercial electrician – if we had a bad outage he is responsible for getting power back to several clients that host their own websites/servers asap. So we always have to think a little ahead because we can’t just wander off if there is a big earthquake due to our client responsibilities.

      Oh, and that FEMA stuff about only keeping 72 hours worth of food on hand? Every expert I’ve ever spoken with has said a minimum of 2 weeks. I usually have that much canned from my garden every winter, but this year’s harvest was terrible so I’ve had to add some freeze dried stuff to my stash. At least that has a shelf life of 20 years and I can use it for my trail meals when I go backpacking.

      I know, weirdo.

    • Ah, it reminds me that I need to fetch my camping stove from my parents´ house. Would have been nice to have during the last major blackout. A camping stove + fuel should cover your cooking and hot washwater needs. A bucketful of tealights for lighting. Don´t forget matches! If your cel phone/wi-fi service stays up during blackouts you could invest in a solar-powered charger or battery powered chargers for the cel phone/laptop. Or if you have a car, you can charge them from the car with a special cable.

      On one hand, 21st century, I expected more, you know. (Flying cars, where are you?) On the other hand, the zombie apocalypse could start tomorrow.

  11. I’m also a big fan of the medium height boots (I had always called them ankle boots, but apparently that is for a lower shaft???) under trousers. I can wear my Smartwool socks and have happy feet.

    I also have wool insoles that make my loafers almost as warm as slippers without even wearing socks. No reason you couldn’t put them in just about any pair of dress shoes. I also have a pair in my rain boots. Superfeet makes some, although they ran too wide for most of my shoes/boots. The Pedag ones fit better. Both are available through Amazon.

    I’ve also been known to put a heating pad under my desk, slip my feet out of shoes and toast them for a while.

  12. West Coast Clerk :

    I’m having winter shoe styling problems, actually. I have a pair of short flat black suede desert boots that I love wearing with black skinny jeans for casual wear, and I feel like I should be able to make them work at the office:

    http://tinyurl.com/8pecmnd

    But they just look off. I tried them with trousers, but they’re so narrow and flat, they were swallowed up by the bottom of the pant (when seems to be an ongoing issue with boots and trousers in general for me). I also tried them with a skirt and black tights, but I think I looked like a hipster. Any styling suggestions? I would think a skinny trouser would work best with the proportions, but I don’t know if that would fly at my office (state supreme court).

  13. This is the story of my life. I’m actually sitting in an audit room (by myself) right now, pretzel style on my chair just to keep my feet warm. Yes that sounds unprofessional but I’m auditing and the chances of my client coming in and seeing are about .05%.

    I have Raynaud’s disease which often results in my toes getting cold and then losing feeling in my toes (NOT fun they turn white, I’m like a dead person). So for the winter, I have a pair of short black suede booties from Payless, believe it or not (my aunt gave them to me because they were a size too big for her.) They’re plain, but I always wear pants and the pants cover them perfectly.

    I also bought these: http://bim.shopstyle.com/pim/76/28/7628b29b1d6662c8bc30f1214df91bee_best.jpg I know the studs are unprofessional, but my pants are long enough that you will never see them and I’d also be inclined to wear them for fun with skinny jeans.

    I’m 5’11″ and also have terrible feet, so heels aren’t an option. DSW has an impressive selection of flat, short booties that fit my criteria. I’m including the links below:
    http://www.dsw.com/shoe/bandolino+pauling+bootie?prodId=257859&activeCats=dsw12cat1740002,dsw12cat1740052,dsw12cat1100004
    http://www.dsw.com/shoe/blowfish+gabby+wedge+bootie?prodId=271446&activeCats=dsw12cat1740002,dsw12cat1740052,dsw12cat1100004
    http://www.dsw.com/shoe/c+label+emmah-14+bootie?prodId=248758&activeCats=dsw12cat1740002,dsw12cat1740052,dsw12cat1100004

    I have yet to purchase Smart Wool socks, but they are next on my list. Last year it was 17 degrees and I was outside for approx 5min and lost feeling in my toes. It’s not fun.

  14. I’m that girl that is “always cold” in the office so wearing socks with heels or mary janes is not beneath me. I know you said no trouser socks, but my trick with them on the cold days is to wear a pair of nude knee highs or hose paired with a pair of dark trouser socks.

  15. BossNurse :

    Twenty five years of being on my feet as an ICU RN ruined my feet. When I first hit the Director’s suite, I wore cute flats with my business casual trousers, but I’m on my feet so much I had to switch. Danskos didn’t work with my feet, and I ended up wearing Alegrias (www.alegriashoeshop.com). They come in cute styles, patterns, and are comfy as slippers. I’ll never go back! I usually wear them with trouser socks, unless it’s freezing, when I switch to SmartWool.

  16. If you’re on your feet all day, I would recommend Gentle Souls. I bought some lace up booties so I can wear socks in them and they are super comfortable!

  17. WorkingMom :

    Midwestern girl here – I drive to the office so when the snow is deep I wear Uggs or similiar boots and change into pumps at my desk. I do have a very casual office (we can even wear nice jeans), so take that for what it’s worth! For cold weather without snow, I prefer thick trouser socks with pumps… but you have to really watch the color. If I am wearing black pumps and pants I do black socks, but when I’m wearing other color pants/shoes (like grey tweed pants and burgundy shoes) I’ll wear the nude-colored socks. Just make sure when you’re purchasing that you really inspect the nude-colored socks – I hate it when you put them on and they have the pink-ish hue to them!

    • WorkingMom :

      Also – forgot to add that I also wear the medium boot with pants most often to work in the winter. I personal ADORE the medium boot, so great for winter, it’s my go-to-shoe.

  18. Confession: I am behind a desk most of the day. I keep a set of mocassin-style slippers in my office, and wear those when I’m behind my desk. They are lined with faux fur. I got them at Target.

    No one knows.

    My feet are toasty.

    Also, there are things like this: http://www.amazon.com/Indus-Tool-TT-Toasty-Ergonomic-Footrest/dp/B0013V6PDG/ref=sr_1_7?ie=UTF8&qid=1351278446&sr=8-7&keywords=foot+warmer

  19. Love this topic.

    I recently bought my third pair of leather pleated loafers from none other than American Apparel! They’re my new winter go-to and don’t look shabby with socks or thick knit stockings.
    http://store.americanapparel.net/product/index.jsp?productId=loaferpl

  20. I generally HATE SOCKS and pretty much refuse to wear socks or hosiery with just about any dress shoe or heels that I wear to the office, or even around town for that matter. Until it gets below freezing, I pretty much always just wear my dressier shoes or high heels barefoot without socks, because it looks so much better than having silly looking socks, even when I know Winter is coming.

    There are two exceptions:

    1) Mid length boots – Winter is here now. Days when its below freezing is when its time to bust out the boots for me. Incidentally, I actually do wear my boots without socks or tights, because just having the boots on is warm enough. Im a Big fan of the knee length skirt and boots that come up to just below the knee, but when its below freezing and windy outside that can get a bit cold.

    2) Ankle Boots/Booties with closed toes and heels – particularly when wearing dress slacks or a pants suit, and especially with either thermal underwear or footless leggings on underneath the dress slacks – having a nice pair of ankle boots is much easier to wear with slacks than full blown winter boots. I actually also wear my Ankle Boots without socks or hose as well, because as long as they are closed-toed and close-heeled, they are plenty warm when worn with pants. Plus, since thats how they are supposed to be worn anyways, they will fit and look better.

    Just some perspective from the colder months!

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