Flip-Flops, Sandals, and Office Propriety, Oh My!

are-sandals-ok-for-workReader V has a full-fledged shoe debacle on her hands — and she might be charged with delineating (i.e. narrowing) the rules further…

We are in the middle of the full raging summer shoe debate at my work place. I work at a CPA firm. We have a no flip-flop policy = no shoes that have anything between the toes. We also use a suggested guideline of more shoe than foot. A new rather gutsy administrative professional started wearing decorative flip-flops…. Flats with large flowers decorations. I privately told her that flip flops are against the office policy. She commented rudely about the firm buying her all new shoes and that she was going to appeal it up to her supervisors. She did and they backed the policy but another administrative person suggested that she appeal it further. So now I am charged with researching other professional service policies. This morning I queried my friends at local banks and law firms and they all agree with the no flip flop rule. My question is …. Are we just in a Midwestern U.S. frame of mind? Also… what may very well happen as a result of her “challenge” is that the rule gets tighten even further. We are noticing strappy sandals that are more foot than shoe. One person has suggested we go with just pumps or peep-toes but no strappy sandals at all. Thoughts????

Yowza. I always say “know your office” when we talk about shoes, but I wonder how that really shakes out in the aggregate.  So: perhaps today is the day for a poll.  (For the poll below, multiple answers are allowed, and by “which are not acceptable” I mean “which would you not wear, whether there’s an office policy against it or not.”) (Pictured above: Calvin Klein – Jade (Pink Patent) – Footwear, available at Zappos on sale today for $38.) If your office policy disallows something else, please note it in the comments.


Now the more interesting question here is WHAT the rule ought to be, and why. In a perfect world, we could all just say “we’re all adults, let’s just let everyone use their best judgment” — but, well, there’s always that lowest common denominator you have to legislate for, whether it’s the 20-year-old intern, the “gutsy” administrative professional (as reader V mentioned), or that senior executive who has zero common sense.  So here’s my $.02 for which shoes are NOT appropriate:

Steve Madden Slinky– Any shoes that make a loud sound when walking down the hallway. I started my office career in the late ’90s when those Steve Madden slides were all the rage — for those who don’t remember they were a flatform sandal that had a thick black elastic strap (about 3″ wide) for the vamp of your foot. (And, ZOMG, I just realized that they’ve been re-introduced. You can purchase at Steve Madden for $59.95, should you so desire.) My point here is that they were super comfortable, we ALL wore them to work ad nauseum  … and they made the loudest FLAPFLAPFLAP sound you could have imagined while walking down the hallway. Honestly, it boggles the mind to think that none of our superiors took us aside and said something. In any event: I think flip flops create similar problems (loud FLAPFLAPFLAP noise).

– Any shoe made primarily of plastic. This is another problem with most flip-flops — but honestly I’d be hard-pressed to call even a high quality leather flip-flop office appropriate.  (FWIW, though, Bernardo makes some great leather flip-flops — allegedly that brand was Jackie O’s favorite.)

– Any shoe that requires a pedicure to look good. Maybe this is just me, but feet can be gross, yo.  A perfectly pedicured foot is one thing — but without getting into too many details, there are so many, many other ways that feet can look (and, um, smell).  If I were Queen of the Office, I wouldn’t want clients coming into the office and being forced to view feet that were less than perfect — but I’d hate to require (or suggest) pedicures of employees.  So if it were me, I would just ban all sandals, for both men and women.  I think it’s much harder to offend in peep-toes than it is in sandals… but if it were a conservative office I’d just make both men and women wear closed-toe shoes.

Readers, what is the rule at your office (and is it a clear rule?)  If you were Queen of the Office, what would your rules be?


  1. I agree–I would outlaw any peep of toes not up to peeping. :)

    I would make a rule that one of my coworkers has to keep her shoes on at all times. I’ve been in meetings where she plays with her shoes under the table the whole time. It is so distracting. And the smell sometimes (blech). Another coworker even complained about it to me, so I know it’s not just me.

  2. No policy against flip flops at my office, and they are worn, but I wouldn’t – the flap flap flap sound is a major reason (even if I didn’t prefer to be someone more formal). A secretary on my hall does wear them and you can hear her coming a mile away.

    • Oh, also, I think banning flats would be seriously problematic – plenty of people have medical conditions that prohibit wearing heels.

      • Barrister in the Bayou :

        I do not wear flip flops to work, although I think I’ve seen the secretaries wearing them on Fridays. But to get to my point, prolonged flip flop use can create just as many problems as wearing heels.

  3. Anonymous :

    Are flats really in the same category as flip-flops? I know there are some crazy looking flats out there (and I don’t wear those), but I can’t see them being equal. Flats don’t require pedicures and you’ll only see the tops of feet…much like a pump.

  4. Un-pedicured feet irk me like nothing else! It seriously says to me, “I don’t care about the details.” I equate it to a shoe shine for guys. Even if you are forbidden from wearing sandals or peep-toes in your office, you would be much better off if you just got a pedicure. Not only do they make you relaxed and happy, it will save you the embarrassment for when you’re stuck on an elevator with the managing partner in your commuting flip-flops.

    • “I equate it to a shoe shine for guys.”

      This is a good analogy, although I don’t think it’s necessary unless you’re wearing open-toed shoes at the office.

    • Anonymous :

      I hate getting pedicures. I’ll paint the toes though if they’re going to be on display.

      • I hate pedicures too! No one is allowed to touch my feet except me, but I definitely make sure my feet are in decent condition. If my toes aren’t painted, it’s because I’ve been super busy!

      • anotheranon :

        “Not only do they make you relaxed and happy….”

        I agree with the posters above… pedicures don’t make everyone relaxed and happy, so to each their own. but yes, if your toes are going to be on display, then do make sure they look decent.

      • Hate to say guys… but a pedicure is more than just painting the toes. I think they’re a must if your feet are going to be on display, whether you do it yourself or go to a salon.
        It’s not just painting toes, but taking care of the cuticles and the rough skin and callouses, and you can see the difference.

      • I’ve never had one, and don’t want one, and it wouldn’t make me relaxed. It would remind me of my friends mother who had a long and fatal battle with Hepatits C. Then I read somewhere that manicure and pedicure tools that haven’t been well cleaned are one way to transmit them. Yep, it’s not completely rational – go to a respectable, clean place and they probably clean their tools. But… there’s that “probably” and I don’t wear open toe shoes to work, and there you go.

    • Does clear nail polish and properly clipped count as a pedicure in your book, I wonder? Or must I artificially color parts of my body for them to be acceptable for public exposure?
      I hate pedicures, and I hate finding the right toe nail color. Plus, I think that a well groomed foot with a proper “pedicure” is much better for the office if your toes might be seen than someone with a great “pedicure” that chose the very worst color.

      • I don’t believe toes have to be colored at all to be considered well-groomed. I would also think that some colors of polish could be considered odd in some offices. I tend to wear an almost black color on my toenails (Lincoln Park After Dark) and that might have its own issues like a neon pink would.

        I’d rather see clear or no polish than colors in many cases. :”)

  5. Wow, that is something – “gutsy” is the polite word for it! I can’t believe it isn’t, this is the policy, you’re in the wrong, case closed.

    That said, unless you have casual Fridays, strappy shoes really aren’t appropriate for a business setting. If you can wear it to a picnic, it probably shouldn’t be at the office. My office says “no athletic shoes, slippers or flip flops.” If it makes a noise, it’s classified as a flip flop.

    • healthcare anon :

      I agree with the “gutsy” here. Honestly, if she had said “if the company plans on paying…” I would have be tempted to reply “that’s why you get a direct deposit every week”

      • While I do agree that it’s wrong to place a lot of financial burden on lower-paid employees (ie, expecting a large, expensive wardrobe, lots of shoes, expensive hair and make-up), it seems perfectly reasonable to say “please get an all-purpose pair of modestly-priced work-appropriate shoes, wear them at work and commute in your flip-flops”.

        Also, flip-flops in the city inevitable equals filthy feet. Ick.

    • I agree with the picnic rule. Even if flip flops aren’t prohibited, no one will take you seriously if you are wearing them.

      • I am bothered that the poster is considering making the rule more stringent. That is like denying recess to the whole class. In today’s ecomony, I would tell the rule-breaker to go to Payless and get appropriate shoes or leave. That said, I can wear flip-flops to my office. The relaxed policy is annoying to me, though, because some people don’t have the sense to step it up when we have guests, or when they are going out to meet a witness.

    • I agree…

      And the gutsy admin… that’s ridiculous. We don’t bill the office for our weekend sweatpants, and flip flops are the equivalent of sweatpants in my opinion.

  6. Diana Barry :

    I don’t know that we have a policy here. I have seen an attorney wear flip flops (well, nice thong sandals, but still!!!) to court before (!!!), and I would assume she wears them in the office too. The staff dresses way down in summer – capri khakis, t-shirts, and flip-flops often.

    If I were queen, I would say no flip flops, but substantial sandals on up are OK. I almost always wear flats – are there really places that ban them???!?!?

  7. Our official policy is no flip flops, but people wear them anyway. It really does not bother me. I also don’t think that any shoes require pedicures. Of course you want to keep your feet looking nice and neat, but it’s possible to do that without the full pedicure and painted nails.

    • Anonymous :

      Agree. I don’t think painted nails or a professional pedicure are required to bare your feet at the office, but I do think that your feet and toe nails need to be clean and well taken care of (trimmed/filed, cuticles clean, make friends with your pumice stone, lotion away the dry patches, etc). All of this assumes you can wear peep toe/open toed shoes or flip flops to work, period.

      • Agreed! I’m surprised that so many people seem to think that non-colored nail on feet look unprofessional. Don’t people realize how many awful chemical are used in pedicures??? All that matters is that your feet are clean/well groomed.

        • I think the pedicure thing is more of a young woman’s game. I think those of us who are fortysomething came of age when getting a pedicure was a Really Big Deal (only in a salon, none of the quick-in-and-out places) and toenail polish was really only worn for big events, like a wedding or going on a warm-weather vacation — and wasn’t considered part of routine upkeep. Of course one’s toes should be clean and groomed, etc. but I don’t really consider nail polish strictly necessary and neither do most women of my age. I really think there is an age cohort on this one.

          • Young women without children to chase around I think. I can’t imagine how I would ever have time to keep up on regular pedis.

          • Really? I’m in my late forties and have been applying colored polish to my toe nails since I was a teenager. Maybe it’s because I ‘m from South Florida where people wear open toe shoes almost year round. It’s rare for me to get a salon mani/pedi, though.

          • I’m a forty-something mom of two, and I won’t wear sandals without a pedicure, which includes colored polish. I sometimes do my own pedicure, but I won’t wear sandals in the spring until my toes are put right.

          • I’m 50 and have monthly pedicures between April and September, because if my feet are exposed, they need to look reasonably presentable. My 40- and 50-something friends do the same.

          • I’m in my forties, old enough to remember a time before pedicures were a routine maintenance item. But these days, I won’t bare my toes without one, so I’m in the quickie nail salon about every 2-3 weeks in the summer. I feel like it’s particularly important for me to stay on top of my feet (as it were!) now that I’m getting older and they are less naturally soft-and-pretty than they were when I was in my twenties.

        • I know women who get pedicures with clear polish, just because they don’t like colored toenails. I agree that professional pedicures shouldn’ be necessary, people can clean up their own feet and toenails.

        • What awful chemicals? There certainly haven’t been any chemical products used in any pedicure I’ve ever had. A lot of the stuff they use at the salon are the same products I use at home.

          • Anonymous :

            I wonder if Yeah is referring to the chemicals in nail polish itself?

        • I’m talking about the terrible chemicals in nail polish and remover.

          • Agree. I keep my feet and hands groomed/maintained, but I never use polish because of the chemicals.

          • Yup. Totally linked to increase in cancer risk. I’m 20 and I haven’t painted my nails in 5 years, and honestly am hoping I never have to just to have the privilege of baring my feet! (Note: Men sometimes wear flip flops [outside, not the office] and they never are expected to have pedicures; people seem to expect women to be pretty everywhere when going anywhere, which is frustrating).

      • I’m on the boat with pedicures being required, but I think what you describe in taking care of your feet to be an at-home-pedicure, and thus within the rule. I strongly prefer polish on toes, but I don’t think it’s necessary as long as the rest is taken care of.

    • I don’t think anyone is saying that you have to have a nail polish on your toes. A pedicure involves grooming your feet whether at a salon or at home.

      • Oh, ok. To me, pedicure means nail polish.

        • Anonymous :

          OT, but I’ll get my nails shaped at the nail place, no polish or anything else.

          They do a much better job than I do.

  8. ZOMG – I own those Madden slides. But I would NEVER wear them to work, no matter where I worked. I can barely stand to wear them at all because of that noise!

    I don’t have a problem with most dressy, decently maintained sandals (and toes!) at the office, but I don’t think flip flops are ever appropriate for an office environment. Perhaps the only place I might be ok with them is someplace where the employees were selling flip flops. (FWIW, I’m still not over that lacrosse team who wore flip flops to the white house! ) And those well-maintained toes should never ever hang over the front of the sandals. That looks awful.

    About a dozen years ago, I worked at an office where our supervisor typically wore very nice, high-quality, attractive slides and mules, but they always made that horrible “thwacking” noise. We called her “Click Foot!” We called her some other things, too, but that’s a story for another day…

  9. Anonymous :

    Flip flops say to me, “I either do not know, or do not care about being professional. I likely talk to my friends about your files and cases, using real names, in a loud voice in restaurants and other public places. Furthermore, no one in this firm will tell me to stop wearing them because they’re afraid of me since I am sleeping with someone/someone’s spoiled child/the only one with a brain in this whole place.”

    Just no.

    • I think this is really unfair.

      For my first few years in the professional world, I’d wear all sorts of crazy things on my feet, flip flops, strappy sandals, etc. I was always working in small, semi-casual offices in DC that never had a strict dress code. Looking back now, I realize that my footwear was highly inappropriate, even in those more casual offices (and I can count on one hand the number of professional pedicures I had before age 30, so I’m sure my feet, while clean and polished by me, didn’t meet some people’s standards.) But, at the time, I was young and broke, didn’t know older, professional women, and just didn’t really know anything about fashion. It wasn’t that I didn’t care about being professional, I just had no idea that what I was wearing was unprofessional.

      I think the woman in the above email is obnoxious and needs to dial it back. But, perhaps the best way to go about it would simply be for a fashionable, appropriately dressed woman in the office to take her to lunch and have a nice, friendly chat with her. This approach may not work for everyone, but I think there are plenty of women who would value a helpful, noncritical discussion about professional dress.

      • Anonymous :

        I completely disagree that it’s a coworker’s job to point out any dress-code missteps. That’s what HR is for. The OP tried talking to the Flip Flopper, and FF threw a righteous snit.

        If that flip flops work in your casual office, sweet, but if I see seriously unprofessional attire I assume that all other things about that person are also likely unprofessional since they clearly don’t understand appropriate boundaries.

        It may not be fair but it’s the truth.

        • I think the FF’s biggest crime here is her attitude and behavior, not wearing the flip flops. That’s what screams unprofessional to me.

        • I agree about it being more HR’s job, but not all of us work in offices with big (or any!) HR department(s).

          If that’s the case, the policing must fall to co-workers, which is awkward, sure, but that’s just the office culture for a lot of smaller offices.

      • I agree that it’s important for mentors to tell junior staff (or new hires – b/c the rules might have been different in their own workplace) if they do something inappropriate.

        However, junior staff also need to take the mentor’s advice. In the original post, it sounds like the admin asst was hostile to the advice. If I told my AA, privately and politely, that she wasn’t following the dress code and she declared her intention to continue not to follow it, I’d never try to help her out again.

      • soulfusion :

        Agreed, in retrospect, when I was a summer associate I was clueless about what was acceptable or not. Especially since I summered in one of the first summers when firms were implementing summer casual dress codes. I had no idea what to wear, what not to wear and there certainly were not the same amount of resources available to figure it out.

        I didn’t wear flip flops but I know I owned those Steve Madden slides pictured and wore them to work. Also, my first professional pedicure was that summer but that doesn’t mean my feet were hideous, smelly or needed to always be hidden away.

        Mistakes are made by newbies and as long as they don’t have the attitude of the situation in the post, I say take the opportunity to be a mentor and give guidance rather than judge her silently.

        • Rising 3L :

          I mean this as an honest question, not to be combative — do career service departments at some law schools not address the issue of appropriate footwear/dress right off the bat? Because I don’t have enough fingers and toes to count the number of times (sometimes in info sessions and actually a couple times during lectures) I’ve been told skirts need to hit around the knee, cleavage is bad, and flip-flops or shorts are never ever appropriate. My school has made it abundantly clear that showing up at an internship, much less a paid position, with open toed shoes is a death blow to one’s credibility. I just can’t imagine getting to a summer associate position and having to figure out a baseline of acceptable professional dress on the spot — I actually feel really bad for soulfusion that she didn’t get some guidance from her educators beforehand. Being a baby lawyer is stressful enough without having to second guess your outfit choices.

          • My law school had no advice whatsoever about dressing professionally. In legal writing class, we were strongly encouraged to “wear a suit” for our oral arguments at the end of the semester… but you weren’t dinged if you couldn’t afford one.

          • I don’t think my school told us anything about dressing professionally.

          • soulfusion said she was a summer in one of the first years firms were instituting casual dress, which to me means the mid-to-late 90s. Not sure how old you are, Rising 3L, but people had no clue how to handle business casual in those years. Senior (male) partners were showing up at work wearing 15 year old ill-fitting jeans, overjoyed but rudderless without their three piece suits. Lawyers were trying hard not to look too corporate, which often translated to all-polo-shirts-all-the-time for men and women. It was not a good moment for law firm fashion. If that’s when soulfusion was a summer, I think it’s safe to say her school had _nothing_ helpful to say about on the job dress.

          • soulfusion :

            eek, I’m not quite that old – summer class of 2000 and in most white shoe NYC firms, that was the first all business casual summer. I knew how to wear a suit but business casual just wasn’t defined for women and was much more formal than the western city I was coming from. And don’t feel bad, my female classmates and I all just stumbled our way through it primarily by watching what the female associates were wearing (because they were also trying to figure out what business casual meant for women).

      • Sorry, I agree with Anonymous. Young or not, you exercised poor judgment – and when a worker exhibits poor judgment on something like footwear, her other judgment is in question as well.

        I once interviewed someone for a legal job. She had stellar credentials, great experience, and was super-articulate and personable. On the other hand, she wore a casual dress, no hose, and sandals to the interview. To us, that called her judgment in general into question, so she didn’t get a callback.

    • Just no to trolls, too, please.

    • Judgmental much? Not knowing the dress code does not mean that you violate other (substantive) ethical rules. Or to put it another way, stop trolling.

      • Anonymous :

        Funny, I post here more often than you do.

        Anyway, yes, I absolutely am judgmental as many people are. I need to form an opinion about someone’s potential and abilities and their appearance is one of the first clues as to said competence.

        Flip flops are beyond a simple fashion faux pas.

        • I completely agree with you! Everyone judges on appearance because that is all we have to form our opinions at first. Looks matter and if you disagree then why are you on this website??

          Also, I disagree with some posters saying that the more senior associates should inform the newer employees. It is their job to seek out this information! Go to HR and ask “what is the dress code?” I’m sure the firm will have some guidelines and will say what shoes are acceptable.

        • I agree with you too. If a person’s so young and clueless she doesn’t know flipflops are inappropriate, there are probably tons of other norms she doesn’t know too (and thus needs a mentor). If she knows but doesn’t care/flaunts the rules, she probably flaunts them in other areas, too.

          • no longer clueless :

            Very belated comment, but reading this reminds me of how clueless I was when I moved from the west coast to the east coast and shortly after, midwest. West coast definition of casual is so different! It took me longer than I care to admit to recognize cultural (and climate-related) differences in appropriate attire. I wish someone had had a caring and earnest conversation with me to clue me in, but I eventually grasped the subtleties by observation, trial and error.

      • Another Anon :

        Just because you disagree with someone’s opinion, it doesn’t mean it’s a troll.

  10. There seem to be no boundaries where footwear is concerned at my office, which is sometimes frustrating and some times convenient. It’s nice because I can get away with wearing Jack Rogers Navajos most of the summer, but it also means there are people shuffling about in slippers (really!) and there’s even a secretary who wears her Vibram Five Fingers everyday. Gah!


      I’m typeless.

    • lawtalkinggirl :

      HATE those five fingers “shoes.” There are people at my state government office who wear them. Not business casual!!!

      • I think they’re supposed to be for running/outdoor-type activities. No way do they belong in an office!!

      • North Shore :

        I have them for travel — they take up so much less room in my suitcase than other gym shoes, so I’m more likely to hit the hotel gym. That said, I’m embarrassed to be seen in the hotel elevator wearing them. I can’t imagine wearing them to an office — that’s just crazy.

        • How do you like them? Are they worth the price?

          • My husband wears them for running and he says they’re amazing – they’ve changed the way he runs so that its more in line with how the body is suppose to move. He is a huge proponent of the “bare-foot” running movement.

            But even the ones that are not workout/running shoes are still like sneakers, and if sneakers aren’t appropriate in the office, these wouldn’t be either, for sure. Though they are really amazing for your feet, much better for them than stuffing your feet into heels.

    • oh the Hobbit shoes…I’m fine with them for camping and other such activities they’re designed for. Heck, at my friend’s research lab they’re all the rage since you have to be on your feet all day. But if I saw them a work, I can’t say I could keep myself from gawking O_o

      • Anonymous :

        Vibrams are totally acceptable if your workplace permits sneakers or other athletic footwear. Otherwise, no.

        • Kind of disagree. Maybe it’s a regional thing, but here in the Midwest I think you look absolutely ridiculous in those things unless you’re running. Perhaps as they become more common it won’t be this way?

          We had a contracter show up in them the other week and both my husband and stepson rolled their eyes and commented at different points after he left. I’m sorry, but you could not pay me enough to have a work colleague see me in them, even at a picnic. JMHO.

          • I saw someone at a work event wearing them — however, she appeared to have some kind of foot / gait issue, and was also carrying / using a heating pad during our meeting, so I’m willing to cut her a break and think that it was related to an injury or accident. Kind of like when someone has a cast on one foot and wears a casual shoe on the other foot — you understand.

  11. ohmydarlin :

    Oh lordy, we had a paralegal last year who wore those Madden slides and other various (and hideous) platform slides… not only was the FLAPFLAP awful, but she would CLOMP-CLOMP as well. Like a horse with a flat tire!

    • Anonymous :

      LOL Because my office mate says it sounds like a freight train is coming through when a similar co-worker walks by!

    • As my friend T. says (now famously, in our office) “If they’re flippin’ and they’re floppin’, they’re flip flops.”

  12. Another Sarah :

    Corollary question:

    What is the new admin assistant going to do when the rules get tightened and she definitely has to go out and buy all these new pairs of shoes? Is she on the younger side (like, this is her first job)? Not knowing any better is the only reason I can think of where someone would reply like she did and then cause that big of a stink over flippy-floppies.

    I don’t think I’ve ever worked somewhere where flip-flops were OK. It’s always been billed as a safety issue – sometimes people accidentally drop really heavy things (staplers, bankers boxes) on toes. I like the “more shoe than foot” rule; i.e. sandals are out, but peep-toes are in.

    • Anonymous :

      No, she doesn’t have to go out and buy all new shoes – she can wear the shoes she wore when it was too cold outside for flip flops. It is currently 95 degrees outside where I live/work, but I’m still wearing real shoes at work!

      • This, plus these days it’s not all that hard to get a nice pair of flats/pumps she could wear for the summer for $50 or less. Even in my postdoc and grad school days, I wore decent shoes. Of course, we couldn’t wear flipflops/open toed shoes in the lab, plus it got messy what with all that dinosaur poop lying around.

    • Is your concern that she won’t be able to afford them? One pair of tasteful black shoes to start should suffice. I’m sure I could find something on 6pm for under $30 that would get the job done.

      • Anonymouse :

        Legally her employer need not buy her new shoes. It’s an interesting argument though. I suppose if a workplace had a policy regarding undergarments (for example that bras should be worn) then the admin would want those paid for by the employer too? Wow. I hope my firm requires us all to wear beautiful designer suits. And pays for them. Keep dreaming!

      • Another Sarah :

        Meh, not really concerned about her necessarily. I was asking more “did she not think about this when she had attitude with her boss? What is her deal?” So, what is she going to do, fight the even-more-strict rule again? Sorry, sometimes I forget tone-of-voice doesn’t come through on the internet. :-)

    • I also really love the “more shoe than foot” rule.

  13. Yankee-Peach :

    I actually went and re-read our firm’s dress code before posting. We are a BigLaw firm in the Southeast with very hot summers. There is a no flip flop policy and a no “flap flap flap” policy. Sandals that shoe toes and/or toe clevage are perfectly fine *providing that* a person’s feet are properly pedicured, which seems reasonable. I’m usually pretty chill when it comes to what’s appropriate and what’s not, but I really draw the line at flip flops. If you want to lighten up for summer, find a nice pair of sandals and spring for the pedicure.

  14. The women in our office are allowed to wear, open toe, peep toe, slingbacks along w/ mules and slides. Thongs are not allowed.

    But I see such terrible feet on display; dry-cracked heels, yellowed toe nails, toe nails that are of fingernail length–that it makes me wish that HR would ban all shoes that expose the heels and toes. Honestly, I look down and think to myself “What on earth made her think that her feet were up to snuff for those shoes?”.

    If you do choose to wear more “open” shoes, for goodness sake, make sure your feet are worthy of being displayed.

  15. Valleygirl :

    In my office it varies. Since our office is on the campus of a hospital – anyone who goes where patient services are offered has to wear closed toed shoes, period. For our office, I generally wear pumps/boots/ballet flats and occasionally peep toe heels. The only shoe I’ve worn close to a sandal is a peep toe sling back heel and that was when it was over 100 degrees out and my feet needed to breath. As for other staff – I’ve seen the spectrum – everything from crocs and sneakers to heels I’d only wear clubbing. The crocs/sneakers don’t irk me because it’s usually health care providers who are on their feet quite a bit wearing them… but some of the heels I’ve seen admin staff wear are just inappropriate. Think strappy 4inch stiletto sandals that are neither age nor office wear appropriate.

    Definitely have noticed a correlation between appropriate footwear and education/seniority level… And it’s annoying (and maybe this is a NGDGTCO moment) because I’m younger or the same age as the admin ladies and to make nice I want to complement them on their shoes, etc. but, the professional in me has had a clutching my pearls response a few times (and that makes me feel like a snob).

    • Compliment them on something else. Their hair? Their manicures? I agree it’s nice to compliment the admin assistants, to stay in their good graces, but don’t feign approval for something they shouldn’t be wearing to the office – then if someone else tells them their shoes are inappropriate, they’ll say “but Valleygirl liked them!”.

    • anonymouse :

      can someone recommend some DIY treatment for dry heels?

      • Lanolin!!! Go to Target, where they keep breastfeeding supplies (pumps, nursing pads, etc), and get thee a big tube of Lansinoh brand lanolin in the purple box. Slather it on your feet at night (wear socks, it’s greasy), and within days or weeks, you will have beautiful heels. I could not believe how effective it was – my cracked, flaking heels now look as smooth as my palms.

  16. I will preface my comment with 2 things:
    1) I work at a university in a library and we librarians traditionally dress down (we have to move around a lot)
    2) Many women I work with (including me) have worn “flip flops” – although the nice types

    A young former coworker who was notoriously cheap and wore flip flops everyday in the summer (and cheap kinds from Target or Payless or Old Navy). She argued she couldn’t afford nicer shoes (a lie, I’m sure). The director of HR called her on it at a staff party one and said flip flops were a safety issue: if we ever had to evacuate you can’t run so quickly. (I think you can’t run so quickly in heels either, but I digress). In high school, I remember the safety issue cited too. In fact, the Washington Post just did a safety thing on flip flops. http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health/the-podiatric-dangers-of-flip-flops/2011/03/22/AFCNVobF_story.html

    Now, I wear flip flops all the time and my sandals are boarder line flip flops. But, if you need to argue, go with the safety issue.

  17. Anonymous :

    John Boehner bans flats and ponytails among his personal/professional staff. This strikes me as weirdly interested and anti-woman. Flats? Men wear flats. I guess it’s the case where, in a small work atmosphere like his with a clear leader, he can actually make those calls against things that bug him or seem unprofessional to him, as we all might like to be able to do (see our ‘If I were queen’ comments) even if the specific bans might be different. Like, adult women should known when a ponytail is okay and when not, know how to create polished, adult version, and know not to swing it when walking the halls of Congress. But, some young staffers probably don’t, so that office just makes it a bright-line ban. But no flats ever for any (female) staffer? Harsh.

    • lawtalkinggirl :

      What is wrong with a ponytail at work? I feel a (low) ponytail is usually more professional (i.e. severe and businesslike) than hair falling in my eyes or the loose, wavy, voluminous “sexy hair” that results when I sleep on my hair dry. Am I supposed to get the lawyer bob haircut that many women get when they approach a certain age?

      • Anonymous :

        Nothing, neccessarily. It’s the old ‘a time and a place for everything’ idea. Many non-presentation, non-meeting days, a low, polished pony in a nice holder or invisible, hair-blending band is exactly what we need to keep our focus on thinking and working, and looks great.
        Most people, including the Congressman/his staff director, likely feel there are more formal styles for more formal situations, and since they can just ban it and not rely on individual judgement of low-paid, just-graduated college-age staffers who directly represent him and his District (he is notably very dapper and, obviously, conservative himself).
        Happily, in most offices, we can make our own good choices about when to pony, how to pony, and when not to pony. :) Rock it when it’s time to rock it. As with bare-er shoes. There’s a spectrum and there’s a time and a place for every shoe on it. I’m sure you look great w your pony.

    • This seems pretty typical for a male boss who doesn’t know what is and isn’t appropriate, so just makes a blanket rule. I worked in a law office once where pantyhose was mandatory for women – but there was no ban on sneakers, so pretty much all the paralegals/AAs wore hose with sneakers. There were 2 women lawyers in the office at the time.

      • Oh, and also, I hope Boehner makes accommodations for his injured/disabled female staff! Otherwise I couldn’t work for him – not that I’d want to anyway – but I’d love to see someone file an ADA grievance against him.

        • Anonymous :

          I’m sure the office would never let things get that far or that ugly. It’s a style thing, not a health thing, intention-wise, plus they are in politiccs and wouldn’t want to look mean (the office not looking bad but looking extra professional and wonderful was the whole point of the rules.)
          But I’m also sure no staffer would ever file such a complaint against any congressional boss or office. These offices are not normal work environments, they are personal fiefdoms. OSHA, Historic Preservation, pay rules, etc. do not apply on Capitol Hill, sometimes de jure, at all time de facto. You work at their pleasure, their discretion, because it is important to you, for little pay, under any rules they set, at all hours of the day. Jobs are temporary and personal.
          Again, I’m sure any office would accomadate someone before things got ugly. But I don’t think the complaints would ever be complained in the first place.

        • I’m hoping that Boehner also requires his staff to tan.

      • I worked for a judge who had a policy that you had to wear nylons with skirts, unless your legs were shaved. Then you could go without hose.

        • Was this a male judge? Did he have some sort of “touch test?”

          On a side note, I don’t think skirts (even with nylons) are appropriate unless you’ve shaved fairly recently. Opaque tights might buy you an extra day or two.

        • Anonymous :

          Informally, yes, accurate, perfect. But formally, in a spelled-out rule? Ick. Who determined this, and how?
          Poor rule-makers, like the woman who wrote in to Kat. I am starting to see how tough it is for the folks in charge, even when they want to be logical and kind to those of us who must follow the rules as well as must deal with those who don’t (unkempt feet, legs, etc.)
          Even the Boehner ponytail/flats thing makes logical, stylish sense informally, but when it becomes a Rule, it gets creepy.
          Good luck, shoe-rule-writers and enforcers, and all of us good luck in wearing the right things and bearing with those who don’t

        • lawtalkinggirl :

          What about if you have very little leg hair and thus do not have to shave in order to look clean-shaven? Did the judge inspect legs with a magnifying glass?

        • Running out of cute screen names :

          I worked with an attractive professional woman who did not shave at all. She was a bit of a hippy but in her “normal” professional attire you would never know. But in the summer, she would rock dress suits with legs that had never seen a razor. If it was warm enough and the jacket came off you’d see that her armpits didn’t see a razor ever either.

    • Anonymous :

      Hmm, must wear heels and ponytails are inappropriate? I hope he also lets his female staffers go home by 230/3pm each day so they have time to prepare a hot cooked meal and greet their s.o.’s with a nice martini at the door at 530pm sharp…

    • No flats? That’s rough. He should wear a pair of heels for 8 hours and see how his knees feel.

      • And his back and his calves and his hamstrings and his feet – especially if he might be unfortunate enough to be sportin’ a bunion! ;-)

    • No First Amendment? :

      Doesn’t John Boehner have to make sure his office rules comply with the Constitution? And hasn’t our Supreme Court ruled consistently that the government can’t regulate dress under the First Amendment, other than for safety issues (see “we work in a hospital,” above)? I expect this policy, if it actually exists as described, would not pass constitutional muster.

      Oh, wait, I just woke up and remembered who’s on the bench these days. Nevermind.

      • Gov’t employers can’t regulate the dress of their employees, under the Constitution? I must have missed that case.

        I would like to see the source of this rule- I doubt that there is an actual, specific rule prohibiting flat shoes or ponytails, and I really, really doubt that women with back or knee problems are required to wear heels. Amazed that so many people just accept what they read on the internet.

    • Or Equal Protection Clause? :

      PS: If the policy says “no flats for anyone” and it is enforced against only women, there is an “as applied” EPC claim. If the policy says “no flats for women,” there is a facial EPC claim.

    • East Coast Sunshine :

      John Boehner, anti-women? Nah…

    • Flats?? Clearly non-discriminating, right? Totally on board with ADA? Obviously open to non-ageist policy? Are his staff all well educated, albeit “hot,” like their less privileged female counter-parts tending bar and possibly working their way through school (per his history)?

      Bah! Harsh? Yes. Discriminatory too.

      Some women cannot wear heels. And they are smart, beautiful and capable. The Speaker? Really? How sad.

  18. I just purchased these last night: http://www.shoes.com/en-US/Product/99482-1020983/Naturalizer/Black/Women%27s+Theyer.aspx

    I’m curious as to how people rate them in the sandal hierarchy. I plan to wear them to work when the DC heat is just too stifling for real shoes, but I work at a very casual non-profit. Some of the legal assistants here wear actual flip flops (like rainbows), but I wanted something a little more dignified.


    • Those would not fly at my nonprofit. I think those sandals are casual casual, not business casual. If your office is casual casual, go for it.

    • Too casual, even if assistants wear flip flops. If one could or would wear them comfortably to a picnic on grass, they shouldn’t be at the office.

      • This is a great rule, and has saved me more than once when I considered a casual outfit to wear to the university on a non-teaching/ non-meeting day.

    • I think those are certainly more dignified than plasticy flip flops, but I’d avoid them unless your non-profit is truly casual (as opposed to a casual leaning business casual). If people at your level are wearing shorts and t-shirts, I think those are fine. If they’re wearing knit tops with pencil skirts, I’d step it up a notch.

    • I had similar sandals for commuting to work. I would change the shoes at work though…not really appropriate for my company since it is business casual. If your place is casual, though, I think it is fine.

    • Ballerina Girl :

      My new office is super casual and these would be totally fine.

    • Those are cute. But not for anywhere or anytime you have to be taken seriously.

    • Very, very casual. I would not wear them to work (not for profit).

  19. The rule in my office basically is that the shoe needs to look professional/formal, not outright casual. The only styles that are outright banned are flipflops and sneakers. Any other style of shoe may be ok, depending on the way the particular shoe looks, sandals included. (This applies to women only – men aren’t allowed to wear sandals, again b/c there are no formal/professional men’s sandals).

    I agree that women who expose their feet at work need to get a pedi. No one should have to look at someone’s smelly, unkempt feet! The way I see it, we’re lucky, unlike men, to be able to wear sandals in hot weather, so it’s a small price to pay to keep our feet looking nice.

    I currently work in hotter-than-heck DC, and previously I worked in Las Vegas, so maybe the climates in which I’ve worked had something to do with the permissibility of open footwear.

  20. Flip flops are definitely a no-go in my office…but beyond that, there is no hard and fast, enforced rule. Some peep toes, for example, peep a lot of toes…while others have only a sliver of a peep. I think a rule to live by is the more toe or foot is exposed, the less professional the shoe

    For Court however, I think it is a hard line rule, stockings and closed toe shoes.

  21. Anonymous :

    I work as General Counsel for a major tech player in the Metro DC area, and some of the pissier paras have pulled the stunt described in this article (they went over the head of their boss to HR for rubber stamp approval of flip flops capris and tank tops as ok office wear) Fine by me. However, they seemed rather puzzled that they are never chosen to engage in any of the fun client facing events, such as a night at the Kennedy Center, wine tastings, or a golf outing. Hmmm…..

    • SF Bay Associate :

      Exactly, Anon. Pissier para is welcome to wear the wrong clothes despite being told otherwise. Pissier para should however, not be surprised when s/he doesn’t get put on important assignments or promoted. A failure to demonstrate business sense and professionalism is always career-limiting.

      Flip flops are also not ok in my biglaw office. I do disagree with Kat’s mandatory full-on pedicure rule only because I think people should get to choose whether or not to wear actual polish, just as whether or not they want to wear makeup. It’s a slippery slope to say that “only perfect ___ are allowed to be visible.” But tidy and clean feet are just as important as tidy and clean everywhere else on one’s body.

      • I don’t think pedi requires polish. I think it’s a “make sure your feet are cared for because dry cracked feet are gross.”

      • Thank you, I agree. People have been really mean to toes on here – they are what they are, I don’t love them but no amount of polish will change that.
        If someone had an unattractive face would we really make a policy that she has to coat that thing in makeup, otherwise cover it up with a paper bag? Your feet are what they are, you can’t usually help that. And I’m not going to spend hours at night with a pumice stone to prove otherwise, I have better things to do.
        That said, I wouldn’t wear open toed shoes to the office.

    • Anonymous :

      Exactly. Well put.

  22. Call me old fashioned, but flips flops have no place in the workplace! I am shocked by some of the “barely there” shoes people wear in my business casual office. One woman appears all the time in capris pants and strappy sandals. News flash people, we’re not at the beach. We’re not at a party. We’re not just hanging out in the nice weather. We’re at work and you’re being paid to get something done. Dress like it!

    I realize the irony that I am reading and contributing to this blog while being paid to work :)

  23. CaribbeanGirl :

    I’m interested to see the comments for this reader question – it seems like when warm weather comes around I see more women wearing suits with dress sandals versus pumps which I find strange. I do love a nice peep-toe but tend to wear them with very little “toe” showing if that makes sense.

  24. I must post a somewhat tangential whine on how talk of flip flops is reminding me of how much I hate summer in DC. Hot, humid, and thunderstorms – and high chances of being left with no power if you are in Pepco’s “service” area. I hate sandals and shoes without socks because they always rub my feet (although moleskin has helped and I have high hopes for that Blister Block stuff), but my summer wardrobe will not really accomodate socks (also because I’m a little vain and socks would look weird with summer skirts, plus those ped things always show and I hate that). By the end of the summer I am almost filled with rage by the sight of all the FEET! I hate flip flops and any sandals that show more foot than shoe. I hate seeing everyone’s chipped toenail polish and rough dried-out heels. Plus I think flip flops make everyone look like they have giant, flat, Fred Flintstone feet. I do not get how people think these shoes are flattering.

    Sorry, had to get that off my chest. It’s the first really hot and humid day here and it reminds me that my most hated season is here. I could totally deal with living in a place where boots could be worn all year round.

    • Especially flip flops that have seen better days. Is there some type of contest to see how long you can wear a pair of rainbow brand flip flops and not wear them through completely to the ground?

    • I also find it disgusting that people wear flip-flops on filthy city streets. Your feet are exposed and picking up dirt and dust, even if you think they are not.

      • Who cares? I take a shower when I get home anyway. If I’m soaked in sweat and smelly, I don’t really care if my feet get dirty too.

      • Well, it’s that or your feet getting equally disgusting and sweaty on a hot day. A little dirt or dust never killed anyone.

        • True, but I think some people are not so vigilant because by the end of summer I see a lot of feet that look like they have “ground in” dirt. A pedicurist (is that a word?) once told me that constant wearing of flip flops gives you calluses and cracked heels because of the constant slapping of the shoe against the foot. I’m not sure if that’s true – I do not have nearly the callus/cracking problems of my flip-flopped friends, but it may be for other reasons.

          Flip flops also seem to make people shuffle along in a very unattractive way. I am always wanting to tell them to pick up their damn feet.

          I guess it’s one of those days – I’ll be in my cave, grumbling and making signs warning the kids to keep off my lawn.

          • Polly, is there room in your grumble cave for another sign-maker? ;-)
            I, too, hate summer with a passion (in NYC, not DC). I am also anti-chipped polish (none is waaaaay better than chipped!), shuffling and cracked, dry heels. Barf. And I am happy to tell you that Blister Block stuff is pretty awesome. A friend of mine told me about it last year and I’m a convert! True confession time: The thing I hate more in the summer than seeing other people’s gross feet is the chafing of my own thighs when I’m wearing skirts without hose/tights. Blister Block works for that, too!

          • @MJ – also try BodyGlide (you can get it at City Sports), or just wear bike shorts under your skirts.

          • Anonymous :

            You’ll love blister block. It’s amazing. I’ve used it for a few years now and haven’t had a blister since. I just rub it on wherever i have shoes that pinch a little, and whenever I buy new shoes, and I’m home free.

        • You’d think, but I stubbed my toe in one of those dirty streets while on vacation. Unfortunately the water in the area was not clean either and I ended up getting an infection. I learned my lesson and wear closed toe shoes only when I am going to do heavy walking.

    • Oh, Polly D, I’m with you! I just said to my daughter today that I don’t think I can make it through another DC summer. It’s totally disgusting here. That said, I still would never wear open-toed shoes to work (conservative consulting firm in downtown DC). And I too hate shoes without hose of some sort, and I hate summer skirts/dresses with hose… So, I end up wearing dress slacks every single day of the summer. Dressed up with a jacket if necessary, dressed down with an open collar shirt worn untucked if I can, and always with “socks” and flattish pumps. Not a sexy or fashionable look, but bearable and bearably comfortable.

      Another aside: I pride myself with getting through a DC summer day without going outside. Pack a lunch. Home garage to work garage to home garage. Ahhh.

      • I am so jealous of your garages and your car. I have to walk at least a mile a day, and normally I just walk all the way to work. I am dreading the onset of sunburn/asthma/sweat/chafing. Kill me now.

      • My people! I, too, can usually manage to get through a summer day with minimal outdoor time. I have garage parking in my apartment building, previous job had garage parking at the office. Now I have to park outside or in the parking structure at work and actually walk 50-100 feet outside – oh the humanity!

        I’m definitely going to get the Blister Block stuff. I do wear skirts in the summer – have actually found that the Target brand of Spanx (Assets, I believe) are pretty comfortable and good for thigh rubbing and when you just want a bit more coverage under your skirt because of the AC.

        I think I need to re-iterate that I work in an office where the dress code is “clothes,” so sandals are appropriate. I do try to wear sandals that are more shoe than foot, though. I don’t often get pedicures but do make sure everything looks nice and am really reluctant to wear sandals without polish. Not sure why, but I just think it looks better to have polish. Then again, I prefer to be more covered than not (skirts to the knee, sleeves) at work, maybe polish counts as coverage in my head.

        Product placement – today I am wearing a pair of Dr. Scholls brand slingbacks, they have a smallish wedge heel and rounded toe, and, most wonderful of all, a padded fabric/suede footbed. They are really comfortable so far and I think they will be great for humid days. We’ll see how they feel by the end of the day, but I think I may have to check out other offerings from this brand.

    • I don’t wear flip-flops because my feet are gorgeous. They are not.

      But my toes feel so much freer in the summer. They yearn to be free all winter. I like feeling the air on my toes. It cools me off when it’s hot outside.

  25. Wow. Challenging a policy like that at my office is grounds for negative comments and a bad raise at review time, being passed over on the lucrative projects, and if layoffs were impending it would move you to the top of the list.

    I realize we should be able to question the company we work for but in today’s economic environment the company may view it’s “gutsy” employees as highly disposable.

  26. Thoughts on J Crew’s wool gabardine suiting? I have never tried on their suits, so any thoughts on sizing would be greatly appreciated. TIA!

    • I own one in navy and love it. However, the pants did stretch out (both waist and length), so either order your size and plan to tailor later or order your size and down a size to see which one fits best. The stretching wasn’t as bad as the 120s (omg, don’t get me started).

      I’m 5’1″, 115-120 lbs, bigger on bottom than top. I usually wear a 2-4 petite on top and a 4-6 petite on bottom; the jacket I own is a 4 petite and fits perfectly. The pants are size 6 petite and I’ve had them taken up and taken in, and they probably need another go-round (but I’ve lost some weight as well). Next time I order a J Crew suit, I intend to order a size 4 petite pant and a size 4 skirt.

    • Mine hasn’t stretched out, either the wool gabardine or the super 120s. I have both in a size 0 jacket and 2 pants. The wool gabardine is almost 2 years old and the super 120s is a year old. *shrugs*

  27. tinylawyer :

    So excited that those Steve Madden flatforms are coming back. I still have mine, they were the most comfortable shoe ever AND added height.

    And that “gutsy” admin assistant should be fired. She’s at will, right? If she’s already causing problems on Day 1, your company will have its hands full pretty darn soon.

  28. We are business casual from Labor Day through Memorial day, and casual for the summer. The summer rule here is no” Flip flops for shower/beach wear or any other type of shower shoe”.

    I just started here, so I’m not sure if that means I can wear shoes like Beth’s Naturalizers (see above). Until I see otherwise, I’m going to stick to peep toes and dressy sandals.

    • I think the Naturalizers above are precisely what I would think of as “dressy sandals.”

  29. Personally, I only ever wear completely closed shoes to work, but I am also by far the youngest person in an “upper level” position (I’m younger than most of the administrative assistants too). I always try to dress so that my clothes do not make people think about my age. Strappy sandals and even slingbacks read “young” to me and while they look really nice on my older (than me) and more well-established female coworkers, I’m a little too paranoid to wear them. Looking forward to when I’m comfortable enough here to break out the cute shoes!

    • Seconded. I’m about half the age of any lawyer at my firm (possible less than half) and aim to be as conservative as possible. I wear ballet flats on occasion but they are very well maintained Pradas and look professional.

  30. Pacific Northwest major regional bank…No flip-flops. No athletic shoes. Sandals and peep toes ok.

  31. I haven’t seen flip flops in my office (government, formal-leaning business casual for most people) yet, but there were some disgusting unpedicured feet in non-flip flop sandals on my elevator this morning, and I am 90% sure they weren’t just commuting shoes. Not a great way to start my week.

    Can we also say something about strappy high heels? At a night club, yes. At work, and paired with cropped cigarette pants (no matter how nice your legs are), no!

  32. Our office (in East Canada), does not allow flip flops, plastic shoes. Peep toes are fine and flats are fine as long as they look professional. Athletic Shoes are only okay on Fridays as long as they are clean.

  33. Mountain Girl :

    This is amusing to me because I just did an overhaul of the dress code at work. It seems that there are always those who find pleasure in pushing the dress code as far as possible. When we allowed open toed shoes about five years ago the policy allowed all “Professional” open-toed shoes. We had the understanding with our employees that any shoe that came between the toes (even if it was dressy enough to wear with your wedding dress) was not appropriate at work. Over the last few years that morphed from no between the toes shoes, to dressy sandals that went between the toes, to rubber soled flip-flops that you would wear to the pool. We actually ended up taking pictures of banned shoes and attaching them to the dress code policy along with the disclaimer that if you were in doubt you should ask or find something else to wear.

    Our final policy revision ended up banning all shoes that go between the toes, sandals with rubber soles and slippers.

  34. My business casual office permits sandals & open-toed shoes as long has they have a back strap of some sort (no mules, no slides). This cuts down on the noise issue & also rules out all flip flops. I find this to be a pretty decent guideline.

    Our CEO has been know to call people out at our staff meetings for being “best dressed” & encouraging everyone else to up their game, so if anything my office tends to fall on the fashion show-y side of things, rather than overly casual.

    • We have the same rule in the (large, commercial) bank I work in and it works well.

      I think the bigger issue with the situation that we’re all replying to is about the type of person who would get so worked up over flip-flops. I appreciate people who will stand up and fight for actual problems, but this just seems stupid, IMO. I used to manage all the admin. assistants in a large department and we had a person like this. At the first opportunity I found another department for her to work in.

      Also, I think the implication that any other type of shoe is out of her reach is pushing it. I put myself through college working a low paying clerical job and I was able to find plain black and brown shoes at Goodwill and Payless for less than $20. I may have only had two pairs of shoes for work, but they were not flip-flops.

      Finally, I’m in Texas and I empathize with the heat issues. I actually put medical/first aid tape on the pads of my feet or around my little toe or other places where my shoes might rub and it helps with the blisters. Because the adhesive is so strong, it won’t wear off when your feet sweat. Sometimes the adhesive can “gunk up” on your skin, but make-up remover for waterproof make-up takes it right off (I use the Almay wipes) .

  35. SuperAnon :

    At the biz-cas law firm where I work, the HR admin often walks around in bare feet. Including the kitchen, bathroom, reception, etc.

    • ew.
      I can’t even imagine someone walking around at work barefoot. So gross and unprofessional.

      • Maddie Ross :

        I’ve done it after hours if I wear new or uncomfortable shoes. Although, only in my own office and maybe out to the printer about 15 feet away. I would never (EVER) go in a bathroom in bare feet except my own at home.

  36. Any suggestions on dress sandals that are more shoe than foot? I had a nice pair last year, they were leather slides but the top part went pretty far back on my foot, and the shoe actually didn’t “flop” at all, with a 2 1/2 inch heel. Dressy enough for work, with pants, anyway, I never wore them with a skirt or dress. But, they are kind of worn, and I need a new pair. And I can’t find any. All the dress sandals I’ve found are either 4 inch heels, or extremely bare, much more foot than shoe.

    • For example, imagine this shoe with solid leather across the top, instead of the straps. That’s similar to what I had (which were also softspots brand), and what I’d like to find.


    • Ooh, I really like these ones:


      • I like those too, actually have them in my shopping bag. I just don’t like slingbacks much, the straps always slide off, and I have to bend down constantly to pull them into place, or lose my shoes. I think the backs of my ankles are deformed or something, those straps just don’t stay up. Oh well, I may get them anyway, they’re cute.

        • Do you have to wear hose at your workplace? If not, try regular old Scotch double-stick tape to keep your sling backs in place! It’s amazing. Just be sure to remove gently if you’ve worn all day.

  37. Just Another Lawyer :

    I work in the DC office of an LA biglaw form and people really push the limits of the dress code, particularly the Administrative Assistants. I personally do not feel comfortable with flip flops or sneakers during the week. Typically the women wear pumps – peep toes are fine, as are slingbacks. Dressy sandals are borderline M-Thursday but I think you can wear them. However, I’d only consider them on a Friday. I typically wear 2.5″ to 3.25″ pumps or occasionally flats. In winter, I also wear boots (dressier styles).

  38. Anonymous :

    I used to work at a Biglaw firm where the policy on women’s shoes was: open-toe or open-heel, but not both.

    • I never understood this rule. There are dressy sandals that show your toes and your heel.

  39. My former place of work once held a fashion show for all the employees with examples of what to wear and what not to wear. The “not to wear” examples were all modeled by senior staff – hilarious!

  40. SF Bay Associate :

    I posted this in the cami thread, but this thread seems to be the hot one. Time is always of the essence in these clearance sales! So:

    Nordstrom anniversary sale markdowns are online! Yesterday, there was maybe 1.5k items on sale, and today it’s more than 5.3k. They usually start posting them on a rolling basis on the Monday before the sale (which always begins Wednesday). Today is no different. My credit card is already sizzling (most of it is going back, I swear!), and I’m sure I’ll swing through it again with more updates and more time. Several of the weekly suits are now on sale, including the beautiful Nanette Leopore white one, and the Classiques one with the hook and eye suit jacket closure, which I ordered among other things.

    There is a ton of designer markdowns, including Armani and Burberry.

    Strike while the iron is hot :)!

  41. Anonymous :

    My office has casual Fridays where we can wear nice capris and sandals in the summer but no jeans or flipflops. I was thinking of wearing my Jack Roger Navajos soon. They go between the toe, but are far from a rubber thong, thoughts? (the other women in my office aren’t much guidance)

    • I think those are what we have been calling “dressy sandals.” If senior women are wearing sandals with capris, I think it would probably be ok. But get your cues from them.

      (I didn’t know what Jack Roger Navajos were, but looked them up. http://www.zappos.com/jack-roger-navajo )

    • Those are flipflops. Sorry. Absolutely not ok in a no jeans or flipflops office.

      This is the sort of thing we’re talking about when we say dressy sandals:


  42. If I were Shoe Czarina for a day, I’d permanently ban shoes that make it look like women are more concerned about their appearance than their job, or that require the wearer to put thought into the simple acts of standing up and walking. No 4″ heels, none of the stupid platforms, with or without high heels,’that you see at the mall. Women with professional positions would simply have to look like they were serious. If they couldn’t do without their Candys, we’d see if there was a secretarial position open for them.

  43. She should have not been hired :)

  44. Yeah, our managing partner HATES flip flops because they make noise and he’s known for noticing shoes (he has three daughters). I think nice sandals are okay only on casual Friday. I’ve noticed though the support staff wears them whenever, and us attorneys have to be ready to be presentable at all times (read heels or very nice flats). Guess it comes with the territory. I love my flip flops, but I save them for when I’m “off duty.”

  45. Atleast most of you guys have ‘office rules’. we have none (biz casual + hot weather all year round) and people turn up in:

    – flip flops
    – 5″ strappy ‘h__ker’ heels
    – army boots
    – cutesy bridesmaid type sandals

    I could go on and on…..

  46. Booklover :

    I am on the faculty at a community college, and this is stated in the employee handbook re: women’s shoes: Dress and casual shoes are appropriate, except for flip-flops.

  47. I am a corporate lawyer in South Asia. While our firm doesn’t have a fixed “policy” on shoes – frankly, there are many more urgent administrative issues than what’s on people’s feet, and an overdose of policing just makes professional life (already hard, with crazy deadlines and tough clients) even harder – people usually have the good sense to limit their butterfly twists and flip-flops to within the office only, and I’ve never known anyone to be stupid enough to wear them to client meetings or outdoor meetings / conferences.

    Shoes in which your toes are revealed, or strappy sandals – as long as they look elegant, and people’s feet aren’t smelly or uncared for, it’s really no one else’s beeswax. If someone has smelly feet, best to bring that to their attention rather than outlaw strappy shoes altogether. What worries me about this kind of policing is that there can be no end to it – some idiot in admin can decide what kind of hairstyle is acceptable, what kind of makeup, what kind of eyewear – I think of any of this is truly outlandish, it’s more effective for a senior person to bring it to the attention of the person rather than prescribe a stringent code for absolutely everyone to follow. We spend 15 hours or more at work everyday – I think it’s ok to be able to bring a little bit of “self” through the door.

  48. Not law, but I work in the Midwest. No office I’ve worked for has allowed flip flops (and neither job had major client interaction).

    My current company’s dress code includes pictures of unacceptable and acceptable items. It’s actually a huge help! Some women do wear kitten heeled sandals that look a lot like flip flops, but because of the heel (as defined by the photos) is okay.

    If this admin is challenging the policy, I’d probably take her aside and have a private conversation. Stress that if she persues things, the policy will be tightened and then she will HAVE to comply. If you’re young without a lot of extra money, two pairs of work shoes is enough to get you through the week. No, it’s not ideal, but you can make those two work in a pinch – and they don’t have to be super expensive either.

  49. Couldn’t vote, because all of the above were okay at my firm last summer! Obviously not for court or client meetings, but otherwise, it was a pretty casual place. Although for “flip flops,” I think non-plastic would be preferred. Honestly, I love thong-style sandals because I have wide feet, and they always fit, so it’s a comfort thing, and I think they get unfairly maligned. (The really loud flap-flap noise is kind of an issue, but some are louder than others.)

  50. at my office what is not allowed is: flip-flops, sneakers [except for medical situations], mules or other shoes in which the heel is not secured [i.e. sling-backs that dont stay up], stilletto heels [have to be very careful with kitten heels], and any heels over 2.5″ regardless of style. the over arching goal of our shoe policy is to keep the shoe securly on the foot and reduce potential incidents.

  51. I love reading this site, but my office (a small public interest law firm) is truly anything goes. One partner walks around in bare feet; another wears t-shirts from the ’80s. That said, we all have suits hanging on the back of our doors and conservative pumps or oxfords in our drawers for when we need to run to court.

  52. We have a complete lack of dress policy at my office. And flip flops, for me, are about as comfortable as it gets in the summer. HOWEVER. I still won’t wear them to the office. My compromise is a “real” sandal in a flip-flop-like thong style. I collect ’em. (In fact, here’s a post I wrote about the subject: http://www.closet-coach.com/2010/11/23/what-to-pack-for-a-10-day-winter-trip/)

    But I will admit that my beloved Kate Spade thong sandals make me go click-clack-click-clack all the way when I walk down an escalator!

  53. I am an appellate attorney who never meets with clients and sits in my office with the door closed all day. Needless to say, I wear flip flops on my regularly pedicured feet.

  54. My department bans flip-flops, sandals are ok in the office. If you have to go into the field (railroad tracks, construction site or warehouse), break out the company provided work boots.

    IMO, if you’re going to wear sandals, your feet should have been the recipient of a recent pedicure, whether by a professional salon, or done personally. This includes painted toenails. Calloused, cracked heels are not sandal or slingback ready.

    As an aside, many years ago, I was working in a very conservative (early 90’s, starched white shirts for the guys) department of a large firm. One of my co-workers broke his foot, and was coming into the office with an open-toed cast and no sock. The hairy toes weren’t bad enough, one day he fell asleep at home, and his wife and daughter painted his toenails a lurid lime green. Our boss caught wind of this, and my co-worker was instructed not to come back with his lime green toenails.

  55. So many comments! This is obviously a hot topic. IMHO women mostly wear open shoes to look cute, sexy, pretty, appealing, etc. None of which are particularly relevant in the work environment.

    I have NEVER worn open shoes to work. I can’t imagine my co-workers wanting to see my gnarly toes any more than I want to see theirs (particularly guys!) I feel that it could be distracting and I want to be neither a victim nor a perp! Most offices have air-conditioning, so the comfort factor doesn’t come into play.

    And, for big-city commuters, wearing open shoes on the subway or on other public transit is downright dangerous, whether you realize it or not. Flips flops, open mules, and other beachy footwear can snag or trip you on the platform, on stairs and on closing doors. So, please end the debate and JUST SAY NO to open shoes at work!

  56. This culture (America) has a bit of a “foot phobia”. In other countries, wearing sandals, even at work/in the office, for both men and woman, is completely acceptable. I think it’s important that we realize this is a cultural thing.

    That being said (being an American), I think if a woman wants to wear sandals to work (not sure about flip flops), a pedicure (home or professional) is important and necessary. And yes, please use colored polish. There are some chemical-free versions if that is a concern. In addition, (while it’s not politically correct to say so perhaps), white women need to be particularly careful as their unpedicured feet are often far more unsightly than women of color.

  57. Having just returned from my 13th trip to Turkey, I would like to report not a sandal in sight in the offices of sunny, palm-filled Istanbul. Otherwise, the women are chic and totally contemporary (in a country with a mean age about 10 years younger than the U.S.) . So… whose culture are we talking about here?

    It occurs to me that the relaxation of the American business dress code correlates with the relaxation of women’s concerns about parity with men in jobs, salaries and opportunity. It’s a false sense of security! DON’T confuse ease of dress with equality of opportunity. It’s a false barometer.

    Secretaries may feel that wearing sandals to work is a victory of sorts. Female CEOs almost certainly do not. Check the feet of America’s top executive women. That would bee a telling sign.

  58. Sharon TN :

    We have a Dress Code in place. No flipflops, sandals or open-toe shoes are acceptable.

    It amazes me how many people seem to *think* wearing flipflops and other too casual footware is acceptable for work. Not only is prohibiting this practice a question of aesthetics; it could be a question of safety too.

    I think it was subordination for the Administrative person to say she intended to take her case for wearing flipflops higher, when she was already being told that wearing flipflops to work violated the rules. I say, get rid of this person now, as she will probably continue to be a “problem” employee later.

    Also, a comment on the post that stated (paraphrasing here) that lower-paid employees cannot be expected to buy expensive clothes for the office: I agree that these staff *cannot* be expected to buy expensive clothes to work in the office; however, they*should* be expected to *look* professional at work. That said, professional clothing is available in every price range and staff needs to be held accountable for appearances when at work.

  59. We too have a dress code with pictures. It really does help. Flip-flops are banned. Most other shoes are approved, including sandals for men. We are business casual dress, which leans greatly toward the casual side.

    I work for a large healthcare nonprofit. We are in the deep south where I honestly never, ever put away my open-toed shoes because 11.5 months of the year, its warm enough to wear them. That said, if i am giving a presentation, meeting with someone importants, etc., I wear close-toed shoes. I keep a pair of basic dress pumps in nude-to-me under my desk.

  60. I kick my shoes off all the time. If a job has to worry about if your shoes are on or not then I will need to leave.

    We can wear thong sandals as long as they are taller than an inch.

    We can wear sandals that have a ring around the big toe no problem.

  61. I am a small business owner, and have 23 employees. I am not going to police people’s shoes. If someone comes in barefoot, flip flops, whatever – as long as their work gets done I don’t have a problem.

    I have been tempted to send people home for sandals with socks -but that is another story.
    Also, I HATE ashy elbows. However, I am not going to enforce a “Long sleeve shirt” rule because I hate elbows.

    Some of the dress code rules I have seen at some jobs have been crazy. And all of them said it was for “safety”. Like having an open shoe is going to cause you to fall while talking to a customer.

    Some of the dumb rules I have seen over the years:
    * You can have an open TOE shoe – or backless shoe – but not both? Sorry i am not sending someone home because they wore an open toe backless dressy 2″ sandal.
    * All open toe shoes must be worn with stockings (but closed toe shoes it is not required). Really? A clear piece of fabric that breaks when you touch it is going to make customers buy more service from you while you sit on the phone?
    * You may show 1 or 2 toes…but 3 or more is a sandal, and cannot be worn. Wow I didn’t know that our middle toes are now considered private parts.
    *A thong sandal must have a strap around the heel, but other open toe shoes cannot. I understand about the flip flop thing…but there are dressy thong sandals that have height to them.

    I have seen jobs look under desks to see if a call center employee has their shoes off. Some very good employees have been let go over this. I have seen someone sent home because they were standing talking to someone, and took one of their feet out of their heels!

    Sorry, but I am not going to worry about someone’s feet at work. People in nature don’t care to wear shoes all day (and I do not either). Just look professional otherwise & we are good.

  62. I don’t understand why some people think it’s alright to wear flip flops to an office. I feel like the only time it is acceptable to wear flip flops to work is if you are a lifeguard.

  63. sick of the flapping :

    I’m ready to freaking scream sitting here listening to the smack smack smack smack of these UNPROFESSIONAL people wearing flip flops, strappy sandals, etc. as they walk around. UGH!!!!

  64. While I appreciate the sentiment, there is a new reality for modern-day professionals.

    Specifically, the term “professional” no longer bares any relation to “professional attire.” To be professional simply means to be good at something and make a living doing it.

    For more thoughts, check out my brand new book “Professionalism in Flip Flops.” I think you’ll be delighted as it brings new light to this controversial subject matter. To learn more about the book and to read a free chapter, check out professionalisminflipflops.com.


  65. cut these lil cactus needles off into an envelope, then sprinkle them around the office , especially in the cubicles where the perps are sitting. They wont be wearing those annoying flip flops for long.

    LINK: http://images.fineartamerica.com/images-medium-large-5/tiny-red-cactus-needles-geralyn-palmer.jpg

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