10 Most Comfortable Shoe Brands
Your shoes are your most important accessory. After all, you need them to go out and actually get things done. But finding your sole mate is a process. Sure, you could just buy a pair of discounted booties or sneakers and call it a day—but when you realize that it’s not just about “breaking them in,” no, they’re actually uncomfortable—it feels like wasted money. This is why it’s so important to do your homework ahead of time and understand what’s going to make your feet live happily ever after. Here, you’ll find everything you need to know:
How do you define “comfortable shoes,” exactly?
It’s not a sexy answer, but podiatrists say defining a comfortable shoe is totally based on individual preference and the purpose they’re trying to serve. “It depends on your foot structure, as well as the purpose for when or how you’re going to be using them,” says Diane Koshimune, DPM, a podiatrist based in San Jose, CA, and a spokesperson for the American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA). For example, shoes for plantar fasciitis should have ample arch support (likewise, people with flat feet have fallen arches and need flexible medial posts for stability). People with bunions should look for shoes with a wide toe box and soft, flexible materials so your toes don’t feel constricted.
With this in mind, there are some shoe brands that promote comfort more than others, and that’s where the APMA comes in. Shoes (plus socks and insoles) that are awarded the APMA seal of acceptance mean they meet the criteria for good foot health. In order to earn the seal of acceptance, a group of APMA podiatrists will evaluate the product to ensure that it has all the features and qualities that they feel promote healthy feet.
That said, there are many shoes out there that support good foot health but don’t have the APMA seal of acceptance. Allbirds, for example, is a Prevention favorite for its ultra-soft merino wool runners and tree dashers, which feature cushioned insoles and are made with eco-friendly castor bean oil and sugarcane materials.
“Shoes are an investment,” Dr. Koshimune says. “They protect feet from the elements, but they are also the connection between the body and the earth. If the foot has better posture, then the rest of the body will also have better alignment.”
Below, we’re highlighting four shoes that have impressed Prevention editors again and again. Then you’ll find top comfortable shoe brands for whatever else you need!
Comfortable Sneakers and Athletic Shoes
Whether you like walking, running, or HIIT for exercise, your shoes influence your sports performance. Running shoes need to have supportive cushioning in the arches and heels because that’s where you get the most impact, while cross training shoes emphasize flexible midsoles to help you stay agile during side-to-side movements and have heavier, wider soles to absorb weight from doing heavy lifts. Reebok and Nike make some of the best CrossFit shoes that provide solid grip for rope climbs and explosive movements like snatches.
Dr. Koshimune cites New Balance, ASICS, Brooks, Altra, Hoka One One, and Merrell as companies that offer a wide range of athletic shoes. While best known for heels and boots, Vionic also has an excellent active shoe line that includes comfortable walking shoes and slip-on sneakers. In fact, we named Vionic’s Satima sneakers the best overall walking shoe of 2019.
Pro tip: Dr. Koshimune notes that women with wide feet might benefit more from wearing men’s athletic shoes. “Shoes with a flexible upper such as a fabric might be better for wide or bony feet,” she says. “Making sure that there’s not a seam over those bony prominences may also improve comfort.”
Brooks lives and breathes running. Its philosophy: Running can make you a happier and better person. Every inch of fabric, cushioning, and outsole is conceived around the very act of pounding pavement.
No matter what kind of runner you are, Brooks offers a variety of motion-control and stability pairs made with supportive cushioning and arch support. Many of its running shoes are designed with DNA Loft cushioning, which provides just the right amount of underfoot support and responsiveness for energy efficiency. They’re also built with GuideRails technology that offers medial support so your feet stay in place with each stride.
Founded in Japan, ASICS is an acronym for “Anima Sama In Corpore Sano,” which translates to “you should pray for a healthy mind in a healthy body.” The idea is that with the right shoes, you can thrive in life and in sport. This company mantra lives on today with ASICS’s shoe technology, which includes gel cushioning, a guidance system that promotes external heel counter to reduce ankle movement, and other stability features for even weight distribution and soft landings. Athletes love ASICS shoes like the FlyteFoam Lyte, which offers lightweight yet supportive cushioning, and the FlyteFoam Propel, which is all about high-energy return.
New Balance offers a superb balance of fashion and function with its athletic shoes, but the company is also serious about foot health. The New Balance RX program pairs your doctor’s recs with a certified retail partner to help you find your best shoe. New Balance’s shoes come in a variety of widths and lasts to accommodate different foot shapes and sizes. These kicks are also designed with arch types in mind, whether you’re flat footed, have high arches, or a normal arch.
Comfortable Work Shoes
For people like food service workers, healthcare employees, hair stylists and mail carriers that spend all day on their feet, you’ll need supportive shoes that are durable and lightweight but also slip-resistant. Brands like Dansko, Skechers, and Vionic make cushioned shoes for nurses and others who stand all day at work.
But for those who have the traditional 9-to-5 desk job, there are plenty of comfortable but polished options out there (a.k.a. here). When shopping for dress shoes and heels, Dr. Koshimune recommends looking for ones with a platform design and cushioning under the ball of the foot for the most support. Note that these type of shoes aren’t meant to be worn while walking long distances, so you may need to pack a separate “commuter” pair.
Vionic is revolutionizing the very idea of comfy shoes. They’re designed by podiatrists and have the APMA seal of acceptance, but they’re also impressively stylish. One stand-out feature: Vio-Motion Support, which hugs the natural curves of your feet to match your gait and provides stability. Other supportive features like stabilizing heel seats, contoured orthotic footbeds, deep heel cups, removable insoles, and ball-of-foot cushioning are what you can expect from any new pair.
The OG of comfortable designer footwear, Naturalizer has been creating shoes made to contour a woman’s foot since 1927. Its proprietary N5 contour technology provides cushioned comfort for stylish, fashion-forward shoes. Naturalizer also uses high-quality materials to craft its shoes, equipping them with flexible outsoles and breathable uppers, and smooth lining.
Since 1825, Clarks puts comfort first when designing sophisticated shoes for women, men, and kids. All of its shoes are built with Ortholite cushioning, which helps reduce foot strain and absorbs impact. They’re also breathable and flexible, and use sustainable, recycled materials. This year, Clarks became founding members of the Leather Working Group, which works with suppliers, brands, and retailers to promote eco-friendly business practices in the leather industry.
As we gear up for winter, a pair of well-insulated, waterproof boots will keep your feet warm and dry from rain, snow, and whatever else Mother Nature throws our way. Dr. Koshimune recommends boots with ample room in the toe box and removable inserts, so you can add your own orthotics for better arch support. It’s also important for boots to have proper ankle support, like a lace-up style or zip closure. This prevents rolling of the ankles, which can obviously lead to injury.
Merrell has been designing comfortable hiking boots, trail runners, and casual shoes for more than three decades. Merrell’s design philosophy is built on four pillars: comfort, durability, design, and versatility. That’s why Merrell’s boots are all made with an anatomical footbed with built-in heel counter and arch support. They also have air cushioning in the heel to absorb shock and provide stability, and grippy outsoles for traction on slippery surfaces and uneven terrain.
A brand that prides itself on giving back to local causes that support the environment, Keen uses sustainable manufacturing processes in its Portland headquarters to create its boots and shoes. Keen has partnered with the Outdoor Industry Association, the Leather Working Group, and the Sustainable Apparel Coalition to promote good environmental business practices in the footwear industry. The company is all about creating comfortable shoes for enjoying the outdoors, too. Many of its boots are top rated for dual-dense footbeds that cradle the ankle and heel and all-terrain rubber outsoles for superior grip.
Dr. Koshimune says Birkenstock and OluKai are great sandal and flip flop brands with built-in arch support and cushioning. “However, depending on the use, sandals such as Teva, Keen, or Chaco could help to hold the shoe onto the foot better than a standard flip flop design, which doesn’t place as much strain on the toes that function to grip the sandal,” Dr. Koshimune says. “Over time, the tendons that are working overtime to hold onto the shoe begin to fatigue and even can become inflamed,” she explains.
Founded in 1774, Birkenstock has a long history of crafting some of the most supportive flip flops, sandals, clogs, sneakers, and boots. Birkenstock takes pride in having launched contoured footbeds back in the 1930s. These signature footbeds in Birkenstock’s bestselling sandals are anatomically shaped; provide ample toe room and toe grip; have a deep heel cup for cushioning; are made with shock-absorbing soles; and have a soft suede footbed liner that keeps your feet dry as a desert. Speaking of warm climates, start with the Arizona, a double-strapped sandal with adjustable buckles.
OluKai’s approach to footwear is all about sustainability, style, and comfort. Built with Hawaiian craftsmanship as an eco-friendly brand, OluKai uses recycled rubber in its outsoles and sources premium leathers from environmentally conscious tanneries. The shoes are inspired by the shape of bare feet. Based on the company’s Wet Sand Principle, its anatomical footbeds have medial and lateral arch support and a deep heel cup that cradles your foot in place. If you’re looking for a comfortable pair of flip flops that can withstand sand, water, and salt, water-resistant OluKai’s sandals are great for spending a day on the beach. OluKai Ohana flip flops are one of our reader favorites.
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