Best Shoes For A Business Casual Event Reviewed
You might think that there’s no need to worry about how you’re dressed at a business casual event, but you’d be wrong! We know, we know. This dress code can be very confusing for everyone involved. What’s considered too formal, or too casual?
Depending on your company, this can mean a lot of different things, but beachwear and flip-flops, or gym attire are definitely not acceptable outfits. Then again, a full suit and tie or a cocktail dress and dress pumps might be too much, so what should you do?
Well, we have created a guide for business casual footwear in order to help you with your confusion. There are many guidelines regarding clothes online, but shoes are always confusing, especially at events like these. Read on to discover what kind of shoes work the best!
In a Hurry? The test winner after 6 hrs of research
Thick Ribbed Strap
Soft System Technology
- LifeStride Solace
- Sperry Seaport
- Ted Baker Camroon
- FRYE Erica
- Clarks Tilden
- Stacy Adam's Slocomb
- Rockport Derby Wingtip
- Anne Klein Onmyway
- Cole Haan Lenox
- Nine West Xaeden
- Criteria Used for Evaluation
- Other Factors to Consider
- Frequently Asked Questions
Top 10 Picks
1. LifeStride Solace
Thick Ribbed Strap
Soft System Technology
Heel Tip Is Flimsy
This dress pump combines comfort with refurbished style to help you stay on point all day long. They are 100% synthetic, meaning they are guilt-free and light. The very first thing you can notice on them is the thick, chunky strap, ribbed for an even prettier aesthetic. This strap will keep you secured, combined with the strap that goes around your ankles. They come in a black and taupe color, both fit for many different styles.Read more
The toes are pointy, but there’s enough room for you to feel comfortable. Just like every LifeStride shoe, the Solace features their soft system. This is a three-part system that helps you stay cozy, as it supports your arches and lets you bend your feet as much as you need to. The insole is high-rebound, keeping its shape and ensuring you always have an optimal fit. The heel is cushioned, lessening the impact you feel while you walk on the high heels. And just in case you are a bit on the clumsy side, they were designed for stability and balance!
2. Sperry Seaport
Penny Loafer Style
Beef Roll Details
Genuine Leather Linings
Fully Cushioned Footbed
You might not think that Sperry would create footwear that is more on the formal side, yet here we are, and we are glad they did! The Seaport penny loafer is what any slip-on shoe should strive to be. They are 100% leather, colored in various hues so you have plenty of options. The beef rolls on the sides improve the construction and also act as interesting details. They got their name because they resemble actual beef cuts, as you can probably see.Read more
The sock lining is genuine leather as well, keeping you dry and smelling nice. The footbed is fully cushioned with a memory foam, which will keep its shape no matter how much you wear it down. The strobel construction improves their flexibility, helping you stay on track. They even have a leather welt, which increases their durability, negating the need to buy a new pair every year. A durable rubber outsole keeps you going, and adds enough grip and balance.
3. Ted Baker Camroon
Bovine Leather Upper
Handy Pull Tab
Decorated Elastic Gore Panels
Ted Baker Branding Stamp
The Camroon Chelsea boots are what any sensible fashionable person needs to have in their closet. Their upper is made out of bovine leather, which is just a fancy way to say calf leather, but the quality and fit remain unchanged. The gore panels are elastic, and they allow you to slip easily into the boot. Speaking of the panel, it has trendy repeat print pattern that will bring out the mature side in everyone. A handy pull tab sits at the top of the heel counter allowing you to pull them on even easier.Read more
The linings inside are leather as well, handling your heat and moisture like champs. No matter how long you end up wearing, you will be just as fresh and dry as when you first put them on! The insole is lightly padded, helping you stay on your feet as long as you need to. The short stacked heel provides comfort and much-needed arch support, alleviating joint and foot sole aches.
4. FRYE Erica
Antiqued Leather Upper
Slim Waxed laces
One Inch Heel
This fashion-forward Oxford is just what your business casual attire needs to be completed. The trendy leather upper is full of feminine charm, tanned with vegetable to create the smooth color. The slim laces are waxed, making it easy to lace the up when you need to. The best part is, the shoe is handcrafted, meaning it had to go through rigorous quality control, so there is no room for error!Read more
The linings inside are leather, keeping you safe from moisture and bad smells. The footbed is lightly padded, helping you stride with confidence and ease. The short one-inch heel helps you stay supported, and adds traction and balance. The outsole is rubber, adding even more traction and grip, so you’ll be safe in the slickest of weather.
5. Clarks Tilden
Memory Foam Insole
Loose Around Ankles
Clarks is a company well known for creating super cozy and stylish footwear, and that is just what the Tilden is. This slip-on loafer is padded all around, helping you stay carefree and happy. They are made out of leather, just like any other proper dressy shoe is. The leather comes in neutral, calm tones, versatile enough to be combined with plenty of outfits. A little elastic strip sits near the entrance, making it easy to slip them on.Read more
The leather is also very breathable, helping you stay properly ventilated and dry. The insole is padded with memory foam. The memory foam is remarkable, as it adapts to the shape of your feet almost instantly, and it returns to their original shape in mere seconds after you take them off. It also breathes very well, just like the leather, so there is no possible way for your feet to be dry and smelly! The sole is very flexible, allowing you to bend your feet enough to walk naturally without straining. They are also very light, which ensures you won’t get tired fast.
6. Stacy Adam's Slocomb
Double Monk Strap
Memory Foam Cushions
Color Rubs Off
Not True To Size
The Slocomb is a refurbished monk-strap that combines the casual with formal, upping your style in an instant. They are suede, meaning they have a soft, luxurious upper and a cozy interior. The double monk strap is topped off with two silver buckles and a cap toe. Just be careful not to get the dirty, as suede is very sensitive to water and you’ll have a tough time cleaning them!Read more
The insole is fully cushioned with memory foam. The memory foam is light, breathable and absorbs shock, saving your joints from pain and aches. The construction is durable, complete with breathable leather linings, keeping you dry for a long time to come. The outsole is flexible with etching on the midsole, and a heel for added traction, keeping you safe from slipping around.
7. Rockport Derby Wingtip
EVA Heel Cup
Tough Break In
Derby wingtips are what any person familiar with business casual events should have, so it was only logical we included this wingtip in our guide. The characteristic wingtip spans all the way to the sides and is decorated with many different perforations, adding to their sleek silhouette. They are leather, that comes in earthy versatile tones.Read more
The slim laces match the color of the shoes well, making them a little bit more serious. The footbed that sits inside is Ortholite. Ortholite footbeds are regarded as some of the best insoles out there because they are light, cozy and flexible! Also, you can easily take them out to wash them whenever you like. The heel cup is EVA, so you will have a proper, durable fit for a long time. The construction is cement, meaning this shoe will last for a long time.
8. Anne Klein Onmyway
Strip Of Metal Details
Gel Infused Insole
Small Toe Box
The Onmyway flat was made for all-day comfort and style. Their d’Orsay silhouette slims down your feet and makes you look graceful. They are synthetic, and their upper is decorated with a strip of metal details sitting on top of the toes, shining as you walk. Their simple style and classic lines will match any outfit you have hidden away in your closet.Read more
They have an easy slip-on construction, so you can easily go from casual to business in no time! The top line is elastic, so you won’t struggle to try to squeeze in them. The insole is gel infused. This means it will keep its shape for a very long time, offering the same amount of comfort. The cute semi-wedge heel adds style and helps you stay supported and balanced!
9. Cole Haan Lenox
Brown Has Reddish Toes
The Lenox is an ideal derby shoe to be worn both to the office and to a party! They are 100% leather, meaning they will ensure you have a great fit whenever you decide to put them on. The cap toe detail makes them a little bit less formal, and it also protects your toes and reinforces the construction. Both the colors available, tan and black, ensure they make a versatile fit, for any outfit you might wear.Read more
The tonal stitching makes them refurbished, while also reinforcing their construction as well. Slim laces act as a sleek detail, although you can’t use them to adjust the fit, they are purely decorative! The linings are leather too, and they will breathe and wick away moisture without a problem. The stacked heel adds arch support and makes them ideal for walking around all day.
10. Nine West Xaeden
Leather And Suede Upper
Toe Strap Is Tight
Just in case your company is a little bit relaxed and laid back, we decided to include the Xaeden sandal. It’s formal enough to pass at some business casual events, so enjoy their lovely silhouette all night long. They are leather, which comes in two calm hues and one hot pink color. The pink variation is made out of suede, making them even more sophisticated. The crisscross straps help secure you in and visually slim down your feet.Read more
The straps on this timeless sandals are complete with an adjustable buckle, which will help you mold the shoe to your liking, so you always have a great fit. The toes are open too, so you’ll have plenty of air, and you can show off that pedicure! The medium heel is glossy, contrasting the calm upper. And the outsoles are rubber, keeping you balanced and safe and sound.
Criteria Used for Evaluation
Comfort is one of the first things you should look for when buying business casual shoes or any shoe for that matter. But, since this will still be a business event, you do want to look your best and act your best, and you can’t do that if you have footwear on that bothers you and distracts you from casual chit-chat and what not. So, always make sure that the shoes you are buying are cozy; don’t sacrifice your health and well being for looking good!
Insoles play the biggest part in overall comfort. After all, it’s the part of the shoe where your feet will spend the most time on, so it’s important to find footwear that has proper insoles! Memory foam insoles are one of the best out there. You probably saw many commercials and ads talking about how great memory foam mattresses are, and if you’ve ever tried it, you know it’s true. So imagine walking on a set of two super cushy mattresses all the time!
Memory foam insoles will adapt to your shape almost instantly, ensuring you have a great fit every time. What makes them so special though is their ability to bounce back to their original shape as soon as you take the shoe off, so the amount of compression they will suffer over time is minimum, and they will always provide you with great levels of comfort and ventilation!
Ortholite footbeds are also one way to improve the comfort of shoes. These removable insoles found their way into many popular brands today, like Nike or Adidas, all because they have a lot of things to offer. When compared to regular insoles, Ortholite insoles have a compression set of less than 5%, meaning that the cushioning an fit will always remain the same. It’s made out of an open-cell PU foam. These open-cells allow moisture to dissipate easily, and they move it away from your feet, giving you a drier and healthier shoe environment. This foam is also very light, so there will be no added weight to tire down your feet. And the best part is, they are removable, so you can wash them in a machine! They will always come out looking and feeling like brand new, maintaining all of the benefits they had before.
Gel-infused insoles also decorate the inside of some of the shoes mentioned in our guide. These insoles, unlike the foam ones, have a certain type of gel filling them in. This gel also provides a good amount of comfort. Instead of compressing and shaping itself like foam, the gel reorganizes its density and composition, cushioning you just where you need it to. It will not compress at all since it is in a liquid state and it can just move around to accommodate your feet. This gel is also light, and it breathes well, so you will have proper ventilation and cushy comfort.
Lifestride is a company known for making cozy footwear, so it’s no surprise they have a special technology meant to improve the level of comfort even more. This is their three-part system meant to provide you with all-day comfort. All of their insoles are fitted with a high-rebound foam that provides a soft fit, while it breathes and dries you, keeping you fresh and happy. The liner also provides support, for stability and balance. No more arch pain! And, it’s highly flexible, so you won’t feel as much force as you walk, especially on high heels.
The materials your business casual shoes are made out of also play an important role. Imagine showing up in extravagant satin shoes, or in simple canvas sneakers? That wouldn’t be professional at all! So choosing the right kind of material can do wonders, and it could completely revamp your appearance.
Bovine leather is obviously the best choice here. This type of leather is the most common type, while the word bovine means that it came from cattle and nothing else. Just because it’s so common doesn’t mean it’s not valuable though, as leather does have plenty to offer! About 95% of products made out of leather are made out of bovine leather, so it’s pretty popular, and also because cattle are widely bred and available everywhere. If you worry about the ethics of leather farming, don’t!
If you enjoy eating meat and meat products, then you should know that the very leather that you’re wearing comes from the same animals, so nothing goes to waste. Although, if you’re completely against the meat industry, we understand, and that is why faux leather exists. This type of leather is the most durable and will outlast any kind of material that exists. The leather is pricey though, but it’s better to shell out a few extra than to buy medium-quality shoes over and over again. It’s also stiff and heavy, so you might have a hard time breaking it in and adjusting to the overall weight. It resists water and dirt, and it’s pretty easy to maintain. But, it’s also hard to dye leather, so your color options might be limited.
Suede is also a good choice for business casual events. This material also comes from animals, specifically the inner surface, which is visible once the leather is removed from an animal. Sometimes, suede is left just the way it is, upturned and not treated at all, but that takes away from all the qualities suede is known for. The majority of the time though, the leather gets split, revealing the soft, fuzzy underside we all know and love. Suede, if it’s made to be thicker, can be very durable, but still not as durable as leather is. The brushed face gives away the luxurious look ll suede has, which makes you look like a fashion star no matter what you might be wearing with it. Suede is pricey though, is a dirt magnet, and it absorbs water easily, making it a bad fit for wet seasons.
The most important thing when it comes to business casual attire is the style of your shoes. Only a few styles are acceptable, but depending on your company, they might be a little bit more laidback, so you’d have more options. We will discuss the most common types of shoes for these types of events though, as you can’t go wrong with these!
Of course, oxfords are the most common type of shoes seen at these events. They are the definition of smart shoes, so they should be a no-brainer, right? They are very versatile and can take you from school to super formal events, but you should be careful about the type of Oxfords though because many do exist and their formality varies. This shoe became popular on the grounds of Oxford University, which is where it takes its name from. You can easily recognize an Oxford shoe if you know what to look for. First, they sit under your ankle, meaning they are low cut. Secondly, they have low heels, which can be stacked.
Lastly, they have a lacing system that is stitched closed at the bottom. The lacing system is the number one difference between an Oxford and a derby shoe because Derby shoes have open lacing systems. Brogues exist too, and knowing the difference between the two can go a long way. Brogues are the perforations seen on the upper, which were meant to drain the water out of the shoe. Brogues are less formal than Oxfords and can work very well in a business casual environment. The most formal of the Oxfords are the plain toe, which is the number one choice for black tie events. The cap toe though is meant for business events, because it doesn’t have such a serious and mature silhouette.
Wingtips feature the shape of the letter M near the toes that resemble a bird in flight and have many perforations running alongside the edges, making them a great smart-casual shoe. The Balmorals look like wingtips, but they lack the perforations, making them more formal and mature. The saddle Oxfords are a rare find, and they originate from America. They feature a strip of leather in a different color, that runs around the middle and down to the soles. Last but not least, we have the whole-cut Oxfords, that are, like the name suggests, cut from only one strip of leather. They lack any detail but they are still casual enough to be the most versatile type you can find out there!
Chelsea boots are also a great smart-casual option. They are quite simple in design, and they have a dual panel elastic gore on the sides that will stretch to make putting them on and off easier. A pull tab often sits on the heel counter, making it even easier to slide your feet in. These boots date back to the Victorian era and have been worn by both men and women since they first saw the light of day.
Loafers are shoes that have no lacing or fasting systems and are instead simply slipped onto the foot. This is why sometimes they are regarded as a slip-on. Their construction was inspired by the moccasins Native Americans used to wear, although their style today varies greatly. Penny loafers are one of the most popular types. These loafers have a leather strap that goes over the forefoot, with a slot shaped like a diamond big enough to fit a penny, hence the name.
Tassel or kiltie loafers were made by the Alden shoe company and then popularized but the Brooks Brothers. This loafer sports a decorative lace with a tassel on top. Gucci also introduced a type of loafer with a brass strap, making them a great choice for formal events. Moc loafers took a lot from traditional moccasins, as they have a stitch that runs along the top of the toes, just like real mocc’s have. Loafers usually don’t have high heels, but sometimes they can sport it. Loafers are not formal shoes, which is what makes them a great choice for business casual events.
And last but not least, we have the ballet flat. The ballet flat took a lot from pointe shoes, footwear made for ballet dancers. Just like the dance, the shoe is dainty, graceful and elegant, adding to the gentle tone ballet brings with it. Many people liked the footwear and desired to bring it out of the dance and into the fashion scene, and that surely did happen. Ballet flats are a very popular casual shoe today, but if they have the right set of details and colors, they can be transformed into formal shoes as well. They usually don’t have a heel, but a little-stacked one can be added, which is great because it provides us with arch support. A ballet flat is a great option for business casual events because it’s just formal enough to fit in with the scene.
When you have such an event that requires specific clothing and shoes, finding ones that will last for more than one event can be a lottery. This would mean that you are settled for future events too, but it’s still recommended to change them up sometimes. Durable shoes are always a win, as you will have a trusty pair you can always throw on. Their durability is affected by the material they are made out of. Leather is super hardy and lasts for a long time, making the most durable shoe out there. If they are paired with welts, you will have shoes that could last even several decades! Suede is durable too, but it tears easily and can’t be compared to leather. Of course, textile lasts the least, requiring changing after a few seasons.
The construction also affects their overall durability. Shoes that are stitched together usually last the longest, since glue tends to give after a few uses, meaning you can kiss the soles goodbye. Reinforced toes and heels also save the life of one shoe, because these areas are the first that give in. Durable outsoles also help, since they are what you walk on, and having flimsy outsoles won’t help your case!
You should also consider the color of the shoe you will be buying. Bold, vibrant colors and wild patterns are not acceptable in this situation, although they can be if your company is laidback. These hues scream casual, and should not be worn to business events, even if they are a bit more casual. It’s always better to dress more formal than casual! So, which colors work in this situation?
Earthy colors, like tan, brown or taupe work the best. These colors are calm and neutral and can be matched with pretty much anything you have in your closet. Black is also great, and this is the most universal color out there. Choose colors like these and you will make no mistake at all!
Expert Interviews & Opinions
The heel height also plays an important role in shoe comfort. Don’t go too high, but don’t go too low as well. Heels that are too high will cause all-familiar pain and burning, affecting your git and health. But, heels that are too low, or non-existent, can also cause burning and arch pain, due to the lack of support. If you prefer shoes with low heels, be mindful! Ty them on first and see if they have enough support for your arches.
Incredibly, faux suede exists as well, and many people prefer it over real suede! Faux suede, or suedette, maintains all the benefits real suede has, without hurting animals, and without staining and fraying. It’s also much easier to clean, it’s not sensitive to water, and the best part, it’s significantly cheaper!
Classic Oxfords come with five eyelets but can sometimes come with more or less. The more important thing is how you lace them. The laces should match the color of the Oxford or the tone, should not be twisted and scrunched up, and should be parallel. Pull both ends of the lace through the bottom eyelets and pull them, making them horizontal. If you have five eyelets, keep one end shorter than the other, but if the number is even, keep the length even too. Then, pull the laces through the second eyelets on the same side, nd loop them through the third eyelet on the opposite side. Continue like that until you reach the top and voila, you’re done.
Other Factors to Consider
It can be intimidating when you have to buy shoes for an event you’ve never been to before, especially when that event can jeopardize your job. So, choosing the correct attire works wonders, and can even make you seem more responsible and mature. We hope our guide has helped you see what kind of footwear is acceptable on events like these, and that you have been able to make a choice from the various styles we have included!
Frequently Asked Questions
Although you might be quick to think that this means you can relax and dress in jeans and a shirt, what it really means is that you should still dress mature, but not too formal. It’s easy to be confused though, but just to be safe it’s better to dress on the formal side rather on the casual.
For men, dress slacks or chinos, a shirt that buttons down, and dress shoes, of course. Never wear polo shirts to an interview or events of those types, as they can be seen as too casual. You can also wear sweaters and cotton long-sleeves, ties, and leather shoes can never be wrong. For women, a skirt and dress slacks can work wonders, combined with a blouse, sweater and hosiery. Professional dresses can work too, just don’t go too formal!
Stilettos are party shoes, and should only be worn to evening events! They are too high for business casual events, and should be avoided at all costs if you don’t want to seem unprofessional!
Open toes and sides are viewed as casual, so you should be careful. If your company is a bit more relaxed, sandals will probably be okay, but if it’s your first time going to such an event, it’s better to go with closed toes!
Compared to business casual, smart casual is a combination of casual, business casual and business dress codes, where you combine these clothes in a “smart” way. You can wear jeans at events like these, but opt out for dressy jeans, without holes or tears.