Is there such a thing as a stylish orthotic shoe for the office?

Occupational Health and Safety requires the wearing of shoes in workplaces. Strictly speaking, they should also be closed-toe to protect feet from tools falling onto exposed toes and be sturdy enough to enable the wearer to evacuate in the event of emergency. These requirements have been enshrined in many a workplace dress code.

Any self-respecting fashionista (amateur or otherwise) knows that shoes maketh the outfit; no other accessory quite makes a suit or trusty work frock as the addition of a fab pair of shoes. In a work context shoes are particularly important. I have stood in coffee queues in the business district and seen how the entire queue silently sizes up fellow suits by the style of their shoes – the judging can be fierce. Shoes say lots about our degree of taste and personality and there are so many different styles, colours, textures or embellishments that we can choose from to form our own impressive workplace armoury.

So what do you do when you realise that the perfect-looking-shoe recommended in magazines actually hurt your feet? That they make you hobble about awkwardly – or worse- in pain? I am not a health practitioner so when I see that my personal styling clients are struggling with their shoes, I suggest they consider seeing a physiotherapist who will help identify whether the condition is acute (i.e. caused by a recent injury, like the time I fell down a flight of stairs wearing Delmans, the shoe legendarily favoured by the likes of Marilyn Monroe) or chronic which means that it’s a longer term situation that needs to be managed. If the condition is chronic, you will likely be referred to a podiatrist who will examine your feet through a series of tests to see whether orthotics are required.

My own my podiatrist found that I had flat feet and advised I look for wider shoes with a bit of a heel to encourage the foot to “grip” so that the foot maintains its arch. However a podiatrist might find differently for you so it’s important to get your own diagnosis. Generally speaking though, if you are fitted with an orthosis (an insert to support or help fix your feet muscles and bones), you will need to find shoes that have removable inserts so that you can put your own in.

Needless to say, not many female shoes come with removable inserts and in my own experience, orthotic shoes are hideous and even worse when paired with work attire. Shoe shopping has become a difficult experience and one that has honestly at times, reduced me to tears. How is one supposed to exercise good taste, confidence or competence when faced with shoes like this:

ziera orthotic shoes 2014

Orthotic shoe styles… :0


Shoes that are good for your feet

comfortable office shoes

(Clockwise form top left) From Corporate to Smart Casual – comfortable shoe styles to suit your office dresscode: Ziera Ophelia shoe | Ferragamo Varina Classic Bow shoesBared Puffin Oxford | &Attorney Flinders |

While their offering for corporate fashionistas with orthopedic needs is by no means perfect – yet – I’m keeping a keen eye on the following labels:

Ziera is a New Zealand based company who try hard to make stylish orthotic shoes. While their “orthotic” range  has at time reduced me to tears, I have found shoes in their main line that at least allow me to put my inserts in them. Regular BusiChics will be familiar with their Oxford heeled bootie that I wore for most of The Little Black Dress Project. It’s not the perfect solution but the most decent compromise I’ve found for Corporate.

Bared. Created by podiatrist, Anna Baird, I’ve been admiring the weekend shoe offering of colourful and stylish sandals and not to mention casual boots and loafers (pictured above) as the weather gets cooler. As far as I can tell these shoes don’t take inserts however all Bared shoes feature the unique functional footbed which are designed to support the arch while cushioning the foot. If you work in a casual environment, I’d highly recommend checking out Bared who also have an offering for men.

I’m hoping to secure an interview with Anna in the coming weeks so let me know if you have any questions for her.

I’m also interested in &Attorney shoes who are designed and made in Melbourne using old-school foot lasts (that’s the mold that are used to make shoes) from a time when we didn’t need things like orthotics. While there were some great heeled sandals that could be worn to work over the summer, the winter is still looking stylish but decidedly more casual.

At the higher end of the market, Ferragamo make their classic bow Varina style flats in a variety of widths to accommodate and support feet. Ferragamo famously made Dorothy’s ruby red slippers for the Wizard of Oz and I’ve spied many a stylish lady – including expectant mothers – sporting these shoes at work in style. Bared has a range of ballet-style flats for under $300 while British fashion blogger, Susie Lau, scours eBay for her pairs!

Wear orthotic shoes with a cropped pant or pencil skirt

Personally I find that wide leg or longer skirts look frumpy on me when pair with orthotic shoes; if you’re tall and of athletic build, you might not have this problem. If you are like me, do like Audrey Hepburn and team the style with a cropped pair of pants. Loafers and supportive ballet flats are your friend. I’ve also found that a fitted pencil skirt can look smart when layered with a belted cardigan and anchored with a smart loafer or Ferragamo ballet flat.

For those in Corporate, you may wish to try a mary-jane style (like the Ziera style above) which has a strap going over the top of the shoe to keep your foot in. I especially look forward to cooler weather where I can wear opaque black stockings to make less-attractive shoes, less conspicuous!

Recommended reading

If you enjoyed reading this article, you might also like to read:

  • This particular blog post was prompted by some comments on this Women’s Agenda post asking for recommendations on how to wear flat shoes to work- which I briefly answer in this style post.
  • High heels a painfully low point for hundreds” where podiatrist, Dr Cylie Williams, shares the results of her study finding that, “anything over seven centimetres places you at great risk of ankle injury, just due to how the foot is positioned, and no amount of muscle strength is going to change that.”
  • Are High Heels Really Bad for You” where, the writer seems to be that some sort of heel is desirable and that Shoes of Prey founder, Jodie Fox, has some amazing high-heel powers!
  • Lovely article about the makers of &Attorney, Mitch and Lauren Trickey, here on Broadsheet.
  • Finding stylish shoes I can wear to work is a long-running bug bear of mine as I live with the inconvenience of orthotics as I talk about in this post, “Right to Shoes“.

Have you found stylish orthotic shoes for the workplace? How do you wear yours to work?


  1. Thanks for the brand recommendations, but I think you mean ‘orthopedic’ and ‘lasts’ when it comes to feet and shoes, and not ‘orthodontic’ and ‘blasts’?

    • Hi Shay – you’re right, it is “lasts”!

      I’ve also done a bit of fact checking – here are the definitions for anyone else who might be interested:

      orthopedics: Orthopedics is the study of the musculoskeletal system. Orthopedic doctors specialize in diagnosis and treatment of problems of the musculoskeletal system. Source
      orthotics: Orthotics (Greek: Ορθός, ortho, “to straighten” or “align”) is a specialty within the medical field concerned with the design, manufacture and application of orthoses. An orthosis (plural: orthoses) is “an externally applied device used to modify the structural and functional characteristics of the neuromuscular and skeletal system”. Source

      And in case anyone is wondering – orthodontics:Orthodontics, formally Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics, is the first specialty of dentistry that is concerned with the study and treatment of malocclusions (improper bites), which may be a result of tooth irregularity, disproportionate jaw relationships, or both. Orthodontic treatment can focus on dental displacement only, or can deal with the control and modification of facial growth. In the latter case it is better defined as “dentofacial orthopaedics”. Source
      Definitely not this one in relation to feet!

      So based on this – I’ve changed all mentions to “orthotic” shoes as they are specifically designed to support and fix muscles and the skeletal system.

      Thanks Shay and let me know how you go with your shoes!

  2. This is such a dilemma! I usually bring my nice shoes in to wear in the office leaving me with the problem of finding good walking shoes that aren’t complete fug.
    And by walking, I mean trekking. I walk at least 7km a day to and from work which in summer its okay to wear little ballet flats. They have served me well. But coming into winter, I want some shoes that will also keep my feet DRY and with no catchy bits to snag my vintage seamed stockings on.
    Also – they must look good with vintage seamed stockings! This is difficult. I am beyond fussy when it comes to boots and I dont like flat ones at all. Being short, I find them very stumpifying.
    My idea of a solution is brogues or oxfords (what IS the difference??) and there’s a lot out there but again – fussy. Have you found any good brands that are comfortable? Do you think they’d look okay with stockings – even if its only the walk to work, I dont want to feel like a frump.
    I really wish there were more shoe brands out there making genuine reproduction 40s styles – there is only Remix but I wish there was more. 40s shoes weren’t crazy high and they had such a great shape to them. And you could get those neat galoshes that cover your shoe and save them from puddles.

    • Esz! Oh how I hear you!
      Yes, I’ll do a follow up post for you answering these questions. After this post I want to make sure I research it a bit more before I respond;) Let me know if you have any other questions!

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