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My Other Sneakers Are Manolos

By Amalah

I could use your guidance re: casual footwear…I’m always perplexed about the type of shoe to wear with jeans or casual trousers…like on a Saturday when I’m running errands around town or grabbing a quick bite with a friend. The goal is to be fairly comfortable but avoid the dreaded “frump” feeling that occurs when one wears jeans and sneakers. I know there are those Puma-type sneakers but sometimes the color schemes look clown-ish, loafers are SO dated and ballet flats are just too much when worn 24-7. If there is a stylish alternative out there, I’m sure you’re familiar with it!
Thanks a million.

Sneakers are frumpy? Loafers are dated? Oh. Shit.
Okay, so I could spend an hour on Zappos finding links to casual footwear I like, but that’s 1) boring, and 2) dangerous, because I have zero money to spend on casual footwear right now. Also I already have plenty of casual footwear, and despite me now worrying that all my shoes are frumpy and dated, I DO NOT NEED ANYMORE SHOES.
So instead: photo time! May I present to you the Amalah Calvacade of Frumpy, Dated or Otherwise Totally Not Impressive Casual Footwear, aka The Photo Essay That Will Make You All Wonder Why in the World You Ask Me For Advice of Any Kind:
First up, Rocket Dogs. Similar idea to the Puma slip-ons you mentioned, although hopefully not too clownshoeish. They took some breaking in at first, but now are incredibly comfortable. And I’ve been pretty impressed at how well they’ve held up, being suede and all, and me being lazy and all and wearing them out in the rain multiple times without thinking. If I had to buy another pair (oh, like I could really avoid the Zappos links), I like these, these and these.
More sneakers! Ack. But I am sorry, you can take my Chucks when you unlace them from my amputated frostbitten feet, but I don’t hike or spend much time outdoors, so good luck with that. I think everybody needs a pair of basic black Chucks in their wardrobe, and then should head over to Converse’s web site and customize your own pair.
(Gratuitous and besides the point? Yes, but what are you going to do about it?)
Loafers. Oh, maaan. These are more like driving mocs, I suppose. Nothing super special — Anne Klein or something. The leather feels like bedroom slippers, and sometimes you just need a super basic pair of black shoes. These were a hardly worthy replacement for my all-time favorite pair of shoes EVER, which were a pair of kickass Coach loafers in wine-colored patent leather. A little different, yet basic enough to go with almost everything I owned.
My dog ate them. And I don’t want to talk about it anymore.
And lastly, my current favorite shoes, also known as the goldlady grandma shoes, because…yeah. They’re a tad Atlantic City bus tour. But they look really cute with jeans, and are especially useful if you think the rest of your outfit is a little boring. These are Michael Kors, but a quick glance at Bluefly and Zappos turns up about a zillion variations on the same shoe.
Not pictured, because all the photos made my legs look like tree stumps: a couple pairs of ankle-height boots for when I’m wearing jeans but want to be a step above sneakers.
Readers? What’s your favorite pair of casual shoes? You know, the ones you wear everywhere and love irrationally, maybe even though they aren’t exactly the height of fashion awesomeness? Or do you have an absolutely kick-ass pair that will make us all green with envy? And if so, do you have a picture? Or a link to where they are currently on sale for…hmmm….I have $5. Can I buy them for $5?

Published January 5, 2007. Last updated January 5, 2007.
About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to [email protected].

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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  • Blue Moon Girl

    January 5, 2007 at 11:12 am

    I have to totally agree with Amy about the Rocket Dogs! I LOVE those shoes! They are so comfortable. I currently own four pairs – the ones Amy has a picture of, the Stocker in dark brown (1st page of Zappos)and the Offspring in black and tan (2nd page Zappos). Now I really want the Juliet and the Mandarin.
    I like the ones Amy has a picture of with socks and jeans or without socks and capris or shorts.
    Currently the ones I am wearing everywhere are the Rocket Dog Black Offspring shoes. I sprayed them with a can of that waterproof shoe spray stuff and they go everywhere-snow, rain, whatever.
    If I want something a little heel, I have a pair of penny loafers with a heel or a pair of ankle boots with a heel.
    Sorry for writing a book, but I really like Rocket Dogs and I REALLY like shoes! (Can you tell?)

  • foodmomiac

    January 5, 2007 at 11:28 am

    I love my Campers. When I got them three years ago, I think they were stylish. Now? Not so much. But, they are still super comfy, and they can hold up to the crappy Chicago weather pretty well (not the snow, but everything else).

  • Melissa

    January 5, 2007 at 11:30 am

    I love DKNY Chelsea and Arcade styles. They were extremely comfortable from the second I put them on.
    The arcade are mesh, but worn with a heavy sock in dry weather, they’re good all year ’round.

  • JennyM

    January 5, 2007 at 11:43 am

    Greetings! I am delurking to share some shoe fun. My current favorites BY FAR are my brown Danskos that my lovely mother-in-law gave me for Christmas (2005). I wear them a LOT and find them super-comfy and nondescript-ly stylish. A doctor friend saw me in them, though, and shrieked in dismay. I think this is because she wears them every day because she has to and for some reason has not embraced the love. But since I usually wear soul-crushing (sole-crushing? ha ha ha ha ha… right) high heels to work every day I find them fabulous.
    HOWEVER, I am also here to evangelize about Sierra Trading Post ( Mostly for outdoor-wear/gear (you could find an alternative to the ubiquitous North Face Jacket!) they have a surprising variety of footwear available. It’s kind of an online version of Ross or T.J.Maxx or one of those places except that you don’t have to actually deal with the horror that is Ross or T.J.Maxx, etc. The selection can be hit-or-miss, and occasionally you’ll run across an item for which there is nothing to say but: NO WONDER no one bought that. But I’ve got some really cute casual-type shoes there and their prices are almost always far below the norm. Like these!

  • Arwen

    January 5, 2007 at 11:52 am

    Adidas Samoas. Kind of retro, but oh-so comfortable and I get compliments on them all the time – from guys even! I am so worried that Adidas will stop making them that I’m tempted to buy a bunch of pairs to stock up, but I’m too budget-conscious (read: cheap).

  • April

    January 5, 2007 at 11:58 am

    I don’t think Pumas are clownish! You just need to find a pair that fits your personality.
    Love the Merrill’s too. And although I hate (HATE) Uggs, I broke down and bought a pair for Chicago winters. Yes, they are ugly. But WARM.

  • The Muse

    January 5, 2007 at 12:02 pm

    Okay, I have a couple of pairs of shoes I’m in love with, casual-style…
    One: Diesel. I have ones that are similar to these, but in a more rosy-pink (and the toe is different), but I’m seriously considering coming back and getting these. They’re neutral, cute and oh so stylishly comfortable!
    I’m currently lusting after these: Silver Snake Flats, for the sheer fact that they’re something different, and not the leopard-print ballerina flats that everyone seems to have lately.
    I’m also digging my Target shoes, which, as you can see, are simple and still cute. They have a tendency to lose their cushy-ness in the heel, so I always add in a shoe insert, and voila! Better cheap shoes.
    But my favorite-upon-favorite shoes of all time? A pair of red leather, kitten-heeled shoes from Nine West, that have this cute little buckle across the top. They look kinda like these: these, but a kitten heel, and the buckle is thicker and fully attached to the top of the shoe. Seriously? Every time I wear these, I get a compliment. Even from people who have seen them before. Even from guys. And they’re comfortable.

  • queenann

    January 5, 2007 at 12:30 pm

    There are two pairs that work for me ALL Fall/Winter/Spring (I’m a “basic black with colorful accents & personality”-kinda city gal). The two things I look for in the casual type shoe are: 1. Can be worn plus/sans socks/tights and 2. ONE pair can be worn with black skirt.
    Here are my current faves (pics courtesy of Zappos, but I got them much cheaper…)
    DKNY Union Runner in black w/ silver- cute with jeans or yoga pants- and a Skechers mary jane sneaker like this one, Mint, in, of course, black- also cute with yoga pants but mainly used for walking to & from work in comfort AND not ruining my heels on pavement.
    After that, I start going with color, color, color and cheap cute trendy- I’ve always got my basics to fall back on!!

  • sarah

    January 5, 2007 at 12:47 pm

    I have to second the Danskos. I only wear the “professional” but have 5 pairs, each in a different color/pattern. I loooooove them. You can dress them up or down and they’re sooooo comfortable.

  • kaleigh

    January 5, 2007 at 12:48 pm

    With jeans I almost always wear either boots (with a heel) or pointy toe pumps (with a higher heel). Probably because I’m 5’2″ and hubby is 6’4″. And NONE of my pants are the right length.
    However, if it’s really a matter of comfort (you mean comfort is something that we are allowed to consider?), I love my Chuck Taylors. And if the weather cooperates, I’ll wear flip flops in January. (That would be the upside to Global Warming.)

  • tmb

    January 5, 2007 at 1:11 pm

    I am in love with the Geox brand for casual wear. You don’t need to wear socks with them and your feet don’t get all gross. They look great and I think they are super comfortable.
    I am also very much a fan of wedges as I am short. Open or peep toe wedges are even better.

  • Annie

    January 5, 2007 at 2:04 pm

    Holy mazzoli! I have the same exact pair of Rocket Dogs. Same color too, and they are so yummy to wear with jeans. I also request these – – which are actually quite comfortable and can be worn with a nice trouser sock.

  • moose

    January 5, 2007 at 2:05 pm

    I adore my Simple Sugar sneakers. I have them in red and an oddly neon green. Strange neon green because they were on sale somewhere and who am I to scoff at saving 20 whole dollars?
    Also a fan of campers for their whimsical(ity?)(ness?)(I was an English major, this is embarrassing) and their ultra-comfort when walking around on pavement.

  • VHMPrincess

    January 5, 2007 at 2:15 pm

    Love these –> Nordstrom and Lord&Taylor have them w/a different buckle for ~ $90.

  • VHMPrincess

    January 5, 2007 at 2:15 pm

    dammit – img link didn’t work…here

  • mary ann

    January 5, 2007 at 2:45 pm

    One more vote for the Danskos. I love them.
    I wear my black or brown Professionals every weekday and have for roughly two years. They show no wear yet and they’re so super comfortable. And the other styles do not look at all like they belong on a nurse’s foot.

  • Martita

    January 5, 2007 at 2:48 pm

    If you’ve never worn a pair of Keen shoes, get to REI or another retailer and try them on immediately. You will wish they were professional looking enough to wear to work everyday. I also love my Dansko clogs, but for comfort, they don’t even compare to the Keens.

  • leahkay

    January 5, 2007 at 2:55 pm

    Puuuuuuuuuumas! But only when they’re on sale. These have just the right color combination to make me feel trendy-but-not-too trendy (aka clownish):
    Plus, they make big feet look small, which is a definite plus when you’re me.

  • epoh

    January 5, 2007 at 2:59 pm

    Yeah.. I’m boring. I either wear flip-flops, my Nike Free sneakers or my black suede doc martins (they aren’t made anymore.) I do love those rocket dogs though.

  • Kate

    January 5, 2007 at 3:44 pm

    First of all, I didn’t nkow you could customize Chucks online like that. I’ve never been a Chucks kind of girl but now I want a pair just because!
    Anyway, I second whoever said “Keen.” My current favorite pair of shoes are, and they’re on sale! I’m off to shop now! I think Amalah’s exclamation points are wearing off on me.

  • Kate

    January 5, 2007 at 3:45 pm
  • Stephanie

    January 5, 2007 at 4:27 pm

    I have to agree with all who recommend the Dansko Clog. I have a black pair and I love them. I have had them for 3 years and the only thing wrong with them is that the liner inside came out (probably because I never wear socks). I just bought a pair of Merrell Relay Fly in Navy. They are perfect with jeans for running errands and they don’t look like your standard boring white sneaker.

  • J

    January 5, 2007 at 4:33 pm

    I just bought these Pumas
    which are basically brown linen. They look awesome and feel awesome. The color is darned normal. If you spend enough time, you can easily find some really nice Pumas. They’re more comfy than some of my running shoes.
    Also, Eccos. They’re very Euro though, but comfy.

  • JennyM

    January 6, 2007 at 9:33 am

    I have to second (or third or whatever) the Keens, too.
    Now I’m going to go customize some Chucks.

  • J

    January 6, 2007 at 4:40 pm

    Holy cow. Puma lets you build your own shoes. But they only have one model that you can build on.

  • Krisbell

    January 6, 2007 at 6:23 pm

    Danskos professional clogs are my ALL TIME FAVORITE. I’m on my feet for 50+ hours a week (Target, anyone) and found out within the first week that I needed these shoes. These are the ones I have and they look awesome with jeans.
    Everyone in Boston wears them, which kept me from buying them for a long time, because I resisted becoming a Bostonian for a while, but they’re right. They’re a little on the expensive side, but wear very well. You should buy them about 1/2 size bigger; they’re supposed to be big enough to slip up and down.

  • Timi

    January 7, 2007 at 7:19 am

    I used to wear danskos as well all the time. Now I wear something like this from Michelle K:
    It’s along the puma line of things but the shape is a little more sophisticated. The toe is pointed a little bit and it makes me feel a bit more put together. Also the fabrics are really cool, suede, tweed, sparkly stuff. Unfortunately the colors she uses constantly change and she doesn’t make my brown suede with green accents version of the above anymore. I’ve also been wearing mine for over a year everyday and they are in really good shape.

  • Kelly

    January 7, 2007 at 8:12 am

    Get thee some RED shoes! They will snazz up just about any basic outfit and are SO much more wearable than you think. They go with jeans, with black, with white, with tan, beige, ivory, brown, grey, blues, many pinks, and a surprising number of patterns. I have a pair of red mary janes I got for about $8 somewhere 3 years ago (where? I’m not telling because it’s too horrible to think about, though it starts with a K and ends with the dreaded “mart”–they definitely fall into the bargain category!) and I STILL get compliments regularly.
    Remind me to blog a love letter to them later. 🙂

  • Meghan

    January 8, 2007 at 1:52 pm

    Another vote for Keen, the Sydney Mary Jane to be specific. I have them in Red, Brown and Navy, and I wear them ALL the time (especially the red.) As mentioned before, a red shoe can brighten up your entire wardrobe. I wore them with jeans and a red sweater to a holiday party and got rave reviews. I’ve even had people ask me about them while standing in the bathroom at the hand-dryer.
    I worked at REI when I was in med school, and bought a pair with my employee discount to wear to my practicum rotation. They kept me on my feet for hours, and I ordered the other two pair on my next work shift. (They look especially cute with a pair of SmartWool Women’s Margarita or Saturn socks.)

  • Virginia Gal

    January 8, 2007 at 4:18 pm

    Ditto on the red shoes. I have worn a lovely pair of red suede with orange accents with almost every color except pink. They are a euro-style sneaker from Privo by Clarks. I have small feet (size 5!) and Clarks, and brand variations such as Privo are usually the only shoes I can find which fit. On the good side they have started to make some very cute shoes which look great with Jeans and other casual pants, especially under the Privo and lines, so it’s not just the multi-strap buckle sandals worn by your grandmother. Zappos, again has a great selection…happy shopping.

  • Sara

    January 8, 2007 at 9:05 pm

    I just got the cute flats from Clarks’ Artisan line. (Not as clunky as some of their other shoes.)
    They are comfortable and have nice details. The light burgudy color goes well with jeans or skirts.
    I love Campers too, but these were a bit more affordable.

  • Meredith

    January 9, 2007 at 11:27 am

    I love, love, love my Adidas. They are as comfortable as Chuck’s but may come in girlier colors. I have a pair with pink stripes. And if you have small feet, like myself, you can buy boys’ pairs for really cheap.

  • Peyton Snyders

    January 9, 2007 at 1:21 pm

    My current favorites are my Donald J. Pliner flats – “Halo” – in brown. Nordstrom carries them in black (the brown must be sold out). I’ve had them for about six months and wear them every weekend but they still look almost brand-new. Super comfortable and worth every penny.
    I also have a pair of Puma sneakers in black – not clownish at all and I prefer them to regular sneakers because they’re more streamlined. And when you’re a size 10 shoe (!) even though the rest of you isn’t large (5’5″ and a size 8), you need to minimize the clown-footness of sneakers.
    Also, my large feet are why I wear heels a LOT. The higher the heel, the shorter my foot appears. So don’t be surprised to see me in 3″ heeled boots on a weekend either. My current favorites are my brown Stuart Weitzman’s. And my MIL gave me an awesomely comfortable pair of Cole Haan boots for Christmas. 🙂
    Yep, I’m a shoe junkie. But we big-footed girls need to splurge on our shoes!

  • Melz

    January 10, 2007 at 11:29 am

    Ok, so I’m not as hip as y’all, but I was just thinking about this subject this morning.
    My favorite pair of shoes are Ryka, kind of like the all-weather mocs that Lands End sells. Brown waterproof suede. I got them from QVC last year, and have actually thought about getting another pair when these wear out. Most.Comfortable.Shoes.Ever. I wear them to work almost every day (usually wear khakis or some similar pant).
    I’m a little sad when it gets warmer weather, though, because I feel weird wearing suede in summer in the deep south.

  • Liza

    January 11, 2007 at 2:30 pm

    I have the wine-colored, patent-leather Coach loafers!
    This may be the most stylish I’ve ever felt in my entire life.
    I bought them on sale at Macy’s just before moving from DC to Atlanta, and they are the only pair of shoes I own that fit both before and after my pregnancy. I love them. LOVE them. LOVE THEM.