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11th April 2016

To heel or not to heel?

Got your interview and office attire down to a tee but struggling to make that all important shoe decision? Sophie Soar offers her foot-friendly advice

To heel or not to heel? That certainly is a significant question, especially when considering the correct or, rather, the comfortable and most appropriate footwear attire in the office. When preparing for a daunting interview or updating your office wear from that ill-fitting Marks & Spencer suit when 17-year-old you undertook a week’s ‘work experience’, most hit a wall from ankles down. Will one be taken seriously in a stiletto? Is a smart trainer a critical contradiction? Can the loafer achieve suitable versatility?

To somewhat ease a few knotted brows gracing many interviewees alike, some trends entirely flaw shoe etiquette: Karl Lagerfeld had Cara Delevingne saunter down the Chanel haute couture Spring/Summer 2014 catwalk in a wedding dress paired with bejewelled trainers; Carrie Bradshaw was, alternatively, one of the first few to wear Manolo’s with sweat pants; even Fallowfield’s finest wear Nikes through thick and thin, come rain or shine. You might therefore be forgiven for any confusion: the dress code needs decrypting before anything else.

At 5’11”, with the daily habit of wearing 5-inch heels, my inclination is nearly always sky high: stand up and out. However, this resolution will waver when confronted with demanding and unpredictable internship tasks. My power complex is compromised and instead, I must face a professional life fitting comfortably under doorways.

Therefore sacrifices must be made, for which I shall provide a few helpful guidelines to see you through the challenging transition (of student to employee or towering and tottering to sturdy and stable).

Unless you have legs like a Victoria’s Secret Angel, no one avoids looking frumpy in an over-the-knee skirt and pumps. So when confronted with the suit skirt/comfortable shoe approach, a subtle kitten heel enhances the figure while avoiding the crippling pain of six-inch stilettoed feet throbbing under your desk. (Please note, if this is a summer internship or office job, comfort is key because the removal of one’s shoes during sweltering heat is not okay. Think of your colleagues and whether you want to consider making this role permanent.)

Alternatively, should one wish to avoid any heel at all, the greatest other option is a larger-soled shoe, such as the brogue. Whilst the trusty pump provides comfort in short-term stints, the brogue offers structure, solidarity, and support. Racing up office stairs or, more realistically, running through the streets while still brushing your teeth when the alarm failed to wake you for the sixteenth time, is preferably tackled without feeling every cobblestone under one’s sole. The brogue will also greater emphasise a slender ankle, from which the pump detracts.

Should you shy away from skirts and alternatively opt for the trouser suit, one’s job becomes a little less tricky. When purchasing such trousers, aim for high-waisted and a slightly flared cut. These invariably flatter any figure by lengthening the leg and hanging softly, thus the shoe’s responsibility can take a back seat. Again, the priority revolves around comfort over anything else but when only half the shoe is showing, let that half be fabulous.

One should also accommodate for after-work recreation: never forgot the spontaneous Friday evening drinks with colleagues. Make your footwear fabulous, flirty, and flawlessly comfortable in case drinks turn into dancing.

The most important aspect of the office day is indefinitely travel. If you’ve found those heels that somehow compare to a foot massage every step of the way, spread the word and continue life as a shoe guru. For the rest of the unlucky masses, practicality sometimes overrides all else and a second pair of shoes in which your arches might sit wonderfully unstrained is a must. They’re a comforting companion and can be essential to retain sanity after a long workday. However, when five o’clock hits and you’ve flung the office doors wide open, leaving your desk behind you, some rules remain intact; as care-free as one might feel, the trainer should forever be an outsider to the professional climate. Avoid the temptation to pair trainer with suit; the odd frown of fellow commuters silently screams: ‘I sympathise but no’.

So as I too trawl the Internet for the perfect summer shoes and office attire, I have chosen to start feet first. Don’t compromise comfort: internships and employment can be stressful but your two feet shouldn’t carry the burden at all.

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