Thursday, January 12, 2012

How to Choose the Perfect Work Shoe

One of the most difficult transitions to make from college to the “real” world is your wardrobe. At least it was for me.

Throughout this year, I will on occasion share with you what I’ve learned and my tips for making the perfect choices for your work wardrobe without sacrificing your creativity and personality.  I wrote about the basics of this in a piece I did for USA Today College. But I want to be able to help you get into specifics.  

Let’s start with shoes.

I like to categorize my shoes in three ways:


Understanding these categories can make choosing your shoes in the morning a breeze – especially before an all-important job interview, internship, professional event, or even just rushing out the door for another day at work.

The first question to ask yourself: what is the wear and tear factor?

My favorite category of shoe is weekend – they are my flip flops, flats, and sandals –
 and they usually have the most wear and tear. I can wear these shoes to the beach, to the theme park, out shopping – anywhere. They are cute and comfortable which is why they were also my go-to college shoes. But that has now changed.
My favorite weekend shoe (at a theme park) :)

Once you transition to a work environment these shoes become weekend wear. Sandals are amazing, but they are typically not the most appropriate for work.

The second question to ask yourself: would these shoes cause someone to whistle at me? ;)

If so save them for your nights out or really special events.

I am only about five-one, so I love to have that extra height that the dangerously high heel provides. 

But the reality is, in most jobs, the six-inch heel stands out a bit too much.  I’m not saying to avoid height altogether at work, but you never want any of your clothing choices to draw attention to you in a negative way at work.

You never want someone to say: she wore those to work? It’s unfortunate but trust me, it happens.

So I have a general rule of thumb – I call it the red carpet factor.  If I put on a pair of shoes and I can imagine myself wearing them at a red carpet event (c’mon, you know we all have those fantasies ;)), then I will save them for nights out and special occasions.

I love these grey Jessica Simpson heels and have worn them on special occasions and to galas, but the truth is, I can almost dunk a basketball in them.
Fun, but a bit too much for an every day at work. 

Shoes like that will just garner too much attention on the job – and not the attention I’m looking for. 

So, finally, you ask yourself what is a work appropriate shoe?

The third question you need to ask yourself is : what is the culture of my workplace?

Culture is everything in work as every environment can be very different. As you spend time at a job notice what kinds of shoes the women in executive positions wear.

But on an interview and the first few weeks of a job you are still getting acclimated to the culture –s o what do you do?

You can almost never go wrong with a clean, neutral flat or small heel. My favorite neutral color is one that that matches your skin tone as it can make your legs look longer and goes with everything.

When I have to run an event or know I’ll be walking around a lot at my job I wear comfortable flats. But when I’m going to be going to a meeting or have a speaking event I’ll wear a medium heel. Just remember the higher the heel the tamer the color should be for work. If you wear a pop of color or a heel with a unique design, you’ll want to keep the heel a bit smaller.

You can also use longer pants to help balance out a higher heel.

Here is an example of my go-to work shoe – they are also Jessica Simpsons (I am a sucker for how comfortable her shoes are). I love these because they match my skin tone, are incredibly comfortable, give a little height, and also have a cool suede texture that I find fun and unique.
The fun of a heel, but the balance of work-appropriate :)

The key is to find your own style, express yourself, have fun, and be appropriate for every situation so that you can own it with confidence and style.

I hope you enjoy picking out your shoes for your next interview, internship, professional event, or day on the job– I know I will ;)

And if you have any other fashion questions feel free to send them to 

And Tweet me your favorite work shoe :) 

To read more about Isa's personal story how you can build relationships to: make positive friends, be more successful in academics and work, find the right people to connect with, and access the hidden job market, grab a FREE e-copy of the first chapter of Community College Success: How to Finish with Friends, Scholarships, Internships, and the Career of Your Dreams! Claim your free copy on the Facebook page!


  1. I love the shoes Isa! I was wondering, where did you get your go-to work shoes? I have a similar pair in black, but I'm on the search for a nude pair. Thanks!

  2. Jenifer - I actually found the two pairs that I normally wear @ TJ Maxx. But, they are Jessica Simpson shoes, so if they don't have a TJ Maxx near you, anywhere that sells her shoes might be a good place to look. I hope you can find some you love :)


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