Every year as a kid, my mom would take my sisters and me shopping for a new pair of “school shoes.” We went to our local parish school, so we were only allowed to wear black or brown shoes with our uniforms. Naturally, I wanted to wear the same trendy clogs my friends were sporting those days, but there was a slight issue: I was (and still am) terribly flat-footed. I was inevitably stuck wearing a clunky pair of black lace-ups, all in the name of arch support.
Fortunately, the age of the internet has brought with it many more places to buy supportive footwear, and I am here to tell you that you no longer need to sacrifice style for support. If you struggle with flat-footedness, high arches, or plantar fasciitis—or if you just want to invest in some comfortable and well-crafted shoes—I’m here to recommend some more fashionable options. I have worn all of these brands, so I have ranked them from least to most support.
This brand is great if you are interested in a sleek, modern shoe with a more comfortable insole than your average brand. Dr. Scholl’s signature is a plush footbed: a vast improvement over the thin plastic linings inside most shoes. The pair I owned were similar to this pointed Aston flat, and they required zero time to break in—no rubbing or chafing at all!
The designs are fresh and clearly aimed at a younger demographic. I love the stacked heel on the Brianna bootie; a block heel gives height as well as stability. I’m also partial to the Retrograde, which walks the line between a boot and a flat, making it a sensible choice for colder weather.
These shoes are also very affordable, costing only a little more than what you would pay at Target or Walmart. However, the arch support is minimal. I tended to wear my Dr. Scholl’s for shorter periods of time (say, to match my outfit for class during college) before changing into something sturdier.
These shoes are sturdy, well-made, and feature a little more arch support than the Dr. Scholl’s. The design skews older, but you can still find the occasional contemporary silhouettes. For example, every year without fail they offer chic riding boots, often with an option for ladies with wider calves. See the beautiful, buckled Reverie boot that comes in both regular and wide calf. (I’m still pining for my favorite pair of cognac leather boots that I purchased from this brand—which lasted me years—tragically given away in a moment of madness.)
Do you need something supportive just for around the house? My mom wears the traveltime clogs in lieu of a slipper, since you can still take them outside to pick up the mail.
The younger customer might have to search a little longer to find something age-appropriate, but the additional support and comfort is definitely worth the extra effort.
Clarks crafts shoes out of high-quality materials, like genuine leather, in a variety of styles. The craftsmanship shows: I owned a pair of Clarks heels that lasted me all through college and beyond! Snag them on sale (or at an outlet store), and they can be quite affordable. They also offer lots of wide options, if you have a wider foot.
A few of my favorites include these Trish Rose suede loafers, these very country-Western-looking Adreena Lilac booties (check out that detail on the side!), and these Pure Viola leather slip-ons. They also carry some very unique gems, like these Kaylin 85 animal-print T-bar heels.
If you are looking for something extra comfy, check out their Ortholite line, which features some extra cushioning and moisture-wicking tech. (Remember those heels that lasted me years? The Ortholite footbed kept them smelling fresh until the very end.) The Un Blush Ease flat is a nice professional option, and if you like to stand tall, these Verona Trish heeled booties will make an impression (and the rubber bottom will keep you from slipping in untoward weather).
I could not resist giving a quick shout-out to my Bean boots! “Duck boots” came back into style a few years ago, and as someone who grew up in a more rural area, I love how practical these are for outdoor activities. The sturdy laces can be tightened for a perfect fit, and paired with wool socks, they’ll do as snow boots in a pinch. They come in a variety of heights, even a slip-on option, and come lined or unlined.
I also own a pair of L.L. Bean commuter snow boots and I would live in these if I could. The arch support is excellent, and they are exceedingly warm and totally weatherproof. My mom got these for me as a gift when she realized I was walking to work through the snow in a pair of canvas sneakers, and I have been forever grateful.
A major challenge if you have high or low arches is finding a sneaker that is sufficiently supportive for athletic wear. Until I found Brooks, I was stuck with generic sneakers from major name brands, which while they were decent quality, could not stabilize my ankles on uneven terrain like the hiking trail.
My younger sister has high arches and plantar fasciitis, and she highly recommended Brooks to me (we both own the Ghost in the same color and different sizes). As soon as my pair arrived, I noticed a difference: These shoes have structure. It took a little bit of time to adjust to the feeling when I took the shoes on a walk. At first, I didn’t like them, but over time, I realized this was because I was not used to having my foot held securely in place. Once they were a little more broken-in, I came to love these running shoes. I highly recommend them if you need a shoe with serious arch support.
I saved the best for last. The arch support on Vionic is superior to anything else I have tried. Only after I began wearing this brand regularly did my knee pain finally disappear. If you have arch issues, the unique Vionic technology cups your heel in order to realign your posture and take the pressure off your knees. Best of all, Vionic carries shoes in a wide variety of styles, including modern shoes for the office and sleek sandals for the beach. You can also purchase their signature insoles to put inside of other shoes.
My one word of advice is that depending on the shoe, the level of arch support can vary. Shoes with lighter support can offer the same realignment benefits, but may not stand up to as much wear and tear. Product photos and customer reviews can be a helpful guide to gauge the amount of support, as well as the product descriptions: Contrast the thinner lining of the Lena flat with the more substantive memory foam in the Nana sneaker.
In my experience, your best bet is to order and physically try on this brand, to get a sense of whether the level of support is sufficient for how long you will be wearing the shoe. Since I only wear my flats to go to work or class, the lower level support is perfect for a few hours, and I change into other shoes at home.
On my personal wishlist are the Lupe sandal, the Bethanie (waterproof!) bootie, and the Mariana pump. I have re-purchased the same silhouette as the Raina since I wear it all the time in the fall and winter. Finally, pro tip: Check QVC.com before you buy; sometimes they carry this brand at a discount.
Now as we are entering the winter months, facing slippery sidewalks and low temps, supportive (and warm) footwear is a must! If you have some Christmas money to spare and you are looking to make a good investment, these brands are an excellent place to start.