The Budget Fashionista’s Guide to Office Shoes

Updated August 31, 2020

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You already know great shoes, and when it comes to your job, you’ve got that down, too. But great shoes for your job? That part gets a little tricky. Succeeding in the workforce is all about collaboration, so allow us to lend a hand. Here are the shoes you’ll want for your work wardrobe... and the shoes you don’t.

The Goes-with-everything Shoe

The basic black pump is known as the work-horse of office shoes, and for good reason, but we’d suggest an even more versatile heel: the nude pump. We dare you to find an outfit in your professional wardrobe that doesn’t go with any of these three heels. If you only buy one pair of shoes this year (or even this decade) buy a pair of these.

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  1. Nine West Bofire, $49.99 at Piperlime
  2. Depalma, $49.98 at Aldo
  3. Pocket Court Shoe, $41.98 at Asos

The lady-like flat

You can’t wear heels every day, but that doesn’t mean you should show up to work in flip flops or Crocs. Even some flats are unacceptable, so when you shop, make sure you select a pair that’s right for your workplace.

A good question to ask yourself: Would Audrey Hepburn wear these? The iconic actress loved flats, but hers were lady-like, not child-like. Select a pair with minimal embellishment, quality construction and no crazy colors or designs.

Collage of three pairs of flats
  1. Crocs Lina Embellished Flat, $31.95, // 
  2. Jessica Simpson Magura, $34.95, //
  3. Perceptive Producer Flat, $34.99 at Modcloth

The Collegiate-Cool Shoe

They may not look fashion-forward, but oxford shoes are a hot trend right now. As flats, stilletos or wedges, they make any outfit look chic and are the perfect compliment to a pencil skirt, a sheath dress or a pair of slacks.

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  1. Deperro, $44.98 at Aldo (Not Available)
  2. Candyce, $39.99 at Nine West
  3. Not Rated Executive Oxford Pump, $39.99 at DSW

The Shoe with Personality

It is totally possible to look professional while showing off your signature style, but when it comes to office fashion, a little goes a long way.

Find a shoe in a classic, classy shape that comes in a bold color or print. Animal skin or print, red or cobalt blue hues, or demure ribbons and bows are all perfectly acceptable accents to your footwear. Just remember, you can have too much of a good thing.

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  • Leopard-Print Leather Peep-Toe Pumps, $39 at Spiegel
  • bebe “Marsha” Pump, $44.90 at Nordstrom
  • Ribbon-Trim Sueded Cut-Out Pumps, $39.99 at Newport News

Shoes That Are Not Office Appropriate

1. Platforms

These plaform heels, $70 at Baker’s, are cute, but not for the office. Keep your heels under 4 inches tall. Not only do they look more professional, but they’ll be easier on your feet.

2. Sandals

The fact that these heels ($26 at Forever 21) are beige doesn’t mean they’re okay for work. The only strappy shoes we’d recommend for the office are a classic pair of mary janes.

3. Party Heels

Not all pumps are created equal. Steer clear of lace, like these heels, ($44.95 at DSW), heels with rhinestones, glitter and/or an over-abundance of bows, ruffles or flowers. If you’d wear them to a nightclub, don’t wear them to work.

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By Catherine Brock

As a Southern California transplant now living in the Midwest, Catherine has turned layering into an art form and accepted that UGGs actually do have a place in the stylish lady's wardrobe. She's been featured in Woman's World Magazine,, Refinery29, and has made appearances on ABC7 Chicago, FOX2News St. Louis, KCAL9 Los Angeles, Fox19 Cincinnati, WGN TV Chicago and WCPO TV Cincinnati.