My Must-Have Shoes for This Weird Year

I regularly share shoes on Wardrobe Oxygen – my favorite heels for the holidays, booties for back to school, summer sandals, cute wide width footwear… but 2020 is a year different from any other and with it my shoe wardrobe is drastically different.  Priorities have changed, where comfort reigns supreme, shoes need to have function with fashion, and durability is key as they aren't the kind going from taxi to table or being slipped on after a commute. Below are the shoes I've been wearing nonstop this spring and summer and plan on wearing into fall.

collage of eight pairs of shoes from sandals to boots that are my must have shoes while staying at home

silver sandals | orange sandals | tan hiking boots | black lace-up boots | white sneakers | tan sandals | blue cycling shoes | gray sneakers

  1. Birkenstocks: I had a pair of purple suede Birkenstocks back in the early '90s and wore them to death with my distressed denim shorts with a plaid flannel tied around my waist or a pair of overalls with a bra top and a bandanna over my pigtails.  When my husband (then boyfriend) and I moved in together in 2000, I still had those purple Birks.  I don't know when I got rid of them but I remember making a stink on MySpace that I would NEVER wear Birks again.  And here we are, on my third pair of silver leather Birkenstocks and considering getting a pair in rose gold.  The thing is when you're at home and barefoot, your feet start hurting pretty quickly.  Knees ache, ankles feel weak, weird aches on the top of your feet, I could go on.  And when I put on my Birkenstocks… they all go away.  I feel stable and secure and comfortable and properly aligned.  I think they look cute with ankle-length jeans, with knee- to ankle-length dresses and skirts, with shorts, with most everything.  These have become my “house shoes” because they are far more supportive and comfortable than any slippers.  When it was colder and I was at home, I wore them with wool socks and I will again this fall and winter. Birkenstocks come with a Birko-Flor footbed and a soft footbed; I am partial to the soft which I think is easier to break in and has held up pretty well.  There are many styles of Birkenstocks but I am partial to the Arizona which works with my wide feet and short toes.
  2. EVA Birkenstocks: This is my third pair of Birkenstocks made from EVA, which is a synthetic waterproof fabric that is also soft and molds a bit to your foot.  The past two summers I had them in white and were my alternative to flip-flops, wearing them to the pool and the beach as well as in the yard.  I liked that they could handle getting wet, could be hosed off if they got sandy or muddy, I could even buff them up with a Magic Eraser.  This year, I decided to add some sunshine to a cloudy existence and switched to orange, my favorite color.  I love that they're a fun pop of color with denim, white, black, and so many other neutrals.  And because orange is my favorite color, I often have it as one of the colors in my printed tops and dresses.  I keep these at the door to be my outside shoes when I hang out in the yard, get the mail, that sort of thing and appreciate the ability to easily wash them.  The EVA version of Birkenstocks are far cheaper than the traditional style and are a great way to try out this style of shoe.  However, the EVA does stretch out and compress with time and you may not find them as supportive or fit as well after a season.  If you prefer a different style of EVA Birkenstock, the Gizeh is a great alternative.
  3. Danner Hiking Boots: Over the years I've bought all kinds of boots and received great boots from campaigns with footwear brands.  I have waterproof and stylish heeled boots from Sorel, heavy-duty waterproof boots from BOGS, a pair of cute clearance hiking boots from Lands' End, Merrell boots with special grippy soles for black ice… and right now all of them are so impractical.  These days I need boots for when I go to work in our plots in the community garden – boots that are waterproof, flexible, have traction, and don't make me sweat buckets.  I want boots for walking through the woods, protecting my ankles from ticks as well as twists, soles that can handle rocky terrain, and don't weigh a ton. I felt ridiculous buying yet another pair of boots, but I had resorted to wearing my La Canadienne boots to the garden and they were just not right for the situation and I didn't want to ruin them.  So I did research to find my perfect boot.  Criteria: not ugly, not too athletic looking, lightweight, waterproof, would look cute with shorts and with pants/jeans, either made in the USA or at an ethical well-run factory elsewhere, a brand that has partnered with Black influencers or featured Black models prior to the past couple of months, a brand that helps out its community or donates to charity or does some sort of good with their success. I went to multiple sites to read reviews, and then brand sites to find out the ethics of the company that made them. And I went with these boots from Danner.  Around since 1932, Danner makes their boots in Portland, Oregon.  They offer recrafting, where they will restore their boots if you end up wearing them out over time.  They regularly feature veterans and service members on their blog and Instagram and partner with organizations like Team Rubicon and Habitat for Humanity.  They've featured models of color in campaigns before 2020 and feature women of color in their blog posts and on Instagram.  They even used their Portland factory to create face masks.  Danner has a bunch of styles of boots, I went with the Inquire because I liked the classic look, that the brown/red combo was low contrast to my skin which I liked better when wearing shorts, and that reviews said it had a roomy footbed and was good for wide feet.  I went with my regular size and they're roomy enough to add some insoles and wear thick socks.  They've gotten muddy and sopping wet, been worn for hours on all kinds of terrain and have been comfy right out of the box. 
  4. La Canadienne Lace-Up Boots: I bought these boots last year, liking how they were an elegant alternative to combat boots which were all the rage.  I loved that they were waterproof while looking sleek and being soft leather.  I appreciated that they came in widths, and liked that I could custom fit with the working laces but slip them on and off easily with the zipper.  And I've worn the heck out of these boots with longer dresses and tights, over leggings and joggers, under jeans, and more.  They're very roomy and I have fit insoles in them.  They've gotten muddy and gross and have wiped up and still look like new.  These were NOT cheap boots, but I felt the style was so classic that I could wear them for many seasons.  And they have worn incredibly well and I know will continue to do so.  These are the kind of boots that I will take to the cobbler to resole, have and will continue to polish to keep them looking great, replace the laces, and have boots that will last the years. 
  5. Adidas “Superstar” Sneakers: I have two pairs of these sneakers – one that is crisp and white and cute, and one that has been worn a long time and are now all beat up and gross but still worn often.  I like these sneakers, I've been wearing this style since high school (back then we called them “shelltops”).  They're roomy for my wide feet, not too trendy with lots of logos, not too puffy but solid enough that they look substantial peeking out of wide-legged pants.  These are my “trendy sneakers” and I wear them with shorts, with dresses, and with wide-legged pants.  They were my favorite sneakers to wear with suits.  They're roomy enough that I can take out the insole and put in a new one with support; the beat-up ones were the shoes I wore for every day of the Firefly Music Festival last summer and my feet were happy the whole time.  I often find myself grabbing the beat-up ones to complete a chore around the house or yard, and the nice ones are great when I want to look polished even if it's just to take a walk down the block to chat with a neighbor over their fence. 
  6. Flat Tan Sandals:  The flat tan sandals I have are no longer available, they are from Bella Vita and I found a few styles still left on Amazon in other colors.  But these from Born are a really good alternative from a great brand and actually look more comfortable.  What makes these great is they sort of blend into the woodwork.  No fancy hardware, no chunky soles to m make the shoe look casual, the color is low-contrast, it can dress up or down.  And these days, there is little need for anything dressier than this, but it feels dressy in comparison to my Birkenstocks.  I wear these with pants, with shorts, and with dresses.  It's a super easy way to dress up casual at home looks and not take away from fun prints and fabrics. 
  7. Shimano Cycling Shoes: Since I ride my Peloton at least three times a week, I find I wear these shoes almost as much as my Birkenstocks. I like that they are a fun color, I like that I don't have to lace them and there's no velcro to get caught on other things.  They're super stretchy so my wide feet have plenty of room and they are breathable.  I think I may end up replacing them with mountain bike shoes because those have a more stable sole and I find my feet sometimes ache because there isn't enough stable support.  I put another pair of my insoles (I know, I have them in every shoe I can fit them in!) in them and it helped but thinking I'll celebrate some milestone with a shoe upgrade.  But in general these are good spinning shoes.
  8. Brooks “Ghost” Sneakers: I don't have this exact pair, the color combo I have is sold out so I shared these because I like the looks of them.  I love the Brooks “Ghost” sneaker.  It fits great, has good support and is super cushy while being lightweight and breathable.  Not good for weightlifting because there is some heel lift which isn't good for leg day, but I love them for cardio , machines, walks around the neighborhood, and any other time you can wear a pair of sneakers. 

Now I'd love to hear from you.  What are the kinds of shoes you find yourself wearing the most these days?

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18 Comments

  1. Lisa
    August 31, 2020 / 9:32 pm

    I love my Brooks Ghost sneakers. I have had the 8 and 11 but am ready for a new pair. I have never really liked sneakers before these., I wear them at every opportunity! If you want flip flops but need support, I highly recommend the Vionics Orthoheel Tide. I started wearing them after a visit to the podiatrist for plantar fasciitis and usually have at least 2 pairs available…an older ‘work outside’ pair and the ‘good’ pair LOL

  2. Emily
    August 22, 2020 / 7:15 am

    I bought a pair of Nike FlyKnits at an outlet last summer and have been wearing them non stop – they’re really lightweight and the knit fabric is super breathable and good for hot weather. I was barefoot for a lot of lockdown (I continue to do a lot of joint mobility training which has helped alleviate any knee/foot/ankle pain from switching to barefoot!) but when I went back to wearing shoes I got blisters on my heels so now I try and wear a pair for a bit each day! Vans hi-tops are not super flattering but so comfortable on my wide feet.

  3. Cristin
    August 21, 2020 / 8:17 pm

    How did I not know Birks can come in soft?? I haven’t bought them since owning them in my 20s because I didn’t think I could stand the break-in again. Who knew there was another option?

    Also, I own the EVA Birks in white, and I also own an Amazon pair. The Amazon pair is of equal quality and I actually like more (because it’s more supportive) for 1/3 of the price: FUNKYMONKEY Women’s Comfort… https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07CV9YZBB?ref=ppx_pop_mob_ap_share

  4. Patricia
    August 21, 2020 / 5:19 pm

    I’ve been wearing Crocs flip flops most days … even on five mile hikes! I developed a bone spur to go along with my bunion and they’re my go-to shoes. Also wear slip on Clark’s sandals that have adjustable straps over my foot. When I go closed toe, I grab Sketchers Go Walk. That’s pretty much everything I’ve worn. Worried my Crocs might wear out. Should get back ups…

  5. Regina
    August 21, 2020 / 2:32 pm

    I bought three pairs at the beginning of lockdown: UGG Fuzette slippers, Clarks Step June Shell slides, and Miz Mooz Kimmy slip-ons. I already had several sneakers, including white Adidas and a great pair of Dansko that are close to a hiking shoe. The slippers and slides have gotten the most use, followed by the Danskos. I have a lot of other nice, office-appropriate shoes but really no need to wear them around the house. For Fall and Winter, I’m eyeing a pair of Blundstone 500s. Practicality wins for me these days.

  6. Anna D.
    August 21, 2020 / 10:23 am

    I have some Superga sneakers and really cheap but comfortable knockoffs from Old Navy that I wear a lot, but I also have to recommend Allbirds! Made out of merino wool and incredibly comfortable. When I have had to dress professionally for work I’ve been wearing some Clark’s ballerina flats I got at an outlet – not sure I’ll be able to bear putting on heels again so when work ramps up (it’s happening) I’ll have to look for some nicer flats. I will confess I’ve been avoiding sandals in public bc I’m not up to getting a pedicure yet and am terrible at doing them myself, so closed-toe shoes it is!

  7. Lane
    August 21, 2020 / 9:25 am

    I’m still going into the office (conservative law firm) part time, so I’m having to dress professionally a few days out of the week. For my birthday this year, I asked my husband for two sets of shoes: a pair of loafers and a pair of oxfords, and that’s what I wear 90% of the time that I leave the house. I’ve also got a pair of the white Adidas if I’m running errands or kicking around at home. But at this point, I’ve completely given up on heels.

  8. Paula Spizziri
    August 21, 2020 / 7:49 am

    I usually wear slippers around the house, but have a few pairs of Teva sandals in different colors. I find them very comfortable; after a while, they mold to my feet. I for winter, I need to replace my Merrill booties with the front zip. Easy on and off, waterproof, and good traction.

  9. Lee
    August 20, 2020 / 5:42 pm

    I’ve become a Birkenstock’s convert too! My current favorites are silver Mayari’s. & antique lace Gizeh’s. So comfortable! It will be hard to switch back over to other shoes as I transition back to work. I do have some Born sandals that I used to wear quite a bit & will likely wear them again for work. I’m way past wearing uncomfortable shoes!

  10. Alphie
    August 20, 2020 / 4:58 pm

    I thought your title for this post would be “my favorite birkenstocks for this new normal birkenstock year” haha. They seem like a must have for you all summer.

  11. Michele
    August 20, 2020 / 2:13 pm

    I’ve been wearing Crocs as house shoes for 12 years. They’re the best! When I go out on errands I change into one if my Vionic Amber sandals or Ecco Soft slip ons. Debating on a pair of Adidas but wondering about support. I didn’t know I could take out the insoles.

  12. Lucy
    August 20, 2020 / 12:36 pm

    I love shoes from Munro. They come in a wide variety of sizes and widths. I am a teacher and usually are on my feet most of the day. Well, not now, teaching online. I have been in my Pisces sandals for the entire summer.

  13. Suzanne Cross
    August 20, 2020 / 12:12 pm

    It’s amazing how my shoe needs have changed. Full disclosure, when Covid emerged, I moved from DC to Maine (temporarily, but possibly more permanent) and now live a rural lifestyle. I grabbed all my sneakers, workboots, and comfy shoes that I had. They have saved me. I sing the praises of Bogs shoes for gardening in late winter, and an Ahnu waterproof sneaker which is perfect for walking dogs or hiking in wet conditions. Indoors I wear a Skechers or Keds slip-on: I can’t go barefoot with plantar fascitis. Keen sandals for summer, and sneakers, sneakers, sneakers. I’m on my feet a lot outside in rough conditions. I never wear my shoes out and these last 5 months, I certainly am headed that way. I have to look at the Danner boots, they were my first hiking boot in the 70s an I’m in need of a rugged waterproof shoe. I recently went back to DC and lovingly looked at all my booties, strappy sandals, white tennies, and loafer slip ons and hoped I could someday wear them again. We’ll see.

  14. Nicola
    August 20, 2020 / 10:44 am

    I’m a big fan of Mephisto Helen sandals. I think they are similar to Birks but fit my ridiculously high arches better and I just find them more comfortable.

  15. Susan L
    August 20, 2020 / 10:28 am

    I have fallen for Hoka. The shoes are cushy support while the tops are knit which don’t put pressure on toe joints or toes. I have finally gotten past plantar fasciitis and my feet don’t ache when I wear them.

  16. Carly
    August 20, 2020 / 10:19 am

    I’ve become a Birk convert this summer! I love my EVAs for the pool and a pop of color. So true re being barefoot at home- I love the support they offer when I’m cooking! Thanks for the recommendations! I’m due for a new pair of white sneakers… I’ll check out the shell tops. 😉

  17. August 20, 2020 / 9:22 am

    Birks Rock! Mine are from the 70’s and my daughters thought they were “the new style”!

  18. Book Goddess
    August 20, 2020 / 7:36 am

    I have been very happy that I discovered the Aetrex Jillian sandal pre-Covid. They have a cork-based contoured sole which has good support for my troubled feet. For reference, I am wider in the toe area and narrowish in the heel. They are quite adjustable and come in a good variety of colors. The bronze is a nice subtle metallic which would pretty much go with anything. Highly recommended.

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