Why You Should Not Wear Sneakers in the City

And Five Other Shoes I Wear Instead

I recently read a blog post from a blogger I’ve followed for many years extolling the virtues wearing sneakers in cities and why she (and many others) choose to do so. This point was made in particular reference to the “chic” women of Paris and London and how “everyone” wears sneakers on the street nowadays, and how not doing so marked you out as a tourist. (My personal note: I can assure you that during my European travels, making a point of not wearing sneakers, as well as other wardrobe choices, guaranteed I wasn’t treated as an American tourist–despite claims to the contrary.)

With all due respect to those who wear sneakers in the city, they give me 1980s businesswoman vibes. I feel very strongly about this, apparently! I’m not saying we need to all be Carrie Bradshaw here, but I think there’s a happy medium between Manolo Blahniks and Reeboks (or whatever sneakers pass for “chic” these days). Case in point: when my husband and I were living on the Park in the city, I used to see Carolina Herrera taking her afternoon stroll every day in Central Park. I never saw her wearing sneakers! What’s good enough for her is good enough for me. Here are five shoes I wear instead of sneakers—and why.

Ballet flats
This easy and elegant shoe is a wardrobe staple for a reason—it goes with everything. One of my first posts on the blog was about the hunt for the perfect pair of ballet flats. The right pair can take you anywhere. I love my Porselli flats, which mold to my foot after wear. A.P.C. also makes a great non-padded pair. For those looking for a padded insole (Porsellis do not have one), I love the offerings by Ann Mashburn and French Sole.

Belgian Shoes
The Belgian is my fall and spring shoe of choice for many reasons—one of those is that it is an ideal shoe for city walking. The padded insole, perfect fit (they are custom made-to-order), and the choice between “hard” or “soft” soles means that they’ll always be an incredible choice.

Smoking slippers
Smoking slippers pair well with just about any outfit (see evidence here, here, and here), and while they’re better for a sidewalk stroll than a walk in the Park, they’ll work for that too! I love Stubbs & Wootton, House of Zalo, and Gallola slippers—all incredibly well-made, elegant, and timeless. Fun fact: my mother used to wear Stubbs and Zalo slippers when chasing her toddler (aka me) around Manhattan (see here). If she can do it, you can too!

Block heel pumps
I’m not much of a heel-wearer, but there comes a time in every woman’s life where flats just won’t cut it. Block heels are practical yet chic—I’ve worn these on thirty-plus-block walks throughout Manhattan with no issues. My preferred pair is the Ferragamo Vara; I’ve also heard great things about Ann Mashburn’s buckle flat.

Ankle boots
When the weather turns cold, ankle boots are the answer. The right pair will be balanced and not heavy, with a well-made sole and good support throughout the boot to ensure ease of movement. I love my duBarry boots, which are waterproof, and my black leather Sezane boots (mine are the Montana style, and I ordered them when the brand was still only in France. They’ve served me incredibly well!). They’re much more timeless than a pair of sneakers, and they’ll keep you warm too! I’ve worn both pairs on extended walks through Dublin, London, and Paris, among many others domestic and abroad.

Where do you stand on this apparently divisive issue? Are leather “fashion” sneakers truly more comfortable and practical than loafers? Do you cringe when you see people pairing sneakers with more formal attire? Inquiring minds want to know!

A/N: I want to clarify that this post is in reference to a trend I’ve noticed among many bloggers, and that a recent post by an individual prompted my musings on this topic! It’s not meant to call out anyone in particular. I wanted to edit this post slightly to reflect that.

10 thoughts on “Why You Should Not Wear Sneakers in the City

  1. I’m with you on the “no sneaker” stance! Thanks for these recs – my new job involves a lot more walking than my previous one and and I’ve been looking for some dressy flats. I might finally go for it with a pair of Belgian shoes. 🙂

  2. I completely understand why it doesn’t look great to wear athletic sneakers for non-athletic activities (like walking in a metropolitan city) but I do think there is a place for more refined sneakers in the city. For example, I bought a pair of leather sneakers from Cole Haan to wear with jeans and a button down shirt and trench coat when I was in London and walking everywhere.

    1. I can get behind nice-looking sneakers with jeans–essentially, as long as you’re not wearing workwear and deliberately athletic-looking shoes, it could work! (At least in my opinion!) I’ll admit that this post sparked far more controversy than I anticipated, particularly from one blogger who thought the reference was about her… it wasn’t!

  3. There are certainly occasions to wear sneakers, but if I’m looking to dress and impress in a metropolitan area, I would never pick them. And I have distinct memories of my friend getting physically harassed on the Paris metro for being an American (i.e., wearing Nikes) in 2001, so it’s a hard pass for me.

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