Without a doubt, comfy shoes have been having a moment.
During the past year, as many employees were logging in to work from home, they shunned their traditional office wear — think high heels and stiff laceup brogues — in favor of cosy, feel-good footwear, such as slippers, slides and sneakers. And even among those offices that remained open during the pandemic, rules about workplace attire relaxed significantly in the absence of client meetings and events.
But now, as the pandemic loosens its hold and people return to work and regular life, will customers return to their old shoe habits?
FN spoke with executives from six brands that specialize in comfort footwear about how customer expectations have changed, and what qualifies now as a comfortable shoe.
CEO, San Antonio Shoemakers
“Within the last 10 years, the footwear industry has grown and consumers have more options and expect more from brands. This expectation was exaggerated by the pandemic. After a year of quarantine and working from home, we are now accustomed to getting things done while also being comfortable. Versatile, quality footwear styles that can transition from work to life and offer proper comfort and support is the new expectation. Our Running Late-X was designed specifically with this consumer in mind. It’s a handcrafted modern women’s moc using our traditional construction with a seamless cushioned insole, EVA midsole, a rubber outsole with traction pattern and a toggle closure.”
Mario Moretti Polegato
Founder & chairman, Geox
“The past year has just emphasized a trend that was already ongoing. Today, 95% of the world’s population wear rubber-soled shoes, for leisure or business occasions, because comfort has become an essential element of modern living. People want style together with comfort, they want both and they don’t give any room for compromise. Geox has an advantage on this. Our Spherica range, for instance, is ultra-light, and the sole is characterized by spherical cushioning elements distributed along the entire surface. The result is unsurpassed cushioning, which not only relieves the pressure of the foot in every phase of the movement, but also adds a sensation of energy.”
VP of footwear design, Aetrex Worldwide Inc.
“Consumer expectations for comfort had been growing prior to the pandemic — the pandemic just amplified it. As consumers return to the office, travel and in-person events, their desire for varied silhouettes will return, but they won’t want to return to uncomfortable shoes. They’ve experienced the luxury of slippers and comfort footwear in their homes and they’re not going to want to go back. At Aetrex, we integrate our signature arch support and pressure relief system into every style. We focus on details like adjustability, materials and pattern to ensure that comfort is maximized around the foot.”
President & CEO, Floafers
“After a year wearing spaghetti-stained sweats and sneakers, consumers are not likely to give up these comfort-driven looks even as they head back to the office. While these wardrobe choices may not make it into even the most relaxed workplaces, consumers will now be shopping for footwear that delivers all the comfort bells and whistles they’ve come to enjoy, from soft, breathable uppers to cushioned footbeds and flexible outsoles. For Floafers, that translates into our collection of ‘front door’ styles — easy on-and-off lightweight foam looks made for errand running or dog walking.”
“Comfort has always been that out-of-the-box, ‘oh my gosh’ moment. I think that has been amplified over the last year with the global situation, so plush cushioning and easy, wearable comfort is key in our top styles. From Lamo’s standpoint, comfort goes along with cozy. Our consumer is looking for that great work-from-home comfort while keeping the toes cozy, whether it is winter and zero degrees out, or summer in Scottsdale, Ariz., with the AC freezing those terracotta floor tiles.”
Creative & marketing director, Consolidated Shoe Co.
“Comfort is no longer an option — it’s the expectation. While expressing personal style has never been more critical, as we reenter the world, consumers are less willing to accept fashion at the cost of comfort. Instead, we must evolve fashion to offer the same comfort consumers have become accustomed to in their at-home lifestyles. Ease of wear, flexibility and versatility are equally as important as the industry’s more defined comfort features, such as lightweight technologies, soft touchable materials and cushioning that maintains support throughout the day.”