Stuff We Love: Comfortable, Stylish Clarks Dress Shoes for Men
For most of my life, I've bought dress shoes based on style and low price much more than comfort. Even when I splurged on an expensive pair of dress shoes for work, I couldn't wait to take them off at the end of the day, even though I worked at a desk for most of the day.
That changed when I discovered Clarks dress shoes for men about a dozen years ago.
Why I Bought My First Pair of Clarks
It happened before I took a fall trip to Europe. I wanted to buy some comfortable but stylish walking shoes that could also double as dress shoes.
I didn't want to be the tourist walking around in comfy white tennis shoes. I wanted to be mistaken for a local while walking miles each day in shoes that had the odd combination I was searching for: dress shoes that felt good after a day of walking. I also wanted shoes that were waterproof.
I also wanted comfortable shoes because I had recently suffered a plantar fasciitis injury, a stretching of an area near the heel that isn't supposed to stretch.
To make a long story short, I bought some expensive orthotic inserts to put into my shoes to help provide arch support. I also took a class from my medical provider on foot injuries, and Clarks were listed as a good shoe to try out for better arch support.
This was back before shopping on the Internet was commonplace, so I had to search around for a shoe store that sold Clarks. A store in Berkeley, about 20 miles from my home, sold them, but they had to be ordered and took a few weeks to arrive. I paid about $100, which at the time seemed like a crazy amount of money to spend on good shoes, and still does.
What's Great About Them
A new pair of shoes usually feel great at the store or the first time you wear them, though once you break the stiffness out of them, they can then feel much less comfortable than they originally did. I don't know how that happens with new dress shoes I buy, but the real test is how good they feel after wearing them all day.
Walking in Comfort
The first pair of Clarks I bought felt good all day and did exactly what I wanted them to do during my vacation. My feet didn't ache after a few hours, I didn't feel any effects of plantar fasciitis, and I could explore all day in comfortable shoes without having to return to a hotel at night to change into dress shoes to wear out to dinner.
I was glad to take them off at the end of the day, as I expect I would with any shoe after a day of sightseeing, but my feet weren't sore throughout the day like they were in other shoes.
Easy to Get On and Off
Many men's dress shoes are slip-ons, meaning they don't have laces and can be slipped on and off easily. But I've found other brands of slip-on shoes (Land's End, for one) to have a tight tongue.
While slip-ons may not be the style for everyone, the Clarks I wore looked good walking around town or at a formal event, and I've danced in them at weddings without my feet hurting.
Clarks Offers Free Shipping, Returns, and No Minimum
Shoe shopping has changed a lot since I bought my first pair of Clarks — which I still own — and I no longer have to drive to another city to buy a pair of shoes that arrived in the mail. There's now a Clarks store near my home, which is dangerous, but I can usually find better prices online at websites such as Zappos.
If I can't find the types of Clarks I want at Zappos, I'll go to the Clarks website, which offers free ground shipping without a minimum purchase amount. It also offers free returns, either by mail or to a Clarks store.
What Clarks Compare To
After I discovered the comfort of Clarks, the cheapskate in me continued to want to look for inexpensive shoes that were comfortable enough for a day of walking. Since my original purchase of black slip-on dress shoes from Clarks, I've bought the same style in brown, and I have also bought at least three casual walking shoes from Clarks.
I've bought other shoes from Rockport, Reebok, Land's End, and a cheap pair from Costco that were so painful I stopped wearing them after a week. Most of those have been tennis shoes or casual shoes that I wouldn't consider dress shoes. I've even bought Hush Puppies penny loafers — which were expensive and looked great — but are nowhere near Clarks in their ability to take a beating walking around all day.
The key difference I've noticed between Clarks and others is that not only does Clarks offer excellent arch support, but its thick padding and the shoe's ability to move with my foot make it much easier to walk in than any other shoe.
Who Clarks Shoes Are Best For
If you have plantar fasciitis, bad arches or other foot problems, Clarks are worth giving a try. Casual walking shoes may be easy to find in another brand, but Clarks' dress shoes for men are the best I've found for good looking dress shoes that can be worn all day.
How They Could Be Better
I have no major complaints about the Clarks dress shoes I've bought. The pairs I've bought have held up well for years partly, I think, because I sub them out for other shoes and don't wear the same pair for more than a week.
Clarks' casual walking shoes, however, could use some work. I've bought at least three pairs with its Wavewalk technology, and while I've found them to be comfortable walking shoes, they're not as comfy over time as the dress shoes I've bought from Clarks.
Clarks also seems to change shoe styles often, so sometimes a year or so later when I want to buy the same shoes again, the style has been discontinued, and I have to try something else.
What They Don't Tell You at the Shoe Store
If you're shopping online, you're shopping at your own peril. At the shoe store, I expect expert advice and have often gotten it at a Clarks store with advice on how to polish them correctly and how to take care of them. But one thing that they haven't told me was something I've heard from other shoe salespeople — switch the shoes out for another pair every few days or every week, so that they have time to breathe.
If you have orthotics to insert, be sure to put them in the shoes you're trying on in the shoe store to make sure it's a comfortable fit. You may have to go up half a size and get extra wide shoes to accommodate the orthotics.
Bottom Line Recommendation
The men's dress shoes from Clarks are the most comfortable dress shoes I've ever worn. It's not even a contest. They've helped with my foot problems, and have been comfortable for either a night out or walking all day on cobbled streets. I've even been mistaken for a local and asked for directions while wearing them in another country.
Where to Get Yours
If you can find a Clarks outlet store, that's probably where you'll find the best deals. If you don't mind paying full retail, go to a Clarks store or buy directly from Clarks online.
Zappos has great prices. I've found some Clarks shoes there that were half the price of what Clarks had on its website. Zappos has less of a selection than Clarks will have at its stores or website, but if you find the style you like, it's likely to be cheaper there.
Amazon, like everything else in our lives, sells Clarks and can have great deals, too.
What are your favorite comfortable men's dress shoes?