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Comfort Shoes You Can Really Use

A subjective, firsthand look at some kicks older feet will appreciate


spinner image a person shopping for shoes
Getty Images

For those of us in our 60s, especially former fashionistas and athletes no longer willing to suffer for style or sport, today’s footwear trends (a blending of comfort, usefulness and handsome design) bring welcome relief. Slip-ons! Supersoft cushioning! Arch support! AARP executive editor Bill Horne and I (both longtime runners ruled by walk-loving canines) checked out a bunch of brands known for comfort and approved by the American Podiatric Medical Association. We picked styles we thought would work for many people for a variety of purposes, and kept the price range in the middle of the spectrum, with a couple of splurges (listed prices are full retail, but sales or discounts can be found for many). We wore them around our houses, on runs, out shopping and, of course, walking our bossy dogs. Though this list is not comprehensive, we narrowed the field to 18* that our feet liked and that your certain someone might appreciate in this gift-giving season.

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spinner image Ecco Soft 7; Allbirds Tree Runner; Skechers Hands Free Slip-ins Ultra Flex 3.0
(From top to bottom) Ecco Soft 7; Allbirds Tree Runner; Skechers Hands Free Slip-ins Ultra Flex 3.0
AARP; Skechers

All-around: It’s hard to find one pair that does it all, but Allbirds Tree Runner ($98, allbirds.com) comes close — comfy, light for easy travel packing, hip enough to make the grandkids jealous — made of breathable, machine-washable, eco-friendly eucalyptus fiber. Similarly vegan, but without the need to tie and untie, are Skechers Hands Free Slip-ins Ultra Flex 3.0 ($90, skechers.com). A more upscale choice: the Ecco Soft 7 ($170, us.ecco.com) sleek leather sneaker. Dress it up, down and walk all around.

spinner image Dansko Kane; Teva ReEmber; Naot Martos
(From left to right) Dansko Kane; Teva ReEmber; Naot Martos
Dansko; AARP

Inside/outside: Dash from the couch to the garden to the coffee shop in Dansko Kane ($90, dansko.com), a low clog made from easy-to-clean material, or the suede Naot Martos ($180, naot.com) slide with faux-fur footbed. A puffer jacket for your feet? Try Teva ReEmber ($80, teva.com) in rip-stop recycled nylon.

spinner image Keen Targhee III Waterproof mid-height; Smooshy Hoka Arahi 6; Ora Recovery Slide 3; Merrell Jungle Mocs; Brooks Cascadia
(Clockwise from left) Keen Targhee III Waterproof Mid-Height; Hoka Arahi 6; Brooks Cascadia 17; Merrell Jungle Mocs; Hoka Ora Recovery Slide 3
AARP; Deckers Brands; Merrell; Brooks

Walking the dogs: Protect your piggies on trails with the Keen Targhee III Waterproof, which come in low- and mid-height versions ($155 and $165, respectively, keen.com). Faster pace? Smooshy Hoka Arahi 6 ($140, hoka.com) feel like running barefoot on a plush carpet. Brooks Cascadia 17 ($140, brooksrunning.com) provide grippy support on trails. Perfect for tromping with no laces are the Merrell Jungle Moc ($100, merrell.com). Recover from outings in Hoka’s sublimely light but arch-supporting Ora Recovery Slide 3 ($60, hoka.com).

spinner image Vionic Uptown Loafer; Lifestride’s Gio Mary Jane Wedge; Skechers Garza Romanos; Naturalizer Maxwell Ballet Flat; Allen Edmonds Oliver Knit Slip-on Sneaker
(Clockwise from bottom left) Naturalizer Maxwell Ballet Flat; Vionic Uptown Loafer; Lifestride Gio Mary Jane Wedge; Allen Edmonds Oliver Knit Slip-on Sneaker; Skechers Garza Romanos
Vionic; Caleres; Skechers; AARP

Dressing up: For women, you can’t beat a grownup Mary Jane like Lifestride’s Gio Mary Jane Wedge ($80, lifestride.com). Naturalizer’s Maxwell Ballet Flat ($89, naturalizer.com) that come in metallic leathers and offer styles with straps and buckles, if not bells and whistles. The chunky-soled Vionic Uptown Loafer ($120, vionicshoes.com) works with pants or dresses. For men: The luxe Allen Edmonds Oliver Knit Slip-on Sneaker ($295, allenedmonds.com) is elegant and practical. For a light but handsome budget-friendly pick, try the men’s Skechers Garza Romanos ($75, skechers.com).

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spinner image 1460 Pascal Virginia Leather Boots; Dansko Professional
(Left to right) Dr. Martens 1460 Pascal Virginia Leather Boots; Dansko Professional
AARP

Classic that goes the distance: Dr. Martens’ 1460 Pascal Virginia Leather Boots ($170, drmartens.com) have softer, lighter leather than the old-school combat-ready punk version but are just as rockin’. And people who stand for a living still swear by Dansko ($135, dansko.com) clogs, such as the Professional.

*Most have men and women’s models unless otherwise noted.

Shoe Hacks

Little extras to help your tootsies.

Shoehorns: Fancy or drugstore, if you’re too lazy to tie, these are the ticket.

Socks: Choose these first and wear them to try on shoes. Cotton is not a friend to sweaty feet. Wool socks will warm and cool you. Compression socks aid recovery for tired legs and are good for long flights.

Traction devices: Slip these onto shoes or boots to keep from slipping, particularly on ice. Stabilicers or Yaktrax work well in snow and light ice, but pure ice demands Microspikes.

Insoles: For serious problems, a podiatrist can make custom orthotics. But you can get an array in sporting goods and drugstores that provide extra cushion and support, including some just for the ball of your foot or heel.

Shoe Buying Rules: Fit, fit, fit

We generally lose height with age, but our feet often actually grow. According to Chicago podiatrist Lisa Schoene, most people are cramming their tootsies into too-small shoes, and that can lead to pain elsewhere. “Feet are the foundation of everything,” Schoene says. “Back or hip issues could be coming from the foot.” To fix these issues, “fit, fit, fit,” she advises.

Here are a few tips for this important buy:

  • Get your feet measured, and try on shoes at the end of the day.
  • Test with the socks you’ll wear since some can take up another half size.
  • Make sure there’s a thumb’s width between the end of the shoe and the tip of your longest toe.
  • If you shop online, pick sites that have free returns, so you won’t be tempted to keep shoes that look great but don’t fit.
  • Once the shoes are in hand, wear them around the house, so you can return them if they’re not comfy. Many running stores allow returns after 30 days of actual use.
  • Buy athletic shoes one size larger than your dress shoes.
  • Realize that sizing is inconsistent, even within brands.
  • Running shoes, used an average of 10 miles per week, should never see a birthday, since midsole material breaks down in ways that are not visible.
  • Go sport-specific. Wearing running shoes to play pickleball is courting injury. Similarly, don’t run in hiking shoes or hike in sandals. (One exception: Running shoes are generally fine for light hiking.)

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