Comfort is key when it comes to shoes to wear in NYC. Whether you live in New York City or you’re just visiting, walking is a way of life here and so shoe choice is super important.
On any given day in NYC, I log in at least 3 miles of walking. That’s a little over an hour spent in non-workout, everyday shoes.
A comfortable shoe is pretty much a no-brainer given how much one walks in the city (even more so if you’re a tourist visiting everything the Big Apple has to offer). Comfy shoes keep your feet happy on long walks, but a comfortable shoe is also important thanks to the many cobblestone streets of New York.
New York City is one of the most fashionable cities in the world, and because of the walking lifestyle, most New Yorkers think of their shoes as an integral part of their outfit, not just an afterthought. Yes, you want comfortable shoes to walk in, but they need to look good, too.
You want your shoes to be comfortable, durable and stylish.
Moving part-time to NYC from a city that never walks (Los Angeles), I was forced to figure out my shoe situation rather quickly.
Here are the shoes I keep on heavy rotation in my NYC closet. (If you’re visiting New York City, add these to your packing list ASAP!)
The Best Shoes for Walking Around NYC
Hands down, the number one shoe you need for walking around NYC is a pair of super comfortable classic white sneakers.
My white sneakers are easily my most worn pair of NYC shoes. I wear mine year-round, though every season, because they’re super versatile regardless of my outfit.
In the summer, white sneakers and a sundress is the NYC woman’s uniform. In fall or spring, you can easily pair these with jeans. When it’s cold in the winter, add a pair of thick socks to keep your feet warm.
I recommend leather because it’s easier to clean than fabric shoes and your feet will be warmer in leather when it’s cold. Plus, if you get stuck in rain or snow, the water won’t seep through the leather as easily as cloth.
If you’re visiting NYC, white sneakers serve as great walking shoes for travel and long sightseeing days because you get the arch support of traditional sneakers while still looking stylish.
There are a lot of shoe brands that make white sneakers, and you can find a pair at any budget. Here are some of my favorites:
For a more fashion-forward footwear option, you can’t go wrong with chunky sneakers (or dad sneakers, whatever you’d like to call them).
With a cushy sole, these are another great pick for walking around all day. In the summer, wear them with short dresses or shorts, and in the fall and winter, try them with wide leg jeans or trousers.
I have these New Balance sneakers and I will find any excuse to wear them; they’re so springy and comfy.
Non-Suede Black Leather Ankle Boots
For a dressier option during cooler weather and when you’re only walking a few blocks, you can’t beat a black non-suede leather ankle boot.
I emphasize non-suede because weather in the city can be really flaky, especially in the spring and fall.
While suede boots are beautiful, unless they’re waterproof, they can get ruined very easily if it starts sporadically raining. Leather boots are much more durable than their suede counterparts.
You can find leather ankle boots in a ton of color options, but I prefer the traditional and classic black.
They go with everything, and they work for cooler days or nights when you need something a little dressier than casual lug sole boots.
Depending on your preference, you can opt for a flat version, but I prefer a block heel for something fancier. These boots look great with pretty much everything from jeans or skirts and dresses, with or without tights.
Waterproof Boots For Snow and Inclement Weather
I try to reserve my actual snow boots exclusively for heavy snow and blizzard days. However, walking through snow and slush is inevitable in NYC. Investing in the right shoes for this weather is crucial.
Traditional snow boots can be clunky to walk in. And when you’re trying to meet friends for dinner or brunch, they’re also not the cutest.
Instead, opt for a durable, high quality waterproof boot that can stand up to the elements and still look good. These are typically lace-up hiker and combat boots, or pull-on lug sole boots.
These Rag & Bone combat boots (pictured above) are an investment, but they have held up for years and still look like new.
Another cold weather footwear favorite for NYC are these lug sole boots. I like them so much, I own two different colors.
If you’re visiting New York City in the winter, and need cold weather wardrobe pieces, I wrote this blog post with my favorite cold weather essentials for NYC winters.
When I’m going to be out all day in the spring or fall, I prefer loafers over a mule for NYC.
Your feet won’t accidentally slip out like they can with mules onto the lovely streets of NYC. (I mean, yuck. Am I right?)
Loafers are more polished than sneakers, but just as comfy since they’re flat. Wear them to a business meeting, out to lunch, and even to dinner. See how you can style loafers here.
Flat Sandals with a Strap Around the Heel
If your feet get hot quickly and/or the thought of wearing closed-toe shoes in 80 degrees plus 80% humidity scares you, I get it. Wear the sandals.
However, if you’re going to wear sandals walking all day in NYC, I highly recommend a pair with a back strap that goes around your heel.
Just like mules, slide sandals can slip off your feet. I if you plan on walking a lot or taking the subway, it’s nice to have peace of mind that that they won’t accidentally get clipped by someone walking behind you.
Personally, unless I’m walking locally, a sandal with a strap around the heel allows me to be a bit more comfortable and it’s one less thing to worry about.
I’d say the only subway sandals rule exception to this is Birkenstocks. I love wearing my Birkenstock sandals in NYC, and since the footbed has a raised edge, your foot is less likely to slip out of the show. The Arizona style is my favorite style for a quick walk to my local coffee shop or if I need to run errands a few subway stops from my apartment.
Low Heels or Block Heels
Unless you’re walking from a taxi straight inside to your destination, I really don’t recommend high heels for NYC. Despite my best efforts to live out my Carrie Bradshaw dreams, the stiletto in the city life is not for me.
More practical, high heel alternatives include the following:
- A low block heel (this style works for date night and important business meetings)
- Low-heeled strappy sandals (more comfy than a higher heel, with the same SJP vibes)
- A block-heel sandal (a wardrobe staple, and you can wear day or night)
You really don’t need a ton of shoes to walk around NYC, you just need the right ones!
White classic sneakers work year-round and can double up as an airport travel shoe. In the height of summer, find sandals with heel straps to avoid your foot from slipping. In the fall and winter, you can’t go wrong with a black leather ankle boot. Happy walking!