best smart sneakers

The best smart sneakers for stepping back into the office

Whether you’re looking for a comfortable commute or a pair of trainers to transcend dress codes, these are the shoes for you

This is going to be difficult, isn’t it? Going back to work. And not for any of the reasons you may think. You’ve been saving up water cooler chat since March 2020, so there’s plenty to catch up on there. You haven’t had a proper Monday morning coffee for months, so the office espresso machine will be a sight for sore, uncaffeinated eyes. It’s your work wardrobe where the difficulties will kick in.

Because we’ve really let our office dress codes slide while working from home. We’ve not been ironing our shirts quite as crisply. We’ve stopped running the lint roller over our suit jackets — or wearing suits altogether. And, on every Zoom call, just out of shirt-and-tied view, we’ve all been wearing pyjama bottoms and slippers.

But don’t worry. Returning to the office doesn’t mean sacrificing the comfort you’ve come to know and love during lockdown. With a good pair of smart sneakers, your footwear can remain firmly on the formal side — but keep your feet cushioned and comfy all working week long. Here’s a selection of the best pairs for 2021…

For understated luxury, Aurélien Beige Suede Sneaker

There’s something approachable about these sneakers from Aurélien. They may be crafted from extremely, unfathomably soft leather, lined with calf leather and furnished with a padded insole — but they remain understated, unassuming and unobtrusive.

True, they may be the only handmade pair of shoes you own, and they may be subtly stamped with the eminent Aurélien emblem, but there’s no arguing: they still work as workaday, working week sneaks.

The best smart sneakers for stepping back into the office

Aurélien Beige Suede Sneaker

£160.00

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For a blend of comfort and style, Church’s Boland Plus 2 Classic Sneakers

Breathable and burnished, Church’s new sneakers are just as sophisticated as you’d expect. They’ve been crafted from St James calf leather — with an antique finish — and feature contrast leather tongues and heel tabs.

It’s the perfect pair for office workers missing their Oxfords, with those high-shine uppers doing the dress code job just as well as any derby shoes or brogues. But it’s not all tightly-laced, stiff-soled formality — that extra cushioned heel ensures comfort as well. 

The best smart sneakers for stepping back into the office

Church’s Boland Plus 2 Classic Sneakers

£590.00

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For true versatility, Uniform Standard Series 1

These really do have it all. There’s a hint of sportiness in there, thanks to the blue and white design. There’s the requisite touch of formality for your workplace, courtesy of a premium Italian suede upper. They’ve even got solid eco-credentials, with 100% recycled footbeds, 70% recycled rubber cupsoles and 100% recycled cellulose insole boards.

But the best part? Sheer versatility. We’re yet to think of any everyday function, meeting or occasion that you couldn’t slip these sneakers on for. Can you?

The best smart sneakers for stepping back into the office

Uniform Standard Series 1

£140.00

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For simple, singular style, Oliver Cabell Low 1 in Navy

One colour — because who needs more than navy? From Oliver Cabell, these monochromatic lace-ups are hand-stitched and lasted in Italy from full grain calfskin leather.

Standing on Margom outsoles, renowned for their durable, lightweight rubber, the footbed is molded perfectly to your foot — and runs slightly narrower for a more streamlined, sleek silhouette. But the simple, singular colour is the real draw here; a quality shoe in a versatile colour. 

The best smart sneakers for stepping back into the office

Oliver Cabell Low 1 in Navy

£241.00

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For an athletic edge, Rubirosa Odile Low 002 Taupe

There’s a slight sportiness to this pair of sneakers from Rubirosa. In a neutral taupe colour, they’re subtle without being too casual — and the textured suede uppers elevates them above your normal, knock-around pair of kicks.

We’d recommend lacing up this pair if you’re a returning commuter, as they’ll offer you all the support and comfort you need to run for the train, bus or tube.  

The best smart sneakers for stepping back into the office

Rubirosa Odile Low 002 Taupe

£295.00

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For unseasonal weather, Unseen Footwear Clement in Grey Suede

Although the sun of summer should be dawning, we’ve got a double whammy to contend with; unpredictable British weather and a return to work.

But don’t let a few rainclouds cloud your mood. Instead, turn to Unseen Footwear. Sitting on a rugged rubber sole, sporting hardy laces and with uppers crafted from the finest weatherproof suede, these ‘Suede Grey’ kicks are the ideal antidote to any pernicious, unseasonal puddles.

The best smart sneakers for stepping back into the office

Unseen Footwear Clement in Grey Suede

£133.00

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For a smarter spin, Lanvin Cap Toe Sneakers

There’ll always be those who don’t see the sneaker as anything but a training shoe. And yet, offices around the world have adopted these sportier styles and made them a cornerstone of ‘business casual’.

To ease the naysayers in, may we suggest these cap toe sneakers from Lanvin? With soft, black suede uppers, the toecaps are finished in a glossy patent leather — ideal for dipping your own toe into the dress code-spanning world of sneakers.

The best smart sneakers for stepping back into the office

Lanvin Cap Toe Sneakers

£323.00

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For vintage styling, Tod’s Tabs Sneakers in Suede

And finally, Tod’s. These sneakers epitomise everything great about the sneakers above. They’re suede, for that casual edge. They’re sporty, for commuting comfort. They’re a handsome brown, for versatile pairings.

But, more than that, they’re crafted with decades of Italian innovation stitched right into the soles; with features including heel collar padding, reinforced eyestays and rubber pebble detailing on the heel and outsole.

The best smart sneakers for stepping back into the office

Tod’s Tabs Sneakers in Suede

£430.00

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Want something a little smarter? Here are the loafers we’re slipping on this spring…

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