do I really have to wear high heels to a job interview?

A reader writes:

I am a college student employed through work-study. Once a month, my employer holds a training session for all student assistants to update us on new procedures, etc. Our most recent meeting focused on employment after college, because many assistants graduate this year.

This training included mock interviews accompanied by an evaluation. I was surprised to see that I lost points for not wearing heels. I opted for point-toe Italian leather flats because heels (of any size, even wedges) hurt my knees and leave me limping within five minutes. I figured it’s more professional to walk into an interview rather than limp into it. My evaluation score really upset me. Could heels really cost me an employment opportunity?

Very, very unlikely. It’s true that there are still a handful of throwbacks who think that professional dress for women includes heels, but the vast, vast majority of people and employers no longer hold that stance.

Tons of women can’t or choose not to wear heels, and there are plenty of professional flat shoes available.

It’s also really silly to suggest that someone who doesn’t normally wear heels put them on for a job interview — since a wobbly, not very polished walk isn’t a great interview look.

Your employer needs to reassess its training, which sounds like it was created decades ago. And meanwhile, you might point out to them that they’re wrongly penalizing the many people who may have a medical reason for avoiding heels — and they’re enforcing an incredibly sexist double standard of expecting women to wear significantly more uncomfortable footwear than men.

{ 426 comments… read them below }

  1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

    That’s absurd and yes, really outdated.

    I wear Dansko clogs 95% of the time. They’re not the most chic look, but they’re comfortable, supportive, and I make sure to choose the more understated/professional designs. It has never been an issue.

    1. Christina*

      I have two pairs of dansko “booties” that are my go to. Just chic enough to look polished. Clean enough to go well with multiple looks, and substantial enough for MN winter sidewalks.

        1. Gingerblue*

          Danskos were a game-changer for me, and they wear like iron. My most recent pair is about 5 years old, has been worn very frequently, and I’m just starting to think about replacing them because the leather around the rim is cracking. (I’m actually a bit disappointed, since my previous pair lasted me the better part of a decade with near-daily use.)

          1. Becca*

            My current pair only lasted 8 months before busting a seam. :( I’ll still give them another chance, though. The previous pair was great! Still physically fine, in fact, just had other issues with them.

      1. Jadelyn*

        I’m wearing my favorite Dansko boots right now, in fact. Plain black leather ankle boots with a very slight heel and some understated metal stud trim around the top. I’ve been wearing these for…3 years now? I’ve worn them under slacks and under jeans alike and nobody ever says anything either way. They’re an investment, I spent about $120 on them, but they’re still holding up great, so well worth it imo.

    2. I have one, but I'm on my laptop, not my phone right now.*

      Dansko clogs are the best, and with a pair of really nice slacks, they look as professional as if I were wearing heels.

      Then again, I trip over nothing in runners, and as a result have worn “high heels” a grand total of … three? Four times?

      1. Wendy Darling*

        Yeah I have balance problems and am generally a complete shambles no matter the shoes I’m wearing. I wear flats or boots with a tiny heel to interviews because wearing flats is way more professional than falling on my face. Although I guess if you really wanted to stand out, being “the woman who tripped on nothing and fell on her face during the interview” would definitely make you memorable.

        1. Sloan*

          I started off my first ever court appearance as an attorney by tripping over the client’s service dog and nearly slamming my face into the podium. It is not the first impression you want to make. I was then so flustered I forgot my own name and had to read it. So the second impression wasn’t great either.

      2. Miss Pantalones en Fuego (formerly Floundering Mander)*

        I don’t know why but Dansko clogs do not work for me. They are plenty comfy but I somehow fall every time I wear them. I had a pair I nicked from my sister but I gave them back after falling in the street repeatedly.

    3. Tuesday Next*

      Never heard of them before but they look awesome! And comfy. Unfortunately where I live, they’re so expensive that they’re offered on credit instalments :-/

      1. Cotton Headed Ninny Muggins*

        They are really expensive. I definitely recommend looking on eBay or at thrift and consignment shops though. Some of my favorites have come into my life that way.

        1. last seen reading*

          Yes, this is how I got most of my Danskos! The latest was a pair of cute oxfords that were a store return with a barely noticeable scuff on the heel—$35 instead of $139.

      2. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

        They are super expensive :( But also super worth it. I have one pair of ProXPs that I managed to wear daily for years and they’re still supportive. Since I’ve had a lot of difficulty with my feet, they’re way worth the sticker price IME.

      3. Casca*

        I really want to try them but nowhere in my city has it so I’d have to order them online and they might not fit (I have tricky feet) and returns cost the postage (significant) money if they’re even allowed!

        1. Perse's Mom*

          I like to recommend Zappos for Stateside shoe-buyers. Pretty fast delivery, free returns (on everything I’ve ordered so far). They carry Danskos – if not every single style or color, it’s a decent selection. My Dansko sandals are my favorites… but I have hobbit feet and cannot cram them into any of their other shoes.

    4. Specialk9*

      I work for a mega-corp that you’ve all heard of, and before that a variety of consulting clients. I wear flats every day. When I, say, present to executives, I wear d’Orsay flats that have a very polished look. I get many comments about how nicely I dress. So OP, that rule is just not true at most places. And if a job location had such outdated, sexist, and ADA-defying rules, then you are well rid of them!

    5. Alice H.*

      Does anyone else with Dansko clogs have issues with uneven ground? I looooved my Dansko clogs (simple clog), and purple high heeled Mary Jane esque Danskos; but they fell out of my rotation when I would step on a crack/stone/twig and the super solid sole would just seesaw on it.

      1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

        Yeah, I’ve definitely had that issue :\ If I’m going walking outside I usually don’t wear my Danskos for that reason, but sneakers with a lower and more flexible sole. But in terms of when I was having trouble walking at all, they were still a lifesaver and needing to be careful on uneven ground was a worthwhile trade-off.

      2. Anancy*

        I’ve worn Danskos 95% of the time for the majority of my adult life never had a major issue—until this summer. I was wearing a pair of the jute maryjanes with the flat solid raised sole, stepped on a rock on my sidewalk and my ankle went completely sideways. I tore just about everything. I’ve only worn running shoes since. So, yep, not just you!

    6. StubbornWombat*

      I’ve also found that Ariat paddock boots look very professional under slacks, and they have removable insoles so you can add in orthotics, etc – which makes sense, as they’re made to look good but be functional. I have an ankle tendon issue that actually makes wearing flats an issue (I need lateral stability support) so nice-looking boots are a godsend here. Then again, I also work in animal science, so cowboy boots are also common for women to wear (myself included). Ariat also makes some hiking sneakers that are formal enough that under slacks they’d look a bit more formal than say Nikes, but are still comfortable for long periods. They’re not cheap, but they last a really long time and are made to be durable.

    7. The OG Anonsie*

      Aw yeah. For a lot of reasons, I tend to wear comfort shoes, and where some people will poo-poo me when they’re obviously orthopedic shoes (“Just wear flats! You’re too young to wear ugly grandma shoes!” Stuff it, Susan.) I don’t think anyone classes them as unprofessional for normal office settings.

      Dansko makes some real cute non-clog shoes, too. A lot of brands do, but I find it especially neat that Dansko offers a really wide range of stuff. I used to work in an office where people were constantly on their feet and everyone had an assortment of funky Dansko sandals and wedges and etc.

  2. AnonForThis*

    Oof, this is so pernicious. I hate that a college of all places is reinforcing this.

    Your shoes sound great, OP!

    1. JulieBulie*

      I missed upon first reading that this was a work-study job and therefore a college. So now we can add this to the already extremely long list of bad job-hunting advice that colleges give to students.

      I think a more useful tip to job-hunters would be that there are some work environments where closed-toe, sometimes even steel-toed shoes are required. There is probably no work environment other than a strip joint where high-heeled shoes are required.

        1. Chaordic One*

          Oh, I think they do, but it is certainly not as common.

          I’ve lived in western states where it was almost mandatory for men in some professions to wear cowboy boots (even though they weren’t cowboys) and it was hilarious seeing them stumble down the hallway as the heels made it hard for them to walk.

          Theoretically, it is certainly possible that someone might have a wing-tip fetish or a loafer fetish or something like that.

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            I was about to say this. Even in the more laced-up departments, they opt for low/no-heeled shoes that are put together, like the shoes OP described.

          2. Violet Fox*

            Granted I’m IT not academic staff, but I wear hiking boots or doc martins most days to work. They go a lot better with my jeans or black jeans (yes I am a woman).

            1. curly sue*

              I am (female) academic staff and I wear black docs to work. They look fine under slacks, and the heavy-duty insoles I can slide in let me stand half the day / book it around campus to meetings without destroying my feet (bunions, bad ankles, heel pain, they’re a mess). Granted I teach in a department where steel-toed boots are perfectly appropriate for some faculty, but I’ve still never had anyone blink.

              1. Violet Fox*

                I’m with you with the bad ankle. Truthfully though in a lot of academica I’m not sure that people would notice *anything* including if I changed my entire wardrobe to lime green feathers.

                It’s a different sort of work place, which is actually why a lot of us work there. I just admit that I know nothing about working in the private sector really and defer to people who actually do.

                1. Violet Fox*

                  Before I get called out for generalising on the obliviousness thing, this is something very true of where I work, and a lot of other departments at my uni.

                2. Sami*

                  When I was in grad school, our faculty interviewed a very highly-regarded scholar in our field for a professorship. She showed up in this over-the-top caftan thing with disheveled hair – nothing that I would come close to describing as appropriate interview attire. And because this was academia and she was tenured and a Big Deal, no one cared. Norms are indeed very different…

                3. curly sue*

                  hah! I’m tempted to try the feathers, but I’m absolutely certain I’d just get asked if I was hosting a dramatic reading or a workshop somewhere after class. It’s definitely a different universe.

              2. Gingerblue*

                Seriously. My campus got part of the east coast snow storm this weekend, and most people seem to be wearing snow boots to teach today. I just got back from hiking halfway across campus for a class; there’s no way I was going to wear any normal indoor shoes for that, much less heels.

            2. Erin*

              +1 for docs. I work where I wear heels about 60% of the time. Very conservative dress code. Men are required to wear jackets. I just got some doc marten oxfords in a dark grey and I love them they’re saving my feet.

          3. Evan Þ*

            At least they’re (apparently) recognizing that academia has different standards from industry.

            Uh, small steps?

          4. Falling Diphthong*

            Any job where you are on your feet a lot–say walking across campus–heels are a no. (It’s my pet peeve for TV Women of Action. You can look good AND like you can chase someone down a fire escape and across a muddy field if you need to.)

              1. Falling Diphthong*

                Whereas in Z Nation–where zombies being carried off stuck to a giant rolling wheel of cheese is a thing that happens–Roberta and Addie are in sensible boots and sturdy jeans. Things that protect your legs if you encounter underground zombies, or crawling zombies, or whatever this week’s variation is.

            1. brightstar*

              The TV show “Lost Girl” was terrible about this. The two main female characters were always wearing 5 inch heels, even if their characters were going into an actual battle.

              1. Meyers and Briggs were not real doctors*


                But agreed, but hey, it’s hollywood…

                1. Falling Diphthong*

                  To me, there’s so much space between the tropes “Everyone in this police station/hospital/super spy team is unusually attractive, and quite witty” and “The women all have chosen to wear ridiculous clothing (and hairstyles) that would actively make it difficult to do their jobs. The men are dressed normally.”

                  I have to really work to haul my suspension of disbelief over that. I’m not asking for universal overalls and waders, just a recognition that people wear shoes appropriate to what they need to do. Or that if 5 inch spikes were that practical, they’d make all the men wear them too.

              1. Specialk9*

                Oh gosh the recent Jurassic Park, where she’s sprinting through the freaking primordial jungle in sky high stilettos. It was this really uncomfortable reflection of how Men In Power view women.

                1. Meyers and Briggs were not real doctors*

                  When is hollywood an accurate reflection of, um, anything? Not interested in the movie, but that scene sounds hilarious. (I’m assuming she falls and is eaten by a dinosaur?)

                  Dress for success!!!

                2. Red Reader*

                  That was actually Bryce Dallas Howard’s idea — they suggested that she kick the shoes off before fleeing the t-rex, and she basically went “Hell no, I’ve been practicing for this.”

                3. ReanaZ*

                  This one is different too because her job wasn’t ‘be a kickass battlewarrior’ where it was confusing why she was ever wearing heels at all. She was in high-level corporate meetings all day, dressed totally appropriately for that, then everything fell apart.

                  Moral of the story: never wear heels to any meeting or interview; dinosaurs could eat you.

                4. Falling Diphthong*

                  “Ms Interviewer, I notice you looking at my shoes. And battle axe. Let me explain my philosophy…”

          5. Optimistic Prime*

            True, but their visions of non-academic corporate employment tend to come from stereotypes and media, or at the best are influenced by a very small and very formal subset of employers (management consulting and investment banking, the ones who tend to most heavily recruit on-campus).

          6. ErinW*

            My campus is very casual, so we see very few heels. Our profs mostly dress professionally, but they also have to schlep from their offices to class in all sorts of weather (snow today), so you don’t see a lot of heels, at least not the stiletto variety. Personally, I commute in tennis shoes or snow boots, and change into dress shoes at work. A black pair and a brown pair just live under my desk all the time. They are still flats, though. I officially and gleefully gave up heels when I married a guy 2 inches shorter than myself.

        1. serenity*

          Most professors and college admin staff have never worked outside of academia, and it shows.

          Can we not make blanket statements like this? It’s a) not accurate, and b) normalizes the act of denigrating higher education.

          1. Susanne*

            One person’s opinion does not “normalize” anything. People are allowed to voice the opinion that academia is its own self-referential, insular world.

          2. Optimistic Prime*

            It’s a blanket statement…but it’s true. The way that academic careers are structured does not encourage or make a lot of space for those with dreams of being tenure-track faculty members to do anything off the academic track, and so most professors actually have not worked outside of academia.

            1. ErinW*

              Through three degrees and 10 years working in academia, I have known many, many faculty members and almost all of them have worked outside of academia. Even the 28-year-old new PhDs who never took so much as a gap year have often done weird and varied things during summers.

              The number is even higher when you are considering adjunct professors, who make up a large percentage of the whole.

      1. Bagpuss*

        Well, there are a few – there was a very high profile case here in the UK where a woman was sent home because she wasn’t wearing heels, and that was (unfortunately) found to be lawful*. In her case the company concerned was a large city accountancy firm. I think that there some hotels which have similar dress codes for their female front of house staff, too.

        So there are going to be *some* places other than strip joints where the dress code includes high heels for women. However, I think they are now very much in the minority and very few employers would reject an applicant for that reason, and agree that the advice given by LW’s college is off.

        I think that wearing shoes in which you look and feel confident and comfortable is likely to be far more effective in helping you present as a strong, confident candidate.

        (*As far as I am aware, there wasn’t a specific medical reason in her case. Had she had a medical reason amounting to a disability then she could have requested that she wear flats, as reasonable adjustment , and I think it would have been very hard for any company to refuse)

        1. Elle*

          No, there was no court case. She submitted a petition to parliament, which was turned down on the basis that the government held it was already illegal to force women to wear high heels. Unfortunately, there was some terrible reporting, leading to headlines like “Employers can force women to wear high heels as Government rejects campaign”, despite the fact that the opposite was true.

        2. Julia the Survivor*

          We all have medical reasons not to wear high heels. They’re unhealthy! They damage the feet, joints and back. If worn all the time, they can cause long-term damage. Also they make it impossible to run if threatened.
          All this is well known and documented. My doctor would write me a note in an instant…but I would never work for people who tried to force me to wear high heels!!!

          1. AnotherAlison*


            I’m pretty sure it’s not a “can” cause long-term damage, but rather “will” cause long-term damage. I wore heels a lot (but not a crazy amount, and I was working at a desk job) in my 20s and early 30s because they looked cute and then I didn’t have to hem my pants. I had a neuroma in my left foot and no longer have full range of motion in my right big toe.

            1. MsChanandlerBong*

              I used to wear heels when I worked in NYC. When I think about it now, I don’t know how I did it. I wore clogs or sneakers to walk to the subway, but even just wearing heels around the office left me with no feeling in my feet. Now that I haven’t worn heels in years, I can’t wear them at all.

          2. Tiny Soprano*

            I have mild sciatic nerve issues. Most of the time it’s fine, but if I had to wear heels for work all the time it’d make that bad boy flare up verrry quickly.

            Nothing says professionalism like falling flat out on the floor mid-stride, clutching your butt and screaming words that start alternately with ‘f’ and ‘c’. Definitely more professional than turning up in chic flats or boots or brogues *eye roll*.

      2. Lindsay J*

        Yes. My warehouse does not require steel toes (and really I favor composite toe over steel toe anyway). I can walk miles in heels.

        Wearing heels in my warehouse would be ridiculous and unsafe.

        Since I try to look more polished I’ve been wearing black leather Coach moccasins, which I alternate with black Crock dress-shoe slipons, and my Doc Martin Industrials for days when I know I’ll be working on heavy stuff. All of them are comfortable, closed toe, have decent tread, and are completely appropriate for the environment. Heels would absolutely not be.

        If someone wore heels to an interview for me I would be concerned that they did not understand what the job and environment actually entailed.

      3. TardyTardis*

        And I always claim I became used to shiny oxfords in my Air Force days, which gets any veteran on the hiring committee thinking about that part, heh. I remember, though, even in the Air Force (back in the 70’s) the boots in the women’s sizes had no tread, and my feet were too small for any on the men’s side, and this was in the official store (officers weren’t issued stuff, had to buy their own). But that’s changed since then.

      4. JessaB*

        It wasn’t all that long ago that Cannes got panned for requiring heels on the red carpet for women, including older and/or disabled ones who couldn’t wear them. Nevermind these actresses were wearing what was probably 300 dollar designer flats, nope, go home.

        So it’s insane but yes there are regular offices where they insist on heels. Heck there were articles recently where women in the UK were fighting back against dress codes requiring heels and in some cases losing the fight.

      5. oranges & lemons*

        There were a number of restaurants in my hometown that were infamous for their dress codes–heels had to be at least X inches (X being high), skirts had to be shorter than X (X being short), shirts had to be sleeveless and low-cut, etc. I think they got hit with a few lawsuits and this isn’t the case anymore, though.

    2. Fake old Converse shoes*

      Yup. Back when I was a full time CS student, most people (not only students) styles were modern hippie, 60’s programmer, or body painting. It would be a miracle if you saw someone wearing clean clothes. High heels? Not even the admins.

    3. Lamington*

      Law schools as well. We had a similar excercise and mine and for woman you needed a dark skirt suit (because some judges did not like women wearing pants), pantyhose mandatory, pearls (you can buy a cheap strand was the rationale), very conservative length on the skirt, no cleavage, pumps and a understated purse. I took a tan colored purse which is big enough to carry a nice folder with a pen, resumes, etc but got points taken off because my interviewer did not like my purse because she said the pattern (very unnoticeable) look like crocodile or leopard-even though from far it looked like a solid color. I used that purse in Fortune 500 interviews before no one ever commented on it.

      1. FiveWheels*

        Here court dress is taught as black suit (trouser or skirt) or black dress and black shoes. Barristers are more precise as they have a uniform.

        In reality everyone wears dark suits (usually obvious pinstripe for barristers, and subtle or no pinstripe for solicitors) and solicitors are fine in any solid colour very pale shirt or white shirt with a subtle pattern. Depending on court a pink or blue shirt might work too.

        I was once the subject to an official unofficial complaint (ie this was noticed and a mental note taken, but no need to make it formal) from a judge who took exception to my black leather boots. I apologised and now wear brogues.

        Every time I see a female lawyer in high heels it makes me cringe a little, because high heels say to me “this is about being attractive and overtly feminine”. To me, brogues are gender neutral and say “I’m dressed for business”.

        1. Mike C.*

          I don’t think there’s anything wrong with being “overtly feminine”, just as there is nothing wrong with being “overtly masculine”.

          1. Specialk9*

            Hear hear! I am so glad I’ve finally gotten to the point in my career in which I can dress super femme (though with lots of care not to go over that work appropriate line). I’ve established that I both have and use my brain, and looking like a woman doesn’t penalize my career.

          2. FiveWheels*

            I think I phrased that poorly – I’ll see if I can make sense another way…

            A dark suit and polished black leather shoes say, to me, “I am dressed as a lawyer.” It doesn’t say male or female, though the specific cut and style of the suit may well do so, as may the person’s appearance.

            There is IMO nothing gendered about a well fitting suit.

            A dress/skirt/heels on the other hand is 100% coded female. So a dark dress and heels says, first of all, “I’m a woman.” A lawyer’s gender is irrelevant, what matters is their expertise. So yes, I think any outfit that says “This is my gender… Also I am a lawyer” is inherently less professional than one which says “I am a lawyer… Also this is my gender.”

            I often can’t easily tell if wigged and robed judges are make or female which IMO is a good thing, because their gender is not relevant to their job.

            There aren’t many outfits that say “I’m a man… And this is my job”, but if a male lawyer turned up in court in a kilt or tails I would also find that rather disconcerting.

            1. Wendy Darling*

              I honestly think it’s quite problematic to say that a skirt, dress, or heels are inherently feminine and therefore less professional than pants. Why are pants “gender neutral”? They USED to be the male default but now women wear them too, but that doesn’t suddenly make them magically un-gendered, it just plays into the gross thing where masculine things are normal/neutral/the default and feminine things are somehow special.

              I wear dresses like every day. I am not a super feminine person — I’ve had phases of my life where I shopped exclusively from the men’s section at the Gap. But at this point in my life dresses are more comfortable for me and more flattering to my body shape, so that’s what I wear. I work in a male-dominated field and generally have a reputation for looking professional and put-together at work. Wearing a dress does not make me any less of a Serious Business Technology Professional and tbh if someone thinks it does that’s a problem with them, not with me.

              To be incredibly blunt, the only reason turning up to court doesn’t scream “I’m a man” is internalized misogyny.

              1. FiveWheels*

                Trousers are gender neutral because men and women both frequently wear trousers in all kinds of situations, whereas it is very unusual for men to wear dresses.

                The idea of trousers being “masculine” is verrrrry problematic because in most scenarios trousers are by far more practical than dresses. Male = active and female = passive is, to use a non scientific term, icky.

                1. Ex-Academic, Future Accountant*

                  Yes! Came here to say the first sentence of your second paragraph. I was just reading an article elsewhere that said something like “isn’t it sad that women like Hillary Clinton and Margaret Thatcher had to put on drag to get ahead?” Referring to the fact that they wore trousers/pantsuits. :-/

                  (Also, obligatory mention of togas, kilts, and other non-pants male garb here.)

            2. Esme Squalor*

              I totally disagree with this way of thinking. Women are so often penalized in the workplace for expressing femininity, but there is nothing inherently unprofessional about being feminine.

              It reminds me of how so many men and boys in MMORPGs online accuse female gamers of intentionally drawing attention to their gender just by using voice chat.

              Personally, I have no interest in going through life with a fake moustache and a fake deep voice so I’ll be taken seriously. And every now and then, I wear heels in the workplace. And dresses. And even lipstick once in a while.

              1. FiveWheels*

                And there is nothing remotely inherently female or feminine about shoes which cause pain and damage to feet and clothes which are inherently impractical.

                1. Jenny*

                  To say that professional women’s “clothes are inherently impractical” is a little bit weird – they’re a practical choice for the physical activity required in a courtroom. I work in a similarly conservative field that requires business formal clothing and I prefer skirts and dresses because they don’t wear out as quickly as my pants (knees). I don’t think any client would look at me and think, “This person wearing a skirt cares more about how she looks than doing a good job,” in the same way that no one is going to say, “this person doesn’t care enough about how she looks to do a good job,” to the OP. My clean, work-appropriate clothes (regardless if skirts or pants) just say that I’m here to do my job.

                2. babblemouth*

                  Skirts are not inherently impractical. I wear skirts or dresses every day, and part of the reason is that I find them a lot more comfortable that pants. I also have high heeled shoes that are a lot more comfortable than some of my flats.

            3. Mary*

              It’s not a coincidence that your idea of “gender neutral” and “professional” is stuff that’s male-coded, or that women can wear male-coded stuff but men can’t wear female-coded stuff.

              1. FiveWheels*

                That’s correct, but that’s because in my experience “male coded” means “active, practical, functional” and “female coded” means “decorative, passive”.

                Are women there to be decorative? Of course not. But! gendered products – including (especially) clothes – often mark femininity through being decorative and impractical.

                1. The Curvy Emma*

                  Um… there’s so much wrong here but because apparently to you pants are “practical” and skirts are not… will you like to find me a pair of pants that fit my body type? I can promise you they don’t exist without expensive tailoring. A-line skirts on the other hand fit off the rack. So much more practical and functional!

          1. Wendy Darling*

            Don’t you know? Men and masculine things are intrinsically more professional than women and female things, because men are professionals who work and women are non-professionals who do stupid woman things. Therefore if a woman presents in any way as feminine she is necessarily being unprofessional.

            Unless, of course, she doesn’t shave her legs/armpits, or doesn’t wear makeup, or doesn’t style her hair. If she DOESN’T do those feminine things she is DEFINITELY being unprofessional.

            It’s a trap. (Please insert your own mental image of Admiral Akbar here.)

          2. FiveWheels*

            RachelR I look completely feminine when I wear a trouser suit and brogues. I could switch it for a dress and heels but I’d have traded a comfortable, practical outfit for one in which I can’t run as well for the bus, my legs are cold, I almost certainly have fewer pockets, and I can’t move my legs as freely.

            I don’t think I got the memo that slowing my walking speed makes me feminine… I’m as feminine up a mountain in layers of cold weather gear and zero makeup as I am dressed to the nines at a ball.

            1. Optimistic Prime*

              I think the point is there’s nothing inherently unprofessional about skirts and high heels.

        2. Barney Barnaby*

          I wear heels sometimes, and there’s nothing “overly feminine” about being eye level with men who are six feet tall.

        3. snorkellingfish*

          I dunno about that. I’m someone who really doesn’t like skirts and dresses and will wear pants as much as possible, but when I do wear a skirt/dress what I tend to be communicating is “It’s hot, and I’m going to take advantage of the greater clothing flexibility that I have as a woman to avoid cooking” and not “I’m a woman first and a lawyer second.”

          …And it feels like a damned if you do, damned if you don’t situation, where I’ve heard enough comments that female legal practitioners should wear a dress/skirt and heels to court. There are times when I’ve been the only female lawyer in a courtroom who’s in flat shoes or pants (let alone both), and felt out of place as a result. It feels deeply unfair to judge other female lawyers for the choices that they make in that context.

      2. Existential Commentator*

        I work in Law School Career Services – and the reason we give this advice is because we hear it from our employers. It sounds like your office went a little overboard – I think pants or a skirt is fine, though it’s true some judges do not like women in pants – but depending on the legal market you are in (some are very conservative) it’s really best to err on the side of caution. I tell my students that they don’t want to be excluded from a job because they had the bad luck of getting an interviewer who has very outdated views on certain things.

        1. Fish Microwaver*

          OTOH would the students really want to work somewhere with such outdated views. Bullet dodged.

          1. Optimistic Prime*

            They might, if those are the white shoe law firms that pay the big salaries, give out the interesting work, and allow the law students to repay their loans and move up and onward in their career. Women working in places with outdated social mores are what helped change the professional landscape for women…not all women want to simply avoid places that have sexism baked into them. That’s how the sexism stays there forever.

  3. No Parking or Waiting*

    Please allow me to add to Alison’s reply with my own, WOW.
    Wow, the only constructive criticism that is offered to a young woman about to embark on a professional career after training at their university is to wear heels?
    Thanks for that.

    1. No Parking or Waiting*

      Oh, it’s not the university, it’s an organization that offers practical experience to students. I’d share the criticism with your academic adviser. Let the school know that the special edge that this group is providing students is telling women that they are judged by their clothes.

      1. Nea*

        Share the criticism and a printout of this post and replies to your academic advisor. Because the advisor may also have somewhat retro opinions on how women are “supposed” to dress professionally.

        Also, OP, let me pass on another piece of interview-wear advice that has stood me well – don’t bother with owning an “interview suit” when you can get the same polished look with a good dress and blazer. Interview suits are expensive; blazers not so much and nice professional dresses can be downright inexpensive. Don’t waste your money on a unitasking outfit.

        1. A paralegal*

          True. I had to buy a new interview outfit and this time I went for a gray Calvin Klein dress. Very professional and I’ll actually wear it again.

        2. Arjay*

          I hate to be the voice of the establishment, and I think it’s ridiculous, but in many fields and areas of the country, suits are still very much the norm for interviews.

          1. FiveWheels*

            And also the norm for everyday officewear – though in that case an interview suit will get regular use anyway.

    1. Sally Seattle*

      It just drives me batty that the mock interviewer is looking her up and down, trying to see what shoes she’s wearing and judging her by her clothing choices. GRRRRRRRRR is right!

      1. partypants*

        But keep in mind that your clothing choices ARE being checked out; would you wear leggings and sneakers to a professional interview?
        If I were in “training” and the only criticism of my interview was “I should wear heels”, I’d be pretty happy with my performance.
        Also, the last 4 interviews I’ve had in the past month were all via the phone, not even Skype/facetime.

        1. The New Wanderer*

          Sure, but there’s a huge difference between “you don’t look professional enough” and “you don’t look feminine enough.” One is wearing office-appropriate clothing (aka not athleisure, club wear, or pajamas) and the other is not being “girly” enough (skirt, heels, noticeable makeup).

          I would be furious if the only thing I got dinged on was “not wearing heels.” Talk about the wrong priorities!

          1. Wendy Darling*

            And can I just take a moment to glare at anyone who dares to insinuate that my well-cut, well-kept, neatly styled curly hair is unprofessional? It grows out of my head like this, it is well-groomed, and there is nothing wrong with it. Anyone who thinks someone’s natural hair texture is inherently unprofessional needs to go jump in a lake.

            1. Jadelyn*

              Specifically, a lake of acid. Full of sharks. Hungry sharks.

              (I just don’t think jumping in a lake is quite enough punishment for that type of person. Jumping in normal lakes can be quite fun.)

              1. Wendy Darling*

                Hungry acid-proof and/or robotic sharks.

                The lake nearest to me is sort of stagnant and nasty and full of smelly algae and goose poop, so honestly just jumping in it is probably sufficient punishment. I don’t want to think how many showers it’d take to get rid of the smell.

              2. Lissa*

                True, but I don’t think painful death is right either…maybe a lake with jellyfish that will bite them in a way that is uncomfortable and nonlethal!

        2. memyselfandi*

          **would you wear leggings and sneakers to a professional interview?**

          In the case of some I interviewed recently, the answer is, “Yes.” Did that person get the job? The answer is, “No.”

        3. sin nombre*

          Maybe not leggings, but I’d wear jeans and sneakers and I’d look totally out of touch if I wore a suit. I work in tech on the West Coast. Know your field.

          1. Optimistic Prime*

            I also work in tech on the West Coast and while I agree that a suit is out of touch, jeans and sneakers is also a bit too casual. Most of the people we interview wear slacks or khakis and a nice top (button down, polo, etc.) We have had folks wear jeans with a blazer and nice shoes, and that’s generally okay, but people on my interviewing team have commented on it before.

            Generally, you won’t get dinged for dressing slightly too formal, so I’d tell a tech interviewee to go business casual before I’d tell them it was okay to wear jeans and sneakers.

      2. SignalLost*

        I would probably get dinged for wearing heels when the interviewer looked me up and further up, because I’m 6’4″. And I would be tempted to wear my five-inch heels the next time I saw that person.

        1. TardyTardis*

          But at least you’ll get paid more because you’re taller (sad but true, statistics bear this out even for women, whereas it’s totally true for most men).

          1. SignalLost*

            Haha, nope. Mostly I get seen as threatening, in some really odd ways. Because it’s my fault I’m tall. I have never seen a dime of extra money for my height, mostly because I’ve worked at places with strict salary bands or on contracts where you take it or leave it. The one place I negotiated a higher starting salary it was because they were paying less than half the median starting salary for my work. I got them up to only slightly less than half, and I was making more than people in the office who’d worked there five years.

            1. Lissa*

              I don’t think this is one of those things where anyone, even men, would get paid extra for their height in a way where they’d realize it either….I mean, I believe it’s been more of a hindrance but it’s not like these types of unconscious bias are stated overtly like “Hey, Ted, you’re really tall so here’s some extra cash!” So most guys would probably say the same thing, that they’d never seen a dime of extra money for their height….

              1. SignalLost*

                Well, at my editorial job, with strict salary bands, my colleague who was 5’2″ was also making 54K, and my contract gig teaching for the state paid a flat $3500/class/quarter regardless of height, so I’m gonna go with my experience is accurate. The advice is for negotiating a higher salary, that people (and I would say men only) who are tall can negotiate a higher salary than men who are short. I promise, women who are exceptionally tall are seen as threateningly powerful, and that is a negative in salary negotiations. Since women negotiating salary at all is perceived as a negative, as well.

  4. Another Lawyer*

    I’m a lawyer and have only interviewed at extremely formal places. I wear flats every day and have/still would wear flats to an interview. As long as they are polished and formal, height isn’t an issue.

    1. SallytooShort*

      Also a lawyer, also have interviewed for very formal places (I’m now in-house but in a very old school professional environment.) I have to wear suits everyday.

      And I’ve also never worn heels to an interview. Usually wear professional looking boots. It’s never been an issue.

      I actually don’t mind wearing heels that much. I tend to intentionally not wear them to interviews because they can slow me down getting from the train.

      1. Another Lawyer*

        I’m also in-house in a formal environment. I’m wearing St. John knit (nothing is more comfortable) and Dr. Scholl’s memory foam flats. I look professional and feel like I am in PJs :) :)

        1. Nea*

          This is why I love the custom-fit eshakti knit dresses so much. Perfect fit, nicely professional, and feel like I’ve gone to work in sleepwear.

            1. Nea*

              Get the customized fit as well as tweaking neckline/hem/sleeves. It’s only $10 more and it’s worth every penny. (Also, if you give a review when when a dress comes in, they give you a $10 reward – which you can apply to nullify the customization cost of the *next* dress. Stack up your rewards and the sales, and sometimes you can scoop up a custom-fit dress for less than $50.)

              1. Bobbin Ufgood*

                Concur! love those and DEFINITELY do the customization — I get compliments every time I wear mine. (BTW, also am female professional)

          1. Risha*

            I wore a new eShakti knit dress to the office holiday party last week (the one with the embroidered fox howling at the sky), and was seriously tempted to go straight to bed in it when I got home. So comfortable!

        2. SallytooShort*

          Ahhh that sounds like my dream outfit!

          I have friends from my old firm who have gone in-house to super laid back companies. They wear yoga pants to work.

          I would probably never do that. But ah! to have the option!

        3. Julia the Survivor*

          Dr. Scholl’s makes shoes? I have to check that out!
          I’ve been wearing low/flat Fluevogs. Very comfortable. Not so affordable.

          1. EH*

            Fluevogs! I adore them. Definitely expensive, but you can catch great sales once or twice a year if you get on their mailing list or follow them on social media (they always have a big sale in May for the founder’s birthday, for example), and they show up on eBay and other secondhand sources often enough for it to be worth looking periodically.

        4. Wendy Darling*

          This is why I wear dresses and tights or leggings all the time now. I’m soooooo coooomfyyyyyyyy but I look fairly put together.

          Except today, today I am covered in cat hair because I gave a cat a hug. Fortunately I’m also working from home.

      2. fposte*

        Yeah, I don’t wear super high heels but I like heels. I just don’t like being required to wear heels.

        1. Rusty Shackelford*

          This. If I feel like wearing heels, I don’t want me to judge anyone for wearing heels. If I don’t feel like wearing heels, I don’t want anyone to judge me for not wearing heels.

    2. Traceytootoo*

      Not a lawyer, but work in a conservative court environment and I wear flats most days. I didn’t always, but footwear has relaxed over the years and flats are perfectly acceptable, even with skirt suits and dresses with jackets. To expect women to wear heels every day is outdated and frankly, sexist in my opinion. When I was in school, I was chastised for not wearing pantyhose one particularly hot August day when the air conditioning was broken. I will never forget how absurd I thought that was, but it was 1985 or 86 and I think we have definitely made progress.

    3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Also a lawyer, and also have a knee issue that’s exacerbated by wearing heels for too long. OP, I wear flats with supports in them, and if I have to show up in front of someone ~fancy~ I wear kitten heels or sleek boots with a small heel (~1″–1.5″). When I worked at a nonprofit, I wore sneakers and had a pair of polished shoes on hand—sometimes flats, sometimes heels, sometimes well-kept cowboy boots (I’m a country lawyer).

      Every woman lawyer I know wears the kinds of flats OP has described (or something that looks like Rothy’s made of sleeker material), a variation on an oxford/loafer/driving moc, low heels, or non-stiletto heels. I truly cannot think of a more backwards or conservative field, attire-wise, for women.

      Whoever is evaluating your skills on your footwear is limited and outdated. You weren’t wearing sparkly flip flops to see the President. If your shoes are sleek and put together, you should be fine in 99% of jobs.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        I should say 99% of job interviews that require them. There are of course a good number of jobs where people would find it super odd to be wearing heels for safety and other reasons!

      2. sin nombre*

        Nope, sparkly flip flops are no good at all, you are definitely going to want steel-toed boots for that.

    4. FiveWheels*

      Also in law, also wear suits every day, also would never wear heels to work. I go for very professional leather brogues.

  5. Lady Phoenix*

    I wear some very nice flats. No one says a thing. High heels are only good if you know how to walk in them. And, of course, high heels are a coded womens thing (where men can only wear maybe an inch square heel unless cowboy boots).

    1. Jamie Starr*

      ” (where men can only wear maybe an inch square heel unless cowboy boots).”

      Unless you’re Prince!

      1. Cherith Ponsonby*

        Or Robert Downey Jr! I am generally of the lady persuasion but I’d love to raid his wardrobe.

        I’m in comfortable sandals right now because I twisted my ankle about three months ago (sandals tend to be business-appropriate in Aus because of the climate) and I have to walk about 3km every day for my commute. Tried my relatively comfortable wedge heels the other day and nearly fell off them in the first ten metres :(

        1. Tiny Soprano*

          Spoken as another Aussie, I have a pair of dressy slides I wear to work when it’s hot because otherwise I tend to get all the skin taken off the back of my ankles and I am definitely not wearing stockings in 41 degrees. Nice slides is more professional than profuse heat-induced bleeding imo.

          High-five for being climate sensible!

    2. BananaRama*

      I saw this poor lady today clomping in heels. Her posture and gait was so painful to just watch. Allison is right, a wobbly unpolished walk in heels isn’t a great look.

        1. Lia*

          Really? I see women walking easily and confidently in heels that size and higher on a very regular basis, and I work in higher education. I’ve also worked in fashion, where it was quite common as well. No one is forcing women to wear heels, but walking in a well-balanced, quality pair is not too difficult in my experience. I adore Fluevogs but there are MANY lines out there that work well.

          I have several 3″+ pairs and absolutely no problems walking in them. Even participated in a “stiletto run” fundraiser in 3.5″ heels with no issues.

          I’m getting quite an anti-high heel vibe here today. Wear whatever you like, as long as it is neat, clean, and coordinates with your interview outfit, and is appropriate to the job you’re applying for (and yes, heels are most definitely appropriate for many lines of work).

        2. Optimistic Prime*

          Oh, I know lots of women who routinely wear heels in the 3-5″ range and walk well in them.

    3. Woman of a Certain Age*

      I do remember those high-heeled disco dancing oxfords that men used to wear back in the seventies.

    4. RVA Cat*

      Anyone else remember the ridicule a certain male US senator caught a couple years ago for wearing boots with a heel? (He was nicknamed “Little” despite being average height.)

    5. INTP*

      “High heels are only good if you know how to walk in them”

      This is so true. I’ve worn flats to my past several job interviews and gotten most of the jobs. I go with a sort of professionalized “gamine” style so I can wear flats and still look reasonably chic. In my experience you wind up being walked briskly around the office and possibly up and down stairs or to other buildings around the campus, by men or by women that are wearing their everyday shoes. Even if heels create a slightly more professional first-glance impression, I don’t think it will help you overall if you’re distracted because you’re trying to remain upright or you’re unable to keep up with their walking pace because you are wearing shoes that you aren’t used to.

      1. Ex-Academic, Future Accountant*

        professionalized “gamine” style

        This sounds really cool! I’d be interested to hear more about what it entails.

        1. INTP*

          An A-line dress rather than a sheath dress or pencil skirt (my go-to is in gray), a blazer that isn’t too bulky or thick, black tights, black ballet flats (I might do some lightweight loafers rather than the ballet flats with current trends). Because the A-line dress and blazer are more on the girly side, I don’t do any jewelry and some minimal makeup. (I look much more alive with mascara and a sheer red lipstick). It works with my personal style and body type (petite and curvy enough that sheath dresses and structured clothing can be a challenge) so I feel much more confident and generally myself than in a more traditional suit.

          1. Ex-Academic, Future Accountant*

            I like the cut of your jib there! I’m in business school, and gradually trying to figure out what I’ll wear when the “dress like a student” phase of my life sadly has to end. I’ve discovered that I also really like A-line skirts/dresses; they have a nice shape visually and they’re a lot more comfortable than I thought they’d be. (I’m also curvy and not very tall, and I find that pencil skirts don’t really work on me.)

            Anyway, yeah. I don’t have much of a “plan” yet as far as this stuff goes, so it was really cool to hear about yours!

  6. Temperance*

    I hardly ever wear heels, and it’s fine. It’s far more professional to wear nice flats that you can walk in rather than a pair of heels that you can’t navigate and that make you look like a child teetering around in her mother’s shoes.

    I typically wear skirted suits and nice d’orsay flats to professional events. I have a gorgeous pair of navy wedges that I bust out occasionally, when I feel like it.

    1. Fiennes*

      I wear heels to weddings, funerals & Mardi Gras balls. Period. Granted, my work now is as informal as it gets, but I once worked at one of the top corporate law firms in the world. I wore flats every day as did, I’d guess, more than 80% of the other women.

  7. Amber T*

    My college course held a mock interview round. I bought a new suit and didn’t have time to get it hemmed (I’m very short, also, college poor), but I did have (what I thought were) super tall “work appropriate” heels (I mean, they were plain black, but they were also 6 inches with platforms). So I’m walking down the hall in my new gray suit, rocking a red power blouse, hearing my heels click, feeling like a complete and total badass bitch… and slip and fall right in front of my interviewer. Because I was not made to wear six inch heels. THANK THE HEAVENS I did not rip that suit because that I was my interview suit for literally every real interview I went on.

    But no, heels do not automatically equal “appropriate.” Shoes you can actually walk in = appropriate.

    1. Cassandra*

      I hope you weren’t hurt! Falls can be scary dangerous.

      (I live in the Frozen North and average 1-3 outdoor falls per winter. YakTrax are my friends — and they only work on flat shoes/boots, so.)

    2. Bea*

      That’s so scary, my aunt fell in heels in her 20s and has had knee problems ever since. They’re dangerous and so unnecessary. I’ve had it drilled into my head that I’ll never wear them.

      I’ve never worn them to an interview and I’ve had plenty of jobs at this time in life.

      1. Amber T*

        Thankfully I was fine… knees were a bit bruised but the ego was faaaar more damaged than anything else. Funnily enough this was a Classics related course (how to prepare Classics majors for the real world), and I was walking into the interview far too cocky and with too much hubris, so it became a running joke that Zeus had to strike me down.

    3. fposte*

      And if you’re being literal, six-inch heels are pretty high for most workplaces, risking being inappropriate by having too much heel. Usually it’s advised to stay under four inches.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        I was about to say—I can barely walk in heels over 3.5″, and the heels I have in that range are considered way too high. Unless you’re in fashion, a six-inch heel (even with a platform or other offset) would definitely earn you serious side-eye at my jobs as not-work-appropriate. See, e.g., Beyonce’s “6 Inch.”

        1. fposte*

          Especially for a job interview, since that’s what we’re talking about; I think that a lot of places that wouldn’t bat an eye at flats at an interview will raise an eyebrow at super-high heels.

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            Definitely! I think it’s because super high heels look like clubwear, whereas flats look like… flats. Even a very sleek/edgy high heel is going to look like too much for most workplaces, while a well-put-together flat or boot (assuming the boots aren’t thigh-high) will look like it works in multiple settings.

            I remember being called for jury duty, and the defense attorney was a young, extremely well-manicured woman. She wore 5″ heels with a fake “zipper” on the heel and charms dangling from the heel, too. It was deeply uncomfortable.

            1. Amber T*

              Oh they definitely were not interview/work appropriate. I’m fairly certain they’re still hiding in the back of my closet somewhere, but late 20-something year old me has much more experience (and surprisingly less balance) and knows to not break them out for any professional opportunity. Nope, I chalk that up being naive and inexperienced (and clumsy).

      2. CMDRBNA*

        Yup – I wear heels almost every day, but they’re all single-sole heels. If your heel is high enough that your shoe needs a platform, it’s probably too high for a professional setting.

      3. Gen*

        Platforms like that usually have a 2-3″ ‘concealed’ section at the front so the difference to the heel itself is only 3″. The illusion makes it look like a normal heel height. I know a lot of women teachers who are 5’3″ or smaller and that type of shoes is super common because being towered over by 12 year olds can wear you down

        1. fposte*

          I don’t think they look like normal heel height, though, and I suspect I’m not the only one, so I’d advise caution in wearing them to an interview.

        2. Middle School Teacher*

          I wear heels most days for that exact reason. (Also I love them.) But I am not OBLIGATED to wear them.

        3. Rusty Shackelford*

          They don’t look normal height at all. (To me, they look like you have giant cartoon character feet.)

        4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          They definitely don’t look normal heel height. The platform is pretty obvious, especially if it’s 2-3″!

          What I’ve seen that’s a little more within work-appropriate heel height range is a 3.5–4″ heel with a 0.5-1″ platform.

      4. Brett*

        I suspect these were 6″ tall heels, but did not look like 6″ heels. Elevators are a common short people thing….
        As a very short man, I was advised numerous times to wear elevator heels to interviews. They can easily add 4″ while looking like flat shoes. (And I have seen elevators go up as high as 7″ while looking like they only had a 2″ heel on them.)

        I ultimately never used them and did mostly fine with interviews. Yet, I definitely received a lot of vague mock interview feedback about my assertiveness when entering a room that was pretty clearly tied to my height. I just learned to ignore the zaniness of mock interviews by people outside my field.

  8. Footiepjs*

    I walk commute so I wear heels basically never. The more we know about how damaging heels are to our feet and legs, the less they are seen as required professional wear, thank goodness.

      1. Hills to Die on*

        I already do.

        I used to LOVE my 4-inch heels and wore them all the time, every day. Now I have knee problems and have to be extremely choosy about what shoes I wear. One more item on the list of things I would do differently if I could go back…

  9. Higher Ed Database Dork*

    I used to volunteer at a business school’s “interview day” for MBA candidates, and my fellow interviewers would sometimes have issues with students not wearing heels. I had to explain to some of them that yes, non-heeled professional footwear does exist for women, and you shouldn’t penalize the students for not wearing heels, because of all the reasons mentioned above. Some of them changed their minds, some did not.

    I wear heels sometimes but typically only block heels because I’d constantly trip in anything thinner than that. I think the point-toe Italian flats you described sound great. And “professional” is not just a style, it’s presentation. If someone walked in wearing old scuffed and dirty heels that didn’t fit, that would be far less professional than a nice pair of well-fitting flats.

  10. LBK*

    Yuck. As long as you’re wearing nice shoes, it shouldn’t matter whether they’re heels or not. Definitely bring this up if you’re in a position to do so.

  11. Susanne*

    If you want a little height and don’t want to wobble, you can wear a wedge. Of course, nothing wrong with not wanting to wear heels.

  12. Falling Diphthong*

    I have heard of this sort of thing in college debate–that women will get marked down for not wearing skirts, not wearing heels, not wearing makeup, otherwise not fitting some Hidden Figures-era standard of what a professional woman wears. But that’s a very particular hothouse climate.

    I wonder if this is someone of a similar mindset, who doesn’t do much actual hiring or toss out female candidates who aren’t in heels, but has this image of Polished Professionalism and a venue in which to take off points for it.

    I recall someone–I think it was Donna Karan–was wearing high heels on 9/11. She walked home in them, and from then on wore flats just in case she needed to walk 40 blocks.

    1. anonanners*

      When I was in high school a decade ago, I was very into Forensics (speech team). I went to our state competition in my Junior year and noticed that all of the girls placing well were wearing knee-length black skirts and heels. I wanted to win very badly, so the next year I also wore a skirt and heels for the majority of my competitions, including state. That was my most successful year. Was I also better at giving my presentation? Sure. But I am positive that the strict adherence to the unspoken dress code also played a role.

      1. A Nonny Mousse*

        Man, that reminds me of college forensics. My coach required the women to wear skirts or dresses, matching hose, and heels. I only lasted one year of that bullhockey.

        1. NGL*

          Another college forensics alumni! My team allowed us to wear pants suits, but definitely encouraged high heels. Our director also had some supremely old fashioned views about hair, and discouraged the women from cutting theirs above shoulder length.

            1. NGL*

              Nope, see anonanners parenthetical: forensics is aka speech team, and is often held parallel with debate.

              1. FiveWheels*

                Ahh okay, I thought it was a forensics speech team, as in giving speeches about forensics. Which admittedly made no sense to me.

              1. FiveWheels*

                That’s interesting – Google gave me a very straightforward etymology, but before now I’ve never heard “forensics” in relation to speech/debate.

      2. Cedrus Libani*

        I also had that problem in high school forensics. I wore men’s dress shoes, because I have giant feet and women’s shoes don’t come in my size. After being marked down for it one too many times, I talked my parents into buying me a custom-ordered pair of black low-wedge lady shoes…which I still own nearly two decades later, because they only come out for interviews. (Shoutout to SAS Shoes, official shoe supplier for my canoe-footed family.) But forensics is a performance, and this is a costume, so I kind of get it. If I were dinged for not being femme enough in a work context, I would be cranky.

    2. Sally Seattle*

      I only commute in shoes that I can run in. I don’t mean sneakers, necessarily, but a low boot or low professional shoe that would allow me to take off running if needed.

      1. Kj*

        Me too! I work with kids and I have been grateful for this policy many times. I impress parents all the time since I am able to catch their kid when needed.

    3. Foreign Octopus*

      Your point about Donna Karan reminds me of something I said to a colleague once. He said that he’d never seen me in high heels and I replied that one never knew when the zombie apocalypse was going to start so it’s best to be prepared with comfortable shoes 24/7.

      I felt a stupid observation deserved a stupid answer.

      Although, to be fair, it is best to be dressed comfortably just in case the apocalypse starts.

    4. K, Esq.*

      Granted I graduated college 8 years ago, but college debate dress in the northeast was pretty much jeans. High school debate required suits and heels.

    5. Julia*

      “women will get marked down for not wearing skirts”

      Well, you really can’t wear just underwear.

      … Sorry.

  13. Leatherwings*

    I’m the same as you, OP where my feet and ankles are screaming after five minutes of standing in heels. I never wear them and have never worn them to an interview. This has never, to my knowledge, been an issue and I hope you’re able to speak up with your work-study folks.

    Add this to the long list of bad advice colleges often provide students.

    1. aebhel*


      And oddly, every time I say that, someone chimes in with suggestions for learning to walk in heels. I can walk in heels just fine! It’s just very painful, and I see to reason for it.

  14. Tobias Funke*

    This is so gross, OP, and I am sorry this happened to you. I also really hope the comments don’t fill up with BUT HAVE YOU TRIED THESE because that’s completely irrelevant.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Agreed. One of my all-time favorite Facebook posts was a request for advice on work-appropriate (low) heels. If the comments include recommendations on professional flats or low-heeled shoes, I think it could be helpful for OP/others in terms of diversifying their shoe options.

      2. K, Esq.*

        I love my pumps from Easy Spirit. The heels are 2.5 inches, I can get them for $45 on sale, and I can walk all day in them and my feet don’t hurt. I’m pregnant and found low heels actually help my back pain more than flats, so I’ve been wearing them to work every day.

    1. SignalLost*

      I get frustrated with those comments as well, but I think there’s a distinction to be made in the letters themselves. For ex, the pregnant lawyer whose boss thought all maternity wear was unprofessional, I thought it was inappropriate to say “have you seen this dress” because the problem was “how can I push back”, not “what can I wear”. The linked post in this one about pretty vs professional has many, many recommendations, and that fits the tone of the question. This post is a little bit greyer than the other two, but my gut feeling is that this is more of a “recommendations okay!” post because OP has a quandary about a norm they suddenly have conflicting advice on and recommendations are often good for showing what the options for the norm are.

      But I do get frustrated with “why don’t you just wear this dress/make your own lunch/whatever” when that really doesn’t fit the tone of the asker’s question.

    2. Julia the Survivor*

      Yes, it’s about forcing women to do unhealthy/restrictive/damaging things that hold us back – in this case, physically because we can’t run or function as well from the damage of high heels.

    3. Lissa*

      Yes, a “but have you tried” would be great for an open thread or if the OP was asking for suggestions on what they should put on their feet but in response to “this sexist thing happened to me” it’s kind of annoying to get a bunch of shoe suggestions. I mean, sometimes you gotta play the game but I’d argue this is blatantly sexist and should be pushed back on!

  15. SKA*

    I work in a pretty laid-back industry but I have worn heels to a total of zero interviews and have not had any trouble finding employment.

    My professional wear leans a bit androgynous, so I go for oxfords + slacks most of the time.

    1. Amadeo*

      Same as far as wearing heels never. I’d walk like a freshly born baby deer and it would be anything but professional. I do flats and a pair of flowy black pants for interviews, always.

    2. hermit crab*

      I work in consulting and have been gainfully employed in this industry for approximately a decade. I have never once worn heels (or makeup! gasp!) to work or to any kind of work-related event during that time.

  16. Ashley*

    If you are applying places that require heels and you are not the type to wear heels it is better to know up front and avoid somewhere that is basically a bad cultural fit.

    1. You wouldn't think it's 2017*

      A male friend interviewed at a company that requires women to wear skirts/nylons/the works. (The company makes packing materials.) They have lots of great-sounding positions that I’d never apply for because my brains and worth aren’t kept in my attire. Ugh.

      1. Sally Seattle*

        I feel you. In my opinion it’s okay for a workplace to require a suit for certain things, like client meetings or Hill briefings, but nothing more specific. In other words, you can’t specify skirt, nylons, heels, hairstyle, etc. Just “suit.” And a general requirement to “look professional.”

      2. Elizabeth West*

        A large religious organization here requires women to wear skirts or dresses, according to a former college classmate who worked there. (They also prefer to hire church members, but that’s another issue.) She mentioned the office was hiring when I said I was job hunting, but that is not for me. I don’t know if they had any shoe dress codes; I didn’t probe any further. Once I heard “must wear dresses” I noped that right off the table.

        1. Detective Amy Santiago*

          You know, I generally prefer wearing dresses and I would still nope right the heck out of that.

      3. Nea*

        my brains and worth aren’t kept in my attire

        I never wear makeup – never have – and once snapped to someone that I was hired to put words on paper, not colored grease on my face.

    2. Gabriela*

      Agreed. I interviewed once for a position in a department that is conservative, but not towards the extreme. I went on three interviews- on ONE of them I didn’t wear pantyhose with my skirt suit. I usually do, but this was the third interview, it was in July (I live in a very hot and humid climate), and they didn’t ever offer to validate my parking nor did they tell me where to park (it was downtown, so I never knew where I would end up parking or how long it would take me to walk). I later found out (from a former employee who had been on my interview panel) that my lack of panty hose was cited as a reason for my lack of professionalism. bullet. dodged.

      1. the gold digger*

        I had a big argument with Sister Alphonsus about confirmation. I was in 11th grade. Wearing a long dress. In the Panama Canal Zone.

        She insisted we wear hose.

        I told her that was dumb.

      2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        This is absolutely ridiculous and yet still common. I’m just glad that it’s no longer the majority of workplaces in most parts of the country (hence, bullet dodged), but I’m frustrated that it continues to be a barrier for women’s entry into, and success in, their industries.

    3. k.k*

      Agree. I never wear heels to interviews. If they don’t hire me because of that, I’m glad because I don’t want to set an expectation where they think I’ll be wearing heels on dressier days (big meetings, presentations, etc).

    4. Kyrielle*

      This! Though I think such places are rare. I have never worn heels to an interview or to a job; I’ve seldom seen anyone else do so either. (Not never, because some women like to wear heels sometimes – but I don’t recall anyone who wore them full-time, just when they wanted to.)

      If I ever need to job-hunt again, anywhere that will think less of me for not wearing heels is probably not somewhere I want to work, as they’re too old-fashioned formal for my comfort. (Also, they’d be continually disappointed, because I’m not wearing them to work either.)

    1. Scubacat*

      Canada wins again! Glad that I was born here. Unfortunate that heels ever could be classified as mandatory……

      Wearing heels is not an automatic indicator of professionalism. From other comments, it sounds like heels are more common in some fields than others. No one should be required to walk in them.

    2. Mephyle*

      Actually, how much of a win is it? BC, one of Canada’s 10 provinces + 3 territories, holds roughly 1/8 of Canada’s population (a little over 13%). So, what about the other 87%? I’m not sure whether any of the rest of Canada has regulations in this regard.
      A quick search shows that Ontario, the most populous province with 38% of the population, is currently working on such a law.

  17. Amber O.*

    As a 20-something woman who’s gone out on several interviews, I always worry about this. I blew out my knee years ago and had to have reconstructive surgery, and now heels are a nightmare of knee pain and instability for me. But at the end of the day, any interviewer that prefers women in high heels for the sake of “tradition” is not someone I would want to work for.

    1. writelhd*

      Agreed. I think it would be rare to find an interviewer who judges about this, and if they do, they are not someone you want to work for. What really frustrates me is that it sounds like it affected the OP’s grade in some kind of school program? Which is totally stupid and out of touch.

      1. Amber O.*

        Definitely out of touch. I can understand an “appearance” category for something like this, but that should only apply if the student comes in wearing stained/ill-fitted/inappropriate clothing like sweatpants, torn jeans, or stained sneakers. It shouldn’t be about what is ultimately a personal preference on shoe choice.

  18. Foreign Octopus*

    I wore high heels for a job interview once. I’ve regretted it every day since. I thought I had to because of crappy advice like above. I would have felt so much more comfortable and confident in flats, and my feet would’ve thanked me for it later.

    1. RJ the newbie*

      Same here. I wore them once or twice in the early interviewing days of my career, but rarely ever since. I value my feet and back too much. Plus, in my profession (I’m a project accountant), I need to be on my feet often.

  19. Amy*

    I’ve been hired at 5 different companies post graduation. Never worn heels. You’ll be fine. That’s incredibly sexist advice to give.

  20. A Nonny Mousse*

    I have never worn heels to a job interview. Heeled boots maybe, but never heels. That advice is so outdated and sexist.

  21. Anne*

    I work on a college campus, and this reminds me of when the business school had its job fair undergraduate students. After the fair ended, I saw at least five girls in skirt suits walking barefoot (gross!) across campus, holding their heels. There’s nothing that looks more unprofessional than wearing shoes you can’t walk in!

    OP, your shoes sound gorgeous and professional. It also sounds like you’re getting better career advice from AAM than you are from your employer!

    1. Meyers and Briggs were not real doctors*

      I second this… BFF started college with me (both in our late 20s/age30) as a business major after running her father’s business for 12 years. The business profs were the highest paid teachers on campus (it’s a state school, if that makes a difference) and they funneled all this bad info between themselves and the main local employer for interning. IT was so much worse than WEAR HIGH HEELS IF YOU WANT TO SUCCEED. But somehow, “carry them with you while you learn to walk minimally in them for the interview sake,” seemed to me the most silly thing ever. Very sad watching all the younger students try to listen to all that garbage. BFF always looked poised and presented well – she had already ran a business after all as the main accountant/books person/secretary? – and ignored the crap on high heels/makeup/other unreasonable silly stuff that the school/employer demanded. I think due to her age they left her alone, and maybe they suspected she was a sleeping-quiet-giant type and would call them out on this… And yea, she got an amazing job with zero any help from intern employer/school. We still laugh at the heels thing.

  22. Naptime Enthusiast*

    For on-site interviews, I would especially avoid heels. You don’t know how many flights of stairs you have to walk up and down or what the parking lot conditions are, and if your interviewer or any guide needs to slow down because you can’t walk in your shoes, it’s not a good look. Of course, if you need to slow down for medical reasons that’s completely separate, I’m talking about the “baby giraffe learning to walk” walk.

    Also, if there’s any manufacturing onsite, there are likely rules banning certain shoes – we are not supposed to wear heels over 2.5″ tall on the shop floor, they must be closed-toe and closed-heel, and there is a recommended heel “area” which would ban stilettos and similar heel types as well. Ideally someone would tell interviewees about this before they come on-site, but sometimes people won’t think of that – whenever we have visitors I spell out these requirements and also STRONGLY URGE everyone to wear flat, comfortable shoes that they can walk and stand in comfortably.

    1. Cassandra*

      In higher education, the minimum walking in a typical faculty or academic-staff interview is a building tour… but on smaller campuses, full campus tours are fairly common IME.

      Wear walkable shoes!

      1. PB*

        I agree, and academic jobs often require a presentation or teaching demonstration, which will have you standing 45-60 minutes. Walking to lunch is also pretty common, IME. I used to wear heels to interviews. When I switched to flats, my interview skills improved, because I could focus on what I was saying instead of how much my feet hurt.

        1. SignalLost*

          I wore nice strappy sandals with a low heel to a job interview in Boise once, mostly because they would fit in my carry on and I wasn’t flying in anything other than comfortable shoes. It was over a hundred degrees there and maybe sixties in Seattle, where I’m from. The sandals were industry acceptable (probably too formal, honestly) but I wanted to die walking to and from lunch, because I didn’t know you could burn the bottom of your feet and the soles were simply too thin for the baking-hot sidewalk. Lesson learned – do not interview in Boise. ;)

          1. Footiepjs*

            I live in Boise and I would say don’t interview in Boise in July! The temperature disparity isn’t usually that bad.

            1. SignalLost*

              I did like Boise other than that, and from a location standpoint, I was sad I didn’t get the job, particularly as their product was really one I was interested in. But they were clearly the kind of place where they’d gotten a bunch of VC, so they were hiring all their friends and also probably pricing giraffes or helicopters or something.

              1. Footiepjs*

                I think that’s an increasingly common story in Boise.

                I’ve decided that Boise is the perfect size for me. Between 200K and 300K residents seems to be the sweet spot between too big and too tiny in my book.

      2. Pommette!*

        I agree, and would add that academia is a field where for not wearing heels to an interview is less likely to affect the way your performance is evaluated. (In general, at least – I’m sure that some departments are exceptions to this rule).

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          Agreed. Even in the business and law schools, sleek flats are totally acceptable, even on a job talk.

    2. the gold digger*

      Don’t forget those staircases and walkways made of that woven/open metal! We have those in our factory and they are death to nice shoes. (Not to mention impossible to walk on with heels.)

  23. DC Professional Woman, Flat-wearer*

    I’d recommend pointed-toe flats over rounded ones for an interview. They look more formal to me, but honestly either would do. Make sure they’re clean and not too worn. Shouldn’t be an issue, though. Especially if you are suited up otherwise.

        1. Justme*

          That definitely depends on the size and length of your toes, though. I have never found pointed toe shoes that don’t squish my toes. Many rounded toe shoes squish my toes.

          1. Sylvan*

            Ever try wide shoes? I have problems with flats squishing my toes, and wide flats fit properly (they aren’t too big in the rest of the shoe, eitherl).

            1. Justme*

              Too wide for the rest of my foot. Women in my family tend to have triangle-shaped feet (of varying widths, my grandma’s feet are narrow overall) so what fits my instep does not fit my heel. Plus my toes are fairly long and I have large feet anyway, so I just steer clear of pointy toed shoes.

      1. Kelly L.*

        I think a lot of times the pointy ones will have extra “dummy” length that your foot doesn’t even really go into, but I’m with you, I prefer a rounded or square toe. None of my bosses have minded.

      1. Cassandra*

        Likewise. On my women’s-size-11 feet, pointed-toe shoes that don’t cause severe pain would verge on clown shoes.

        1. SignalLost*

          Women’s 13 here. I would look like one of those medieval woodcuts where they’ve tied the point of the shoe to their legs.

      2. Risha*

        I have reasonably proportionally sized feet for my height, but since my height is nearly 6’1″, that’s still a size 11. I avoid pointed-toe shoes like the plague.

    1. Chaordic One*

      This is one of those things where it really depends on a lot of variables. I have big feet and I’m a bit self-conscious about them. Pointed toe shoes seem to elongate my feet and make them look even bigger. Box toe shoes make it look like I’m wearing the shoe boxes. I stick to rounded toes.

    2. Dorothy Zbornak*

      I also think pointed-toe flats look more professional/dressier, but I totally get that they are often more painful as well. Rounded toe flats are more than fine.

  24. writelhd*

    I have never worn heels a day of my life, including to the 10+ job interviews I had when I had first graduated and was searching for my first professional job. Including to the three from which I got an offer and the fourth in which I was one of two finalists but pulled out in order to take one of the other offers. Two of those offers were in a field where heels during normal workday would be weird: national park service requiring field work (though, the interview was still business dress), the other two were sustainable construction and solar energy, but, office jobs, not field jobs. I wore a business suite and flats. So, while not the most conservative of environments, still legit professional business environments where otherwise business casual is expected, and my lack of heels was a non-issue. I think some norms of business dress should be accepted by young entry level people without being challenged until such person gets more experience to understand why these norms exist and how they communicate things about your level of professionalism..but the wearing of heels is not one of those norms. Some women in my office do wear heels, some even do so often, but I don’t think anybody does all the time, and a lot of others don’t do it at all like me. It’s a relic of the past that a woman can safely put into the dustbin, grades be damned.

  25. AlwhoisthatAl*

    Don’t wear high heels ever if you can. As a Deep Tissue Massage Therapist I have to deal with the aftermath of this. I get a lot of people after the Christmas parties with tendon pain and lower back pain. High heels are popular because they push your bum in and make your legs look longer and more toned as they tense the calf muscles. What they also do is stick your stomach out, so you naturally suck that back in which causes tension in your back and shoulders. You also, over time, shorten the Achilles tendon.
    Also the heels often have metal tips but usually wooden, so every step jars the tensed calf muscles and thighs right up the spine.
    When people say “ooh my feet are killing me” when they slip off their heels after only a few hours wear, there’s a good reason for that – they are causing a lot of damage.
    I could go on for hours about the work I’ve had to do to repair the damage but instead… My massage teacher knew a little old lady who’d been very fashionable in her day and always wore heels. She was so crippled that she couldn’t walk with a zimmer frame as she had to stand on the balls of her feet as her calves and achilles tendon were so badly damaged until they had a pair of surgical wedges made for her.

    1. fposte*

      Though I think there are different kinds of heel-wearers in the world. I wear lower non-stiletto heels in shoes, often Mary Jane style, and boots, and that’s going to be a different approach than wearing stilettos and walking all day. (It’s also going to depend on what the specific shoes are and how well made they are.) I think your anecdotal lady is also an outlier–there are plenty of old ladies who’ve worn heels all their lives and almost none of them can’t touch the ground with their heels.

      Not saying it’s the best thing ever for your body (though I’m actually advised to have some heel for angulation purposes), but neither is piercing holes in it or putting ink in it or sitting at a desk or standing behind a retail counter; the mere fact that it changes our body doesn’t mean it’s a violation.

      1. SignalLost*

        I can go all day in a 1.5″ heeled boot as long as the heel is wide. (Actually, I accidentally wound up hiking in those boots once.) not a trace of back or leg pain. Stilettos of any height make me want to cry any more. So yeah, it varies.

        1. Justme*

          My theory as to why heeled boots are okay for me is that boots have more ankle and foot support. I could be completely wrong,

    2. CMDRBNA*

      I have worn heels almost every day for years, and this is true! Heels now feel more comfortable to me than flats because my Achilles tendon has shortened so much that putting my feet flat on the floor is painful.

    3. SallytooShort*

      I do like wearing heels sometimes but usually not the ones that really mess you up like stilettos. Still not great for me. I know!

      But, still, my advice to anyone who thinks they should be mandatory for business dress is “Google Sarah Jessica Parker’s feet!”

    4. Bebe*

      I am also a massage therapist, in a clinical setting, and was coming here to say the exact same thing! Wearing heels forces your body a contorted compensatory pattern just to maintain your balance – almost every single joint in your body is impacted.

      I have some older female clients who wore heels most of their lives and in addition to the shortened Achilles’ tendons, they also have incredibly painful – and permanent – structural foot damage. Bunions and hammer toes are the least of it, and those are no joke.

      Save your feet, save your body!

  26. Bookworm*

    I’ve literally never heard of the concept of flats being less professional. Many women I know, even in very conservative industries, wear flats.

    What I HAVE heard of is people giving the professional side-eye to heels once they’re past a certain height. I honestly think super-high heels are more likely to get you in trouble than flats.

    1. Elizabeth West*

      There are definitely heeled shoes I would think of as not suitable for office attire. Glitter heels, strappy pink platforms, Lucite shoes, anything you’d wear to a club. I wouldn’t necessarily think of very high black pumps as unprofessional, but I’d wonder how much pain the person wearing them was enduring.

      1. The Other Dawn*

        Agree with very high black pumps not necessarily being unprofessional. I have two team members who both routinely wear heels that are at least five inches high. The shoes look good with their outfits and they aren’t club wear-type heels. They tend to be in a primary color and don’t have much in the way of adornments. The reason these ladies choose to wear these heels is they are both barely five feet tall and want to appear taller.

        1. fposte*

          I think they can look good and still be inadvisable in a professional situation. It would be inadvisable for somebody to interview for our jobs in 5″ heels.

      2. SignalLost*

        Are you … are you saying that my five-inch cone heeled strappy hot pink lizard-skin print gladiator sandals are not office-appropriate??? My soul, she is crushed.

  27. Guy Incognito*

    That is nonsense. What if you’re someone like me, who can’t wear heels because of medical reasons? I think I wore “nicer” flats on interviews (can’t totally recall since I’ve been in a job I love for 5 years now, yay) but in my every day I literally wear those old-lady type slim black sneakers because they fit my orthotics. It doesn’t matter, though, since they go seamlessly under black slacks and no one bats an eye.

    Shoes and I have had the WORST relationship for forever because of the thinking that was displayed here. OP, rock your nice flats with confidence. I hope your employer changes their ways.

    1. Elemeno P.*

      I also have to wear shoes with orthotics, and since a lot of the options weren’t terribly appealing to me, I went with the style that I liked: black Mary Janes, which I pair with white ankle socks. It’s certainly a look, but I wear them almost every day (unless it’s cold enough for boots) and my comfort is much more important to me than someone else’s perception. Luckily, my style fits them, so people just think it’s a fashion thing.

        1. Elemeno P.*

          I got mine from The Walking Company! They’re expensive, but they last me a couple of years with hard daily wear. My current favorites are the ABEO Abby (link in my name for this post).

          1. Guy Incognito*

            Oh my goodness, thank you so much! I will be checking them out – and you’re right, if you find something that works, it’s always worth the investment :)

          2. Ktelzbeth*

            Late to the party, but I like Alegria. They have a huge insole that you can remove to fit almost any kind of orthotic.

      1. Julia the Survivor*

        I wear Fluevog mary janes for the same reason – with cushiony insoles they’re comfy and wear 5-6 years of daily walking warm-weather wear – in this climate that’s about 5-6 months.

  28. SallytooShort*

    If an interview goes well then your interviewer won’t remember what shoes you were wearing.

    I think it’s always best to dress professionally but simply.

    And it’s just so hard to believe in this day and age anyone would really care if you wear heels. And do you really want that kind of job?

  29. The Luidaeg*

    Echoing some of these comments —- The job hunting advice I always got was to make sure that whatever kind of business-type shoes you were wearing, they should be in good shape and polished (if possible). This applies to men and women. I find it annoying that in 2017, this kind of “guidance” is still being given out. Most men have no idea what it’s like to wear heels (especially all day), even if your feet are in wonderful shape. I developed bone spurs and can wear some kinds of heels, but only for a few hours at a time. So, when I’m in the mood for heels — and the key thing is, I make the choice — I wear my converse to work and then change shoes at my desk. I also keep a pair of flats tucked away under my desk, just in case. I wouldn’t be able to work in an office where I had to wear heels for 8-9 hours (which is my current work day) and my days of being able to walk on city concrete in them is long gone.

    I really don’t feel like my choice of footwear affects my ability to be professional.

  30. Akcipitrokulo*

    I wear flat shoes where the shoes match the shape of my toes, rather than the other way about. When I was younger it did worry me, and I did wear shoes that I thought I needed to – now I wish I could tell younger me that if they don’t want to hire someone who is crushing their feet into unnatural positions, then they’re not worth it. Really.

    And also – no-one I ever interviewed with actually cared!

  31. Laura in NJ*

    I don’t wear heels for interviews (I can’t wear them since they hurt my feet); I have flats which are much more comfortable and no one cares.

  32. RML*

    This infuriates me. I hurt my back in a car accident when I was a teenager (23+ years ago) and I can’t wear heels without severe back pain. I have no visible lasting injuries that anyone can see so no one even knows about it, but if I had to wear high heels, I’d be crawling on the floor. This is BAD advice, it’s sexist, it’s ableist, it’s outdated, it’s incorrect, and it’s just pure shit. Makes me so mad!

    Also, I wear black lowtop chucks, flip flops, or Frye boots to work every day of my life, depending on the weather. I’ve never worn heels to an interview and I never will. I work in advertising and make 6 figures so I’ll just keep on wearing my pleasantly worn in leather boots to my future interviews!

  33. Detective Amy Santiago*

    This makes me irrationally angry on your behalf, OP.

    Was the evaluation done by a man or a woman? If it was a man, is there a woman involved that you would feel comfortable speaking to about this?

    1. ThursdaysGeek*

      My neighbor works from home most of the time. But when her boss comes to town and there are client site visits, my neighbor is required to wear heels. Her boss thinks that is what looks professional, and that is the rule. Period. Her boss is also a woman.

  34. AC*

    Professional 30-year-old woman here in a business casual environment. I’ve never had a job where wearing heels was a requirement, or even a preference, including my one “business formal” job where people wore suits everyday.

    1. Meyers and Briggs were not real doctors*

      I commented above, similarly. Do not understand why heels and makeup in particular are stressed for women this day and age… when in my experience (and others) it has no bearance on getting hired, other than looking clean, presentable, and poised.

  35. Dev*

    As someone who is 6′ sans heels, I generally steer clear of wearing heels for work-related functions because I don’t like sticking out more than I already do. I also work in an industry where not many people even wear them. I did wear heels to a networking event in graduate school and a mentor went out of his way to ask if it had really been necessary for me to wear them. So damned if you do, damned if you don’t I guess.

    1. August*

      Same here! I’m 6′, and the only event I ever bothered wearing my dinky 2 inch heels to, I got a ton of “how’s the weather up there?”-type comments

  36. Notwearingheelsforanyreason*

    I never wore heels (I’m 5’9″) and always wore flats as they were more comfortable. Now I wear only sneakers as I”m on feet a lot (it’s a casual atmosphere), and no one bats an eye.

  37. Kelly L.*

    I’ve seen this opinion here and there, and it makes zero sense to me. All other things being equal (materials, color, trim, etc.), I have no idea how a high-heeled version of the same shoe is supposed to be more formal than the flat version. Other than that some people like women’s calves better in heels. Ew.

    1. NaoNao*

      I think in general, the view is “The more uncomfortable and restrictive the item is, the more formal it is.” Hence ties, cummerbunds, fitted suits, corsets or boned undergarments, highly structured gowns, elaborate jewels, etc.
      My feeling is that this is a holdover from ages ago, when there were two classes:
      The working class who physically labored for a living. They needed comfortable, durable clothing and shoes they could stand/walk in.
      The upper class, whose lives revolved around leisure. They needed elaborate, expensive clothing to show they could afford it, didn’t do any physical work, and could care for it.
      When the professional class of women arose, in the 40s or so, there was confusion: are they part of a pampered leisure class or are they working class?
      Another issue is, since the male form of professional dress was the model, how do we signal that women are just as professional as men, but, you know, *women”? Hence the power suit, tie necked blouse, and “borrowed from the boys” patterns, materials, and cuts that were popular up until very recently.
      Since they are neither, and since the perception is that upper is better, the rules fell on “dress like you’re a member of the pampered leisure class or like a feminized man”.

      Still, given all this, having to wear heels is not cool. There are many luxurious, high quality, and comfortable, professional flats out there.

      1. FiveWheels*

        Except fitted suits are comfortable, because they fit perfectly. Ties and cumberbunds are comfortable unless they are too tight or, in the case of ties, if the shirt collar is the wrong size or shape for the neck. High quality “men’s” office shoes are comfortable – I have friends who wear handmade bespoke brogues that fit like gloves.

        It’s only women’s formal/expensive/dressy clothing that is uncomfortable and impractical even when it fits. That’s because of the very real and very disturbing gendered attitude that men are meant to do things… And women are meant to look nice for the men doing things.

        1. SignalLost*

          Corsets are restrictive, but if they are fitted correctly, they are not uncomfortable. I find conventions more tolerable in a corset from a back pain standpoint.

        2. fposte*

          I think you’re tweaking the comparison there a little, though. High quality fitted suits fit women as nicely as they fit men; same with high quality bespoke shoes.

  38. Erin*

    I’d think of it this way: Many employers will have pet peeves or odd preferences you aren’t going to be able to predict. My mother told me she once got a job because her nails were polished and clean, and that was apparently very important to the interviewer.

    So yes, maybe there is an employer out there who has a thing with heels. You can’t possibly know about these things or prepare for them beforehand. Also food for thought: Would you want to work for someone who has such an odd, outdated thing about women’s footwear?

    As long as you’re dressed professionally for the industry – and professional women’s shoes that are not heels, as Allison pointed out, do exist – I wouldn’t worry about this.

    I would consider pushing back with your employer on this, though. It’s unsettling to think they’re giving bad advice to those just entering the work world who might not know any better.

  39. Bend & Snap*

    As long as the shoes are clean, in good shape and you look polished overall, I can’t believe that heels matter.

    I don’t think I’ve ever gone to an interview NOT in heels, but that’s a personal choice, and as an interviewer it’s never occurred to me to ding someone for wearing nice flats.

    1. The Other Dawn*

      As long as they’re not falling apart, I wouldn’t think an interviewer would care about someone’s shoes.

      A friend of mine used to wear her shoes into the ground. Not because she couldn’t afford a new pair (they were Payless shoes and she was doing fine financially), but just because she didn’t feel like replacing them. She would be dressed in a really nice outfit and then wear these holey, scuffed up shoes.

  40. Cruciatus*

    I have only worn flat shoes to interviews. In fact, the shoes I wear are what I can hear my mom calling “clodhoppers”. I don’t think they are quite as heavy as clodhopper suggests, but they have laces and a wider toe box and are comfortable! One time at an interview I brought nicer shoes (still not heels) but drove in my comfy shoes (which were plain black, but not in the best condition). I got out of the car and only realized later I didn’t switch shoes! And I still got the job. But I suppose they blended in enough or nobody really looks at your shoes that much anyway. As is asked in Shawshank Redemption, “I mean, seriously, how often do you really look at a [wo]man’s shoes?”. Some people will, but I think most people won’t care as long as you look neat, clean, and relatively put together.

    1. Higher Ed Database Dork*

      I feel like people who are better interviewers tend to not care about things like type of shoe or suit or whatever. I mean they want you to look professional, but things like shoe type are insignificant. My former boss was not a very good interviewer, and he’d always harp on little things like that, that didn’t really matter. He would also ask bad questions, ramble on, and couldn’t figure out why he rarely got any good candidates.

      My current boss did a great job during our interviewer, and in subsequent interviews I’ve been a part of – and he doesn’t remember at all that I had super short bleach blonde hair (now it’s almost shoulder length and dark). He couldn’t tell you at all what shoes I wore. Because he focused on asking good, probing questions and having a dialogue with me instead of nitpicking my outfit.

      1. SignalLost*

        Plus, if you really do miss the mark in dress or style, that’s correctable! You may not WANT to give up your pink and black striped mohawk, in which case the job is not a good fit for you, but if an otherwise good candidate has missed the mark on dress, you can correct that as part of the hiring process, even with something as simple as “just to make sure you’re fully informed, we are on the business side of business casual”. And then coach! I don’t think anyone should expect an entry-level person to nail appearance out of the gate, and penalizing them in interviews for shoe style is a great way to end up with a smaller pool of applicants.

  41. Granny K*

    I’m out here in California and there are some companies here that would judge candidates who dress in a suit as inexperienced or “just don’t get it”. Up until around 2007 I used to dress in nice separates but found around that time that going a bit more contemporary and casual was the way to go. (And quite frankly, this is harder for me than just dressing up.) I was actually in an interview wearing my ‘lucky’ interview outfit (dark plum dress, charcoal blazer, black pumps, lucky earrings) and the person interviewing me (wearing what looked like an outfit you would clean the garage in) said to me “I guess you might be cool to work with. I dunno about what you’re wearing though.” Aaaaand… thanks anyway. No, I didn’t get the job.

    1. SignalLost*

      Yeah, I hate this. I’m in Seattle and work in … well, ideally, marketing IT for a college. I never, ever know what to wear to interviews, since suits are out of the norm below the VP level in every school I’ve worked at. I make up for it by having an olive green ponte knit suit with a pencil skirt and motorcycle jacket, but I look like I’m in the Mafia when I wear black suits. And then I panic and usually wear business casual separates.

    2. Julia the Survivor*

      I would not be a good fit for a company where they wear garage-cleaning clothes!
      It doesn’t have to be business style, but having some style is fun and good for people’s self-respect! I would have serious doubts about a place where my interviewer was wearing, say, a holey t-shirt and dirty jeans. I would feel I could do better!
      Business suit and tie, or vintage suit and fedora, or slacks and clean, well-fitting shirt, or clean jeans and leather…
      Basic skirt suit, or pretty vintage dress, or pink and purple hair with leather and fishnets…
      Somehow, show some style!

  42. Xarcady*

    In the 30 years I’ve been working, I’ve never worn anything higher than a 1-2 inch block heel. And most of the time, I wear flats. At current job, I can wear sneakers. An accident years ago left me with nerve damage in one foot, and heels are simply not an option. And even the low heels that I can wear–the rest of the shoe has to be a certain style or I can’t keep them on my feet.

    When I was hiring people, I never noticed their shoes. Unwashed, uncombed hair, a garden party style dress, a tee-shirt with holes–those I noticed.

    1. Elizabeth West*

      Flip flops. I would notice flip flops. People would come in to apply for jobs at OldExjob wearing the most casual clothing imaginable. They’d prop their ugly flip flop-clad foot up on one knee and fill out the app. Ugh.

  43. andreso*

    I was a college teacher for an employment certification program. They had to come to one class per semester dressed for their mock interview, but we talked at length about what to wear. I encouraged them (mostly young women) to walk, sit, lean, bend, cross their legs, etc. just to see what their clothes would do (there’s a huge difference between standing in front of a mirror in a wrap-style top and sitting down at a desk), or walking to an office in high heels vs. touring a hospital facility. My point was that they should feel comfortable in what they are wearing so they can concentrate on what they are saying. Feeling self-conscious about your clothing or worrying about whether you are going to be able to keep up on the tour takes focus away from the purpose of the interview.

    1. fposte*

      Oh, that was a really smart lesson! I love the checking out the movements thing especially–I sit differently now because of my back and there are skirts that I’m just not comfortable in as a result.

    2. Nita*

      That’s brilliant! Interview clothes are often not “everyday” clothes, so I love the idea of test-driving them for malfunctions ahead of time.

      1. StubbornWombat*

        Same – I got a skirt that looked very professional on me standing up and walking around, but it rode up higher than I’d care for when I sat down. I still wear it, but I just sort of tug it down as I sit down. Test runs like that are a great idea

  44. Kristin D*

    I was speaking to some law students at a networking event who were given this advice. They were troubled by this from a gender identity perspective. Not everyone identifies as either male or female. Many dress androgynously. One woman I spoke to chooses to drsss more masculine including flat shoes. She identifies as a woman but would never wear heels. (She looked incredibly professional in a suit and lace up oxfords.) That’s another reason this advice is problematic.

    1. Violet Rose*

      Definitely. My old university still has a version of the dress code that requires skirts – fortunately, thanks to a push from the trans student community, its no longer assigned by gender. So anyone can wear the version of the formal uniform that requires trousers, long sleeves, and a bow tie, and anyone cam wear the version that requires skirt, hose, and a ribbon (but permits short sleeves). And, since its only required for very specific ceremonies a few times a year, there isn’t much of a push to get rid of it entirely.

      Funnily enough, I know black shoes are required, but I dont think heel height was ever specified. I think I wore low heels because thats what I had, but I suspect my friend who is 6’2″ wore flats!

        1. FiveWheels*

          When I matriculated at Oxford I wore a black trouser suit and black brogues of some kind, but lots of women wore skirt suits or black dresses.

          1. SignalLost*

            I wore a black trouser suit and I have no memory of my shoes, but the white short sleeved blouse and ribbon tie, I remember. I hate long sleeves on button downs – my limbs are actually short for my height but I find long sleeves in non-stretch fabrics uncomfortable nonetheless.

            1. FiveWheels*

              A friend had to tie my bow… The night before was, uhm, a late one!

              I like short sleeve and long sleeve shirts, but 3/4 feel strange to me for some reason.

    2. FiveWheels*

      I wear trouser suits and flats to work but IMO that’s not “masculine”. More men do it than women but that’s true of a lot of non gendered things – being A Star Trek fan isn’t “masculine”, for example. Trousers and comfortable shoes are gender neutral.

        1. FiveWheels*

          Apologies – I misunderstood “One woman I spoke to chooses to drsss more masculine including flat shoes” to mean you felt the flat shoes were masculine.

    3. Alton*

      Yep, agreed. It’s bad for everyone, and for LGBT people, there can be an added element of requiring a gender presentation that’s uncomfortable for them.

      For someone like me, policies like these are insulting in two levels: one, they’re sexist. Even if I identified as female, I wouldn’t appreciate being told I need to fit female gender roles. But also, it’s misgendering.

  45. kierson*

    OP, I work in Career Services and conduct these very mock interviews and evals you speak of. I feel a bit disgusted that you were dinged for not adhering to what sounds like someone’s personal (and dated) standard.

    Like you, I loathe heels and the physical pain they cause me when walking. I stick to driving loafers and moccasins in the workplace, as well as for interviews. Do not take one person’s opinion to heart. As long as you are dressing professionally (and it sounds like you are), you will do fine.

    I have sometimes thought to myself that wearing heels during my interviews would be best but considering that’s not me, I want an employer to fall in love with who I am, not someone else’s expectation of me. Also, if a place is going to force me to wear heels on the reg, then that’s not the best job for me.

  46. Hallway Feline*

    My own mom told me when I started my job search straight out of college that I had to wear heels and make up to interviews and work. I was fortunate enough to end up in two casual offices before this one (business attire required, but business casual is the norm).

    I don’t wear make up, and people here give me side eye, but I didn’t wear make up (aside from mascara) to my interview either so it’s not like my boss didn’t know what I looked like. I wear heels most days because 1. I don’t have professional-looking flats (I’m saving up to buy some pairs) and 2. I didn’t hem my few pairs of work pants (see previous aside regarding money), so I have to. But I went out of my way to find professional and comfortable heels so I have things to wear to work daily.

    But I want to emphasize: that’s what works for me. I don’t think that women should be forced to wear heels for interviews or work. I believe it should be a choice (unless you’re a model where that is literally your job, I guess). As long as you match the image your company dress code is asking for (polished, business casual, etc.), then I think whatever footwear is fine.

  47. AlwhoisthatAl*

    OOH, actually I’ve got a better idea, when you go to an interview for such a sexist, indeed misogynistic, company as they portray, wear a very low cut blouse. They will spend the whole time staring at your cleavage and you can wear whatever the hell you want below waist level, grass hawaiian skirt and crocs anyone ?

  48. JD*

    I wear 120mm heels every day. I don’t even own flats outside of tennis shoes…and even i think this is ridiculous. I happen to think flats do look a bit unprofessional, although not really the kind OP wrote about, and I still would never flinch interviewing someone wearing them. Just because i think heels look better doesn’t mean I’m silly enough to think that a.) everyone can wear them or b.) everyone WANTS to wear them.

    I do get exhausted hearing people constantly comment how uncomfortable I must be though. If I was i wouldn’t wear them. Thanks. Eye roll.

    1. JD*

      I should note the flats i find unprofessional looking tend to be those ballet flat type, which is all I usually see. Otherwise, whatever works!

      1. santa baby*

        I just want to say that you’re entitled to your opinion, but i very much doubt anyone (in my industry, at least) would look down their nose at a nice pair of repetto flats in an interview . . .

        1. JD*

          I have no idea what those are. I simply have usually only seen soft leather ballet like flats that are not formal enough for a suit. I would never not hire someone over it, don’t really care what someone shoe choice is. When I am trying them on I find it looks unprofessional. In So Cal I am lucky if someone eve shows up in a suit. People dress down so much here. Not my favorite thing.

    2. FiveWheels*

      When you say flats look unprofessional to me, is that just things like ballet shoes or does it include oxfords and derbys?

      1. JD*

        Yes that is my feeling. I oddly have never seen a woman in a suit wearing oxfords or the likes, which i would like. It has only ever been the ballet flats. I would actually love to look cuter in some loafer or oxfords but I feel like my feet look giant. Friends say they don’t but I just look down and see boats…which is a huge part of why I wear heels. I envy my sisters cute little feet that look great in any shoes.

        1. FiveWheels*

          I’ve got big feet but nothing wrong with that. A woman in a dress shop once told me “you hide your feet very well”, apparently because my shoes were partly covered by my flared jeans. I was like, what? Why would I hide them? They’re not exactly embarrassing…

          I have the urge to buy another pair of casual brogues just from talking about them!

  49. Fern*

    OP, this makes me so mad on your behalf. My department is hiring two new staff members and I sit on the path to the conference room where the interviews are happening, so I’ve seen every candidate walk by. Many of the candidates are women, and not one has worn heels. They all look professional and have worn a wide array of suit styles (skirts vs pants) and nice looking shoes, which yours sound like. When I was hired here 3 years ago, I wore a pant suit and pointed flats, and the rest is history. I work in high education/student services if that helps, but this is the same look I wore at my previous job as a project manager for a technology company.

    This is dated advice, and frankly a little sexist. Dress how you feel like yourself/put together, if that makes sense.

  50. BePositive*

    If the reason why I wouldn’t get hired was because I didn’t wear heels and skirt to an interview but I wore professional outfit and I did well, I wouldn’t want to work for that company. I take it as a flag of other issues lurking there

  51. RockityRoll*

    My (female) boss once told me that women wearing heels were taken more seriously by men. I asked her if she thought that meant that men only respect women who can’t run away. She didn’t reply.

    1. Hallway Feline*

      Now I wonder if I should have asked that question at the company I ran away from! The (male) interviewer told me that women have to wear heels every day.

      Their practices were really slimy/shady/really predatory towards those in need, so I didn’t accept the position because of that, but the heels thing was a flag too.

  52. nnn*

    If heels hurt you, not wearing heels to your interviews is the perfect decision. That way, you won’t end up in a job that sees heels as mandatory.

    (And I say this as a person who wears heels literally every day)

  53. amanda2*

    I am a woman who is 6’3″ tall. I don’t even own a pair or heels and would never consider wearing them to an interview.

    1. SignalLost*

      I’m 6’4″, but I love modest heels. :) I wpuld not work somewhere that my footwear was not at my discretion, however. A day where I’m sitting for most of it, fine; a day where I’m standing running an event, no thank you. I really don’t enjoy putting my breasts right at most people’s eye level.

      1. JD*

        I interviewed somewhere where the guy said “oh you won’t be able to wear those heels someone fell once”. And that is my problem because? He also later told a reference I dressed slutty to the interview. Full pants suit with a button up. Then that i hit on him. He was about 70 and very obese. I was 20 something at the time. Surely had no interest in that job after that. What a weirdo.

  54. CM*

    OP, I would love to see you write a letter to the head of whatever department puts on the training, respectfully saying that their standards are unfair to women. Get other work-study students (ideally both male and female) to sign on.

    Of course, I understand if you don’t want to invest a lot of energy into changing this and would prefer to let it go, but I think you’d help others if you raised this issue.

  55. Manager-at-Large*

    In 2005, I broke my ankle (tri-malleolar fracture with ORIF for those who love Google). I’ve not worn heels at all, much less to work, in the 12 years since. Thank goodness for IT – most days I can wear black running shoes. I have 2 pairs of flats for suit days or interview occassions.

    Your mock-interview set-up needs to revise their criteria. It is easier for them to check off Heels Y/N than actually evaluate the suitability of footwear for an interview – e.g. stylish boots vs. Doc Martens, stylish flats vs. tennis shoes vs. boaters. Are the men required to wear only lace-up wing tips? I think they need to help you prepare for an interview on the conservative end of the spectrum (e.g. banking and finance) but heels only is not the way to go.

  56. Seal*

    I have an interview for a managerial position in early January in the upper Midwest. I plan to wear a pants suit and ankle boots with a 1″ heel, not only because that’s a height I’m comfortable wearing but also because the temperature will be in the mid-teens and there will be snow on the ground. I’m not about to break my ankle to impress someone with my inability/unwillingness to walk in high heels in the dead of winter.

  57. NewBoss2016*

    Wow, that is really goofy. I rarely ever wear heels and that has never once been commented on. In fact, I get annoying comments when I do wear heels because I’m 5’10” and “OMG, you are soooo tall” seems to be everyone’s default. Wear what makes you feel confident!

  58. SWGl*

    Ugh. My college roommate had someone in the university’s Career Services office tell her that a woman couldn’t be dressed “professionally” unless she was wearing a skirt. A woman in slacks just couldn’t possibly look professional. Still makes me mad. She completely believed them and went out and bought a business skirt, which she was never comfortable in.

    1. Meyers and Briggs were not real doctors*

      I saw almost the exact same thing happen, i mentioned a little above. The only time slacks were considered respectful were if you were a polisci major and dressed like hillary/janet reno/insert any other powerful female that wears pantsuits.

      Oh, and the brand is important, cuz can’t wear a pantsuit unless it was a super pricey designer. WTF?


  59. FiveWheels*

    I personally find heels considerably LESS professional looking than “sensible” shoes, eg brogues.

  60. The Claims Examiner*

    I’m not usually annoyed by stuff like this, but that is really sexist and stupid. I’m pregnant ATM and stopped wearing heels for safety. Your shoes sounded more than appropriate.

  61. Jane*

    I have always worn heels for interviews except one time when I forgot them. I wore red flats and I got the job. I typically put them in a shoe bag in a large purse. I think it’s crazy to reject a candidate for not wearing heels and can’t imagine anyone would do that if the candidate is the right person for the job. Usually when deciding if the candidate has good judgment you look at the total package and presentation and interview performance, not one factor. I have never worn makeup to an interview. I think I have worn makeup maybe 10 times in my life, including my wedding. I just can’t imagine any interviewer who isn’t nuts giving this kind of stuff a second thought unless the person just shows up looking like a mess overall, and that’s never due to one factor.

  62. Cromely*

    Potentially OT, but…

    I’m sure OP didn’t mean anything by it, but as someone with recent medical challenges, I bristled at this: “I figured it’s more professional to walk into an interview rather than limp into it. ”

    Any activity I go into now and possibly for the rest of my life will involve limping into it. I hardly think that’s unprofessional.

    That said, I understand what the OP looked means — that she’ll be more comfortable and confident when she can walk as she regularly does and isn’t in pain. It’s just the phrasing implies something I don’t think OP intended.

  63. [insert witty user name here]*

    I had an interview recently and I wore black pants, a nice sweater (which I accidentally dripped on… d’oh!! luckily it was small and near a piece of lace, so it wasn’t too noticeable), and flats. Like, rounded-toe ballet flats. With no stockings or dress socks or anything like that. This was for a government contracting job, in which the position is often working directly with the customer. I got the job (and at a higher salary than I had anticipated) and I truly don’t think there was any thought given to my shoes or my outfit in general other than “she doesn’t look like a slob.”

    OP – sorry for the bad advice about having to wear heels. Don’t take it to heart and if you’re feeling up to it, push back on those idiots who told you to (professionally, but firmly – heck, that’s dang good practice for any future job anyway!). You’d be doing many other women a favor if these dummies can learn from you.

  64. Daphne*

    The only time you should be required to wear heels for an interview is when you are desperate to get out of town and are interviewing as a string bassist or saxophonist for an all-female band.

    1. Meyers and Briggs were not real doctors*

      I laughed loudly at your comment!
      I’m a musician as my “night job”, have been the lone female in several bands (i play more instruments than string bass tho! which i actually went to college for) and never auditioned in heels or makeup. I’m usually hired. :)

      But I don’t think heels help when leaving town in a hurry, unless it’s a zombie apocalypse and the heels can be a pointy weapon. :p

  65. jl*

    How extraordinarily sexist. Did it actually say this on your evaluation?

    In this current climate, employers should really keep their mouths shut about this kind of thing. Completely unacceptable. Do you have someone you can file a complaint with?

    For the record, once you get into the real professional world, most organizations allow you to wear smart flats. I’ve not worn proper heels for years. My current workplace is extremely casual so today I’m wearing some nice, comfortable Jambu flats. When I have an important meeting or off-site event I’ll wear nice ballet flats or low wedges. They are honestly far more stylish than stilettos that misogynists insist we wear to entertain them. Very 80s if you ask me.

  66. Chaordic One*

    Personally, I like a low-heeled shoe with a heel that is maybe an inch and a half or two inches high. Something in between a flat and a high-heel that looks good and that I can easily walk in. I don’t have any problem with flats, but I get annoyed with people wearing high-heeled shoes that they can barely walk in. If I’m walking with certain people in high heels I have slow down so they can keep up.

  67. Radio Girl*

    Excellent responses!

    I wear very low heels or flats for work. In my business, very high heels look cheap. I recently wore moderately highish heels to a wedding, with a pair of flats in my car. It was horrid! My knees ached for days afterward.

  68. CG*

    Your shoes sound perfect; your employer sounds a couple decades out of touch with the actual working world.

    I work in a very DC job in a very DC field, and I have never met anyone who cares whether colleagues’ or employees’ polished, pointed-toe professional shoes have a heel or not. No one. (With this sort of thing, I tend to assume that the only people who do care must have so little actual power/responsibility/in-demand skills that they’re trying to find a powertripping way to make others feel dragged down to their level.)

    1. Red 5*

      Yup, same here. When I first started my job I was paranoid about how I dressed because I’m just not comfortable in a lot of the more business-business looks and I can’t wear heels for sure. This is a town where casual Friday means a suit jacket without a tie, and my office does not do casual Friday.

      Turns out it was fine because the ladies all seem to get that you wear what’s comfortable and what you like to wear when it comes to footwear. I change out of my sneakers when I get into the office, but I change into flats and nobody has ever said a word.

  69. Delphine*

    I suppose all the men were docked points off their evaluations too, for improper footwear? Or perhaps they all came in wearing their best heels!

    1. Xarcady*

      No, no–the men must wear wingtip shoes. And only black or brown, not navy blue. And with matching socks. I mean the sock color must match the shoes. Bonus points if the shoes/socks/tie/pocket square/belt/briefcase all match.

    2. Brett*

      I’ll mention it below, but as a much shorter man, I had it suggested to me more than once in mock interviews to wear elevator shoes for interviews.
      So yeah, it happens, but that is much more focused on the idea that taller men are better candidates.
      (Also what Xarcady said, you have to wear black or brown wingtips with matching socks and accessories. I remember getting dinged for using buttons instead of business cufflinks on my cuffs and not having a tie clip.)

      1. Xarcady*

        Oh, jeepers, I was joking–playing off the old rule that a woman’s handbag and shoes had to be the same color.

        It’s a little scary that there are fields that pay such attention to such minute details.

  70. Cassie*

    LW, in my experience, college interview coaching/resume coaching is not only incredibly outdated, but geared towards only the most stereotypical 9-to-5 office jobs. Freelancers, people who do field work, and anyone else whose major falls outside that pigeonhole can find themselves misled about norms within their field of study. I encourage you to instead seek advice from alumni in your field, professional societies, and the like.

    1. Red 5*

      Yes, this is very true. At both of my universities, I went to the career services office for suggestions and ended up being given advice I already knew was outdated and useless. In undergrad, my mom was helping me rewrite my resume because she actually helped with the hiring in her department, but I thought getting another opinion wouldn’t hurt. They tried to put back all the things she’d had me take out and basically did everything she said would make her toss it out. In grad school I actually pushed back on their advice and was told that maybe SOME people thought they knew better but SOME people weren’t professionals trained to help us get jobs now were they?

      No, they were the people doing the hiring and/or people who had recently got hired, but what do they know? I never used a single ounce of advice from either career center. To their credit, my undergrad school has completely revamped their career services since I left and now they seem better. Or at least less “we know what’s best and you had better listen to us 100% and always.”

  71. dear liza dear liza*

    I could see this snafu happening at my college. In an effort to save money and forge stronger ties, the Career Services office is involving more alumni for just these kinds of trainings. And yet there’s never any training for the alumni, so they come in with their own personal biases about resumes/job hunting strategies/heels wearing, and present those as fact. The Chronicle of Higher Education had an interesting article last month about similar problems with alumni interviewing prospective students.

    All to say…take any kind of training with a grain of salt. They are well-intentioned, but not to be treated as gospel.

  72. Cotton Headed Ninny Muggins*

    I definitely agree with Alison’s advice about wearing heels to an interview if you don’t normally wear them. I love my heels, but I fall all the time. If it’s not normal for you and you wobble in like a newborn deer, it’s going to be tough to be confident and comfortable in an interview. You should be polished and put together, but still yourself.

  73. Hush42*

    When I interview people I rarely even notice their shoes. The only time I remember even noticing was when I interviewed my employee who is nearly 6 feet tall. And even then I only noticed because I was curious if she was wearing heels or flats- she was wearing flats the first time and heels the second. She’s told me since I hired her that she intentionally wears flats to first interviews because some people find her height to be a bad thing (especially men).

  74. Shannon*

    When I go to interviews, I deliberately do not wear heels and only wear a minimal amount of makeup. My overall appearance is professional and I am well groomed, but if not wearing heels and minimal makeup are an issue for an employer, I’d rather self-select out of that job.

  75. Susannah*

    As a 6′ tall relatively clumsy human I own exactly 1 pair of heels, though my boots etc. do have a slight heel to them. I’ve never found it a problem professionally, though admittedly most of my work (Education/related fields) does prize comfort and is decidedly business casual. There’s no way in hell that I’d survive a day in a 4th grade classroom crouching, kneeling, etc wearing heels.

  76. Tin Cormorant*

    I broke my big toe early in high school, and my entire life, any time I’ve tried to wear heels for some kind of special event, my toe ended up hurting for DAYS afterwards such that it’s hard to walk even in comfortable shoes. I don’t even care if I lose points for it, I’m not wearing heels. Ever.

  77. Ghost Town*

    Absolutely not. Heels are not required. In May, I started a new position at the business school of the university where I have worked for 8.5 years. My level of dress in the college was on the decidedly casual side of business casual, meaning straight-up flip flops and jeans in the summer. By the time I was interviewing at the business school, I’d gotten rid of all my heels b/c I never wore them, and when I did, they were uncomfortable. I wore my nice flats to interview, and look at me now! At the B-school! True, I have slowly upgraded my overall wardrobe from casual-business-casual to business-business-casual, but the moral of my Cool-Story-Bro is that heels are not necessary.

  78. Big Joe*

    When I was in college I interviewed for an on-site engineer internship at a power plant. I showed up in jeans, wearing steel toed boots and with a hard hat. The lady who interviewed after me showed up in heels. I was the one they called back. I later told this story to my universities career center and they where seriously confused as to why this would happen, that they would prefer the person who was less dressed up. I guess it is knowing what the person you’re interviewing with us really looking after.

    1. Nita*

      Interesting! I didn’t land a really neat construction internship once, and I think it was because I wore the typical interview clothes. The interviewer actually said something like “I hope you realize you can’t wear a skirt on a construction site?” and seemed to have assumed I’m some kind of shrinking violet. The interview was in an office, so it really didn’t seem appropriate to come in field gear, but it seems the standards in engineering aren’t so clear-cut. That, or the guy was just sexist.

      Too bad for his company… still wearing a hard hat and steel toes ten years later, at another business that doesn’t make snap judgments about people.

    2. Birch*

      Yes, this. I’m in academia and typically wear what I’d wear to give a conference talk, which is a slightly more polished version of my everyday (because I think it’s important to put some thought into what you wear regardless…). It shows the interviewers that I know something about my field’s culture. My last interview I was offered the job the same day. I wore a dark knee length dress, black tights, a black blazer, and brown leather ankle boots. I don’t think my outfit had much to do with the decision, but I know there’s some weirdness around young women in academia (especially the sciences) “trying too hard” by wearing something more formal. It looks naive, especially if people can tell you don’t normally dress that way. It would be great if everyone could just wear what they wanted, but I think showing some knowledge of what you’re applying for and being comfortable within that frame is important.

  79. phedre*

    I broke a sesamoid bone in my foot 2 years ago and still can’t wear heels without pain. Most places simply don’t care, and the ones that do are probably not places I want to work anyway because they’re too conservative/rigid.

  80. MissDissplaced*

    Heels: Outdated and gender biased.
    A professional looking shoe should be of similar description for both sexes.

    There’s nothing wrong with heels if you like them, they look lovely, but its so sexist to require ONLY women to wear them. Same goes with skirts.

    Deducting points for this was wrong.

  81. Overeducated*

    A friend of mine got this advice but wore a pant suit and oxfords anyway. She wound up helping push one interviewer’s car out of a snowbank or something along those lines. As you can imagine, she felt very happy about her choices. (And she got the job.)

  82. Goya*

    When I was in college, heels were basically required for me. I worked at a bank branch (world-wide company) of the old fashioned type (think large brass gates, marble floors, and counters clearly meant to be worked by men). At 5’3″, I could barely reach over the counter when working. I was such a pro at doing almost anything in heels because of this and my feet rarely ever hurt (you try lugging around bags of coin in 3″-4″ heels ;) ). Now I’m in the recreation field and heels are just impracticable, also, I can’t wear them for longer than 5 minutes before my feet begin to hurt! Plenty of ladies in my field look very professional without ever stepping into heels.

  83. Brett*

    Along with the obviously sexist part, how much does height play into this?

    I’m under 5′ tall and male. Back when I did mock interviews, I had it suggested to me more than once to buy a pair of elevator shoes for interviews. And I routinely was dinged for lacking an assertive appearance in my room entry or for having an appearance that lacked leadership qualities. This never seemed to be an issue for my taller friends, even ones who definitely did not fit the assertive leader mold.

    Not being tall enough seemed to especially be a big deal for financial industry mock interviewers. Then again, they routinely told me that they wouldn’t hire me because of my liberal arts major anyway :)

    1. fposte*

      Yeah, it’s definitely an appearance challenge for men as well. I think most elevator shoes are a bit more solidly built than women’s high heels, so they might be at the more comfortable end, but I don’t know that they’d be worth the cost for the few inches they give you. I had a wonderful grad school colleague who was about 5′ tall and had very poor vision, and he deliberately adopted a suit and tie as a professor as well as when he was a candidate. OTOH, I’m in a more technical field these days and none of the guys of that height seem to worry about their visual authority.

      (I don’t know where you were interviewing in finance, but a lot of finance is about the smoke and mirrors of human relationships, so I’m not hugely surprised they wanted people to fit a template.)

      1. Brett*

        It was just mock interviews, but the finance people very much believed in having the right major from the right school with the right clothes and the right appearance, so that people would trust you when you told them what investments to buy.

  84. stillbigred*

    gave up on heels a loooong time ago. I’m a relatively young woman but am very much of the opinion that an outfit I’m comfortable in makes me much more relaxed & confident than more dressy stuff (e.g. heels) that just aren’t me

  85. ClownBaby*

    I love heels. I wear them nearly every day to work. I think they look better with the dresses, skirts, and pants that I wear, however the though of being required to wear heels absolutely repulses me. My company is business casual, emphasis on the casual. Jeans and nice (not dirty, or ratty) sneakers are permitted every day of the week. I definitely dress more professionally than 95% of the office, though that has little to do with my heels. I would look just as professional in a pair of smart flats….maybe more so as some people around my office tend not to like the fact that I am 6’1″ prancing around in 3-4″ heels…but heeled booties are my absolute favorite things, so too bad for them.

    OP, there are plenty of professional flats out there and your leather point-toes sound perfect. Your evaluator is just stuck in the 50s. While I notice interviewees’ general dress, I rarely look at their shoes, unless they are abnormally flashy (I’m looking at you, Mr. I Wear Bright Red Jordans to an Interview).

  86. JoAnna*

    With the job I currently have, there were three interviews – a phone interview, an initial in-person interview with my department manager, and a second interview with the VP of the department. I wore low heels to the first in-person interview (only because the shoes matched best with my suit), and flats to the VP interview. I got the job.

  87. Anna*

    I’m 5’10 and not my most confident self if I wear heels and that’s never held me back in a job interview.

    1. Anna*

      Wait, my last comment didn’t make sense. Me not wearing heels has never held me back from getting a job/interview.

  88. Susan K*

    This is one of the benefits of working in an industrial setting— not only are women not expected to wear high heels, but it’s usually not even allowed. Most interviews I’ve had included a tour of the facility, where high heels would be a problem. I remember one interview where the HR person who greeted me took a look at my shoes and was so happy to see that I was wearing sensible shoes (dressy, but not high-heeled) that would be allowed on the tour.

  89. Meyers and Briggs were not real doctors*

    I’m reminded of the red-carpet celebrity awards ceremony, I think after 911, and the celebrities all wore business clothes because something about being decadent after a national trajedy something blah blah blah , and one of the celebrities wore a grey skirt and matching top that she got from target or walmart and it cost under $50. ANd flats, no heels. She wasn’t an A lister and I remember she got noticed for doing this, And looked awesome! I can’t remember if she won, but it was nice to see her stand out and be pictures in magazines, even amongst all the other business-dressed A list celebrities getting attention that night (but not for what they were wearing). I tried googling but can’t find it.

    The point is, you can be confiden t/clean/poised and look great, and not need heels or expensive clothes. I get this isn’t quite on topic, but this post reminded me of that. Plus I can’t figure out which awards ceremony that was!?

  90. Red 5*

    Yeah, I have medical reasons to not wear heels but you don’t even need medical reasons to think that heels aren’t for you and you just don’t want to. They’re not actually good shoes for the actual physicality of the human foot, and if you don’t like them you don’t like them and it shouldn’t matter to anybody as long as you’re not wearing old worn out sneakers to a job interview.

    Please tell these people that they are outdated and wrong on this. I really don’t want to think about all the young women going through this program who have felt forced to wear heels because of it, when it either is medically unwise or they just plain don’t want to. We’ve got enough things that society tells us we “should” do to be a “proper” woman in the workplace, they don’t need to add to the pile.

  91. TootsNYC*

    I would say that a default shoe style could be pumps.

    But “pumps” only means a lower cut in the front than an oxford, and fully enclosed toe and heel–it has nothing to do w/ the heel height. Maybe they’re confusing this.

  92. Alleira*

    Boy … I have a lot of thoughts here. First, I agree with the majority of commenters that heels are not necessary for a professional look, BUT I also feel that flats can look rather unprofessional (especially round toe flats). If you’re going to wear flats professionally (to an interview or otherwise), I would definitely want to find something with a pointier toe, which to my eye looks more professional. YMMV.

    Second, these comments are incredibly judgmental of people who DO like to wear heels and wear makeup to work. I’m an attorney. When I go to farms to investigate, I’m wearing sh*tkickers like everyone else. Otherwise, I’m generally in high heels and it’s because I like the way they make me look AND the way they make me feel. I’m 5’6″ and a 3″ heels makes me feel a lot more powerful, especially when dealing with taller men. I also really like fashion and, as someone who fluctuates in size, shoes are one of the best ways for me to consistently be able to express myself, sartorially speaking of course. I also like the way I look with makeup on because I think it looks more polished.

    I’m not sitting here judging people who choose not to present themselves the way I choose to present myself. Might I have back problems later? Yes, I might. Do I like the way I look and feel now? Yes, I do. It’s a personal choice and I’m pretty put off by the level of judgment at people who make the choice to wear heels and/or makeup to a professional job. Yeesh.

    1. WeevilWobble*

      People pointing out the FACT that heels destroy your feet (not just your back they actually do horrible things to your feet) is not a judgment on you. Wear what you want.

      People still smoke even though it’s unhealthy. But pointing out smoking is unhealthy isn’t an attack on those people.

  93. College student*

    Oh geeze, no. I just went through the mock interview process myself and I got told was very suitably dressed; I wore slacks, a blouse (not even a button down shirt, just a blouse), and ballet flats. Your college is definitely enforcing outdated standards. But with the caveat that there may be the odd industries where heels may matter; you likely know if you’re in one of those industries. If you’re not sure, reaching out to classmates to find out how they plan on dressing could give you an idea.

  94. Story Nurse*

    I figured it’s more professional to walk into an interview rather than limp into it.

    There’s nothing unprofessional about limping, for what it’s worth. Some people have permanent limps, and that doesn’t make them less suited to working in professional settings.

    But you certainly should not feel at all obligated to dress in a way that hurts you, for an interview or a job.

  95. Longtime Lurker*

    I’m sure I’m not the first person to say something like this—but I can’t wear heels anymore after an accident. I’m lucky to be walking at all. And anyone who comments on my footwear (I tend towards stylish, low heel boots, so this is rare now) gets a graphic description of the injury that led me to this point.

    1. Longtime Lurker*

      (My accident was pretty gruesome. I like to think I’m doing people with far more serious and long-term disabilities than mine a service when I gross people out who make a comment about my shoes. Maybe somebody with a much more serious disability will be spared the same questions)

  96. Stephanie*

    I think I’m glad I’m a lowly truck driver. I live in sneakers and Doc Martens. If someone knocked off points for a my mock interview because I didn’t wear heels, I’d buy a pair and stab them with them. I have bone spurs, I’m not about to wear heels again.

  97. MRA*

    I know I’m a little late to the game, OP, but I want to add to the list in case you do end up printing this out as proof that your college’s career training is outdated and is providing you with not only bad advice, but potentially harmful advice.

    I work in a generally upscale industry, where the dress is business casual for everyday purposes and business professional for events and interviews. I have NEVER worn heels- not only has it never held me back, but I often get praised for how stylish and professional my dress is.

    Good luck with your job search! Remember, they are hiring you for your skills and interest in the position. The outfit is just a small part of it.

  98. The OG Anonsie*

    Funny, I had a departmental career advisor in college that insisted you weren’t allowed to wear makeup or high heels to interviews because they made you look too much like you were dressing for fashion and that’s fussy and unprofessional. She herself always wore makeup and low block heels to these things, which were her job, and she had a “once you HAVE the job you can get away with some eyeliner…”

    Basically: Everyone has stupid opinions, and sometimes those people are tasked with sharing those opinions as fact.

  99. Steve*

    Seeing as the only time anyone would be wearing heels in our organisation might be for a gala or something like that….no points off for not having heels at an interview.

    Personally, I think they make most women look like they are tipsy (because of having to constantly adjust their balance. Very few women are truly steady in them which is a skill unto itself akin to being a high wire trapeze artist in my view. Wobbling slightly while trying to walk in them which is not a good look for an interview.

    I also had a fellow applicant at a hospital who dislocated her ankle when she slipped on a freshly polished floor while wearing heels.

    That is just my personal opinion of heels though….I’m pretty sure I couldn’t stand up in the darned things let alone walk so I try not to judge too harshly.

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