Why it’s actually acceptable to wear trainers to work

Claire Roberts
Authored by Claire Roberts
Posted: Wednesday, January 8, 2020 - 23:00

Nervous about wearing sneakers in the office? Prudence Wade doesn’t think you should be.

Long gone are the days when trainers were only for the gym. Now sneakers are everywhere, and the fashion crowd have swapped their stilettos for Nikes.

Trainers might have the high fashion seal of approval, but many people are still nervous about wearing comfy kicks to the office.

Sneakers don’t exactly have a reputation for being smart or formal – first and foremost they’re designed to run and jump about in, which doesn’t really scream ‘office wear’.

However, this interpretation of trainers is slowly shifting, and with it comes so many more options and styles to buy. So-called ‘fashion trainers’ are even making their way onto the red carpet – just look at Serena Williams at this year’s Met Gala, who paired her Versace Gown with bright yellow Nike x Off White Air Force 1 sneakers.

Office dress codes have been steadily loosening up, and unless you’re working in a strict corporate environment, few of us are expected to wear formal suits every day. This doesn’t necessarily mean you can wear anything you like to work, but it has opened up opportunities – particularly for women, who are no longer tied to mandatory high heels.

So what should you think about when considering trainers for wearing to work?

You’re still in an office and want your shoes to match this level of professionalism. The last thing you want is to look like you forgot to bring proper shoes to swap into after your commute.

The best place to start is to play around with materials. Trainers made out of canvas or knit are less likely to look formal, so if you’re new to sneakers in the office, your best bet is to start out with leather or suede-look sneakers.

Stick to block colours, like whites or blacks, to keep your outfit looking crisp. A good example of this is the Duchess of Sussex in Sydney last year – a pair of classic Veja white trainers made her outfit look relaxed, but still polished. Veja is a cult sneaker brand specialising in vegan shoes, but it’s definitely on the pricier end of things with a standard pair coming in at £115.

Statement colours like metallic trainers in gold or silver are also an excellent choice. They make it clear you’ve made a fashion choice, and aren’t just wearing any old pair of gym shoes. These look particularly good when worn with a slouchy suit or slacks; basically the definition of smart casual.

Whatever you choose, it’s important to keep your shoes looking clean and fresh. Bright white laces can make the world of difference, so if yours are looking a bit worse for wear, take them out of your shoes and either soak them in soapy water or put them in the washing machine. Don’t be tempted to put your shoes in the machine as well, because that can potentially damage them. Instead, sponge off any marks with lukewarm soapy water – not hot water, which can also damage your kicks. If you can, dry your shoes with a microfibre cloth to best protect the material.

If you’re feeling particularly dedicated to your shoes, you can invest in cult product Crep Protect Spray, £9.99, to keep them pristine for as long as possible.

Every workplace is different and everyone’s style varies, so these are just some guidelines to help you figure out what’s best for you.

If you don’t know where to start, here are some solid styles to try out…

River Island white mesh side panel lace-up trainers, £25

H&M black trainers, £29.99

LK Bennett Jana Trainers, £69 reduced from £150, John Lewis

Photo Credit: PA Archive/PA Images

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