Take a look at the selection of women’s shoes on our site, or in one of our stores, and you’ll quickly realize there are dozens of different kinds of shoes for women.
When trying to find a pair of shoes for any occasion or to match any outfit, our shoe guide explains exactly what distinguishes each type and the ideal time to wear them.
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Flats | Boots | Hybrids | Heels | Sandals | Sneakers
Flats are versatile because they’re a simple, low-profile shoe for those who are on their feet often or have trouble wearing heels.
Ballet flats work well for both casual and formal events. These can have a rounded or pointed toe and usually have a minimal heel (less than half an inch). They can be made of leather, silk, or satin.
Moccasins are an interesting flat shoe choice for casual outfits like jeans or khakis. Historically, these were worn by Native Americans and made of deerskin or pliable leather.
Today, moccasins can be boots or slip-on flats with a heel and toe covering, constructed with faux leather and lined with wool. These could be used as slippers as well, but they also work for outdoor use because of their rubber soles, which slippers often do not have.
Canvas flats are constructed of a thick, woven fabric that is flexible and similar to denim in stiffness. They can be either laced or slip-ons and cover the heel and toes. These are quite casual and a great option for a day of running errands in jeans or for laid-back social engagements.
Slippers are lightweight and comfortable enough to be worn strictly around the house on days of lounging and leisure.
Slippers come in many styles according to comfort preference, but often they are made of wool or fleece and lined with faux fur. Styles also include boot-shapes or open heels that make it easier to take them on and off.
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For cooler temperatures or outfits that require a bit more foot coverage, there are many types and styles of boots from which to choose.
Riding boots are tall, leather boots that come to the knee or just below the knee; they are not totally flat but have at least a slight 1” heel (some have higher heels, however).
They come in many colors but are most often black or a two-tone black and dark brown. These are a great choice for cold weather, either with leggings, skinny dress pants, skirts, or dresses.
Ankle boots are often called “booties” because they essentially follow the same concept as a regular, high boot, but they are much smaller and lower profile – so when you hear “booties”, think ankle-high boots.
Ankle boots have about a 1”-2” heel, reaching ankle height. They can come in real or faux leather and often work well with tights, skirts, and dresses when you don’t want to commit to calf or knee-high boots.
Though they’re called by many names, they have a main use – keeping your feet dry in wet weather. These are usually rubber or plastic, having either a solid color or some sort of design or print.
Some come with fleece liners for added warmth. These are perfectly water resistant and are the best choice for wet days--however, they’re not ideal for hiking nor walking long distances.
Combat boots are a bolder choice when it comes to boots. These are usually leather or canvas boots that lace up to mid-calf or higher.
Combat boots provide solid ankle support and can also be used for hiking or worn in cold weather. Combat boots are also typically more durable than boots worn purely for fashion purposes, and even rain or snow boots.
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Designers have come up with creative hybrids when it comes to women’s shoes. Clogs are one such hybrid; they are similar to mules in that they have material (usually leather) covering the front half of the foot with no heel, but they have a thicker heel like a wedge shoe.
The toe is usually rounded and the base is often raised, made out of cork or wood. People who work on their feet often find these comfortable, and styles vary so that you can find one that is sufficient for a business casual look with dress pants.
Likewise, mules look similar to clogs in that they enclose the front half of the foot but usually have an open heel. They can be flat, or have a very slight heel. Mules can have a round or pointed toe and vary in materials from canvas, to leather, to plastics.
These often work well when you want the look of a business shoe, but don’t necessarily want your entire foot to be covered, promoting comfort and mobility.
Espadrilles always have esparto rope – a light beige, tightly woven material--incorporated in some part of the shoe. This rope can cover the heel, or can be used as the ankle or toe straps. They can be flats or heels, and often have a variation of straps across the top of the foot or around the ankle. These work best for casual settings.
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Sling back heels differ from pumps in that they have a closed toe and open heel with a single thin strap running around the back of the heel.
Sling backs boast a bit more style than pumps, so they work better in less formal settings.Many of these heels have embellishments, like jewels or a small bow on the toe.
Heels can come in many shapes and sizes, but the most popular and common are referred to as pumps. These have a heel that is usually at least 1” to 2” high, and are either made of leather or faux leather.
This material will usually cover the heel and toe, but is low cut, enabling the shoe to slip on without any fasteners or straps. These work well for office settings and with professional attire, but can also be found in fun colors for social occasions.
Ankle strap heels usually will have an open toe with a slight support behind the heel. They also have a strap encircling the ankle to keep the shoe in place. These shoes work great for outdoor, warm weather social events.
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It should be noted that almost all types of sandals can be heeled – flip flops, slide sandals, wedges, and even gladiator sandals can all be placed on a heel of varying heights.
Sandals come in a variety of styles, but most have at least a few common qualities. Slide sandals have a thick strap that goes over the center of the foot; these can either be made of leather or canvas for a dressy summer look, or plastic/synthetic materials with an ergonomic sole which can make these a great option for fitness/poolside wear.
Strappy sandals are different from a wedge in that they are not elevated on a platform, but some do have a thin heel. They are similar to gladiator sandals, but without straps that go above the ankle. They also tend to have fewer straps in general, though with at least one around the ankle and another over the toes. Strappy sandals work well for casual summer attire and are not ideal for business settings.
Gladiator sandals are a bold choice and are reminiscent of what Roman gladiators would’ve worn in the Coliseum for their fights. These can vary in style and design but are generally made of plastic or leather with a series of straps that encircle the foot, ankle, and calf, typically to the mid-calf. This works well with a skirt or dress that allows the focus to be drawn to the shoes themselves.
Flip flops are classic summer footwear, with a strap that goes between the first and second toe connected to a thicker strap leading to the sides of the sole. Like slide sandals, they can be made from foam and plastic which are ideal beach or pool shoes, or they can be a bit fancier, made from leather or canvas, allowing for their use in casual or dressier environments.
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Sneakers are the best option for casual or athletic events when your feet need to be comfortable and well-supported. Casual sneakers are best for looks, not primarily comfort or fitness. These could be comparable to the canvas shoes discussed above, with laces and a rubber sole of varying thickness.
Running shoes, however, are geared towards providing your foot and lower leg muscles with the support and cushion needed for activities like running, jumping, walking, and other sports. These shoes will have varying arch support and cushion depending on the runners individual needs with well-defined soles for better traction.
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Finding the ideal shoe for your needs shouldn’t be, and is not, impossible; refer to this helpful guide when trying to decide which shoe is best for an upcoming event, season, or a particular outfit!