The variety of shoe styles, colors, materials, and textures for women is endless. There is no match for the instant confidence boost that you get when you slip into your favorite pair of shoes.
Every pair of shoes ever known has a history and identity in the world of fashion. But before we get into the magical world of shoes, let us first appreciate the incredible evolution they have gone through in the course of history.
Chart: Top 10 Shoes for Women
Just women’s shoes
1. Ankle Boots
Ankle boots are exactly what they claim to be: shoes that reach up to your ankles. You could wear heels or a different style of boots in their place, but they won’t give you the funky, chic touch that only these boots can.
Ankle boots are another classic choice of footwear that can smoothly transition from being formal office footwear to casual everyday foot fashion. They are stylish, versatile, and sturdy. Ankle boots are available in many different styles like Pixie boots or the famous Chelsea boots that look wonderful over leather clothes.
=> Originated in the Victorian era, Chelsea boots are prized for being the first-ever boots flaunted by Queen Victoria herself. It is believed that the Queen used to walk in these prominent boots every day.
Chelsea boot designs are ankle-high without laces, making them the ultimate choice for both formal and informal situations. Whether it is a sleek suit or blazer, or casual designer jeans, these boots work every time with everything.
=> With a two-inch platform and a five-inch heel, Lita boots are the sturdiest and thickest ankle boots you will find. These boots were named after Lita Ford, a member of the Runaways, back in the ’70s. Even when they weren’t as successful when they first came in 2010, Lita boot styles have now found a stronghold.
Ladies like to wear these boots in black; however, only recently, Lita boots have also emerged in cosmic prints and flag designs.
2. Ballerina Flats
Ballerina shoes, also called ballerina flats or ballet flats, are normally made out of soft leather or satin. It was in the 18th century where the female dancers decided that they should appear as if they’re flying when performing ballet. And, this led to the famous pointe ballet shoes.
A pair of designer ballerina shoes can help you pull together an elegant princess-like look and quickly make you the attraction of the party.
3. Ballet Slippers
Ballet slippers, or ballet shoes, are worn only for the purpose of dancing. Ballerina flats are an adapted design of ballet slippers that can be worn as everyday shoes. Ballet slippers are made with soft materials, typically satin, canvas or leather. A dancer on the Paris Opera Ballet was the first to wear a non-heeled ballet shoe in the 1700s and ballet dancers all over the world followed her example.
=> In 1823, the concept of dancing on the toes was introduced to ballet by dancer Amalia Brugnoli 1823. It was late in the 1800s when Italian shoemakers created reinforced pointe shoes that gave ballerinas further toe support and further refined ballet as a dance art form.
=> Dori shoes are pointe shoes that have a heel on them, which allows the dancer to shift her weight and perform a wide range of dance steps.
4. Court Shoes
You probably know court shoes as pointed toe high heels. What you may not know is that these shoes were once the height of fashion in royal courts and they’ve been in style for hundreds of years. That’s what you call a long-lasting trend.
Court shoe designs are a closed toe high heel with a long, very pointed toe. The height of these shoes varies, but they typically have a medium heel height. The heel style may also vary from chunky to slim, according to Radley London.
Court shoes first became popular in the medieval era. They were fashionable throughout Italy, Spina, England, and France, where they were first worn by the wealthiest citizens and those who frequented the royal courts.
For a time, court shoes were a symbol of wealth and status. In fact, King Louis XIV of France decreed that no one could enter his court wearing red court shoes, as such shoes would be symbolic of power and therefore, they would be disrespectful to him.
In those days, court shoes were worn by both men and women. Heeled shoes were actually first worn by men, partially those in the upper class.
=> Pumps once made a splash in men’s footwear as a type of athletic shoe that could be pumped with air. But this term has been used to describe high-heeled shoes since around the 1500s. Pumps are a variation of court shoes that can have varying toe styles. There are pointed toe and rounded toe pump styles. A pump can be any shoe that fits snugly around the heel and the toes of the foot that is supported by a high heel. Within this basic design, there’s a lot of room for different styles and color options. Now, the word “pump” is exclusively used for women’s shoes, and pumps are regal and glamorous footwear.
=> D’Orsay pumps are known for their cutaway style. Created by the Count d’Orsay, Alfred Gabriel, these pump heels were originally made for men. Now, they are one of the most enduring and stylish footwear for women.
D’Orsay heels show the curved arch of your foot, which is normally covered. Made by high-end shoe companies like Jimmy Choo and Manolo Blahnik, D’Orsay heels are both stretchable and comfortable.
Espadrilles first appeared in history in a Catalan script that referred to them as “espardenyes.” They are lightweight, canvas shoes with a fiber sole.
Espadrilles have a humble yet rebellious origin. A famous fighter, Sabrino Arana, was found to be wearing espadrilles during the Cuban Revolution supporting the Basque nationalism.
Since then, espadrilles have long remained an attire for champions of justice. They went far and wide, across the sea, and gradually made it to Hollywood fashion. Espadrilles have always been a bohemian-crowd favorite as well. If you’re looking for some rebellious footwear fashion, you know what to wear.
Flats can be any shoe type worn by women that don’t have a heel, or that has a very low heel. This includes styles like loafers, oxfords, mules, and sandals that don’t have heels. Many types of shoes for women are flat styles.
Gladiators were historically worn by men in the grand arena. In Ancient Rome, gladiator sandals were worn to soak up the blood as the men engaged in fight and game.
Gladiator sandals are basically cavemen shoes that are strapped right up to the knees with a T-bar running down from the front. Even now, they are just as beautiful and regal.
They have a beautiful uniqueness and look lovely with dresses. These sandals work well for summers when you’re more likely to wear shorts and skirts. Having recently made a huge comeback on the high streets and catwalks, these strappy sandals also go well with formal office wear and striped trousers.
8. Heelless Shoes
Heelless shoes are a relatively new footwear innovation to enter the fashion scene. It’s an immediately eye-catching design that looks rather frightening. To achieve this seemingly physics-defying feat, the shoes are made with an angled shank that connects to a flat support. This keeps the foot lifted without the aid of heels, creating a truly stunning design.
9. High Heels
High-heeled shoes are made in a huge variety of styles and today, they’re pretty much exclusively worn in women’s fashion.
Originally, high heels were worn by men. High heels date to the 1400s Persian Empire, when soldiers wore heeled shoes to keep their feet in the stirrups of their saddles while riding. The style caught on in Europe, where the male Aristocracy wore them to appear taller, according to Teen Vogue.
Chopine shoes were really the first high heels worn by women.
=> Chunky heels are the latest and rather improved form of wedges. They are extremely versatile as they offer the cozy comfort of wedges along with the sultry and slimming elevation of stiletto heels. Chunky heels are edgy and can be paired with a number of looks.
Chunky heels are available in the form of ankle-boots, sandals, and even knee boots. It’s just that they have a chunky block heel. They can quickly upgrade a minimalist shoe look and are styled with straps and bows.
=> A kitten heel, just like its name, is a petite, slender, and slightly shorter heel. Kitten heels were popularized by the likes of Audrey Hepburn, Hillary Clinton, and Michelle Obama. If you’re looking for a small boost in height, then kitten heels will work well for you. They are typically made of heavy materials and have round toes in the front.
=> Here’s a fun fact about stilettos: they weren’t supposed to be for women. Yes, stilettos were created for aristocratic and military men back in the old days. Even when they’re associated with feminine fashion now, stilettos primarily evolved from Persian riding boots that had small heels under them. Check out our high heels vs stiletto heels article here.
To increase the speed of running, and agility on the battleground, they were made to be sharper. It was only during the royal era of King Louis XIV, who introduced red heels in his court for women and simultaneously disallowed men from wearing them, that they became part of women’s fashion.
And, here we are now. Stilettos, with their sharp heels, are one of the most popular footwear styles for women. They are typically made from leather.
=> Spool heels have a bit of an hourglass shape. It’s curvy, thicker at the bottom and top than in the center. This curvy-heeled shoe was the look of choice among courtiers in Europe, where they were worn by both men and women, according to Bodmin Magazine.
10. Jelly Shoes
Jelly shoes, also known as jellys and jellies, feel like a staple of 1980s fashion. You may be surprised to learn that these unique shoes are actually older than that.
Jelly shoes were invented in the 1950s or 1960s when plastic became widely available to manufacturers. But in the 1980s, jellies really hit their stride. The colorful plastic shoes and the fashion of the ’80s were a perfect marriage. Jellies soon became the go-to casual shoe of the decade.
As the story goes, jellies gained attention at the 1982 World’s Fair in Knoxville, Tennessee, according to Bustle.
11. Knee Boots
What’s not to like about knee boots? They can be paired with skin-tight jeans as they can quickly accentuate the slender shape of your legs or with a skirt or dress.
Knee boots can also be made in wide calf boot styles. This is when the opening of the boots is wide, which can be a good look for layered styles.
12. Mary Janes
Mary Jane shoes are an enduring trend and a fashion classic that just about every woman has worn at least once. These shoes got their name and their popularity from a comic strip.
The shoes and the style come from the Buster Brown comic strip. The character Mary Jane wore shoes with a single, buttoned strap across the top of the foot. Almost as soon as the comic strip debuted, little girls everywhere clamored to have the same shoes, according to the Independent.
They were extremely popular for both girls and boys. If you don’t own at least one pair of classic Mary Jane shoes, then your shoe collection is clearly incomplete.
Modern Mary Janes play with the classic style. The shoes may have heels or no heels pointed or rounded toes. But to be true Mary Janes shoes, there is always a single strap across the top. Mary Janes are also called bar shoes because of the strap.
Mules are a newer trend in footwear. They are basically closed-off from the front and open from the back. Even when they’re quite similar to slide-ins, they’re elegantly sculpted from the front and are available in different textures.
Velvet mules look especially regal and breathtaking on short blouse dresses. Mules can quickly beautify the curvy shape of your toes. For ladies who like easy-to-wear slip on and off shoes, mules are perfect because they’re an extremely comfortable casual footwear.
They lend ample support to your toes and keep them together while showing off your pretty heels. Make sure to get a pedicure and scrub those heels before you wear these super-cool shoes.
14. Peep-Toe Shoes
Peep-toe shoes are just like pumps but with a small opening at the toe, which is why they’re called “peep-toe.” They may have a long history with the ancient Greeks but the 1940s saw them really become popular. Referred to as the “pin-up” shoe, they were admired by the likes of Betty Page and Marilyn Monroe.
Peep-toe styles are seen in flats, kitten heels, high heels and even ankle boots.
Here’s a fun fact: during the time of the Greeks, platform heels were donned by superior characters in a comic play. These heels signified their dignity in the ancient stage plays. Hence, there’s no question why they are still stylish.
Platforms are heeled shoes that have thick soles and tall heels. This design can add several inches to your height. Non-heeled platform styles are called flatforms.
What goes around comes around. And that’s exactly how slingback heels are worn. They may resemble strap heels, but they’re not the same. These heels have a strap that goes back around the heels and is fastened at the front of the foot.
17. Stocking Boots
Tall, over-the-knee boots are known more by their nickname than their proper name. You’re probably more used to calling stocking boots or thigh-high boots. Compared to other types of footwear on the list, stocking boots are a relatively new design. According to Vogue, these tall boots have only been making waves on the fashion scene since the 1960s.
Tall, over-the-knee boots were introduced to fashion by Yves Saint Laurent. The boots were designed by Roger Vivier for the fall 1963 collection.
The thigh-high boot trend has never totally gone away. This look is always stylish and it’s been worn by everyone from true fashion luminaries to celebrities and politicians.
18. T-Strap Sandals
T-strap sandals, also known as T-bar sandals, became trendy in the 1920s. These sandals had a pointed toe with a strap stretching from the toes to the ankle, where it joined another strap that encircled the ankle. This design just covers the toes and heels of the foot. The first t-strap sandals had two-inch heels but as trends progressed, the heel heights and toe styles began to vary.
If your feet hurt in high heels or you’re tired of wearing sharp sandals all the time, wedges are an excellent alternative. Typically famous as a ’90s fashion, wedge heels are finally making a much-deserved comeback in the footwear fashion.
Wedges are comfortable and stylish. There are many different kinds like strap wedge heels, cork wedges, denim wedges, and simple pearl wedges. From a huge variety to choose from, wedges lend your outfit an extremely elegant and polished look.
20. Worishofer Sandals
Somehow, fashion-forward celebrities discovered an obscure German sandal made to relieve foot pain and turned it into a high-fashion item. Worishofer sandals are incredibly comfortable and weirdly, totally trendy.
These German sandals have short wedge heels. The leather uppers have a peep toe lace-up design. The uppers are perforated with small ventilation holes that add distinction.
Worishofers were designed by a German podiatrist in the 1950s to relieve foot problems and pains. It was five decades later that a shopping magazine called them “chic” and “comfortable.” Suddenly, these orthopedic sandals were on their way in the fashion world.
21. Loafers for Women
If you like your toes closed-off from the front, then loafers are a good choice of footwear. Loafers are stretchable to accommodate your feet. They have elasticated panels on both sides that eliminate the need for any shoe fastenings or laces.
Loafers can quickly add a vintage and glamorous touch to your footwear style.
Venetian-style shoes, or Venetian loafers, are a very simple, elegant, and embellished loafer style.
Unisex Shoes & Footwear
We’d be remiss to not include shoes that both men and women wear. Actually, you can see the full list of unisex footwear here but we’ll include a quick list below:
- Boots (all kinds of course)
- Saddle shoes
Related: 42 types of shoe heels