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10 Best Shoes, Boots and Sneakers for Fall

Score some styles that look great and feel fabulous

Woman in stylish boots on stairs outdoors, closeup
Liudmila Chernetska/Getty Images

Blame it on Cinderella (and Carrie Bradshaw) but women love new shoes. Just one pair can refresh a tired wardrobe and boost our mood. But trendy shoes and 50-plus feet may not be a great match once you get over the initial heart-stopping attraction. Grownup tootsies may be dealing with any combination of foot issues including plantar fasciitis, bunions and sore soles. The secret to a great buy is to find shoes, boots and sneakers with both inner and outer beauty. Try a pair of:

1. Knee-high boots

(Left to right) Trotters Kirby Knee-High Boot in Black Croc Print Leather; Rocket Dog Palomino in Brown; Timberland Malynn Waterproof Tall Boot in Medium Brown Full Grain; A New Day Women’s Corene Tall Boots in Black
(Left to right) Trotters Kirby Knee-High Boot in Black Croc Patent Leather; Rocket Dog Palomino in Brown; Timberland Maylynn Waterproof Tall Boot in Medium Brown Full Grain; A New Day Women’s Corene Tall Boots in Black.
Nordstrom; 6pm (2); Target

Welcome back! It’s been a while. Although tall leather boots have always been swoon-worthy they kind of disappeared for a few years in favor or low booties and ankle boots. Many women (especially those with full calves, muscular legs or circulation issues) didn’t love the compression. But fashion is cyclical and knee boots feel right with longer-length skirts and dresses and culotte wide-cropped pants. To ease the squeeze choose boots with stretchy panels and a full-length zipper, like the Trotters Kirby Knee-High Boot in Black Croc Print Leather ($160, nordstrom.com) in regular and wide-calf sizes, Rocket Dog Palomino in Brown ($41, 6pm.com), A New Day Women’s Corene Tall Boots in Black ($45, target.com) and Timberland Malynn Waterproof Tall Boot in Medium Brown Full Grain ($97, 6pm.com). Be picky. If there’s no zipper, keep looking. A zipper but no stretch panel? Ditto. P.S. Younger women have discovered knee boots and over-the-knee boots and are wearing them with thigh-high minis this year. Don’t be tempted.

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2. Cool black “fashion” sneakers

(Clockwise from top left) Vans Old Skool Platform Sneaker in Black/White; Superga Cotu Sneaker in Black/Black/White; Keds Kickstart in Black
(Clockwise from top left) Vans Old Skool Platform Sneaker in Black/White; Superga Cotu Sneaker in Black/Black/White; Keds Kickstart in Black.
Nordstrom (2); Zappos

Be realistic. Colorful sneakers and those that resemble spaceships are fun to look at or wear for sports but have little to do with clothes and everyday life. However, black canvas kicks like the Vans Old Skool Platform Sneaker in Black/White ($70, nordstrom.com), the Keds Kickstart in Black ($55, zappos.com) or Superga Cotu Sneaker in Black/Black/White ($65, nordstrom.com) are a mix of cool, classic and fashionable. These sneaks are ideal when you want to blend serious clothes with casual or relaxed pieces while checking all the boxes for support, stability and traction.

3. Cold-weather mules and clogs

(Clockwise from top left) Dr. Scholl’s Classic Clog Women’s Platform Clog in Black; Universal Thread Women’s Indra Heels in Black; Gap Sherpa Clogs in Heather Grey; Sam Edelman Lennon Loafers in Neutral Motif
(Clockwise from top left) Dr. Scholl’s Classic Clog Women’s Platform Clog in Black; Universal Thread Women’s Indra Heels in Black; Gap Sherpa Clogs in Heather Grey; Sam Edelman Lennon Loafers in Neutral Motif.
Kohl's; Target; Gap; Anthropologie

I know many women will say, Mules and clogs for winter? Yes! Backless slip-ons (so appreciated by those with a pump bump) are now a year-round shoe. Choose lug sole mules like the Sam Edelman Lennon Loafers in Neutral Motif ($150, anthropologie.com) for a dressed-up vibe and a hint of height. Or opt for clogs for an even more spacious toe box. Fleecy-lined ones like the Gap Sherpa Clogs in Heather Grey or True Black ($49, gap.com) are great for casual wear, but for an edgy street-style choice go with black leather and studs, like the Universal Thread Women’s Indra Heels in Black ($35, target.com) and Dr. Scholl’s Classic Clog Women’s Platform Clog in Black ($85, kohls.com). In warmer climates mules and clogs can be paired with jeans and worn without socks year round; in colder zip codes slip them on with tights and a midi dress.

4. Brown suede shoes

(Clockwise from top left) Ann Taylor Nip Toe Suede Flats in Roasted Hazelnut; Aerosoles Hour Penny Loafer in Brown; Kelly & Katie Maddie Platform Loafer in Dark Brown Suede; Naturalizer Santana Loafers in English Tea Brown Suede
(Clockwise from top left) Ann Taylor Nip Toe Suede Flats in Roasted Hazelnut; Aerosoles Hour Penny Loafer in Brown; Kelly & Katie Maddie Platform Loafer in Dark Brown Suede; Naturalizer Santana Loafers in English Tea Brown Suede.
Ann Taylor; DSW (2); Macy's

Many women are adding warm shades of brown, camel, khaki and beige and toasty plaids, tweeds and animal prints to their mostly black wardrobes this fall. If this is you, pick up a pair of suede shoes where the range of brown shades is amplified by the soft velvety texture for a pulled-together tonal effect. Choose a refined classic like the Ann Taylor Nip Toe Suede Flats in Roasted Hazelnut ($128, anntaylor.com) and Aerosoles Hour Penny Loafer in Brown ($115, dsw.com/en/us) or opt for rounder-toe styles like the Kelly & Katie Maddie Platform Loafer in Dark Brown Suede ($60, dsw.com/en/us) and Naturalizer Santana Loafers in English Tea Brown Suede ($140, macys.com). Buttery suedes are often easier on problem feet than stiffer leathers too.

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5. Sole-soothing ballet flats

(Clockwise from top left) Clarks Jenette Ease Ballet Flat in Cognac; Minnetonka Anna Ballet Flat in Black Leather; Lucky Brand Eikia Ballet Flat in Black; Naturalizer True Colors Maxwell Flat in English Tea Leather
(Clockwise from top left) Clarks Jenette Ease Ballet Flat in Cognac; Minnetonka Anna Ballet Flat in Black Leather; Lucky Brand Eikia Ballet Flat in Black; Naturalizer True Colors Maxwell Flat in English Tea Leather.
DSW (3); Nordstrom

Ballet flats are in again but skip those with flimsy soles that offer no arch support and stress the plantar fascia (the band of connective tissue on the soles of your feet). Flats with cushioned insoles, built-in arch support, a secure rubber sole and elegantly rounded toe box, like the Clarks Jenette Ease Ballet Flat in Cognac or Black ($65, dsw.com/en/us), Lucky Brand Eikia Ballet Flat in Black or Cognac ($50, dsw.com/en/us), Minnetonka Anna Ballet Flat in Black Leather ($63, dsw.com/en/us) and the Naturalizer True Colors Maxwell Flat in English Tea Leather or Mocha Leather ($80, nordstrom.com), have the right ingredients. Black, navy or tan is always a smart choice here.

6. Plump pumps

(Clockwise from bottom left) Trotters Kari Snake Embossed Pump in Dark Grey Leather; Franco Sarto Pisa Pump in Black; Everlane the Italian Leather Day Heel in Black; Dream Pairs Women’s Square Toe Chunky Block Heels in Black
(Clockwise from bottom left) Trotters Kari Snake Embossed Pump in Dark Grey Leather; Franco Sarto Pisa Pump in Black; Everlane the Italian Leather Day Heel in Black; Dream Pairs Women’s Square Toe Chunky Block Heels in Black.
Nordstrom (2); Everlane; Amazon

These shoes belong in the never-say-never category. New low and husky pumps are a far cry from the pointy, towering stilettos that made our arches ache and toes blister. Styles like Everlane the Italian Leather Day Heel in Black ($160, everlane.com), Trotters Kari Snake Embossed Pump in Dark Grey Leather ($100, nordstrom.com), Dream Pairs Women’s Square Toe Chunky Block Heels in Black ($31, amazon.com) and Franco Sarto Pisa Pump in Black or Vino ($130, nordstrom.com) are squat and buxom in shape with sturdy two-inch heels, cushioned insoles and softly rounded or square toes. They’re painless partners for work, wide-leg jeans or the new long tailored pants.

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7. Lug sole Chelsea booties

(Left to right) Old Navy Faux-Leather Chelsea Boots for Women in Blackjack; Karl Lagerfeld Paris Porshay Lug Sole Bootie in Black; A New Day Belle Chelsea Boots in Black
(Left to right) Old Navy Faux-Leather Chelsea Boots for Women in Blackjack; Karl Lagerfeld Paris Porshay Lug Sole Bootie in Black; A New Day Belle Chelsea Boots in Black.
Old Navy; Nordstrom; Target

The basic version of these black ankle boots is probably in your closet right now. Women have learned to rely on the almond toe shape, elastic side gores, back tab and pull-on ease. This fall switch things up with a lug sole like the A New Day Belle Chelsea Boots in Black ($38, target.com), Old Navy Faux-Leather Chelsea Boots for Women in Blackjack ($42, oldnavy.gap.com) or the Karl Lagerfeld Paris Porshay Lug Sole Bootie in Black ($189, nordstrom.com). All have cushioned footbeds and rubber soles for no-slip steadiness in addition to the elevated style. Which styles to skip? Any with pointed toes, in rock ’n’roll white (unless you have the attitude to pull this off) or featuring truly oversize platforms and massive wide heels (you’ll know them when you see them!).

8. Bow-trimmed party shoes

(Clockwise from bottom left) Aerosoles Celia Women’s Flats; Bandolino Women’s Lindio Loafers in Black; Asos Design Mentor Bow Loafer in Black Patent
(Clockwise from bottom left) Aerosoles Celia Women’s Flats; Bandolino Women’s Lindio Loafers in Black; Asos Design Mentor Bow Loafer in Black Patent.
Kohl's; Macy's; ASOS

Fall means plenty of indoor social activities, family get-togethers, reunions, parties and celebrations. A bow-trimmed variation of your favorite foot-friendly flat can start the festivities rolling and take you through the holiday season with comfort and style. Try the Bandolino Women’s Lindio Loafers in Black ($79, macys.com) and Asos Design Mentor Bow Loafer in Black Patent ($37, asos.com/us) or cap-toed quilted ballet flats like the Aerosoles Celia Women’s Flats ($99, kohls.com). All dress up jeans in seconds. Just add lipstick and go.

9. Grown-up Mary Janes

(Clockwise from middle) Dansko Lilly Mary Jane Flat in Graphite; Worthington Women’s Cora Pointed Toe Ballet Flats in Black; Madewell the Freya Platform Lugsole Mary Jane in True Black; LifeStride Rozz Pump in Black; Trotters Sugar Mary Jane Flat in Black
(Clockwise from middle) Dansko Lilly Mary Jane Flat in Graphite; Worthington Women’s Cora Pointed Toe Ballet Flats in Black; Madewell the Freya Platform Lugsole Mary Jane in True Black; LifeStride Rozz Pump in Black; Trotters Sugar Mary Jane Flat in Black
Nordstrom; JCPenney; Madewell; DSW (2)

Before you say “too girlish,” try them on. The Mary Jane trend is the one big-name designers like Miu Miu, Louboutin, Manolo Blahnik and Prada really jumped on. If you love midi dresses and vintage or retro-look clothes keep an open mind. Try the sturdy snub-toed Dansko Lilly Mary Jane Flat in Graphite ($120, nordstrom.com), the Madewell the Freya Platform Lugsole Mary Jane in True Black ($158, madewell.com) and the Trotters Sugar Mary Jane Flat in Black ($100, dsw.com/en/us) with jeans or black pants. For a more polished version try the Worthington Women’s Cora Pointed Toe Ballet Flats in Black ($60, jcpenney.com) and the LifeStride Rozz Pump in Black ($70, dsw.com/en/us), which are similar to the shoes dancers wear onstage.

10. Chic rain boots

(Clockwise from left) London Fog Piccadilly Women’s Waterproof Rain Boots in Black; Sonoma Goods for Life Black Currant Women’s Rain Boots in Black; Dolce Vita Stormy H2O Waterproof Chelsea Boot in Onyx Patent Stella; Henry Ferrera Marsala-400 Women’s Rain & Snow Boots in Black
(Clockwise from left) London Fog Piccadilly Women’s Waterproof Rain Boots; Sonoma Goods for Life Black Currant Women’s Rain Boots; Dolce Vita Stormy H2O Waterproof Chelsea Boot in Onyx Patent Stella; Henry Ferrera Marsala-400 Women’s Rain & Snow Boots.
Kohl's (2); Nordstrom; Kohl's

Rain boots are the must-have you don’t have until a good pair of shoes gets wrecked in a downpour. Ignore the cute prints, bright colors and pastels and pick up a pair of waterproof Chelsea style with treads for traction. The most useful is a pair of ankle boots like the London Fog Piccadilly Women’s Waterproof Rain Boots in Black or Black Shiny ($46, kohls.com), Dolce Vita Stormy H2O Waterproof Chelsea Boot in Onyx Patent Stella ($75, nordstrom.com), Sonoma Goods for Life Black Currant Women’s Rain Boots in Black ($60, kohls.com) or Henry Ferrera Marsala-400 Women’s Rain & Snow Boots in Black ($38, kohls.com). They look fashionably fine when the weather is iffy and will save you when it’s raining cats and dogs.