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With the world beginning to open up again, most of us are still figuring out how to dress as we reemerge back into social life. Whether you’re eager to shed your sweats and slippers and lean fully into glitz and glamour, or have given up on your stilettos for good, fall ’21 runways have inspiration to fit any sartorial preference.
For the former group, designers like Victoria Beckham, Chanel and Christian Cowan showcased statement-making boots, high-shine heels and endlessly strappy sandals, respectively. Meanwhile, designers at Chloé and Proenza Schouler debuted plush slippers — complete with fuzzy linings and sturdy soles — that prove fall shoes can marry the best of comfort and style. And, Versace, Molly Goddard and Simone Rocha made a case for the sensible yet fashionable platform in everything from loafers to pumps and boots.
Comfort wasn’t the only sentiment to emerge unabashedly from the runways, however. Nostalgia was seen in many forms, not only in the revival of the ’90s-esque platform but also in the appearance of retro-style sneakers and chunky clogs done with classic stud embellishments, modern prints and more flexible constructions.
Tory Burch’s snakeprint clogs and crew socks, paired with tweed trousers for fall ’21.
No matter which sartorial camp you fall into, we compiled 20 chic fall shoes — inspired by fall ’21 shoe trends — to invest in now.
Asos Design Mulled Chunky Loafer
This chunky penny loafer is the perfect return-to-office staple. Pair it with relaxed jeans and a blazer or midi dress — the styling options are endless.
Louise et Cie Sanji Platform Wedge Bootie
If you’re searching for a modest platform boot with plenty of underfoot support, try this style from Louise et Cie. Its wedged heel gives you extra height without killing your arches in the process. And, it looks just as good as it should feel, complete with a stunning two-tone colorway and sporty stripe detail.
Steve Madden Cobra Black Leather
Dare to take your look to bold new heights? Steve Madden’s Cobra boot is the ultimate buy. With its thick, towering heel and stacked platform, it offers a similar aesthetic to the gorgeous pink pump from Versace’s fall ’21 collection — but at a much more affordable price point. Plus, its black leather finish makes it a slightly more versatile pick.
Free People Sway Low Slouch Boots
Although the slouchy boot isn’t exactly new to runways, it’s returned in a big way this season. At Gabriella Hearst, Khaite and The Row, classic mid-calf and over-the-knee silhouettes dominated, while Louis Vuitton took a slightly more unconventional approach with its moto-style slouch boot featuring a thick wedge heel, buttoned toe flaps and two-sided zippers. Try out the trend with this smooth suede pair from Free People, available in four rich autumnal hues.
Dr. Martens 1460 Pascal Tie Dye Boots
It’s safe to say the lug-soled combat boot earned a spot in nearly everyone’s wardrobe last year. The chunky shoe is here to stay, but is now re-imagined in slightly softer versions. Case in point: AGL showcased a stacked blush pink style, while Valentino debuted a cream-colored pair with captivatingly plush quilted uppers. When it comes to shopping the trend, we also love this subtle tie-dye version from Dr. Martens — which adds a dose femininity to the classically edgy silhouette.
FitFlop Leather Mule Platforms
Comfort queens and ’90s babies will also rejoice the return of the clog. While you’ll find traditional wooden heeled styles coming around the block again, today’s clogs also come in lighter weight versions made of rubber (a la Gucci) or with innovative support technology (via FitFlop) so you can nail ’70s vibes without feeling like you have bricks attached to your feet.
Urban Outfitters Heidi Shearling Clog
Coach, Proenza Schuler and Chloe all took the WFH hero — the fuzzy slipper— and made it outdoor-ready with thicker soles and luxe embellishments. Whether you opt for a more dressed up or casual pair, you can give your ensemble extra oomph by wearing the shoes with an oversized suit or sleek dress.
Birkenstock Arizona shearling sandals
Speaking of the plush slipper trend, this update on the signature Birkenstock Arizona fits right in. It retains the brand’s signature contoured footbed and thick buckled straps for mold-to-your-feet comfort, but is dressed in a rich caramel-colored suede with a soft yet breathable shearling lining for ultimate coziness.
Zara Flat Sandals With Fringe
Consider the fringe shoe your new party staple. Showcased in an elegant heeled version from A.W.A.K.E. MODE’s fall ’21 collection, the style is great for complementing flirty dresses to edgy leather legging and blouse combos. If you plan to be dancing most of the night, opt for a fringed flat or slide.
Larroude Brigitte Mule
Inject some necessary color into your wardrobe with a pair of Barbie-pink heels inspired by runway debuts from Versace (a la those towering platform pumps we previously mentioned) and By Far. While you can go the platform route, a subtle block heel style is great for easing your way back into wearing elevated footwear.
Vince Camuto Rachey Loafer
Ever since Bottega Veneta released its anklet-embellished sandals in 2019, chain link accents on shoes have popped up everywhere. We’re seeing them incorporated on a range of sharp loafers this season, including mule hybrids that will help you seamlessly transition your wardrobe into fall.
Vivaia Bella Flats
There are few shoes daintier than ballerina-inspired flats — which even more closely resemble the real deal when featuring lace-up ankle ties. Erdem led the way with these silhouettes, showcasing sturdy, square toe pairs that almost had us convinced its models were about to glide down the runway on their tip toes. Nail the look while relishing in comfort thanks to Vivaia’s Bella Flats, which boast an EVA footbed and soft knit uppers made completely of recycled plastic water bottles.
Dolce Vita Solei Stude Boots
Having cycled in and out of style over the past decade, cowboy boots are one of the top fall ’21 shoe trends. The new wave of western, arguably spearheaded by Isabel Marant, includes silhouettes with distinctive details like vibrant colorways and plenty of studs to help you stand out from the crowd.
Sarah Flint Perfect Emma
A slightly retro take on the classic pump, low-vamped versions appeared in the fall lineups of Balmain, Prabal Gurung and Marni. The silhouette can help elongate your frame, making it a great style for petite women, and still appear modern when styled with patterned tights or relaxed suiting. Celebrity-approved brand Sarah Flint also makes a low block heel option with 6 mm of extra padding.
Charles & Keith Textured Thigh High Boots
Second-skin boots that mold to your every curve will keep you looking svelte. Although not the easiest boot to style, Prada and Peter Do showed that over-the-knee versions can create a cool streamlined effected when worn with long coats and dresses. This textured, suede pair from Charles & Keith will add extra intrigue to any outfit.
Princess Polly Bellini Cheyanne Heels
While the weather still permits, lace-up in the strappiest of sandals inspired by Christian Cowan’s fall ’21 collection with Guiseppe Zanotti. A number of mass market brands and retailers including Lulus, By Dose and Princess Polly offer some undeniably chic and affordable options.
Frye Ivy Low Lace
Alongside fringed shoes, metallic styles are made for any soirée on your calendar. You can opt for a tall boot from Jill Sander or some glitzy sneakers from Frye — the latter which can easily be dressed up or down for a variety of occasions.
Betsy Johnson SB-Cady Rhinestones
Perhaps the boldest of all fall ’21 shoe trends are statement-making boots — done in all-over crystals and eye-catching patterns. Although Victoria Beckham’s standout knee-high pair is currently sold out, you can channel a similar disco ball-inspired feel with this ankle-length alternative from Betsy Johnson.
Mango Track Outsole Boots
Amidst a deluge of slippers and slides, heavy lug-soled boots were the one “real” outdoor shoe trend to take root during quarantine. The thick-soled styled is once again taking over runways and Instagram feeds, bringing with it decidedly dystopian vibes and rugged performance benefits.
As nostalgia continues to hit a high note in fashion, ‘many 70s sneaker styles are also having a moment. Iconic silhouettes like the Nike Cortez and Adidas Gazelle are still being worn today, while designers like Loewe and Re/Done have offered their own covetable takes on retro sport runners for fall ’21.