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On days when you just feel like being comfortable (aka every day post-quarantine), it’s easy to reach for your best flats or your most comfortable sneakers. But to nail that feel-good effect while elevating your look just a little, consider opting for a pair of stylish loafers, instead.
Simply put, a loafer is a slip-on shoe that leaves the ankle exposed and typically features a low-profile heel. But it comes in many variations, too. Some of the most common loafer silhouettes include moccasins (which harken back to Native American-made styles that inspired the first loafer of the 1930s) and smoking slippers (said original loafer style, which also took its look from silhouettes worn by British royals in the 1800s). Other top loafer models include penny loafers (made famous by Maine shoemaker G.H. Bass) and driving loafers (originally built for driving thanks to their nubbed rubber outsole, but now considered a casual shoe). Some loafers are also mule-hybrids, and may feature tassel details or horsebit-style hardware on the vamp. (The latter is a nod to the design perfected in the 1950s by Aldo Gucci, son of the mastermind behind the luxury brand).
While any silhouette is pretty much timeless, if you’re into keeping up with trends, you’ll want to try the thick-soled versions that are making a return from the 90s and Y2K eras. In fact, every it-girl from Bella Hadid to Katie Holmes has been seen wearing them lately.
“Thanks to brands like Prada, Max Mara, and Gucci, the chunky loafer has come back in full force for fall ’21,” says celebrity stylist and costumer fashion designer Tyler Minor. “I think this style really resonates with customers because it’s familiar, not too out-of-the-box, yet still very fashion-forward.”
No matter which look you go for, keep in mind that when shopping for the best loafers for women, choose styles with elevated comfort features, like flexible uppers and ample cushioning underfoot. If you need extra support, try options with molded footbeds and deep heel cups that can help relieve pain stemming from flat feet and plantar fasciitis. (And if you suffer from bunions, seek out silhouettes with wide toe boxes, in addition to those with malleable uppers.) All of these features not only make certain loafers great for everyday wear, but also some of the best styles for work, too.
How to Wear Loafers
When it comes to styling the best loafer for women, you do have more leniency. In fact, pretty much anything goes these days.
“If you want to channel Cher Horowitz, pair a fun argyle sock with them, a cute mini skirt and a cropped sweater,” suggests Minor. “For something a little more understated, wear your loafers with a simple trouser, fun graphic tee and cardigan. Loafers are even cute with a sheer ankle sock and shorts.”
Going for a patterned loafer, like one done in the increasingly popular cheetah print? It’s easy to pair those with other neutral-colored pieces in your outfit. But if you’re feeling a bit more daring, choose a bright primary color to amp up the oomph effect.
For shopping made easy, we rounded up the best loafers for women you can buy now. They come courtesy of respected footwear brands, and many are backed by glowing customer reviews. We even included a few of Minor’s favorite styles to consider. Keep reading to shop them.
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Tory Burch Charm Leather Loafers
We already rely on Tory Burch for her refined everyday and workwear apparel, so it only makes sense that the brand’s loafers are worth adding to our carts, too. Alongside a shiny goat leather upper, this style is made extra elegant thanks to a golden logo charm at vamp that helps you show your love for the designer brand. And from the inside, a supple leather lining is made to offer a sumptuous step-in a feel.
Sam Edelman Loraine Loafers
Looking for a classic silhouette that will work from your 9-to-5 to the weekend? Sam Edelman’s Lorraine loafers certainly fit the bill. Perfect to wear with mom jeans and a tee or relaxed suit set, the menswear-inspired style features an almond toe construction, signature front hardware and short block heel (your feet will thank you later for the latter detail). Additional comfort comes in the form of a padded leather insole that should feel soft and pillowy underfoot.
If you’re not quite convinced, let the shoes’ glowing reviews convince you. As one happy customer notes: “I have been searching for the perfect pair of shoes for my commute pre-Covid and honestly after 20+ pairs, I can say this is the best shoe I’ve bought.”
Dr. Scholl’s Webster Loafers
Most comfortable loafers for walking
Sometimes, you need a loafer that will not only support you during your morning commute or quick trips to the coffee room, but for hours of standing all day. In that case, reach for Dr. Scholl’s Webster loafer. Created with ultimate comfort in mind, the silhouette offers a shock-absorbing insole with anatomical cushioning to reduce foot fatigue. A rounded toe box provides plenty of room for toes to splay, while a flexible, durable outsole boosts traction without weighing your feet down. On top of all that, a rear pull tab allows you to easily slip these on and off without ruining the back of the shoe or enduring painful rubbing.
“My new job had me walking a minimum of eight to 10 miles a day,” reads one the silhouette’s over 1,700 five-star reviews. “I went through three different types of tennis shoes and three different types of dress shoes and these are the only shoes that I was able to wear the entire day. After eight hours, I still felt like I was walking on air. My only regret is not finding these shoes first.”
Keeping in line with the brand’s ethos, the shoes doesn’t skimp on style, either. They feature a chic front strap and are done in both smooth suede and leather finishes.
Sarah Flint Rosie Shoes
Best Heeled Loafers for Women
Although probably best known for its celebrity-approved stilettoed pumps, made-in-Italy label Sarah Flint has since expanded its offerings to include flats and block-heeled silhouettes that retain the brand’s attention to marrying high style and comfort. One its bestsellers, the Rosie loafer includes signature details like three millimeters of extra padding on the footbed and a grippy rubber outsole, plus new additions of a roomy almond toe and an under-1.5-inch block heel. Meaning, the shoe is perfect for those who want a height boost without sacrificing a sweet feel underfoot. Nab it three rich suede finishes or a cheetah-print calf hair option to add some eye-catching texture and pattern to your look.
Louise et Cie Calden Loafers
Best Embellished Loafers for Women
“Louise et Cie has been making beautiful, trendy and affordable shoes since 2013,” says Minor. For a less traditional yet equally versatile take on the loafer, he suggests this pearl-embellished style from the brand — which can easily translate from the office to happy hour. “Try wearing these loafers with a cute black skinny trouser, plain white silk button down and a black blazer for work,” he adds. “Trade the blazer for a leather motorcycle jacket and you’re ready for night out.”
Ganni Black Jewel Loafers
Best Designer Embellished Loafers
One of our favorite designer takes on the embellished loafer comes courtesy of popular Danish label Ganni. Ideal for those looking for something slightly more subtle, these offer the right amount of bling with a crystal-cut accessory on the vamp. For an exceptionally unique finish, they also feature a stacked, off-set leather sole and minimalist contrast stitching. We love the idea of pairing them with socks, a mini skirt and blazer to nail Gossip Girl-style vibes, but they’d really go with just about anything.
Sperry Seaport Penny Loafers
Best Penny Loafers for Women
Having specialized in top-quality boat shoes for over 80 years, Sperry effortlessly brings its polished aesthetic and refined craftsmanship to this staple penny loafer. Thousands of customers come for its classic details like contrast stitching, but stay for the undeniable comfort it offers due to a full-length memory foam insole, leather sockliner and flexible strobel construction for a second-skin feel. Underfoot, a rubber outsole boosts traction and durability so you can wear these for years to come. Grab them in suede, or matte or patent leather.
Gucci Princetown Loafers
Best Loafer Mules for Women
It’s hard to think about the loafer category without recognizing Gucci. You may remember that the luxury brand’s loafers skyrocketed to popularity during New York Fashion week in 2014, but they’ve actually remained a wardrobe staple among celebrities and aspirational shoppers for over 60 years since their inception. Although the loafers have been updated in many iterations — including with raffia and velvet textures — the brand’s understated leather versions are undoubtedly its most timeless (it’s no wonder the design has remained largely unchanged over time). Whether in a full-length or backless silhouette, their minimal profile with gold horsebit hardware can refine any look — from leggings and a sweater a la Vanessa Hudgens or denim cutoffs and a tank top a la Taylor Hill. Nab the style in classic black to match anything, or choose a pair in a brighter hue like bubblegum pink to make a statement.
Madewell The Frances Loafer Mules
Best Affordable Loafer Mules
Love the Gucci look but not the $1,050 price tag? We think Madewell makes a nice alternative. Like the Princetown loafer, the Frances style is backless and dressed in sleek leather. Although it doesn’t feature any hardware, on the comfort front, it does include extra padding underfoot (which is obviously a major plus). And if you’re going for something slightly more casual, this is a great option, as it features a contrast wooden heel and detailing at the midsole.
Essentially, if a designer name and Italian craftsmanship aren’t musts for you, look no further than this noticeably stylish and durable pair.
M. Gemi The Pastoso Loafers
Best Driving Loafers for Women
Speaking of Italian craftsmanship, M. Gemi is unique, however, in that its shoes are handcrafted in Tuscany but range from just from $90 to $300. Founded in 2015, the brand sells items from small Italian specialty factories straight to shoppers, bypassing major retailers in order to keep prices lower.
While the Felize loafer that popularized the brand is currently sold out, you can nab its similar sister, The Pastoso. A penny loafer version of the driving silhouette, the $228 style features signature details like a Penny-keeper accent and rubber peg sole but is dressed in buttery Piumato leather for an unbeatable, second-skin feel. Coupled with the fact this style is offered in four wear-with-everything hues, it’s bound to be heavy in your rotation.
Tods Kate Chain Detail Genuine Shearling Driving Shoes
Best Shearling Loafers
Like your favorite pair of women’s slippers, all-over shearling loafers are some of the coziest styles to reach for when temperatures start to drop. Tod’s Italian-made version combines the best of elegance and plushness, done as an outdoor-ready driving loafer with a thick gold logo chain accent (chain details have also been trending on the footwear scene for the past few seasons, making this pair an even more coveted wardrobe addition). The genuine shearling finish is sourced from Spain and covers the style entirely from the inside out. Need we say more?
Andre Assous Phili Faux Fur Weather Resistant Loafers
Also Consider Shearling Loafers
Another great shearling option, this Andre Assous pair also takes on the chain accent trend, but offers it up in a chunky, mixed media loafer instead. The faux white shearling lining and accents pop against the otherwise tonal leather upper, while a thick lugged outsole gives these a chic yet functional edge. To top it all off, the shoes are weather-resistant, so they won’t get ruined when exposed to light rain. If you live in a wet climate or are simply worried about an all-over shearling style getting dirty pretty quick, these are a nice alternative. And priced at under $250, they’re a luxe mid-price point option perfect for those who aren’t ready to splurge on a designer silhouette.
Franco Sarto Carolynn Loafers
Best Tassel Loafers
This chic style takes the menswear-inspired tassel loafer and gives it some edge with a chunky lug sole and contrast detailing. The shoe also comes in smooth and distressed patent leather, which gives it extra street style finesse. (We can easily imagine these with a mom jeans and crop top or midi skirt and oversized knit sweater this fall). And it’s just as comfortable as it is stylish, complete with a padded footbed, flexible sole and roomy almond toe. Among over 1,300 five-star reviews on Amazon, one customer even noted these kept her light on her feet all day while working in a classroom.
Børn Bly Penny Loafers
Also Consider Penny Loafers
Nearly 100% of customers gave Børn’s Bly Penny Loafer a four or five star review on Nordstrom Rack.com, raving that the shoe from the comfort-focused brand doesn’t disappoint. Outfitted with a soft, colorful suede upper, the penny loafer boasts a padded footbed with arch support and grippy lug sole. What’s perhaps most unique about this style is that it’s made using a hand-sewn Opanka construction, in which the upper is fastened to the outsole with special stitching to provide flexibility, lasting durability and a handcrafted look.
Birdies The Starling
Birdies may only have been on scene since 2015, but in just a few short years, it’s gained a cult following. This is arguably thanks to Meghan Markle, who put the brand on the map after wearing its debut style, The Starling, for multiple royal engagements. Today, the style remains the brand’s most popular, with over 8,000 customers reviews and an average five-star rating.
This editor also counts herself a fan of the silhouette, which is one of the most comfortable dress shoes you can buy. Offering the ultimate mix of high style and function, these smoking loafers offer a sturdy sole and the brand’s signature seven layers of cushioning hidden inside a silky, quilted insole. I own the version with a leopard print calf-hair upper — which I love, as it can easily add intrigue to a basic all-black outfit — but the style is also available in monochromatic leather, suede or velvet depending on the look you’re going for.
And even if you don’t have an A-list sized budget, these are still accessible to most, priced at just $140.
Prada Leather Logo Platform Loafers
Best Women’s Chunky Loafers
Prada’s chunky loafers were the “it-shoes” of fall 2020, and their popularity among the fashion crowd shows no signs of slowing down. In fact, the brand’s lug-soled version is one of Minor’s favorite styles. The silhouette is recognizable for its thick, tooth-like outsole and supple leather upper with a signature logo keeper detail.
“Prada has done well in designing fashion-forward, quality loafers,” says Minor. “This style would pair beautifully with a simple black dress, black leather moto jacket and a cute ankle sock.”
Franco Sarto Balin 2 Loafers
Best Affordable Chunky Loafers
For a more affordable take on the chunky loafer trend, Minor is also a fan of this style from Franco Sarto. It features a penny loafer-style upper with a 1.5-inch platform sole and flexible, cushioned footbed to keep you feeling just as good as you look. In addition to black, the style is also offered in a cool khaki green that can add an unexpected twist to autumnal outfits (like a classic white tee, jeans and oversized flannel combo).
Naturalizer Lorna Loafers
Best Loafer with Collapsible Heel
Comfort is an integral part of the Naturalizer brand, who specially designs its shoes to contour to the shape of a woman’s foot. So, it’s no wonder one the label’s classic loafers made our list of the best loafers for women. Perfect for anyone who wants a versatile, no-frills design, the minimal Lorna silhouette boasts feel-good tech like a slip-resistant outsole and contoured insole with arch support. Notably, the style also features a collapsible heel, making it easy to take on and off or even wear as mule if you so desire.
“I’m often hard to fit, but these loafers are comfortable right out of the box,” said one Nordstrom customer. “Nothing rubs because the inside has a very soft lining. The rubber-like sole is flexible and stable.”
Lauren Ralph Lauren Briley Moccasin Loafers
There are few brands more synonymous with sharp loafers and overall preppy style than Ralph Lauren. Among its selection, the Briley loafer is top-rated. Available in classic black and brown, the leather moc-style silhouette features classic details like a square toe, raised stitching and a gripped rubber outsole. For added sophistication and wearability, the shoe features a metal bit and bow detail over the vamp, plus a lightly cushioned insole to pad your steps.
Clarks Juliet Palm Loafers
From the brand who makes some of the best shoes for standing all day, Clarks’ Juliet loafer features layers of proprietary Cushion Soft padding coupled with an OrthoLite footbed for lasting, targeted support. Meanwhile, subtle elastic goring helps minimize break-in time and a one-inch stacked heel gives you a slight height boost without sacrificing the shoes’ wearability.
In terms of aesthetics, this is a great pick for anyone who wants something slightly unconventional but not too flashy. Complete with a squared off toe and asymmetrical vamp, the leather style comes in classic colors like black and caramel — but is also available in a striking pewter finish.
Vionic Charm Cheryl Loafers
Best Loafers for Plantar Fasciitis
Created in partnership with a podiatrist, Vionic’s shoes are not only great for people who crave everyday comfort but those with foot issues like plantar fasciitis. This is largely due to their signature three-part design, which includes a deep heel cup for enhanced stability, plush forefoot cushioning and a formed midsole with arch support. And as an added bonus, unlike styles from many other orthopedic brands, these are quite fashionable, too.
Case in point: the Charm Cherly loafer. Done in patent or nubuck leather, the penny style loafer incorporates cool contrast details and an on-trend lug sole. Never one to sacrifice function, though, Vionic still makes the pair super lightweight despite its chunky look. Whether you’re heading to the office or packing for a trip to explore a new city, these belong in your arsenal.
Rothy’s the Loafers
After testing out Rothy’s buzzy knit flats, we couldn’t be more excited that the label has expanded into other footwear categories — including loafers. The one silhouette Rothy’s offers, a simple smoking-style loafer, takes on the company’s signature support features. These include a removable, cushioned insole and soft, breathable knit upper that molds to the shape of your foot. Not to mention, the pair is eco-friendly and machine washable.
Keep in mind that the brand’s shoes don’t stretch out too much, so when ordering, make sure the fit is not overly snug.
Dirty Laundry Heeled Loafers
Also consider heeled loafer
As we mentioned before, chunky loafers are in, and ’90s girls are making a case for them in many forms. For a fun boost of height, try a chunky, tall heeled loafer. This version from Dirty Laundry offers a fun mix of grunge and prep with its lugged outsole and stable block heel. Even better? The styling options are endless; you can pair it with everything from mom jeans and an oversized blazer to an elegant frock. And, it doesn’t hurt either that customers say these shoes are super comfortable and run true to size.
Aerosoles Over Drive Loafers
Perfect for adding a sophisticated touch to your lazy weekend style, this driving loafer from Aerosoles comes with a sleek leather or suede upper and classic moc-toe stitching. The upper is also perforated to prevent feet from overheating, while a flexible, lightweight outsole keeps you moving with ease from brunch to running errands. From the inside, feel-good additions like a soft, breathable microfiber lining and memory foam footbed ensure you’ll want to wear these 24/7.
Frye Kenzie Venetian Slip-On
Quality leather footwear is Frye’s forte, and these loafers from the brand certainly live up to the standard. A slightly distressed hide sourced from Italy gives them an old world feel and a sharply pointed toe makes them effortlessly elegant. Customers on Amazon also give this pair top marks for its noticeable comfort features, including a soft leather lining, lightly cushioned footbed and flexible leather outsole with a rubber insert in the forefoot and heel for added durability and traction.
“I was a little worried that they would feel narrow due to the pointed toe, but after one day of wear, they’re super comfortable to work in all day,” said one shopper. “They’re currently my favorite shoes and I want to order more.”