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Don’t get me wrong — I love designer shoes. But unless I spot those pairs on sale or at a vintage store, I rarely shop luxury label footwear (after all, new versions can cost me a good portion of my paycheck). Still, living on a budget hasn’t caused my style to suffer. I’ve learned to live within my means while curating a wardrobe of staple and statement footwear that I’m proud to show off to the world.
Now more than even before, many stores are offering cute and quality styles that won’t cost you a fortune. Famed brands and retailers such as Dr. Martens and DSW have long been supplying trendy goods for under $200, while tons of new players like Birdies and Rothy’s are making waves with their effortlessly chic and affordable offerings (think faux fur embellished slides and cozy knit flats made of recycled plastic water bottles).
Because I spend a lots of my time shopping online, and own over four dozen pairs, I’ve curated some of my favorite places to buy affordable shoes that are sturdy, comfortable and, of course, stylish. Whether you’re in the market for polished dress shoes, versatile booties or daring heels, you’re bound to find what you need here.
Aldo‘s vast selection of trend-forward styles includes everything from sleek sock booties to office-ready pumps and square toed sandals. Pairs start at $50 and top out at just $150. One of my favorite pairs from the brand that I own is the Closas bootie. Despite its lofty 4.25-inch stiletto heel, the boot is otherwise comfortable for extended wear thanks to its stretchy synthetic upper and breathable cutouts at the heel (no blisters here!).
Meghan Markle put Birdies on the map when she first wore loafers from the San Fransisco-based brand during a royal tour in 2018. Naturally, the label’s silhouettes quickly caught on, and after trying a pair for myself, I quickly discovered what all the hype was about. Great as elegant house shoes or everyday pairs, Birdies’ flat mules and loafers are finished with luxe materials like calf hair and velvet and feature standout embellishments such as glittering ankle straps and faux fur linings. They’re also supremely comfortable, boasting seven layers of cushioning, satin-smooth quilted footbeds and durable outsoles that stand up to errand runs or coffee outings. Furthermore, the brand now offers slip-on sneakers and washable flats that are equally chic (and likely just as wearable) as its original styles.
By now, Dr. Martens has practically become a household name. The iconic English brand, which first rose to fame in the 60s with its signature lace-up boot, is now widely popular among the fashion crowd. But you don’t have to an A-list-sized budget to afford to wear them. Most of the brand’s styles are priced under $200. In addition to its lace-up boots, the label offers a host of edgy oxfords and sandals, plus platform versions of all three silhouettes. While they often take some time to break in, the result is worth it. They wear well from season to season, whether styled with a breezy summer dress or jeans and a sweater in the fall (I personally can’t stop wearing my 1460 patent leather lace-ups with these combos).
DSW has some seriously good deals on designer and name brand shoes. You’ll spot $130 knee-high boots courtesy of Marc Fisher and under-$100 sneakers from athletic favorites like Nike, Adidas, Brooks and more. To top it all off, the discount retailer always seems to be having sales. During Black Friday 2020, the company even marked down Gucci loafers, an undoubtedly rare find.
Charles & Keith
If you don’t already know about Charles & Keith, it’s definitely an accessories store worth keeping on your radar. Alongside a range of on-trend bags, wallets and jewelry, the Singapore-based label offers tons of chic footwear styles like square toed sandals, modern loafer pumps and chunky ankle boots starting at under $50. While inspired by hot designer looks, the company’s styles always seem to maintain unique flair, so they never feel completely derivative.
& Other Stories
For minimalist dressers, & Other Stories is a go-to shopping destination. The brand carries various signature styles, including wear-with-everything booties and polished horsebit loafers. Most silhouettes come in neutral hues like beige and black, although the brand does offer a few slippers done in jewel tones, too.
Another great option for staple footwear, Everlane’s offerings are designed to be comfortable and versatile. Although the brand’s selection of shoes is limited, its quality styles include the aptly named “Modern loafer” as well as the “Glove” line, which features a square toed flat and waterproof Chelsea boot that are both designed to mold to the shape of your foot. As part of the brand’s commitment to creating sustainable product, it also offers a fully recyclable sneaker.
Founded in Spain, fast fashion brand Mango carries everything you need to build a capsule wardrobe: stylish flats, classic pumps, sleek sneakers and staple booties. Prices typically start as low as $50 and top out at under $250.
Before luxury shoe designer Alexandre Birman birthed his eponymous line, he founded Schutz in 1995 with a mission to offer bold yet accessible footwear options for the contemporary woman. Since then, the brand has become known for its glittering platform heels, gladiator sandals and caged stilletos, among other standout styles. And it’s won over countless celebrities like Olivia Palermo and Duchess Kate Middleton.
In recent years, Asos has been named among the most popular e-commerce fashion sites with consumers — and it’s not hard to see why. The online British retailer carries styles from hundreds of buzzy brands like Adidas, Miss Guided and Calvin Klein, in addition to looks from its popular in-house labels. As an added bonus, the company offers fast shipping to the U.S., with standard delivery taking three to six business days.
Shopping Sam Edelman shoes almost makes me feel as if I’m buying designer pairs, without experiencing a huge dent in my wallet. I own the brand’s Odele Sandal, and it’s one pair in my closet that I’m often most complimented on. It features a sumptuous satin finish and ankle ties that make the style look way more expensive than its under-$200 price point (the brand no longer carries this sandal, but you can find it at retailers like Walmart and Amazon). Sam Edelman’s selection of boots, mules, espadrilles and more are not to be missed, either. You’ll find tons of sharp constructions like angular heels and square toe finishes, plus eye-catching embellishments such as crystals and woven details. And for cold, wet weather, the brand carries a few waterproof styles.
Thursday Boot Company
New York City-based label Thursday Boot Company is all about simple, sleek and durable leather boots designed to stand up to the tough streets of the Big Apple. As a New Yorker myself, I’ve found that these boots live up to the brand’s promise. Countless times I’ve worn my white Heartbreaker booties from busy morning commutes to after-work happy hours, and they still practically look new (a huge feat when it comes to wearing white shoes here). Notably, Thursday Boot Company stands by fair and honest pricing; as a direct-to-consumer label, it’s able to offer its sturdy looks for under $200.
I’ve never been a big fan of ballet flats, in part because I’m on the petite side and also because I’ve always struggled to find pairs that don’t rub and cause blisters. Celebrity-loved brand Rothy’s, however, has converted me for good. Both comfortable and leg-lengthening, the label’s flats feature sustainable knit uppers that conform to the shape of your foot and a flattering, low-cut vamp. You can purchase them in four silhouettes, including a chic Mary Jane and pointed toe style. All boast removable insoles and are machine washable. What’s more, the brand has expanded its offerings to include sneakers, a loafer, an ankle boot and pair of flip flops to suit practically any occasion or outing.
There’s a little something for everyone at ecommerce behemoth Zappos. The e-tailer carries a vast selection of footwear styles for men, women and kids across all categories (the women’s boot section alone comprises 83 pages of offerings) from buzzy brands like Birkenstock, Sorel, Brooks and Nike, to name a few. Although you probably won’t find the latest drops at Zappos, there are still plenty of noteworthy options to choose from, like the celebrity-loved Ugg Fluff Yeah slide and coveted Frye boots. The brand’s massive sale section is also teeming with deals year-round, including those on designer duds. And the coolest part? Zappos sells select styles as single shoes, making them more accessible to everyone, including people with disabilities.