Shoes are a woman’s best friend. They’re the finishing touch to any outfit, making or breaking the look. But with so many styles to choose from, it can be difficult to know what’s right for you, and what the difference is between them.
From stilettos to sneakers, mules to mary janes, there’s a shoe for every occasion. With the right pair of kicks, a woman can take on the world, so choose wisely and embrace your personal style.
In this article, I’ll go over 16 of the most popular types of shoes for women and look at what makes them unique. I’ll also show you examples and touch on where to get them.
16 Types of Shoes for Women
Here is a (non-exhastive) list of the most popular types of shoes for women. Note that we’re talking shoes, not boots! Let’s dive in.
When you are talking about casual comfort, nothing beats a pair of sneakers. Sneakers can come in different styles, from a flatter more court-style shoe to running shoes, often called trainers.
They can be lace-up or slip-on. And while sneakers are flat-soled, some have a thicker or more wedged sole than others.
The upper can be made of leather, canvas, or synthetic material.
Originally designed for different types of sporting activities, sneakers today are worn just as much, if not more, for fashion as they are for playing sports. They can look great with workout gear, cargo pants, jeans, long skirts and more!
Here are some of the more popular sneakers available:
A pump is a closed-toe shoe with an open vamp (top of the shoe) that encloses the toe and wraps around the heel.
Pumps can have varying heel heights from 2 inches upward. Pumps can also have different types of heels from block, stiletto, and cone heels to spool, comma, and flare heels.
Think you know your heels? Check out our article: Different Types of Heels for Women’s Shoes – The Ultimate Guide
3. Kitten Pumps / Kitten Heels
Kitten pumps are a pump with a heel height of less than 2 inches.
Kitten heels are basically any type of shoe with a slender heel with a height of less than 2 inches. They’re not as intense as stiletto heels, but can still look amazing with an evening dress.
4. D’Orsay Pumps
The characteristic feature of a d’Orsay Pump is the cut-out side which reveals the arch of your foot. One or both sides may be cut out.
D’Orsay pumps can come in a variety of heel heights.
A sandal consists of a sole secured to the foot by straps over the instep, toes, or ankle. There are a lot of different types of sandals out there. From double strap and T-strap, from Tory Burch-style to straps that criss-cross across the top of the foot are among some of the variations.
Sandals can either be flat or have a heel and can be anywhere from super casual to formal, depending on the sandal.
Their backless design makes them easy to slip in and out of, and give your feet a little room to breathe while still looking fashion forward.
Mules come in all sorts of styles, from flats and wedges to platforms and heels. The open-toed versions are sometimes called sliders.
Slingbacks are characterized by a strap that wraps around the back of the heel instead of a full heel covering.
Slingbacks are versatile enough to be worn for both casual and more formal occasions and will add an elegant touch to any outfit.
8. Ballet Flats
As you may have guessed by the name, ballet flats are inspired by the shoes worn by ballerinas. With a closed and rounded toe, ballerina flats have a thin, flexible sole.
And although they can sometimes have a smidgen of a block heel, most ballet flats have no heel at all. They can go with many outfits, including jeans, midi skirts, etc.
9. Mary Janes
Mary Janes, like ballet flats, have a closed rounded toe. They also have a low cut and rounded upper. But that’s where the similarities end.
Mary Janes are a much more structured shoe with a more rigid sole than ballet flats. What makes a Mary Jane a Mary Jane is the single strap that goes over the top of the foot.
What makes a Mary Jane a Mary Jane is the single strap that goes over the top of the foot.
The classic black patent Mary Janes are more suited to younger girls. There are, however more “grown up”, contemporary versions of Mary Janes that either have a little chunk to them or have a bit of a heel so they don’t look so much like they’re part of a private middle school girl uniform.
They can look amazing with a maxi dress.
Inspired by the ancient shoes worn by Roman and Greek gladiators during battles, gladiators are a flat sandal with several wide cross straps holding the sole to the foot, with one wide strap around the ankle.
Gladiators started out as a utilitarian shoe, being a tough sole, strapped to the foot to prevent injury. But they have evolved to include heeled versions and can range in height from the ankle to the knee.
By definition, they are a type of sandal, but Gladiators are often characterized by a central, vertical strap that goes along the top of the foot to which the side straps are fastened.
Oxfords refer to a more formal, closed-toe dress shoe with laces, or more specifically, closed laces.
The defining feature of the Oxford is the eyelet tabs that are stitched underneath the vamp, or top of the shoe. Oxfords often include broguing, which is the decorative perforations on the leather of the shoe, along the visible edges.
12. Derby Shoes
Derby shoes are very similar to Oxford shoes, and also often include broguing, but the difference is in the lacing system.
Unlike Oxfords, Derbies feature open-lacing, or in other words, the side tabs where the shoelace eyelets are punctured, are stitched on top of the vamp, instead of underneath. Derby shoes are quite often mislabeled as Oxfords.
Both Oxfords and Derby shoes add a quirkiness to dresses and skirts by adding a little bit of a masculine element to something feminine.
Loafers are a slip-on shoe without laces and a low, block heel. They can either be worn with casual attire or for more dressy/professional occasions, depending on the style.
Generally, the sole of a loafer is made of leather and is separate from the rest of the shoe. Loafers are usually constructed with a wide tongue across the vamp (top of the shoe), known as a saddle.
Loafers are among the most comfortable shoes, which makes them great for almost all occasions, especially if you have to be on your feet for long periods of time.
The iconic footwear of the Netherlands were the shoes of choice for Dutch laborers. Because they were naturally water-resistant, clogs protected feet in the wet Dutch climate and enabled their wearer to easily move across waterlogged ground.
Clogs nowadays are rarely made solely of wood. But the versions with leather, suede, and even synthetic uppers still maintain the recognizable chunky silhouette.
Clogs are a casual shoe that can have an open or closed heel. Clogs will often feature a strip of material stitched to the opening of the shoe for extra comfort.
Espadrilles have a sole made of Jute or a fiber, rope-like natural material, often with a canvas upper.
Espadrilles can be flat, platform or have a wedge heel and be closed-toe or peep-toe. The sole is protected with rubber.
They provide great arch support which makes them super comfortable to wear, and they can look great with an anklet.
Cutouts basically look like they were ankle boots or a pair of shoes that have had material cut out of them.
They tend to have a lot more material covering the foot than a normal sandal or pump and they often wrap around the ankle. Cutouts can come in a variety of styles and heel heights. They can look great with lots of outfits, but can really stun with black jeans.
I’ve shown you the 16 main types of women’s shoes that are most often worn. Each of the different types shown can vary in appearance, be made from different materials, and have different heels and different heel heights as well.
There are also hybrids of different types of shoes, like mule loafers or kitten-heeled gladiator sandals, for example, that combine different design aspects from different shoes.
With all of the variations and combinations, the variety is almost endless.
But you now know the basic foundation types of the most popular women’s shoes. And now that you have a better idea of the different styles, you can start experimenting with different types of women’s shoes to find the perfect pair for you.