9 Shoe Styles Every Stylish Person Has in Their Closet

shoe styles, a roundup of the best types of footwear, photo of woman wearing kitten heels and tan coat

(Image credit: @thecarolinelin)

You've likely heard the adage "There's no such thing as too many shoes." Well, that's a fallacy. I love footwear just as much as the next fashion person, but the grim reality is that living in a big city automatically curtails your shoe collection. We all know there's only so much space we can allocate in our closets to footwear, especially considering that most apartments mimic the size of an actual shoe box. On top of that fact, anyone who's been around the block long enough has had to learn the hard way that some types of shoes can not withstand the requirements of navigating a metropolis—e.g., they're too uncomfortable to withstand walking a few blocks or make standing in rush hour on the train a whole ordeal. And then there's the mistake that many fashion people (myself included) have made of buying into trends, only to realize we don't know how to wear them. 

We've all had moments in which our discernment walked out the door the moment we walked into the footwear department at Nordstrom.  While there's no shame in admitting that, there is something to be said for deciding to change one's relationship with shoes. What would it be like to let go of uncomfortable heels in place of something pragmatic? How much would you save by buying more timeless silhouettes in lieu of the trendiest shoes of the season? I'm not saying you should stop shopping for shoes altogether, but rather, do so with intention. It's about curating a capsule collection that's both comfortable and chic. If that seems impossible, you're not alone. 

In an effort to make the process easier for you, I did extensive research to identify the best types of footwear to add to your forever wardrobe.  Keeping in mind versatility, seasonality, popularity, and trends, I created a list of nine shoe styles that stylish people from cities around the world wear on repeat. You don't need every type of shoes listed ahead, but this will give you a great jumping-off point. 

1. Ballet Flats

woman wearing ballet flats with cargo skirt and t-shirt with mid-driff floss

(Image credit: @ileniatoma_)

If you want to invest in shoes that are as chic as they are comfortable, look no further than ballet flats. Although it's worth noting that this style has trended in recent seasons—thanks to the rise of balletcore fashion and buzzy versions of the shoes released by Miu Miu, Alaïa, and Dear Frances—flats have always been the footwear of choice for the fashion set. What's made the style alluring to New Yorkers, Parisians, and other metropolitans over the years is that ballet flats walk the fine line between being trendy and timeless. They're something you can wear time and again.

2. Kitten Heels

photo of woman wearing kitten heels with jeans, t-shirt, and jacket

(Image credit: @sylviemus_)

Please don't hate me for what I'm about to say… Stilettos are not it. It might be a different story if I lived in a car-centric city, but in New York? They're a hard pass. Even if you don't live in Manhattan, wobbling around in ultra-high heels isn't alluring for most. There is, however, still a desire to wear something with a bit of height—enter kitten heels. For many fashion people, kitten heels have become the safe option for stepping out onto the streets. They allow us to not compromise our style or physical safety, making them a win-win.

3. Retro Sneakers

woman wearing sneakers with tights, black skirt, and leather jacket

(Image credit: @daniellejinadu)

Another type of flat shoes that fashionable people favor is retro sneakers. Not to be confused with other types of kicks, this sneaker style leans much more heavily into being a lifestyle item and has fewer design features made for athletic activities. That's not to say that these styles are any less comfortable. By virtue of being a flat silhouette, they're a far more functional footwear option than most heels. Still, since they're rooted in streetwear culture and shoe trends, they're a far cooler option for everyday life.

4. Strappy Sandals

woman wearing strappy sandals with linen shorts, button-down shirts, and blazer

(Image credit: @deborabrosa)

As temperatures rise in the spring and summer months, we'll begin to see more sandals emerge onto the streets of cities worldwide, but there's one style that always manages to surge: strappy sandals. It doesn't matter what's trending on the runway because the classic thinly strapped sandals remain the go-to silhouette among the style set. The continued allure of this type of sandals has to do with how easy it is to style and all the variations of the silhouette. Every season, we see subtle adaptations by designers—from barely-there straps to classic T-shaped straps—keeping the strappy sandals ever relevant.

5. Knee-High Boots

woman wearing knee-high boots with trench coat with clutch

(Image credit: @sobalera)

Most people associate specific types of shoes with seasons—e.g., sandals being the shoes of choice during the spring and summer and boots during the fall and winter. Knee-high boots, however, have managed to become seasonless in recent years. For many, knee-high boots have become their footwear of choice because they go well with just about anything. Plus, designers' cult-worthy versions of this boot style (Khaite's Dallas Boots and Balenciaga's Le Cagole Boots, for example) have cemented it as a staple style in its own right.

6. Polished Loafers

woman wearing loafers with trousers, tank, and button-down shirt

(Image credit: @dawn.tan)

Although a great deal of shoe styles are seasonal, there are a few that lend themselves to being year-round staples. Loafers are one of them. In recent years, polished penny loafers have become a fan favorite among the fashion set. While their popularity can partly be attributed to their prevalence in runway collections, that's not the footwear's primary allure. Like ballet flats, these closed-toe shoes are a more formal flat option that feels functional and fashionable. They're shoes that can be worn during the week to work or on the weekend to run errands. The innate versatility of this style makes it the ideal item to add to any capsule wardrobe.

7. Modern Mules

woman wearing white mules with long coat, long maxi skirt, and waistcoat

(Image credit: @oumaymaboumeshouli)

Don't believe that open-back shoes are as polished as a pair of loafers? Think again. The modern mules we've seen emerge from recent runway collections are just as sophisticated. Unlike previous versions of this silhouette that might have felt too casual or chunky, contemporary mules are downright chic. Often featuring geometric angles, sculptural heels, bold hardware, and minimal colors, the mules available on the market now are must-haves in the minds of many fashion people.

8. Elevated Slides

woman wearing slide sandal with matching pinstripe suit

(Image credit: @fakerstrom)

By now, you might be wondering if there are any open-toe footwear options favored by the fashion crowd that don't feel overly fancy. I'm happy to report that slide sandals exist. Unlike the aforementioned formal sandals, these casual flats are worn throughout the summer as people travel to far-off destinations. What cemented these sandals as a staple among the style set isn't just that slides are easy to pack or wear on warm days. Instead, it's because they're far more elevated than a pair of plastic flip-flops. With woven leather, raffia, and even logo-embossed leather versions of these sandals, there's no shortage of stylish ways to embrace them.

9. Chelsea Boots

woman wearing chelsea boot wearing mini skirt with t-shirt and trench coat

(Image credit: @divrav)

Lastly, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention one last shoe style that's become a mainstay in many stylish people's wardrobes: Chelsea boots. Characterized by its round-toe footbeds with elastic side panels and a heel tab, this silhouette has been around for centuries. What's made it continuously relevant in the eyes of the in crowd goes beyond how cozy these boots can be on a rainy day. In recent years, we've seen some of the most covetable versions of Chelsea boots come out from cool brands such as Burberry, Ganni, and Bottega Veneta. With iterations in various heights, colors, materials, and even price points, these boots can be easily incorporated into anyone's closet. That inherent versatility makes Chelsea boots worth having—they step up to the challenge of being comfortable and chic.

Jasmine Fox-Suliaman

Jasmine Fox-Suliaman is a fashion editor living in New York City. What began as a hobby (blogging on Tumblr) transformed into a career dedicated to storytelling through various forms of digital media. She started her career at the print publication 303 Magazine, where she wrote stories, helped produce photo shoots, and planned Denver Fashion Week. After moving to Los Angeles, she worked as MyDomaine's social media editor until she was promoted to work across all of Clique's publications (MyDomaine, Byrdie, and Who What Wear) as the community manager. Over the past few years, Jasmine has worked on Who What Wear's editorial team, using her extensive background to champion rising BIPOC designers, weigh in on viral trends, and profile stars such as Janet Mock and Victoria Monét. She is especially interested in exploring how art, fashion, and pop culture intersect online and IRL.