This statement is hardly groundbreaking, but I love buying shoes.(I challenge you to find a fashion editor who doesn't.) What I don't love is spending tons of money on shoes, and I'm guessing that you don't either. That said, when I'm shopping for affordable shoes, in particular, I've learned over time (and lots of shoe shopping) that there's one detail that I tend to avoid, as it can look quite cheap unless done well and with high-quality (i.e., expensive) materials: hardware. Whether in the form of studs, chains, oversize buckles, or embellishments, hardware on shoes is tricky to get right. If you love it, it's better to invest in a pair that's on the pricier side.
What do I look for when shopping for affordable shoes that look expensive? For the most part, it's hardware-free neutral colors, preferably genuine materials like leather, suede, or calf hair, and unique details like a sculptural heel shape or square too (which are often found on more expensive styles). Or you could just scroll to shop some of my favorite (hardware-free) shoes on the market that only look expensive.