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Your A To Z Guide To Footwear For Women

By Somdutta Mazumder

Updated - May 9, 202420 min read

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As a young starry-eyed girl, I remember being utterly obsessed with the story of Cinderella. But don't be mistaken, it wasn't because I had an evil stepmother hovering outside my bedroom door. Nor was I particularly interested in the arrival of my Prince Charming. Instead, my love for the fairytale came into full bloom owing to one specific reason. It was my first peek at how the perfect pair of shoes can entirely transform a woman's life. 


Cut to some 20 odd years later, and my faith in the power of beautiful footwear remains just as unshaken. In fact, it's now rooted in experience in lieu of fiction. Up to the present moment, never have I ever brought home a gorgeous pair of shoes and not promptly migrated to cloud nine for the rest of the week. I'm the girl whose shoe closet always invites a gasp at first glance, and also the girl steered in the opposite direction by friends, whenever a shoe store is in close proximity. Needless to say, I'm also the girl who proudly wears Aldo on her feet while borrowing money for lunch from a co-worker. But you know what, all's fair in love, war and shoe-obsession. 


So, if just the sight of a stunning pair of heels is enough to generate a swarm of butterflies in your stomach, here's a little something for you. Before you venture out for your next shoe-splurge, check out our complete A to Z guide to footwear for women. From sky-high heels to soles flatter than a pancake, this list has every kind of shoe you need to know about! 


Flat Footwear


1. Ballet Flats 

Classy, comfy and perfect for everyday wear, the design of ballet flats is inspired by exactly what the name suggests, slippers worn by ballerinas. These shoes for women will either feature a small heel, or more often than not, no heel at all. Typically they're close and round-toed and comprise of a thin sole. 


Image Courtesy - Alexandra De Curtis


2. Gladiator Sandals 

Drawing inspiration from the ancient shoes worn by Roman and Greek gladiators during battles, these sandals are flat-soled and come with multiple wide-cross straps, starting from the sole and ending with a thicker strap at the top. This sandal which started off as the most utilitarian footwear has evolved to cover various heights, styles and materials in present-day. 


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3. Flip-Flops

These don't really warrant much of an explanation. The most practical pair of shoes every woman must own, flip-flops are ideal everyday sandals, comprising of a flat sole. These shoes for women feature a Y-shaped strap starting from the front of the sole and ending at the sides. There's no dearth of flip-flop designs in the market, encompassing everything between regular rubber to glittery metallic straps. 


Image Courtesy - Ajio


4. Two Strap Sandals 

Witnessing a recent surge in popularity, two-strap sandals are based loosely on the design of classic Birkenstock sandals. As the name suggests, this footwear for women comes with two wide cross-straps that wrap horizontally around the foot. A pair would mostly feature a slip-on design, although slingback two-strap sandals are common as well. 

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Image Courtesy - Pinterest


5. T-Bar Sandals 

Another practical, everyday footwear type for women that has been trending off-late, T-Bar sandals are flat-soled sandals with a T-shaped strap, the ends of which are fastened with a buckle to a strap around the ankle. The T-bar sandals you'll find today are sleeker and more stylish takes on the original close-toed T-bar sandals, traditionally known as school sandals in the United Kingdom. 


Image Courtesy - G WinNetNation


6. Mary Janes

A true classic in the world of footwear for women, a pair of Mary Janes features a form closely resembling a pair of ballet flats, except in the former there's a thin strap around the middle of the foot. The name comes from a fictional character by the same name from the Buster Brown comic strip, who originally wore these shoes and popularised them amongst little girls around 1902. 


Image Courtesy - Pinterest


7. Sliders 

A footwear type that's been highly in vogue the past couple of years, sliders are backless and open-toed flat sandals, with a single wide strap wrapped just above the instep of the shoe. Sliders are amongst the most commonly worn casual summer shoes for women, and their rise in popularity can mostly be attributed to how utterly comfortable a pair is. 


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8. Oxfords

Also known as Balmorals in America, Oxfords refer to formal dress-shoes with closed lacing. The characteristic feature of Oxford shoes is the shoelace eyelets tabs that are sewn under the vamp. You can find Oxfords in a variety of materials, although patent leather is certainly one of the most popular choices. 


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9. Brogues

If you're confused between the previous type and this one, let me clarify it right up. Brogues don't have much to do with the structure of the shoe, rather the term includes any shoe with broguing, even Oxfords. Broguing is a type of pattern in shoe-making, which comprises of decorative perforations or tiny holes on the leather of the shoe, and serrations along the visible edges. So, brogues can include boots, dress shoes and sneakers, as long as they feature the perforated pattern. 


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10. Mules 

With a history dating as far back as ancient Rome, the term mules refers to a style of shoes for women, that come without any back or constraint around the heel of the foot. These close-toed sandals often feature a pointy toe along with a slip-on style, and come in an assortment of materials ranging from leather to canvas to velvet.


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11. Loafers 

Another slip-on shoe type for women, loafers are close-toed with either a low or no heel at all. Loafers encompass a host of construction styles, but you can think of the footwear as a lace-less dress shoe. From Penny loafers to apron loafers and Gucci loafers, there are several sub-categories within this shoe type, and the mule type is one of them.  


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Also Read: Your A To Z Guide To All Kinds Of Handbags For Women


12. Moccasins 

Traditionally made of deerskin or soft leather, moccasins also fall under the slip-on shoe family. The sole of a moccasin is usually soft and flexible and there's no appearance of a heel. The difference between loafers and moccasins lies in the origin and material, with the latter made only from one piece of material entirely, and comprising of characteristic features like prominent soles and decorative laces. 


Image Courtesy - Isotoner


13. Docksides

Traditionally handsewn, docksides are a trendier version of your typical boat shoes. They're used as a pair of casual footwear and were originally brought into popular prominence by American shoe company Sebago. Your classic Docksides feature rawhide laces and non-marking anti-slip soles.


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14. Espadrilles

These are close-toed summer sandals with an esparto rope sole and a canvas or cotton fabric upper. The defining feature of espadrilles that distinguishes it from other close-toed shoe types, is the material its sole is made of, jute fabric. They're super comfy to wear and the jute sole adds to the lightness of the shoe.


Image Courtesy - Florentina Fashion Elegance


15. Clogs

Clogs refer to a type of footwear for women, that's made either fully or partly with wood. Traditionally, wooden clogs were used as protective shoes in agriculture, factories and mines, but today they're worn as stylish work shoes, and feature a leather upper and a wooden sole. They come with an open back and close-toe design, and typically have a slight heel. 


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16. Derby 

Derby shoes are very similar to Oxford shoes, but the difference lies 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 in the case of Derby shoes. 


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Heels For Women


1. Kitten Heels 

A kitten heel refers to a short stiletto heel, usually tapered between 2.5 to 5 centimetres in height. Especially perfect for women who aren't comfortable in high heeled shoes, a pair of kitten heels will feature a slight curve along the instep of the shoe. The name of this shoe is based on what they were originally meant for, training "kittens" or young girls to wear higher heels eventually. 


Image Courtesy - PopSugar


2. Block Heels 

A personal favourite of mine, block heels are the perfect straddling point between comfort and fashion. As the name suggests, these heels are block-shaped and have a broad base, leading to a lot of stability, support and comfort, due to the even distribution of your body weight. The width of the block heels may vary across styles and forms, so there are a lot of options you can take your pick from. 


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3. Platform Heels 

As suggested by the name, the defining characteristic of a pair of platform heels is the heightened plateau at the front of the shoe, in addition to the normal heels. This thicker sole ranging between 3 to 10 cms in height, adds a couple of more inches to the overall height of the shoe, along with some comfortable cushioning for the balls of your feet. 


Image Courtesy - Allie Express


4. Peep-Toe Heels 

The key feature in these type of heels is the small opening or cut at the toe-box, which allows the first two or three toe fingers to be visible. Hence, the name. Peep-toe heels usually come in the form of a pair of pumps with the signature cut-out, although you can get peep-toe boots, sandals and slingbacks as well. 


Image Courtesy - Pinterest


5. Slingback Heels 

This footwear type for women features a thin strap that slings back or crosses behind the heel or the ankle. The strap is attached to the body of the shoe, and about half of it circles around your foot heel, leading to a sturdier grip and walk. 


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6. Wedges 

If you're looking for a heel type that you can wear through the day without collapsing, wedges are definitely an option you should consider. In the case of wedges, you get a heightened piece of material serving both as the sole and the heel, inclining in height towards the heel of your foot. The wedge heel is typically triangularly shaped, and there's no point of separation between the front of the shoe and the elevated heel. 


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7. Stilettos 

The term stiletto refers to a broad category of heels, comprising of footwear with a long, thin and high heel. The height of the heel may vary across types and forms, but is usually at least more than 1 inch and between 3 to 4 inches. Stilettos may include styles such as pumps, peep-toes, strappy sandals or even gladiator heels. 


Image Courtesy - Allie Express


8. Pumps 

Pumps are close-toed heels usually featuring a low-cut front and round cut toes. The difference between a pump heel and a pair of stilettos lies in the heel size, with the former comprising of both lower heels less than 1 inch in height, as well as high heels. 


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9. d'Orsay Pumps

A subcategory of pump heels, the characteristic feature of d'Orsay Pumps is the cut-out sides which reveal the arch of your foot. The side or vamp of the shoe is cut very close to the toe-box in the case of this footwear type for women, and while the d'Orsay usually comes in the form of heels, it can also be a flat shoe. 


Image Courtesy - Lulus


10. Spool Heels 

Originating from the continent of Europe, a spool heel is a heel type that's wider at the top and the bottom, and narrow in the middle. In terms of shape, it looks somewhat like an hourglass, although the bottom width is typically less than the top width of the heel. 


Image Courtesy - Allie Express


11. Ankle Strap Heels 

Again, as suggested by the name, ankle strap heels can be in the form of any heeled-shoe as long as it has a strap around the ankle you can fasten your heels with. There's a lot of variety within this category of heels for women, but the most trending take usually comes in an open-toed sandal form with a wide front strap and a thinner strap with a clasp around the ankle. 


Image Courtesy - Ali Baba


12. Cone Heels 

Yes, the imagery in your head when you say this term out loud is accurate. Triangularly-shaped like ice-cream cones, cone heels start wide at the sole of the shoe, and continue to become narrower towards the end, sometimes ending with a stiletto-like precise point. Cone heels can come in various sizes, and can be used in almost every type of heeled shoe, from pumps to booties. 


Image Courtesy - Office


13. Cork High Heels 

Your guess is right. It simply refers to shoes with heels, and sometimes soles, made of cork material. 


Image Courtesy - Akira 


14. Scarpin Heels 

Scarpin heels are similar to stilettos in look, except the former is thinner, closed and more pointy-toed. They're typically designed for the purpose of elongating your legs, and the heel height varies across styles. 


Image Courtesy - Carmen Steffens


Boots For Women


1. Ankle-Length Boots 

Pretty self-explanatory, these are boots that extend up till the ankles. Most pairs feature a zipline at the side or the back, and they can be in the form of both flats or heels. Ankle-length boots fall under the most commonly chosen winter-shoes for women, and many come with adornments like metallic buckles, patterned leather or studs. 


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2. Lita Boots 

Popularised by the famous shoe brand Jeffrey Campbell, Lita boots are high-heeled ankle-length boots, with a chunky platform sole and a lace-up front. Typically, Lita boots feature broad heels that taper down from the upper of the shoe, such that the width of the bottom end is 2/3rd of the width at the base of the heel. 


Image Courtesy - Pinterest


3. Army Boots / Doc Martens

One of the most popular boot types for women in recent times, these are a trendier version of your typical military boots worn in combat. Brought primarily into the public fashion-eye by the shoe company Dr Martens (hence the alternate name), army boots vary in height from ankle-length to mid-calf, and in some cases thigh-high. 


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4. Wellington Boots 

You know those gumboots we all wore as children during the rainy season? Wellington boots are essentially that, but just more fashion-forward. These are knee-length waterproof boots made of a material like rubber or plastic. The shoe design of Wellington Boots was originally a leather boot, adopted from Hessian boots worn by soldiers in Germany. 


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5. Thigh-High Boots 

Yup, these are boots that extend above the knee and end somewhere at the middle of your thighs. The length may vary from reaching just above the knee to ending near the crotch. They have a zip at the back to seal up the boot with, and may come in various materials ranging from leather to suede. A lot of us may have been introduced to this category of boots by Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman! 


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6. Chelsea Boots 

Very similar to ankle-length boots in looks, the one feature that distinguishes a pair of Chelsea boots is an elastic panel on the side. Most pairs will also have a fabric tab or loop at the back that you can pull on to slip it over your foot. 


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7. Uggs 

My personal grudges against this type of boots for women aside, Uggs have got to be one of the most (in)famous winter footwear choices in recent years, popularised by Tumblr and the original company that made them, namely, UGG. While the judgement of how appealing they look might be best left to subjective interpretation, there's no denying how cosy, warm and comfortable a pair of Uggs can be. 


Image Courtesy - Office


8. Cowgirl Boots 

Surprise surprise, these are riding boots historically worn by cowboys and cowgirls. Modern cowgirl boots are made of suede or leather, and feature a low wide heel, along with embroidery along the body of the boot. Another typical defining feature is the pointed toe design. 


Image Courtesy - Pinterest


9. Wedge Boots 

Varying in height and style, these are boots with elevated wedges at the bottom. 


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Also Read: Here's Your A To Z Guide To Makeup


10. Timberland Boots 

Originally designed as hiking footwear by the iconic shoe company Timberland, these sturdy lace-up boots are now worn for style as much as they are for utility. These are durable and waterproof outdoor shoes, ideal for movement on all kinds of terrains. 


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Athletic Shoes


1. Sneakers 

These shes for women may have been originally meant for easy movement and comfort during physical activities,  but today sneakers have emerged as one of the top choices in casual close-toed shoes. The rise in popularity of sneakers has been parallel with the prominence of athleisure as a trend, and there's a wide variety in the market available, ranging from sturdy sporty shoes to chic casual footwear. The name sneakers is a reference to the rubber sole in this shoe type, that is quiet enough on the ground to sneak up on someone! 


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2. Trainers 

Trainers refer to a category of athletic footwear designed to provide protection, support and balance across a range of physical activities. The distinction between trainers and sneakers lies in the utility of the shoe type, with the former inclining more towards fitness and sports than casual shoes for regular wear. Trainers are suitable for a wide variety of fitness activities like weightlifting, aerobics, training at the gym and running. 


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3. Converse / Chuck Taylors 

I remember how insanely popular all-star shoes were back in the mid-2000s, and in 2020 they continue to be a true classic. Initially designed in the early 20th century to function as basketball shoes, the iconic Converse All-Star evolved to be one of the most adored casual shoes for women, and a legacy sneaker everyone should have a pair of in their shoe closet! 


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4. Running Shoes

As evidenced by the name, these are lightweight athletic shoes designed fundamentally for running. Running shoes come with extra cushioning in the forefoot to absorb landing shock, and are constructed to provide traction on various surfaces as well as protect your feet from the hard ground. 


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5. High-Tops 

High-tops are more of a design type than a shoe type, and all kinds of athletic shoes including sneakers, converse and trainers can be high-tops. The high-top is a shoe that extends slightly above your ankle. A lot of high-tops are worn while playing sports like basketball because of the extra protection around the foot as well as the ankle. 


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Indian Footwear 


1. Juttis 

A gorgeous ethnic footwear type for women, the jutti comes from the Northern parts of the country, primarily the state of Punjab. With a flat sole and a close-front, juttis were traditionally made of leather and adorned with extensive metallic embroidery, although today you can find more modern prints and embellishments in the market. 


Image Courtesy - Pinterest


2. Kolhapuris 

Mostly hand-crafted with leather, a Kolhapuri chappal is a style of open-toed sandals that originated in the Kolhapur district of Maharashtra. These come with a t-shaped strap that starts with a circle around the big toe and ends with a broad strap across the instep. The origin of this ethnic footwear type dates back to the 12th century, and modern renditions include a plethora of materials, embellishments and design types. 


Image Courtesy - Jaypore


3. Padukas

Once upon a time, the paduka was an ancient wooden footwear type in India, comprising of just a sole and a knob engaged between the big and the second toe. Historically, padukas have been linked with religious significance, often worn by Indian Gurus and gifted as part of a bride's dowry. In 2020 however, the paduka is a beautiful ethnic footwear type with an additional broad across strap along with the classic knob. There's no dearth of design options to choose from, with mirror work, tassels and handcrafted leather being amongst the most prominent ones. 


Image Courtesy - In Weave

‘Shoes are the quickest way for women to achieve instant metamorphosis.’ – Manolo Blahnik