10 shoe trends to buy now that you'll wear all next year

These are the biggest shoe trends of 2021—from clompy military boots to dainty kitten heels and fancy flats

Black chunky boots arranged in a pattern on a yellow background with white corner design detail
(Image credit: Getty | Future)

The latest shoe trends are guaranteed to provide a source of fashion inspiration. The last 18 months have seen relaxed clothing trends take center stage as we’ve reached for shoes that deliver on comfort. When it comes to footwear, flat and slipper-like has been the order of the day. 

However, with life slowly returning to normal and socializing firmly back on the agenda, there’s an undeniable appetite for glitz and glamour in the air coming from the best shoe brands.

“I think we’re all in need of a glamorous event or two when hospitality venues fully reopen,” says celebrity stylist Natalie Robinson, who has tipped kitten-heeled mules inspired by Bottega Veneta’s cult Lido style as this season’s party shoe of choice. 

But it’s not all razzle-dazzle. As many of us return to the office in the coming months, everyday functionality remains a key footwear requirement and chunky soles and sturdy lace-ups that can withstand rainy commutes are among the biggest boots trends of 2021.

As well as influencing styles, the global pandemic has also made us think twice about what our shoes are made of. “Increasingly in footwear, an emphasis on sustainability is becoming part of many features”, says Dr Kate Strasdin, Senior Lecturer in Cultural Studies at the Fashion and Textiles Institute of Falmouth University. “Whether shoes are made from Econyl (recycled ocean plastic nylon), reclaimed water bottles or vegan leather, it is all part of the growing awareness of the environmental impact that the fashion and textile industries contribute to.” 

Whether you’ve committed to staying in slippers for the rest of the year, or want to put your best foot forward in something high-heeled and high-octane, 2021’s trending shoes have got you covered. And if you’re looking for your next pair of the best winter boots or weekend sneakers to add to your capsule wardrobe, there’s a style to suit. 

From shearling slip-ons to 70s fashion-inspired disco platforms, these are the 2021 shoe trends to know about.    

1. Combat Boots

When it comes to 2021 boots trends, “the combat boot is here to stay,” says style expert and podcaster Cieja Springer; the question is, did it ever really leave? As a 90s fashion staple, many of us will have a pair at the back of the closet ready to be dusted off–but for those new to the law of combat (boots), it’s worth noting a few 2021-specific aspects before running to your local cobbler. Lug soles, contrast stitching, buckles and laces give a utilitarian that feels just right. 

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Jeffrey Campbell Tough Lug Sole Platform Lace-Up Boots

This quirky pair combines crisp white color with a bright green bottom. It features a polyurethane upper, leather insole, rubber heel, and secure tie closure. Available in one color and women's sizes 6-11.

Jeffrey Campbell Tough Lug Sole Platform Lace-Up Boots at Anthropologie for $175/£126.41

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& Other Stories Lace-Up Leather Boots

Sleek, chic, and chunky—what's not to love? Features a lace-up design, track sole, and leather lining. Available in one color and women's sizes 4-11.

Lace-Up Leather Boots at & Other Stories for $179/£129.30

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Charles & Keith Stitch Detail Combat Boots

Upgrade your closet with these trendy combat boots, offering a lace-up design and snug, comfortable fit. Available in two colors and women's sizes 5-11. 

Stitch Detail Combat Boots at Charles & Keith for $68.40/£49.41

2. The 70s Platform

For those who can feel their heart dancing the night away but find their body still firmly on the sofa, the 70s platform is an ideal stepping-stone shoe. A platform makes higher heels more walkable (read: danceable) and according to Cieja, “the Tom Ford Disco Platform” are among “the shoes of the moment." Just make sure, for platforms, to know how shoes are supposed to fit.

While Ford’s retro heels come with a hefty price tag, there are plenty of high street syles which promise to put a spring in your step without lighting a fire in the balls of your feet. Team with midi dresses or use to dress up your favorite jeans.  

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UO Rachel Gingham Strappy Platform Heel

Thanks to timeless gingham print, this heel pairs nicely with casual and upscale ensembles. It features soft cotton upper with textile flocking, a lightly padded insole, and a rubber outsole, plus an ankle buckle closure. Available in women's sizes 6-10.

 • UO Rachel Gingham Strappy Platform Heel at Urban Outfitters for $59/£42.62

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Anthropologie Loeffler Randall Gina Platform Sandals

Elevate your shoe game with these retro-inspired sandals, boasting a vintage edge that'll complement your best jeans and classic silhouettes. Available in three colors and women's sizes 6-10.

 • Loeffler Randall Gina Platform Sandals at Anthropologie for $425/£307

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Free People Dani Platform Wedge

The Dani Platform embodies '70s fashion, naturally making a bold statement wherever you go. With a comfortable open-toe design, these chunky wedges slip on easily and fit like a disco dream. Available in one color and women's sizes 5-10.

Dani Platform Wedge at Free People for $188/£178

3. Kitten-Heel Mules

On that note, the kitten-heel is back–and so is the mule. Two trends you might remember from the 80s fashion era, for 2021 that nostalgia is dialed up to 11 with both styles combined in a single shoe. While that might sound like overkill, the slip-on nature of a mule diffuses the formality of its kitten heel companion; arguably, the duo are something of a match made in shoe-heaven and work with all body shapes.

The kitten heel itself taps into the prevailing ambivalence that characterizes fashion in 2021–offered glamour or comfort, we keep shouting “both!” and this elegant yet comfortable heel is a case in point. Further down the foot, pointed toes are appearing on kitten-heel mules by everyone from Manolo Blahnik to Balenciaga (warmer than an open toe for the cooler months), but the high street is heaving with affordable options. Pair with ankle grazing trousers, soft socks and inner calm, knowing you’re doing both your fashion cred and your feet a favor. 

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  • ASOS—best for color-pop styles
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ASOS DESIGN Sunshine Leather Kitten Heels

Slip-on in style with the iconic Sunshine Leather Kitten Heels, a pair that's suitable for work and leisure. It features a square toe, open back, and low point heel, the best shoes for flat feet. Available in one color and women's sizes 4-11.

• ASOS DESIGN Sunshine Leather Kitten Heels at ASOS for $64/£45

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Mango Sling Back Leather Shoes

You can't go wrong with these classic sling-back shoes, made sustainably with authentic leather. Choose from three colors, along with women's sizes 6-9.5. 

• Mango Sling Back Leather Shoes at Mango for $119/£85.96

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Dune London Millies

Revive your banal attire with the Millies mules, which integrate plaited straps, subtle stitching, and a supportive mid-heel. Available in two colors and women's sizes 5-10. 

Dune London Millies at Dune London for $125/£90.29  

4. Fancy Flats

As high heels were kicked off in March 2020, sighs of relief and wails of regret could both be heard beneath the din. Entering A/W 2021, a shoe trend to marry those warring tribes has finally emerged: the fancy flat, ideal for evenings and brimming with prettiness all without a stiletto in sight. Silhouettes vary but are reliably strong, whether it’s a pixie-worthy pointed toe or a squared-off shape. Slingbacks are a great option for those who want a shoe that feels delicate but still wearable; elsewhere stud embellishments are hot property, with everyone from Louboutin to Valentino plastering their 2021 shoe collections with delightfully no-nonsense hardware. 

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Zara Sparkly Slingback Flats

The perfect statement shoe—decorated with stunning glitter and a pointed toe. Available in two colors and women's sizes 5-11.

Sparkly Slingback Flats at Zara for $59.90/£43.27


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Anthropologie Farylrobin Amaral Mules

Topped with a whimsical bow, these mules will add some extra oomph to your current shoe repertoire. Available in two colors and women's sizes 5.5-11.

Farylrobin Amaral Mules at Anthropologie for $89.95/£64.98

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Marks & Spencer Leather Leopard Print Square Toe Pumps

Unlike traditional leopard shoes, these pumps leverage Insolia Flex, a component known to reduce pain and discomfort. Available in one color and women's sizes 4-11.

Leather Leopard Print Square Toe Pumps at Marks & Spencer for $77.50/55.98

5. Chunky Loafers

Citing chunky loafers among this year’s shoe trends to watch, stylist Natalie might have been watching the runways of any number of fashion houses from Givenchy to Proenza Schouler—certainly, the chunky loafer has come blazing through the door of 2021’s shoe trends and made itself at home. Take Prada’s iteration: built like a tank, equal parts space-age and school-days, this season’s loafers are gleefully preppy and unapologetically practical. Pair with a floral midi skirt to confound that aesthetic or lean into it with opaque black tights and high hemlines as temperatures drop. Chosen well and treated right, these are shoes that will last and last: have some fun but avoid gimmicks to ensure a style’s longevity. 

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H&M Chunky Loafers

Just because they're affordable, doesn't mean they're low-grade. These imitation-leather loathers are embellished with a gold metal chain, satin linings, and chunky soles. Available in one color and women's sizes 5-8.

Chunky Loafers at H&M for $34.60/£24.99

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Porte & Paire Leather Loafers 

With a bit of a raised heel in the back, these loafers blend form and function with enough stability at the base to go from the office to cobblestone streets without fear.

• Chunky Loafers at Net-A-Porter for $295/£245

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Tod's Patent-leather Loafers

Indulge in luxury with these patent-leather loafers—a testament to quality craftsmanship. This pair is handmade at the brand's Italian workshop and stamped with a monogram above the classic penny slot.

Tod's Patent-leather Loafers at MyTheresa for $645/£465.92

6. Outdoor Slippers

A distinctly post-lockdown phenomenon, one of 2021’s most unique trends has to be the outdoor slipper; here, comfort reigns supreme without a skerrick of compromise when it comes to style. On the contrary, coziness is a visual feature as well as a tactile one: think shearling and quilting, which look as great as they feel. According to Dr Kate, the outdoor-slipper vibe is making its own waves with Gen Z; “different colored Crocs with customized charms added to them is certainly something I am seeing as a mother of teenagers,” she notes. 

Luckily, there are plenty of grown-up options that capture the micro-trend’s spirit. Think Birkenstock-style sandals and flat clogs, mules and sliders, all as easy to wear as they are lavishly louche–and yes, you can pair them with socks when it gets chilly. Stick to luxe cashmere and chunky wool and wear with pride.

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Birkenstock Arizona Wool Felt Shoe

The Arizona Wool Felt pair is the brand's signature classic, featuring adjustable straps for a personalized fit. Enjoy cozy, fluffy wool for the wintertime. Available in two colors and women's sizes 4-12.5.

Arizona Wol Felt Shoe at Birkenstock for $99.95/£72.20

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Swedish Hasbeens Dagny Clogs

The Dagny Clogs reconcile comfort with trend appeal, expertly crafted by the leading shoe label, Swedish Hasbeens. Features a chunky wood heel, rubber sole, and slip-on design. Available in various styles and women's sizes 5.5-10.

Swedish Hasbeens Dagny Clogs at Anthropologie for $330/£238.38

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Reiss Amhurst Leather Slider Sandals

A crisp, clean pair that'll never go out of style. Features a cross design, along with cushioned and chunk soles. Available in two colors and women's sizes 5-10.

Amhurst Leather Slider Sandals at Reiss for $275/£198.65

7. Stacked Heels

Hot on the heels (sorry) of platforms, podcaster Cieja noted that, “stacked heels are making a quiet comeback for 2021". One of the year’s most versatile trends and harking back to its 2000s fashion heyday, the stacked heel is in evidence across boots and shoes too. Taking its name from the technique of stacking blocks of material, often wood, to form a heel, the resulting style is often chunky rather than slender. Cowboy boots are a classic example and while they’re well and truly in style for 2021, stacked heels are finding new homes in mules and high sandals too. Try circular or teardrop stacks for a minimalist but distinctly modern twist on a classic: less yee-haw, more ooh lala. 

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DUOBOOTS Harper Knee-High Boots

Coming in three neutral shades, these stretchy boots will complement a variety of silhouettes in your capsule wardrobe. Available in women's sizes 5-12.

Harper Knee-High Boots at DUOBOOTS for $247/£178.42

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COS Heeled Leather Mules

If you're on the hunt for fall-time fashion staples, look no further. These leather mules are the ideal companion to your best denim jackets (and more!). Available in one color and women's sizes 5-11.

Heeled Leather Mules at COS for $175/£126.41

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Matisse Caty Western Boots

Couple your best cashmere sweaters with these bold boots, featuring a stacked leather heel, pointed toe, and Western-style flair. Available in five colors and women's sizes 6-10.

Matisse Caty Western Boots at Anthropologie for $200/£144.47

8. Luxe Rain Boots

Luxe rain boots might sound chi-chi, but really we’re talking posh wellies – aka your best friend as soon as autumn closes in, thank me later. Think robust ankle-length and knee-high styles made from splash-proof materials that can withstand the worst of the weather. But they deliver on style factor too, coming in classic Chelsea and Wellington shapes that can be worn with a smart dress, or under tailored trousers for wet morning commutes. Team with jeans and a sweater for the ultimate weather-resistant weekend look. The designers leading the way are Chloé with its Betty style and Bottega Veneta’s via the fabulously-named Puddle boots. Practically indestructible, these are boots that will endure and endure.

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Ganni Recycled Rubber Chelsea Boots

The eco-chic boots you've always wanted, made from a blend of recycled rubber and materials. Available in one color and women's sizes 5-11.

Recycled Chelsea Boots at Ganni for $245/£176.98

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Hunter Women's Refined Stitch Detail Chelsea Boots

These chunky boots are fully waterproof against the elements, backed by smart design features that bring comfort and support. Available in three colors and women's sizes 5-11.

Women's Refined Stitch Detail Chelsea Boots at Hunter for $123/£88.85

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Chloé Betty Logo-Embossed Rubber Boots

Don't let a little rain ruin a solid outfit for the day. These statement boots from Chloé look great rain or shine, but the rubber coating shirks any errant moisture. Just maybe avoid the muddy puddles in these best you can. 

• Women's rain boots at Net-A-Porter for $495/£370

9. The Statement Sneaker

Be they classic Reeboks or color-pop styles from cult sustainable brand Veja (a favorite of the Duchess of Cambridge), 2021’s sneakers are dominating this season. Nike’s Reacts, for instance, come in three colorways each with wow-factor.

Whatever you choose, pair your statement sneaker with something unexpected for maximum impact. If you’d normally wear your running shoes with running pants, try them with a silk skirt; if you’d normally match the sneaker to the outfit, opt for clashing colors instead. As irreverent as it is practical, this is a trend that unites the fashion-initiates and the die-hard aesthetes too. As such, and if you’ve only got the bandwidth for one trend this year, make it the statement sneaker. 

WHERE TO SHOP

  • Nike—for sporty styles
  • Reebok—for retro styles
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Nike React Vision Women's Shoes

The React Visions are one of the best Nike running shoes, incorporating layered textures, intricate lines and vivid colors. Whenever you pound on pavement, the React Foam cushions feet and minimizes pressure. Available in three styles and women's sizes 5-10.

React Vision Women's Shoes at Nike for $76.97/£55.60

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Veja V-10 Suede Multico Natural Babe Shoes

An '80s-inspired pastel sneaker—bound to revive even the most basic of best t-shirts in your closet. Available in one color and women's sizes 4-10.

V-10 Suede Multico Natural Babe Shoes at Veja for $150/£108.35

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Reebok Club C 85 Vintage Shoes Shoes

Reebok's signature sneaker is undeniably simple—just how we like it. The pair integrates a leather upper, EVA midsole for lightweight support, and removable EVA foam sock liners. Available in two colors and women's sizes 9.5-14.5.

Club C 85 Vintage Shoes at Reebok for $80/£57.79

10. Ballet Pumps

The most essential of all essentials, a ballet pump is a perennial in any capsule wardrobe worth its salt. This season is no exception; if you’re in the market for a ballet pump, French Sole are one company who have truly mastered their craft. Try a low-cut vent for a flatteringly elongating effect, and an unexpected material or color for a personalized take on a timeless footwear option. 

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Boden Hettie Flexi Ballerinas

A versatile slip-on pump with a padded insole, flexible sole, and elasticated trim. Available in four colors and women's sizes 5-10. They're one step away from finding the best sandals for women.

Hettie Flexi Ballerinas at Boden for $98/£70.79

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French Sole Amelie Leopard Ballet Flats

Elegant ballet flats with a classic leopard print made of synthetic hair leather. This pair also features a medium-high vamp and inner sole cushioning for extra comfort. Available in four colors and women's sizes 5-10. 

Amelie Leopard Hair Leather at French Sole for $155.74/£112.50


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Pretty Ballerinas The Rosario Flat

The ultimate ballerina pumps with rich color, thoughtful design, and unrivaled support. This ruby-red pair features suede with a rubber sole, leather insole, and textile lining. Available in multiple styles and women's sizes 5-10.

The Rosario Ballerina at Pretty Ballerinas for $229/£165.42

Emily Watkins
Emily Watkins

Emily Watkins is a culture journalist living and working in London. Emily writes for publications including the i, the Independent, Grazia and WhyNow.