Womens Shoes

A guide to women's footwear, from heels to sandals

According to a report from Reuters in the late 2000s, the average woman has 19 pairs of shoes. With so many types available -- not to mention the colors and styles -- is it really any wonder?

Unlike men's shoes, which generally come in three types -- runners, dress shoes, and sandals -- women's shoes can include heels of various heights, be open- or close-toed, and have various other style features (straps, buckles, zippers, etc.).

Women's Dress Shoes

Perhaps the most common type of women's dress shoe is the high heel, but even this can be divided into several subtypes ranging from kitten heels to stilettos. A popular compromise for women who want the elevation and leg-elongating properties of a high heel without the accompanying balance trouble and with a little more arch support is the wedge heel. Block heels also provide greater stability with the added height. Many styles of women's boots also have heels and are designed for wear with formal and professional outfits, not just in inclement weather.

Of course, not all women need or want to wear high heels, and with the strain they create for the ankles, knees, and lower back, there are plenty of good arguments for a dressy pair of flats. As with heels, though, flats provide an array of options for color, style, and embellishments. Throughout the 1990s and 2000s, as workplace dress codes relaxed and women everywhere began seeking comfort as well as style, brands like Birkenstock and Clarks became popular for their foot-hugging, arch-supporting sandals and open-backed dress shoes.

Casual Women's Footwear

When it comes to casual footwear, women's sandals offer all kinds of fun styles, colors, and embellishments. Espadrilles, flip-flops, clogs, T-straps....the list goes on and on. Although traditionally flat, sandals -- at least for those for women -- have evolved to include heels and wedges, blurring the line between sandal and dress shoe.

A good pair of running shoes or cross-trainers will protect the feet, ankles, knees, and back during physical activity, whether that's hitting the gym or just running errands.

What to Look for in a Shoe

While many women want style in their shoes, and rightly so, support is also essential. We spend almost two-thirds of our day in our shoes, so they have to be comfortable. More importantly, our feet bear the weight of our entire body, so our shoes need to support them in doing so. Cramped toes, lack of arch support, and yes, high heels, keep our feet from working as they're naturally designed to do. If you do choose a pair of shoes that aren't particularly supportive, limit walking in them, and take them off as soon as possible. The best thing for your feet is still being unencumbered.