Wardrobe Oxygen: Fall Fashion Footwear Trends – Splurge or Save?


While I believe you can find quality at any price point, I also believe that some things are worth the money. While you can save for some pieces for your wardrobe, for others it makes sense to invest money in a quality piece. When fall arrives, many a woman dreams of tall leather boots and stacked heel loafers.

Here’s a list of what shoes you can splurge on knowing they will be worth the money, and what styles of shoes you should save on: Tall leather boots – SPLURGE. A classic pair of tall leather boots can give you years and years of style. If you take the time to buy a pair that fits comfortably and is made of quality leather and construction, you could easily be wearing these boots for a decade or more. I bought a pair of leather boots five years ago and still wear them at least once a week year-round. Since they are made of leather, they stretch to fit the leg perfectly, they can be conditioned and cleaned to maintain a great appearance, can be re-heeled and resoled to keep them feeling and looking like new.

This doesn’t mean you should spend your entire paycheck on a pair of tall leather boots, but it does mean you want to buy quality. With a pair of footwear that takes up so much real estate on your body, choosing cheap leather or obvious pleather, poor construction, and cheap detailing will be extremely obvious and detract from the rest of your ensemble. Look for sales, buy in the off-season, get on the mailing lists for your favorite brands, stalk eBay and use sites like Savings.com to get the latest coupons and deals for retailers.

Heeled loafers – SAVE. Heeled loafers are the hot shoe style for this fall. A modern and feminine take on the classic men’s loafer, they have a thick stacked heel and often also have a platform sole. Whether they are in classic black or cognac, or a fun color like red, they are a great shoe style to update your wardrobe…but they are not a wardrobe staple. While they may still be stylish next year, heeled loafers aren’t a trend that will turn into a classic.

While one should put care and thought into all shoe purchases and never purchase shoes that are uncomfortable, hard to walk in, or are poorly constructed, heeled loafers can be purchased at lower prices an still get the same sartorial effect. I am a fan of discount stores like DSW where you can get trendy styles for less; Target also does an amazing job at translating current shoe trends for far less.

Inclement weather footwear – SAVE. While fashion bloggers and glossy magazines would make one believe that you MUST have Hunter boots to be chic on a rainy day, nothing could be further from the truth. If you purchase simple rain and snow boots in subtle colors and classic silhouettes, you can spend far less and still maintain much style.

Rain and snow boots can be found at most any price points, and are always available on sale at the end of each season. I have also found perfectly functioning and stylish rain boots at big box retailers like Walmart for a fraction of the price of popular department store brands. Again, consider places like eBay where people offload their gently used inclement weather footwear at amazing prices.

Classic pumps – SPLURGE. I believe that every woman needs a classic pair of black pumps–smooth leather, simple heel around 2″ tall, almond or slightly pointed toe, no adornments. These can be worn for a job interview, a wedding, a funeral, a convention, a cocktail party. Just as with the leather boots, if you purchase quality and maintain your shoes, a pair of classic pumps can give you miles of style. I have a pair of black leather pumps that I have owned for a decade and they still look chic.

This is a type of shoe that needs to be wearable and comfortable for hours on end, and this is rarely something you can find for $19.99. A softer leather will conform to your foot, a padded footbed will provide necessary cushioning, a properly set heel will be far more comfortable than one that is off even by a centimeter. Again, no need to blow your savings on a pair, but seek out quality and comfort, and then seek out coupons, deals and sales to get the pumps at the perfect price.

Novelty heels – SAVE. I am thinking of red satin strappy heels to go with your LBD, the gold sandals you are asked to wear with your bridesmaid dress, the blue sequined heels to match your New Years dress. Those shoes that make the outfit…but will be lucky to be worn a handful of times in a year…or a lifetime.

When I got married, my bridesmaids found shoes at DSW that perfectly matched their bronze-colored gowns, but cost a fraction of the price of shoes available at the bridal boutique. As a bride, I bought a pair of hot pink silk strappy heels decorated with rhinestones to accent my ivory silk gown; my wedding colors were orange and pink and well… these shoes were around $20 at a department store clearance sale. I have worn those shoes once since–on my honeymoon with a pair of white capris and a printed camisole. I have a pair of Pucci-inspired print heels that I bought on eBay for $25–they can make the simplest ensembles suddenly look fun and whimsical, but they only get worn a couple times each year.

Shoes can completely transform or make an ensemble, but if it’s not a style or color that can be regularly worn, it doesn’t make sense to invest a lot of your hard-earned money into shoes that won’t get a lot of face time in your daily life. These sorts of shoes aren’t worn for long periods of time, and the novelty of them overshadow details like cheaper fabrication.

Daily shoes – SPLURGE. I have a pair of black ankle booties that I purchased last winter; they are Cole Haan and were $150 on sale. The idea of spending that much on a simple shoe that is virtually invisible with my work trousers made me feel a bit ill…that was until I considered how much I had spent over the years on similar shoes.

At the beginning of each fall, I would pick up a pair of black ankle boots from Payless or a similar discount shoe retailer — they would be a trendy silhouette and a wallet-friendly price. Over the fall and winter, these shoes would slowly fall apart–the zipper may break, the pleather over the plastic heel would peel off, and the shoes would leave my feet throbbing by the end of the work day. I realized I was spending $20 – $50 each fall on shoes that went to the landfill come spring. It made more sense financially to purchase a pair of daily shoes that not only would survive more than one season, but also save my soles.

I did my research, reading online reviews and trying on many styles and brands. Once I realized what style I wanted, I searched for the lowest price. The cooler temperatures have arrived, and I have already worn my Cole Haan booties a couple times this year. They still look like new, fit great, and feel amazing. With regular polishing and re-heeling when necessary, I know I won’t need to buy a replacement pair for many seasons to come.

Daily shoes may be a pair of walking shoes, hiking boots, sneakers, or pumps. Your feet work hard all day, it’s worth it for your health as well as your style to invest in your daily footwear.

Ballet flats – SAVE. Ballet flats are a great shoe trend–they are simple, a break from heels, can be tucked into your bag to pull out for your commute, look great with everything from circle skirts to skinny jeans. A simple black pair can be worn with work trousers or denim, a novelty print like glitter or leopard print can add whimsy to an otherwise staid ensemble.

If ballet flats are your daily shoe, by all means invest in a pair that is well-crafted, supportive and comfortable for hours on end. However if ballet flats are your weekend shoe or your commuter shoe, there’s no need to spend a lot on them. You can find adorable and stylish ballet flats at most any price point; I love Old Navy for adorable flats in fun prints and fabrics. I have also scored gorgeous flats at Target that rival more expensive brands in regard to style. If you choose classic silhouettes and steer clear of any adornments that make them look as though they are trying to replicate a designer brand (for example no gold discs on the top–no matter how cute they will look like a Tory Burch copy), no one will know if you paid $10 or $100 for your ballet flats.

Alison Gary has over ten years experience as a personal shopper, stylist, and visual merchandiser. Her blog Wardrobe Oxygen provides fashion advice to all women, regardless of age, size, budget, or lifestyle. She is a full-time working mother, blogger, wife, and frugal fashionista located in the Washington D.C. area.

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  1. ChuckG

    3 years ago

    I bought a pair of Ralph Lauren leather boots and they lasted forever, not on sale either. I loved those boots.

  2. SavingsIQ

    3 years ago

    i love tall leather boots. i’ve got 4 pairs. : )

    what goes with cream ballet flats?

  3. AlisonGary

    3 years ago

    Cream is a great neutral, would look great with browns and khakis, denim, black or gray, or an accent to colors like teal and red!

  4. SavingsIQ

    3 years ago

    teal and cream, perfect! thx!

  5. klafave

    3 years ago

    i love the tall boots i just dont like the skinny jeans to wear with them

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