5 Pairs of Shoes Every Woman Should Have In Her Closet

Different types of shoes (flats, sneakers, heels, and workout shoes) float in front of a purple background.

Giovanna Chung/KCM

For all your everyday needs — from job interviews to weekend hikes!

Most of us love shopping for shoes, but a lot of the time, our collections may veer toward one genre of shoe, so to speak. Maybe you have a huge collection of running shoes so that you can easily head for a morning workout on your closest trail, but you have nothing to wear to a fall farmhouse wedding. Maybe you gave up on heels while working at home during the pandemic (hey, you’re not alone!) but are now concerned that your overabundance of flats may feel a little blah. Or maybe you always forget to invest in a good pair of boots and are not sure where to find a dependable, cute option in time for autumn.

But where can you get started on filling in those irritating gaps? Shoe shopping at the mall can be a bit of a headache, especially since department stores aren’t what they used to be. And online retailers like Zappos boast millions of options from many different brands, so sometimes simply closing your browser and ignoring the problem can seem easier than getting started. And those ads on social media can be pesky, annoying, and hard to trust.

To help you sort through the chaos (and avoid going barefoot), we’ve thrown together a handy list of all of our favorite basic, classic pairs that will suit a variety of needs. Consider it a capsule wardrobe of footwear. Plus, we’ve arranged our recommendations into categories so that you can head straight to the shoe you need most. From comfy heels (they do exist!) that you can wear out on the dance floor to casual sneakers that you can pair with loungewear on your next long flight, we’ve scoured the internet to dig up the most reliable options. We’ve relied on some of our old favorite brands, too — including Everlane, Adidas, and Steve Madden. Once you’ve acquired one shoe (or more!) in all five categories on this list, your footwear collection will be complete!

The 5 Pairs of Shoes Every Woman Should Have in Her Closet

Comfortable heels

At one point in your life, having many pairs of heels made sense. And the more uncomfortable, the more appealing…for some sick reason. Now, a leaner shoe collection is the goal, so a pair or two of heels is perfectly fine. And beauty is not pain. So go for a comfy, practical pair that’s stylish and versatile, great for dressing up a brunch outfit or pairing with wedding guest attire.

Aerosoles Cosmos Heels


If you’re in need of a good pair of comfy dress shoes, look no further than this versatile pair of Aerosoles heels. Coming in a variety of colors (including some metallics!), these kicks boast a sturdy block heel that will support your foot. If you hate that comfortable heels tend to look…orthopedic, you’ll appreciate that the delicate crossover straps keep this pair from looking hefty and ungainly. With a 2.5-inch lift, you’ll feel a nice boost without having to teeter-totter around. 

Buy Here: $135

Clarks Teresa Step Pump


For a comfy low pump that you can wear for hours, try out this Teresa Step Pump. Need a little bit of extra softness? It has “underfoot cushioning” that will cradle your feet. At just $70, this shoe is a relative steal. Plus, it’s got a five-star rating. What’s not to love?

Buy Here: $70

Everlane Italian Leather Buckle Heel


Everlane’s Italian leather buckle heel is an eco-friendly heel to wear out to a professional event, dinner party, or happy hour. Made of 100 percent recycled leather, this pair will give you a 2-inch lift. Reviewers consistently gush that these heels are comfortable and look great in any situation — whether dressed down with jeans or dressed up with linen and silk.

Buy Here: $80

Casual sneakers

It’s sometimes surprisingly easy to overlook a decent sneaker. A lot of them seem too flashy to go with an everyday outfit, and it’s totally normal to ignore the comfort of a sneaker in favor of a pretty heel. But we all need a comfortable walking shoe — for everyday errand-running, traveling, you name it. We’ve compiled a list of neutral pairs that will carry you through life while also ensuring that you look marvelously put together.

Cariuma OCA Low Sneakers


If you’re looking for a basic sneaker that will pull together a casual weekend outfit, look no further than Cariuma’s low sneakers. Easy to slip on and off, these shoes come in a wide range of colors (go for the pink lemonade shade if you really want your feet to pop!). And if you absolutely hate breaking in shoes (who doesn’t?) one reviewer has exciting news for you: “No break in time — they were comfortable on day one.”

Buy Here: $80

ABLE Emmy Sneakers


We love how a little leather can suddenly class up any situation — and it seems like ABLE agrees with us. Their Emmy sneaker features a deep, brown leather detail that beautifully contrasts the rest of the shoe. If you’re worried about support, one reviewer reassures us that these are a great choice: “So often, cute shoes aren’t supportive enough for me. These shoes are so comfortable and supportive, I can wear them out for a full day. No breaking in, no blisters! If you are on the fence, go for it!” Plus, this pair has a very special celebrity endorsement: Our very own style icon Katie Couric loves these sneakers because they’re cute and comfortable.

Buy Here: $88

Steve Madden Charlie Platform Sneaker


Katie agrees: Platform sneakers are in. If you’re craving a height boost while still maintaining comfort, Steve Madden’s platform sneaker will provide 1.5 inches of lift. Plus, they’ve got a jagged sole to add just a little bit of edge without going overboard. Made of synthetic leather for an especially sleek look, these sneakers are an excellent choice for anyone who envies the Alexander McQueen kicks but doesn’t want to shell out quite that much money.

Buy Here: $75

Versatile flats

A good flat is essential to a capsule shoe wardrobe — flats are elegantly dressy but lack the notorious discomfort (read: pain) of heels. When compiling this list, we looked for durable flats in a variety of simple styles. And by simple we definitely don’t mean frumpy — we’re talking suede, leather, and (machine washable!) eucalyptus tree fiber.

Birdies Heron Flats


Feeling European? These Heron Flats were inspired by the shoes worn by generations of Venetian gondoliers. We like to think of them as a little dash of Italy without spending oodles of cash on a vacation. They’re crafted from suede for a soft, luxurious look. If you’re returning to the office and need a strong transition shoe, consider these. This pair gets bonus points for the selection of soft, warm, seasonal colors.

Buy Here: $130

Allbirds Tree Breezers


It’s no secret that flats take a beating. That’s why we’re so happy to have found these machine washable Tree Breezers. Along with being easy to clean, they’re also undeniably chic and versatile. They’re perfect for a Sunday morning farmer’s market stroll but can also be dressed up for a fancy dinner out. One reviewer also prefers them in professional contexts: “Perfect work shoes when you don’t want to wear heels and want to be cute and comfortable!”

Buy Here: $100

Sam Edelman Lior Loafer


For the loafer-lovers among us, we haven’t forgotten you! These loafers have a simple design with a unique touch of metal hardware to keep things a little sassy. Reviewers say they’re comfortable, easy to toss in a suitcase, and perfect to wear to work. If you’re hoping to gain a bit of clout (no shame if you are!), one reviewer assures us “even my uber stylish 21 year old son said they looked cool.”

Buy Here: $110-$150

All-season boots

Boots speak for themselves: They help achieve an effortlessly cool look that’s subway-ready, but they can still be dressed up at the drop of a hat. Since you’re trying to pare down your shoes to just the essentials, we’ve focused on Goldilocks boots: Not too high, not too flat, not too casual, not too formal. But just right.

Nisolo Everyday Ankle Bootie


You can wear ankle booties year round, but we truly believe that fall is official bootie season. If you’re already looking ahead to transition into cozy sweaters and jeans, these booties will be your new best friend. Made of waterproof leather, they feature a v-cut that make pulling these on a total dream: Designed for those of us who hate a complicated lace or buckle procedure early in the morning, 

Buy Here: $200

Caslon Miller Water Resistant Chelsea Boot


If you like a stronger, more masculine silhouette, these lug-soled chelsea boots will be your next go-to. This pair has a trendy utilitarian appeal that is streetwear ready without looking too industrial. Reviewers say that these boots are perfectly comfortable without sacrificing style: “Pros: stylish, easy to wipe off, keeps your feet warm and dry, super comfortable, platform keeps the leather upper from getting dirty. Cons: None. Buy them!” Not convinced? They’re also a favorite among Wake-Up Call readers, and we know you all have the best taste. 

Buy Here: $100

Vagabond Marja Cap Toe Bootie


If you’re seeking a super sophisticated pointy boot (that doesn’t veer into total elf territory) this cap toe set will have you stepping out in style. Commerce editor Katie P. has had these boots for years, and they’ve proven to be a wardrobe staple for her. They’ve weathered NYC winters without noticeable scuffs or salt stains, and they’re cute enough to wear in the summer with sundresses, too.

Buy Here: $185

Trustworthy walking/workout shoes

When it comes to workout shoes, many of us have to admit that we’ve relied on a dusty old pair of New Balances for far too long. The good news is that when choosing workout shoes, you truly only need to invest in one solid pick. We suggest you upgrade with one of these well-cushioned shoes — all of them have great arch support and one pair is Katie and John-approved.

Hoka Clifton 8


When searching for workout shoes, it can be hard to figure out whether you should prioritize style or arch support. Well…why not both? These Clifton 8 shoes are perfectly light (thanks to the mesh top) and soft, but are still colorful and eye-catching. Plus, they provide all the support you need to get hiking, running, or walking — take it from one reviewer: “I’ve had ankle surgery and knee surgery, so I take my shoes very seriously. I didn’t think something so cushy and light would stay supportive, but they all do!”

Buy Here: $140

On Running Cloud 5 Running Shoe


Meet your new everyday sneaker! Some of us desire a running shoe that can also be used for travel, errand running, or just puttering around the house. These Cloud 5 running shoes are described as a hybrid running/lifestyle shoe that can help you easily transition from a good workout to a relaxing afternoon at the salon (or wherever your feet may take you). Take it from Katie and John, who wear them everywhere. 

Buy Here: $140

Adidas Duramo 10 Running Sneaker


Since the 1980s (or even earlier), we’ve trusted Adidas as a classic, reliable brand — so we couldn’t leave them off this list. Their Duramo 10 running sneaker has that sleek Adidas look combined with cushioning and plenty of arch support. Don’t believe us? One buyer leaves this glowing review: “I have arthritis from an autoimmune disease in my feet. They feel better since buying these shoes.”

Buy Here: $65