5 Comfortable Fall Shoe Trends Podiatrists Actually Recommend

Close-up of woman pulling up crew socks paired with red Carel heeled Mary Jane shoes

@carelparis / Instagram

Peak fall is upon us, and I couldn't be happier about the reprieve from the heat—but while draping myself in cozy sweaters is my favorite fall wardrobe pastime, shoes have my heart (and wallet). When wearing sky-high stilettos or other statement shoes, I often hear fabulous women in my life say: "Count your days in those," and I can't say if it's working from home, mainly wearing sneakers these days, age, or all of the above that made me start to look at my shoes differently. I love my stilettos, but I can only wear them for a couple of hours max these days—which is why seeing flats, wedges, kitten heels, and even Mary Janes in this season's fall shoe lineup is such a treat. Fashion-forward yet comfortable shoe trends are something we can all get behind, so we spoke to podiatrists to get their recommendations. Keep reading for the five best fall shoe trends that keep your feet comfortable without sacrificing style.

Meet the Expert

  • Marion Parke is a podiatric surgeon and footwear designer. Her eponymous brand has offered a range of aesthetically pleasing yet comfortable shoes since 2015.
  • Mireille Blanchette, DPM, is a New Jersey-based, triple-board-certified podiatrist and the founder of Comprehensive Foot and Ankle Care, which offers a variety of medical and cosmetic services.

How to Choose Comfortable Shoes

Before we all invest in heels lower than our norm, podiatrist-turned-footwear designer Marion Parke says that finding comfortable footwear isn't solely about heel height. "A shoe can also be "too flat" and put excess strain on the plantar fascia or Achilles tendon, resulting in plantar fasciitis or Achilles tendonitis," she tells Byrdie. "I think many of us have worn flats that have been excruciating and have also managed to wear a high heel for several hours."

Other factors, such as the placement of adornments and how often you wear a given pair of shoes, matter as well—more on this later. With this information in mind, we've rounded up five of this fall's most comfortable shoe trends, coupled with podiatrist-led guidance throughout.

The Most Comfortable Fall Shoe Trends

Pointed-Toe Kitten Heels

Close-up of Devon Lee Carlson and friends' feet wearing pointed-toe slingback kitten heel shoes

@devonleecarlson / Instagram

This season, kitten heels are making their mark in every form, from boots to slingbacks—and they're often more comfortable than flats. "If someone has what we call a "flexible" flat foot, then a shoe that is overly flexible and soft, while sounding nice, will actually lead to soreness and fatigue after extended periods of weight bearing," Parke shares. "A little bit of a heel, even a half-inch, will reduce the tension on the plantar fascia and Achilles tendon relative to a flat." I used to make fun of kitten heels, but this year, I purchased my first pair—embellished Prada mules I snagged on sale at Nordstrom. I've worn them every chance I've gotten because they make a stylish statement, plus my feet aren't screaming at me when I take them off.

Before investing in a pair of pointed-toe kitten heels, remember that fit is crucial. Triple-board-certified podiatrist and foot and ankle surgeon Mireille Blanchette, DPM, says that ill-fitting shoes can cause issues to the forefoot ranging from corns and calluses to Morton's neuroma and bunions. "Corns and calluses are most commonly seen at the toes," she says. "It can be between the toes or on the outside of the little toe caused by rubbing and pressure point." To avoid issues, ensure your forefoot is comfortable and not experiencing any rubbing or added pressure, as Blanchette tells us Morton's neuroma—an inflammation on a nerve in your feet—is exacerbated by tight shoes.

Bows

Close-up of model holding pair of white slingback kitten heels with bow detail

@machandmach / Instagram

I still dream about the bows from my childhood, as my mom accessorized my sister and me with them every chance she got. While the idea of wearing anything with a bow might feel childish to some, the bow-embellished shoes of today have some major versatility, with many embodying coquette or quiet luxury energy—and given their detail nature, you can definitely find comfortable shoes with a bow. As we search for the perfect bow-adorned shoes that fit our style, we can all remember that one pair with the strap that left a mark (or two). Parke says to pay attention to the placement of adornments like straps, buckles, and zippers, explaining that "[an adornment] placed 1-2mm differently can really affect wearability in a shoe."

Mary Janes

Close-up of woman pulling up crew socks paired with red Carel Mary Jane heels

@carelparis / Instagram

Mary Janes are back and better than ever, and we couldn't be more excited about the nostalgic and foot-friendly trend. As you shop, be sure to consider the placement of straps and buckles as well as heel height so you end up investing in a fall shoe trend that doesn't leave you with regrets (and/or exhausted feet).

Over-the-Knee Boots

Close-up of woman wearing cutoff shorts and embroidered thigh-high boots

@privilegedshoes / Instagram

Over-the-knee boots (also known as thigh-high boots) never go out of style, and I'm always happy to see them on the runway and otherwise. When adding a new pair to your collection, Parke recommends styles with zippers, as they make boots easier to get on and off. She also advises looking for adjustability at the top, since everyone's thigh circumference is different. 

Over-the-knee boots can go from flats to sky-high heels really quick. I've worn enough to know that discomfort is hard to shake even when you look great but your feet hurt. If you select a boot with a high heel, Parke recommends some best practices to always keep in mind, including not to wear the same pair several days in a row, which goes against the messaging we often hear about breaking shoes in. "With prolonged wear of a high heel for several days in a row, the Achilles tendon is held in such a way that it can become shorter and tighter, which can lead to such problems as plantar fasciitis," she explains. If you're unfamiliar with plantar fasciitis, it means your foot tissue is inflamed—something we're all best off avoiding. 

Wedges

Close-up of white Cult Gaia ankle boots with architectural wooden wedge heel

@cultgaia / Instagram

Wedges never truly go out of style and run the gamut in height, commonly ranging from two to five inches—so you have plenty of options when it comes to finding a pair that balances your taste with comfort. Parke recommends wedge styles if you plan to walk or stand for long periods or know you'll be treading across grass or uneven surfaces. 

How to Make Shoe Trends Easier on Your Feet

Heels are constantly in style in some form, and as our list of trending styles shows, you don't have to forgo them in order to prioritize comfort—you'll just need to be smart about it. In addition to the style-specific advice above, you can follow the below tips to help you rock the top trending shoe styles without pain or adverse effects.

  • Alternate with flat shoes: "The average high heel tends to place an abnormal amount of pressure on the forefoot, which can lead to pain and inflammation in the small structures of the foot in this area," Parke says. She adds that high heels, pretty as they are, don't hold our feet in a natural position, "and because we often like the way a high heel looks and feels, we need to find smart ways to wear them." Thus, her aforementioned advice not to wear heeled boots or other shoes too many days in a row stands strong, and is key to minimizing pain and issues in the long run.
  • Try calf stretching: "Calf stretching is one of the most important things we can all do, whether we wear high heels or not," Parke tells us—and Blanchette seconds the recommendation. It's easy to add to your daily routine, and I find that down dog or a flexed foot wall stretch works great.
  • Bring backup flats: Blanchette recommends a plan B if you're wearing heeled shoes to a long-running event, such as a wedding or concert. If you choose a roomy enough bag, you can tuck a pair of foldable flats in next to your phone and other essentials. Yosi Samra's Foldable Ballet Flats ($98) are my go-to style because they provide instant comfort and are truly made for packing into snug spaces.

The Final Takeaway

Comfort is key when it comes to finding shoe trends you'll actually want to wear in the long run—and the good news is that you have more options than simply ditching the heels for your favorite pair of sneakers. As our podiatrists emphasize, simple details like kitten heels and well-placed straps can make a world of difference, and many trends—such as over-the-knee boots or shoes with bows—come in a wide variety of options, so you can find one that works for your feet. Together with a smart strategy for wearing them, the aforementioned shoe trends are sure to help you avoid pain and discomfort this fall without sacrificing style.

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