Chic winter shoes can seem like an oxymoron. When temperatures drop, we’re not eager to reach for stilettos because come snowfall, moon boots are about as sexy as we’re getting. Thankfully on the runways of Prada, Bottega Veneta, and others, designers prioritized functional footwear and didn’t sacrifice style. And just to get real inside baseball, buyers at your favorite stores agree. We tapped five women heading some of the biggest department stores—Nordstrom, Bloomingdales, MatchesFashion, Moda Operandi, and Browns, respectively—to give us the scoop on the hottest footwear for the coldest season. Read on for their top picks ahead.
“The it-shoe of the winter is the knee-high boot,” says Erica Russo, Bloomingdale’s vice president and fashion director. “It’s been awhile since the style has been front and center, and it’s a great investment piece you can have for years to come.” The knee-high has been a sleeper style in the wake of the ankle bootie, but the ’70s silhouette is back with a vengeance. “This silhouette has been out of fashion for so long that its return is exciting, with brands like Paris Texas really upping the fashion stakes with their fun takes,” says Ida Petersson of Browns.
Kate Bellman, the fashion director of footwear at Nordstrom gives us a theory on why we are gravitating toward the sleek silhouette. “A resounding trend of the season is tailoring, and the same holds true for footwear. This comes to life in a structured knee-high boot.” You can style them with a midi skirt for work, or our new favorite outfit: a pair of trousers tucked into streamlined knee-highs, allowing us to be the Horse Girl we always knew we were.
“In short, the thicker the sole, the cooler they look,” says Lisa Aiken, fashion director of Moda Operandi. “These boots add the right amount of edge to girly pieces and are a justifiable purchase because they’re super practical.” Thick soles are what all winter boots should have regardless of the designer tag, so we finally have an it-shoe that can handle the sludge. “The lug sole is the prefect shoe for inclement weather,” Russo states. “The bottom provides grip, but cool accents like shearling and hair calf means you’ll want to wear them when it’s sunny,”
The lug sole continues the hiking trend that kicked off last year, coupled with this season’s obsession with all things goth. You can take the investment route with Prada’s combat boots—complete with ankle bags—but there are affordable OG styles like Doc Martens’ platform pair. If you want to go full ’90s like you’re the emo member of the Spice Girls, Ida Petersson of Browns says ” the 032C collaboration with Buffalo London are my absolute favorites.”
The squared toe first made its appearance at the Spring 2018 runway (“The holy grail is Bottega Veneta,” says Petersson), but the angular edge is still going strong. Shoes from the Italian brand, helmed by Daniel Lee, are still selling out everywhere, so “if you can’t get your hands on them, Wandler, Reike Nen and Manu Atelier offer some amazing alternatives with equally amazing price tags,” she suggests. You won’t tire of this trend anytime soon, because brands are reworking it in to every style. “From a great bootie to an evening shoe, designers have added this squared off detail in varying degrees.”
Like the coordinating handbag trend, animal print is a new way to refresh your favorite silhouette and color. “Exotic details flew from the runway straight into our stores,” says Bellman. Whether you’re into neons or neutrals, there’s a way to get wild for everyone’s aesthetic. “Graphic snake or croc in a bold color is a must-have item for winter, and the material also looks incredibly polished in brown, the color of the season.”
There is one exception we’ll make for non-practical shoes this winter, and that’s because it’s finally party season. “We are in this moment when over-the-top glam for evening is exactly what everyone wants to wear,” says Aiken. If sparkly stilettos aren’t your thing, hit the dance floor with the return of fancy flats. “Ballet slippers are also making a resurgence,” says Kingham. “The Row, Brock Collection and Midnight 00 are bringing something ultra-feminine and unique to this trend.” So when you’re not struggling through winter in practical footwear that just happens to be Proenza Schouler, this is the trend to indulge in.