For some people, shoes are simply an unimportant detail when it comes to a head-to-toe outfit. Or they’re an entirely practical purchase, chosen based on what will be most comfortable for a particular lifestyle. But for others, shoes are everything to an outfit. It’s exactly why the luxury shoe market is so vast.
With all those options, though, comes the difficulty of deciding exactly where to spend your hard-earned money. As wardrobe stylist and fashion expert Risa Kostis explains, a luxury shoe purchase can be daunting, but also very much worth the price tag.
Meet the Expert
Risa Kostis is a wardrobe stylist and fashion expert who helps women build confidence through personal style consulting.
“The famous saying ‘you get what you pay for’ can ring true when it comes to higher-end goods,” Kostis says. “When it comes to shoes and deciding whether or not the cost is worth the commitment, I always think about ‘reasons and seasons.’” Kostis goes on to explain that while a designer or luxury shoe purchase may feel like a splurge, it can be worth it in the long run when you consider your lifestyle, wardrobe, and style habits.
To help you navigate the wide (and very expensive) world of luxury shoes, here are the best luxury shoe brands to shop from right now.
Mach & Mach
When it comes to the most popular heels or formal designer shoes on the luxury market right now, Mach & Mach is pretty much everywhere. You’ve probably seen countless images of their famous sparkly bow pumps on your feed at this point, but the brand has countless show-stopping options available (including lower heels and mule options if that’s more your thing).
There’s a reason that Stuart Weitzman shoes have been the best of the best in designer shoes for decades now. If you’re in search of a luxury brand that focuses on just shoes, Stuart Weitzman is a classic choice. Plus, many styles have sizes that go up to 12, which is pretty size-inclusive as luxury shoes go.
If you’ve heard of these influencer-favorite designer sneakers, you may know them as “the really expensive sneakers that look worn-in before you even wear them.” As Italist explains, each pair of Golden Goose sneakers is handmade in Italy, and the worn-in look of the shoes (also a result of a hand-distressing process) means they’re more comfortable than a pair that has yet to be broken in.
Founded by the late Virgil Abloh, Off-White is an Italian label that you’ve likely seen on every major celebrity without even realizing it. Off-White is famous for its collaborations with brands like Nike, IKEA, and more, which speaks to the credibility and creative vision of the label.
If you’re hoping to invest in shoes that are on the cutting edge of luxury fashion, Telfar is the way to go. Founded by Telfar Clemens, a Liberian-American fashion designer, Telfar’s bags, hats, and (of course) shoes are known for their distinctive “T” design. We are already imagining all the ways to dress up the Telfar loafers for those days at the office.
One of the most popular luxury shoe designs on the market is Hermès’ famous Oran Sandals. Available in a variety of colors and complete with the distinct Hermès “H,” these sandals are indicative of Hermès’ longtime commitment to craftsmanship and design.
Designer Christian Louboutin is known for single-handedly reintroducing stiletto heels back into fashion in the late 1990s, but Louboutin has hundreds of styles today, including sneakers and more. And, yes, almost all come with that famous red-bottom sole.
Searching for the luxury shoe brand that Carrie Bradshaw is in love with? That’s Manolo Blahnik. While Manolo’s most famous style is their jeweled buckle satin pump, it’s impossible to go wrong with the craftsmanship and design of the brand, especially given that they have been creating quality shoes since 1971.
Brother Vellies is proof that you don’t need specific design details or emblems to invest in a gorgeous, luxury shoe. Founded by designer Aurora James, Brother Vellies shoes combine impeccable, detail-oriented designs that are the perfect balance of current and classic.
Founded by Malaysian-born designer Jimmy Choo (who also, by the way, came from a family of shoemakers), Jimmy Choo shoes are known for sexy, feminine designs and high-quality Italian craftsmanship.
What to Look For When Buying Luxury Shoes
Quality and Comfort
“Just because something has a high price tag doesn’t always mean it’s a good buy,” Kostis says. “As a personal shopper, I make it a point to try on almost every shoe that hits the market, and don’t let those designer names reel you in unless you know they pass the quality and comfort test. Always try on and walk around the store before busting out your wallet. Do they hurt? Are they made out of a material that will stretch or mold to your foot or will they always be stiff and painful? Will the leather stain your socks or feet? Can you stand for an extended period?”
The other thing to consider, cost-per-wear, is all about being realistic about how often you’ll pull the pair of shoes out of your collection, according to Kostis. “Think about when you’re buying the shoes versus when and how much you’ll wear them to make sure you’re truly living that cost-per-wear life," she says.
And if you need help calculating this, she tells us how. “Cost-per-wear is simply adding up the number of times—based on lifestyle and preferences—you think you'll wear a piece, then dividing the cost of that item by the projected number of times worn,” says Kostis.
Finally, Kostis says knowing the material of the shoe in question is important.
“For instance, if you’re looking for the perfect designer rubber pool slide, make sure it’s a color and material that won’t discolor from sandy or dirty conditions (or that you can clean it),” Kostis says. “If it’s leather, what kind of leather is it? If it’s a more delicate lambskin or calfskin, it will show more wear and tear and might not be a great choice if you plan to wear the shoes often or are hard on your footwear. Sometimes with a designer shoe a bit of functionality is sacrificed for flair, so just keep an eye on what the shoe is made of to know how many uses you’ll get out of it before it loses its luster.”
Are luxury shoes worth it?
According to Kostis, choosing the perfect luxury shoe is all about considering both reason and season.
“When you’re choosing between a designer shoe and a more wallet-friendly find, I love to think about where you’re going in the shoe, what the occasion is, and how important having a keepsake or higher-end shoe is to the situation,” Kostis says. “When you’re shopping for shoes for a special occasion such as your wedding, an important event, it’s a great time to consider spending a little more to achieve the look you want, add a great piece to your collection, and add something fun that you can potentially pass down or save to remind you of something special. Another reason you might consider buying luxury is craftsmanship. Oftentimes when we don’t think about how long we’ll be standing on our feet and opt for something without considering the real cost: comfort!”
Kostis notes that if you’re planning to spend all day in a pair of shoes, then spending money on a carefully constructed pair is going to be worth it. The other things she says to consider are season and resale value.
“Investing in a shoe that will stay ‘in season’ or never go out of style is always a smart move and makes you feel better about spending a little more,” Kostis explains. “A great time to buy a designer shoe is in the off-season. If it’s a style you know you’ll take out when the time comes, you can typically find them on sale if you buy them out of season. One last thing to consider is resale value. I always recommend investing in a great designer piece that might be hard to find down the road, as the value can increase and it becomes an asset you can turn around and resell one day. There’s always a season for sustainability, so if you’re going to spend your hard-earned cash on a great shoe, [it makes sense to be] smart about it.”
How do I take care of luxury shoes?
To truly take care of luxury shoes, Kostis suggests focusing on proper storage first and foremost. Not only should shoes have their own space in a closet to stand upright, but they shouldn’t be touching other shoes as this can cause color transfer (particularly when patent leather is next to patent leather, she explains).
“Keeping your shoes separated by color and material with enough space in between them is super important,” Kostis says “Do the best you can to keep them in a dust-free zone and never pile your shoes on top of each other in the closet. In some cases, certain shoes do well in plastic bins and it’s a great way to prevent handling them too often or getting them dirty. When traveling, always pack your shoes in a dust bag and try to make sure they aren’t crushed by things around them.”
In addition to taking steps like adding a rubber sole to the bottom of shoes for protection (Kostis suggests using a cobbler for this, of course), and using Scotchgard to preserve materials like suede, it’s also a good idea to take care of your shoes by paying attention where and when you wear them.
“Watch out for barstools when wearing heels,” Kostis warns. “If you’re resting the back of your heel on a bar stool while sitting, it can damage the stiletto sometimes, making it hard to repair. Try and rest the shoe at the ball of the foot to prevent grinding the heel. Another tip is to wear a driving shoe or slide when you’re driving to prevent marking up the back of your heels. Oftentimes driving will cause staining that might not come out, so if it’s not a designer sneaker you can clean, really think about your shoe choice, and plan accordingly.
Lastly, consider the surface that you’ll be walking on. “If you’re roaming the cobblestone in Italy or walking on grass you might sink into at a friend’s wedding, it’s best to choose the shoe that will withstand the situation,” she says.
Why Trust Byrdie
Olivia Muenter is a fashion commerce contributor for Byrdie, and she has been published in Refinery29, Bustle, Fashionista, Glamour, and Woman’s Day, among others. Her search for this piece covered retailers of all types. For criteria, she evaluated customer reviews, design, craftsmanship, and style.