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The Top Shoes You Need For Summer 2021

You won't want to miss this because, yes, it's finally time to ditch the fuzzy slippers as all-day (and night) footwear.

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colorful shoes for summer
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Last summer, I thought my shoes might have wondered if I was upset with them. Almost every pair of sandals I owned just sat in my closet untouched, as I had little reason to put on heels. And having not gone for a pedicure in several months, it was probably for the best that my tootsies were not on public display. But this summer, things are looking up. I am optimistic that I will be ditching the fuzzy slippers as all-day (and night) footwear.

So, after a must-needed trip to the salon for some toe TLC, what summer shoes should I choose?

When it comes to heels

Style expert Barbara Aleks believes all women should own a strappy sandal. “It’s a classic, but back in a big way this year,” she says. Choose a heel height you can manage without feeling wobbly, preferably less than 3 inches. “Three- to 4-inch heels change the alignment of your body, which puts extra stress on your legs, hips and back. Wearing high heels regularly can also cause the Achilles tendon to tighten and shorten, which can actually make it painful to wear flat shoes,” explains Jocelyn Kelly Curry, a doctor of podiatric medicine at Piedmont Healthcare in Atlanta.

Instead of a stiletto, try a sandal with a thicker heel. Aleks explains, “A block heel provides more stability when walking. The heel-to-sole ratio is lower, so there is less of a pitch.”

Another option for height without the hurt is a wedge heel. Although “flatforms” wedges are trendy, Aleks prefers sandals with a slanted wedge. She says the “slant elongates and visually lengthens the leg resulting in a better overall appearance.” Curry adds that “a wedge up to 1½ inches with a slight angle provides support and balance.”

As for sandals with ankle straps, there are pros and cons. “Ankle straps visually shorten any leg and are difficult to pull off,” says Aleks. “So, unless you’re long-legged, I’d avoid them.” But Bruce Pinker, a doctor of podiatric medicine at Progressive Foot Care in New York, points out that ankle straps “provide stability and help ensure a better fit.”

For a compromise, if you prefer an ankle strap choose a nude shade that blends with your skin tone.

Flip-flop fix

Even though flip-flops are easy and fun, they aren’t always an optimal shoe choice. “Flat flip-flops provide no support,” says Curry. “Lack of proper foot support is a leading cause of plantar fasciitis and Achilles tendinitis.” (The same is true for another summer favorite, ballet flats.) But fear not, flip-flop fans! “Cushy platform flip-flops are all the rage,” says Aleks. “Those that hug your feet will tend to be more supportive than thinner, harder soles. Keep in mind, the thicker the straps and closer they sit to your feet, the more supportive the shoe will be.”

Slip on some style

Stitch Fix stylist Krista Gonzalez says, “In between pedicures? No worries! Slide into a chic pair of pointed-toe mules.” Mules and clogs are back in a big way. For many of us, this style brings back fond memories of the ’80s when high-heeled Candie’s were all the rage. Back then, my mom forbid me from wearing such a high heel. Now I don’t need her permission but am happy to sport the lower platform heel being shown in stores. “Wood heels add an element of art and have a lower heel for everyday wear,” Gonzalez says.

Also making a return are Birkenstock shoes! “If you’re revisiting this trend from a couple of decades ago, have some fun this time around with a new color or pattern like bright white, lavender, blush or metallic rose,” Gonzalez says.

While slip-in shoes are convenient, Pinker advises not wearing this style if you are doing a lot of walking. “Slides and mules can be challenging to wear comfortably, as they do not fit securely to the foot and can possibly lead to injury — such as ankle sprains and strains,” he explains.

Sneak in the sneakers

Is it possible to wear sneakers with nonathletic clothes and not look like Melanie Griffith on her way to the train in 1988’s Working Girl? Gonzalez replies, “I hear you, but I gotta admit, Griffith was onto something. I have been dreaming of the day that it was acceptable to wear sneakers for all occasions, and it’s here!”

Gonzalez suggests avoiding the chunky ’80s style sneakers that Griffith wore and instead trying knit athletic trainers or a canvas sneaker. Although clean, classic white sneakers are always an option, Aleks advises, “If you don’t want to look like you are off to the gym, choose a pair with interesting colors, details, embellishments, thicker soles, etc.”

Add a little sparkle

If you are ready to have a little fun with your footwear, consider a shoe with chain embellishments or studding. “You can dip your toe in this trend by wearing a gladiator sandal with a tonal stud,” Gonzalez says. “Or, keep it playful and go all out with studded details on a block heel.” Adds Aleks, “You don't need to have a lot of chain. Even a little somewhere on the shoe makes it relevant.”

Don’t worry that this styling is too juvenile for a woman of a certain age! “The key lies in knowing how to walk comfortably in the shoe, the style of the shoe and how it relates to the whole outfit,” explains Aleks.

Which shoes to choose?

Buying fancy sandals that you wear only once or twice this summer may not be as practical as investing in a basic you will wear frequently. And don’t worry about the old rule of matching your shoes to your handbag. “There's a lot more playing around with contrast in outfits these days,” Aleks says. “That said, it helps if both are somehow relevant to the outfit and each other."

Most importantly, buying new shoes is good for your health. Well … not quite. But Curry does say it is important for foot health to alternate your shoes daily. “Avoid wearing the same shoes more than four to five days in a row,” she advises. “Rotating your footwear reduces overuse of a muscle group or set of joints.”

So know that when you do indulge in some shoe shopping, you will be following doctor’s orders!