Shoes this fall are bold and daring. Whether they are flats, wedges or stilettos, or strappy, zippered or studded, they don't just sit there quietly waiting to be noticed. They distinctly shout, "Look at me!"
These new styles can instantly update a wardrobe, making even old staples feel new. Among the most prominent trends: ankle boots, punky metal decorations and the color red.
Red is on fire, both in clothing and footwear, and shoe designers are offering it in different shapes and price points. No one does the color better than Valentino, with his red patent leather D'Orsay bow pump, which makes the foot look like the perfect (expensive) little present. On the other hand, Nine West does a version for a fraction of Valentino's price tag. The resemblance is remarkable, but since the style and color are classic, shelling out for the real thing could be a solid investment for shoe fanatics and collectors.
Ankle boots are nothing new, but the evolution of the bootie is astounding. Heel heights have spiked, the peep toe is a common feature and metallic details add some punch to conservative styles. Since it grazes the ankle it is versatile enough to wear with dresses and pants, but not as formal or stuffy as a pump.
But be forewarned: Some of the most eye-popping styles might not be for everyone. The navy blue patent leather lace-up oxford-style shoe from Proenza Schouler is perhaps the most intimidating ankle boot this season. At 5-inches-plus, the gold-tipped wood heel is as treacherous as it is amazing, giving a modern feel to a vintage style. For more futuristic footwear, Camilla Skovgaard has added a metal heel so thin it looks like a nail on a gray round-toed bootie. The pewter leather around the ankle of the Skovgaard shoe has a "Mad Max" appeal that fits right in with the 1980s resurgence that is affecting design in 2009.
Punk rock-inspired decorative metals have been a strong embellishment in fashion for several years now and don't look to be going anywhere. Shoes are no exception, especially for Christian Louboutin, who smattered his red-soled pumps and flats with intimidating silver spikes and studs. His Pigalle pump is a high heel with a take-no-prisoners attitude; the wearer would seem to need a fierce personality to pull it off. His somewhat softer approach to the trend is the Candy, which has just a few gold studs on the toe, mixed with feminine black lace and a gold zipper tied in a bow. The mix of hard and soft echoes the aesthetic of collections from Alexander Wang and Balmain, which are informing much of women's style these days.
Metal may be scary and red could feel too intense, but variations on these trends are being done in every style and price, so you can ease your way into trying them. Remember, baby steps.