The Best Back to School Shoes to Start the New Year Off on the Right Foot

·10 min read
New Balance® X J. Crew 996 sneakers
New Balance® X J. Crew 996 sneakers

J. Crew

As a new school year rolls around, new clothes and new shoes are non-negotiable. A few new, comfortable pairs of back to school shoes are essential. While shopping, you'll have a wide variety of shoe types to pick from.

You should follow a few simple guidelines when selecting a new pair of shoes. First, a good pair of shoes fit properly, they're not too tight and not too loose. Remember that shoes wear out over time and lose their shock absorption. It's important to evaluate cushioning and arch support on new and old shoes alike.

When purchasing back to school shoes for 2021, you'll need something that makes you look and feel your best. We've rounded up the best back to school shoes on the internet across an array of best-selling, classic styles. From comfortable sneakers to espadrille sandals, this list has something for everyone, for every occasion.

New Balance® X J.Crew 996 Sneakers

BUY IT: $80; jcrew.com

J.Crew and New Balance teamed up for a limited-edition run of sneakers in never-before-seen color combinations and prints. This classic 996 style features a synthetic and mesh upper and rubber sole. Available in bone and rose or water and seasalt, it's been a crowd-favorite for over 20 years. New Balance combines fashion and function to create versatile and classic American-made sneakers. Pair with jeans or a dress for any casual occasion.

New Balance® X J. Crew 996 sneakers
New Balance® X J. Crew 996 sneakers

Universal Thread Kenzie Slide Sandals

BUY IT: $19.99; target.com

Achieve a casual yet chic look with this wardrobe staple, available in three neutral shades. The Kenzie slide sandals by Universal Thread feature an instep top band for a comfortable fit that stays on your feet, open-toe, open-back, and contoured footbed shape for all-day comfort. From a stroll at the beach, family time on the veranda, weekly grocery store runs, to Sunday brunch, these sandals pair perfectly with virtually every outfit in your wardrobe. They’ll be your go-to in no time.

Universal Thread Kenzie Slide Sandals
Universal Thread Kenzie Slide Sandals

A New Day Maggie Espadrille

BUY IT: $29.99, target.com

The Maggie Espadrille Flat from A New Day is easy to wear and style with casual looks, perfect to pair with a flowy summer dress or your go-to tee and jeans. They feature a slip-on style for on-the-go wear, closed-toe, memory foam footbed for all-day comfort, and a textured exterior and jute-like outsole for natural charm. Available in five colors, this designer dupe is a steal at only $29.99.

A New Day Maggie Espadrille
A New Day Maggie Espadrille

Dr. Scholl’s Madison Sneaker

BUY IT: $49.95, amazon.com

This sustainable slip-on sneaker comes in 17 colors and is crafted with microsuede and soft linings made from recycled bottles. Reviewers love this sneaker for its comfortable, lightweight, and supportive fit. "My husband bought me a pair of these, and it has made all of the difference," shared one of 8,575 five-star reviewers, an elementary school teacher who's on her feet all day. "These shoes are so comfy! Plus, they are really cute and can pass for professional dress. I even wear these on the weekends."

Dr. Scholls Madison Sneaker
Dr. Scholls Madison Sneaker

Veja Espalar Sneaker

BUY IT: $120; nordstrom.com

Veja, a French brand, is dominating the sustainable sneaker market. Named for the Brazilian NGO that brings technical support to organic cotton farming families, these crisp white court-inspired sneakers are made to make a difference, crafted from ethically sourced materials including calfskin leather from Rio Grande do Sul farms and wild Amazonian rubber. They feature an organic cotton lining, removable insole, rubber sole, suede heel cap, and leather upper. These are the best back to school shoes!

Veja Espalar Sneaker
Veja Espalar Sneaker

Tecovas The Jamie Boot

BUY IT: $255; tecovas.com

Tecovas is the first direct-to-consumer cowboy boot brand, known for its amazing customer service, Southern hospitality, and timeless handcrafted boots. Supple calfskin and glove-fit leather lining make the Jamie as comfortable as she is versatile, featuring an 11-inch shaft, 1.75-inch angled heel, hand-laid cording, butter-soft bovine lining, flattering western V scallop, and burnished toe. From a cowboy boot connoisseur, Tecovas are by far the most comfortable and high-quality boots I've ever owned.

Tecovas The Jamie Boot
Tecovas The Jamie Boot

Brooks Glycerin 19

BUY IT: $149.95; zappos.com

As a runner with arthritis, I won't run in anything else. There's no such thing as too much cushioning, right? Brooks' Glycerin 19 comes in seven color combinations and provides neutral support with smooth transitions from heel to toe. A mesh upper and plush interior liner surround your foot for a snug but flexible fit. With Brooks' 30-day unlimited guarantee, you can try running in your shoes for 30 days to make sure they feel right. If you're not happy, they'll take them back.

Brooks Glycerin 19
Brooks Glycerin 19

A New Day Jana Sandals

BUY IT: $29.99, target.com

Elevate any outfit with these Jana Sandals from A New Day. At only $29.99, these versatile, neutral sandals are available in cream, taupe, or black and would pair nicely with a multitude of looks. This breezy open-toe slip-on style features a chic faux leather upper, 2.5-inch block heel, and a wide band detail over the toe for a better fit. Customers deem these sandals cute, comfy, and blister-free after hours of wear.

A New Day Jana Sandals
A New Day Jana Sandals

Universal Thread Julianna Cork Wedge Heels

BUY IT: $39.99; target.com

Made with dressy occasions in mind, the Julianna cork wedge four-inch heel from Universal Thread easily pairs with a variety of clothing articles from pants to jeans to dresses to skirts, for quick, versatile styling. Featuring an ankle strap with an adjustable buckle, open toe, wide knit upper straps, cork bottoms with braided detailing, and a slightly arched design, these wedges offer easy wear and all-day comfort. Choose from a brown woven material, gray faux suede, or a snakeskin print.

Universal Thread Julianna Cork Wedge Heels
Universal Thread Julianna Cork Wedge Heels

Universal Thread Elora Mules

BUY IT: $24.99; target.com

Slip-on these Elora Mule Sandals from Universal Thread as you head out the door for a casual, chic look. This flat heel mule has a woven finish for a textured style, available in two neutral shades: cognac or tan. The Elora mule can be styled with a variety of dressy or casual outfits. "I couldn't believe how many five-star reviews these shoes had," shared one five-star reviewer. "The shoes are only $25 -- could they really be that cute and comfy? Usually, affordable shoes come with a trade-off. But no, the reviews are right. These shoes are amazing!"

Universal Thread Elora Mules
Universal Thread Elora Mules

J.Crew Canvas Espadrille Flats

BUY IT: $118; jcrew.com

According to J.Crew, it's the summer of the espadrille. The brand's best-selling canvas espadrille flats, made from natural fibers, feature a removable ankle ribbon and are available in saffron, icy orchid, faded chambray, or black. The sole is crafted from rubber and jute with a fabric upper. Avoid wearing these espadrilles in the rain if possible. If you're an espadrille gal during the warmer months, this is the classic staple shoe for you!

J. Crew Canvas Espadrille Flats
J. Crew Canvas Espadrille Flats

ON Cloud Running Shoe

BUY IT: $129.99; nordstrom.com

Designed to be the lightest fully cushioned running shoe, ON Cloud is available in seven colors and loved by millions across the globe. Made to perform all day, every day, the outsole is crafted with zero-gravity foam and CloudTec to supply soft, cushioned landings. A molded heel provides a snug, secure fit, complemented by a breathable, antimicrobial mesh upper for lasting comfort. Slip-on when you're on the go with knotted elastic laces for a stay-on fit that gives you a smooth ride that moves naturally with each stride.

ON Cloud Running Shoe
ON Cloud Running Shoe

Adalyn Espadrille Wedge Sandal

BUY IT: $159.95; nordstrom.com

Inspired by world travel, culture, and style, March Fisher is a master American shoemaker. He happily boasts that he has the best job in the world: "I make shoes women love to wear every day. I just want them to look down at their feet and smile." Marc Fisher's Adalyn espadrille wedge sandal is built with a leather upper, synthetic lining, and synthetic outsole. These retro-inspired sandals have a 3.94-inch heel, 3.78-inch platform, and four-inch adjustable ankle strap.

Adalyn Espadrille Wedge Sandal
Adalyn Espadrille Wedge Sandal

Tory Burch Double T Sport Slide Sandal

BUY IT: $198; nordstrom.com

An eclectic mix of bohemian glamour and American sportswear, the Tory Burch brand is known for effortlessly stylish, always-interesting pieces ranging from apparel to shoes to accessories. Tory Burch's double T sport slide sandal features a leather upper and lining and rubber sole. This open-toe sleek leather slide sandal, accented by Tory's signature double-T logo, comes in eight colors.

Tory Burch Double T Sport Slide Sandal
Tory Burch Double T Sport Slide Sandal

Steve Madden Kimmie Espadrille Sandal

BUY IT: $69.95; zappos.com

Rock this iconic sandal, worn by everyone and their mother, with shorts and sundresses and everything in between. Steve Madden's Kimmie espadrille slip-on sandal features a textile upper, elasticized ankle straps, man-made lining and insole, molded cork footbed, jute-wrapped two-inch flatform heel, and rolled man-made outsole. "I really love these shoes, exactly what I was searching for, and they are very comfortable," raved a satisfied customer. "Honestly I want to get more colors!"

Steve Madden Kimmie Espadrille Sandal
Steve Madden Kimmie Espadrille Sandal

Sam Edelman Linnie Slip-on Loafers

BUY IT: $129.95, zappos.com

Timeless and chic, classic leather mules are a staple in every Southerner's wardrobe. Opt for a classic cognac or black shade or make a statement with five fun colors and prints. Sam Edelman's Linnie slip-on loafer is sharp, chic, and endlessly versatile. The Linnie loafer features a premium leather upper, welted round-toe silhouette, gold metallic link detail at vamp, leather lining and insole, lightly padded fixed footbed, and 0.75-inch block heel. Zappos has a surplus of shoes for back to school!

Sam Edelman Linnie Slip-on Loafers
Sam Edelman Linnie Slip-on Loafers

Steve Madden Irenee Ankle Strap Sandal

BUY IT: $69.95, nordstrom.com

Steve Madden's Irenee ankle strap sandal has a gorgeous sophisticated casual silhouette with a slim ankle strap that gives a chic feminine look. A two-inch block heel provides comfort from day to night and references retro looks, complete with suede upper material, leather lining, and man-made sole. A classic ankle strap heel is a must-have in any capsule wardrobe. Pick from two timeless shades, Black Suede or Tan Nubuck.

Steve Madden Irenee Ankle Strap Sandal
Steve Madden Irenee Ankle Strap Sandal

Tory Burch Miller Sandal

BUY IT: $198; nordstrom.com

Chances are, Tory Burch's signature Miller sandal is already sitting in your closet. Update your warm-weather wardrobe with a neutral tone or fun shade in 10 different color options from Nordstrom, a great website to find shoes for school. This sophisticated sandal features a foam-cushioned footbed with a bold logo cutout, leather or synthetic upper, leather lining, and rubber sole. With 7,719 5-star reviews, what are you waiting for?

Tory Burch Miller Sandal
Tory Burch Miller Sandal

Madewell Frances Skimmer Mule

BUY IT: $118; zappos.com

Casual meets dressy with Madewell's best-selling 4.8-star slip-on leather mules, available in four colors. The Frances skimmer mule features a leather upper and man-made sole with an elevated heel patch, soft leather lining, welted round-toe silhouette, and cloud-like leather footbed. "I can wear these mules with dresses or trousers for work during the week and with jeans on the weekend," shared one five-star reviewer. "So versatile and yet darling. I most love that they're comfortable enough to wear all day long."

Madewell Frances Skimmer Mule
Madewell Frances Skimmer Mule

Marc Fisher Alva Bootie

BUY IT: $199.95, nordstrom.com

Marc Fisher's Alva bootie comes in three chic color selections, black embossed leather, brown suede, or cream leather. Grounded by a 3.35-inch bold walkable block heel, this ankle boot radiates contemporary-chic sophistication with dual gores at the sides for a snug fit. This bootie features a leather upper, synthetic lining, and synthetic outsole. Reviewers remark, it's the perfect fall bootie, a flattering wardrobe staple, my go-to boot, sleek and stylish, and beautiful and comfortable.

Marc Fisher Alva Bootie
Marc Fisher Alva Bootie