Admit it. You have boot envy. It's hard to walk by boot-filled shoe stores or see a chic woman walking down the street with just the right pair of boots and not want some for yourself.
You're not alone.
Boots are the hot item this season, and thanks to designers' willingness to pair them with everything conceivable, the options are endless. From the outrageous reptile skin that would bankrupt some to the classy knockoff all shoppers can afford, boots are ripe for the plucking.
"Boots can make the whole outfit," says New York designer David Rodriguez, who accessorized much of his fall-winter collection with boots.
Unless you can master high heels like a ballerina, keep heels low, Mr. Rodriguez says. There's nothing, he says, more tragic than seeing a woman waddle down the street in her new shoes.
"You can find sexy, pointed boots with smaller heels, and they're still very modern," he says.
While you shop around for boots, bear in mind your shape and size. Only the young and hip can get away with pointy, high-heeled ankle boots. Otherwise, you'll look like a Pat Benatar impersonator.
There's also a move toward a more architectural heel, which is wider in the back and thin when viewed from the side. It's still feminine, yet sturdier and easier to walk in.
Nice leather is a good investment, but if you're against leather or want to try something different, neoprene will serve you well for a couple of seasons.
Boots should be in proportion to body type, says Jeane Beiter of the Jeane B image-consulting firm in Moraga, Calif. "If you are petite," Ms. Beiter says, "especially if you have a wider hip, it is crucial to stay away from the thin high heel."
She is referring to the very popular stiletto. Ms. Beiter suggests staying with a wider heel, or one that does not draw attention to the hips. The easiest proportion to match most figures with is the ankle to mid-calf. A rule of thumb: The wider the hip, the wider the heel, and vice versa. The reality is that very few women can wear extremes, she says. And if you want a pointed toe, do a wider heel and keep it in balance. The weight of your bone structure weighs on the shoes.
Other trends include a rounded toe and a turned-up, almost Moroccan toe. But if you go with the pointed version, be sure to consider the quality of the fabric.
In terms of color, Ms. Beiter says, black always works because it's always fashionable. The changes come with the style. One color that might hold a season or two is red, in the brown or maroon family, as well as brown or something in caramel. If you're ready to try what Ms. Beiter calls a "style extender piece" (a bit of seasonal whimsy with little carry-over value), animal prints are fun.
Meanwhile, seriously impractical indulgences include plaids, faux fur, patent leather, tweed and giraffe, which are all hot. But alligator is already out. (Gee, who knew?)
Just back from the spring fashion shows in Paris, San Francisco designer Jacques Pantazes says that sexy, stylish boots are all the rage in the City of Light.
"I would say that gold and bronze are de rigueur all over Paris right now," Mr. Pantazes says, "or the python stiletto worn for day to brighten up the dull neutral and beige color palette every trend-setter has adopted, which was made famous in the '70s."
For those of us who can afford only one pair of boots and who want to make a good investment, the best advice is to stick to what you find pretty. Choose something that works with your wardrobe and will last several years. If you have mostly denim and are a casual dresser, brown, low-heeled boots are best. If your closet is full of blacks and charcoals, then stick to black. There's nothing wrong with the basics, and at least you can wear them until sandals come back to town.