Best Unique Shoes & Unusual Heels Reviewed
Necessary to protect our (somewhat) delicate feet from the elements and other hazards, footwear has been part of human history for nearly as far back as we can trace it. But long gone are those times, the days where the primary directive for shoes was a simple command: be functional. For centuries now, shoes have been an expression of self and art; a statement to the world. And no matter what that statement is, there is more than likely a shoe that can accommodate it.
- Mona Flying Oxford
- Laser-cut Broguing
- HI&HANN Rivet
- Handmade Loafer
- Ellie Irina
- Witch Boot
Yet today, the yearning to be fashionably free is often dampened by mainstream fashion trends that spawn hundreds of cookie-cutter shoe styles. In a world with this many options, it shouldn’t be difficult to find something that’s not like the rest, right? Unfortunately, reality begs to differ.
The good news is that this guide exists. We’ve done the searching and cobbled together the most unique shoes we could find. Weird, unusual, odd, kooky; if any of these descriptions fit your idea of fashion sense, then you’ll surely find a perfect pair of shoes amongst this list.
10 Best Unique Shoes
1. Mona Flying Oxford
The laser-cut brogue design is where the appeal lies for the Mona Flying Oxford. Though traditionally more broguing is considered to make a shoe look less formal, the Oxford defies convention and manages to retain an air of vintage formality. The broguing spans across the upper and sides of the shoe and, interspersed with light stitching, creates an uncommon floral pattern.
Genuine sheepskin leather is used for the first layer of the Oxford’s upper, lining and insole, giving these shoes a supple and smooth feeling. The other layers of leather aren’t sheepskin but they’re still genuine and will mold to create the ideal fit over time. Though that doesn’t mean that you’ll have to wait for these shoes to feel good; they’re comfortable right out of the box. Plus, the Mona Flying Oxford is stitched end-to-end for durability.
For a handmade, genuine leather shoe, the Mona Flying Oxford is moderately priced and fits well into a budget with a little wiggle room. If you are looking for a formal shoe that won’t just blend in with everyone else’s, these are the shoes for you.
Half sizes available
True to size
Strong leather smell
2. HI&HANN Rivet
The HI&HANN Rivet is where prep meets punk and punk mostly wins. The Nubuck suede upper of these loafers have a sparkly texture that is amplified by the spiky studs decorating it. Through varying the side and shape of the studs, the Rivet has a wild, untamed look that’s sure to turn heads. The collar of the Rivet features smooth and solid contrast stitching, while the sole is painted red in the style of high-fashion designers like Christian Louboutin.
Most genuine leather shoes are made just with leather from cows, but not the HI&HANN Rivet. Instead, these loafers are made with a pigskin (pig leather) lining, which is just as durable but softer. The pigskin lining is quilted and designed to keep feet dry, while the lightly padded footbed provides comfort.
There’s no getting around it: the HI&HANN Rivet is a fairly expensive shoe. However, it’s the perfect statement shoe to give any outfit a dose of edginess. Not to mention that it uses two types of leather, and is handmade. The HI&HANN Rivet loafer is a splurge purchase that can’t steer you wrong.
Fits like sneakers
Synthetic rubber sole
3. Ellie Irina
From the retro hourglass-style heel to the foam copper-tone buckle, the Irina sets a gothic mood and tone — which is then somewhat curtailed by the bubblegum pink-topped shoe lining. Still, these boots feature a stereotypically witchy deeply curved toe and 2.5” heel. And with being made primarily of velvet, the Ellie Irina becomes a soft boot inside and out.
A lightly padded insole, under-3” heel, and flexible ankle shaft make the Ellie Irina an ankle boot that is easy on your feet. The Irina has a roomy toe box, despite its upward curl, and the velvet uppers allow for wiggle and stretch. In comfort, the Irina is comparable to CLARKS brand shoes.
At half the price of the Mona Flying Oxford, the Ellie Irina ankle boot is as affordable as it is unusual. The Irina is versatile enough to be both a costume and fashion choice, so it’s worth stretching your budget for if it’s still more than preferred. And no matter the event, you’ll bring the creepy with you while wearing these boots.
True to size
No back zipper
4. Abby Peacock
From heel to toe, the Abby Peacock is loaded with shiny, multicolor rhinestones. Three rows of stones across the toe meet to create the pattern of a feathery peacock tail (hence the shoe name!) up the vamp of the shoe. Dual rows of rhinestones also adorn both sides of the heel, which also happens to have a glamorous, mirror-like finish.
It’s common for rhinestone-laden shoes to come with a few extras in the bag, just in case some fall off. For the Abby Peacock, extra rhinestones of all available colors do come packaged with the shoe — that’s just not all. Also packaged with the Peacock are gel foot support pads, replacement heel caps, and a small complimentary hand mirror.
Though significantly cheaper than the HI&HANN Rivet loafer, the Abby Peacock sandal is still a bit of a stretch on the wallet. The extra goodies that ship along with the Peacock may help offset that further. However, if you are in need of a party shoe filled with personality, the Abby Peacock fits the bill.
Half sizes available
5. YDN Sky High
The YDN Sky High is the true definition of a stiletto in both rise and shape. The lower half of the Sky High heel is metal and tapers to a thin, neat point that is then capped with non-slip rubber soling. A small chain-link charm delineates the metal portion of the heel from the rest of it. Luckily, the impact of these skyscraper heels is blunted by a 2” platform; that gives the Sky High a wearability closer to a standard 4” heel without sacrificing the look.
Available in 11 colors — including an extra-sexy leopard print — the YDN Sky High has all the makings of a trendy shoe. The upper for the Sky High is either faux suede or leather, depending on shade, though all pairs retain the soft, nude lining. A small peep-toe boosts sexiness, while an adjustable ankle strap gives the shoe a playful Mary Jane-style touch.
Similar in cost to the Abby Peacock sandal, the YDN Sky High stiletto will also be a budget stretcher for some. Nevertheless, for both its sexy style and quality handcrafting, the Sky High is a unique shoe to add to your wardrobe.
True to size
Extra-large sizing available
Heel can bend over time
6. CUNZHAI Flower
It’s hard to beat a shoe made of top-grain leather and sewn together through manual suture stitching. Handmade, like many of the exclusive shoes on this list, the CUNZHAI Flower is a work of art. These ankle boots feature shock-absorbing rubber soles, sturdy straps with velcro fastening, and a pull-tab at the heel. Also, the outsole of the CUNZHAI Flower is textured for grip and stability at the heel and forefoot.
Futuristic and Flowery
The CUNZHAI Flower ankle boot rides the line between a cutesy, antique floral shoe and a futuristic moon boot. The handmade bloom decals are airbrushed alongside the heel, collar, and toe of the boot and gives the Flower a rusty, vintage feeling. Conversely, the thick platform and wedge heel — 3” with platform and heel combined — is reminiscent of a sci-fi flick. This style of mash-up is part of the unique charm of the CUNZHAI Flower.
The price tag of the CUNZHAI Flower bootie is identical to the Abby Peacock sandal, so it is an affordable shoe for its quality. These shoes are different mainly through the prominent floral decor and easygoing walkability; you are sure to garner compliments and praise while wearing them. Plus, the Flower is casual enough to pair up with any outfit. Your wardrobe will thank you.
True to size
Accommodates wide feet
Stops at size 9
7. Dr. Martens Pascal
What separates the Pascal from even other Doc boots is the intricately detailed artwork on the upper. For this boot, in particular, the upper is printed with multiple parts of the series of paintings by William Hogarth was known as ‘A Rake’s Progress.’ The artwork is printed on Softy T leather, a waxy, full-grain leather used by Dr. Martens to create a soft and smooth feel. Then, the Pascal boot is finished by hand.
Another feature that makes Doc Martens boots generally well-loved is the durable Goodyear welting technique that is used to stitch the boot together. Then, further solidifying the Pascal as a long-wearing shoe, the sole — flexible and slip-resistant — is heat-sealed. Also, a pull-tab is stitched onto the heel for easy on and off wear.
Marginally less expensive than the HI&HANN Rivet loafer, Dr. Martens Pascal is an expensive boot. However, it’s a shoe that you can expect to have for years. Even once the hand-painted finishes begin to wear away, the Pascal is guaranteed to show off the history of a well-worn boot.
Museum shoe collaboration
Requires breaking in
8. Socofy Werty
What makes the Socofy Werty an especially unique shoe is the unusual pattern mixing that comprises the upper. Vivid purple cross-hatching makes up the toe, vamp, and rear sides of the shoe, while the sides of the forefront have a yellowy, floral-esque print. Then, overlaying the vamp is a teal crosshatch-patterned leather, folded like a slouched-over boot. Finally, a solid green flower with multicolor leaves adorns the side of the Werty.
Adding to the novelty of the Socofy Werty are its unconventional detailing. For example, the yellow floral print portion of the upper is stitched to look as though it is an inset of the purple pattern. The center of the shoe features a turquoise-colored bead, plus the stitching along the outsole is rainbow-coloured. Finally, the insole is a matching, hand-painted purple.
Equal in price to the Abby Peacock, the Socofy Werty isn’t a completely budget-busting shoe, but it may stretch it a bit. A personalized touch through a handmade construction, like many of the other shoes in this guide, makes the Werty is a solid and sturdy shoe. On top of being the coolest, brightest pair of oxford-shooties you could ever own.
True to size
No insole padding
9. Bernie Mev Lulia
A measure of the appeal of the Lulia comes from the basketweave upper, made all the more visible with an overall pattern of small, rainbow-hued circles. The rainbow pattern connects at the heel, threading through solid black for a lively and significant ‘pop.’ Furthermore, the ‘jagged’ texture of the synthetic sole gives the Lulia a sprinkling of modern edginess.
A Comfort Shoe
Right out of the box, the Bernie Mev Lulia wedge is comfortable. The handwoven fabric used for the upper is stretchy and elasticized for a fit that instantly molds to the contours of your foot. The woven upper is also lined with Ultrasuede, a durable and breathable synthetic suede. Additionally, the insole is padded with plush memory foam for enhanced cushioning and comfort.
Less than the CUNZHAI Flower bootie but more than the Ellie Irina, the Lulia wedge pump occupies the space between cheap and inexpensive. Flexible overall, these wedges bring with it a characteristic style as well as a custom shoe fit and feel. If you are looking for a bright, eye-catching pump with the cushioning of a sneaker, you need search no further than the Bernie Mev Lulia.
Good arch support
Fabric doesn’t overstretch
No ankle support
10. GFF Grass
The GFF Grass flip-flop really is grass. Using synthetic grass, similar to that of a backyard, these flip-flops create a soothing walking experience. The artificial grass conforms to the shape of your feet for a customized fit and is designed to feel as close to real grass as possible. But that’s not all; the grass of the GFF Grass provides a miniature foot massage feeling with every step.
The faux grass lining of the GFF Grass flip-flop is akin to the grass at a playground or park. Both the look and feel of these shoes evoke the idea of barefoot running and summery afternoons. The Grass is more than just a flip-flop to wear around the house and dog park, too. It’ll stand out when worn to the beach, fishing, or just about anywhere casual.
As the least expensive shoe on this list, the GFF Grass is an absolute bargain. Though many people purchase the Grass as a gag gift, the real comfort and lawn-grade synthetic grass elevate these flip-flops to a new dimension of fantastically bizarre. For a comfortable conversation starter, search no longer.
Easy to clean
Grass can fall off
Now that was easy, wasn’t it? Whether for style or for a show, we hope you’ve found a new love from this list of unique shoes!
Criteria for Evaluating the Best Unique Shoes
The easiest way to know what makes a particular shoe unique is to know what makes other shoes not unique. There are a number of common materials, shapes, and upper patterns that are used in modern shoemaking. There’s a good chance that you’ll have one or more of any of the given shoe types below hiding in your closet.
In discussing material for a shoe, the focus for uniqueness is on the material that the upper consists of. Although there are shoes with soles crafted from an uncommon material, that’s a subject that has a history all its own. Let’s start with leather, the oldest and most common shoe material there is.
As a shoe material, leather is so ubiquitous that there’s probably more than one pair of leather shoes in your closet (unless you’re vegan, of course). Genuine leather isn’t expensive by default; instead, the time it takes to cure and the source of the leather is what determines the price point. The most common leather shoes are made of either cow, sheep, pig, and — surprisingly — goat. In that order.
Cowhide accounts for approximately 65% of all leather goods, making it the most common shoe material of all. This is partially because of its availability due to industry by-product (meat and dairy), and partially because of its natural density and durability. Regardless of the treatment of the leather, however, such as the processes that turn full-grain into suede, cowhide is bereft of uniqueness.
Second in broadest use is sheepskin (or lambskin), making up 15% of all leather goods. Sheepskin is most often found in the lining of shoes as it is soft, though some shoes feature uppers made of it as well. The popularity of lambskin leather is related to its naturally insulating, moisture-wicking, and generally hypoallergenic properties. Sheepskin is a sustainable resource, a fact that also contributes to its popularity as a shoe material.
Pigskin is the third-most popular leather material available, capturing roughly 11% of the leather goods market. Shoes made with pig leather are especially durable, owed in part to the natural density and water-resistance of pigskin. Due to its thinness, however, it is primarily used in shoe linings rather than uppers.
Fabric and Textiles
In the shoe world, the terms ‘fabric’ and ‘textile’ are used interchangeably to describe shoe uppers made with certain materials. Textiles include knit, woven, and non-woven materials of any origin (synthetic or natural).
Canvas, which is simply woven cotton (modernly), is one of the traditional materials shoes are made out of. What makes canvas popular is that it is one of the sturdiest cotton weaves available, created to be dense and durable and that it can be woven tightly enough to be waterproof in some cases. It’s also easy to wash and care for and is cheap. Canvas is found mostly on sneakers and athletic shoes, but any kind of shoe can be made of it these days.
Being the world’s first fully synthetic textile makes nylon a standard choice for shoemaking. Whether woven or knitted, nylon is found in shoes across the style spectrum, from slip-ons to flip-flops. Nylon became popular amongst shoemakers once it was known not only to be a strong and breathable fabric but to also weigh much less than prior materials. Eventually, nylon gave way to the other synthetic fabrics we see shoes commonly built from today.
Still used more for clothing than anything else, denim is simply a woven fabric with an extra-sturdy dual stitching. Though the durability of denim is hard to match, it is a less common shoe material. What denim has in toughness it lacks in give and flexibility, which is what contributes to its dearth of popularity. Nevertheless, as denim cements itself further into the collective fashion conscious, you can expect to see more shoes made of it.
Sometimes, the unique thing about a shoe isn’t its material or some kind of lavish adornment. Sometimes, the uniqueness of a pair of shoes is found in strange and uncommonly patterned uppers. And as is expected, there are some shoe patterns that are far more prevalent than others.
The most common and most basic of all shoe upper patterns are solids. To be clear, a solid is a single color; however, Colorblocking is seen frequently as well when viewing shoes. Colorblocking is when two or more solid shades are worn together.
Shoes can have a floral print through several methods. The print, or pattern, can be cut directly into the upper of the shoe, similar to the Mona Flying Oxford that we reviewed. Or, the fabric used for the shoe can be printed or dyed into a floral pattern. The 20th century made floral print footwear popular; now you can toss a rock into a shoe aisle and hit a flower-patterned or flower-adorned shoe.
One of the most prominent patterns to ever grace fashion, animal prints can be found on pumps, sandals, boots — everywhere. Having cycled through highs and lows, leopard print is the most used animal pattern for shoes and reigns supreme. Nevertheless, snakeskin (and other reptile skin), cheetah print, zebra print, and giraffe print are also seen often. Lesser known animal prints can be seen as a daring alternative to the everywhereness of leopard print.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What makes a shoe unique?
A: Ultimately, you. Even the most basic of shoes can be part of an ensemble that is uniquely you. That being said, a shoe is unique whenever it is unlike what has come before it — the same way any item is unique.
Q: What is a bespoke shoe?
A: Bespoke shoes are, essentially, customized shoes. Made especially for you by a shoemaker, bespoke shoes require measurements of your feet and unique lasts (patterns) for each foot. Since bespoke shoes are designed to the exact dimensions of your feet, they remain the best fitting and most comfortable shoes you can own.
Q: Where can I find bespoke shoes?
A: The good news is that, with the advent of the Internet, bespoke shoes can be found anywhere. Simply googling ‘custom shoes’ or ‘bespoke shoes’ will net you dozens of online luxury bespoke shoe designers. Also, if you live in a popular metropolitan area you may be lucky enough to have one you can meet in person!
Q: Is there a difference between a bespoke shoe and a handmade shoe?
A: Actually, yes! Though both bespoke shoes and handmade shoes are, well, handmade, the degree of handcrafting is what determines whether a shoe is bespoke or not. A bespoke shoe is fully handmade and customized, down to the cutting of the pattern. On the other hand, shoes that are simply handmade are usually machine-cut from a pattern and then tweaked by hand for fit or decoration.