663 Fifth Avenue, near 53rd Street (212-838-9470)
After watching today's customers haul away box upon box of ultraconservative loafers and walking shoes, you can easily forget that in the forties, Mr. Ferragamo almost single-handedly created the market for wacky, over-the-top shoes. Poke around the store, and you'll find stuff you wish your mom had saved. Like shiny calfskin riding boots with skinny buckles on the ankles, or amazing real-alligator pumps.
* Brown alligator pumps, $1,650.
* Knee-high ankle-buckle riding boots with thick two-inch heels, $560.
* Black plain-front calfskin loafers with low heels, $265.
777 Madison Avenue, near 66th Street (212-585-2238)
While Madison Avenue hostesses swear by the pumps and heel-soothing evening shoes on offer here, there are also plenty of pickings for the fashionista who'll work the stilettos at night but walks to the office in the morning. The younger CJ Bis line does the trick: It gives a trendy edge to good old-fashioned shoe craftsmanship -- lots of pink suede, lime-green leather, and hippie brown shearling -- all in styles that don't sacrifice comfort.
* Brown shearling clogs with rubber soles, $145.
* Lime-green suede sport shoes with jelly heels, $135.
* Red calfskin ankle boots, $165.
Joan & David
816 Madison Avenue, near 68th Street (212-772-3970)
Rounding out its collection of stylish, preppy classics (pumps, mules, loafers), Joan & David has taken a youthful, lively diversion for fall. Party in the Bahamas in brown feathered sandals, pad around the house in slippers with rosettes on the toes, or hit the streets in hefty modern clogs -- however you wear these, you'll be keeping up with the times without feeling like a fashion victim.
* Brown flat feathered sandals, $240.
* Rosette-toed gray slippers, $195.
* Black leather clogs, $150.
625 Madison Avenue, near 59th Street (212-750-2555)
Stuart Weitzman should be the first stop for anyone about to grow out of a Birkenstocks-and-sleep-till-noon lifestyle: The shop's basic pumps, flats, mules, and sandals come in at least four or five colors each, and there's definitely one to match any new suit. For glitzy events, perhaps New Year's Eve, check out a group of rhinestone-bedecked stiletto sandals that would give the Waterford ball a run for its money. For a smidgen of hippie weekend chic, pick up a pair of lug-soled shearling boots.
* Brown shearling boots, $260.
* Black silk rhinestone-encrusted slingback sandals, $205.
* Black suede stiletto high boots, $360.
* Black pony slides with rounded three-inch heels, $165.
635 Madison Avenue, near 59th Street (212-371-5515)
There's little chance of mistaking the Bottega Veneta shoe gal for the classic Bottega bag lady. More suited to the Chelsea gallery owner than the uptown doyenne, the shoes here are serious, high-minded fashion. Daytime styles have consistently high vamps, almost comically pointed toes, and low, manageable heels. For evening, there's little of the frivolous decorating you'll see almost everywhere else; instead, you'll find a smattering of streamlined pointy slides and the occasional high heel -- maybe adorned with a big, floppy rosette.
* Stretch-leather knee-high boots, $500.
* Leopard-print slides, $330.
* Pink satin pumps with rosettes, $440.
95 Fifth Avenue, at 17th Street (212-675-2550)
He's built an empire on the solid urban walking shoe, but designer Kenneth Cole isn't above flirting with the season's funkier trends. If you're considering testing trendier waters but wouldn't feel right hopping around town with a lot of silliness on your feet, you'll quickly feel comfortable in Cole's take on recent fabric developments. Pony skin is here, for instance, but it comes only in black, on shoes with solid, urban heels and clean and classic shapes -- no, you won't be homesick for the sensible stuff you're accustomed to.
* Black calfskin knee boots with one-inch heels and asymmetric toes, $198.
* Burgundy satin pumps with ankle straps and embroidered roses, $130.
665 Fifth Avenue, near 53rd Street (212-223-0909)
A. Testoni has long provided the older, moneyed set with luxurious, if less than flamboyant, footwear. This season, the company has spiced up its traditional offerings with a few modern twists -- such as a lug sole on classic flat leather boots, or a touch of cheetah-print pony on Belgian-style slippers, or ballet flats in eye-catching red leather.
* Cheetah-print slippers, $295.
* Red leather ballet flats, $235.
* Black leather square-toed ankle boots with chunky two-inch heels, $370.
645 Fifth Avenue, at 51st Street (212-593-0800)
British designer Jimmy Choo is your psychic friend in the upmarket shoe world -- he never fails to divine what you'll want in any particular season and gives it to you in endless variety. This season, he's seeing a lot of boots in our future -- with anything from no heel at all to needles so spindly they'll practically hail a cab for you. For evenings, pick up a trendy beaded slide.
* Olive-green beaded-satin evening slides, $515.
* Gray flannel slides with crystal beading, $490.
* Kitten-heeled camouflage-print pony boots, $820.
835 Madison Avenue, near 69th Street (212-396-4814)
There isn't a blah heel in this shop (or a black leather pump, for that matter). Instead, each shoe is the kind that makes an outfit, usually packing a dizzying combination of trends into a single ten-ounce moment -- think beaded-pony-skin kitten-heel mules, python stiletto slingbacks, or color-blocked pony riding boots. High-heel wearers who actually do a little walking on occasion swear by Rossi's skinny rectangular resin heels -- they're towering without feeling tippy. Flats fiends love the selection of embellished, ultrafeminine slippers for dressing up.
* Camel pony-skin slides with pink embroidery, $495.
* Black-and-white pony high-heeled mules, $330.
* Green lizard slingback stilettos, $470.