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Boot designers make sure buyers won't be bored this season

NEW YORK — Creating something that is equally stylish and practical is no easy feat. But boot designers this fall are giving women so many attractive choices that regular shoes are getting the shaft.

The offerings include cowboy boots, distressed leather, shearling and fur linings, stacked heels, wedge heels and fancy fabrics. Many styles lend themselves to walking or winter weather, so women no longer have to make the choice to be sexy in stilettos or warm and cozy in duck boots.

"There are so many unbelievable boots this season, so I can't say there is one trend," says Suze Yalof Schwartz, Glamour's executive fashion editor at large. "So you'll just have to buy many, many pairs."

Some would argue that boots are a better investment because with luxury shoe prices hitting several hundred dollars, at least there are both a significant amount of materials and craftsmanship that go into making a boot versus a strappy sandal.

They're also not as trend-driven as other shoes, so they're more likely to carry over from season to season.

"We love boots because they're the perfect thing to wear with skirts in the wintertime. They'll keep you warm but they look smart. They're great to tuck into jeans on weekends," says Schwartz. "They can give you height or be comfortable."

"And this season, there's a boot in every way, shape and form," she adds, noting that when Glamour held a recent casting call, each one of the beautiful, stylish models had boots on. Some paired them with jeans, others with culottes and still others with dresses.

"The success of most trends depends on how well they relate to modern lifestyles," says Mario Butazzi, the product director for women's shoes at Salvatore Ferragamo.

This fall, Ferragamo focused on boots that reconcile form and function.

"Our riding boot has all the polish and sophistication traditionally associated with the equestrian world, yet also translates perfectly into everyday life. It's equally appropriate for work as for weekend attire," says Butazzi.

But Gordon Thompson, creative director of Cole Haan, sees women buying a lot of embellished and fanciful boots. "She got her basic boot last season and now she's looking for something more fun, expressive and emotional," he says.

There are three top trends at Cole Haan, he says: riding boots; decorative boots; and prairie-style lace-up boots — "I hate the words 'granny boots' but that's what they were called years ago."

Meanwhile, shoe designer Brian Atwood says thicker heels are popular. "Women love stilettos but they don't always want to get stuck in the grates when they walk down the street," he says with a laugh.

Atwood's guide for wearing the best boot styles:

— Wedge heel. Choose boots with a shaft that goes to the knee and wear them with a skirt or dress, he advises. Since they're at risk of looking clunky, pair them with a lighter-look top, perhaps a chiffon blouse or shrunken blazer.

— Riding boot. "I love them. And I really love them with slim jeans." Even though they're flat-heel boots, they can be dressed up — worn with a skirt and blazer — or down — with a chunky sweater. "They're very versatile," Atwood says.

— Stiletto heel. These boots are best in leather and should hit the knee, or, if you're really daring, above the knee. But don't wear them with miniskirts. "You don't want to look cheap or vulgar."

An over-the-knee boot, done in stretch suede and with a zipper all the way up the back, is so sexy without showing any skin, he says. Wear it with a simple outfit with sleek lines to elongate your total look, Atwood suggests.

— Ankle boot. A high-heel ankle boot is a great partner for a pantsuit or a skirt with opaque tights. A low-heel ankle boot is definitely for casualwear.

— Cowboy boot. "They look a little too 'done' with a skirt. I like them better with jeans."

But, according to Atwood, the classic women's boot is a tall-shaft version with a 2 1/2- or 3-inch heel in stretch suede or polished leather. "That will never go out of style," he says.