I received a request from a client looking for tips on how to wear lug sole booties. Her timing was quite perfect considering we’re entering the time of year where, for some of us, lug soles can be the difference between slipping on icy or snowy slippery conditions or not. Lug soles are like snow tires for the feet due to the traction they provide. This is not to say that they should be reserved only for inclement weather, but their invention has a history rooted in this exact need.

vitale bramani lug sole
Vitale Bramini, the inventor of the lug sole and founder of Vibram shoes pictured second from the right.

Being someone with a keen interest in the history of the fashion we wear today (you can read my fascinating history of the penny loafer here), I, of course, looked up the history of the lug sole. The originator of the lug sole is from an Italian company called Vibram which was started in 1937 by its founder Vitale Bramani, Vibram comes from the first two letters of his first name and the four letters of his last name and has pretty tragic roots. Two years prior to this company going into business, Bramani was on an expedition in the Italian Alps where six of his friends died in a mountaineering accident. Bramani blamed the accident on poor footwear which at the time consisted of flat-soled shoes with cleats or hobnails. After working on the design, Bramani patented the first rubber lug sole, and this model was called the Carrarmato which means “tank tread” in Italian for its thick tread footprint. The style is still used today. Just as I referenced lug soles as being like snow tires for your feet, Vibram has backing from Leopoldo Pirelli of Pirelli Tires, and Vibram produces their soles in the same manner that Pirelli makes their tires.

vibram fivefinger shoes
The company that invented the lug sole also invented FiveFingers Footwear

In 1965 Vibram expanded to the United States and to this day you can still find Vibram soles on many boots which can be identified by the yellow Vibram octagon logo. And if the name Vibram is ringing some bells in your mind, this company is also responsible for those hideous Five Fingers minimalist shoes. As hideous as they are, it comes as no surprise that a company like Vibram is connected to a shoe that was designed to allow your feet to engage the strength of natural foot motion.


So now that you have some fun information that you can share at your next dinner party, let’s get into how to actually wear lug sole shoes because as sturdy and useful as they can be, they also have drawbacks. The first is that lug sole shoes aren’t always that elegant looking. Lug soles were designed for function and the ruggedness of shoes typically designed for lug soles don’t always translate well into finer looks. They can also look a bit awkward and clunky with full-length pants that are too wide at the hem, like boot cut pants or wide-leg trousers because what you see in pants like this is just a small part of the instep and toe box which can sometimes wind up looking like bad gnome shoes. You’re better off with tapered, straight, or ankle-length pants. Designers have taken the classic lug and reimagined the style to more refined looks, so my advice on them should be taken on a case-by-case basis, but generally speaking, lug soles were designed to be styled more casually. The upside, however, is that lug soles allow you to wear shoes and boots that would normally be too delicate for inclement weather due to the traction that the soles of these shoes provide and makes them perfect for colder months where you need to dress a bit but want steadier footing.

To help you with some ideas, I have put together five looks using lug sole booties and have more styles for you to check out at the end of this post.


Outfit #1

lug sole

The lug sole Chelsea boot, like this pair from Tamaris, is what probably first comes to mind when you consider this type of sole. It’s a combination that works extremely well together. I’ll save the history of the Chelsea boot for another time. This is the type of shoe that you either want to wear with straight or skinny jeans or pants in addition to dresses or skirts. You want to see the boot, not cover it up completely. I styled this pair with skinny stretch pants from M.M. Lafleur, an oxford from Mother Oxford that has a patented mess-friendly design and is made from cotton fabric that helps disperse perspiration (a.k.a. yellowing armpits), that I layered under a tunic vest from COS. I finished the look with this black leather bracelet from ALLSAINTS.

Outfit #2

The combat boot, like this stylized pair from Blondo, which is also waterproof, is another type of shoe that you can always count on to have a lug sole. It’s the perfect style to edge out a look. I styled this pair with a pair of straight-leg jeans from Everlane, a grey cashmere sweater from Nordstrom, a plaid relaxed blazer from J.Crew, a chunky charcoal scarf from Banana Republic, and Clubmaster sunglasses from Ray-Ban.

Outfit #3

This is a look where I took a more rugged lug sole shoe and styled it more elegantly for the winter months when it is cold and where firm footing is important. I envision those times you get invited out to dinner or a gathering of friends and it’s cold and you want to look nice but also can’t imagine hobbling around in slick shoes. I styled these olive green lug sole Chelsea booties from Rag & Bone with cognac faux leather skinny pants, also from Rag & Bone, and a camel poncho style sweater from BOSS Hug Boss. I finished the look with a long beaded tortoise necklace from Lafayette 148.

Outfit #4

lug sole

When I thought about lug sole boots, I immediately thought about Frye, a company that has a history of making sturdy and durable boots and shoes that dates back to 1868. One pair of Frye boots could easily last you a lifetime. This versatile side zip style would work well with pants and here I styled it with a denim overall jumper from Boden, a green turtleneck sweater from J.Crew, and burgundy opaque tights.

Outfit #5

These burgundy lug sole booties from Aquatalia are an example of a company taking a very rugged and outdoorsy concept and translating it into an elegant and feminine boot style. Will it be as sturdy as a pair of flat lug sole boots? Not in a million years. Will this weatherproof pair offer more traction than your basic heeled booties? A thousand times, yes. Aquatalia managed to marry function and style into one pair, no surprise. I styled this pair with a bone-colored sweater dress from Reiss and Labradorite drop earrings.

Shop for Lug Sole Booties

Lug soles are a stylish necessity for the wardrobe of any woman who will be navigating bad weather this winter. If you are still looking for a pair, check out these additional styles.