Combat, Baby! How to Master The Tough Shoe Trend

Close up of woman wearing orange pants and lug boots

The boot is back. We’re not talking about sleek, sexy boots either (though we like those too). This season, it’s all about the chunky lug boot — the footwear that’s weather-ready, edgy and comfortable all at the same time.

And before you have a panic attack because you don’t own flannel shirts or overalls, take a deep breath. It’s OK. There’s a softer, more versatile side of this workhorse boot, which means you definitely can should pair them with blazers, dresses, skirts and more.

How to Style Combat Boots

The last time lug aka combat boots were hot was in the early-mid nineties. Back then, they were worn with flannel shirts and wooley socks. To pull this look off today, we recommend leaving the alt-grunge pieces where they belong — in those paper photographs that were developed in an actual lab.

The key to wearing a chunky boot today is balance. That boot you love so much is edgy. Pairing that edginess with softness, femininity, and contrasting materials is a recipe for ultimate style. Get inspired with our favorite looks below.

Lace

Try a lace blazer with a white T, combat boots and black leggings. The daintiness of the blazer is a great contrast to the hip-hugging leggings. That goes double for soft blue lace, paired with solid black leather boots.

Maxi Skirt

A floor-length maxi skirt is one of our favorite pieces to pair with lug boots. As with the look above, the ethereal, floaty skirt against the tough look of the boots is one of the best ways to execute a masculine-and-feminine-all-at-the-same-time ensemble.

Extra points if the maxi is sheer or floral, which adds even more contrast.

Bright Skinny Jeans

Another great way to show off your new boots is to wear them with brightly colored jeans. The snug fit will highlight your womanly curves, while the boots will keep you standing firm.

Try lime green or fuchsia jeans — a marvy way to keep this trend from looking dull and awkwardly masculine.

Floral Dresses

Lug boots originated during wartime when men were, well, going into combat. (See how that works?) So of course they conjure militaristic connotations.

What could be more anti-militaristic than a perfectly pleated, nipped at the waist, floral day dress?

Leopard

The reason leopard works so well with a great pair of stompers is, again, the idea of contrasting themes. Animal prints are wild and they bounce stylishly off the uniformity of the combat boots.

If a mini doesn’t work for you, try a pair of skinny animal print pants. No one will mess with the Queen of the (Fashion) Jungle when she’s wearing a serious pair of kickers.

The real key to adding combat boots to your wardrobe gracefully is to remember that the more feminine your outfit, the better the boots will look! You will look oh-so stylish all day and/or night and you’ll be oh-so comfortable in these dare we say, sensible shoes. It’s kind of like a mod miracle!

Our Budget Combat Boot Picks

Burgundy on a Budget

Lug boots in colors that are not black and brown are hard to find on a budget. We love this rich burgundy tone for fall, and love the sub-$30 price point even more. The black ankle padding on this shoe keeps your feet protected from rain and snow, while providing a nice contrast for the burgundy.

Wear these boots with a skirt and tights or skinny pants. Or, if you’re really feeling tough, slip on faux leather leggings and half-tuck a rayon, button-down blouse. Tousle your hair a little and, guaranteed, no one will mess with you all day.

Heeled and Zipped

Black chunky boot with zipper and block heel
Women’s Kriss Lace Up Lug Booties, $37.99, Target

This pair from Target is the femme version of the work boot. It delivers height, versatility, warmth and a bit of sexiness in one package. The heel is about 3 inches, so you can wear these to work or even church. The zipper detail is cool, but we really like the crushed velvet shoelaces. They add a nice depth and uniqueness to this boot.

Tough as Marble

Stop the show. Turn heads. Make an impression. Start conversations. And collect your compliments.

That’s pretty much what we expect to happen when you step out in these marble-printed boots. Not only can you feel good that they cost you less than $50, you can also brag that they’re vegan leather. Plus, the sole is thick enough to keep your feet warm and dry in slushy conditions.

To play up the veined pattern, wear these boots with solid-colored pants or skirts.

Classically Chic

If you came to this post in search of the “universal” lug boot, here it is. The traditional color palette of camel and dark brown will fare well with your flannel shirts and cold-weather hiking clothes. You can also wear this boot with a casual, solid-colored skirt and, of course, jeans.

Combat Boots to Splurge On

Doc Martens Women’s 1460 Boot

To really “go there” with this trend, you have to buy the classic Doc Marten 1460 Boot. Back in the day, they only came in black and brown. Now they come in red, black, brown, gold, plaid, and even floral print. You can find them at Shoes.com on sale for as low as $63.

The Harley Boot

black women's work boots
The Harley Boot: work boot turned fashion statement

Harley boots are the original women’s work boots turned fashion statement. They retail for $100 and up, but they do come in a huge range of styles, including wedge clogs with grommets (no joke!). Wear these if you are the type who nods to the trend and then takes it in your own personal style direction.

Are you dabbling in the lug boot trend this season? Let us know in the comments.

Follow Me

Catherine Brock

Style Editor at The Budget Fashionista
Catherine Brock is a writer, editor and marketer who's been sharing wisdom online since 2002. She's been featured on DrLaura.com, Wellness.com and ABC7 Chicago, FOX2News St. Louis and KCAL9 Los Angeles. Connect with Catherine on LinkedIn, Instagram, or Twitter.
Follow Me