Giving Up the Height

Feb 22, 2012

Last week, I had an important lunch meeting so I wore high heels.  It had been a couple of weeks since I had worn “real” high heels, and it took me about 90 seconds to remember why.  I hate having to walk slower than my normal pace.  I deplore sidestepping grates, broken cobblestones and potholes.  And frankly, at 5’7″, I just don’t need the height.

So after much debate, I’ve decide to quite high heels for good.  This means that my flat shoe wardrobe needs a makeover.  I have a great pair of open-toe black flats and a pair of metallic flats, but if this is all I intend to wear, what else do I need?

Because my wardrobe is centered around two neutral colors–black and navy–I’ll get the most mileage out of a red flat, a leopard print flat and a flesh-toned flat.  

Red can be worn with navy separates, black trousers and denim (Joan & David Heidee flat, $180).  The leopard print pair (Loeffler Randall Quinnee, $295) can be worn with almost any color palette except (in my opinion) pastels and brights.  And the flesh-toned are the saving grace for those days when you need a good basic but metallic will be overwhelming (Vera Wang Lara Flat, $175).

I’ve chosen pointed toe shoes because they look better under trousers and jeans than a round toe.  I also think they’re a little more dressed up than round toe flats.

In my opinion, the secret to wearing flats well is to choose shoes that are just as dressy and well-built as high heels.  Too often, I see women who toss on casual flats with business attire and it just brings the entire look down.  So look for a flat with structure and style not something that you would wear on your commute.

Also, if you’re going to wear flats you need to care for them like they’re heels.  They need to be shined and repaired regularly.  And when they’re beyond their usefulness, toss them out.  Last week, I saw a staffer wearing a pair of round toe, black flats that had been worn down to the frayed edges in the back.  Not the kind of non-verbal that you want your outfit to convey.

Hopefully, giving up the height will make getting around the Hill a bit easier for this fast walking lady.  I just can’t stand to be slowed down by my foot wear or left standing at a fundraiser with aching feet.  It’s simply not worth it to me.


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  1. V says:

    @Poor Law Student – check out DSW. I got two pairs of a Nine West nice, comfortable pointed toe flat for around $50 each. Also at DSW is the Mia line with similar kitten heels/flats for around $30.

  2. Anna Louisa says:

    I've been looking to add more flats to my shoe-wardrobe, since, as you said, getting around DC in heels can be a pain (plus I'm 5'10″, so they make me taller than almost all men and women I'm working with). I've been having trouble finding pointy-toed flats though…would you mind providing the links for the above shoes? Thanks!

  3. MidwestChic says:

    Belle, where are the above flats from? I love all three pairs!

  4. Ms. B says:

    Frye makes a flat called “Regina” that is a balance between the round toe and pointy toe flats. They are pricey, because they are all leather, but they wear like iron and are comfy. They have a rose gold version out this year that is lovely.

  5. A says:


    I feel your pain. I am also 5ft7' and walk extremely fast. I usually have a pair of black pumps under my desk in case of an emergency (usually dressed in black anyways), but I mostly wear flats and I dislike the Tory's with a passion. I love the red pair in your post, where are they from?

  6. IRMcK says:

    I'm so excited to see more flats on your site. I came to this conclusion years ago, and I've never looked back.

  7. Belle says:

    Links to the shoes are now in the post.

  8. Jo says:

    The pics from a couple of posts (including this one) are not showing up…

  9. KLo says:

    @Jo: maybe someone has them blocked? They're working fine here.

    Just wondering, am I the only one who really dislikes pointed toe flats? I can't decide why, and I know I had a coworker who wore one pair until only small parts of her black shoe were still black, so maybe that's it, but I just don't love them.

  10. Lawlala says:

    I have quite a few flats, though and I have trouble finding ones that give good support. My heels with cushioned insoles are more comfortable when I walk than the thin flats I own.

    I am curious to whether you are wearing a lot of skirts. Do you like flats with skirts? I don't care for it and that's pretty much the reason I started wearing heels.

  11. Belle says:

    Lawlala: I always wear Dr. Scholls gel insoles with flats. I like flats with skirts, but the skirt has to be hemmed accordingly. It should be just a little shorter than if you intend to wear heels.

  12. MegamiTenchi says:

    I adore heels (and I'm not 5'7″, so the height is still too useful- and honestly, I like the girly feeling you get from heels) but have been desperate to add flats for those long days, or 'too impractical of a schedule for heels' kind of days. My problem is finding ones that I can deem acceptable! Classic, good lines- finding ones that are an actual shoe as opposed to looking like a pair of Isotoner slippers :sigh: so far I have two pairs- a great deep red pair with a large buckle, that still make a delicious clacking sound on the floor, and a comfortable pair of black suede round toes from Brooks Brothers that I love so much, I fear for the day they give out of me!!

    I do agree with Lawlala about skirts though… something doesn't feel right with flats and a skirt, as silly as it sounds. Maybe if we were to pull a Zooey Deschanel and have a big puffy skirt in a fun print? But for work and more classic skirts, I can't see wearing flats with them in my head.

  13. XR says:

    There really is nothing worse than walking slower than everyone else because you're in heels. I've found wedges to be a whole lot more comfortable than pumps (Kate Spade makes great patent leather wedges for when I do want the height), but my feet can only handle them a couple days a week max.

    Also, for what it's worth, heels really do wreck your body over time according to my physical therapist boyfriend. They change the way your muscles work and can really do a number on your knees and back even if you only wear them every once in awhile. And I was skimming through a book called The End of Illness by a famous oncologist at the bookstore the other day, and he mentions that he tells his patients to wear comfortable shoes every single day because heels cause inflammation, and he argues inflammation is super bad and over time can contribute to things like heart attacks and strokes. So flats FTW! Also, invest in some support inserts for them, makes a big difference at least for me, and invest in quality materials. Delman makes the most amazing and comfortable flats ever, they're pricey but I've gotten mine all on Gilt for half off and they've lasted me years without a single blister.

  14. Katie says:

    Yes! I am 5'9″ and find that whenever I wear heels, I am towering over the men at my office and they do not seem to appreciate that. I also never quite got comfortable with heels; I can walk in them well enough to avoid the teetering look, but they always hurt, no matter how much padding I put in them. My main dilemma is what to do with skirts, as Lawlala mentioned. I am by no means fat (size 8), but my legs are not long and lean enough to avoid looking stumpy with flats and a pencil skirt. Pointed toes help, but only heels seem to give me a flattering look. Any tips for combatting this?

  15. aw says:

    I was forced into wearing flats a couple years ago, after insisting on heels for every single work day and ruining my feet (morton's metatarsalgia, fractured sesamoids, etc.). I'm very happy to see some very cute and work-appropriate flats featured on a fashion blog!

  16. ktb says:

    While I'm pleased to see this post, as I think flat shoes are always the answer, I'm a bit confused. According to the commentary on the oval office photo a few weeks back, it's apparently a cardinal sin to wear flat shoes in important places. Which view wins?

  17. BLW says:

    Thank you thank you for posting about flats. I have never mastered the art of walking gracefully in them, I'm 6'1″, and they essentially cripple you! Yet there are still a lot of women on fashion blogs that say flats are always unprofessional, and it bums me out.

  18. AVA says:

    I am constantly torn between wearing flats and heels especially since I work with mostlyy men and in law enforcement, so I just do both! On the flats front bottega veneta has some very cute ones, but outrageously expensive, however if you catch them during net-a-porter's sale they might be worth it. I would also recommend Kate Spade. Lastly Cole Haan recently came out with some new flats:– I have them in nude(they also make purple and navy) and they are perfect. The addition of the Nike insole makes them bareable for longer days. I would also recommend looking at thier heels. They make a perfect two inch that is not to bad for walking all day in and does not prevent you from walking at a normal pace.

  19. Belle says:

    ktb: I never said it was sin to wear flats in the workplace. Heels will always be seen as being dressier, but I think there enough dressy, structured flats on the market that you can make do. I'd also recommend kitten heels if you think need a bit of a heel.

  20. TMH says:

    I love all the flats posted, especially the red ones. While I agree that flats are generally easier to run around in, heels will always be a part of my wardrobe rotation. At 5'11″ I resent the fact that others get uncomfortable with my height. As for wearing heels, my rationale has always been that I'm probably taller than you to begin with, another 3″ won't do much. If someone's ego is that fragile, I have better things to deal with than their insecurities.

  21. Moose says:

    Finally, someone says it!! For years, I have felt like I was the only one who thought wearing heels was insane. And I'll admit, I didn't have the courage to buck the traditionalists that said you couldn't be taken seriously as a woman unless you dressed the part. I've suffered through years of “office appropriate” heels, causing daily pain and ultimate foot problems. I am glad to see from this post and all the supportive comments that a new wave is happening! Thanks for the inspiration, I am officially making the switch. Traditionalists be damned— I want to keep my body and feet in good shape!

  22. Belle says:

    Ladies if you want to keep your heels, more power to you. But I just can't do it everyday anymore.

  23. Smeeshu says:

    The pain of my recent bunionectomy/osteotemy has forced down my throat the importance of taking care of my feet. It's flats for me! Thankfully, there are lots of options out there.

  24. MJ says:

    I love flats, but I find that they are hard to keep smelling fresh, especially in the summertime, that I go through them too quickly to justify spending $200 on a well-structured pair. Any tips for keeping flats fresh smelling and odor free?

  25. Belle says:

    MJ: Try spraying/wiping down the inside of the shoe with a mixture of vodka and water. Just the inside! If it's good quality, it shouldn't smell.

  26. J says:

    Ah flats- I've been wearing them for years now to work, and I am looking forward to seeing more on your site. Does anyone have tips for keeping the backs of flats from fraying? I do a lot of walking (and perhaps I walk in a weird way), but I cannot get my flats to last a long time without fraying in the back.

  27. Meredith says:

    MJ – I was cursed with sweaty feet. I have terry cloth inserts in all of my shoes. They are great because they are machine washable and keep my shoes from becoming stinky. I highly recommend them. My sister swears by spray anti-antiperspirant on her feet, haven't tried it myself. I will also try this vodka water spray Belle suggests as well.

  28. Mica says:

    I wish I could give up heels but I am only 5'3″, very small-framed, and despite being closer to 30 now than I am to 20, I still have the face of a 17-year-old. Do you think it would be to my detriment if I only wore flats in a professional environment, given that my physical appearance already causes people take me less seriously, even condescend me? I am already having foot problems but cannot seem to help clinging to the idea that heels at least make me seem just a little more mature, and that any little edge I can get helps. I do question if it's worth it and wish I didn't feel so forced to wear them all the time. Would you consider doing a post on how to appear older for all of us young-looking professionals who aren't even all that young anymore? It's incredibly disheartening when you are told over and over that you look like you're in high school, no matter how professionally dressed you may be, and that you look more like someone's visiting daughter than a colleague to respect. If I could make the choice to wear only flats I would, but it does not seem like nature has given me that luxury.

  29. Sarah says:

    MJ: Hue makes excellent inserts that are practically invisible. I buy the black ones so that if any does show, it looks like normal trim. You can usually get them at Nordstrom rack for about $3. They've been a life saver!

  30. b says:

    i do this with the vodka spray but i've also added a bit of lemon juice which is a natural antibacterial agent. it is the bacteria that causes the smelliness in the first place and leave your shoes citrus fresh!

  31. KH says:

    Horray, horray, horray! I'm so excited to have a professional style blog focused on flats/low heels (oh wait, I guess you didn't actually say you were going to modify your outfit posts….. A girl can dream.)

  32. Maggie Rulli says:

    As someone who recently had to switch over to flats at work (uniform requirement…) your post totally made me feel better about my heelless situation!! Loved it so much I referenced your post in my own blog 🙂 Thanks for the shoe support!!

  33. Poor Law Student says:

    Does anyone have any suggestions where I can find work-appropriate flats that are more within the “unpaid intern” price range? I also prefer the pointed-toe flat for work but I haven't come across cute ones that are within my price point.

  34. Mallory says:

    I adore wearing flats to work. I'm the tallest of all my friends and very much dislike towering over people all the time. However, I am getting ready to take a trip to Las Vegas for a friend's birthday. Will heels be a must? Or does anyone have suggestions on some flats that would be Vegas appropriate? Thanks!

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