Reader mail: Are bare feet in pumps and toe cleavage acceptable?

Today’s reader mail comes from reader E…

My feet get sweaty while wearing pumps all day. Am I supposed to be wearing some type of hosiery-sock with them? How do others deal with the sweaty feet issue? Is it even appropriate to have the bare tops of my feet showing while I’m in pumps?

And in that same vein, what are your thoughts on “toe cleavage?” Some of my pumps are cut so low that I’m flashing toe cleavage at work. Can you recommend pumps that are cut higher?

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We’re curious what the readers have to say about this one.  (Pictured above:  Toe Cleavage, originally uploaded to Flickr by cuteheels.) For our $.02: We find it difficult to walk in pumps while wearing trouser socks or tights — on those days we tend to wear Mary Janes, T-straps, or at least something with a higher vamp.  And we’ve seen plenty of women on the streets of New York wearing pumps and bare feet.  There do exist various kinds of socks — toe covers or other — but in our experience they tend to be very difficult to wear with pumps because the cloth from the “sock”  is always showing.   (A guiding principle, though: for the love of God, please do not take your shoes off if you’re sitting in a meeting. In your own office, fine, but no one wants to see bare feet beneath a conference room table.  Actually, no one wants to see bestocking’d feet, either.) But then, our feet don’t get that sweaty — apparently, camel leather shoe inserts are your best bet to helping control that issue.   (If anyone can recommend a brand of such inserts, we’re sure our reader would appreciate it — we can’t seem to find one.)  We would also advise giving your shoes a day “off” between wearings, to let them air out and so forth.

In terms of toe cleavage — this has historically been a controversial issue, and maybe one that’s ripe for a poll. But that said, personally, we don’t mind it.  Here’s our reasoning:  there are a variety of reasons why other types of shoes are considered not acceptable for the office.  The peep toe requires a perfect pedicure (and hopefully the wearer doesn’t have unattractive toe problems, such as hammertoes or things).  The tall boot (which, according to our poll a few weeks ago, 1 out of 5 women would still say is “absolutely, always inappropriate” for the office) veers a little too close to the “dominatrix/stripper” vibe.  And yes, there’s the name — cleavage — but, let’s face it:  a view of your toes isn’t similar to a view of your breasts.   (Also, we’re a little biased because a friend of ours had a great kitten-heeled pair of Louboutins that showed toe cleavage, and we loved. those. shoes. Also very similar: these more affordable kitten heels from Stuart Weitzman.)

Readers, what are your thoughts?cleavage

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  1. I think the above shoes are perfectly appropriate. Shoes that have a higher vamp get very dowdy very quickly – and because it’s so difficult to fit precisely where your foot bends (required by definition if no toe is to be shown), they’re often blister-inducing to boot.

    For comfort reasons (and also because my feet get a bit sticky in pumps), I wear trouser-height pantyhose socks under pants. But I see no issue with the top of the foot being bare with pumps – you wouldn’t think twice about that area when wearing peep-toes.

  2. I’ve never gotten the toe cleavage thing. It doesn’t even seem in the same universe as, you know, regular cleavage to me.

    • I concur. I don’t think I’ve ever noticed toe cleavage (or the lack thereof).

    • To me, toe cleavage doesn’t seem “inappropriate” as much as it makes it look like your shoe doesn’t fit well.

  3. My objection to the pictured shoes is not the toe cleavage but the shape and silhouette of the shoes. Unless you have dainty lotus feet, and maintain your shoes fastidiously, this takes you into Wicked Witch territory.

  4. Anonymous :

    I wear nylons every day to work – is this not the norm?

    • I actually got mocked for wearing nylons recently.

      • Anonymous :

        I wear them every day as well (and my office is business casual veering towards the casual side). Sometimes I get mocked. Who cares? The best advice I got re: how to dress when I started my new job was “be yourself” – everyone has a slightly different style, just go with what you feel comfortable with (well, within reason I guess).

    • I live in the midwest, and nylons went out of fashion about 4 years ago, even in professional circles – thank goodness! Now I either go bare or (once the snow starts falling) wear opaque tights.

      • Anonymous :

        I am so bummed about stockings going “out of style.” I’m 31 and have a good figure, but I don’t know that many women — even young ones — who don’t need some control top and non-sweaty feet!

        I get blisters where my shoes rub when I go sockless, and I just think it’s almost good ettiquette to keep your thighs, hips, and tummy “in control!” Is it just me?!

        • When I start hearing the men in my office worry about keeping their thighs, hips, and tummies in control, that’s when I’ll start worrying about doing the same for mine. ;-)

        • I disagree about the control tops, for the same reason anon at 7:25 gave. But I completely agree about the sweaty feet. I also don’t want to see hairy legs, scabs, etc. But even on a supermodel, bare legs aren’t professional, period.

          • I wish they were in style, but apparently, they make us look “old.” I really could use a little coverage on my legs to cover veins, bumps, etc. As for the control top, I wear a shaper. And if you weren’t concerned about how you look, you wouldn’t be looking at this site.

      • I constantly wear stockings at work. I just can’t wear all of those shoes without them, my feet get too sweaty. I also like that it smooths out my legs, which occasionally have bruises on them from me being clumsy (plus, I’m very pale). I don’t think that it looks unfashionable – just get ones that closely match your skin tone and fit snugly, without folding or wrinkling.

  5. I commented earlier that I don’t think toe cleavage is a big deal, but I’d also like to add an “amen” to the don’t-take-your-shoes-off-at-a-meeting policy!

  6. Anonymous :

    I live in the South and have really sweaty feet. I have solved the problem with Odor Eaters foot spray. It is like spray deodorant/power for your feet. It works all day–even in the New Orleans heat–and costs about $4 for a can that will last a month or more.

    • You can also just use your regular underarm deoderant. I had a physician recommend this and it solves the problem instantly. Be warned, however, that if you go barefoot in your shoes it is a little slippery for the first few steps.

      • Underarm deodorant may also help prevent blisters. Many runners put deodorant on their feet as a Body Glide substitute pre-marathon for blister prevention. If it works in running shoes, I can’t imagine why it wouldn’t work with dress shoes.

    • I just use regular underarm deodorant in an aerosol can (usually I can only find the aerosol can at Walmart) and then it is only about $2. I even use it under my nylons on some very hot days during summer, when I’m sure I would get sweaty feet anyway. It works like a dream plus I don’t have to rub my regular deodorant into my feet with my hands.

  7. Has anyone tried summersoles for sweaty feet?

    • I have these, and they are FABULOUS. I have always had extremely sweaty feet (I’m talking puddles in my shoes and soaking wet socks), so it was very difficult to wear shoes with no socks or hose. My feet would slide around my shoes and cause blisters, cuts, etc. But these insoles completely solved the problem. They just stick to the inside of your shoes and absorb all the sweat so your feet don’t slide around. I cannot tell you how happy I have been with these.

    • Yes – I was going to recommend these as well for sweaty feet. I am ADDICTED to these, and they really do work on all kinds of shoes, including sandals, peeptoes, pumps, etc.

  8. Midwestern Working Girl :

    We had a dress consultant at our firm this summer… she suggested a good shoe guideline… more shoe than foot. We had admin wearing strappy evening sandals to work… or the almost-a-flipflop. She suggested nothing between the toe and more shoe than foot. I think those are basic and will help to define those that like to push the limites.

    So if there’s barely any shoe there and you have toe cleavage… then it’s a no for us.

    • I briefly worked at a firm that had a pantyhose/socks-required policy and basically no other footwear guidelines. The result? Hose with sandals, a la street corner, or worse, the paralegal who wore hose, socks and sneakers in the office. I wish I knew about dress consultants back then, because jeez, that was the stupidest policy ever.

  9. I’m not sure when young women stopped wearing socks or hose, but it looks unprofessional to have bare legs and close-toed shoes (and obviously sandals/open-toed shoes are inappropriate in many workplaces). And any kind of shoes without socks looks gross and makes your feet smell.

    I also cannot comprehend how anyone can stand to wear shoes without socks or nylons. Don’t you get blisters?

    • Most of the young women at my firm do not wear hose with skirts to the office in the summertime. The winter is a different story — I’m in the midwest, so it’s cold and there aren’t a lot of skirts around here past October, anyway. I always wear tights (with skirts) and socks (or tights when it’s really cold, with pants) in the winter, but that’s a warmth issue rather than a gross/smell/blister issue.

      I asked a (female) partner about it when I first started, because I was interested to see if she felt that it was inappropriate. She said that she wears hose to disguise what she considers “defects” in her legs: unattractive knees (whatever that means), vericose veins, and cellulite. She suggested because most young women do not have these issues to hide that it’s difficult to tell whether or not they are wearing hose in the first place. Therefore, she was not bothered by the bare leg look at all. (Obviously you do not share her views on this subject.)

      I don’t have any foot odor problems, even when wearing shoes without hose. I am pretty sure that this is genetic. Nor do I get blisters. I am pretty sure this is a shoe quality and/or fit issue.

      • I should add that I do wear nylons with skirt suits to court, to depositions, and to client meetings, even in the summer.

      • Blisters are more related to the sweaty feet issue. If there’s some moisture in there you’re going to be slipping around and this friction causes blisters. It has nothing to do with shoe quality…my very quality kitten heel/toe cleavage louboutins give me some of the worst blisters without stockings

    • Hose really aren’t practical in very hot climates. I’m in Florida where the vast majority of workplaces don’t require pantyhose unless you’re going to be in a courtroom everyday. I’ve also seen attorneys in court without them, so even that may depend on the judge. It’s just too hot here most of the year for them to be practical or comfortable, and I don’t think women here worry quite as much about the leg defects as people in other areas do.

      The only problem I have with shoes when I do not wear hose is that sometimes the insole will come unglued. This problem is easily solved by adding in another insole. Shoes that give me blisters typically aren’t any better when I’m wearing socks, so I agree with J that it’s more of a fit issue than anything else.

      • Amen. I’m in my 3rd year at law school in hot and humid Florida. Through two summer jobs, I’ve seen VERY few women wear hose to the office/court/meeting. The main women who do wear hose are older women, who (I’m guessing) have other reasons for needing/wanting to wear hose. But, generally, it’s just one more layer that you do NOT want to wear in this freaking heat.
        One of the other reasons that I hate wearing hose is that I feel the color never looks natural. Personally, I have a very hard time finding hose that are a color that could realistically pass as my own skin tone. The truth is – I’m as white as Casper. Even the lightest tone hose (nudes and buffs) still look FAR more tan than my legs actually are. If anyone can recommend a brand that is good about having fair and light tones, please speak up (as much as I hate hose, even I know there are occasions when I should wear them)!

        • just get ultra sheer stockings

        • I am pretty pale myself and have good luck with victoria’s secret hose.

        • Victoria’s Secret has a color (the name is escaping me) that works perfect for very pale girls (I’m a blue-eyed, redhead if that helps you envision the paleness) – I love it and stock up every few months at a store location since they don’t carry in their catalog.

          I wear hose primarily in the winter only – it’s not the heat down here in Houston that makes hose unbearable, but the humidity.

          And, I use the Johnson & Johnson Blister Block to prevent blisters. It earns my top ten beauty invention award – it’s a godsend.

          • Are you talking about the “pale nude” color? If so, they do sometimes have it online .
            Do they have another pale color in store?

        • DKNY the nudes. Also recently noted that spanx seems to have a rather pale color in their stockings. (Though I think the price tag steep for a pair of stockings that will inevitably still run.)

          • You are right about the spanx hose – I had high hopes for a pair I bought at Target (the Assets brand, but still $20) and they were only worn a few times before they ran.

  10. No blisters – mainly bc I know my shoes and use preventative hidden band-aids/shoe pads. It’s worth it to me. Nylons look dowdy and weird to me now. I threw all of mine away years ago. Tights, yes, trouser socks in the winter, yes, but never nylons. I wouldn’t mock someone for wearing them (well, ok, maybe if they were tan-colored and I knew the person well), especially ladies in their 50s+, but would be surprised to see them on anyone in their 20s or 30s. Or 40s, really. This is probably somewhat regional, though.

    • Ah – speak for yourself! ;) I’m mid-30s, consider myself somewhat fasionable (I shop at Banana, Ann Taylor, etc.), and I wear hose every day – including under pants. I like the look, and also like how the hose holds in that “I’ve had several babies” tummy pouch I’ve developed. Perhaps it is regional (I’m from the mid-west), but I’ve seen plenty of women in their 20s in hose as well – even (gasp!) the color that matches their skin tone hose.

      • That is too funny. It would be my own personal hell to fight with pantyhose every morning! To each his own. I really don’t see nylons very often though, and I am in the midwest too! I am in Chicago. Maybe it is micro-regional? :)

  11. I don’t see anything at all wrong with toe cleavage or the shoes pictured. In fact, I’m wearing similar ones today and I’m not wearing any hose or tights. I work at a 110-lawyer firm in the Southeast and young female lawyers at my firm rarely wear hose. In the winter, I wear tights.

  12. I think wearing hose is very regional. I’m 27 and I would never dream of going on an interview or to court without hose if I was wearing a skirt suit. If it matters, I’m in DC.

    • I’m in DC, too, and agree–the only place I can think of to which I’ve worn hose in the past few years is federal appellate court. Donna Karen -The Nudes makes a sheer, very light color that appears pretty much invisible on my just-released-from-the-hospital pale skin.

      • I’m in DC too. Maybe that explains why all the responses to my comment above disagree with me.

        • I think that even the people who “never” wear hose, still wear them on interviews/to court, etc., just about wherever you are–I’ve lived in New York, the south, and the midwest, an thinkt his holds true.

          • I actually *never* wear hose. I’ve interviewed, gone to both federal and state court, and met clients in skirt suits without hose, and as far as I know, I have never gotten a bad reaction or raised eyebrow because of it. This could be because I am young and a runner so my legs are in pretty decent shape, but I actually suspect that no one really notices if you wear them or not. I certainly don’t.

  13. I am a 23 year old CPA at an extremely conservative accounting firm in western Tennessee. In writing, our dress code is not incredibly conservative, but in practice it is extremely so (at least on the tax side, where I work. Auditors have more freedom in the field.) Our handbook led me to believe that slacks and a blazer hanging on the back of your chair was acceptable, the reality is that most days a full matching suit is necessary. Pantyhose or socks are always required. I always wear pantyhose with skirts – I would like to wear tights in the winter, but don’t have the nerve in this environment. I break the rule almost every time I wear pants as I can’t stand knee-highs and don’t have many shoes that a trouser sock would be appropriate with. Personally, I think that nylons make foot odor worse *and* make my shoes fit poorly – something about the nylon holding everything in tight, so that my shoes are like to fall off on a whim! Even I don’t mind a peek of toe cleavage, but too much is inappropriate, period.

    • That dress code sounds just terrible. You just reminded me of when I worked at a law firm in Memphis for a summer, back in 1999, and the dress code was formal. Suits every day in the Memphis summer – every afternoon I would get into my car to head home and just about die of the heat. Just awful.

    • Try buying the next size up in pantyhose. I am also in my 20s working at a conservative law firm, so I wear hose whenever I wear a skirt. I found once I bought the next size up (so for me that is 2 sizes over the “suggested” because I am an ex-soccer player which means most of my weight is in my legs) they stayed in place better and don’t give me the “holding everything in tight” feeling. Some days they are even comfortable!

      • As it is, I’m wearing a size up from “suggested” to keep the waistband from rolling down! Unfortunately, that makes for lots of extra fabric creeping down my legs all the time, and somehow still snug feet. This is drugstore pantyhose, by the way – L’eggs Silken Mist or somesuch I think. I tried wearing some brand of “curvy women” pantyhose (I think it might have been endorsed by Queen Latifah), and the waist and legs both fit properly, but the nylon just felt horrible.
        Oh how I hate pantyhose. If I could change the dress code at my office, I would NOT wear pantyhose, I would wear peep-toe shoes… oh, and the navy velvet blazer I just snatched at J. Crew would definitely be acceptable any day of the week!

    • I don’t think there’s anything less professional about tights instead of hose, so long as the tights are dark (I’d stick to navy, black or brown), go with your outfit and aren’t patterned. Also, they make sheer ankle highs. They’re harder to find than knee highs, but might be worth the hunt in your case.

  14. I put a few sprinkles of baby powder into my shoes almost every morning and it helps reduce sweat (and also the smell)!

  15. Corporette has done hose polls in the past. It IS really regional. I am from the West Coast, and you simply do not wear hose unless you’re going to Court, an interview, a major client meeting, or you’re old. Period.

    In fact, I hardly ever wear socks to the office of any variety (even trouser socks, but I am in SF). When I worked in NY and London, hose every day.

    And as for toe cleavage, many high fash brands make that part of their signature look, so I tend to associate it with more expensive, not cheaper shoes. It’s just a sexier look, but not inappropriate, as long as the rest of the shoe doesn’t scream “hooker”.

    Lastly, for the lady who wears nylons under pants, for the love, try Spanx or Donna Karan Intimate’s version of Spanx. Especially in the summer, you will be so much more comfy!

  16. Totally off topic, but check out Southwest’s amazing flight sale! I got a roundtrip ticket (crosscountry) fro $242.40! Plus two free bags!

  17. I’d also note that the foot sweat thing can really be curtailed by wearing real leather shoes, none of this synthetic crap. Plastic doesn’t breathe well! I’ve never seen a sweaty cow…!

  18. housecounsel :

    I’m in Chicago and kind of old, but in the past three or four years, I’ve only worn hose when in front of a jury. I do wear tights and trouser socks when it’s cold. I, too, have the post-baby pooch, and that is why I own every footless Spanx product ever invented.

    I think too much toe cleavage is icky!

  19. Those who think that pantyhose require “wrestling” are obviously too young to remember garter belts and stockings. Yes, I’m old. They were disgusting. IMHO, pantyhose are a walk in the park compared to all that other stuff. (And don’t even get me started on girdles — !!!)

  20. I have a real hang up about toe cleavage because I have freakishly long toes, so literally every shoe I own shows toe cleavage. I can’t wear a shoe with a really low vamp, because seriously, you’d see half of my toes. I really hope toe cleavage is not off limits, or else I’d have to wear loafers or boots everyday! :-)
    Somewhat off-topic, but if anyone out there has similar toe issues…I looked for 2 years (seriously) for a pair of flats that didn’t show half of my toes. I have the brand for you: Me Too. You can get them at Nordstrom and other dept stores. Once I found them I bought three pairs (three different styles, but all covered my toes and looked cute!).

    • Anonymous :

      Thanks! I’ve been looking for ballet flats that cover my toes (I have REALLY long “finger” toes too) and haven’t been successful so far. I will try these!

  21. My $ 0.02 is that (1) toe cleavage is fine – it’s not so much about the amount of “cleavage” as it is about the style of shoe. A cute peep toe that shows some toe is fine, but a strappy sandal – not so much. (2) I’m in FL, and pantyhose are not really part of a normal daily wardrobe for younger women here. Obviously, when I’m in court or interviewing I slap a pair on – but beyond that – no one wears them. I personally think they are a dated look. However, I am all about cute tights!

  22. If I wear pants I wear knee high pantyhose or ankle high pantyhose. I feel much more polished that way. If I wear a long enough skirt I wear knee high boots and if it is a shorter skirt I wear regular pantyhose.

  23. Just out of curiosity for the women who wear footless hose under pants, doesn’t it get really hot? I have a few outfits where shaping garments might be helpful in the hip area, but if that’s the case I’ll wear something specifically for the hips that ends above the knee instead of going for an all-out footless hose. I’d much rather just target the specific body parts that need help rather than everything else.

    • I find it does get hot and wear the above-the-knee kind for the same reasons you mentioned.

  24. I’m a 31-year-old in the Midwest. It seemed like until about 5 or so years ago, no one would have dreamed of going to work or a nice social without pantyhose. My mother was actually the person who suggested to me that it was okay to go bare-legged to a wedding. I guess old habits die hard because I would not be caught dead wearing a skirt without hose or tights at the office (though I’ve relaxed a bit at weddings). Part of it is that I have terrible vericose and spider veins, so I rely on my legwear to cover the ickiness. Even without those issues, however, I can’t see myself with bare legs at work. Maybe in another 5 years I’ll catch up!

    • I’m totally with you, Emily. I *just* started going no-hose a couple of years ago, but *only* for church. I can’t imagine not wearing them to work, especially with a suit – I’d feel too exposed, and I suppose too casual.
      Perhaps it’s because I’m old (I’m 39) AND in the Midwest! :-)

  25. I’m 23 from New England and I would never think to wear hose with a skirt (unless it was freezing. or i was going for an interivew. or both.) But I almost always wear hose (or the sock version) with pants.

    I’m also a “person of color” (south asian) so it’s hard to find hose that matches my skin well enough to pair with a skirt – with pants it’s usually less of an issue b/c only a small bit of it is visible. My problem is that most of my shoes irritate my toes w/o hose (but are fine with hose/the sock version of hose), so I really only have 1 or 2 comfortable options for shoes when I want to wear a skirt. Has anyone else run into this problem? Usually I’ll just go w/o hose and risk a blister.

  26. Monistat Anti-Chafing Powder Gel is the way to go to avoid blisters. Just rub it on your hot spots and you’re good to go.
    I’ve also used a deodorant stick when in a pinch, and mole skin for when I know I’ll be walking for a long long time.

  27. I would be interested in a poll about being “old.” Hate to think that our clothing preferences is the determining characteristic.

    If you are wanting summer weight hosiery and hosiery in a wide variety of colors, look into They carry many many European lines which will give you options.

    Just for me, I can’t imagine sweaty shoe insides … here in Texas, we have “air you can wear” and shoes would just be ruined without wearing hosiery. IMO. I second the other comment about the “old days” of garters…can’t imagine going through that. Remembering that l’eggs was a big deal in my high school years, hosiery just seems to be appropriate and refined. Besides, I couldn’t possibly keep up with the daily (?) moisturizing and other care for bare legs. How do you younger (?) gals manage that on a busy woman’s schedule?

    • In summer, I definitely go through a wardrobe rotation based on skincare — shave on Sunday and moisturize, then Monday gets my shortest skirts (when my knees show when seated), Tuesday gets a longer/fuller skirt, and Wednesday gets pants… and sometimes Thursday… then repeat :) Fortunately I have blonde hair so it isn’t obvious on Day 3!

    • Bare leg care doesn’t take all that long. Keep in mind that you aren’t wearing a bikini, so it’s not like you need to go all the way up the leg and then some. Shaving from about 4″ above the knee downward doesn’t take that much time once you’re used to doing it everyday. In the summer, I typically do shave on a daily basis or at least every other day. I moisturize once or twice a day year round.

      FWIW, my mom is in her 60s and wouldn’t be caught dead in hose. She just goes on about all the medical reasons not to wear them if you want to avoid *feminine issues* (to put it nicely). She wears skirts or capris every day to work and uses a very intense foot moisturizer on her legs because they’re too dry for regular moisturizers.

  28. I’ve clerked for two federal judges, one male and one female. I guarantee that the male judge, who sits on a conservative southern circuit, had absolutely zero clue whether I or any attorney appearing before him ever wore pantyhose. I would be surprised if he even knows what they are. His secretary, on the other hand, wears hose or knee highs every single day and would have had a coronary if I forgot to wear them in court. My female co-clerk and I only wore them in court, with skirt suits, and never with pants. The female judge, a senior judge on a southern district court, wears them every day but also does not seem to notice or care if I do. When I summered at law firms in DC, I saw younger female attorneys who never wore them or only wore them in court, and older women who wore them every day. My firms were fairly conservative but it never seemed like much of an issue. Regarding toe cleavage, I think as long as your shoes cannot be mistaken for sandals you are fine. The above “more shoe than foot” rule seems to make sense.

    • I worked for a male federal appeals court judge in the southwest and we were explicitly required to wear hose with a skirt, and discouraged from wearing pants, even in chambers. He definitely knew what hose were.

      • Hose do look dated. But for oral argument, I would rather looked dated and out-of-style, than have an old judge think I looked cheap!

  29. Not a fan of the cleavage factor, but I can go along with the more shoe than foot rule.

    As far as going bare, I do the nude trouser socks when I’m wearing pants. Not only does it save my shoes from extra sweat, the extra layer of cloth reduces friction from the shoes (less pain!). When I’m wearing a skirt I will go bare because I simply refuse to wear hose. I rip my trouser socks to shreds as it is, so I can just imagine the money I’m saving by not wearing pantyhose!

  30. Try using an anti-transpirant spray on your feet (not the deodorant but the 15 euro a spray one – don’t worry, it’ll last you two months or so though).
    Works well on sweaty hands as well, if you’re in a job where you need to shake hands lots.

  31. eh, I meant to say “Try using an anti-transpirant spray on your feet (For example “Therme”, not the deodrant but the 15 euro a spray one)”

  32. Addressing the sweaty feet question, I have the same problem, live in CA, and wear hose or trouser socks/knee highs every day. Not only does it make my feet more comfortable in my shoes, but my nice pumps don’t get nearly as dirty, sticky, wet, or sweaty as when I go hose-less. Sure, most work places these days don’t care if you are bare-legged, but as a purely practical matter I think it’s better for your feet and your shoes to have some sort of barrier there.

    • Delta Sierra :

      I’m with you, Anon. Think about it, people: wear hose for a day, then wash out just the feet, in the sink. See how much dirt and ick runs down the drain. Without hose, that stuff stays in your shoes. A lot of it is salt, which eats away at the inside materials of the shoe. The different sorts of shoe-liners are a good option, but only if you wash them out at night. And if they don’t make your shoes not fit.

    • I am with you 100%. I can’t stomach the idea of wearing bare feet in closed leather shoes.

  33. Strappy sandals can be great for work in summer or in certain climates. Hosiery almost always make(s) the leg look better. Toe cleavage with pumps never looks right for work – no matter what your job, and hosiery – unless tights or 0paque – does not disguise this fact. Unfortunately, toe cleavage makes it look as thought the shoe does not fit, even if it does fit.

    • I disagree – lower vamps are a style lately, so I interpret “toe cleavage” as a style choice rather than as a sign that shoes don’t fit properly. That said, I don’t think it’s particularly appropriate for work, not because it’s too sexy (toes = not sexy, IMO) but because it’s a little too trendy and young-looking. I don’t think I’ve ever seen this style on someone over 25 or so.

  34. Great discussion! I’m in the Midwest (Milwaukee) and in my early 40s, in a large, mildly-conservative law office, and never wear hose in the summer (or only on very rare, formal occasions like an interview), but do wear thigh-high stockings in off-black (or black tights) in the winter. I cannot STAND pantyhose. I agree with many of the others who posted that it is impossible to find a natural-looking pair of skin-colored hose. Plus I think it tends to look dated. As for toe cleavage, I think a little is fine as long as the rest of the shoe is appropriate. I think sandals are not appropriate in the office, but nice peep toes with a SMALL “peep” are fine, provided the pedicure is perfect. There was one woman in our office who took to wearing these open-toed shoes that were obviously too big for her and her toes actually hung off the front of the shoe – it was disgusting – so fit is important too.

    • Hey Deborah,

      I’m also in Wisconsin (Madison) and agree with you on the hose thing. My firm just doesn’t care, period, and I only wear them to court or to client meetings. Most of the time I wear pants suits, so I guess it really doesn’t come up either way. However, I will say that wearing hose does reduce the amount of “grime” in my shoes.

  35. I think some toe cleavage is just fine … I think it’s the super-pointy toes that look inappropriate and tacky for the office. I think peep toes are perfectly fine as well. I’m early forties and I grew up in the pantyhose era, but I do think they can look a bit dated these days. However, as you get older, your legs don’t always look quite as good as they did when you were a twenty-something.

  36. Clarifying my post – I think the shoes depicted above are perfectly fine; I meant that there are super-pointed styles that I don’t think look appropriate for an office, that are more evening-wear.

  37. I work in the legal department of a large, fairly conservative corporation in the mid west. While the attire is billed as “corporate casual”, it does seem to be “frowned upon” to not wear some type of something on your legs/feet – be it hose, tights, trouser socks, etc. My legs are also extremely pale, so I tend to think they look ugly when I wear a knee-length skirt without at least black hose. I haven’t been brave enough to go without hose/tights yet while wearing a shorter skirt, but in the summer, I do go without them when wearing pants.

  38. Hose.
    Doesn’t the name say it all??
    Hose. Yech!

  39. Toe cleavage — I agree, depends on the shoe as a whole.

    I cannot wear shoes (other than sandals) bare-footed. My feet sweat and swell. So I swear by the sock liners/foot covers. Yes, there’s a risk that it may peek out from the shoe. It took several trials to find a type that was lower-cut and didn’t peek. But really, it’s worth it. So much more comfortable — it absorbs the sweat, you wash it nightly like any other sock and it provides a buffer against blisters. An example: Calvin Klein No-Show Liners:

    And shoe liners don’t work for me. They only cover the sole. So when my feet swell, the sides and top are still unprotected and end up bruising/blistering. They’re fine for sandals, sling-backs or open-toed shoes that allow some air in, but IMO, useless for pumps, flats, etc.

  40. Nevadamtnbear :

    Great discussion.

    Toe cleavage doesn’t bother me. I am more offended by the terminology than see the look. And, I absolutely LOVE the motto “more shoe than foot” as the standard for professional footwear. That’s totally awesome!

    As for hose. I _HATE_ pantyhose. Despise them. I refuse to wear them and have even not worn them to court during the summer months when wearing a skirt suit on occasion. However, when I do wear hosiery, I’ll wear stockings with a garter belt. I find them much more comfortable to wear than standard pantyhose. I’ll gladly fumble with a garter belt and stockings than wear pantyhose. My office could care less. In fact, I don’t believe any of the firms around here have requirements for hose any longer.

    As for the comfort with shoes, I typically dump a little gold bond powder in to my shoes in the morning, it keeps things fresh, absorbs moisure, and helps my little toezies get into position for those shoes that are a little more *sticky/tight* in the toe box.

    I think it’s all about personal preference and common sense.

  41. I voted for the zero toe cleavage, but I’d like to revise. I think it depends more on the shoes than on the actual toes shown – therefore, the woman with the longer toes above should not worry! If you have a normal-looking shoe that isn’t particularly low-cut on the top and a bit of toe shoes, I can’t imagine who would care. I certainly don’t, despite my vote. I’m just against pumps that look like they are barely hanging onto the woman’s feet.

    Therefore, it’s okay if a little toe cleavage shoes, but I think that should NOT be because the shoe itself is really skimpy on the coverage.

  42. Could someone please explain to me, why would someone who finds pantyhose horribly uncomfortable be ok with tights? Why are Spanx or the like more comfortable than pantyhose? And does anyone think that wearing shoes without socks would be considered work-appropriate and professional- looking for a man, even in the summer?

    • I wear tights when it’s too cold for bare legs. Pantyhose really do nothing to keep your legs warm, so they’re a lot less comfortable for that purpose and certainly not any more comfortable on the days when it’s warm enough that you don’t need pantyhose. I find Spanx more comfortable because I don’t have to spend my days worrying about tearing them and they don’t cover up the majority of my leg.

      I don’t think it’s appropriate for men to show up to work without socks, but that’s comparing apples to oranges. I wouldn’t expect a man to show up to work in a skirt or dress either.

    • Delta Sierra :

      Gail – excellent questions! I’d been wondering all that, too.

    • Nevadamtnbear :

      I personally don’t like tights either. But, will wear tights in the winter with dresses. I think part of the difference between tights vs. hose for me is that tights tend to have a uniform weave throughout the leg and waist and the material tends to be a softer weave as well. Part of the issues I have with pantyhose is the discomfort I get between my thighs from the fabric rubbing, particularly if I am doing a lot of walking in them. It doesn’t matter whether I’m wearing a size or two larger (tried that) or high end hose, they just literally rub me wrong. Second, I don’t like the waist bands on most pantyhose. they tend to cut into my middle or if I get them large enough to not do that they sag in the crotch making them uncomfortable, not to mention making it a little challenging to not be constantly trying to pull them up if I’m doing a lot of walking.

      Spanx on the other hand, depending on the product, generally has wider waist bands, and are not fully leg. And if you’re buying the higher end Spanx (i.e. not the pantyhose version), the fabric is different, hence they don’t rub me wrong.

      As for what men wear on their feet. Honestly, I could care less if a man comes into my office without socks, as I rarely if ever pay attention to men’s feet. Also, their pants are generally long enough, that I wouldn’t likely notice whether they’re wearing socks or not. Just as I could care less and wouldn’t think twice about a women wearing a pair of loafers without socks.

      Personally, I prefer to go barefoot in life. If I could, I’d walk around barefoot throughout my office. I don’t, I have a pair of ballet slippers I keep at my desk for that purpose. But, in the four walls of my office, I don’t wear any shoes unless I’m cold. At home, I rarely wear shoes, even outside. And 12 months out of the year, when I’m not at work, I’m wearing my Chaco’s 95% of the time when I have to have shoe on my feet. I guess that because of my personal preferences and personality, I really don’t scrutinize whether someone has toe cleavage, is wearing hose, socks, or whatever. To each their own.

    • Great questions! I actually find pantyhose horribly uncomfortable (but wear them anyway, or wear tights) and find that tights do not squeeze my inner thighs or create a roll around my waist the way that hose do. Hose seems to literally embed itself in my inner thigh and then my thighs chafe like hell, while tights are thick enough to provide protection against chafing. I find Spanx just as uncomfortable as pantyhose due to the excessive squeezing. Since I walk all over the place, I stick to tights whenever possible and only wear hose or Spanx to super formal events.

      No, I don’t think shoes without socks would be work-appropriate for a man, but then again, men never wear anything to the office that shows their lower legs. In my business casual office I can wear sandals/peeptoes to work, and do, but men can’t wear sandals or whatever the male equivalent of peeptoes might be.

    • No matter what anyone says, it is the style. In the 80’s and 90’s everyone wore nude hose every day, even in Florida, and no one thought about it. Now, wearing hose would be like wearing a hat and gloves. People wear tights because they are in style.

  43. I hardly ever wear hose. Never at work – I only wear pants suits if needed, or I wear a skirt suit with tights and boots. I have a few pairs of Donna Karan nudes that I wear when hose is absolutely necessary (don’t remember the last time that was). Tights are much more comfortable bc you can pull them up the right way without that weird pulling at the crotch area if the hose aren’t on “straight”.

    I always have to wear tall hose also (that might help some people) – I am 5.8 and have longish legs.

  44. I must be the weirdest 23 year old in the world. I love pantyhose and I’ve worn them since at least junior high. They’ve never been uncomfortable, and I don’t have problems with the fabric rolling down or binding my feet. I buy the 3-for-$5 packs, and, though they don’t last very long, they do their job. Re: toe cleavage–I really wish we could change that term, because showing a little toe is definitely not the same thing as showing a little breast.

    • Woman of Color :

      I’m with you Adri. It always comes back to this topic. I wouldn’t dream of going out without stockings on (I rarely ever wear pants, I believe that women should wear dresses, and skirts). It just makes your outfit look so crisp and pulled together. I don’t see stockings as old-fashioned, but just as a necessary part of a woman’s wardrobe, equivalent to make-up and deodorant. I like you also buy the 3 for $5 packs. I stock-up every two weeks. I also buy the more expensive patterned tights for my “fun” days.

  45. I’ve worked at 2 law firms that are pretty conservative dress-code wise (suits 4 days a week), and even here, hardly any of the women wear hose. It actually bothers me b/c I have very pale skin and very dark hair – if I don’t shave every morning, you can really tell. I also have a mild skin condition. If I wear a pair of not-too-sheer pantyhose, neither of these things are obvious, but I would never feel comfortable going bare-legged. When I wear hose, though, I often get comments like “you must be the last person alive still wearing pantyhose” from other women, in not-too-subtle hints that I’m being too conservative for the unofficial dress-code rules they have worked out. I end up wearing pants way more than I would like.

  46. The more skin you show, the less authority you have! Can you imagine men having a conversation about toe cleavage and bare legs in the office? Dressing for work is different than dressing for leisure. I live in Texas and even in the heat of the summer I don’t feel properly dressed without hose. I actually find that I stay cooler since my skin is not directly touching. I love Victoria Secret hosiery. They are light and have great color options. For those who do opt for bare legs, make sure your gooming is tip top and your legs are free from any defects. Hosiery works like makeup for the legs!

  47. panty hose are OK for me if it is, say less than 80F…. they do keep you warm to an extent….they come in plenty of colors if you look around, or maybe I am the only one with “tan skin” when I am tan and “nude” skin when I am not. Without them, I wear insoles in my shoes…L’eggs has some I think and a few of the companies that make foot powder. The insoles keep your shoes fresh and I also have baby powder at my desk to add if I need a little something extra. This is a temperate climate.. if I were in the semi tropics, I would not be wearing hose unless the air conditioning was too much…sometimes in the summer I need them to avoid freezing. They really do not feel uncomfortable to me, but I never wear the “control top” ones, which I do think are vise-like and worth avoiding.

  48. I am in the veritable tropics, not the semi tropics, but I work in a USG environment and I wear knee highs with my pants for comfort with close-toed shoes. If my toenails are manicured, I do wear dress sandals to work, obviously without hose. Mostly I wear pantsuits, which, while warm, do not compromise my professionalism. I do not wear skirt suits (yet anyway) because I do not feel comfortable exposing so much leg here, but if I did, I would wear hose. Insoles is a great idea, thanks for the recommendation.

  49. I have Dr. Scholl’s Sole Expressions inserts in most of my shoes that I wear without socks or hose. I think I got them at Target. They aren’t designed to absorb sweat, but I find that my feet sweat WAY less in them because the inserts are fabric and I think it helps them breathe more. If your feet sweat a lot even with socks on, though, these probably won’t help.

    I’ve also tried the Kiwi fresh’ins. I like them but not as much as the Dr. Scholl’s ones because they aren’t stuck to your shoe so don’t always stay in place. They’d be a good option, though, if you don’t want to stick anything to your shoe.

    Once I tried the odor eaters inserts…. never again. They swelled up and stuck to my feet. I had to toss them after one wear. I don’t think they are designed for bare feet.

    If sweat isn’t an issue for you but blisters are, I’ve gotten through a few long days as a bridesmaid by rubbing Body Glide all over my feet. It’s an anti-chafing thing for runners. I think the Dr. Scholl’s stick (it looks like a big tube of lip balm) is basically the same thing but marketed for women & foot care.

  50. I do think hose is a bit old fashioned, I’m in my mid 40’s live in the southeast, and don’t remember the last time I wore hose stockings or whatever you want to call it, feel very comfortable and free, dresscode at my work is not that strict, and most of the younger coworker go bare too, in my case the sweat issue is controlled with baby powder that I keep in my desk, as for the toe cleavage issue, it can be sexy as well as the pump model is not too trashy

  51. Listen girls! its all lovely to a guy, who cares about toe cleavage or bare legs, guys love all of it!

  52. I don’t think toe cleavage is much of a big deal. And no one really thinks about it anyway. Closed toe shoes are required; therefore, you see most of the women wear pumps, Mary Jane’s, and other heels. Stockings/hose are rarely worn. It’s best to wear all leather footwear and stay away from any manmade materials that come in contact with the skin. I see it all the time from the ones that wear manmade materials, always have sweaty feet issues. Sometimes their feet start to slip around while walking do to the moisture. The rub begins! And those our the ones that tend to have their shoes off in the office or half way off. Foot odor is also and issue at times.

  53. Jason Grey :

    Speak for yourselves guys.
    The whole barefoot, toe cleavage, pump thing is just sloppy. If you want to go barefoot wear sandals or any open toed heel. If you wear pump make sure they fit properly and cover up that toe cleavage.

  54. Anonymous :

    Well for starters, toe cleavage exists because shoe designers made their products so said cleavage could be shown, second, women everywhere are buying pumps with low cut vamp by the dozens because is inn in fashion terms, and thir, it IS REALLY SEXY to see women wear such pumps bare.
    All you have to see is photos of those galas and parties, and you can see all those women wearing their shoes without any hoisery at all

  55. Boy am I glad to know that I’m not the only one with the sweaty shoe issue. I havent had the chance to look back through all of the comments bur did anyone happen to find a good camel shoe insert brand? That some info that I’d definitely like to spread around.

  56. Bare feet in pumps and toe cleavage is absolutely acceptable! I just came from a meeting in at a U.S. Federal Courtroom, where there were three women, all reputable attorneys, who were all wearing high heels with bare feet and without any hose whatsoever, and with each one of them having varying degrees of toe cleavage and arch cleavage with their heels. These women were all sharply and professionally dressed, one in a conservative pant-suit and the other two in smart looking skirt/suit outfits, and I must admit the bare feet in high heels with toe cleavage looked quite attractive on each of them, but was in no way whatsoever inappropriate. One of them even had two bandaids on the backs of her bare heels from where her high heels looked to have been rubbing blisters, but it was not the least bit troubeling. If those ladies can sport bare feet in high heels showing toe cleavage in front of a U.S. Federal Judge, and still convey the image and very essence of professionalism, then there is no reason why anyone should have any doubt about how completely acceptable and appropriate it is for women to wear heels without any hose. In fact, I dare say its quite standard both around the office and in the court rooms here for women to wear high heels without hose, and almost no one would ever think otherwise.

  57. Michael Swanson :

    I adore women who wear flats and pumps that show toe cleavage. It’s a trend that comes and goes, but one I wish would stick around. How could someone think this style is not appropriate for the workplace?

    We need more toe cleavage, not less. It’s in good taste and very sexy in most cases. Of course there can be too much cleavage shown, but most shoes are designed to show a tasteful amount. Now if only I could get my wife to wear such shoes . . . topic for a different discussion I guess!

  58. Anonymous :


  59. Anonymous :


  60. I think toe cleavage is just fine for office wear. Most of my heels show some and Ive never had a boss say anything to me.I think its a sexy look and go out of my way to buy them.Classic Pumps is a great to look.

  61. I am glad to be one of the visitants on this great internet site (:, appreciate it for posting .

  62. I can’t imagine wearing nylons with pumps.I used to do it and i always felt like my feet were too hot.I love toe cleavage.I know guys in my office look at my feet just to see what kind of shoes im wearing and if they can see my toe rings..I guess im lucky because when im meeting witha client i always keep my shoes on but when im alone in the office im barefoot and the bosses dont care.In the summer it would be impossibel to wear pantyhose.

  63. Christian Louboutain :

    To me toe cleavage is sexy. Most of my high heels, pumps, and stilletos have toe cleavage. It’s all around where ever I go. Nylons and socks are ecchhh.

  64. My South Asian girlfriend is only 5′-1″ and 83 lbs., and prefers to wear very very high heels to work, mostly so that she’s not perceived as a pre-teen. She is a big fan of strappy sandals and open-toed shoes because they are apparently much more comfortable. But I do tell her it doesn’t look very professional to do that, particularly with colored toenails. Of course, professionalism is 99% how you behave rather than how you look; that being said, I’ve suggested she go to work in much more modest shoes.

  65. I’m very impressed! A safe place for us to talk about shoes and feet without creepos coming in and telling us how hot it is. UGH!

    My answer: if your shoes are nice and fit well, toe cleavage is fine. And regarding stockings/nylons going out of style? Some things never go out of style in a professional setting. At some point, the fashion gossip becomes comical.

    My $0.02!

    P.S. if your work shoes start to stink, put them in a plastic grocery bag and put it in the freezer overnight. It’s not permanent, but it helps.

  66. My feet sweat in the winter time when I’m already cold and make me colder. I started spraying aerosol deodorant on my toes and the bottom of my feet. It works really well. I do it in the summer now inside closed toe shoes. Give it a try. I also feel compelled to say that flats are better for your body and positive heels throw off our alignment all the way to our heads. Katy Bowman has an excellent blog and publications about it. Sorry, had to say it because there’s really no good reason to cripple ourselves.

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