Reader Mail: On pant lengths and shoes…

Today’s reader mail comes from J, who is trying to keep her pants from dragging on the ground…

As a New Yorker, I walk at least a couple blocks to get to commute to work. As many women do, I usually leave my heels at my desk at work and wear more comfortable shoes to and from work. The problem is that for my pants to look good with heels, they are too long to wear with the comfy flats/cute sneakers I wear for the commute and drag on the dirty streets. How do women who have to walk for part of their commute deal with this conundrum and not ruin their pants???

This is a dilemma a lot of women face, and there are a variety of ways to deal with it. (Pictured:  Pants too long, originally uploaded to Flickr by puck90.)  First, we would suggest assessing what heel height, in general, you’re comfortable in for work shoes — and having your pants hemmed to that level. As a reminder: your pant should brush the top of your foot, and no more than an inch or so of heel should be showing in the back. For us, that comes to around 2″, 2.5″ — which, honestly, can usually be worn with commuting shoes that have a decent (thick) sole. (We just tend to wear our higher heels exclusively with skirts instead — it works out particularly well in the summertime if we opt to commute in flip-flops.) But let’s say your comfort level is close to 4″. In that case, you have a few options.

-------Sponsored Links--------

Miz Mooz Women's Soho Pump1) Find a comfortable pair of wedges or other shoe that have a higher heel — they do exist, and you will be able to wear your properly-hemmed pants with the wedges without dragging them through the streets.  For example, the brand Miz Mooz consistently gets good comfort reviews for some of its higher heels (Miz Mooz Women’s Soho Pump, pictured at right, available at for $80), or even Skechers makes sneaker-type shoes that have a higher heel.
2)  Look into the product — we’ve only read about them at various fashion blogs, but the theory is that the magnetic doo-dads create a temporary cuff or hem for your pants (picture below).

The other obvious issue here is when the weather is bad — if there’s rain or snow, it’s highly likely your pant legs are going to get wet, no matter where your hem is.  We love our Hunter boots for when it’s raining (we try to wear a skirt on those days, but we will tuck our pants into our boots if we need to).

Readers, how do you deal with the commuting problem?


  1. I have this problem every morning. My “cuter” sneakers don’t work at all because they’re as low as my skimmer flats. I’d wear lower heels, but walking even a few blocks on the sidewalks tears the heels up in no time ata ll. I haven’t seen many wedges I like too much, so maybe I should check out the Zakkerz!

  2. I recommend Sole Clips (see, especially if you wear athletic or other shoes with a thick and gummy sole. You can wear the clips on the outside of the pant hem and clip them to the shoe sole.

  3. i use and swear by zakkers. they’re really great, and if you use them as you should (ie don’t yank them off, unclip the magnets), they don’t damage your pants.

  4. I know it’s obnoxious, but I HATE seeing people commuting in shoes that don’t go with their outfits. Yes, I know, of course it is a necessity, but I’m a strong proponent of acceptable looking commuting shoes. I would never wear sneakers, for example, with work pants. Thus I’m recommending finding wedges or some other solution that is the right length and inoffensive (this doesn’t have to be expensive. Clarkes shoes are comfortable and relatively cheap. Not always the most attractive, but for my mind a better commuting option than either my nicest heels or any sort of sneaker or inappropriately short shoe).

    • Personally, what judgy strangers on the Metro think about my shoes at 8 in the morning is not really a priority for me.

      • Haha, my coworker and I have this debate all the time. She commutes on the metro exclusively in cute flats. In warm weather I commute in flip flops which she thinks looks awful with my suits. She claims its why DC has such a bad rap when it comes to fashion. (This is a very good-natured discussion though and at this point more of a tease for both of us than an actual attempt to convert the other).

        • I’m with V. I like to be polished (and professional), but am not particularly fashionable and have decided to just go with what works for me. I almost like the fact that DC has a bad rap so I blend right in!

    • I agree with you Heidi. You never know who you’re going to run into on the way in- or from- work. It always pays to be polished, day or night. Sorry, v.

      • No need to apologize; as I said, not a priority. :-)

      • I don’t have a problem with commuting shoes, per se, but I agree that they have to be somewhat cohesive with your outfit as a whole. So, for example, in the summer, I do do flip flops but only in leather and with some hardware (non-tacky) accents to make it a little more dressed up. Obviously, still flip-flops but at least they’re not rubber, madras cloth, or something else clearly “beachy.”

        Same goes for winter — you can do a nice flat boot, but please do NOT do the socks/sneakers/and a skirt suit look!!! That never looked good and it doesn’t look any better with flat pumas than it did with white running shoes.

        And as for not caring what strangers think of you on the subway, you never know when that stranger will be an ex-bf or a co-worker. Audrey Hepburn once said something to the effect of thinking it rude to leave one’s house looking a mess, and I have to say I kinda agree.

        • Conversely, I think the idea that a woman has an obligation to look decorative at every moment is a fairly harmful trope.

          • No one said decorative. And I think this applies to both genders. When I see guys after work looking a mess in wrinkled jeans, work loafers, and a been-tucked-in-all-day shirt, wrinkled & untucked, on their way home, I think it’s just as unattractive.

            No one is proposing you present yourself as lawyer Barbie. Just a pinch of coordination does wonders :)

          • I’m with v. When I see guys looking as SPS described, I think, wow I bet they’re tired after a long day, not wow that guy is unattractive. People aren’t always judged, or should be judged, in attractiveness vs unattractiveness. There are plenty of examples of “mad geniuses” who would not be considered polished or attractive and yet this alone would probably not lower the opinion of them in the eyes of a co-worker on the street. Presentation has its place but I think that rules like this that force women to be uncomfortable while commuting because they have to look “put together” are harmful and generally end up being applied in a gender-biased way, anyways.

          • V, I think I love you.

          • I totally agree, but given the reality that I might run into someone (in the lobby of my building is more likely than on the subway), I try to wear something that won’t draw attention to itself. I’m not trying to be decorative, but I don’t want that client or senior partner I’m trying to impress with my professionalism to subconsciously think less of me because I look odd. That is my concern about Zakkerz – it would look ridiculous. Lately I have been moving toward wearing flats or lowish loafers at work, which means some basic (cheaper and/or comfier) loafer type shoes will do for the commute.

            I have a male coworker who keeps his good shoes at the office, but I’m pretty sure his commuting shoes aren’t strikingly different.

          • I commute in sneakers. My father ran 60 blocks uptown on Sept. 11th. I no longer care about being decorative.

          • 3L: Thanks for bringing some much-needed perspecitive to this discussion. You are absolutely right.

    • The Clarkes suggestion makes me think of clogs

      • I commute in sneakers, but then again, my office allows jeans and sneakers on Fridays, so Mr./Ms. Partner in the Corner Office will be seeing them then anyway. I also have chronic pain in one of my feet, so wearing cuter commuting shoes would mean dooming myself to all day pain, thus, despite the possibility of lurking judgey-mcjudgernsons, not worth it.

      • I wear Clark’s Privos, with a thick, athletic-type sole under a ballet flat upper. Many styles have a removable insole. They are as comfortable as running shoes and not unduly unattractive.

        Also agree with posters who noted the personal preparedness aspect. If you had to walk a long way or run for your life – as many did on 9/11 and more recently at Fort Hood – would you be ready and able?

    • Anonymous :

      I work in NYC but my commute involves about a mile walk (Jersey City –> PATH –> office in downtown Manhattan) on each end. The idea of walking 2 miles in heels everyday to look “polished” just seems impractical – from both a movement and shoe upkeep perspective. I also try to save room in my gym bag by wearing my sneakers (though you might think that doesn’t go with my outfit either!).

  5. instead of buying a specific product, I turn up the cuffs of my long pants, and use a safety pin (with the bulk of the pin on the inside of the pants, so it’s not SUPER obvious) to hold the cuff up. This also avoids a sharp crease, which Zakkerz looks like it might cause for some pants.

    • no sharp crease. the strap is long enough that it doesn’t have to sit right against the pant leg or require a tight fold. i walk to the train in the morning (3/4 of a mile) and have found them to be the perfect solution.

  6. re the comfy heel recommendations — how do they hold up to a walking commute on pavement (10-20 minutes)? I can understand wedges when you only have to make it a few blocks from the subway, but after a long day in office heels, I’m having a hard time thinking even wedges would feel nice on the walk home.

    • Someone above recommended Clarks- the Indigo shoes are fairly attractive and I’ve been able to wear my Indigo heels in 10-20 minute commutes without any problems. The soles are pretty sturdy and do not look worn out at all yet even though I wore them last year in rain, snow, and other inclement weather.

    • Anonymous :

      Oh no – I have a 10-20 minute walk to and from the train, plus I also have a train transfer and often must stand on the subway. I used to do the wedges/flats/comfortable heels thing but have since done the unthinkable and switched to sneakers. I decided that, while it is more attractive to have comfy heels than sneakers, it is not very attractive to be a 30-year old with bunyons, hammer-toes, calouses, and back problems – not to mention hobbling on crutches when you break an ankle. If one is commuting within Manhattan, or driving to work, flats and comfy heels are great. For those with bigger journeys, they just aren’t practical.

  7. I used to be a firm believer in the “you have to wear heels with your dress pants that are hemmed for heels” rule. Then I moved and encountered a lot of un-shoveled sidewalks last winter on my walk to public transit. It took me two relatively nasty falls on ice to reconsider my position. I don’t care how comfortable heels, wedges, or whatever else are — they are still a slip risk on ice.

    I’ve been wearing winter boots for my commute in icy conditions ever since. I tuck my pants into the boots, but I keep meaning to order some of the Zakkerz (we’ve had this conversation on this blog before — I know it, because that’s how I first heard about Zakkerz — here, for one: but I thought there was an older post as well… but I can’t find it, so maybe I’m imagining it)

  8. I have a couple pairs of Tory Burch flats that have elastic at the heel. I tuck back hem of pants into the elastic part of the shoe. It might look a little strange from the back- but in my opinion it is more stylish than gym shoes.

  9. I saw these shoe covers at ( ). I assume you slip them over your heels. This would be a way to wear your heels and not slip or ruin them (but probably wouldn’t help with the comfort).

  10. I love this pair of Rocket Dogs as a substitute for my normal heeled loafers, especially when it’s rainy or snowy:

    For some odd reason, I’ve never been able to find them anywhere online except for during the winter, at I guess they’re exclusive.

  11. Anonymous :

    I wear Dansko clogs. They have a pretty significant sole which does the trick for most pairs of pants and they aren’t particularly visible with long pants. With skirts I tend to wear comfy flats with rubber soles (Kenneth Cole, I think). Except in winter. Then I go with the boots, end of story (though I do try to wear my less ugly pair of winter boots to work).

  12. Ditto on the Danskos! I’ve had mine for years! I alternate with a pair of neutral suede Merrell mary jane wedges that do the trick too!

  13. I have Danskos too and they’re comfy – but just be warned I’ve nearly killed myself in them a couple of times. I have a friend who has done the same thing, so I know it’s not just my clumsiness. A) They can be very slippery on the bottom and B) there is something about how they fit (your foot is supposed to be able to slip in the back) that makes them very unstable at the ankle. Beware cobblestone and the like (I live in Boston).

  14. I once saw a commuter who had folded up the hem of her pants and secured them with binder clips. Personally, I thought it was brilliant. Much cheaper than Zakkerz, and while it may look a little silly, it looked like it worked. I’ve never tried it, so I’m not sure if it would crease the fabric too much, but might be worth trying.

    • Was that me?? I used to do that all the time! It works really well, so long as you use enough and fold the fabric thick enough for them to clip securely.

      As far as Danskos, I love mine, but I’ve definitely sprained my ankle in them at least once.

    • Anonymous :

      REALLY? I’m not the only one??!?!?!?!! I always feel pretty dorky when I do that, but I LOVE my very-high heels at the office and don’t want to hem my pants any higher.

      I’ve also tried bobby pins that match the color of my pants – you can usually find black, charcoal, and light gray ones. If you put the bobby pin where the seem of the pants is, they don’t show much (at least, I don’t think they are TOO obvious – perhaps people think that I look ridiculous).

  15. One more for the Dansko crew! My Dansko clogs are easy to slip off on the train or at my desk, and the thick soles mean that my pants don’t drag on the ground. No snow to worry about here in Cali, so the open back is not a problem. I could (and have!) walk miles in the Danksos.

  16. Wow, I was JUST thinking about this very problem! I have definitely ruined many a pant while walking in flats to work.

    For those who like Zakkerz, do you suggest the original or the long?


    • original. i like it because you clip it right on the cuff so the pants can’t unroll themselves (but no crease as mentioned above). if you have really thick tweed or denim pants, you might want to get long. the magnets are so strong, though, that i can’t imagine pants being that thick.

  17. A trick I learned from the guys: I went to an inner-city high school with a lot of guys who liked to wear uber-baggy jeans. To keep from tripping over the hems and ripping them, they’d use rubber bands to keep their pants off the ground. I prefer to use pony-tail holders (comfier), but all you do is slide the pony-tail holder over your foot and tuck the back hem of your pant leg into it at the ankle. The fabric will fold over the band when you stand up, hiding it, but you won’t be able to step on your cuffs on the way to work. It looks much neater that rolling up/clipping your cuffs, it’s faster than safety pins, and if you do it right the cuffs won’t crease. I use this trick all the time, since I have a lot of pants that I want to be able to wear with flats AND heels.

    • That’s fantastic! We used to do almost the same thing in my high school marching band (we practiced outside, on the dewy grass, first period every day), except we’d use the cuffs from old pairs of socks that we cut off just at the ankle– because after 20 or so minutes, rubber bands and hair ties started to cut off circulation to your feet. The cut-off socks were less elasticized but still good enough to hold your jeans up off the wet ground for 75 minutes each morning.

    • Love it! Thank you.

    • that is a great idea! also cracking up picturing thug types fussing over their pant hems.

      • Legalicious07 :

        Wow! From inner-city high school student to thug in merely three posts! ::smh:: Cat, perhaps you didn’t mean to offend, but I hope you stay far, far away from my inner-city high school students and their families.

  18. Bets! Love that idea!

  19. I roll my pant legs up but always have to stop several times when they flip back down… not sure about the $$ of those Zakkers, but they sound interesting.

    During the winter (rainy season), I tuck my pant legs into a pair of cute rain boots:

    And for summer, I’d never judge a commuter in Havaianas (especially thin bands in a metallic color)!

  20. I use a pair of bicycle ankle bands (e.g., They do not make a pretty sight, but I walk fast and change into nice shoes as soon as I arrive in the office.

  21. I just found these all weather boots on piperlime and love them. They’re easier to wear than wellies, but just as weatherproof.

  22. I avoid the problem altogether when I walk to work – I walk in my yoga pants and sneakers, and roll up my work pants in my nice-size bag. A quick change when I arrive means my pants end up in way better shape – plus it feels so good when I can change back into something comfy before walking out the door to go home!

    • Now THAT is the best solution I have read so far! I agree about slippping into Lululemons and comfy shoes or Uggs at the end of a long work day! I have done this when I go from work straight to yoga, I don’t know why I never thought about doing this on snowy/rainy days. Thanks, Kay!!

  23. I usually wear heels with a 3″ or slightly higher heel and wear Dankso clogs to walk to the office in. The sole isn’t quite 3″, but they do give me enough height that my pants don’t drag on the ground, and they’re comfortable. I also feel like they look a little better than sneakers do with work clothes.

  24. After the last Corporette discussion on Zakkerz I bought a pair, and I must say they are a lifesaver in Boston weather. I got mine from, where they were much cheapter than purchasing them directly from the Zakkerz website. They are very thick and sturdy fabric (think Herve Champelier tote strap material) , so I’m sure they will last a long time.

  25. I commute in FitFlops: the thick sole is almost platform-esque, so my pants don’t drag on the ground.

    • What do you think of the FitFlops in terms of providing any real fitness benefit? I’ve always thought about trying them, but haven’t yet. Same question if anyone has experience with the new Reebok Easytone or the Skechers ShapeUps.

      • i have fitflops because they cushion your feet and act as shock absorbers for your knees. i wouldn’t cut my workout, but they make my knees hurt less.

        • I am obsessed with my fit-flops. I don’t know about the firming benefits, but I do feel like I have better posture in them (and in my MBTs). Also, my feet and legs never get tired from walking, and they never give me blisters (miracle). I have far too many pairs of shoes, and yet all summer I wore the fit-flops, hated to take them off.

          Like S said, the sole is thick enough to deal with the pant hem problem for the commute. I just bought the just-above-the-ankle length fitflop boots for winter. I figure that I can tuck the pants hems when it gets slushy out (am in Chicago), and otherwise the pants cover most of the admittedly not entirely attractive boots.

          Extra bonus: they are furry inside and easy to slip on and off, so you can wear them under your desk if your office gets too cold. OH – and if you are half size, I’d recommend buying the size beneath rather than above yours. I am a 7 1/2 and bought an 8, and regret it now. The shoe instructions say that the boots should be snug. Mine have too much space and my toes can get chilly.

  26. I commute in sneakers. I (1) do not worry about running into anyone – our office is on the outskirts of downtown Boston anyway, so I never see anyone I know, and (2) don’t want to have foot, hip or back problems before my time. Plus it is more comfortable that way!!!

    Love the ponytail holder trick. I often will roll over the waistband of my pants to make them slightly shorter. However, this only works if the rise is long enough, otherwise you give yourself some crotch discomfort. In rainy or snowy weather, I wear different pants in to work and change in the bathroom or my office when I get there.

  27. I’ve been trying to solve this problem for ages. In Boston you live in wet, nasty weather for a good 7-9 months a year. I’ve recently just taken to not wearing my pant suits to work. Dresses or skirt suits only. In the winter it actually gets a little easier because I have really tall snow boots (black, simple design, from Skechers) so I can just tuck my pants in and no one looks at me twice.

    If I didn’t have a half mile walk to the train every morning I’d just wear my heels, but that half mile (uphill the entire way home- and it’s a very big hill) can be exhausting.

  28. Eep! I have those Miss Mooz shoes in gray, and I love them in a way that words cannot describe. They are: 1) very comfy for heels, and this coming from someone with serious back problems, 2) absolutely adorable with tights, and 3) don’t have stupid slick soles like so many other womens’ shoes. If you’re thinking of getting them I’d definitely go with gray instead of black, because the interesting stitching is easier to see.

  29. How do you ladies commute in flip-flops? Don’t your feet get absolutely filthy from city grime?

  30. Another option is to use double-sided tape to temporarily “hem” your pants. I use the kind sold in the lingerie section for securing clothes to your body, but regular double-stick would probably work fine too.

  31. i think that the polished point is not one about feminism. for me, it isn’t about the subway– it’s about the walk through the lobby of my office building, the elevator ride, and then the walk down my hall before i get to my office where my work shoes are waiting for me. i am almost guaranteed to run into a colleague. i am of the mind that bare toes are NEVER appropriate in my office (corp law firm), so i don’t wear flip flops, even in the summer. not to mention that gummy thwacking sound up and down the hall in the summer as WOMEN arrive and leave work each day — not professional!
    i wear flats in the summer and black “comfort shoes” (think merrell, ecco, etc) in the winter. i flip my pants up and cuff them. some stay that way on their own, and for those pairs that don’t i use a bobby pin or a paper clip at the inner and outer seams — safety pins take too long to fuss with! for days when i have to go to court or otherwise be out and about in heels and either don’t want to be in my heels all day or have to worry about keeping up with the pace of others, i wear Sofft brand pumps. Swear by them….

  32. I work for a corporate law firm and I go to work every day in my gym clothes and change/shower in the office. If I run into a senior partner in the elevator, I am not worried about not “impressing” her or him. They will be impressed by the quality of my work, not by my shoes. The notion that a woman has to leave the house “put together” is outdated and stupid.

  33. Another vote for zakkerz here – I used them every day when I lived in NYC and had to commute on the subway. In the summer, I would wear them w/my flip flops, and in spring/fall, I usually used them w/a pair of ballet flats. I know a lot of people are concerned with people seeing them in them, but I clerked for a federal judge that year in nyc, and i don’t think he even noticed them when he saw me walk in, and not to mention it shaved a good 10 min off my commute because I was able to walk quickly. FYI – if you buy the zakkerz, make sure they are securely on your pant legs before walking. I know a friend lost hers on the subway because one of them wasn’t on properly, and I almost lost one of mine because it got dislodged while i was running down the subway stairs.

  34. Try hemlock clips if you are wearing sneakers. they go on easy.

  35. xocolatjemet :

    lol it sucks to be so lacking in self confidence that you worry about what anybody, whether you work with them or not, thinks about you in any situation. smh @ the corporate slave mentality. middle finger to trying to please somebody you may or may not run into; all coworkers need to worry about is your job performance and how it affects their job. anything more is their problem, not yours

  36. Wow, I’m glad so many people are dealing with this…I thought I was alone. One great solution would be a work culture where stylish flats were considered as dressed up as heels! One can dream…

  37. Found a cuter solution to Zakkerz – only one sling per pant leg and have fun flowers on them but operate the same. They’re called Valet Snaps – on Love them!

  38. lawstudent2016 :

    Getting to work isn’t the problem.. but I just realized we’re expected to walk half a mile each way to the courthouse from the office.. so a mile total in court appropriate heels, while traveling with tall men wearing flat shoes. Any advice on making it 13 blocks each way? Thanks in advance for all of your helpful advice.

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