The Best Shoes to Wear with Tights

best shoes wear with tightsAre tights appropriate to wear to the office? What sort of shoes or boots look best paired with thicker tights?

Reader M wonders:

With winter coming on, I would love to see a post about what sort of footwear is appropriate to wear with tights in a conservative office. My current work shoe wardrobe consists entirely of your run-of-the-mill low-heel no-frill pumps. These work fine with hose, of course, and seem mostly OK with thinner tights (particularly if they are the same color) but they don’t look quite right with thicker tights, like sweater tights or fleece-lined tights. I think I might need a bootie, or maybe an oxford pump, but I’m unclear on the professional/conservative boundaries of these trendier styles. Or maybe the answer is that thicker tights are just generally inappropriate for the conservative office altogether?

Interesting question. I know fleece tights were hugely popular among the commenters last year, and I’ve always been a fan of sweater tights and the like. But: are they professional? And what shoes look best with them?

(Pictured: Nordstrom ‘Love’ Sweater Tights, available at Nordstrom for $28.)

best shoes to wear with tights best shoes wear to with tights best shoes to wear with tights

For my $.02, while I don’t think tights (of any kind) are the most conservative option, I do think that they’re acceptable for most offices, at least for casual days. (But as always: know your office!)  In many cases, though, I think that thick tights do look a bit inappropriate with sleek pumps. A few thoughts:

  • Avoid straps that will show how thick your tights are. I just don’t think it’s a good look to have a Mary Jane or T-strap cutting into your tights and making them seem a bit puffy.
  • Choose wintry shoes to pair with your winter tights. Boots and booties (if they’re acceptable at your office) would work, as would oxford pumps. Suede wedges and heels (or flats, if you prefer) also work. Avoid summery shoes with cutouts or the like; I even think a d’Orsay style might look a bit odd with tights.

I’m curious, readers — would you make any other notes on which shoes to pair with thicker tights for a conservative office? Do you wear thick tights to your conservative offices? 

(Pictured, L to R: Hue Flat Knit Sweater Tights, $16 at Bloomingdale’s; Hue Space Dyed Sweater Tights, $15.50 at Amazon; Plush Fleece Lined Tights, $35 at Bloomingdale’s.)


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  1. Diana Barry :

    Dude, I wear tights ALL THE TIME in the winter. I wear them with knee-high riding boots, even with suits. I don’t wear heels 99% of the time so this is the best option for me. If I have a client coming in I will wear a pantsuit in order to avoid any client side-eye about the boots.

    • Diana Barry :

      Oh. BUT – I also see ladies at a particular large bank with a dress code of skirts-only wearing tights with pumps all the time in the winter, and it looks fine.

      • Wildkitten :

        I wear my tights all winter too. I wear them with my commuting shoes, with my flats, and with my pumps.

      • Shopaholic :

        I wear tights with pumps in the winter (round-toe, 3 inch heels) but I think the key is the sleekness to my shoes – when I wear tights with a thicker heel, it looks a bit frumpy I think.

  2. Gail the Goldfish :

    How are we defining tights? Because it never occurred to me that plain black tights could be anything other than perfectly conservative and work appropriate. Sweater tights with patterns, sure, but when I think tights, I just think a more opaque version of nude hose. I put fleece lined tights in this category, since if you get the right pair, they look just like unlined tights. Which I definitely wear with basic pumps all the time.

    • +1.

      I am not sure why this is a conversation. Plain tights are perfectly conservative and work appropriate. And a necessity in the winter!

      • because this is the site where conversations include “is your water bottle/mirror/bandaid professional?”

      • Also wondering how plain tights could be inappropriate for any kind of office. If she was asking about patterned tights then I would understand. If you are going to wear mary janes or shoes with straps, then not tying the strap too tight could help with the puffy look. I have worn fleece lined tights with these kinds of shoes. I imagine that sweater tights would probably be too thick for these styles, in which case booties or boots are best.

      • LeLe in DC :

        Totally agree – wear tights every day all winter long – w/knee high boots, flats or pumps. And at a very conservative firm.

    • Agree.
      When it is too cold for pumps, I wear “shooties” – low boots like the ones pictured with the blue tights.

    • Kensington :

      There may be some extremely conservative places left where only hose are acceptable.

      But it most places, black tights are fine and no one will notice the texture of your pumps. I also think fleece lined tights in good condition aren’t noticeable.

      • Mountain Girl :

        Being warm is always acceptable in my book. Obviously YMMV but I’m glad I don’t work in formal big law.

  3. I think plain black (matte) tights look really good with suede pumps. For some reason I just don’t like them with smooth or patent leather pumps, but that’s just personal preference, I think they look fine on other people.

    • Anonymous :

      I wear my black tights with either a tall heeled black boot or suede wedges (the J. Crew Martina Wedge).

    • Agreed. I wear tights with suede or patent pumps and don’t like the way they look with regular leather. The exception to that is knee-high botts which I wear 90% of the time. I also disagree with the advice about mary janes. There should be no strap issue if the tights fit correctly.

  4. Plain black tights = almost always appropriate. I might not use them for an interview somewhere very conservative. I prefer pairing with black suede or patent (or very polished leather) as opposed to pebbled leather. Some people can pull off wearing gray, burgundy or other color shoes with black tights – I am not one of those people.

    Sweater tights = I wear to the office only on very cold days with no meetings, since they are more casual IMO. I only wear them with black knee high boots or black, very simple and conservative high heeled ankle booties. They look too heavy to me with my normal heels or flats, like wearing a big wooly sweater with lightweight khakis (plus I usually wear those shoes only with thin hose or tights, so having the extra sweater-weight material makes them feel too snug).

    • hoola hoopa :


      I wear fleece tights over my office-appropriate hose/tights for my commute and remove them when I reach the office. (Unexpected bonus: my hose/tights are safer during my commute, when I find I’m most likely to catch them on something).

      I do wear fleece tights on meeting-free days, but IMO they are casual. They are appropriate in offices where leggings under a skirt are appropriate (which is most, probably, but not conservative).

      I wear boots with fleece/sweater tights (usually in the same color), but normal closed-toe shoes with regular tights.

    • If a place is so conservative that I can’t wear tights to interview there, I do not want to work there.

  5. Kat, I think you’ve been out of the workplace for too long. I work in a SUPER conservative financial firm in chicago, and everyone wears tights in winter. With the right shoes (lots of suede booties or chunky heel pumps), tights are perfectly appropriate. I think nylons or bare legs would make a woman look silly when its -40 degrees outside.

    • Anonymous :

      I have been wearing nude hose for the past few years. I drive to work, so the only time I am in the cold is when I walk from my car into my building. Do you were tights because of the cold or because they are more fashionable? I am wondering if I should ditch my nude hose and pick up some plain tights instead.

    • Have to agree. I’m in a conservative office too and it is crazy to me that anyone would think black, gray, or navy tights–with appropriately-colored clothing–would not be conservative enough. I might not wear fleece tights to court, but other than that….

  6. To stay mostly on topic, can anyone recommend booties for commuting? My office is too formal for booties during the day, but it would be nice to have something warmer but professional looking for my commute. I’m thinking a low wedge or flat that doesn’t look silly with a formal suit or black dress coat.

    For reference, in prior winters I usually commuted in ballet flats and just ignored my wet, cold feet.

    • (former) preg 3L :

      These are incredibly casual, but I commute in black pumas. I’ve seen other women commute in coach sneakers. I don’t really care if it looks silly — I need my orthotics to fit in them, I love wearing socks, and I’m in NYC. I’m interested to hear if others have booties they like though!

    • Sam Edelman booties–so comfy!

    • I got a pair of Frye booties and I LOVE them. 2 inch or so heel, fairly substantial heel but in a flattering way, slightly pointed toe. They look great with dresses (I couldn’t find a flat bootie that did this), and blend in under pants. My office is casual enough to wear them all day, but they would still be worth it if socks are a priority in a commuting shoe.

      • is the overall shape, but my version does not have the western stitching or pull tab sticking up on the side.

    • I just got these for more casual days at the office:

  7. Along these lines, my oxfords need new shoelaces, but they’re clearly not a standard size — where can I get nice black laces in a short length?

    • Try children’s shoelaces, like the kind made for little boys’ dress shoes.

    • S in Chicago :

      Shoe repair places usually carry a ridiculously large assortment.

  8. I wear black tights with black pumps or booties, but I’m not really comfortable with colored tights. Luckily I’m in California so I can get away with bare legs or nylons for most of the year.

  9. I always wear opaque black tights with my pumps/heels. Booties are so adorable but they’re not appropriate for my specific workplace, unfortunately! Shockingly, Forever21 has great opaque tights that last forever and my favorite sheer black tights are from Spanx!

    • Yay! In the winter, I wear boot’s with tight’s, primarily b/c it is cold and wet and I do not like to slip when I wear tight’s alone, b/c if I slip and do NOT have other layer’s on, I am immediately on my TUCHUS, and that mean’s walking to work with a wet tuchus. So the boot’s have to have a lot of tread on them to make sure I do not slip. Right now, I am in the market for a nice pair of boot’s with TREAD, so that I will not slip. Dad did buy me a new down coat, but he has forbidden me to wear it until the temperature is BELOW 32 degree’s, meaning that the streets will still be WET and I can NOT wear the down coat until it is ICE, but NOT water. FOOEY b/c I do NOT like to be cold and it is cold every time it is less then 50 degrees!

      Dad said that I should NOT date a doctor until the Ebola thing passes, but what is the point with me walkeing 10000 steps to make my tuchus smaller if I can’t date and MARRY an MD? Do I have to be relegated to some schlub who works for the goverment? FOOEY! I worked for years in DC with a bunch of loosers who were busy stareing at me and other women’s boobie’s all day. Is that what I worked so hard for? To be married to a schlub like Frank who want to grab at my boobie’s and tuchus and make coments about how nice they are? DOUBEL FOOEY!

      Why is it that every time I think I have landed a decent guy, something like this Ebola comes into play and I am left with squat. Now I am goeing to have to tell Noah that I am putteing him on hold until all of this blow’s over. David is still in the wing’s waiting, but he and his dad have been kissing my dad’s tuchus and David himself is a real tuchus grabber! TRIPEL FOOEY!

      • Tell your father that the cure rate for ebola in the US is 80% so far. And remember that there are many more likely and equally deadly or disabling diseases that Noah can catch than ebola.

  10. I think ankle boots are completely appropriate for the office with tights – though I would stick to a neutral colored tight like black or brown.
    Honestly, if Kate Middleton can rock tights and ankle boots at royal engagements, then they can fly as office wear as well. It doesn’t get more conservative than having the queen as your mother in law :-)

  11. I want these boots so badly it’s ridiculous.

    I would totally wear them to work with opaque black tights.

  12. PrettyLawBelle :

    I wear black tights with black shoes (patent leather, leather, and suede pumps; leather wedges; and leather and suede ankle boots) all Winter. Recently, I’ve purchased Oxblood and Taupe suede pumps that I am looking forward to wearing with matching tights. I think tights matched with shoes would work in most professional environments. However, I have yet to pull off tights of one color with shoes of another, though I imagine navy tights with brown shoes could work for me with the right ensemble.

    A related concern of mine is knee-high boots at the office; I need to check out the prior post on how to wear them to work.

  13. Anonymous :

    I agree that standard tights (especially black ones) are super conservative but the OP was asking about sweater tights and fleece-lined tights. I don’t think those are appropriate in the most formal offices and I also agree that they look sort of weird with pumps. I’d wear those with boots, so I think the answer is: if knee-high (flat or modest heel) boots are appropriate for your workplace, then you can probably wear the more casual tights. If not, stick to normal tights + pumps or dressy flats.

    • Peach Pye :

      One’s mileage may vary but I don’t see anything wrong with (plain) fleece lined or thicker tights in the winter, especially in a cold climate. It is either that or pants. In certain climates, I think women should focus less on perception and more on practicality. And warmth!

    • Wildkitten :

      Sweater tights are more casual (but also more awesome). Fleece lined tights look very similar to non-lined rights.

  14. (Former) Clueless Summer :

    I see almost opaque black tights as basically on the same level as nude hose (not sweater tights but a smooth nylon-ish knit). At least up here in the North, there is a clear switch (hasn’t happened yet this year) when suit-wearing, business formal women change from nude hose/bare legs to black tights, which then lasts all winter. It’s pretty much a necessity if you don’t want frozen knees! I would wear black tights to court, to a big meeting, anything really as long as it was seasonally appropriate. I wear nude hose the rest of the year though, not bare legs.

    I only wear black shoes with black tights – wish I could do more fun options but if I want/need to wear a different pair of shoes in the winter, I wear nude hose instead and freeze. Or pants.

  15. Also hopefully on topic enough, since the linked post is from 2010, current suggestions for the best super-warm tights, aka sweater or fleece? Need to invest in some to get through the even colder NE winter they are predicting. (Boo!) Ideally with size ranges that include tall size 10/12 legs?

    • +1

      I’ve bought fleece and wool tights, and both ended up pilly and saggy after one winter. Are there brands that hold up better?

  16. I’m interested in finding nearly-flat comfy booties that I can wear with black tights too! Any suggestions? I know this veers firmly into frump territory, but I’m fine with changing shoes at the office or for meetings.
    I currently walk in my tights + puma zandys, so looking to upgrade slightly from that, but stay with a flat bootie.

    • S in Chicago :

      Check out North Face. They have a molded footbed, which really helps with options. I have something flat from then that I like. Naturalizer also is good with arch support for boots(ies) that are actually commutable.

      If you’re up for a wedge style, this one from North Face even borders office appropriate:

  17. Where are the boots in the main picture from, Kat?

    • Scroll way down on the linked page at Nordstrom — someone actually had the same question, and Nordstrom replied to say that they aren’t available, unfortunately. She did link to a few similar ones, though.

  18. D'orsay with tights? :

    Does it really look odd to wear plain black tights with a d’orsay style pump? I love wearing Mary Janes with tights, but my current pair is wearing out and I haven’t found a good replacement.

  19. I wear black tights all winter. I think it’s 100% fine everywhere except maybe THE Supreme Court. When it’s really cold, I have a pair of fleece footless tights that I’ve worn over regular tights to commute, but I take them off for work. I haven’t been a huge fan of the fleece tights because they get saggy and grotty looking pretty quickly. On really frigid days, sure, but I don’t like the look too much otherwise.

    As for shoes, I agree suede looks really nice. I also do plain leather boots or booties in the winter, but I tend to switch out to “work” shoes most of the time.

  20. Just a (not insignificant) point: the title of the post is in the best shoes to wear with tights, and there are links to the tights, but no real talk of the shoes. I do love the booties look and have been hunting for the right ones. I love the ones with the blue tights, but the link is to an amazon page for the tights. Any insight on the shoes shown?

  21. I wear black tights year round. Am I unintentionally making myself look like a crazy person? Or just like a corporate goth?

    • I don’t think black tights (or even sheer black hose) in warm spring / summer look very seasonal, kind of how I think nude / sheer can look off in the dead of winter (because they can look bare, and bare =/= cold weather to me). But if you’re doing it deliberately, and it’s your look (and you’re not sweltering!), who cares.

  22. On a related subject, how do you all manage with pant suits in winter + boots? This is my first winter working in a conservative-dress work environment, and I don’t really know what to plan to wear when it’s really cold and snowy out (I’m in NYC) and I have to walk to work. I would think pants would be warmer than skirts + tights / hose, but don’t pants get ruined when you bunch them into your boots or if you leave them out to be dirtied by the snow? Let me know how to prepare for winter!!

    • Gail the Goldfish :

      I wore snow boots and tucked them in to that, but I rarely wore pants in winter. I found fleece tights +skirt+boots were actually warmer than pants (And if it’s really cold, fleece tights under another layer of regular tights).

    • I don’t wear pants when it’s cold and snowy. I’m actually warmer in a skirt, tights and knee-high boots. If it’s really cold, I wear fleece lined leggings for the commute and take them off when I get to the office.

    • Pants are definitely chillier than a skirt + tights unless you wear long janes underneath. And I always found that I was far too warm once in the office. It’s hard to take off your pants, take off an underlayer, then put your pants back on, but like Bonnie said, it’s easy to peel extra layers off from under your skirt.

  23. I interviewed for a very formal position last year in black tights, knee-high black boots, and a black skirt suit and got the job. It was -8 degrees outside and hadn’t gotten above 10 degrees in more than a month.

    Sometimes weather and common sense trump convention.

  24. Miz Mooz has EXCELLENT booties. A lot of them are pretty funky, but they usually have some more conservative options. My favorite pair appears to be no longer available, or I’d link to that, but their booties usually have a lower heel and are very comfortable. Either of these in black would be super cute:

  25. I just bought a pair of booties online and plan on wearing them with tights. However, I’m a little weary because I feel as if tights and booties only look good on tall, long legged ladies. Would it work well for us shorter, thicker folks? Any suggestions on possible styles or looks?

  26. Question- I wore tights for the first time last week (not sure I like the look with suits in this over 50 body) and they were less “smooth” than hose, which I normally wear with suits and dresses. So my skirt (lined even) caught on the tights. My legs felt like the fabric was thick and awkward. Perhaps just the edge of the skirt where the lining doesn’t reach was catching on the tights, but it was annoying and I didn’t like that. Are all tights like this? Are some tights more smooth? These were Hue brand, which I love for hose.

    • Mountain Girl :

      I’m not quite 50 but almost there. I have one skirt that is technically acceptable for fall/winter wear as far as fabric goes but it just doesn’t play nice with tights. It seems to want to stick and catch on my tights and cling to my legs as I walk. I add an extra slip under this skirt when I wear it with tights and that helps some but it is still a problem skirt. The rest of my skirts play very nicely with my tights and I wear them daily with tights and have for years. Heavier fabric lays better and I tend to wear skirts and blazers or cardigans in winter rather than suits.

    • I’ve read and tried applying a small dab of hand lotion onto my tights. It seems to work.

      There are anti-cling sprays but I avoid them because most such products are scented and I prefer to live without fragrance. Not judging anyone; it’s just my personal preference.

  27. I’m the lone wolf, but I agree with @Kat. To me, opaque tights plus non-suede shoes and a skirt suit looks wack. Maybe reminds me of my kids in their school uniforms? I also agree that regardless if you wear suede shoes, tights + skirt suits aren’t suitably conservative for formal business settings. I do not wear tights to very important meetings in the winter.

  28. KateMiddletown :

    When I’m wearing a skirt/dress, I will put on this mega pair of American Apparel sweater thigh-highs over some black panty hose. I take them off at my desk, which is easy to do since they’re just long socks. It’s not the MOST professional look in the elevator bank, but I have no problem w/ it. I also change from my snow boots in the parking garage or in the elevator if it’s freezing.

    • Wildkitten :

      I’ve done this with leggings, in the restroom, and with my skirt in my handbag, frankly.

  29. Not sure if it’s just me… but I think that any kind of boots with skirts looks funny on me. If I’m wearing a pantsuit then I think it’s okay. Even in the pictures above the left most example is the closest to what I would consider wearing (without the gold heel). I think they’re cute and all, but every time I put them on with a skirt and look in the mirror it just doesn’t look right so I stick to pumps. Especially knee high boots… with a pencil skirt or a skirt suit? I just think that it looks strange on me. If you can pull it off, more power to you… I see women in my office wearing booties with dresses and they look adorable but I guess I can’t pull it off.

    As far as tights, I have a super comfy brand of pantyhose that doesn’t dig in or anything and I haven’t found that in a pair of tights yet. Anyone have any recommendations? For pantyhose I wear Hanes Solutions waist smoother – only sold at Target. They have a really really long and thick waistband (like 5 or 6 inches) so it doesn’t dig in AT ALL… just makes me feel super skinny. All the other brands that they say “won’t dig in”… they all dig in.

    • I like commando tights! They have wonderful no dig waistbands.

      I haven’t tried fleece tights. But I put base layers, like patagonia capeline, under my tights and then wear boots. It’s worked for me so far but I work in a relatively informal environment.

  30. Been to many federal court rooms where plain black tights and heels (all types) are worn. Judges are people too and then know when it’s cold outside or their court room is cold and hose is not going to cut it. Sweater tights, colors other than black or navy, or patterns are not appropriate for court. That being said, I agree with AIMS that I personally would not wear tights to the Supreme Court, but I would not judge someone that did. Re shoes, I actually think the bootie or shootie is not very appropriate in court setting if with a skirt (pants ok) and so the heels make more sense. I have only seen a bootie worn once with a skirt and they struck me as too trendy for federal court.

  31. I am a dancer so I wear tights all the time, for me it looks fine with basically any shoes – flats, pumps, boots, etc. :)

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