What Color Shoes to Wear with Different Colors of Pants

what color shoes to wear with different colors of pantsReader S wonders about what color shoes to wear with different colors of pants…

Could you do a story on what color shoes to wear with different color pants? I never know if I should find shoes that match the color of the pant, the color of the shirt, black or something else.

Interesting. I’ve seen a handy-dandy guide for men on Pinterest, but I don’t know if I’ve seen one for women.  In general, I’d say that the question also depends on the kind of pants — which color shoes you choose to wear with ankle pants or straight pants matters much less because there’s a stretch of skin; it isn’t a seamless look; on the other hand for a full-length trouser that is closer to the floor (generally a wide leg, flare, or bootcut style) you’re going to get a leg-lengthening effect if you choose the same color shoe and continue the line.  My own breakdown would probably go like this:

Picture credit: Shutterstock/ Maram

What Color Shoes to Wear with Black Pants

I’d wear pretty much any color shoes with black pants, but my default would be either black shoes or colorful shoes — I think nude-for-you shoes might look odd unless they’re ankle pants, but that’s me.

What Color Shoes to Wear with Navy Pants

Black, purple, navy, red, or gray would probably be my default — I’m just not really a person who wears brown shoes. “Cordovan” is a reddish brown that is always said to go well with navy; it can be a bit tricky to find for women. I’ve always heard that for men, “black dresses navy up; brown dresses navy down,” so if you have caramel/tan/beige/brown shoes and want to wear them with navy, keep that in mind.  With a navy skirt I wouldn’t think twice about wearing nude-for-you or tan heels, but when it’s bare leg/pantyhose season I always think nude-for-you heels look good. We’ve talked before about what color tights to wear with navy skirts.

What Color Shoes to Wear with Gray Pants

I’d wear pretty much any color shoe with gray pants, and I probably have. If you pick black it’s a no-brainer; if you pick gray it elongates the line; if you pick any other color you can have fun with colors that compliment/contrast with other parts of your outfit. (I’m often a fan of wearing, for example, purple pumps with a red accent because it’s a very subtle way to have fun with color.) (We’ve also talked in general about which colors to wear with gray suits, including for shoes.)

Other Thoughts on What Color Shoes to Wear With Different Colors of Pants, Pants Colors, and Shoe/Pant Choices for Work Outfits

In the abstract, other strong opinions that come up when I think about shoes and pants:

  • I’m not crazy about stark white shoes with pants. Maaaaybe with white pants in the summer.
  • I still hate metallic/mirrored/shiny shoes in general (it was super trendy to wear sky high shiny silver stilettos a few years ago)
  • Round toed-flats are almost never the right choice to wear if you want something sleek and sophisticated — but they tend to look particularly bad with full-length pants.
  • Hem your pants for the shoes you intend to wear with them! I’ve often found that a pant that’s hemmed for flats also looks good with a kitten heel or small wedge heel; on the flip side, if you want to wear 3″ heels with your pants at work but want something more comfortable for commuting, lots of “comfort” brands such as Dansko*, Fly London*, etc. have stacked/wedge options that will maintain the hem height so your pants don’t drag on the floor, but be farrrrr more comfortable for your commute; you can also check out a product like Style Snaps*, which is allegedly an easy way to quickly and temporarily hem your pants with magnets. (Check out our Guide to Comfortable Heels for a lot of other brand suggestions and tips.) (*Affiliate links)
  • I’m all for wearing strappy shoes with pants (much more comfortable, and a full length trouser hides whatever ugly things the straps do to your legs)
  • I’m opposed to shoes that have details that are going to snag on your pants, such as rockstuds. If you’ve got a pair of shoes with bows on them, you may find that they look adorable with ankle pants but affect the way a full length trouser “falls” when you walk.
  • If you’re looking for a few “fun shoes” to buy to expand beyond basic black, I always like purple shoes, but a jewel tone like red, emerald, or cobalt can be a great pop of color.

Readers, what are your thoughts? Have you ever struggled to pick out shoes to wear with your pants? What are your best tips on what color shoes to wear with different colors of pants? What rules do you follow? Which pair of shoes do you own that gets worn the most with pants? the best colors of shoes to wear with different colors of pants

A reader wrote in with a serious question about how to dress for work: she wondered how to choose what color shoe to wear with different colors of pants! It can be a big #workwear question for a lot of women, so we gave our answers -- do you agree?


  1. Anony Mouse :

    Is the style of the Nisolo Smoking Shoes still current?

    • Anony Mouse :

      I should mention, pointed toe shoes almost never work for my feet, which is why I’m interested in these.

    • Anonymous :

      I tried them, but they looked frumpy on me, I think because they were too round.

    • I sure hope so. I just bought some shoes in a similar style. Cannot wait to wear them this fall. They are so comfortable.

  2. I’m fairly comfortable with pants, but I would love to see a similar discussion about tights. I’m never sure about a professional look with any shoes except those that match the tights exactly (so, black or dark brown), and I get tired of wearing the same black shoes all the darn time in winter.

    • With navy skirts, sheer navy hose looks good with gray shoes, though any snags will show quickly!

      Note on “strappy” shoes – I don’t think Kat uses the term the same way most people do. When I hear “strappy” I think of complete party shoes, not, for example, a t-strap pump that has a strap.

    • +1! Or even how to mix the colored tights themselves with dresses / skirts. I default to black.

    • Anony Mouse :

      +1 I used to wear colored tights in my workplace (business casual), but stopped because I thought they made me look a bit juvenile.

    • Treble chef :

      I tend to match my skirt / pant with my tights, with a pop of color with my shoe. I wear heels. I use a minimalist color palate. Black or grey or navy (rarely burgundy) skirt + tights, pop of contrast color with shoe. For commuting, boots or booties, and change shoe at the office. I also have suede black and burgundy booties that I wear a lot.

    • Anonymous BigLaw Associate :

      I wear colored tights (purple, royal blue, olive, burgandy, mustard) on the regular. A rule of thumb I use is the rest of the outfit is fairly plain. Like a black dress with purple tights. Or an olive pencil skirt and grey blouse with mustard tights. But I think my style is a bit edgier than many ladies on here, so ymmv.

      • Corporate Penelope :

        I, too, love colored tights and usually opt to keep the rest of my colors more low key on bright legs days. In my head I’m the corporate version of Penelope Garcia…used to feel like I pushed the envelope too much for my sedate office, but have been complemented often enough by people at all levels of my organization on my “sense of style” (ha!) that I’m more comfortable dressing in outfits that make me happy. It probably helps that I have a very good reputation for being very good at my job. If I was mediocre or a slacker, I bet I would get sideeye fir my quirky dressing rather than kudos for it.

  3. I posted on the earlier thread but am hoping to get more comments on the afternoon discussion. Am on Day 3 of an Intermittent Fasting plan (following Jason Fung’s book, The Obesity Code). Any tips, tricks, suggestions, inspiration, encouragement?

    • Please keep us posted — I’ve loosely been doing intermittent fasting and thinking I should probably step it up.
      I’m really interested to hear how your plan goes.

    • You may have to play with your schedule some to figure out what works best for you. Fasting days worked better for me when I was going to be busy doing a lot of different tasks. For days where I needed to concentrate for long periods and do deep work, I needed to eat regularly.

      • Yes! I’m editing briefs all day today which was very poor timing, as I’m hungry and missing my usual snack breaks. Ugh.

        • For me part of it was the “break” not the snack that I was missing. If you don’t have a reason to break, then you tend to keep working when you would usually get a chance to stop and rest your brain. So I found it helped if, at the time I would usually take a break to eat something, I still take a break and drink some ice water or a decaf coffee (my fasting plan allowed water and black coffee) and either sit down to drink it or go outside for a minute… make it a real break.

    • You can do it! The reddit page is really excellent for tips and support. I found the first few days a little tough but after that I haven’t looked back and now I’m not even really hungry until 2 pm or so. It works so well, just stick with it and you’ll notice big changes within 2 weeks.

  4. I don’t like wearing pants (I’m pretty much a skirt/dress girl) but I would love to know who makes the blue suede peep toes in the stock photo…

  5. Shoes are my biggest challenge to dressing professionally. There are so many variables, and none of them are very intuitive to me. I can tell when something is off, but fixing it is another thing entirely. Couple that with prioritizing comfort over everything else and having a foot that’s hard to fit — yeah, I absolutely hate shoe shopping, and it shows.

    • I’m in the same boat. Totally stuck with comfortable black wedges…

    • Anony Mouse :

      +1 I have three pairs of work shoes that I rotate. All have been in need of replacing for several months now. Can’t find anything I like that fits.

  6. Going shoe crazy :

    This summer I wore white Boden loafers with silver detail with everything, almost every day. I wear a lot of black so the shoes made my outfits feel summery. I also think gold and silver shoes are neutral.

  7. Anonymous :

    What color pants can I wear with these booties? (link to follow)

    • Anonymous :


      I have the java color

      • Anonymous :

        Those are nice shoes but I think those shoes are hard to wear with dress pants. If you do, I would go for navy and stay away from black or grey. I think they also would look cute with a navy or olive green skirt and tights.

  8. Anonymous :

    I am looking for a grey pair of pumps but am having trouble finding them. The ones I see tend to be more greige (greyish beige). Any ideas?

    • I had the exact same question here a year or two ago and bought (and love) these – https://www.trotters.com/product/Dark%20Grey/Alexandra. Do note though that I bought two sizes, and they were slightly different shades of grey – one was definitely more on the grey side.

  9. I am not allowed to wear pant’s at work, but wear skinny jeans on the weekends (and on Friday’s when the manageing partner is not there). I have 4″ heels that make me look taller (and svelter), as well as some nice leopard look pumps that I wear with jeans, as well as booties. Dad says I have almost as many pair of shoe’s as Jackie O’Nassis, so I guess I am in good company, as she was MARRIED to the President of the USA. I wish I was so lucky! I can not even get a guy to seriusly date me! FOOEY!

  10. I usually stick with black shoes of many different styles. Their just easier to style with my pieces. Nude is a little tough for me because it’s usually too light for my skin tone.

Add a Comment

Thank you for commenting. On the off chance that your comment goes to moderation, note that a moderation message will only appear if you enter an email address. If you have any questions please check out our commenting policy.

work fashion blog press mentions