Reader Mail: What color shoes, other than black, can I wear?

Joan & David - Joey (Medium Green/Medium Blue Leather) - FootwearToday’s reader is tired of her black shoes…

I wear black shoes far too often, including with grey slacks. Do you have any guidance on shoe colors and recommendations on what should go with grey?

miaWell, our love of purple shoes is well documented — really, they’re great with navy, gray, beige, and even a dark green color.  Otherwise, we’re getting into your risk tolerance with shoe choice.  Red shoe:  bold, but can be a great neutral to wear with things.  Patent leather red:  probably too bold for work.  Lately, we’ve been lusting after green shoes, having seen a number of women wearing them.  The trouble with green is that, between the shade of green and the shade of your skin tone, you may not be able to wear them with skirts without your legs looking slightly sickly — but if you’re just looking to wear them with gray pants, go for it.  We would also recommend playing around with ideas of what you can and can’t wear together — for example, some would say that gray and brown should never go together, but if you wear gray slacks, brown heels, and a cream colored sweater, it can be a lovely outfit.

Pictured above left: Joan & David – Joey (Medium Green/Medium Blue Leather) – Footwear, available at Zappos for $163 (was $204).  Pictured above right:  Mia Women’s Mabel T-Strap Pump, available at Endless for $33 (was $60).

Check out some of the purple heels below…


  1. Thank you. I own six pairs of high heels. 4 black, one navy and one black with white polka dots (obviously not for work). I just bought my first pair of beige shoes last week. Next month I am buying a cute pair of grey shoes I saw at DSW.

  2. newassociate :,B0011MIZXA,B0011X4JT8

    endless has these featured on the homepage. wow.

  3. With pants, I wear crazy colored shoes all the time. Seriously. Turquoise blue? Check. Butter cup yellow? Check. Bright pink? Check. I usually wear them with an otherwise extremely conservative outfit of neutral colors. They are my “statement piece” rather than a necklace.

    I would not wear those shoes to court or to meet with a client. At my desk on an average day, though, I don’t give it a second thought.

  4. What about animal print or black and grey?

    Also I went to the Nordstrom sale and the shoe guy said this grey color he called peweter was going to be the new neutral.
    Like this

  5. Just ordered those green t-strap shoes. Love! Thanks for the suggestion.

  6. @J: I agree!! I wear red patent leather peep toe shoes with black or grey pants – get tons of compliments.

  7. I agree with newassociate. I rarely wear jewelry and am not very interested in handbags, so shoes are my statement pieces.
    Honestly, I think any color shoe can be fine if the rest of the outfit is neutral and/or conservative. I would not however, wear any color of patent leather other than black… it can look trashy.

    I find tights work well to soften the edge of a colorful or patterned shoe, whereas they might seem too casual or ‘out there’ with nude (or no) hose. A pair of yellow mary jane heels look a lot more sedate when paired with grey tights and a navy pencil skirt.

  8. sorry, I meant to say I agree with “J.” :)

  9. I also wear all kinds of colors. My recent favorite is eggplant color which goes with black, brown or blue etc..

    I don’t understand why you cannot wear patent in colors other than black. I have this pink patent shoes that I wear to office and they look professional to me. I think as long as the design is conservative and of good quality in general, they would not look “trashy”.

  10. Oh thank goodness there are others who wear red patent heels! I’ll wear them with an all black outfit and get tons of compliments. Today I’m wearing a light gray shirtdress with these.
    I think it looks totally professional for a law office.

  11. i too have a pair of red patent leather heels that i wear to work and love them. it depends on the shoe–maybe if it’s too high, or pointy, but those pink delman shoes, for example, are fun and professional.

  12. Mine are patent red skimmers. Obviously, I only wear them on days when I’m not leaving the office, but they look nice with a dark neutral outfit or a black and white dress in the summer.

  13. No no no no on the green shoes. Oh, dear. No. Red is very classic when it’s subtle, but green shoes are always green shoes.

  14. I love brown shoes and gray–very chic. Any color shoes with neutral clothing is very chic. The shoes have to be tasteful, though, and I like every one linked so far. I especially like “different” colors in “skins” like alligator or lizard or snake. Dull metallic is a perennial favorite, too, but be careful with the styling.

    I think very high heels are more perilous than lower ones or flats and shoes worn with skirts require a bit more caution, but otherwise, as long as the style and quality of the shoes is more tasteful rather than trashy, go for it.

  15. housecounsel :

    I have a pair of red patent Cole Haan mary janes — love them! I wore them yesterday with an unadorned, tailored black dress. I would wear dark green in a second and can’t wait to go look for those cute ones. For court, however, it’s black, brown or nude. Now that I think of it, not nude.

    I just bought a pair of pewter Jessica Simpson platform mary janes that are probably a little too funky for some offices.

    Here is a question: what do you all wear with navy suits? It is hard to find navy heels that don’t look geriatric. I have a cute pair of BCBG navy peep-toes that are running out of re-sole lives.

  16. The key thing is to have a limit on the total scope of daring items that you put on and never exceed that. If you use it all up on shoes, fine.

  17. You can always wear a shoe colour that is the same or similar to that of your hair – it’s called Visual Grouping – helps the eye connect from feet to face (a bit like bookends).

  18. Love those green t-straps. Bridgette Raes, in her newsletter archive, has an opionion piece on how green is an overlooked neutral. I tried carrying an olive bag and it does go with everything I have.

    Check out Imogen’s post on the hair color + shoe color – she provides

  19. Does anyone have any suggestions for a “nude” pump or low to mid-heeled slingback that’s comfortable? (My apologies for the lack of a better color description than “nude”, I’m thinking of nude as a caucasian person and I know that’s not universal) –

  20. Lobbyist,

    I was recently in Nordstrom to buy a pair of shoes and the salesperson told me the exact same thing! Apparently, gray is hot right now.

  21. I have snakeskin print shoes in both brown and grey that I wear to work all the time (I should probably mention that red patent heels are generally acceptable in my office if you’re not meeting with clients.) I also have some multicolored flats that I occasionally bust out with boring suits. And I have both green suede and brown suede heels that I always get compliments on. Great with grey and brown suits.

  22. i also have a pair of green suede flats that are very demure and classy.

    housecounsel, i tend to wear “tan” shoes with my navy suits. i too have had trouble finding a nice pair of navy pumps–and i’ve been looking! maybe now that the fall lines will be arriving, we’ll have more options.

  23. This could not be more timely. I am trying to convince myself I can wear, aubergine mary janes, and/ or green heels and possibly colored boots. Thanks for the support and advice. from the land where it doesn’t really matter but I care.

  24. Re: what to wear with Navy. I have a great pair of navy CK sling backs, pointy toe, 3″ heel that I purchased at DSW in the spring. My favorites w/ navy or navy pinstripe. I also have a pair of 2.5″ Joan and David navy pumps, also DSW. However, I’m also known to wear my red Guess patent pumps w/ navy (in the office, not to court). I just bought a pair of charcoal suede with snake trim on sale at Nordstrom for fall that I’ll probably try out with Navy.

  25. I . . . pretty much want those green t-straps in every possible color.

    But I’m just starting law school in a few weeks, so I’m not necessarily thinking professional clothes for a couple months. I think they’d be cute with jeans. :)

  26. Red is a neutral. As are animal prints. Muted metallics like bronze and pewter. And nude (whatever “nude” is for you) always works, too.

    I’m probably not what you’d consider conservative, though…

  27. @housecounsel–thanks for posting this question. This is something that I struggle with as well. I actually gave away my navy suit because the only shoes I had to go with it were navy kitten heels and I thought it was too matchy-matchy. Unfortunately (and despite what some suggested in the comments to the recent “nude shoe” post) I cannot find good brown pumps either. The only classic shapes I can find are Louboutins but they are platforms. Ugh.

  28. Also, I have red patent (and pink patent and yellow patent) heels. Cole Haan/Nike has some great ones. I wear them with dresses that a monochromatic or with suits that have longer pants. I have an important meeting next week and I plan to wear a conservative black dress with the red shoes and a red necklace. Its one of the few outfits I own that garners me compliments. By the way, I am not in a corporate firm. Last night, inspired by this post, I went to the Nordstrom Rack and got navy blue patent shoes as well as two black pairs of shoes.

  29. Navy:
    Very dark red/burgundy can look great, as can charcoal gray or aubergine. I like black shoes with navy, frankly, better than navy ones, unless the navy is really expensive. Cheap navy leather can look really cheap.

    Men wear black shoes with navy. If you’re going to court, that’s what I’d wear, and closed toe always, if not closed all around.

  30. Men also wear cordovan (reddish brown) shoes with navy, and I think it looks really sharp on my husband. I don’t know that I’ve seen any awesome women’s cordovan-colored shoes, although I haven’t looked.

  31. I have these red patent heels:

    And they aren’t too much for work. I work in a small office, so it’s a little more permissive, but the tumbled look and muted red makes it a little less va-va-voom.

    Those green T-straps are great… I may be ordering those quite soon…

  32. Brown heels seem to make it onto the clearance racks in droves – I have darn near 14 pairs obtained over the last three years. But the search for the well-priced, elusive black (or navy) heels escaped me until I finally found some Cole Haan mid-Air Fionas for $100. That being said, while the “ride” on those shoes is great, my poor toes are developing corns :-(

    Besides color, does anyone know who has good, sub-$75 wide-or-fat-footed mid-to-high heels? Cole Haans, even the B or M sizes, are too narrow. I tried a pair of Taryns because I’ve heard so many raves about them, and my low-arches wept in pain… and I know I’m not the only one. Mudd makes appropriate width shoes, but they are often way too casual for the office.

    @Lisa – I have your BCBG Stellas in Navy, and when my boyfriend was asked his opinion, he labeled them as “mid-40-year-old, naval destroyer shoes.” Since then, they’ve made it out of the house about twice. Sigh! Maybe I should have gotten them in red.

  33. If you are going to wear red patent, I think the shoe has to be well-made, in a shade just slightly darker than a lipstick red, and NOT pointy toed. I have a pair of Enzo Angiolini round toe pumps in red patent and they look great with a simple black sheath and cardigan with minimal jewelry. If the rest of the outfit is neutral and the shoes aren’t trashy-looking, I think it looks professional, stylish and put together.

    Wearing red patent shoes to court is another story…

  34. Jessica:

    I have very wide (WW) feet, and I love Ros Hommerson shoes (I get mine in lower manhattan, but Zappos carries them). I bought a pair of chocolate brown leather heels with chocolate patent trim and heels a few years ago for around $85, that have held up very well, and I always get compliments on them. They have 3″ heels, but they’re the most comfortable heels that I own! I wear them with Brown, Tan, and Navy suits.

    I do have to point out that, while they’ve held up very well, I don’t have to wear them very often because I’m an attorney for a state agency and am not usually in a suit.

  35. Toni, thanks! I was trying to look at wider shoes via Google. I usually fit OK in BCBG shoes, but sometimes, they’re just a bit too narrow for me, and as shoes seem to get more stylish and more expensive, they get narrower! Easy Street, Hush Puppies, and the usual pile of “wider” shoes tend to be fairly unattractive, so I was at a loss as to what to do… being a 20-something and still craving those lovely, tall, wildly uncomfortable shoes. :-)

  36. Arielle— these were featured here on Corporette about 2 weeks ago and I just bought them in natural. They’re very cute and only $29.99!,default,pd.html&ep_tag=NWbase?nw_src_cd=FRESHPAF&ep_tag=AF200905NW

  37. coolcat – thank you! did they fit true to size? was the toe area snug at first?

  38. FYI about those T-Straps- I tried them on in purple and they were incredibly uncomfortable.

  39. Arielle–They fit really well and you really don’t feel the full 3 inch heel. The toe area isn’t terribly snug, mine will probably be a smidge tight at first, but that’s because my feet are a bit wide. They are leather though, so after wearing them a bit they should stretch. Also, the red ones are very cute, might go back and buy those today. As for fit, I’m about a 9 and I bought them in 9 too, so they’re pretty true to size.

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