Monday, December 27, 2010

How high is too high? [Greatest Hits 2010]

[Greatest Hits 2010: Each day this week, I will be reposting a popular post from the past. This was first published September 1, 2010. See original post and comments here.]

 My work heels

Heels can do wonders for your calves, snap your spine straight (helllooo balance), and create a sexy strut.  But is there such as thing as a heel too high for the office.  In short: yes. But it's not always that easy.

I think we can all agree that an over-the-top shoe like this one is not office appropriate. But what about something with a smaller platform that's closed-toe?  Or if the heel is chunky or a wedge, does that affect how high your heels can be?

While most office dress codes don't specify a min/max height, tradition states that a lower heel (<3") usually translates as more professional than one that's higher.  But in most business casual offices, there is quite a bit more leeway.

So how do you figure out if your heels are appropriate?  Start with these questions:
  • What is on my agenda today? Will I have to walk? There is nothing pretty or professional about limping around in heels when you know you have a lot of walking to do during the day. Practicality first (sometimes).
  • Who will I be seeing or meeting with? Do they have any preconceived notions of propriety? This goes for clothes, as well.  If you know an old-fashioned good ol' boy bigwig is coming in, you  may want to play it safe for the day. 
  • Would I wear these shoes to a club? If so, you may want to think twice (unless they're more office appropriate shoes you just happen to wear to a club, like me, who wears knee-length dresses, long coats, and closed-toed pumps).
  • How high is the platform? Steer clear of anything higher than about 3/4", and try to keep the rest of the shoe a little conservative. 
  • How skinny is the heel? Especially for heels higher than about 4", spiky stilettos can look inappropriate or dangerous. If you're going to do a taller heel, try a stacked or chunky heel (plus it helps with balance).  A wedge can also look polished, especially with heels 3" or lower.
  • What does the rest of the heel look like? If you're wearing something especially high, it helps if the rest of the heel is a little less attention-getting.  Details like ruffles, buckles, straps, neon, and shiny patent only call more attention to your feet.  A classic almond-toe pump in a matte leather and 4.5" heel is less likely to raise eyebrows than a platform pink strappy shoes at 3".
  • What else am I wearing? If you're wearing trousers, the rules can be a little looser, since the bulk of your shoe will be covered by the pant leg.  If you're wearing a skirt, consider the fact that people can get a 360 degree view of your shoe.
Don't get me wrong, I love a fun heel and have several. But for the sake of professional decorum and not distracting others, let's keep the crazy at home, okay?

How high do you think is too high of a heel for the office? Do you have any personal rules for work footwear?


  1. Such a relevant post! This was always a bone of contention for me when I worked in the corporate world. I think more ladies need to pay attention to question number 3!

  2. Great post! I like all the questions - I am glad I am not the only one who thinks about those things as they are getting dressed.

    I was just thinking about this as I was putting on sneakers to work out this morning. I even measured my heels and all the shoes I feel comfortable wearing to the office (the classroom) are 3" or lower.

    Sarah at Classroom Chic

  3. Love this!! I work in a super conservative office and I agree, if I'm doing trousers I'm a little more lax with the heel choice, otherwise I trend toward the lower more neutral choices. :)

  4. You know, not only is there a style choice, there is functionality. There is nothing less professional looking than a woman wearing a pair of shoes she just can't walk in. If you're scuffing along in shoes, or can't walk heel-toe heel-toe in them, then they are probably best left at home.

    I'm all for cute and sassy and high heels and wear them frequently, but if I can't actually walk in them, and I'm not willing to wear them ALL day for what I have planned, then they aren't meant to be, no matter how stylish.

  5. @ keira - thanks!

    @ sarah - 3" is pretty high, especially since you're on your feet all day!

    @ jill - Glad it's not just me!

    @ jessica - So true. Practicality is key, and there are plenty of great looking shoes that are comfy, so there's really no excuse anymore.


Like this? Leave a comment!
Comments with emails attached will receive emailed replies; otherwise replies will be added below the original comment.