Reader Request: Edgy Looks with Flats

Moschino Cheap & Chic flats
Michelle sent me this request via Twitter:

have you done a post on wearing flats and still looking cute and/or edgy? can’t wear heels any more ‘cuz of health/pain & I tell ya what, as a 21 year old, it is REALLY hard to find flats that aren’t either SUPER twee or very marmy. bah humbug.

As you all know, I’m a bona-fide heels girl myself. I’ve delved into flats – and for health/pain reasons, too – but my default is heeled footwear. So I’ve collected a few choice images from my gorgeous fellow bloggers to provide some examples of non-marmy, non-twee flats-based looks.

First up, Kyla of Blue Collar Catwalk, who seldom wears heels AT ALL and is, therefore, a fantastic inspiration for fans of flats.


Black flats may be chic and classic, but they’re also ubiquitous and expected. Nabbing a pair of colorful flats is your first step toward perking up your heel-free looks. Use them to add a dose of color to an all-neutral ensemble, and you instantly up your edge factor.


Or go the opposite route and make your flats part of an arty single-color ensemble . Here those ubiquitous, expected black flats shine in their chic simplicity.


Flats can be adorable on their own, but add some patterned, textured tights to the mix and they are elevated to greatness. Of course, this technique is limited to cool-weather applications, but still worth mentioning!

Next up, Audi of Fashion for Nerds. Audi is nearly as heels-reliant as I am, but when she wears flats, she does to with panache.


One of the best ways to make flats look ordinary is to wear them with jeans and a tee. Make your flats a part of a richly layered mix of garments, and throw a structured piece or two in there. You’ll look all grown up in no time. Audi sports Mary Jane flats here, a style that occasionally looks quite schoolgirlish but, on her, looks sleek and sophisticated.


While the super-skinny-jeans-and-flats combo is amazingly popular – especially in New York, it seems – it’s a combo that doesn’t work for many body types and many personal style parameters. But the look of a fitted pant that ends at the ankle paired with a darling flat is very modern and funky … so recreate the look with leggings instead, and layer on a tunic.


Retro looks can skew twee, but employing relatively conservative and ladylike vintage pieces will keep your look refined and adult. Flats are a great foible to retro looks since heels are the expected choice.

Finally, we have S. from Academichic, who will show us that a single pair of flats can be incredibly versatile! S’s contributions are to the “refined casual” segment of this flat-wearing tutorial, as they are all jeans-based.


Hope I didn’t give the impression that I frown upon flats and skinnies. On the contrary! I think those two pair beautifully, but even more so when paired creatively. S. has cuffed hers, and topped her outfit with some loose-but-lovely boho layers and a contrasting scarf. She looks arty and classy and utterly chic.


Make sure the jeans are skinny – jeggings will work, too – and the dress above your knees. To keep the look sleek, choose a dress that is more geometric than floral, more drapey than floaty. Add a pair of fab flats, and presto! Instant style.


So. Not a fan of leggings or skinnies but still hoping to bring flats into your casual mix? If you love the cuffed straightleg look – as I do – flats play beautifully with this style of jean. A simple graphic tee will suffice, but even better to wear a printed blouse or some vibrant layers, as S. has done here.

Are you a fan of flats? Ever feel like they look cutesy or dull when you wear them? How do you keep your flats-based looks from crashing and burning? Will any of the suggestions from this post work for you?

Top image courtesy

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  • Chalkdust and Boots

    I agree with all your points, Sal! I especially like the first one, using flats as a pop of color. I avoid heels like the plague and last year I worked at a place where I HAD to wear a skirt/dress and stockings every day and COULDN’T wear boots. So I basically wore flats all year. And while I had my basic black flats as a staple, I loved my green, red, and yellow pairs for making an otherwise blah teacher outfit sometimes look a lot more interesting.

  • Laura

    I like metallic flats to get more of an edgy look. I have a bronze pair with small cutout shapes near the toe. They look nice with a surprising number of different looks.

  • Kate

    Hi Sally,

    I really liked this feature – I don’t wear heels that much, and struggle to make flats look like part of the outfit rather than just an “I can’t be bothered with heels” afterthought, so this is really helpful.

    However, unless I’m mistaken, in that third picture of Kyla, she’s wearing heels. Really cute ones! But unless she’s up on tip-toes, those defintely look like heels to me…

    • Sal

      Oops! You might be right … well, the point about funky legwear still applies. 😉

  • Rachel K

    Great style inspiration for flats! I too prefer heels, but when my back or feet hurt or it’s such a casual outing the heels are inappropriate I fall back on flats. Skirt/dress and pant length are an important thing to consider. I always cuff my skinnies and make sure to wear skirts/dresses above the knee as I’m on the short side to begin with. If you don’t like your skinnies cuffed, fold them under if they’re too long, black jeans esp. look very Audrey Hepburn that way. I have a variety of colors and textures, both open toe, pointy-toe and round-toe styles. Not all of my flats are exactly, well, flat. I like a 1/2in kitten heel or hidden platform to give a minimal amount of lift while sustaining comfort. For texture, suede is nice for the winter and I like patent styles also.

    Clarks makes some of my favorite (grown up) flats that are super comfy. Their grey suede Swansea style is my go-to, wear with everything pair. If Clarks are out of your price range regular retail you can usually find them on Ebay or for great prices.

    For inexpensive flats I frequent Target and Payless. They don’t last as long and I always wear Dr Scholls inserts with them as they do not provide much support, but they have cute styles for any budget that range from basic to highly embellished.

  • Lauren

    I’m totally into loafers right now. For me these are the most versatile flats because they look great with girly dresses and with masculine ensembles. Not to mention that they’re extremely comfortable, if you find a well-fitting pair. I also use flats to add color to my outfit – I have these red ballet flats that I always wear with gray or black.

  • Laura

    I’d also look for fun interesting flats, much in the same way you can have fun and funky heels or boots incorporated into an outfit.
    to give you a few examples. Fun flats can be harder to find, but they’re out there!

  • Lisa

    I say get thee a pair of leopard flats! Nothing sasses up a look like a good print. The thing I like best about leopard is that it goes well with black or brown and surprisingly enough, red!

    Thanks for the post Sal and thanks for the question Michelle!

  • Rebekah

    Thanks for this post! I only wear flats/very low heels, so I’m always on the lookout for cute, vegan, non-matronly-looking shoes. It’s a lot to ask for. =)

  • Meri

    I am a HUGE fan of Skechers’ casual shoes. They are really really comfortable, but “fancy” enough to wear to work. I have some silver ones with one buckle across the toe right now that I wear all the time with gray and brown. I guess I’m a bit biased but I share the wealth when I can!

  • Jen B

    I recently bought five pairs of flats, and I’m only 4’11”! I love heels, but my feet are so wide and unless they’re the Söfft brand, fuggetaboutit. I wore heels all the time when I was part-time in retail and on my feet all day. Now I’m back to my pre-kids corporate job sitting at a desk and I wear flats most of the time. Go figure!

    If I may share:

    Thanks! Have a terrific Thursday!

  • angie

    I LOVE to wear flats – they are my default footwear.

    I don’t know if you meant ballet flats particularly Sally, but ballet flats are not your only option here. How about flat boots? They will give your outfit an instant edge. Flat oxfords and gladiator sandals? I love to wear my flat oxfords sans socks and hose – when it’s warm enough of course. Arty and fab.

    I vote animal print ballet flats too! Lovely looks from fellow bloggers!

  • Trystan

    Look for embellished flats – there are SO many available right now, at all price points (Target & Payless Shoe Source have tons, as do higher-end brands). If you’re crafty, get thrift-store flats, whip out the glue gun, & add your own gems, rosettes, bows, studs, etc. Frou-frou embellishments can look twee, so go hardcore with zippers, grommets, sequins, & the like. Just look around in stores & you’ll see a huge variety. That little bit of texture & detail amps up flats & can tie them into the rest of the outfit.

    I wear heels & boots a lot, but when I do dig out a pair of embellished flats, I get compliments because they look intentional & like part of the whole ensemble.

  • Ann V

    There is a lot more to life without heels that just ballet flats! I never wear heels, but I probably wear ballet flats less than once a week. Today I’m wearing shoes kind of like these:

    There are tons of types of shoes with no/very low heels – boots, booties, loafers, dressy sandals, shoes with a platform and wedge so there is essentially no rise in the foot bed, etc…

  • Eliza

    As another 21 year old, I feel her pain. I like the Paul Mayer flats, which, although very expensive and rather conservative, are SO comfortable. Plus, their riskier styles tend to be the ones that are super marked down on Amazon.
    I’ve also been toying with the idea of vintage shoe clips recently, just because I like that they would allow me a little more variety in my shoes. I already am guilty of “customizing” inexpensive shoes off ebay with various embellishments. If you are the adventurous and crafty type, buying very plain shoes, and then adding your own details may be the way to go. Plus, it’s thrilling when you get compliments :)

  • Tegan

    I am a big fan of flats– I like to be able to walk miles in my shoes, whatever the look and occasion. My new love is a pair of flat Remonte Dorndorf boots. No break-in required, a stretch calf that fits like a glove, and a chic look that feels almost like a pair of slipper socks.
    Over-the-knee socks can also help any kind of flats look edgy with skirts or shorts.

  • The Budget Babe

    love the visuals!

    if i may toot my own horn, i have a pair of studded flats that i think are pretty fierce, and eat, sleep denim was kind enough to feature me wearing them (she’s a much better photog than i!)


    • Sal

      Toot away! You look fabulous, lady!

  • Kyla (no relation)

    I seldom wear heels, myself, both for comfort and because I hope to keep my knees and ankles in good shape well into old age! I think it’s harder to find nice cheap flats than heels, so it’s worth investing a little more. In general, I try to go with either an almond or a pointed toe to avoid the schoolgirl look, and look for one with some embellishments. Jeffrey Campbell makes some awesome, unique flats like these ones:

    There’s also mens-wear inspired styles so popular this season:

    I also think that for flats-wearing girls, boots are a fabulous choice. I just bought a new pair of summer boots made of canvas, as I wore my previous canvas boots pretty much every day this last summer.

  • Theresa

    I have a pair of Studded Ballet Slippers that DIY’ed that I am just crazy about. I have them in pink but black would be even more edgy!
    Tutorial here:
    Purchase here:

  • Lucy

    I’ve found that the most important thing in finding/wearing flats that aren’t boring or marmy is the cut of the vamp. For my taste, the chicest flats are those that almost show some toe cleavage. Although they can run a little pricey, J.Crew makes adorable ballet flats that I always feel good (and fashionable!) wearing. Pointy-toe flats are chic as well (and can look a little dressier than your average ballet flat), but maybe not as good for someone with foot problems.

  • Katharine

    If I were going to do edgy in flats, my first choice would not be a ballet flat. (I also think that ballet flats are very much not a universally flattering shoe, especially to anyone who isn’t tiny and gamine, and they are also not really that comfortable or good to the feet, being completely unsupportive.)

    I’d be looking more at boots, short or tall, laceup or not. Oxford shoes. Those rather dressy athletic-influenced shoes that companies like Puma make. Doc Marten flat shoes (I love my classic lace-ups and my ancient DM Mary Janes). Unusual/crazy flats like Cydwoq, or the recycled, embellished El Naturalista, or even Born or Merrell dressier flats if you’re into the sporty-hippie-cute styles.

    Any or all of these will have as much impact as a big ol’ stompy heel or wedge. I tend to feel that ballet flats are more of a copout on the flat front, besides making most girls walk like ducks. And attempts to add “edge” to ballet flats (zipper roses! pointy studs!) just make me giggle a bit.

  • rb

    So… I have managed to completely wreck my feet in my lifetime of wearing heels (Morton’s Neuroma, look it up. Don’t be me!) and I’m wearing, well not entirely flats, but lower heeled shoes now. Here are some things that work for me.

    As a woman who almost never wears pants, I can tell you that when you lower your shoe heel, the dress or skirt hemline needs to come up a bit to compensate. The worst possible combination, I think, is a straight skirt that hits at the bottom of the kneecap or top of the calf worn with a ballet flat. So, my skirts need to hit mid knee or actually at the top of the knee – this has been easy now, during tights season, but we’ll see come spring how I feel about it. I will have to make better friends with my knees.

    Another thing that makes low shoes look better is to have open toes. I love an open toe flatt-ish shoe with a slight wedge heel. It makes pants in particular, look very chic. Of course, this is a spring/summer look.

    Third, flat or low heeled boots are absolutely great, and support your feet much better than a ballet flat. They are so current that heeled boots are starting to look wrong to my eye.

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  • Kyla

    I am obvs WAY behind on my blog reading. Mainly because I hate just skimming your blog and prefer to give myself ample time to read the posts. Thanks so much for featuring me! I have to tell you that the 3rd photo of mine is actually heels. Just to be honest and all :)

  • Sonja

    I love flats. Nowadays I own some heels as well, but I was an only-flats-girl during years. I absolutely love and recommend Camper. The Spanish brand is famous for retro-style sneakers and its chunky, sturdy, alternative-artsy-style shoes that look as if the wearers were making their own yogurt and spinning their own wool (no offence!), but they also have more delicate, feminine versions. Since I discovered those, I’ m a bit addicted, I’ve got three similar pairs of black Camper ballet flats that I wear all they time. They are not cheap, but they are very well-made and last long. My problem with open shoes is that I tend to tense the toes because I’m afraid of losing them, so I absolutely need a strap or my feet will hurt. At the Camper store I find those easily.