An anonymous reader put this question into the suggestion box:
… you talk a lot about shoes here, and it’s hard to get excited about shoes when one’s shoe choices are limited. Any words of encouragement for people whose medically necessary shoes seem to ruin the best constructed outfit?
Since shoes can make or break an outfit, it can be incredibly frustrating when your shoe choices are limited by comfort, health, or even budgetary reasons. There are more options than ever before for those of you who wear orthotics – see Kirsten’s guest post for proof – but you may still feel like your shoes are holding back the rest of your wardrobe. I’ve been a shoe lover for ages, and I can only imagine how aggravating this must feel. I don’t think I’ve got any universal solutions, but here are a few suggestions that might help you feel less discouraged about working with limited shoe options:
Buy the simplest shoes you can find
Most of the shoes I’ve seen that accomodate orthotics seem strangely complex. They’ve got thick, detailed soles and lots of little panels, topstitching, stripes of textured material, and other bells and whistles that just clutter them up. Especially if you end up needing shoes that are more about comfort than looks, try to track down something extremely simple. Clean sides, minimalist soles, dark colors, laces that match the shoe body. If you can handle wearing a Mary Jane style at times or in addition to lace-ups, those are a good bet for warm weather wear and for pairing with dresses and skirts.
This advice also holds true for those of you working on a very restricted budget. If you can only afford to have two or three pairs on-hand and one of them is bright red suede platform sandals, you’ll just be limiting yourself even further. Plain ballet flats, boots with little embellishment, neutral colors, versatile fibers. It’s certainly true that fabulous shoes can amp up your looks, but if you’ve got to limit your purchases, focusing on pairs that will be incredibly versatile is wise. And simple shoes are generally more versatile.
I realize that this bit of advice pertains to shopping and purchasing shoes as opposed to styling them, but felt it was worth including. Making sound decisions when buying shoes will help make working them into your outfits easier.
Draw the eye upward
If you’re stuck with a pair that doesn’t quite work with your outfit, do everything you can to draw attention upward. Statement necklaces, scarves, printed tops, even eye-catching hairstyles will keep the focus on your top half. In this case, you might want to go for shoes that are close to your skin tone for maximum blending-in, but I know that many comfort and orthotic-friendly brands in skin tone shades can look a little dowdy. It’s your call.
Create a long leg line
This tip will likely work best in cold weather, but matching your tights, hose, or pants to the color of your shoe creates a long leg line down to the ground. It also helps the shoe blend in and feel less obvious. If you live in Tallahassee, you probably don’t do tights much and few people want to wear pants year-round. But consider these options for days when you just don’t want to worry about your shoes standing out.
Experiment with sporty outfits
Since comfort shoes tend to look more casual or even rugged, it can be beneficial to find ways to create sporty looks that work with your existing style. You don’t have to completely transform yourself into a hiker and biker, but experiment a bit with new items and outfits. See if you can find a pair of cargo pants or crops that you like. Shop for a sleek track jacket that looks good with jeans. Have a few options in your arsenal that make your shoes seem like a natural choice.
Make sure your colors work together
Most orthotic shoes seem to be available in black and dark brown. Versatile neutrals. I get it. But if you find an amazing pair in red or green that you’d just love to try, do it! Make sure, though, that you’re picking a color that works with YOUR colors. What shades do you wear most? Will these complement those colors? Think especially about the patterned pieces you’ve got, as tying pattern and shoe color together creates instant coherence.
Again, “shop more” isn’t the greatest solution to shoe frustrations. But since there really are loads of new brands and styles coming out all the time, it’s worth keeping tabs. Don’t feel obliged to buy every time you see a pair that tickles your fancy, of course, but keep abreast of the new styles. Someday you might find the perfect pair to bridge your wardrobe gaps. (Again, Barking Dog Shoes is a great resource!)
I wish I had more suggestions, and am hoping that those of you working with limited shoe options will be able to chime in! How do you mix up your looks? What do you do when you don’t have the “right” shoes to complete an outfit? Do you tend to downplay your shoes, or just work with them as best you can? Any orthotic-friendly brands or styles you care to share?
Image courtesy Footsmart.
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