Let’s face it, wearing high heels is not the most comfortable thing in the world. Understandably, you probably don’t want to wear sneakers every time you choose not to wear heels so I’ve been on the hunt for some really beautiful and classy looking alternatives to heels that your feet will feel and look great in.
If you cannot or prefer not to wear heels at all, then the next best thing to wear is formal flat shoes or block heels that do not dress down your outfit but rather recreate the same elegance and formality of a pair of heels as much as possible, without being uncomfortable or impractical to wear.
Don’t get me wrong, there are alot of things that can be done to make wearing heels more comfortable and sometimes they are even worth the sacrifice. But a lot of women develop a love-hate relationship with heels especially if you have to wear them all day long. And for other women, heels are just not that appropriate or practical for their lifestyle. So I’ve compiled some great alternatives for you with examples of how to wear them and some of my personal recommendations too.
How can I look classy without heels?
Before we jump into the shoes, let’s quickly talk about how to be classy without heels. While shoes are an important part of an outfit, if you are wearing heels in an inappropriate setting or if you are too uncomfortable to walk in them, the classiness of your outfit no matter how glamorous, will be taken away. I’ve tried numerous different style flat shoes with both dresses, skirts and pants suits and here’s what I found:
The classiest way to wear a dress or skirt without heels is with a structured pointy ballet flat. They can be simple in design or embellished on the toe to match the classiness of the rest of the outfit. However, if you are wearing pants, the best replacement is a smart leather loafer or flat mule to reflect the sophistication of the rest of the outfit.
You also need to take the rest of your outfit into consideration to harmonize the overall look. You can’t just replace heels with sneakers every time because heels are often used for formal or special occasions in our lives and we need to stay in keeping with that. So here are my recommendations for what to wear when you can’t wear heels.
Ballet flats are a perfect shoe to wear for a day out in the city, or running errands. They are not the most ideal shoe to wear in the rain or for when you are in a rush as they can easily slip off your heel if you’re not going at a relaxed pace. The round-toe ballet flats are perfect for casual wear and for adding a touch more femininity to your outfit as they are designed to look dainty. The pointy toe ballet flat on the other hand is a more sophisticated look but still not the easiest to get around in a rush unless it has an extra strap around the bridge of the foot.
Unlike the ballet flats, prom flats have a strap that wraps round the ankle to hold the shoe more securely to your foot. There are usually no sides to the shoe but there is a closed toe that’s usually pointy and can be bare or embellished with more detail. The extra strap makes it a little easier to walk without worrying about your shoe slipping off but much like the ballet flat they are not the best for rainy or cold weather.
Oxford shoes are a fully closed shoe with a lace up closure. They can have a small block heel but they often come as flat shoes for both men and women. Because they are made of hard leather they generally come in a rich brown, black or burgundy color. They work really nicely with tights and skirts during fall and winter and because they offer a bit more protection from the elements and are a bit easier to get around in. The name is perfect for them because they are quite a studious looking shoe that’s perfect for sipping a pumpkin spiced latte while having a study session at your local coffee shop.
Loafers are the perfect replacement for heels when you’re trying to achieve that effortlessly chic Parisian vibe. They can have a pointy, round or square toe and are made with soft leather unlike Oxford shoes. There are loafers that have a very chunky platform sole but these tend to look very clunky when worn with elegant clothing. Therefore, I would opt for the more sleek streamlined design.
They usually come with a plain toe or minimal gold hardware on top of the toe. They can look very elegant with skirts but I think they look their best with more sophisticated clothing like a blazer outfit or even tailored shorts. They feel like slippers to walk in, especially if you get some good quality leather ones that mould to the shape of your foot. They can be a little chilly for winter though as they are usually not worn with socks.
Flat mules can come in a variety of different styles. They have a silhouette that is very similar to house slippers so it’s important to pay attention to the style you’re wearing. The more casual styles run the risk of looking “too casual” in the wrong situations so I would opt for more structured and formal lines like a pointy or square toe to offset the relaxed design. These shoes work well with trousers, jeans, skirts and dresses so they are quite versatile. As long as you’re not planning to jog anywhere, they should be fine.
Sligback slides are the perfect middle ground between the more casual looking ballet flat and the strap of the prom flat that makes them slightly more grippy and secure around the heel. You will most often see these shoes with a pointy toe and I think they are a very elegant shoe for work with pants, dresses or skirt outfits. Again they are most suitable for spring and summer but if I had to choose a shoe to spend the whole day in and also go out for the evening, this would be my choice as they just give a slightly more formal vibe than the ballet flats without being super dressy like the prom flats.
Flat espadrilles are a beautiful flat shoe to wear in the summertime. They’re perfect with white cotton dresses or striped jumpsuits. They usually come with a closed toe and heel but the strap mechanism can vary. I love the natural aesthetic and my favourites have ankle straps that wrap around the lower leg as it adds to those Mediterranean summer vibes. They can also come as platform flats if you want to keep a bit of height without the heel.
And of course there is the simple sandal. They are a summer staple and can look really elegant and cute with everything from jeans to shorts to skirts and dresses so they are a no-brainer for your summer wardrobe. You can add some extra style by investing in a pair of designer sandals but there are also some exquisitely made and elegant sandal brands out there that are unique and less widely known like A.Emery, Aeyde & Elleme.
Are heels more professional than flats?
The answer will depend because there are many styles of both heels and flats that are not professional at all. However, I researched what was the most professional flat shoe and compared it to a sophisticated looking plain heel to see which one looked more appropriate for work and a professional environment and here is what I found.
In comparison, a heel does look more professional than a sophisticated flat shoe. This is because there is a higher level of formality in the heel, making it more suitable for a corporate environment or an important meeting. However, the flat shoe has a sufficient level of formality for an average work day.
Even still, this answer highly depends on the individual and whether they feel comfortable in heels or not. Even the most formal heels will look unprofessional if you cannot walk or you need to adjust them all the time. Comfort plays a big role in the professionality of an outfit so it’s important to take that into consideration when deciding which one is best for your work environment.
What are the easiest heels to wear?
If you are not completely averse to a heel, as long as it’s comfortable and easy to walk in, then this could also be a perfectly good alternative to wearing high heels for any outfit. Block heel boots are a staple in my winter wardrobe because they are comfortable and elevated enough so my feet stay mostly dry in the rain. But I’ve also done some digging on this to see what is the easiest heel to wear.
The wider the base of the heel and the lower to the ground it is, the shoe will be easier and more controllable to walk in. The easiest heels to walk in include kitten heels, pyramid heels, block heels and wedges. Each of these styles provide greater surface area and a lower center of gravity for improved balance which makes them easier to walk in.
Kitten Heels are a perfect example of easy to wear heels. Because they are lower to the ground, they put less pressure on the ball of the foot which makes them a great alternative for people who have a wide foot but still want to wear a heel. They retain a lot of the professional look that higher heels have and you can also find them as slingbacks which are perfect for spring and summer.
These heels offer a triangular tip at the base of the heel. Because the surface area is wider, these heels can still be as high as regular heels but are more stable on the ground making it easier to find your balance and walk in. However they have a tendency to look dated so I would be careful with how much money you invest in a pair of heels like these.
Block heels work in a similar way to pyramid heels because there is a lot more surface area that touches the ground making them a much more sturdy heel to walk in. The great thing about block heels is that they offer the perfect balance between comfort and formality and they come in many different styles from open toe sandals to knee-high winter boots.
Wedge heels are not as easy to walk in as block heels but they are still an easier shoe to walk in than stiletto heels of the same height. However, because the heel part of the wedge shoe curves in around the heel making it narrower than a block heel, it’s more prone to wobbling especially if you are walking on uneven surfaces. Therefore, it’s good to have an idea where you’re going if you’re planning on wearing these heels so that there are no nasty obstacles (like cobblestone pavements SIGH*)
I really hope this article has helped you to find a suitable alternative to wearing heels that matches your fashion style and your lifestyle. Remember, you shouldn’t feel pressured to wear heels all the time even if you find them comfortable and easy to walk in. It’s important to experiment and get used to styling flat shoes with your outfits well so that you don’t have to rely on heels to make you feel beautiful or stylish. Don’t let them control your style, take back the power for yourself and learn about which styles work well with different outfits. This will give you so much for flexibility with your outfits and ways to protect your foot health for years to come.
About the author
Mish has a Masters in Fine Art and she has an interest in classical design, history and culture. She loves to analyze fashion and style through this lens to help people develop authentic personal style.