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What Types of High Heels are Appropriate for the Office?

Closed toe heels are considered more appropriate in most office settings.
Pumps in neutral colors made from leather are timeless wardrobe additions that are almost always appropriate for office wear.
Dressy, high-heeled shoes.
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  • Written By: Tricia Ellis-Christensen
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 24 October 2014
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Wearing high heels at the office depends greatly upon dress code. Many offices require more than just sitting, so high heels worn should always be something one can walk in swiftly, and frequently. If a shoe is so high that it is merely for decorative purpose and will have one limping in an hour, it is generally considered not office wear.

The most conservative offices tend to have strict codes about types of shoes worn. They may not limit one’s access to high heels, but may require shoes that are close-toed, but dressy. One still needs to think about the degree to which one will be walking, and probably most appropriate is high heels no higher than 2-3 inches (5.08-7.62 cm).

High heels in either conservative or even business casual offices should forgo embellishments and should be in conservative colors, such as black, brown or navy. It may be all right to match high heels of a different color with a suit of the same color, such as dark green high heels matched with a dark green suit.

High heels that are white really should not be worn after Labor Day, though many now forgo this traditional ban. Red high heels are considered inappropriate for office wear, as they connote a less than professional appearance. Further, shoes should be of good quality and make. Forgo manmade fabrics and stick to leathers and suedes. If one objects to the harvesting of leather, microfibers are acceptable.

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In some offices, the need to move quickly and often may mean forgoing high heels altogether, or wearing a considerably lower heel. In all cases one should avoid heels that are actually platform shoes. The actual width of the heel may vary, depending upon the season’s fashion, but generally huge chunky heels are not apropos. Shoes with very little heel should still not be opened-toed or sandal-like in appearance as this is less than business casual or conservative business attire.

In some offices of an eclectic nature, eclectic shoes may be welcomed. High heels of any type may be worn as long as they don’t inhibit movement. Since today’s job market can change rapidly, keep a pair of 2-3 inch plain pumps, should one suddenly have to job search or visit a career fair. As well, even the most eclectic office staff may need to dress more formally when visiting another office, thus keeping a plain pair of shoes nearby is always a sensible idea.

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anon320663
Post 10

In my office, in San Diego, while most of the city enjoys a casual office culture, we set ourselves apart from the rest by dressing professionally. Although one cannot mandate a heel height, one can strongly suggest heel height, shoe style, and complimentary attire, and so we do. As suggested in our HR manual, heeled dress pumps within the 3" to 4" range are viewed as most appropriate. Said shoes should be worn with a suit, tailored dress, or skirted outfit.

anon236905
Post 8

I live in South Florida, work in Marketing, and I wear 4-5 inch heels almost every day, and keep a pair of flats in my office for back up in case my feet get sore. I'm 20.

A lot of people are very sexist. I'm supposed to dress like a male in order to "fit in". I say hell, no. I wear dresses and heels every day. If you are professional, and stick to classy color and fabric choices, and can carry yourself well, there are really no rules concerning the height of your heels.

I am a woman. I have breast, legs, feet, eyes and a butt. I am not shopping in the men's department.

What happens is, at first, you get the "looks." Basically people noticing a red paint stripe on black pavement. Then you get respect. I have almost every woman in my office complimenting my outfits, and asking for dress advice. Men think I look nice, and I get a surprising number of compliments from them too.

Women need to grow the hell up and stop hiding the fact they're chicks.

amypollick
Post 7

I'd agree that it really all depends on your particular office's "culture." However, I can't wear high heels anyway. I have a bad knee and a bad ankle that pretty much preclude me from wearing a heel much over two inches. But, I don't work in an office with a fashion culture, so it really doesn't matter. Heels of any height are seen and accepted.

The main problem we have in our office are some of our 20-something ladies who really do not know what is considered professional office attire, and they come in wearing really low-cut dresses or other things that make them look like they work at a nightclub and not in an office. I say it's because they're 20-somethings, but my 20s haven't been *that* long ago, and I didn't wear some of the stuff they do to work, so I guess it's just a shift in what some people find acceptable.

anon226074
Post 6

I live in Southern California where its pretty warm year around. I wear high heel slides to the office most of the time. They're open toe and I wear them bare legged. Ive never had a problem with office management.

anon113802
Post 5

Here in Britain, heels of nearer 3-4" are considered more appropriate than lower heels or flats, even in conservative offices. Although I agree on all the other points.

As a lover of heels (and as I'm only 5' 4") I have worn 4" heels to the office for years. But my most recent purchase for work have a 5" heel.

I was a little concerned that they might be too high, but they are just such a good looking classic shoe (and I fell in love with them). But I actually got compliments on them from several senior women at work (including one of the partners). - And mine is a very conservative office.

So if you keep to the basic rules of plain black, no buckles or straps, no open toes, no platforms, no chunky heels, then even higher heels can be appropriate.

anon106301
Post 4

I have a problem where I can't wear lower heels. My heels are all 4" to 5" for every day. The only time it causes problems is when I have to walk over a half mile during lunch break with people.

subway11
Post 3

Sunshine 31- I agree that pumps the most professional heels you can wear in an office.

Here in Miami, a number of women choose to wear stilettos which I don’t think is appropriate for office attire.

My rule of thumb is if the shoe does not require pantyhose than it probably should not be worn in an office setting.

cafe41
Post 2

Sunshine31-I love Cole Haan. Those shoes are so comfortable, but you would never know by looking at them.

I have to agree that pumps in navy, blue, and brown are best preferably with closed toe or slightly opened like you mentioned. The only drawback is that the shoes are quite pricey. Most Cole Haan pumps start at $200 a pair. But if you are standing a lot it is worth the added expense.

sunshine31
Post 1

I agree that high heels for office attire should consist of pumps in traditional colors, like brown, black and navy. Cole Haan offers a wonderful line of pumps that have Nike Air technology that offers added support and incredible comfort.

Most of these pumps have a closed toe in the front, while some have a slight opening near the first two toes. These shoes are stylish and comfortable and totally appropriate for office attire.

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