Fight the Frump: Shoe Edition

Fight the Frump: The Shoe Edition | Footwear mistakes you may be making and how to fix them.

We’re back with another Fight the Frump post and this time it’s all about shoes.

Beyond wearing the wrong bra (more on that to come in my next Fight the Frump post) I think frumpy shoes are probably the biggest area where women make fashion choices that can age us unnecessarily.

This is partly because we tend to get stuck in an era and never move out of it. The trends that were popular during that era are going to look out of style and frumpy as time marches on. This is true for many aspects of fashion — hair styles, glasses, makeup, and most definitely shoes.

The other reason shoes are such a big issue as we age is our feet tend to get more finicky and we can’t wear all the flimsy shoes and high heels that are more flattering and stylish.

Even though I’m not there yet, I had a series of foot injuries a few years ago that relegated me to “comfort shoes” for quite some time. For a girl who loves her high heels and strappy sandals, it was downright depressing. It was also a great learning experience because I had to figure out what made a shoe frumpy (or not) and seek out the best of what was available in the realm of comfort shoes. (I’m also much more grateful for the ability to wear pretty much any style of shoe I want! It’s amazing what we take for granted until it’s taken away.)

Whether you need to wear comfort shoes or not, if you’re trying to fight the frump and keep your style current, assessing your shoe wardrobe is a good place to start.

Footwear Mistakes You May Be Making

Here are some common footwear mistakes women make and how to fix them:

#1. Wearing shoes that are too clunky.

I hesitate to post a “wear this, not that” type of graphic because no matter what I pick, I’m sure to be insulting someone’s shoes, lol. And as with most matters of fashion, it’s relative. Shoes that I wouldn’t be caught dead in might be a good choice for an older woman or someone with a different style aesthetic. But here’s one quick example that I think illustrates my point. These are both “comfort sandals” by the same brand, and they both serve generally the same purpose, but the one on the left looks more youthful and flattering because it shows more of the foot and has a more flattering vamp (that’s the material on the top of the shoe). Also the cork footbed is lighter and more on trend.

Generally speaking, shoes that are clunky are never going to be as flattering as something more strappy and delicate. Of course, sometimes shoes are purposefully designed to be chunky. In that case, you have to be very selective about what you wear them with so they look intentional and not like a fashion faux pas. But when it comes to fighting the frump, going with a more delicate shoe option is usually a good choice.

#2. Wearing shoes that are out of style. 

This should go without saying, but shoes can really date your look, which is always going to equal frumpy. I’m certainly not suggesting you replace all your shoes every season or follow every trend that comes down the pike, but keeping an eye on current trends and knowing what is in and out of style is important if you’re going to keep the frump-monster at bay.

I recommend going through your closet at least once a year (I do it with each change of season) and performing a ruthless wardrobe audit. Take all your shoes out of your closet and go through each pair and ask yourself these questions:

  • are they in good condition? (If not, donate or find a good shoe repair shop.)
  • do they fit my current lifestyle?
  • are they comfortable?
  • do they make me feel good when I wear them? do I love them and want to put them on right now?
  • are they still in style? (If you’re not sure, ask a friend you trust.)

With each pair of shoes, if the answer to any of those questions is no, it’s probably time to part with them. If they’re still in good shape, donate them. Otherwise, there are places that recycle old shoes. I did a quick google search and found plenty, but you may want to do your research and make sure you’re donating to a cause you feel good about supporting.

#3. Matching your shoes to your hemline.

This isn’t a no-no, but it’s not necessary, and it can make your overall look dated if you try to match your shoes to your hem too often. Try a contrasting shoe instead for a more modern look.

There is nothing wrong with the black pumps and the black dress, but the nude strappy sandals are more modern and of the moment. And I would recommend also experimenting with metallic or a bold color when wearing a black dress — or even a colored dress.

P.S. It is also not necessary to match your shoes to your handbag.

#4. Wearing hose with sandals or peep-toe shoes. 

No, just no.

I understand wanting to wear hose for certain occasions (I’m not against hose per se) but they should not be worn with sandals or open toe shoes. (I have an entire post on what hose to wear with a cocktail dress if you’re interested.)

#5. Wearing shoes that don’t flatter you. 

Most of us realize that we need to wear clothes that flatter our bodies to look and feel our best, and the same goes for shoes. Part of fighting the frump is learning what looks good on you and what doesn’t, and wearing what flatters you.

Women with skinny ankles and calves may look off-balance in a chunky platform sandal. Women with bigger calves and ankles should generally avoid shoes with a delicate ankle strap. If you have short legs, you probably want to wear shoes with a lower vamp, especially with pants and longer skirts. (Imogen Lamport has a great article on shoe vamp, if you’re interested in learning more.)

#6. Wearing shoes that are worn down. 

If your shoes are still in style and you like them, a cobbler can replace a heel or repair scratches and stains. Wearing shoes that look beat up or with a heel that is worn down will make you look sloppy and thus more frumpy.

Going along with that, make sure to take good care of your shoes. I cringe when I hear people say their shoes are in a heap on their closet floor. I have mine on shelves, and I keep some of my nicer ones that I don’t wear as often in their boxes. I have a pair of Stuart Weitzman suede pumps that I’ve had for almost 15 years and they still look like new because I keep them in their box with a little suede brush that I use on them every time I put them away. Doing this keeps them from gathering dust and and from getting marked up rubbing against other shoes in my closet over the years.

I don’t do that with all my shoes, of course, but with my really nice ones. I also take my boots to the shoe repair shop at the end of every season to have them cleaned up, and then I store them in their original boxes for the summer so they don’t gather dust.

Keeping your shoes in good shape protects your investment and helps you fight the frump.

#7. Wearing shoes that don’t fit. 

If shoes are too big or too small, that’s going to add to the frump factor. I have very squared-off toes, and there are some sandals I simply cannot wear because the footbed is too pointy and my toes will flop over the edge. This also happens when sandals are too big for my narrow feet — my feet slide too far to the front and my toes go off the end. NO NO NO. That is always a bad look. The same goes for stuffing one’s feet into shoes that are too small. It just doesn’t look good. Make sure to buy and wear shoes that fit your feet properly.

#8. Wearing the wrong shoe for the occasion. 

Running sneakers are great, but they belong in the gym or at the very least in a very casual environment with a trendy athleisure look. For the love of all that’s fashionable, please don’t wear athletic sneakers with khaki capri pants. (Try Converse or Superga if you want the comfort of a sneaker.)

Plastic flip flops are awesome for the beach, but they’re not the best choice with a sundress for church – at least not once you’re out of middle school.

Wearing shoes that are too casual for the occasion will definitely add to the frump factor, so unless you’re required to wear sneakers for medical reasons, try to match the style and formality of your shoes to the occasion.

#9. Wearing shoes that don’t work with your pants (or skirt/dress/shorts/etc.)

Sometimes you can have a great pair of shoes but they just don’t work with the length or style of your skirt or pants, and this can make you look frumpy. It takes some practice, and this is where Pinterest and fashion blogs can come in handy, but learning what style of shoe works with the various pants/skirts/dresses in your closet is a large part of fighting the frump and keeping your look current.

This is where I have to plug the Adore Your Wardrobe course once again.

I have spent so much time over the years trying on different shoe and pant/skirt/dress combinations to figure out what works and what doesn’t, and while I could sense a good combination and a bad combination, I never really understood WHY they did or didn’t work until I took the Adore Your Wardrobe course last year.

Getting dressed and putting outfits together still takes some trial and error, but much less now than it used to because I’m armed with the knowledge I need to put pleasing combinations together.


Whew! I had no idea I had that much to say on this subject until I started typing. I hope this is helpful. Feel free to share your thoughts and other suggestions in the comments!

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