How to Buy Ladies Flat Shoes

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Flat shoes can be a stylish yet practical choice for both business and casual environments. Ladies' flats now come in a variety of colors and styles, from sandals to baby dolls to peep-toes and loafers. Choosing from such a wide selection can get overwhelming, and it's important to find the right shoe details to work with each of your wardrobe choices. Learn how to buy ladies' flat shoes to suit your lifestyle and complement your clothes.

Look over your wardrobe and decide what styles and colors of shoes to buy. Do you need shoes for business or casual? Do you wear mainly earth tones or jewel tones? Do you want shoes to wear with trousers, jeans, casual skirts or business suits? All these factors will guide which ladies' flat shoes to look for.

Evaluate your needs and budget. Department store and specialty shoe store prices will run higher, but you'll get more service and more sizes will usually be available. It will also be easier to find the specific style of shoe you want. Discount stores like DSW and Shoe Carnival have cheaper prices and you can try on shoes at your leisure without waiting for a salesperson. The selection can be less predictable, however, making it more difficult to find sensible shoes.

Wear the style of clothing you need shoes for. If you're looking for shoes to go with your work trousers, you need to be able to see if the shoe style is right and if the trousers drag on the ground with flats. Some flats can make the legs look chunky when paired with a skirt, so it's important to try on with the same length and style of skirt you typically need shoes for.

Look for neutrals. Black, gray, beige, and brown are standard neutral colors that can work with your entire wardrobe. Navy is also a neutral, and looks great with jeans or khakis. Taupe and champagne colored shoes have subtle mixes of tones within them that will pick up on a variety of colors in your wardrobe. Consider metallic shoes in silver, gold, and copper to add a fun twist or dress up an outfit. Use white as a neutral for spring and summer wardrobes.

Consider patterned shoes. Ladies' flat shoes are available in a variety of patterns, colors, and textures. A plaid or floral print shoe may seem like a crazy choice, but in reality these shoes can often act as a neutral. If you have a lot of pink tops and khaki bottoms, plaid shoes with pink, white, and beige stripes will match nearly everything you own without looking too overly-coordinated. Look for patterns that include a neutral color like beige, gray, or navy and you'll be surprised how many outfits they'll work with. Some flat shoes will have print elements paired with solid neutral elements and these are great options as well.

Choose ballet style flats with a low vamp for a sexier and more flattering look with skirts. Peep toe and baby-doll buckle styles can also look good with skirts. Be aware that anything that crosses over the top of the foot can shorten the look of your leg, so lower vamp styles are better with longer skirts. Also consider a small wedge (½ to 1 inch) heel with skirts. The slight lift tightens the calf and makes for a prettier leg appearance.

Try ladies lace-up and loafer style flat shoes with trousers, especially for a business environment. These men's style inspired shoes can come in a variety of neutrals, soft leathers and patent finishes to dress up your work attire and provide comfort and support at the same time.

Flat sandals with slender, sexy straps can be a great summer flat shoe choice for floaty skirts, dresses, shorts and capris. The barely-there look helps elongate the leg and keep the focus on your outfit. Unless you work in a casual environment, save the sandals for weekend wear and choose a more closed shoe for work. Definitely avoid backless shoes that flop against your heel as you walk--this unprofessional clopping sound will get you noticed at work for all the wrong reasons.

Try on shoes before you buy them. One shoe is generally more stretched out from other people trying it on, so be sure to put on both shoes in the pair. Walk up and down the aisle to be sure the shoes don't hurt and stay on your feet. Remember that if the shoes are tight or hurt in the store, they'll be ten times more painful after a few hours of continuous wear. Put back any shoes that aren't the perfect fit.

Splurge on a better quality pair of shoes for work, particularly if you spend a lot of time on your feet. Flats are easier on your feet than heels, but it's also important to look for shoes with good arch support. Try a specialty store like Easy Spirit to get stylish work shoes that are also comfortable and structured for good balance and support.

Tips & Warnings

  • Be careful when selecting chunkier or loafer-style shoes, particularly in white or navy, as these can tend to look unflatteringly utilitarian and old-fashioned. Patent finishes and metal embellishments help dress up a plainer style shoe, and some loafer styles are made backless or with a sexy heel strap.
  • Remember that flat shoes are a great way to tone down a shorter skirt or dress and make the outfit more of a cute and fun look, rather than overtly sexy. This is a great choice for work or dinners with family; just be sure to save super short skirts for weekend wear or nights on the town.
  • Save receipts for your shoe purchases. Temperature and how long you've been on your feet can affect how shoes fit. A pair of flats that seemed to fit fine in the morning in an air-conditioned store may not even go on your foot after a full day of summer work. If you feel you've made a mistake and bought your shoes too small or too big, take them back instead of letting them sit in the closet gathering dust. If the strap breaks or the heel wears in a week, take them back. Be sure to consult your store's policy on returns, as some sale or close-out items may be non-returnable.

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