Ankle boots are nothing new. Versions of this footwear staple have fallen in and out of fashion dozens of times over the decades. But the booties on the market now are quite different from the styles sold, say, in the 90s … so if you’re hanging onto a pair that’s more than about seven years old, it might be time to refresh.
Fair enough, you say, but how can you track down the perfect pair? After all, this is a boot style that is challenging to wear for many women, and even though current styles differ from earlier iterations, there are still a dozen or more ankle boot shapes that are considered chic right now … how can you tell if an ankle boot will suit you?
Well, let me tell you.
Consider Shaft Height First
The shaft of the boot is the tubular portion that climbs up your calf. In the case of ankle boots, the shaft is usually short … but that doesn’t mean you won’t find hundreds of shaft heights and shapes that still fall into the bootie category.
And since shaft height is the design variable that is most likely to make an ankle boot work or flop, start there.
A tall-ish shaft – one that covers the spot where your calf begins to curve inward toward your ankle – can make your legs look awfully columnar. A virtually non-existent shaft – in a style that leans more toward shootie territory – will visually elongate your leg line but doesn’t have the edgy oomph of an actual ankle boot. On most figures, a bootie with a shaft that hits right at the ankle bone will work best. It’s flattering, versatile, and looks great regardless of your leg or body shape. There will always be a little wiggle room, but if you just can’t seem to find a height that works, start with the ankle-bone guideline.
Then Look At Opening Shape
You might think that all boots have the same style of opening – circular. And most do, it’s true. But there are some variations that can make a huge difference in how an ankle boot looks and fits.
A standard opening will create a horizontal line across your ankle, which visually widens your leg. Not a huge deal if the boot hits at ankle-bone height, where many of us are slim. But if you prefer the look of a taller shaft yet don’t want to shorten your leg line, look for an opening that’s higher on the sides but dips in front and back. Many Western and cowgirl-style ankle boots are designed this way, but other styles can also feature a leg-elongating dip. The “shield” style features a shaft/vamp that’s higher in front than back, which is a very edgy look but will cut off your leg a bit higher – so if you love this style, consider picking a color close to your skin tone.
Speaking of which …
Think About Color
At least 80% of my wardrobe is black, and I have skin that looks like it belongs on a ghost with the flu, so take what I’m about to say with a grain of salt … if creating a long leg-line is a figure-flattery priority for you AND you plan to wear your ankle boots with bare legs, consider buying them in a color that is relatively close to your own skin color. Low contrast will prevent the bootie from breaking up your line too much.
Finally, Decide on Heel Height
It will come as a shock to exactly no one that heeled ankle boots are generally considered to be more flattering. Heels can also be implements of torture, so if you hate ’em, skip ’em. There are loads of lovely flat bootie styles on the market, and picking a pointed toe shape or skin tone color will prevent them from chunking up your leg line too severely. If you’re a heel lover, on the other hand, consider a relatively chunky heel. Stiletto ankle boots exist, but because this style is high-volume by nature it can look a bit odd with a super skinny, spindly heel. Try for a tapered or blocky heel instead for visual balance.