The Shoes That Make My Legs Feel 10 Miles Long

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These shoes will not set the world on fire, nor are they meant to.

It all started with a simple pair of pants. We posted about this suspiciously flattering pair a little while back and the response was so enthusiastic, it got us thinking: Why not sniff out the most flattering things across a bevy of categories, from the most skin-enhancing light bulb to the brightening eye drops to the shapewear designed for all sizes? Welcome to Flattering Week on the Strategist.

Growing up, I was the tiny kid. You know the one: the freakishly small child at the end of school pictures, dressed in hand-me-downs, who magically appears three years younger than everyone else. My growth spurt, when it came, was nothing to write home about, but I clung to those few inches with fervor. Five feet. Five-one. Five-two. Five-three! I had worked hard for every one of those inches, and for the rest of my life, I wanted people to meet me and meet not The Tiny Kid, but a Not Very Tall But Basically Normally Sized Woman.

Quickly, I learned what worked for me in a shoe: something relatively close to my skin tone, with no foreshortening ankle straps or unflattering horizontal lines. Heels and wedges were nice, of course, but the color made more difference to me in some ways than the height; I’d rather wear a modest skimmer with a good line in a skin tone than a 4” sandal in a completely different color. Nude shoes were the unbreakable rule. (This also made shoe shopping very easy.)

“Nude” is of course a problematic term, considering the fact that skin tones run on a spectrum. “Flesh-toned,” while disgusting, is more what I have in mind. And even that is confusing, because the same principle applies to tights in the winter: matching a black shoe to an opaque stocking has the same lengthening effect as a flesh-toned shoe on a bare leg in the warmer months.

I have experimented with many such pumps, or court shoe, or whatever you want to call it. I’m not talking about some Real Housewife patent platform here, but rather something discreet and elegant. And for my money, the perfect heel is the LK Bennett Fern Nappa Leather Heel. In my prime — this is to say, when I worked daily in an office — I alternated the Fern with the lower-heeled Floret, which comes in more colorways. (I did not buy them at once, but added to the collection over the years and was assiduous about adding rubber to the sole, keeping the heels in good trim, and getting them regularly serviced.) This shoe will not set the world on fire, nor is it meant to. But nothing — nothing — will work harder for you or make your legs look longer. The line is classic and elegant; the heel is delicate.

But my ideal skin-tone shoe may not be yours. One friend finds the beige a little too yellow for her complexion; another swears by the the Manolo Blahnik BB Pointy-Toe pump. Then there’s Christian Louboutin’s “nudes” line (only the flats are left), which included a much larger-than-usual range of skin tones, while Sam Edelman has a nice-looking pump in a bunch of nudes. (Note: This spring a British start-up called Kahmune is launching with nude heels in ten different shades.) As with all things, my basic will not be yours: the point is to find one. Your legs will look about ten miles long. And when you run into someone from high school, she’ll gasp, “Oh my god, you’re so tall and your boobs are so big!” (This really happened to me, I swear.) I mean, Kate Middleton knows what she’s doing.

An Array of “Nude” Shoes

These are no longer available from Bergdorf Goodman, but the full Nudes Collection is still available here.

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The Shoes That Make My Legs Feel 10 Miles Long