How to Dress When You Have Cankles

First off, let the record show that I do not have cankles. I’m pointing this out because I’m sure someone is going to leave me a comment about why I’m discussing cankles when I haven’t experienced the plight of them first-hand. Let the record also show that I feel for the ladies who do have genetically-gifted cankles, because outside of iffy cankle liposuction surgery, there really isn’t much you can do about them.

This reason for this topic is the following message from my friend Julianne:

“Hey V—I had a fashion blog post idea (You’ll need a different model than yourself, of course)—how to dress for cankles. Even when I was 115 lbs, or at the peak of my training I still had cankles, and now that I’m not doing as much I’m more self conscious about the whole leg column.

Some of the cutest dresses in the summer and fall are really short, but the hemline length is SOOOO tricky. Plus shoes are very difficult—no thin strappy sandals or round toes. And forget cute little booties are out because it hits at a wide point. In addition, the cute colored tight trend makes it look like you’ve got plum shaped sausages coming down from a cute skirt. Maybe I’m wrong about the colored tights. Anyway I thought I’d float that big challenge out to you and your fashionista blogger friends!

Anyway it is a challenge that no working out can cure, so it would be good do get some tools in the toolbox.”

Ask and you shall receive! Thank you, Julianne, for the request.

Cankles, Schmankles—Top Tips for Cankle Flattery

Following are my tips, plus tips sourced from How to Dress your Cankles (by Brittney of Sparkwood & 21), a helpful and witty post on the subject.

1. Wear pants. And never, ever wear capris.
Tailored full- or wide-leg trousers, or bootcut or flared denim is the easiest way to deal with cankles—you just cover them right up. I still find it astonishing that there are women in the world who are totally feminine in every way but flatly refuse to wear dresses or skirts. If you’re one of them, then every occasion except the beach is covered, and so are the cankles.

And on the subject of warm weather and the beach…I repeat: NEVER, ever wear capris. Unless you are skinny, and they are super tight and worn with heels, any woman in loose, mid-calf-length capris will look, as my husband says, “like a nana.”  (If you are a nana, or you don’t care about wearing the most universally unflattering pants ever created, be my guest.) Capris end right at the part you are trying to not draw attention to—thus, as Brittney wrote, “There might as well be a sign that says, ‘Look at these!'”

2.  Avoid mid-calf or ankle-length hemlines.
Continuing the topic above, if it’s hot, wear shorts that end just above the knee or higher. Long skirts and wide-leg, bootcut, or flared pants should fall to about 1/4″ to 1/2″ above the floor when you have your shoes on. Shorter skirts should hit the bottom of the kneecap, or preferably, just above it. Do not wear mid-calf skirts for the same reason you should not wear mid-calf capris.

EXCEPTION: You can wear mid-calf length skirts or dresses when paired with a knee-high (or higher) boot.

As far as skinnies, you can wear them, just be sure they’re not too tight (no super skinnies or jeggings), and the hem hits the top of your foot and completely covers your ankle. Obviously, ankle-length skinnies are a no-no, unless you’re tucking them into a tall boot—leggings or skinnies tucked into tall boots is a great look for the ankle-challenged!

3. No ankle straps or ankle wraps.
Julianne is 100% right about this. Ankle straps only draw the eye directly to heavy ankles…kind of like skin-tight, horizontal stripes on an ample derrière. Brittney notes in her post:

“The exception to this rule is if the straps are at your toes/front of the foot, but never, ever choose the ankle strap or the ribbon-wrap heels. That is a style gorgeous on those thin-limbed bitches, but it just draws the eyes to our thick ankles, accentuating them.”

Next time you see a sexy sandal that ties around the ankle and you’re smitten, just think of them as sexy sandals with tape measures for ankle straps. Opt for open/strappy at the toe with a slingback or a d’Orsay style pump.

4. Wear mid-calf, knee-high, or over-the-knee boots. 

Boots are clearly the best footwear choice if you like dresses and are extremely self-conscious about your ankles.  As Julianne wrote in her message, ankle booties are out. Like ankle straps, ankle-length booties accentuate the width of the ankle.

If you love the ankle booties-and-skirts look like I do, and you’ve got lean legs, then opt for a mid-calf boot with a knee-length or above-the-knee hemline. And I do mean mid-calf, not a couple inches above the ankle. Lug-sole motorcycle boots or slouchy suede fringe boots with a mini or shorts and tee is fun, comfy, and totally cankle-concealing.

If you have heavy legs and cankles, I recommend you avoid both ankle and mid-calf boots. Knee-high or over-the-knee boots are a better choice, whether you choose flat boots for a casual look, or stiletto-heeled boots for date night or wearing to work.


5. No round toes.
Again, Julianne is correct. A round-toe shoe (which is often coupled with a thick heel) creates a blockier look, and one that is not good for cankles because it visually shortens the foot, and the attached leg. Stick to pointed or almond-shaped toes when wearing a closed shoe.

6. Avoid chunky or kitten heels and aim for height.
About kitten heels, Sparkwood & 21 blogger Brittney noted, “Kitten heels are just not very flattering to me.” Brittney, it’s not you, babe—kitten heels don’t flatter anyone, period. Pointy shoes with kitten heels make even petite feet look gigantic. As mentioned above, avoid blocky, chunky heels as well.

I realize that many women can’t wear heels for a variety of reasons, but heels (3″+) lift the back of the heel, which pushes the front of the foot forward, lengthening the leg. Add a pointed or almond-toe nude slingback or stiletto pump, and you look like you have legs for days. Can’t wear heels? Skip kitten heels and do a stylish flat.

7. Stick to nude or black hosiery, or black opaque tights.
I laughed when I read this bit of Julianne’s message: “…the cute colored tight trend makes it look like you’ve got plum shaped sausages coming down from a cute skirt.”

Yes, Julianne, it does. Look, we all have our sartorial limitations. I look matronly in flirty, ’50s-style circle skirts, and flats really don’t  suit my size 9.5 foot. I can admit that and realize those cute gladiator flats are off-limits. That said, the colored tights trend is not that great. I have some fuchsia tights I bought when the trend hit, and they’ve never seen the light of day because they’re just so ostentatious and colorblocked gams is not my thing. Again, to quote Brittney, when wearing colored tights (whether you have cankles or not), “There might as well be a sign that says, ‘Look at these!'”

Black tights are every woman’s best friend in winter. Whether you’re going for flippy and boho, or are in full working-woman, skirt-suit mode, black opaque tights paired with outfit-appropriate footwear slim and elongate the leg, look modern, and keep you warm. My favorite opaques are by Merona (at Target), which I buy in 2X or something because I can’t deal with any abdominal constriction. They’re cheap, comfy, pretty, and they last.

8. Match your shoes to your hosiery (or legs)!
Never wear black tights with a shoe that’s not also black, because it cuts the lengthening effect, and aside from that, draws the eye straight to your feet, which are right beside your ankles.

If you’re going for a nude look, choose hosiery and/or pumps that match your skin tone. Just because a pump looks nude  doesn’t mean it’s “nude” on you. You exotic, olive- and dark-skinned ladies are blessed with legs that will never blind anyone with their whiteness, but you might have to look a little harder for a nude pump that blends with your skin tone.

PS: What better way to distract from cankles than bling? Whatever your flavor—costume, statement, or covered in gemstones—drawing attention to your sparkly digits means no one is looking at your ankles, no matter what size they are! There are lots of options, like this blue sapphire and topaz beauty I would love to add to my collection. You can buy sapphire rings online at

Readers, do you have any other cankle flattery tips? Please share!


  1. V- Great Info. I don’t have cankles, but I think this is great info for short women as well her looking to add some height. I am okay with 5’5″ frame, but my older sister is only 5’1″ so I will pass this along to her!

    1. Luckily I don’t have cankles but then I am 5ft11 🙂 And I agree with Heather about kitten heels – I love them. They are a great alternative to flats for someone like me who is super tall.

  2. Lol!!!
    The title was killing me but I have to admit, these are great tips…and not just for cankles but also in order to elongate your legs and thin out by illusion some of our problem areas. 😉

  3. I have cankles, and I adhere to many of the suggestions you made Vahni (great post).

    My biggest issue is I was able to hide my cankles better with boots, and booties when I lived in Chicago. Cooler weather means you can more easily rock boots. I moved to Florida last year and now I feel a bit exposed. Most of the boots I wore I have had to store, or give away because they were just too hot for Florida.

    My recommendation for those who want the coverage, but would still like to be warm-weather appropriate is to try open toed booties in nude colors.

    Also, kitten heels work well for me when paired with jeans or pants that are skimming the floor. I’m 5’1 so that really isn’t too difficult. Pants that long lengthen my torso, and the kitten heels are really flattering and comfortable.

    Check out my latest blog post to see how I wear skinny jeans with booties to cover my cankles.

  4. I agree with you on the kitten heels. I bought a pair of them when I was dating a guy who was my height – but then not – as when I put on heels I became 6’2″. So I opted for a pair of those. For me, they felt like consolation prize heels. I’d long learned to embrace my height and this made me feel like I was shunning it – which I was. Suffice to say the relationship did not last. Among many other reasons, I just couldn’t envision a lifetime without heels. Great post, V!

  5. Great tips, I don’t have cankles, I’m sure if I did I would follow some of these. I do agree with #3, about the ankle straps, they definitely call direct attention and accentuate. I linked your post on the Whole30 today. And loving the new blog look by the way! I’m well overdue for a new design. Enjoy your weekend. /Madison-xx 🙂

  6. Great, detailed, in depth post. Cankles plague many a person and all the tips and tricks you pointed out were spot on. I remember being accused of having cankles once, but I protested such a claim, my ankles are very much distinguishable from my calfs thank you very much lol.

  7. Hey V!

    I don’t have cankles, however your tips are great. Matching hosiery with the shoes has always been a good tip for making the legs look longer. All in the smoke and mirrors.

  8. Loved this post, V! So apropo considering I’m cursed with genetic cankles. I think it’s just a given for petite girls who aren’t 80 pounds. The tibia/fibula are too short to accomodate the gastrocnemius and soleus muscles and so they don’t have enough length to taper down nicely. Bravo for this post! I will bookmark it and reference it always!

  9. Very nice how 6 of 14 commenters pointed out that they weren’t “cursed” with cankles. This article wasn’t really meant for you, hence the title, so no need to rub it in when it’s an area that a lot of women truly feel self conscious about. And yes, I have cankles 🙂

      1. I have cankles, which also swell, I am so embarrassed, especially when people have said to me ” look at your ankles” I wish I could do something about them!

    1. Its ok. Im sure u have noticed most and even this article started with ” oh but not me” no one means to be mean but no one wants thick ankles either.

      1. I feel the exact same way! I too have cankles, along with big calves so I can’t even wear boots because they won’t go past my cankles.

  10. I read instead about using wedges or chunky heels to balance out chunky ankles, because a stiletto or too much a light shoe might draw attention to it, making it seem like it’s about to be crushed by that “weight”. Obviously we’d be talking about good chunky heels or wedges, which also give the illusion of having a thinner heel than they do.
    Raw-squared wedges might not be indicated.

    1. Hi Kristen! The key is to avoid ankle straps or T-straps. Look for a sandal with a strap across the toe and a slingback…just avoid overly-chunky ones. Wedges with an open toe and slingback are also great. You can also wear a simple ballet flat, though a heel is more flattering. Again, avoid ankle straps, or straps across the front of your ankle. And, of course, a stiletto with a skort is super sexy!

      1. Several of the tips on here are at odds with what I read on a spattering of other sites. For example, grouping all straps across the upper half (toward the ankle) of the foot and/or lower ankle I think is a little too broad. Ankle straps proper — no bueno. But straps slighly lower down (say, below the ankle proper, but well above the instep) actually elongates the ankle; this added length does have a slimming effect. I have short, muscular calves and not much ankle, so of course it’s thick; elongating it with strategically placed straps on the front actually looks good.

  11. most of those commenting dont even have cankles. and obvously the person writing the article doesnt either.. have you ever tried buying boots when you own cankles??? it is damn near impossible.. and if we can get them big enough to get our ankles thru they are clunky as, and dont look great with dresses. we get so sick of wearing trousers.. everyone knows its hard to get nice fitting trousers. slim ones do not allow for cankles so even the style of trouser we can wear is limited. more helpful would be info on a brand that makes a wide fitting ankled boot. i have had success with ziera shoes. but still we are very limited in what we can wear.

  12. These are all good, but mentioning the boots…- I am a size 12 and feet size 4 and have no fluid in the ankle area so it is just the bad genes – however boots are a no for me because I am not able to zip them up at my ankle! Anybody has the same problem? Or are there some special wide ankle cankles-ready boots out there? Thanks!

    1. There are! UK company previously known as Duo Boots, now Ted & Muffy (!). Boots with custom calf width. Although sadly no wide fit options (which rules me out).

  13. I have cankles and these are all very good tips. For the ladies who can’t find boots, I’ve found Jessica London to be a great source for thick calves and Cankles. I so wanted to try to bootie trend with the skinny jeans, and nope not a good look! 😒 thanks for the article!

  14. I DID have cankles. I had surgery and it was the best thing for me. And I would recommend it to anyone who is considering it. My legs are in no way perfect but I’m much more comfortable with myself.

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