How to Camouflage Your Cankles

If you want to minimize attention to your ankles—try these tricks.

17th August 1943: The ankle judging competition at Selfridges department store's annual sports meeting on the roof of the shop's building in London's Oxford Street.
The ankle judging competition at Selfridges department store's annual sports meeting on the roof of the shop's building in London's Oxford Street on August 17, 1943. Getty Images: Fred Morley / Stringer

Here's the thing: When it comes to cankles—a hybrid word of calves and ankles—there's really no use being delicate about it all. When you have calves that emerge from your ankles without much definition, it doesn't make for the most feminine figure.

Women who have thick ankles (something you can't much control, unfortunately), find that it's not an easy body flaw to disguise, but take heart, it's not impossible. Things like fluid retention and weight gain as we age can contribute to the appearance of cankles. And although weight loss, exercise and even plastic surgery can reduce cankles—there are ways to camouflage their appearance while you are in the process of losing them permanently.

Here are our best tips for dressing to disguise or minimize your cankles.

  • Wear wide leg, straight or flared pants. Do opt for pants whenever possible and make sure they aren’t tapered (leggings and skinny jeans are difficult to pull off with cankles.) A pant that falls in a straight line from the hip (not too fitted, not too wide) is the most flattering. For a more fashion-forward look that will completely disguise your cankles, try flared jeans or a wide-leg cut. A slight bootcut jean is a good choice for women who have wider hips: it balances out the proportions.
  • Skip cropped pants. Avoid cropped pants that end at the ankle; it’s a difficult look to pull off with cankles because it highlights the problem area. Capris and Bermuda shorts can work if they end at or right below the knee.The idea is to have the hem of shorts end at the smallest/thinnest part of your leg (which is often the knee area).
  • Find the narrowest part of your leg. Skirts and dresses should have a hemline that ends at the narrowest part of your leg; for most women that’s in the knee area (either right above or below the knee.) Avoid ruffled or embellished hems that draw the eye downward. A tapered skirt—such as a fitted pencil skirt—can accent your curves and draw the eye up away from the bottom part of your leg. Just make sure the skirt hem ends at the slimmest part of the leg.
  • Love some tall boots! Tall boots were made for women with cankles. If you want to look long and lean, opt for leggings or slim jeans with a tunic, tucked into tall boots. Many stores—like—have boots made especially for wide calves if traditional boots don’t work. Avoid booties which will draw attention to heavy cankles.
  • Go monochromatic. Skirts and dresses look sleekest with legwear (hose or tights) in the same color as the shoe. Even sleeker? A skirt/dress in the same color as the legwear and shoe. Why do you think all black is such a popular option? It's impossible not to look longer and leaner in all black.
  • Avoid ankle straps. Skip shoes that have lacing or straps that go around the ankle and opt for looks with no emphasis on the ankle area. The best shoes for cankles are not these.
  • Get high heels. The most flattering shoes have a heel or wedge that elongate the foot and gives your leg a slimmer look. Look for substantial heels as opposed to spike or stilettos.
  • Focus on top. One of the easiest fashion tricks: distraction. Draw the eye up with bold jewelry, striking prints, eye-catching colors or an alluring neckline. Keep all of the focus on your face -- impeccable makeup -- and hair to keep the eye from traveling down to problem areas. 
  • Go chunky. Chunky-heeled shoes are especially flattering because they balance out heavy cankles. 
  • For formal occasions, go long: When you have dressy events, opt for floor-length gowns and longer dresses to show off your best features from the knee up!
  • Decorate it. Of course, there’s always the fashion theory that says “If you can’t hide it, decorate it.” Wear an ankle bracelet or tattoo your ankle area and show them off with pride.