What to Wear: The Best Shoes for Women's Jeans

Shopping for jeans is, understandably, one of the most daunting wardrobe-related tasks that a lot of women face. Even without getting into the issues of finding jeans that fit; have a flattering cut; and that you can afford; there are details like pocket size and placement, wash, and denim composition to be considered. In fact, I think it would take an entire book to cover all the pros and cons of each, and perhaps another just to define all the different styles.

Fortunately -- once you've found your perfect jeans -- choosing the right shoes to wear with them isn't all that difficult. The reason for this is because it is all about creating a look that is well-balanced with the rest of your outfit. So, for footwear purposes, most cuts of women's jeans fall into one of four categories, which I'm labeling as "Skinny Jeans," "Flared Jeans," "Bootcut Jeans," and "Straight Leg Jeans."

Below, I get into a bit more about which women's jean styles make up each of those categories; as well as your best boot and shoe options for each of them.

Skinny Jeans, Slim Jeans, Cigarette Jeans

Close-up of red pumps worn with skinny jeans
Kirstin Sinclair/Getty Images Europe/Getty Images

There are so many different types of skinny jeans that trying to mention them all would have me obsessing for a week over styles and names I forgot to list. Fortunately, when it comes to which shoes to wear with them, skinny jeans, cigarette jeans, slim jeans, jeggings, and all the rest of the tight jean lot get the same type of footwear treatment -- which I've covered in detail, in this aptly-titled article: The Best Shoes for Skinny Jeans.

For a quick refresher, I've listed some of your best choices below.

  • Ballerina flats
  • Delicate thong sandals
  • Stiletto pumps
  • Streamlined sneakers
  • Any kind of boots, as long as the jeans are tucked into them.
  • Heeled or flat ankle boots and booties can be worn under the jeans, but it's best to avoid really weighty styles and thick platform soles.

If skinny jeans have earned a permanent place in your wardrobe, then you may want to take a more in-depth look at which shoes and boots will work best with skinny jeans. Also, most of these same suggestions work for leggings, I've covered those options in the article on What To Wear With Leggings.

A colorful pair of pointed toe flats is a great option to wear with your skinny jeans. Buy Nine West Speakup Ballet Flat on Amazon.com.
Pictured: Paige Denim 'Verdugo Ultra Skinny Jeans'

Flared Jeans

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Flared jeans are generally more fitted through the thigh area, then flare out below the knee, hence the name "flared" jeans.

In the seventies, the most extreme flared jeans were referred to as "bell bottoms," and they're also often called "wide leg jeans," although the latter term actually refers to jeans that are wide throughout their entire length, not just below the knee.

For the sake of this article, I'm lumping all of these styles in together.

So, if your jeans have a wide or flared opening, you should be looking for shoes that don't get too lost in the mass of denim that's pooling around your feet. Your best bets are:

  • High heeled shoes and boots
  • Platform shoes and boots
  • Lug-soled boots and shoes
  • Any shoes or boots with chunky heels
  • Sneakers (especially simple, old-school styles)
  • Wedge heels

And, if you want to go head-to-toe retro, you can ignore the advice about your jeans overwhelming your shoes, and pair flared jeans with a pair of flip-flops. I do it all the time.

The only real "don't" for jeans with wide legs is trying to tuck them into anything. Ever.

I think a wedge sandal is a great option for pairing with your flared jeans. Check out my favorite pair by Charles by Charles David Women's on Amazon.com.
Pictured: Affliction 'Ziggy Flare' in Dolce

Bootcut Jeans

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Bootcut jeans have a slightly larger opening than straight-legged jeans, but not enough of one that they'd be considered "flared." And, as the name implies, they're ideal for wearing with boots, since ankle boots and the like can actually fit in under the hem -- whereas, that doesn't usually work very well with skinny jeans.

Again, you'll find a lot of naming and style variation in this denim category, but for clarification, I'm referring to jeans that flare out very subtly at the bottom.

This distinction is important because true bootcut jeans are the most flexible when it comes to footwear options; they're able to take on delicate, moderate, and even slightly heftier footwear with ease. Consequently, they work with nearly anything; heeled boots, flat boots, pumps, platforms, sneakers, ballerina flats, and sandals.

A block heel sandal is a great option to pair with your bootcut jeans this season. Buy STEVEN by Steve Madden Voomme Dress Sandal on Amazon.com

Pictured: Joe's Jeans 'Honey Curvy Bootcut' 36" Inseam in Angialee

Boyfriend, Relaxed, Loose and Straight Leg Jeans

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Of all the styles of women's jeans, I think this category is the most confusing. Some of the confusion comes in because people don't really know what the terms "boyfriend" and "straight leg" jeans really even mean. For example, as a teenager, my friends and I referred to skinny jeans as "straight-legs," but what can I say? We were wrong.

Simply put, the legs are straight from the top to the bottom. No flare, no real definition -- unlike skinny jeans, they're loose; and, as opposed to flared and bootcut jeans, they don't curve out below the knee.

Boyfriend jeans are similar, although they tend to have a slightly baggier fit -- as if you'd borrowed jeans from your boyfriend. For shoe-picking purposes, both of these styles fall under the same heading, as do relaxed, loose-cut or loose-fit jeans.

So, what do you pair with denim of such an undefined nature? Again, we go back to balance -- and the way to add balance to a pair of casual, loose-fitting jeans, is to opt for a pair of extra-stylish shoes, like an embellished pair of mule sandals. Buy Loeffler Randall Etta Mule on Amazon.com

Like their bootcut buddies, straight-legged jeans can handle nearly any height of​ heel and they play as well with trim shoe styles as they do with heavier ones. But, unless you're going for a really, truly, totally casual look, you might want to add a bit of definition to your outfit by choosing a basic shoe style that has a bit of extra polish to it, like simple loafers with a shiny, classic buckle; ballerina flats with studs or rhinestones; or chunky-heeled boots with a bit of a platform sole. 

Check out a few of my favorite pair of shoes that would look great with your straight-legged jeans: 

Pictured: True Religion 'Billy Super T Low-Rise Straight' in Hollow Horn