What to Wear with Neutral Shoes

Wearing Beige, Sand, Nude, Taupe & Neutral Footwear

Close-up shot of Amy Adams' pink dress and neutral pumps, by Crhistian Louboutin.
Jason LaVeris / FilmMagic / Getty Images

Neutral shoes have the advantage of never really going out of style, mainly because they're so versatile, but also because many women feel more comfortable wearing neutral colors than they do very bold colors like red, pink or green shoes.

Here are a few tips on how to identify neutral colors, and how to wear neutral shoes.

What Are Neutral Colors?

Without getting into too much color theory, some people define "neutral colors" as being black, white and shades of gray, while most others will also throw in shades of browns, like tans and creams.

By definition, a neutral color is not warm or cool, so in theory, neutral colors are meant to work with any other color — and just like decorating your home in neutral colors allows you to change your accent pieces at a whim, neutral shoes allow you to pair them with nearly any outfit.

Will Neutral Shoes Work With Clothes of Any Color?

Well, that's the idea, but the reality is, whichever color scheme you're choosing, any outfit works best when it's balanced.

For example, white — being a neutral color — will go great with any other color, but, if every other part of your outfit is bright red, wearing only white shoes might call too much attention to your footwear. Of course, that might be the effect you're going for. But a more balanced approach would be to pair red pants and white shoes with a white shirt, or at least a white belt or handbag.

There is at least one exception to the "well-balanced outfit" principle: shoes that are the same color as your skin. If the color of your shoes is closely-matched to your skin tone, then your shoes, in effect, disappear. This frees you up to wear whatever you want with them.

However, I still prefer that the rest of the color palette is limited to one or two colors. Just a personal taste thing, but I really think skin-toned neutrals are best used with simpler outfits.

You may have also heard that black shoes don't work well with pastels — this isn't exactly true. If you were wearing a light pink suit and the only black in your outfit was a pair of black pumps, then no, that wouldn't work. However, if black appears repeatedly throughout the outfit — even sparingly — then it can be a dramatic and stylish complement to very light colors.

In general, the tone of your entire outfit should be considered. For example, a dark burgundy dress with a black belt won't work with cream shoes because they're too light for the rest of the outfit.

What Are the Most Versatile Shades?

If you could only have one pair of shoes in your closet, I'd recommend that it was a pair of black pumps. Black pumps are an essential piece in every woman's closet. 

Check out a few of my favorite black pumps available on Amazon.com: 

If I was allowed to suggest a second pair, it would be a pair of pumps in a light neutral color, like beige or tan.

Check out a few of my favorite neutral color pumps available on Amazon.com: 

These two shades would work with nearly anything in your closet, and of course, basic pumps are classics that will work with everything from jeans to suits.

Choosing the Right Colors for Your Neutrals

The beauty of neutral shoes is that you can mix and match them with nearly anything, ranging from an all neutral outfit (i.e. tan shoes with a variety of tan and cream pieces) to neutral accents for a bolder ensemble (i.e. gray shoes and belt with a purple suit).

Below are a few suggestions for how to pair different neutral shades with a variety of other colors, but remember these are only suggestions — the best thing about neutrals is how versatile they are. To ensure that the term "neutral" doesn't become synonymous with "boring," have fun, and try your neutral shoes with several different colors.

Clothing Color Suggestions for Neutral Shoes

Neutral Shoe Color Complementary Harmonious Dramatic
Black Shoes red, blue, purple, turquoise, green all blacks and grays white or brights with black accents
Dark Gray Shoes navy, dark red, purples, mid to dark yellows all blacks, grays, whites bright shades with other gray accents
Light Gray Shoes light pink, light purples, chartreuse, light to mid yellows light grays and whites white with other gray accents
White Shoes any light neutral or pastel with other white accents all whites and creams or grays bright shades with other white accents
Beige/Cream Shoes medium pinks, greens, purples, turquoises browns, tans and creams black or dark blue with other cream accents
Tan Shoes any mid-tone shade light to mid neutrals brights with other tan accents
Brown Shoes mid to dark earth tones like greens, rusts, burgundy lighter browns and creams white or black with other brown accents