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What are Ankle Strap Shoes?

Diane Goettel
Updated Feb 01, 2024
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Ankle strap shoes are a kind of women's shoe that have a strap that fits around the ankle like an anklet in order to help keep the shoes in place. In some cases, however, the ankle strap is merely decorative. The strap on ankle strap shoes usually fastens on the outside of the ankle with a buckle. In some cases they fasten with a snap.

Most ankle strap shoes are high heels, although, in some cases, ankle straps are used on flats or on shoes with moderate heels. It is most common, however, to see them on shoes with high heels. They are iconic of 1950s fashion and are often seen in pinup photos and drawings. In this iconic form, ankle strap shoes are often designed with a rounded toe or with a peek-toe, which is a kind of opening in a shoe that only reveals part of the big toe and part of the second toe. In this form, they are often worn with dresses, stockings, and bouffant hair styles.

Although ankle strap shoes may have a retro connection, they are still made by many shoe designers. Also, ankle straps are sometimes used by designers on shoes that look nothing like the pumps worn by 1950s pinup beauties. Sometimes ankle strap shoes have very chunky heels. In some cases, ankle straps are even used on shoes that have platform heels.

There are many kinds of sandals that could technically be called ankle strap shoes but are not actually part of the category as it is understood in the fashion community. While flats and sandals may have ankle straps, a true ankle strap shoe is generally understood to be a shoe that has at least a small heel, even if it is only a kitten heel, which is a very short but thin heel.

Ankle strap shoes can be found in nearly every color, pattern, and finish. Depending on the trends in a season, an ankle strap shoe may be designed in turquoise patent leather, it may be made in an understated nude suede, or it may be a simple black leather. Furthermore, the height of the heel will change according to trend. Some heels may be just slightly taller than a kitten heel while others may by stilettos that take the wearer to dizzying heights. It is no surprise, with all of the variation that is possible in just one shoe style, that this accessory has become an obsession for so many people.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Diane Goettel
By Diane Goettel
"Diane Goettel has a BA from Sarah Lawrence College and an MA in English from Brooklyn College. Diane lives in Mount Vernon, New York with her husband, Noah. They are the proud parents of a Doberman Pinscher named Spoon. Specialties: book editing, book marketing, book publishing, freelance writing, magazine publishing, magazine writing, copywriting,"
Discussion Comments
By orangey03 — On Feb 03, 2012

I have seen many pairs of ankle strap shoes that remind me of bandages. There are so many bands of leather involved that the foot appears to be wrapped up like a mummy!

I won’t wear beige or light brown shoes like this, because that is too close to the color of bandages. I will wear black, pink, or silver ankle strap shoes, though.

I like the ones that have straps that are the same size as the other pieces of leather that cross the foot. The straps don’t even seem like separate pieces, because they arise out of the last crossing band of leather, and you just slide your feet into the shoes through them.

By OeKc05 — On Feb 02, 2012

I had a pair of platform ankle strap shoes that were so comfortable I could wear them while walking around campus. The heel was made of some type of woven material that resembled rope, and the soles were soft. The strap, along with the rest of the fabric that crossed over my foot, was made of stretchy cotton.

I can’t stand rough fabric or hard straps that rub on my skin and cause blisters. That’s why I loved these shoes so much. They were the first pair of ankle strap shoes that I had ever been able to wear.

Because the strap was elastic, it moved with me. However my ankle needed to bend, the strap would follow.

By Oceana — On Feb 01, 2012

@shell4life - I do have problems with thin ankle straps. I have a beautiful pair of silver ankle strap shoes that I wear on formal occasions, but I don’t feel very secure while I’m walking around in them.

Two silver pieces of material criss-cross over my toes, and other than the thin ankle strap, this is all that holds them in place. They have stiletto heels, and since the strap isn’t very substantial, the shoes wobble when I walk.

I absolutely cannot dance while wearing these shoes. I have a pair of dress shoes with thicker ankle straps that I wear when I expect to be out on the dance floor.

By shell4life — On Feb 01, 2012

I have several pairs of ankle strap dress shoes. The straps extend forth from the back of the shoe above the heel, as though they are a very part of it.

My favorite pair is shiny black leather. The heels are high, and the entire shoe is made of black straps that go across my foot. One vertical strap runs up the top of my foot, and a zipper goes up the middle of it.

The ankle straps on this pair are very thick, so they hold the shoes in place well. Some of my shoes with thinner ankle straps feel a bit wobbly. Does anyone else have this issue?

Diane Goettel
Diane Goettel
"Diane Goettel has a BA from Sarah Lawrence College and an MA in English from Brooklyn College. Diane lives in Mount...
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