Body Type

10 Dressing Tips To Slim Heavy Calves and Ankles

Can you barely squeeze your legs into a pair of boots because your calves are so wide? Have you given up wearing dresses because you don’t want anyone to see your huge ankles?

You may not be able to change the muscular legs or heavy ankles mother nature gave you, but you can make them a lot less noticeable. Here are 10 Dressing Tips to magically slim, heavy calves and thick ankles.

heavy calves and ankles

Jessica Simpson, Ricki Lake, Helen Mirren, Alicia Keys

1. Avoid Flat Shoes

You may love flats, but they don’t love you. Flat shoes emphasize big calves and ankles and make you look squat. You’re better off with a medium-height heel, which tricks the eye into making your legs look longer and leaner.

Also, the wider your legs, the sturdier your heel should be. A  thick, chunky heel balances out heavy legs. A sturdy wedge or platform shoe works well. Avoid skinny stilettos, spike, or tiny kitten heels, which create too much contrast and exaggerate large calves.

If there’s no way you can wear heels ( even low ones), then a d’Orsay flat or peep-toe flat is a good option. The open part of the shoe exposes more feet elongating your legs and emphasizing heavy ankles and legs.


Flats and ankle straps make wide legs and calves look wider.


2.  Stay Away from  Ankle Straps

Any strap around your ankles or ties lacing up your calves (i.e., tie-up espadrilles) draws attention to these trouble spots making your legs and ankles look extra large. The best shoes are open at the ankles.  A slingback shoe that wraps at the back of the ankle instead of in front is fine too.

3.  Pointy Toe is Perfect

Round toe shoes make legs look shorter and heavier, while pointy toe ones are visually slim and elongated.

4.  Low Vamp Helps

The lower the vamp, the longer and slimmer your leg will appear.

5.  Nude Shoes Slim

When you match the color of your skin to your shoes, your legs gain a few inches.

6. Wear Dark Tights

Dark opaque tights worn with matching dark shoes make your legs look slender. Add a black skirt or dress into the mix, and your legs will appear to go on for miles.  Please stay away from contrasting or patterned tights as they will become an unflattering focal point.

Helen Mirren
A wide skirt helps make thick calves and ankles look slimmer.

7.  Full Skirts Slim

Heavy legs and ankles may make you feel like you can’t wear a skirt, but it’s simply not the case.  The general rule is the wide the hemline, the slimmer your legs look. Narrow pencil skirts that taper inward or any skirt that clings will emphasize the size of your lower legs. Instead, opt for swingy full or A-line cut skirts. These are the perfect dresses for big legs because they make your calves and ankles seem narrower by contrast.

As for the best skirt length? It’s just around the knees, either just above or slightly below, wherever you’d say is the narrowest part of your leg. It’s best if the hem is plain with no fancy stitching or embellishment.

Some women prefer a tea-length skirt to cover muscular calves, and this can sometimes work so long as 1) the skirt doesn’t stop right before or right at midcalf (emphasizing the problem spot) 2. you wear your tea-length skirt with a modern shoe, as this length can sometimes look frumpy.

Other skirts or dresses for thick legs are maxis that cover the problem area altogether. A maxi dress that ends at the ankle and has a high side slit adds some allure.

8. Direct Attention Up Top

Another good old dressing trick is: If you don’t want people looking at your legs, distract them. Wear dark colors below your waist and highlight your top half by wearing lighter colors near your face. Restrict prints to your upper body, and use fun accessories like scarves and jewelry to draw the eye up and away from thick calves and ankles.

9. Step into Long Pants

Hillary Clinton has made pantsuits her trademark, and it’s no wonder. The pants are perfect for hiding her famous “cankles” ( thick calves fused at thick ankles).  Your best bet is solid-colored pants in a dark color, but make sure they’re not too skinny. Tight pants will emphasize your calves. Bootcut or wide legs pants help hide the problem. And no cropped pants and capris. They draw the eye to the fullest part of your calves and ankles and make your legs look stumpy.

10. Get a Pair of Tall Boots

For large calves –  a tall dress boot or a riding boot is excellent. Knee-high boots with some detail at the top like stitching, a stud, or a tassel will draw the eye up and away from thick ankles.

Yes, you can wear booties, a little higher than the ankle is better and with matching, stockings or pants in the same color as your booties is best.

Don’t let your heavy calves or ankles drag you down! Many of the world’s top athletes, ballerinas, and celebrities have thick legs, but that doesn’t stop them from looking fabulous, so don’t let it stop you either.

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54 thoughts on “10 Dressing Tips To Slim Heavy Calves and Ankles

  1. I am new to this site but love what I have read so far. Would it be helpful to start a group where we can share what has worked and not worked for us? It could include beneficial hints, sales, and a place to ask others with this problem any questions, thoughts, or supportive ideas. What do you think?

  2. OMG was feeling desperate! as I’ve aged, I seem to have logs for legs!
    Good advise… Thank you! I

  3. I have had big ankles, legs, and arms ever since puberty. I am now 68 and have given up that they will ever be thinner and I am only slightly overweight. Thanks for the tips.

  4. Great info I will remember to do it. I avoided dresses because my legs are chunky. A line and nude shoes with pointed toes sound like a good idea. Thanks for the help.

  5. Thank you for this! I’ve struggled with self-confidence about my large calves throughout my 20s, and now I’m in my 30s I’m learning to dress for my shape but finding out people like Alicia Keys have this issue makes me feel a lot better about it. If I hadn’t noticed these celebrities’ calves/ankles before, maybe people don’t notice mine as much as I think either!

  6. I am new to your website and enjoy all your tips. My issue is: that I am under 5′, plus size, and 70 yrs old. I have hadn’t both knees replaced so I prefer slacks to skirts or dresses due to scars and bad veins in my legs. I wear flats 99% of the time due to knee surgery and my bad back but I want to be stylish. I get hot in the summer and have worn capris but agree they are not stylish on short women, but I can’t find cool slacks for summer. Any tips you could give me would be greatly appreciated in anticipation of the upcoming spring/summer season. Thank you so much. Any pictures would be greatly appreciated as I am a Moreno visual person.

  7. Thank you for the fantastic tips. I’ve been struggling with heavy calves and ankles my whole life. They’ve controlled me for 55 years, and to this day, I’m still self-conscious and am embarrassed by them. Your tips are ones I will start incorporating into my life today. Very thankful!!

  8. Would love to see some examples of shoes that would look good on women with heavier legs and ankles.

    1. Hi Kim, a sturdy shoe with a chunkier heel rather than a fine heel balances things out. Also, a low vamp will lengthen the leg, as will a nude shoe. Booties are tricky because they cut you off at the widest point. If you are going to wear booties wear ones the same color as your pants-so black booties, and black pants to lengthen your legs. If you wear black booties with a dress wear a black opaque stockings to create a long, lean line. Tall boots are your friends. I will look around for some photos to post to show you what I mean. Thanks for the great suggestion!

        1. Hi Diane,
          The Vamp is the upper part of the shoe. A low vamp is when the upper part of the shoe is cut away to expose the top of the foot. A lower vamp shows more skin elongating your legs and making you look taller and slimmer!

    2. Yes, that would be helpful. As we enter the warm weather season, boots are not an option. Any pictures for warm weather fashion would be appreciated.

  9. I agree with the capris thing, but have found ones with a wide cuff. Or wear regular jeans (bootcut) and do a really wide roll abt 3 times up. The wide roll or cuff will help make the illusion that your ankles are smaller. Wear with flip flops, thongs, or wedges.

  10. I am a tiny person with big calves and ankles. It’s a challenge, especially as I get older, but my go-to footwear is wide-calf boots in the winter. Many chic styles can be found at and they always look youthful and attractive with leggings, jeans, or skirts. In summer, I choose sandals with as much foot showing as possible, preferably with a platform or thick wedge for support. Also good are tasteful thongs in nude color and cute flats (even just a 1/2″ heel is best) with a low vamp and almond toe. A good self-tanner really helps, too.

  11. Found this site. Any chance if more photos? I am a visual person. I am looking for comfort while having a little style. I have always had a complex about my calves and ankles. My mom unkindly pointed them out to me as a teen, and I never forgot that. I am a preschool teacher that wants some suggestions besides running shoes.

    1. Hi Angela, This is a popular topic and I have had a hard time finding photos so I’m going to look for a model with heavy calves and shoot some pictures for you. Any ladies out there who can send me photos of themselves with heavy calves but looking fab? (Photos must be good quality to post). Check back in a few weeks! Cheers, Deborah

  12. My ankles are one of my best features – nice size not too large or thin; however, my calves are muscular — will ankle straps still make my calves appear larger?

    1. Hi Judy, You are correct. Ankle straps draw attention to your legs and make wide legs and calves look wider. You’re better off with a low vamp pointy shoe with no strap in a neutral color to make your legs look longer and leaner.

  13. Because of weightlifting when I was younger, I have heavy calves, and due to foot surgery and ongoing problems I cannot wear high heels or extreme pointed toes. I do agree that the shoes that lace around the ankle or gladiator type sandals really emphasize the thickness and crop pants are awful for ladies with big calves, plus I think they look unfinished. I love Susan Mitchell’s tip about taking shoes to a shoe repair shop for stretching. Why didn’t I think of that? Thank you Susan!

  14. There are attractive, intelligent men who LOVE women with thick muscular, calves a lot more than stick- legged waifs. The chick in the skirt at the top if this article is one HOT lady. Thick is SEXY!!!

    1. Yeah, I totally agreed with you, Mark.
      I also love women who have thick chunky legs and heavy calves and believe that there are a lot of men out there who secretly like these types of women too, but are too ashamed to show their feelings because there’s this nanny state society for fear of ridicule by the stereotype majority. I have no hang-ups at all about chatting to women with big legs and are drawn to their confident, bubbly, and friendly nature. They just don’t worry about the comparison to Some of the miserable Shallow minded skinny waifs around, because life is too short to not be content with who they really are.

  15. I just found this sight. Thank God! The bane of my existence fat calves no ankles and curly curly hair!! I haven’t worn a dress in probably 10-15 years. I know what to do with my slightly heavy hips (no capris, no cigarette pants) and I’ve come to grips with the hair, but I was really baffled about my legs. I grew up in the ’60’s, mini skirts etc. I’m 65 but everyone thinks I’m 40 (good genes and a nip and tuck @50), I’d like to wear a dress before I die. Thanks for all your suggestions.

    1. Lularoe Nicole. Super flattering falls at or just below the knee depending on you height. I’d given up on dresses because I gained some weight in top of muscular legs and I love them! I have a print and plain jersey grey and just ordered a black one for an evening event.

  16. I have thick ankles plus a circulation issue with my legs so my ankles are the bane of my existence. However with that said, I find that wedge heels and tapered capri pants are a life saver. Additionally, heeled boots look great with skirts in the fall/winter and the new open toed booties preferably in a sand or light brown color look good for the spring/summer. I find that ankle booties are a no-no for me they never zip all the way up – but there are a few that lace up and zip up these are awesome.

    Seems ridiculous to confine yourself to just dark pants and the occasional wide skirts. Life is too short.

    1. Hi Ayana,
      It sounds like you have found some stylish solutions! Thanks for passing those along. Many of my other readers seem to have the same problem so this will inspire them.Cheers, Deborah

    2. I have the same problem as you –thick ankles running into big calves. I have no confidence because of these and hate the way I look so much. I wish I could accept the way they look but I can’t.

    1. Platform shoes are not bad, I also do not wear heels and try to only wear nude color shoes if wearing a dress.

    2. I think beige shoes are ugly and unflattering….
      I would not wear them . I enjoy wearing diffetent colored shoes to coordinate my outfits. I also think this is the most flattering look

      1. They’re not as fun as a colored shoe, but the nude/ beige shoe works. I’ll never look slender, but it does give the illusion of a longer leg.

    3. I agree, Lizzie! It’s absolutely ridiculous to honor a look (long and lean, in this case) above your own (thick, short, squat, etc…). I live by the motto of an older woman who once shared, “Honey, NO ONE is more beautiful than me.” She ROCKED the SQUAT look, was confidently stylish and admired.

    4. I agree. Can not always be in a heel. I’m in sneakers a lot. I have slender ankles but huge calves, knees and thighs. But I always knew those ankle straps never did me any good. And the chunkier shoe works, and the lower vamp revealing a longer look to legs. But the wedge heels works once in a while, I’m getting old…I am old! Lo! But still haven’t thrown the towel in.

  17. I’ve discovered the joy of traditional Indian leggings – churidars – which bunch up at the ankle, hiding everything! The cotton knit variety are like track pants, worn under a long shirt. Pure comfort!

  18. Don’t be ashamed of them! Some people love big legs! We shouldn’t have to cover the bits of our bodies that we’re told aren’t nice. I.e. Pear shaped women are always told to wear a push up bra and show cleavage to make them look more hourglass. The hourglass figure is gorgeous but 8% of women have one and celebs and non celebs always think they’re hourglasses but they’re not. In reality you can not fake it or achieve it etc… Why don’t we other women just feel good about ourselves instead of trying to be something else!?!

  19. I have heavy calves and big ankle bones despite a rather small frame elsewhere – always hate my legs and I do have to wear dresses a lot. However, with foot problems and the square shape of my foot pointed toes cause pain and bigger problems and to me they make my legs look worse anyway. I do agree about lower cut shoes – heels are probably better but if I have to walk much there is no way. I really agree about the capris but it’s annoying that when you need lighter weight casual pants it’s very hard to FIND anything that isn’t a capri!

  20. I recently started wearing ankle boots with a fitted sort of top to the boot and an almond-shaped toe with dresses and skirts. I’ve found that they look great with skirts and dresses and as long as they’re paired with black hose (not opaque) and a darker or black skirt, they look really cute. The trick is to make sure that they don’t gap at the top too much, or it interrupts the line of the leg. Love them, though.

  21. I have small feet but chunky calves and could never get boots to fit over them. However, I found a fantastic bootmaker/shoe repairer who stretches out the calf area on some machine, and voila they now fit perfectly.

    1. Wait, Susan!! That’s all you are going to say??? Not who or where this bootmaker is? Come on!

      1. Any leather repair or shoe repair shop worth their salt can stretch leather shoes/boots for you. My daughter rides and has muscular calf so riding boots are always tough when they are new. We just take them in and have them stretched. Depending on the leather and how good the shop is, you can get as much as 3/4 of an inch or so extra room.

xo, Deb

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