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What Color Toenail Polish Do You Wear With Red Shoes?

By Amalah

Hi Amy-
Love your column!
Question: what color toe polish should one wear with patent red sandals? I purchased a cute low pair of heels at Daffy’s last week, and got my feet all exfoliated and toes painted to look cute, but the pink-ish polsh looks awful with the red shoes. What color should I be doing instead?

(We still have a few more weeks of open-toed shoe weather, right? RIGHT?)
Okay, so the traditional choice for red or other brightly-colored shoes (think any of the candy patents from this season, really), is a French pedicure. I know the sight of white toenail tips is not for everyone, but I admit I like the look WHEN IT’S DONE WELL. Which means matching the neutral topcoat to your actual nail bed instead of just defaulting to the pale, cotton-candy pink (I prefer a more peachy-pink), and a VERY thin band of white. The look is supposed to mimic and subtly enhance the look of naked nails, but can easily be overdone with too much white and a not-quite-neutral topcoat.
wet%20n%20wild%20clear.jpg(And no, I don’t ever attempt French pedicures at home. I mean, I have, with all those little supposedly idiot-proof kits and guides and…no. I can’t do it. Yuck.)
Other than a French, clear polish is your best bet, unless you’re the type of girl who can pull off all-black polish. (Which can look REALLY COOL with red shoes, but I don’t find it terribly appropriate for wearing to the office. For whatever reason. I probably just made that up. But I’m committing to it!) Or you can hold the shoes up to the polish rack and attempt to find a complementing (NOT. MATCHY. MATCHING.) shade of red — probably a deeper, more wine-y shade than the shoes themselves. But even then, the subtle metallic properties of the polish that might not be visible in the bottle might still clash once it’s on your toes. So really, I vote for French or clear.
If you regularly paint your toenails a dark color, you are probably gagging at the thought of putting clear polish on them, thanks to discoloration. Polishes with shades of blue (this is a lot of red polishes, actually), brown, wine and black are the worst for this — they give your nails an uber-attractive yellow look, sometimes after just a few days. If you’ve got really bad discoloration, start dialing down the color wheel through the pinks and nudes while applying an extra layer of basecoat each time you paint. If you get professional pedicures, take your polish off YOURSELF at home and give your nails an extra surface buffing, then squirt some lemon juice over them.
It’s also good to let your nails see the sun occasionally — if you’re going to the beach or spending time outside doing some activity where you don’t particularly care how your toes look, take off the polish.


Published September 8, 2008. Last updated September 8, 2008.
About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to [email protected].

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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  • D

    September 8, 2008 at 12:26 pm

    omg you posted my question! I am so excited!
    I really just ended up leaving my toes bare all summer (mostly out of laziness), but I will swing by the drugstore and check out the darkdark polishes after work today, since I find that more appealing than a French pedi.

  • Allison

    September 8, 2008 at 12:49 pm

    I can’t stand a French pedicure if somebody has really long toenails and there’s too much white. But then again, I’ve always preferred toenails cut very short. But then again, I just kinda hate feet so I’m a weirdo.

  • Jezer

    September 8, 2008 at 12:52 pm

    What about a super-pale pink or nude polish? That’s what I use when I need a change from the dark reds, blacks, and (yes) blue. And since those dark shades have stained my natural nails, the pale nude/pink camouflages any discoloration.

  • Candace

    September 8, 2008 at 1:07 pm

    I have a great pair of strappy red heels and I always wear peach polish on my toes. It totally works because the shoes are an orange-red and that means they tie in great with the red and orange tones in the polish. I always get compliments.
    Figure out what kind of red it it (blue-red or orange-red) and that can help you identify what colors you can wear with it.

  • kalisah

    September 8, 2008 at 2:11 pm

    I find that a really pale, natural pink like OPI Bubble Bath goes well with anything.

  • baltimoregal

    September 8, 2008 at 2:59 pm

    I love navy blue for toenails!

  • Lissie

    September 8, 2008 at 4:01 pm

    I second OPI bubble bath as a delightful pale neutral. However, I have spent most of the last year with glossy sapphire nails and love them. They are amazingly elegant and versitle and I get compliments from everyone. I go with two coats of OPI Russian Navy topped with one coat of My Private Jet.

  • Suzy Q

    September 8, 2008 at 7:37 pm

    Blech. I HATE French pedicures. They look weird to me, although I have seen one or maybe two that didn’t make me roll my eyes.
    I second baltimoregal with the navy blue polish. If you have the white skin to go with the navy polish and red shoes, you’d be very patriotic!

  • Anonymous

    September 8, 2008 at 11:03 pm

    I can’t believe so many people are saying navy. I had my toes painted navy for like 3 weeks because I thought I was being all different. I was SHOCKED by the number of people who noticed my toes and commented on them!!

  • JennyM

    September 10, 2008 at 9:34 am

    Wait, navy? Really? As in BLUE? I suddenly feel very old and not with it. I’m not thinking I could ever get away with that at the office. Are you guys getting away with navy in office-type situations?

  • Ramona

    September 10, 2008 at 2:05 pm

    I like Ballet Slippers by Essie as my go-to nude color. You have to put on three layers, but it’s a very pretty neutral. I think it would look very pretty with some hot-sounding red shoes!

  • Llia

    July 22, 2014 at 9:28 pm

    I love dark polish but when I tried on a pair of red open toe flats with a deep red plum shade, I didn’t like it. Then I tried a soft pink tone and felt much better but then thought I should have applied a glossy topcoat. I can’t try the French or bare just yet as my nails are badly stained.