Help my inner skinny ankles shine!
June 10, 2011 9:42 AM   Subscribe

I'm a tiny-built person cursed with dreaded CANKLES. How can I dress to best flatter my body?

In general, I think I'm a pretty cute and confident girl, but I have one major issue with my body that I need to come to terms with.

I'm 5'4, 115 lbs, with a small frame. I eat well, exercise regularly, and am in good shape BUT despite my petite structure, I totally have CANKLES, WTF?!? This is probably a genetic thing cause my mom has them too, and I understand there is really nothing I can do about them barring ridiculous plastic surgery.

Since summer is fast approaching, and I wont be able to hide in long pants forever, what lengths of skirts/dresses/shorts should I wear so as not to accentuate them? What styles (shoes included) are the least flattering and therefore should be avoided?

Bonus question: men, do you notice this right away? Is it a huge turnoff? dealbreaker?
posted by Idafolk to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (39 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
As a man, I've never looked at a woman and noticed that she has cankles. I'm sure like most things we dislike about our own appearance, you notice it way more than anyone else. Not at all a huge turnoff or dealbreaker.
posted by meta87 at 9:49 AM on June 10, 2011 [2 favorites]

Bonus question: men, do you notice this right away? Is it a huge turnoff? dealbreaker?

I think cankles is yet another thing that capitalism came up with to convince people they are miserable and need fixing.

As a straight male, I will tell you that I have NEVER (as in, not once), even THOUGHT to look at a lady's ankles to determine how attracted I am to her. Perhaps it is different for foot-fetishists, but by god, I am willing to bet that you just got straight-up normal ankles and no male that has ever checked you out has given even the tiniest thought to your ankles.
posted by Greg Nog at 9:50 AM on June 10, 2011 [20 favorites]

I remember this tip from What Not to Wear when it was those two british ladies: the best types of shoes to wear for this situation are mules.
posted by spec80 at 9:54 AM on June 10, 2011

I have a friend with very similar size and issue. shes a slender, very pretty 5'3" with...cankles. she hates them and is self-conscious about it but honestly its so not an issue to anyone else. her husband loves her, many other men and women have been smitten by her...

re clothes: avoid ankle straps, if you wear heels at all I think low plunging pumps would 'lengthen' your ankle area and give more sense of slimness there. also just focus on accentuating your most positive physical traits and let the ankles take care of themselves :)
posted by supermedusa at 9:55 AM on June 10, 2011

I'm not sure how clothing choice will affect this trait in particular. Shoes are another matter. I would avoid shoes with a flat or too-rounded front, but pick shoes that either have a rounded point or some kind of taper to accentuate the length of your feet. Shoes that make your feet seem stubby probably won't be very flattering.

As for the men, we're as variable as the traits we're turned on/off by. Some guys will hate your cankles, some will love them, and most probably won't notice. Most of us have eyes that are drawn to other places long before we get to your ankles.
posted by Hylas at 9:56 AM on June 10, 2011

I am not male, but I am attracted to women - and I agree with the previous two posters that, not being a Victorian, ankles really aren't on my radar very often.

That said, as a woman, I am sometimes sensitive about my own (because this sort of thing isn't rational and I have read a bit too much Victorian fiction). I think that if you want to wear pretty shoes that flatter, you could try those sandles which also have an ankle strap (some examples, no endorsement intended - just googled - also those are CRAZY expensive). I often think these types of shoes look very good on women.

On preview: avoid ankle straps? I would have thought that a dark line across your ankle would give an illusion that it was slimmer, just like how dark patches with lighter above and below across your waist make it look slimmer. Or maybe I just misunderstand the optics.
posted by jb at 9:57 AM on June 10, 2011

Go to DSW or some other giant shoe store, and try on a bunch of sandaly summer shoes of different types, and buy the ones you think look good on you. I mean, you know how to pick a pair of jeans that makes you look great right? I'm sure you can also pick out shoes that do the same, you just need to try on a bunch of them.
I have generally stocky legs, unfortunately wide feet, and a hellish time finding shoes that fit let alone look good. Sometimes ankle straps make me look like I have no ankles at all, sometimes they look really good. I'm not sure there is a good rule of thumb for this one except that you need to try try try until you find something you like. And really, don't stress too much. No one will notice this but you.
posted by ch1x0r at 10:04 AM on June 10, 2011

Hello, fellow cankles-owner! And I say "owner" because you own the cankles, the cankles do not own you. Also, the men I know do not really notice or care about cankles, so don't worry about that.

Try shorter (knee-length or higher) skirts in the summertime with wedges. Shorts should also be short. Avoid capri-length and ankle-strapped anything. I hear that neutral-colored heels do some sort of magic for cankles, but I honestly cannot be bothered to wear them.
posted by halsted at 10:05 AM on June 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

I agree with Greg Nog. Cankles are the Valentine's Day of body issues. That being said, a very plain nude heel is everyone's best friend. Match the color of the shoe to your skin tone and get a nice matte leather with as little detailing possible and as high of a heel as you're comfortable in. You see this look on red carpets all the time because it makes everyone's legs look really long and slim. You can also justify spending a little more and get really nice, supportive heels because you can wear these shoes with literally anything because you're matching you, not your outfit.
posted by Thin Lizzy at 10:07 AM on June 10, 2011

This is the type of question I'd ask Sal at Already Pretty. I browsed through her articles tagged with cankles, but they were mostly about how to avoid the appearance of them w/boots - but she loves a challenge and she'd probably be quite happy to answer your question on her blog. And of course her blog is all about body acceptance too, should you decide to try that angle.
posted by widdershins at 10:11 AM on June 10, 2011

the vast majority of men don't notice or care about thickness of ankles. Unless you've got some nasty fungus growing there (or anywhere else, really), you shouldn't worry about it.
And honestly, it's usually only the very picky, self-conscious women who care/point those out in other women.
posted by Neekee at 10:11 AM on June 10, 2011

I saw "cankles" for the first time in the UK press a little while ago. If I was being charitable I'd say "oh look, another manufactured comparison point to make women feel shit about themselves and spend money trying to remedy". But I'm not feeling charitable today, so instead I'm wondering if this concentration on yet another bit of the body which contains so little muscle or fat that its shape can only really be affected by genetics, end-stage systemic disease or radical surgery isn't part of a wider desire to set up games we cannot win simply because we like seeing people fail.

I'm sure you have very nice ankles. This isn't a compliment, just a statistical assertion of normality. Go buy a dress that makes you happy instead.
posted by cromagnon at 10:17 AM on June 10, 2011 [12 favorites]

"Cankles" exist as a concept because someone coined a funny portmanteau name for them. It's the only reason we're having this conversation instead of one about forearm-wrists or thigh-knees.
posted by the jam at 10:25 AM on June 10, 2011 [4 favorites]

Nthing that your ankles are just fine.

BUT: avoiding ankle straps and anything that hits mid-calf will prevent creating an illusion that your ankles are bigger than they are. Any kind of heel will make them look smaller, but especially heels with pointy toes and nude heels. I've also noticed that a slightly-longer-than-capri-length pant, which hits slightly above the smallest part of your ankle, seems to make them look slightly smaller. (The women in my office swear by these as being a length that is very ankle-flattering; they are longer on my coworkers than they are on that model. I don't own them myself, but my female coworkers do look nice in them.)
posted by mchorn at 10:38 AM on June 10, 2011

Agree with the_jam. Personally, I find cankles a lot more attractive than thnees and frists.
posted by pjaust at 10:43 AM on June 10, 2011

Straight married man here. I could not even tell you if my wife has "cankles." I'll have to check this out tonight; guess it'll be Monday before I can file for divorce if she does have them.

Seriously - this is a total non-issue. Something invented by plastic surgeons and fashionista idiots.
posted by randomkeystrike at 11:14 AM on June 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

Geez, I feel like I'm about to be burned at the stake for my dissenting opinion, but here comes some personal honesty for your bonus question :)

(I'm a guy)

"Cankles" are a thing, but no more good/bad in life than having a big chest or flat chest. Guys notice breasts, butts, waist, hands, ears, etc...and all have different opinions about what is attractive and what doesn't matter.

Myself, I do notice the ankles, and while cankles at not a total turnoff I do prefer more svelte/defined ankles. My own (totally irrational and unfounded and commonly disproved) feeling is that cankles are indicators of a lack of fitness. The legs should have definition - thighs with muscle, knees, calves with muscle, and ankles. It's a small turnoff when the leg blends together into one long shapeless stick, I like a nice pair of calves.

Realistically though, both cankles and other little things are all products of body type, and there's not much you can do to 'fix' them w/o taking drastic actions. So I do notice, and I appreciate what I like, but it's no dealbreaker. It's all part of the whole that is you.

What's more important is confidence, that gets you 90% of the way - if you've been to any burlesque shows you've seen that most of the women there are not cover models, but they have confidence and that is hot. And picking clothes that you like and make you confident is good. Love your body and the men will follow :)
posted by jpeacock at 11:26 AM on June 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

Well, as a straight-guy data point, I had to google "cankles" to make sure I knew what you were talking about.
posted by furiousthought at 11:37 AM on June 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

There are some guys for whom it would be a deal-breaker and others for whom it would not. Honestly, it's way down on my list (but I've never really been a leg man). One thing I have heard is "fat ankles are a genetic time bomb", which I believe means that fat ankles on a skinny woman tells you that she's going to be fat in the future. I have no idea how many guys think this.

Guys like what they like and dislike what they dislike and they don't care about the rest of the stuff. I know a guy who doesn't find Salma Hayek attractive because "she has a wierd nose". Seriously, dude? Her nose? You are looking at her freaking nose?

Come to think of it, I've never taken a good look at her ankles.
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 11:40 AM on June 10, 2011

I'm a straight male and I notice cankles but I'm terribly shallow and you'd never want to date me.
posted by zephyr_words at 12:04 PM on June 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

I would honestly, seriously bet that there are more furries in the world then there are men for whom cankles are both noticed and a significant negative.
posted by Sticherbeast at 12:06 PM on June 10, 2011 [6 favorites]

I'd never heard of cankles and, after a quick google, I'm not sure I'm any the wiser. Probably means I wouldn't notice.
posted by antiwiggle at 12:09 PM on June 10, 2011

The only person whose ankles I have ever noticed is this lady I work with who is very large, smokes a lot, and eats really unhealthily. I am pretty sure her ankles are a result of edema (fluid buildup). But yeah other than that, I don't really think anyone notices ankles!
posted by radioamy at 12:14 PM on June 10, 2011

The advice normally given for those with ankles thicker than they would like are -

- Your goal in shoes and dress is to make the eye follow a long, seamless line down your legs to your toes. This is the same advice given to women who wish to hide their stomachs - visually make it disappear (either by drawing attention to something else or making it so irrelevant to the rest of your body). This is why mules, suggested above, work so well in achieving this effect. Nude-colored shoes, also mentioned, also help achieve this.

- If you MUST wear ankle straps, though you should indeed avoid them, wear them low, low on the foot. The higher the strap is, the more obvious there is little distinction between your calf and foot width.

Essentially to minimize the look of cankles, emphasize everything else. Wear lovely shoes, a lovely dress. Avoid hemlines that fall calf length; go knee and above. Flared dresses will make your legs look like lovely stems. Draw attention to the upper part of your body OR show that long length of leg off.
posted by pinksoftsoap at 12:24 PM on June 10, 2011

The only way I would ever have noticed that my wife has cankles is because she complains about them. I'm busy paying attention to her lovely hourglass figure.
posted by Fleebnork at 12:57 PM on June 10, 2011

The first time I noticed cankles was minutes ago when I googled for the term to understand what you're asking about. So that's a feature with a name? Ridiculous. Just forget about that word, you're fine. I know it.
posted by Namlit at 1:24 PM on June 10, 2011

WARNING: self-link!


I wrote a post about this very subject four years ago.
posted by brittney at 1:27 PM on June 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

As a male, yes I do notice. Is it a deal breaker? Not really. It is my understanding that I am not average in my noticing legs and feet. For me shoes and calves are an interesting feature, even on men.

Ankle socks can help break the line and create some definition, horizontal stripes on socks or stockings can also help. Depending on the shape of your legs different hem lines can also be more or less flattering. But all of this is subjective to taste.

I don't know if you would find any benefit in any exercise that gives more definition to your calves? Don't worry too much about it, everyone has features they don't like about themselves. Often others don't care about those same features. I think I have a freakish huge nose, my wife thinks otherwise.
posted by MrBobaFett at 2:00 PM on June 10, 2011

Bonus question: men, do you notice this right away? Is it a huge turnoff? dealbreaker?

Another straight guy who has:

a) never even heard the term (and had to Google to learn what you were talking about);


b) in a lifetime of girl-watching, has never once singled out a woman's "cankles" as a feature of note. It's not that I've never noticed this right away: I have never noticed this.

Greg Nog has it, above:
As a straight male, I will tell you that I have NEVER (as in, not once), even THOUGHT to look at a lady's ankles to determine how attracted I am to her. Perhaps it is different for foot-fetishists, but by god, I am willing to bet that you just got straight-up normal ankles and no male that has ever checked you out has given even the tiniest thought to your ankles.
(A quick Google give the earliest cite for the word as 2005? Until now, I've never heard it.)
posted by AsYouKnow Bob at 2:01 PM on June 10, 2011

I too never notice cankles. Only edema caused by disease swollen ankles have ever cause me to say, oh my. Other than that, cankles do not exist. They are just another variation of leg to foot connection; some look one way, some another. It is no big deal. Avoid ankle straps and you will be fine.
posted by fifilaru at 2:08 PM on June 10, 2011

Idafolk: "what lengths of skirts/dresses/shorts should I wear so as not to accentuate them?"

I speak as a straight man, and I suggest something that shows cleavage.

Idafolk: "Bonus question: men, do you notice this right away? Is it a huge turnoff? dealbreaker?"

I didn't even know what cankles are (thank you again urbandictionary!), but I would never even notice because I would be looking you directly in the eye trying desperately not to ogle the aforementioned cleavage. I have never looked at a woman's legs and thought "Wow she has fat ankles". Never.
posted by I am the Walrus at 2:16 PM on June 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

You all are lovely. I gotta stop stressin' out about such ridiculous things. Thanks a million for all of your honest answers.
posted by Idafolk at 2:40 PM on June 10, 2011

Thank you, all the answerers who agree that cankles are a myth. I, personally, love my cankles... if I didn't have them my feet would just fall off my legs and I've heard that is pretty unattractive.
posted by amanda at 2:57 PM on June 10, 2011 [2 favorites]

Cankles? Well I guess that is my new word for today, but I wish I could recover the time it took me to learn it ... and I am not even going to try and find out what 'furries' might be ....
posted by GeeEmm at 3:15 PM on June 10, 2011

Do you ice skate or rollerblade? Seems to me that most otherwise-normal folks I know with thick ankles are lifelong hockey players. In their case, I guess it's just unusual muscle built up from the unique task of balancing on blades.

Cankles really aren't anything worth being concerned about, though. I'm pretty sure it started as a joke on Family Guy, where the metajoke was precisely that women are bombarded with made-up body image issues.

Unless your legs are perfectly cylindrical with absolutely no taper whatsoever (in which case, consult a physician, because OMGWTF), meh.
posted by Sys Rq at 3:30 PM on June 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

just a thought - have somebody you like and trust take a picture of your legs and feet from near ground level. when you look at your ankles in the mirror, they are far below the level of your eyes, so your view of your legs is foreshortened, which makes everything look shorter and fatter. your ankles probably look a lot nicer than you think in real life.
posted by toodleydoodley at 6:51 PM on June 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

I took a short poll of a few men friends. The silly answer is to wear a low cut blouse and a lot of men won't notice anything else. Honestly, cankles are not even on most men's radar.
posted by a humble nudibranch at 7:37 PM on June 10, 2011

I won't mention your cankles if you don't mention my skinny wrists.

(No one has ever, ever mentioned my skinny wrists; in fact, I may be the only one that finds them particularly skinny.)

Also, too, I think that the fetishization of a "well-turned ankle" may be a relic of the era when quote-endquote refined ladies were not expected to spend a lot of time on their feet, which puts it a creepy couple of ticks close to foot-binding.
posted by Halloween Jack at 7:55 PM on June 10, 2011

3/4 pants and skirts that hit mid-calf seem to emphasise them more; they're not as noticeable when you wear something shorter. I agree with the suggestions above that say to wear clothing that emphasises your better assets - your cleavage, for example.

Non-fashion suggestion: I got cankles when I couldn't walk after a knee injury. I heartily suggest indulging in a leg massage occasionally, to drain the lymph nodes under my knee that were causing the swelling.
posted by chronic sublime at 10:16 PM on June 12, 2011

« Older Hey let me look at that for ya!   |   Where can I find Shuron Ronsir ZYL glasses in the... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.