Unlike high heels which add height while elongating the legs, high tops usually have the reverse effect. No, they won't actually make you shorter, but they can make your legs appear shorter -- an optical illusion from which most women want to steer clear.
When High Tops Make Your Legs Look Shorter
When high tops are worn with shorts, the visual distance of the leg is shortened. Although shorts expose more of the leg, the lower leg is essentially cut-off by the high top. Depending on the height of the shoe's shaft, a high top can cut at the ankle or just above it, making legs appear shorter. High tops that are skin-colored make this effect less noticeable, but shoes that highly contrast the skin or that are worn with socks visibly scrunched down make legs appear shorter than they are.
Types of High Tops
High tops sneakers with built-in platforms are one way to elongate your look. These shoes have a 2- to 4-inch heel built into the shoe as a wedge, therefore lifting the foot a few inches. A sneaker with a hidden wedge can be dressed up a bit more than a flat-soled sneaker. Style this type of shoe as you would a high heel for slightly dressier occasions. Even though the platform wedge is in a high top -- which generally makes the leg appear shorter -- the instant height addition counteracts the cut of the shoe.
Wearing High Tops With Pants
If you wear high tops with pants that are flared and fall over the shoe, then the shoe shaft can't be seen and the view of the leg isn't changed. However, if high tops are worn with skinny jeans, or tapered pants, the shoe can make the leg look shorter. Tucking pants or leggings into a high top shoe essentially cuts off the leg at a premature point. If the high tops and the pants are the same color, the shoes won't stand out quite as much and call attention to the break from the top of the shoe and the bottom of the pants. Any time the ankle or the top of the foot is exposed -- such as with ballet flats -- the leg appears longer than if it's not.
Shoes That Make the Legs Look Longer
If you're looking for shoes that will make your legs look like they belong on a supermodel, opt for heels or shoes that expose the top of your foot. Showing this part of your foot off, especially with a skirt or shorts, makes your legs look longer because of the continuous flow from upper thigh, to knee, to lower leg, to foot. Wearing strappy flat sandals can have a similar effect because the foot is exposed all the way to the toes.
Alisa Wolfson is a Los Angeles-based writer. She has contributed to the "New York Post," "Us Weekly," "Angeleno" and "Modern Luxury California Brides." Wolfson also writes a style blog for The Huffington Post.