What Shoes Are Appropriate for a Funeral? 15 Types

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It’s not uncommon for people to feel anxious or nervous about going to funerals. Whether you’ve attended one before or not, it’s natural for people to be concerned about following proper funeral etiquette.

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You might worry about saying the right things to the family of the deceased. You might be uncertain about whether you should bring a gift or card with you, or send it separately. Or you might not know exactly what to wear to a funeral

We have guides to help you deal with many of these subjects on the website. But here we can help you deal with a more specific aspect of one of them. Namely, we’ll break down different kinds of appropriate footwear for funerals. These men’s, women’s, and gender-neutral shoe options can help make sure your feet fit in at a funeral.

Virtual funeral tip: If you're attending a funeral hosted with a service like GatheringUs, you might choose not to wear shoes at all. After all, the other online attendees won't be able to see your feet. However, wearing appropriate funeral shoes can help you feel like you're attending an actual funeral service, rather than a casual videoconference. 

Types of Feminine Shoes Appropriate for a Funeral

It seems like there are countless types of women’s shoes on the market. You’d think that would give you endless options of what to wear to a funeral. But sometimes having too many options can be overwhelming. So there are some styles of shoes you can rule out entirely. 

Generally speaking, women are encouraged not to wear open-toed shoes to a funeral. They can be seen as less modest or formal than close-toed styles. Women are also generally dissuaded from wearing athletic shoes, or other casual footwear. Funerals tend to be more formal affairs, so keeping those factors in mind can help when looking for more conservative footwear choices.

Sensible pump

One good rule of thumb is that if a shoe is appropriate for an office job, it will probably be appropriate for a funeral.

A sky-high stiletto might not fit in at an office or a funeral. But a sensible pump with a low heel would work in either situation. These shoes have a distinct air of formality but are still relatively comfortable. 

Pilgrim shoe

Even if you’re not familiar with pilgrim shoes, you can probably picture them in your mind just from their name.

These are close-toed shoes, usually made of black leather. They feature a chunky heel and a bulky buckle. They’re modeled after shoes worn in the colonial era. They were considered sturdy enough for everyday use, but still formal enough for church or ceremonial use.  

Ballet flat

Ballet flats are a popular everyday shoe for women. They are modeled after the shoes worn by ballerinas.

But even though they are dainty and delicate, they don’t stand out in a distracting way. They have very little detail to them. At most a ballet flat might feature a tiny decorative bow. But they are otherwise quite low-profile, making them ideal for a funeral. They are also extremely comfortable, despite their formality.

Mary Jane

A lot of people don’t consider flat shoes for women to be particularly fashionable. But Mary Janes have a style all their own.

These flat, round-toed shoes feature a single strap across the top which adds visual flair. These shoes are very comfortable but still pack a visual punch. 

Ankle boot

Some funeral visitation ceremonies take place indoors. But other funerals might take place outdoors at the graveside.

Boots are always a good bet for an outdoor service. The ground may be muddy or uneven. Ankle boots can help support you if the terrain is rough, and protect your feet from getting dirty. They can be worn with pants and even some skirts.  

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Types of Masculine Shoes Appropriate for a Funeral

Men have far fewer styles of shoes to choose from than women do. But that doesn’t mean they can’t use some fashion advice when it comes to funeral footwear. Like women, men should avoid wearing athletic shoes or other casual footwear.

These footwear options will be more appropriate for different funeral environments:

Cap toe shoes

With men’s shoes, a lot of the style comes down to shaping. Some of the most universally stylish men’s shoes feature a cap toe.

A cap toe just has horizontal stitching across the toe box that extends along each side of the shoe. This adds an attractive shaping that looks good on many different men. 

Wingtip shoes

People might think of men’s shoes as plain, but certain styles feature a lot of details. One example is a wingtip shoe.

Wingtips feature a pointed toe cap that extends towards the sides of the shoes, in a shape that is reminiscent of wings spreading out. The toe caps on wingtip shoes often feature perforations in different sizes and patterns, adding visual interest.

Brogue shoes

Brogues are low-heeled shoes or boots that have been constructed from multiple pieces of leather. They often feature decorative elements referred to as broguing, along with serrated edges.

Ribbon pump loafer

Loafers are simply slip-on shoes. They are often considered less formal than lace-up shoes for men. But they can be dressed up. A ribbon pump loafer is definitely formal enough for men to wear to a funeral.  

Brogue dress boot

If you’re attending an outdoor funeral, you might want something a little sturdier than your usual dress shoes.

A brogue dress boot gives you more ankle support for tough terrain, without losing out on the detailing found on regular brogue shoes. 

Types of Gender-Neutral Shoes Appropriate for a Funeral

No matter what gender you are, there are some basic footwear rules to keep in mind when it comes to funerals. These unisex shoe styles are suitable for anyone attending a funeral.  

Loafer

Loafers are a classic slip-on shoe style. Modeled after moccasins, they became known by their current moniker in the 1930s.

There are many different types of loafers, including penny loafers, tassel loafers, and apron lovers. The fashion brand Gucci also put their own spin on this show in both men’s and women’s styles. Loafers have long been considered an appropriate dress shoe for people regardless of their gender. 

Oxford shoe

Oxford shoes were historically plain but formal lace-up shoes, typically made of leather. Over the years, that definition has expanded somewhat. Now, shoes can still be considered Oxfords even if they’re made of faux patent leather, suede, or canvas. 

The detail that sets them apart from other dress shoes are their closed lacing style. The eyelets for the shoelaces are attached under the front part of the shoe (also known as the vamp). This makes the laces look more low-profile and dignified. Oxfords came to North America in the 1800s but were popular in England and Scotland even before then. While they were once traditionally men’s shoes, they have become appropriate for all people since then.    

Derby shoe

Derby shoes are actually quite similar to Oxford shoes, but with a difference in the lacing. Derby shoes have open lacing, compared to the more subtle closed lacing of an Oxford.

This small difference makes people generally consider Derby shoes to be a little less formal than Oxfords. These kinds of derby shoes also have a higher instep and are a little looser and more flexible than Oxfords, making them more comfortable to some people. Like Oxfords, they have evolved into unisex footwear over the years.   

Monkstrap shoe

This shoe got its unusual moniker because this style of shoe was originally worn by European monks in the Middle Ages.

It is a shoe that does not require lacing. Instead, it fastens with either one buckle (single monkstrap) or two buckles (double monkstrap). The buckles give the shoes a sleekness and a shape to them that makes them more formal than other slip-on styles. Again, these are available in unisex styles. 

Chelsea boots

If you’re attending a graveside funeral service, you want to take the weather and the terrain into account.

If the funeral takes place in the winter, the ground will be cold and there may be snow. If it’s a rainy day, there may be mud. If the weather is less than perfect, consider wearing a nice pair of Chelsea boots.

They’ll be sturdy enough to hold up to the weather, but formal enough for a funeral. This style dates back to the Victorian era, where they were worn by men and women alike. They can still be found in unisex styles.   

Funeral-Appropriate Footwear for All Genders

Some funeral fashion guidelines are universally known. Americans, for example, know that wearing white to a funeral is generally frowned upon. But it can be hard to pick out appropriate funeral accessories, including footwear. Ultimately the most important thing to remember is that you aren’t going to a fashion show. 

You don’t want to stand out, so pick understated clothes and shoes that will help you blend into the crowd. But while you should look nice, you should also dress for comfort. Funerals can cause a lot of emotional discomfort, so being physically comfortable is important. Keeping the keywords “comfortable” and “understated” in mind can ultimately guide you to the best choice.  

If you're looking for more help with funeral attire, read our guides on what to wear to a funeral in the winter and why people wear black to funerals.

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