ascot-2012.jpgRacing season is almost upon us, and along with it comes one of the biggest wardrobe dilemmas of the year for the thousands of women that will be flocking to Ascot next week. Picking footwear for an outdoor event where formality is a must and fashion rules are strictly prescribed is never easy, but if you're heading for the races this season, here are a few pointers to bear in mind...

Fashion critic James Sherwood, recently quoted in the BBC, has some key pieces of advice we should all take note of before rushing out to buy a fabulous pair of Ascot shoes. Unfortunately, his tips don't fill us with excitement. First, he stresses that you should never wear big heels at Ascot, which is probably a given: after all, this is an outdoor occasion, and they can cause "ghastly problems on the turf"! However, the rule probably has far more to do with not scaring the horses than it does with practicality. It's also worth nothing that Kate Middleton wore her trusty L.K Bennett heels at the races a year ago, so some height is probably OK but perhaps being Royalty she's exempt.

The second most pressing piece of advice is an awkward one: never wear brand new shoes at Ascot. This is about comfort: imagine navigating the course in a pair of stylish but agonisingly tight shoes, only to discover that they don't really fit? Given that there is also a rule about not removing your shoes at Ascot you could be in for a painful few hours if you haven't yet broken in your shoes. The final blow comes with the foreboding piece of advice: "Court shoes as worn by Her Majesty are an obvious choice."

So how can you succeed at this seemingly impossible sartorial challenge? We'd suggest plundering your wardrobe for suitable shoes before resorting to buying a new pair and making sure you wear the new shoes religiously over the next few days if you have to. A few possible candidates if you must buy new are pictured here:

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Taking a leaf out of Kate Middleton's book, we're going with a cream, neutral and beige theme in our choices this time around, as these can be fitted in effortlessly with your outdoor formal look. Most of these styles come in coloured leathers, however, so you should be able to pick the shade to suit your outfit. 

While all of these styles have enough height to give your outfit the uplift it needs to stay smart, they are all equipped with dainty heels that should distribute weight easily for the desired level of comfort and practicality. And non horse-scaring qualities of course!

1. 'Bury' patent taupe low-heeled shoe. £155 at L.K Bennett
2. Nine West 'Powersurge' nude wedge peep toes: £49 (was £95) at Debenhams
3. Apricot peep-toe shoes
, £32 at Dorothy Perkins
4. Kurt Geiger 'Ladybell'
multi-strap patent court: £115 (was £160) at John Lewis

But neutral doesn't have to be dull! Here's Gemma Cartwright, editor of our sister site Catwalk Queen showing you how it's done. She wore this outfit to the races last year, and did an amazing job of teaming her nude accessories with a strongly-coloured frock: 

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WIN VIP Tickets to Ascot and a £2,000 watch!

Got the shoes but still lacking the ticket? We may be able to help. Catwalk Queen are giving away an absolutely amazing prize during racing season in association with Longines, Swiss Watchmakers - and this is your absolute last opportunity to enter.

You could win an exclusive day for you and a friend at Royal Ascot on Saturday 23rd June, with VIP treatment in the Sandringham Restaurant. Additionally, Longines will gift you with one of the diamond ladies and stainless steel gent's chronograph watch valued at over £2000 each. Wow...

Details on how to enter the competition can be found here.