Oct 26, 2017 New Balance

It's Not Just You: This "Ugly" Sneaker Trend Is Everywhere

by Aemilia Madden

Collage Vintage

Sometimes there's a trend that's just so bad that it's good. For me this season, it's the "ugly" sneakers you've spotted on many a street style star over the last few months. I have a feeling anyone but my dad (who really does wear shoes that look like this) would offer nothing more than a puzzled look when pressed about the rise tech sneakers, but there's something so charming about them I can't resist.

While I admit the clunky soles and unpolished details could easily skew unflattering, on the feet of fashion's top trendsetters, they feel surprisingly cool. But what's the real appeal? In part, the shoes give me flashes of nostalgia for the chunky Sketchers I wore as a typical '90s child. And as we see the '80s power suit and '90s grunge resurfacing these days, so too have retro sneakers come back to haunt us.

But besides a love of the things we wore when we were young, the sneakers are part of a greater shift across the industry. Over the past few seasons, we've seen fashion move away from the pervasive minimalism of the earlier aughts, skewing into two distinct directions: a romantic ultra-feminism, and a playful, referential vein that seems to be constantly poking fun at itself and the fashion industry as a whole (the Vetements effect, if we'd so desire to give it a name). These sneakers toe the thin line—while there will be those who can't stand the trend, that quirkiness will draw others in. So are you ready to take the plunge? We're showing off a few ways to style them below, and then shopping out our favorite pairs.


Adam Katz Sinding

Style the sneakers with an elegant skirt for a cool contrast.


Adam Katz Sinding

Embrace the athleisure trend by styling them with sweats.


Collage Vintage

A polished suit and sneakers looks oh so cool.


Collage Vintage

Black sneakers fly under the radar.


Collage Vintage

Don't be afraid to pair them with sleeker pieces like a polished suede coat.


Collage Vintage

Chunky sneakers look cool balanced out with a miniskirt or short dress.


Collage Vintage

Try balancing out romantic hues like pink with chunky statement sneakers. 


Collage Vintage

Use the sneakers as commuter shoes. 



Try color coordinating for a cool twist.

Acne Studios Manhattan Low-Top Leather Trainers ($470)

Neutrals are anything but boring.

Adidas Tubular Elastics Sneakers ($150)

When tube socks and sneakers come together.

Adidas x Raf Simons Ozweego III Mixed-Material Sneakers ($500)

Dad-inspired and oh so cool.

Balenciaga Race Runner ($695)

These Balenciaga sneakers are tough to keep in stock. 

Eytys Jet Low-Top Leather Trainers ($235)

Practical fashion done right.

Fila Disruptor 2 Lux Leather Sneakers ($120)

Go for throwback shoes.

Filling Pieces Legacy Low-Top Sneakers ($332)

Feeling adventurous? Try a hue like pink.

Mango Platform Satin Sneakers ( $100 ) ($99)

These satiny sneakers are oh so cool.

MSGM Sock Insert Sneakers ($625)

You'll be ultra comfy in these sneakers.

New Balance 990v4 ($175)

These sneakers are the original.

Nike Air Max 97 Premium Sneakers ($241)

Meet the current cult classic.

Prada Cloudbust Mesh Sneakers ($690)

Futuristic and throwback all at once.

Puma Sock Insert Lace-Up Sneakers ($163)

You can wear these all day.

Reebok Instapump Fury FBT Sneakers ($185)

Out-of-the-box fashion.

Rick Owens Adidas Edition Vicious Runner Sneakers ($790)

Take a jump, and try these out.

Vetements Blue Reebok Edition Instapump Fury Sneakers ($790)

Here's how to try a pop of color. 

Want more? Here are the ballet-flat sneakers to try.