From Sock Crocs to bum bag sandals: fashion’s perfect storm of shoe ugliness

Ugly fashion is big business, but for shoes, it has now become something of an arms race. This week saw the launch of the $140 (£105) “Sport” Sock Croc – part Croc, part tube sock – and the Nike Benassi bum bag sandals, which appear to be just that.

Although aesthetically worlds apart, they do share some time-saving, practical principles. The Sock Croc is a collaboration between Crocs and 90s New York brand Alife, which bring together two elements of the ugly shoe trend in one – Crocs and sock sandals – while paying “homage to the socks-and-Crocs lifestyle”, whatever that is. The Benassi bum bag sandal, meanwhile, is a slider with a small zipped bum bag in lieu of a foot strap, allowing you to carry very small things on your feet.

While both sound like a joke fleshed out in a marketing meeting, and quite possibly both are – the fastest way to sell a pair of shoes, it seems, is to describe them as ugly – they actually mark a cornerstone moment for a trend that has become impossible to ignore. For one, it’s harder to find normal shoes than ugly shoes – see the clompy Balenciaga Triple S trainers, sky-high Crocs at Balenciaga, thigh-high trainer boots at this week’s Louis Vuitton Cruise show, and the trickle-down effect to the high street at Fila and Topshop. And, second, we seem to be witnessing a perfect storm of elective ugliness. Given ugly shoes are now interbreeding, it might be interesting to see where this trend goes next.

Regardless of how wearable this stuff is, it speaks of a change within the industry and suggests notions of beauty have shifted: that beauty and ugliness are not opposites, but rather aspects of the same thing; that prizing practicality over leg-slimming is OK; that heaven needs hell. Plus, it seems, the uglier the trainer the more on-trend it is, so you might as well commit. As most therapists would say, what is a “normal” shoe anyway?

Loewe’s curved toe trainers

Loewe curved toe trainers.
 Loewe curved toe trainers.

Ugliness rating 10/10

Style rating 7/10

Heron Preston Ugg

Heston Preston x Ugg.
 Heston Preston x Ugg.

Ugliness rating 3/10

Style rating 3/10

Chloé’s new Sonnie sneaker

Chloé Sonnie sneaker.
 Chloé Sonnie sneaker.

Ugliness rating 8/10

Style rating 7/10

Dr Marten Cleater

Dr Martens sandal.
 Dr Martens sandal.

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Runners have many factors to consider when shoe shopping

Cross country running series...

Whether you are a novice or veteran runner, buying shoes can be very overwhelming. The style of shoe constantly changes, as well as the latest trends in running. The biggest mistake runners can make when looking for shoes is “bargain hunting.” This can lead to shoes that aren’t designed for your foot structure, causing injury, miserable runs and lack of motivation towards training.

There are a few simple steps that can be taken when purchasing shoes to ensure a quality shoe that is appropriate for you.

Understanding pronation vs. supination

Pronation occurs when the heel hits the ground and rolls through the toe during foot strike. This is how your foot reduces the stress of impact with running. Excessive pronation is when there is too much roll from the outside to the inside of the foot, causing the arch of the foot to collapse to the ground. Excessive supination is when the outside aspect of the foot takes all the shock and the foot is unable to maintain neutral position and absorb forces evenly.

Assessing foot posture

To determine what foot type you have, stand in front of a mirror barefoot. You should see an arch on the middle aspect of the foot. A neutral foot is when there is approximately a ½ inch of space between the foot and the ground. A pronated foot is when there is minimal to no space between the arch and the ground. A supinated foot is when there is greater than 1 inch of space between the foot and the ground. You can further assess your foot type with a dynamic motion by squatting down and watching what happens to your arch and foot position.

Choosing the right shoe

Excessive pronators should choose a shoe with a straight shape. Motion control shoes would be the most appropriate for this foot type as they help prevent the foot from rolling in too far and are the most rigid and controlling shoe.

Excessive supinators should choose a shoe with a curved shape. Cushioned shoes allow for more shock absorption and encourage increased foot motion with less medial support. Neutral/normal arches should look for a semi-curved shape. Stability shoes are the most appropriate as they provide an excellent blend of cushioning, medial support and durability. There are also high-performance shoes which are generally designed for race day. These shoes are lighter, have less cushioning, are lower to the ground, and have a lower heel to toe ramp. Because these shoes lack normal stability and cushioning, they are designed for “serious” or elite runners vs. the novice runner.

Properly preparing before shopping

Shopping at a specialty running store will help with having a second set of eyes to look at your feet. The sales representatives working at running stores have specialized training in properly assessing every runner for the perfect shoe.

A few key things to check off the list when heading to the store:

  • Shop in the afternoon when your feet are at their largest
  • Bring your old shoes for comparison
  • Wear the socks you plan to run in
  • Bring orthotics/insoles you plan to wear in the shoes
  • Make sure both feet are measured for size, because one foot is always larger than the other

Ensuring the proper fit

When trying on shoes, check to make sure there is adequate room at the toe box by pressing your thumb between the end of your longest toe and the top of the shoe. Make sure there is enough width in the shoe but not enough to allow your foot to slide around when running. Your heel should snugly fit against the back of the shoe without sliding forward or up and down when running. When the shoe is securely tied, make sure the laces aren’t pressing too tightly on the top of the foot. Last but not least, make sure you have the chance to run in the shoes, whether it is on a treadmill or outside. It is the only way you will truly know if they are the shoes for you.


The Shoe Designer Who Built Her Brand From The Sole Up

Designer and founder of Alejandra G. ShoesALEJANDRA G.

What woman doesn’t love a great pair of shoes?  When you can’t find what you are looking for it would be great if you could just make your own.  Shoe designer and entrepreneur Alejandra G.  had been creating a mark for herself with her out of the box style.  Since her first collection launched in 2012, the company hasn’t stopped growing.   Her shoes have been worn by Kylie Jenner, Tyra Banks, Giuliana Rancic, Adrienne Bailon, Christina Milian and many more. With comfort and style being of equal importance in her designs, women love them.

Joresa Blount: When did you first get inspired to create a shoe line?

Alejandra:  I’ve always been in love with fashion. I have a picture of me when I was about three years old, holding a special designer fashion kit.  My mom said I always loved drawing, and coloring in coloring books. It would always be really creative with the colors.

I didn’t always know that it would be shoes.  I’ve told this story before, and it’s the absolute truth. I was working for a television production company at the time.  I was making really good money, and I was saving up. I knew I wanted to start something. One of my friends had started a clothing line. She would take me downtown to all the manufacturers, but I noticed that there were no shoe manufacturers.  So, I was playing with the idea of first starting a clothing line.

One night I was having a dream. It was a very vivid, vivid, vivid dream of shoes. They were all candied shoes. One looked like Skittles. They were candy inspired shoes. The next day I went to sketch out what was in my dream. It was so powerful. The dream would not leave me.  I felt like it was my calling. I went and told my friend and family. They were like, what are you talking about? I didn’t know a single person in the fashion business.

Joresa: How can someone who doesn’t have a traditional background in fashion launch a business?

Alejandra:  I always recommend going to some type of school to understand what you are getting into.  With fashion specifically, it’s only 20% designing and the rest is knowing how to run a company. When I met my mentor who referred me to go to school in Milan, I just jumped in when I came back [to Los Angeles].  Before you decide to jump into running any company, especially fashion, make sure you get some form of education. Do as much research on how much it is going to cost to start a company, how much it will to take to run. The more you educate yourself in business 101, the less money you will lose and mistakes you will make.

Alejandra G. ShoesAGS

Joresa: Did you have a good support system when you decided to quit your job and go after your dream?

Alejandra:  Most people said, “what are you doing?”  I didn’t know anyone. It was like, okay, you have a great job.  How are you going to support yourself? How are you going to do this or that?  Why go backwards if you are already moving forward in the television production career?  They supported me, but they were surprised. No one said don’t do it. It was more shock. Then I literally packed up to go to Italy.

Joresa:  Did you have moments of doubt?

Alejandra: Before I was leaving [for Italy], I had a couple of those moments of doubt.  I had a boyfriend at the time. I had best friends I would see on the regular, and I was just putting my whole life on hold to go chase a dream.  I was excited, but I was scared. I felt like it was a complete new chapter in my life. When I got there, it was a whole lot more difficult than I thought.  Not just the school, but it was difficult being away.

Joresa:  You started school in your late 20s.  What would you say to someone who is changing careers later in life?

Alejandra:  People say, oh my God. I should have it figured out. I’m twenty-five [years old].  You have to play in so many different careers. I was a teacher’s assistant, then I got my real estate license, then I got signed to J Records when I was in a rap group, then I was a television producer.  I dabbled in a lot of different things. This is the longest I’ve done something, and I don’t see myself doing anything else. I always tell people it’s never too late to start any of their dreams. You can start in your 40s if you want to. People become successful at all different ages.

Alejandra G. sporting her recognizable shoe line.AGS

Joresa:  How did you gain visibility with your brand?

Alejandra:  My mentor referred me to a shoe rep. I didn’t even know I needed a shoe rep. My mentor asked me how I was going to get into stores. I didn’t know.  I got these key accounts very quickly like Shopbop. My designs took off. I found out later I need public relations, but I didn’t have the money at the time. Everyone I brought on board were independent contractors.  I brought on a PR person, who had been in the business awhile. She fell in love with my brand. She took me to do desk sides with editors, because she’s from New York. So, I met up with all these editors at big magazines, and they fell in love with my brand. We started to get a lot of press in magazines.  Then we started to push that I was latina, and Latina Magazine and Cosmo For Latinas gave me press. They were very supportive.

Because I have lived in L.A. all my life, I have a lot of celebrity friends. I was constantly contacting people to get my shoes on people.  A lot of celebrities who tag me are my personal contacts. It’s all about who you know too.

Joresa:  What defining setback have you experienced on your entrepreneurial journey?

Alejandra:  Spending too much money in the wrong places.  I would think do I have to stop for a minute, and get an investor. It’s always been the money. It takes money to make money.  If I had an investor right now, I would be further ahead.

Joresa:  What advice would you give to someone who feels stuck or not progressing in their business?

Alejandra: They say most startup companies fail within two to three years. If you can get pass those two to three years, then you are in good shape.  It’s the same thing that my dad always tells me. If you have a car and it keeps breaking down, you have to get a new car. You got to figure out how to do something different.  It doesn’t mean to stop doing your dream, but it means revamp. I’ve had revamping moments. If I don’t see a lot of sales coming in then I need to revamp the collection I just did.  I need to come with a new idea. When you don’t see something moving, you can’t keep doing the same thing. It doesn’t mean to switch into another career. It means you have to take another route on how to get it done.  A lot of people want to keep pushing forward on product or even music. If it’s not working you have to figure out a different way to do it. There’s a reason why things are not working.