One of the biggest standout details about the spring 2021 shoe trends is that so many of them are flat! High heels were much less ubiquitous than normal. While we love a pair of stilettos, we’d much rather spend most of our existence in comfortable but chic flats.
A lot of the spring/ summer 2021 shoes kept the feet mostly bare, with all different kinds of sandals and flip-flop. This summer-perfect footwear isn’t inherently high-fashion, but some designs transformed them into something truly unique, with both strappy and chunky options.
For those who do want a height boost, the spring/ summer 2021 shoe trends did include some really fun platforms! Those who prefer a traditional heel will still see a few sprinkled throughout the spring 2021 shoes, even if the heels themselves weren’t a major trend element.
Finally, we also saw plenty of other shoe styles for every climate. Boots, sneakers, and more professional shoe options were all present and accounted for, so while the season skewed casual, everyone will find something to love.
#1. Big Strappy Flat Sandals
Is there a better way to get back to nature than with comfy, cushy sandals? We don’t think so. Something about being under lockdown led many designers to connect with nature, and they wanted us to do the same. These sandals will help!
That was exactly the vibe at Jason Wu, where models walked among palm trees in comfy dresses or loose shorts, in thick-soled sandals that were attached to their feet with thick, colorful fabric straps.
The sandal and outfit combination at Anna Sui was a little quirkier, with models wearing girlish, ruffled dresses along with fun printed socks. To match the dresses, the thick sandal straps were decorated with ruffles as well!
Finally, at Christian Dior, we saw a looser and even slightly more bohemian collection that was totally completed by chic sandals with straps made out of woven leather. Many more labels sent their models out on the runway in these slightly chunky sandals that made utility fashionable, including Emilia Wickstead and Hugo Boss.
Flip-flops were essential to the summer 2021 shoe trends. While high-fashion flip-flops weren’t necessarily a big rarity, they weren’t commonplace on the runway. However, this fashion month was more casual than most, and as a result, we saw a lot of flip-flops.
Anything that happens on the Jacquemus runway is liable to become a trend, so pay attention. The flip-flops at Jacquemus were a little thicker and more cushioned and showed up in either black or white. Simple, no?
There were plenty of more high-fashion flip-flop options at Stella McCartney, Sportmax, Acne Studios, and David Koma.
#3. Cozy Slides
Flip-flops bring to mind a summer vacation, but cozy slides are ideal for home… or for feeling like you’re home even when you’re out and about. From the conspicuously fuzzy to simply plush, slides definitely had a presence in the spring 2021 shoe trends.
Let’s start with the cozy knitted slides that we spotted at Gabriela Hearst. At first glance, they looked like the kind of slippers you might wear at a spa to keep your pedicure safe, but they were actually made with a wool upper and solid soles in a durable design that can easily be worn out and about.
We’d be less keen to wear the fuzzy Balenciaga slides outdoors, but we’d look for any excuse to wear them otherwise. They were bright and playful, with a Balenciaga logo designed to look like the logo for a political candidate.
Celine, Rosetta Getty, Vince, and MSGM also presented some cozy slides that might peak your fancy.
#4. Strange Strappy Situations
In addition to slightly bulky sandals and fun flip-flops, there were other strappy footwear situations amongst the spring 2021 shoes that were a little harder to describe.
For instance, in the J.W. Anderson lookbook, quite a few of the models sported multi-strap flip-flop-sandal hybrids that went in between multiple toes, with some feather decorations adding even more fun to the eccentric design.
We saw a similar situation at Givenchy, albeit with high-heeled sandals. There was one strap that went in between multiple toes. These sandals were paired with aligned toe-socks, making for one of the most unusual footwear styles we’ve seen in a long time.
The strappy sandals at Khaite and Etro were still unique but much more mundane in comparison to the former two! At Khaite, square-toed heels had an upper made of straps knotted over the feet, while at Etro, there were some colorful hybrids between sandals and flip-flops, with straps made of rope also wrapped around the ankle, with soles that reminded us a bit of espadrilles.
We saw a few more unique approaches to straps on sandals at Eudon Choi and Theory.
#5. Simple and Delicate Flats
We continue with spring 2021 shoe trends that exclude heels, this time focusing on the delicate and feminine flat! We saw traditional ballet flats and slingbacks that can easily replace high-heels during evening events – not at the half-way point when your feet get tired, but right from the start!
Both Sandy Liang and Marina Moscone presented classic flats truly inspired by ballet shoes, with a rounded toe-box and total foot coverage, in minimalist black.
Emilia Wickstead also presented simple flat designs, although they were made with a pointed toe-box, which has a nice leg-elongating effect. There were quite a few solid-colored flats, but we were enamored with a white pair covered in a blue boat print.
There were more examples of delicate flats at Celine, Sharon Wauchob, and Yuhan Wang.
#6. Menswear-Style Shoes
If you want to be comfy, look professional, and avoid the intense delicateness of typical flats, you can always opt for menswear-inspired spring 2021 shoes! This season, slip-on loafers stood out to us the most in the various lookbooks and on the runways.
The black loafers at Chanel were crisp and simple, with a tiny (decided unisex) block heel, and a subtle brand monogram in silver hardware added on the side.
The black patent leather loafers at Tibi were a little more playful but still elegant. There was a big folded leather embellishment over the vamp secured with a gold buckle, looking almost but not quite like a ribbon.
Finally, at Louis Vuitton, we spotted both derby shoes and sporty loafers with white rubber soles and tassels for decoration.
One of the spring 2021 shoe trends that included flats, platforms, and heels were the clogs! They can be seen as a little too sensible or frumpy, but that’s exactly on-trend for this unusual season.
Everyone was talking about the clogs at Hermès, of course. They had a slightly thick sole that wasn’t quite thick enough to count as a platform, with a rounded, curvy design and the metal accent of studs along the seam between the sole and upper.
The clogs at Bally were similar, but with a bit of a more rustic feel thanks to the wooden soles, while at Molly Goddard, we spotted a few super high flatform clogs in all kinds of fun colors!
One way to get a height boost with the spring/ summer 2021 shoe trends is with flatforms. They’re high and impressive, but they don’t strain your ankles or knees. We had already seen a lot of flatforms last season as part of a ‘70s resurgence, but this time around, they weren’t tied to anything but the present.
For instance, at Comme des Garçons, there were white flatform sneakers, which were actually a combination of trends in a way, showcasing something sportier with the drama of massive, height-enhancing soles.
Erdem brought snakeskin back, which is notable in and of itself since the material wasn’t too common in other collections. The shoes had a very chic open-toed upper that would have fit just as well on a pair of pumps as it did on the platforms.
Altuzarra, Versace, Coperni, Tod’s, and Simone Rocha also presented different and exciting flatforms.
Gladiators were probably the most surprising summer 2021 shoes. Sure, most of them were flat, but there’s a certain level of fuss and drama that didn’t seem particularly fitting for the laid-back season. They were slightly more connected to fantasy and escapism, which also had a presence in this unusual season’s collections.
Ulla Johnson cemented the iconic status of both flatforms and gladiator sandals this season by presenting impressive hybrids. The shoes had thick wooden platform soles, with leather uppers and ribbon wrapped around the calf.
In the Emilio Pucci lookbook, models wore black gladiator sandals over stark white pantyhose. A little loop over the big toe was a little flip-flop-esque, while the straps wrapped around the calf were pure drama. There were more interesting takes on gladiator sandals at Adeam, Rebecca Taylor, Ports 1961 and Blumarine.
#10. Shoes in Chains
Chains are one of those spring 2021 shoe trends that represent continuity from previous seasons, so we choose not to ascribe to them much more meaning… Otherwise, it’s fair to say that the implications would be a little scary.
At Versace, gold chains are all about ostentatious luxury, so we welcome their addition to patent leather flatform shoes, as a glamorous decoration right over the vamp!
Gold chain added an energetic touch to a pair of high-heel sandals at Tom Ford. The chain was used instead of a typical strap to secure the toes, while leather was wrapped a few times around the ankle.
If you prefer silver, look to Victoria Beckham! Thick chain links were draped over the vamp of a pair of white mules, adding some interest and sheen to the simple design.
While loungewear ruled, athleisure also occupied some space, which meant that we saw quite a few sneakers for the spring 2021 shoes.
The new Celine collection wasn’t so much about athleisure as it was about simple, trendy casual wear that will appeal to a young, hip audience. This included simple, crisp white high-top sneakers paired with sweatpants and leather jackets.
We think a lot of shoppers will be enamored with the white sneakers at Loewe, which had a vintage vibe with the cursive L logo on the side, and brow sole that extended upwards a bit at the front. While the sneakers were styled with ruffled dresses, we’re sure the Influencer crowd won’t be as out there when wearing them.
Lastly, at Undercover, slightly chunkier running shoes actually closed the lookbook. The styling was really fun, with models in tracksuits also wearing sashes and tiaras.
#12. Sneaker Hybrids
In addition to traditional sneakers, we also saw all kinds of odd sneaker-inspired shoes that we wouldn’t dare to work out in.
One example was sneaker-style kitten heels at Miu Miu in black, white, or dazzling silver, with the Miu Miu logo printed over the tongue. Simone Rocha opted to combine spring 2021 shoe trends by creating white and pretty sneaker-style shoes with platform soles.
The Tod’s collection included a few different pairs of vintage-inspired sneakers, but the most unusual pair had a treaded, sneaker-style sole with a flat-like upper and elongated velcro straps that were wrapped around the calves, just like gladiators.
#13. Kitten Heels
In a crowd of flats, even the tiny kitten heels seem to stand out! There is something lovely, delicate, and feminine about a kitten heel, and the designs presented in the spring 2021 shoes were quite diverse.
The kitten heels at Prada were especially fun and colorful, but with sharp toe-boxes that added some edge. The Maison Margiela collection was inspired by tango, with models dancing in a film that presented the designs. The essential shoes for this? White, vintage-y kitten heels perfect for the dramatic dance.
For something a little fiercer, Khaite delivered with black pointed-toe shoes and booties with tiny but sharp kitten heels to match the toe-boxes. There were plenty of more kitten heel options at Batsheva, Valentino, and Miu Miu.
#14. Ankle Straps
The stand-out detail on high heels and flats alike was a nice, sturdy ankle strap. While ankle straps are sometimes derided by stylists because they add a line that breaks up the length of the leg, the spring/ summer 2021 shoe trends were about giving support and comfort rather than about what is most flattering.
The ankle-strap high heels at Max Mara were as elegant as can be, with a fierce pointed toe design in timeless nude or brown shades. The straps themselves weren’t mundane since the thinner strap was wrapped around the ankle multiple times.
If you were sad about the reduction in animal print accessories, turn to Tom Ford, who presented high-heeled leopard print sandals fitted with a thick strap around the ankle.
The iconic Valentino Rockstuds, which we usually envision as dramatic stilettos, were given the flat mule treatment. The shoes still had the iconic multi-strap design with an ankle strap and lots of studs, but they were mostly flat with pointed toes.
We spotted more spring 2021 shoes with ankle straps at Nina Ricci, Dries Van Noten, and Rodarte.
#15. Square-Toed Shoes
If it wasn’t for COVID-19, we suspect square-toed shoes would have had an even bigger presence in the spring collections since they seemed so exciting in the previous season! However, there is a seriousness and heft to a square-toed shoe that didn’t fit with the other summer 2021 shoes, which fell into the season’s (sometimes combined) dichotomy of comfy or eccentric.
With all that said, some designers still wanted to cling to the solid and stern vibe that square-toed shoes give to the overall look. In the Self-Portrait lookbook, for instance, some of the outfits featured low-heeled shoes with a square toe-box as well as a squared-off opening.
The minimalist Bevza collection included all kinds of square-toed shoes, which had a stabilizing effect on the loose and draped silhouettes. They included square-toed booties, kitten heels, and even open-toed mules.
We spotted a few more square-toed shoes at Peter Do and Dries Van Noten.
#16. Rain Boots
When those unexpected spring and summer showers come, we’ll be happy for a pair of rain boots to protect us! We’ll be even happier that they won’t look out of place, thanks to the summer 2021 shoe trends.
The Philosophy di Lorenzo Serafini collection featured typical black rain boots but with a matte finish on the rubber and splatters of white paint adding a worn feel. We also saw some more restrained rain boot designs in neutral olive at Celine.
At Alyx, knee-high snakeskin rain boots with extended soles were a little extra, in a manner very fitting for the fashion week! The rain boots at Sandy Liang also felt appropriate for the season, with heavy, “don’t mess with me” tread soles and a dramatic black sheen.
#17. Thigh-High Boots
Thigh-high boots have sex appeal sewn into their shaft. We think they’re as far away from practical as a shoe trend can be during times of social isolation (and hot weather), but maybe that’s exactly the level of play and escapism we need out of our clothes in the coming season. If you’re over all the utilitarian footwear options, have a look at these.
Let’s start with Rick Owens, who shoed his models in large, structured thigh-high boots with massive platform heels. The boots, which he dubbed “waders,” had a fierce, slight post-apocalyptic feel.
Waders would have probably been a more fitting term for the thigh-highs at Burberry, where the entire collection had a nautical, oceanic theme. The thigh-highs that opened the show were mostly worn over trousers or jeans, giving us fisherperson vibes.
#18. Slouchy Boot Shaft
If you picked up a pair of slouchy boots for autumn or winter, you can keep them around well into spring in case the days get a little chilly! The slouchy boot design didn’t quite fit in with the rest of the spring 2021 shoe trends, but we never mind a holdover.
To fit the season, you can style those boots with flouncy floral dresses, like the slouchy, white boots in the Preen by Thornton Bregazzi lookbook. We saw similar styling at Osman!
They also pair well with the ubiquitous slouchy suiting we saw this season. You can take inspiration from a monochromatic burgundy look at Roksanda.
#19. Folded-In Heel
If you find yourself thirsting for some unorthodox spring 2021 shoe trends, well, you’re not totally without options. While most designers focused on utility, there was still some creativity in the form of folded-in heels.
We first noticed these heels at Givenchy, with their multiple toe-straps and slightly chunkier heel that had a distinct inward curve.
The heel shape at Salvatore Ferragamo had that same inward curve, although the heels themselves were a little blockier and lower, with open-toed, slingback, or strappy mule uppers.
We spotted a few more curved heels at Kim Shui and Versace.
#20. Netted Shoes
We saw all sorts of netting appearing on the runways and lookbooks for spring, including for the spring/ summer 2021 shoe trends. It was especially used for the spring boots to let the feet breathe on hot days.
Netted shoes and boots looked ultra-chic and feminine at Fendi, where they appeared in different pastel colors and even on men’s sandals. Netting had a more glamorous look at Koche, where it kind of wrapped a jewel-toned shoe, creating visual interest.
Dior used mesh netting on simple black ballet flats that looked so elegant despite the simplicity. At Salvatore Ferragamo, shoe netting had a looser basket weave look, making a great contrast with the architectural heel.
Photos via Vogue, Livingly