A Visual History of Fashion’s Fugliest Shoe Trends

From the Birkenstock clog to the Balenciaga Triple S, ugly shoes are having a moment—but the decision to clad your feet in hideous footwear actually goes back further than our hippie parents. In a style salute to the crunchiest, the chunkiest and the most geriatric, we’re taking a look back at the history of the ugliest shoes known to mankind.

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medieval poilaine shoe
Museum of London/Heritage Images/Getty Images

Middle Ages: Poulaine

The longer the point, the higher the status. (We’re not joking.)

really ugly shoe
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Date Unknown, Style Unknown

That anyone ever wore these is terrifying.

danish wooden clogs
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13th Century: Wooden Clogs

Wooden clogs (called klompen, appropriately) are the footwear of choice in the Netherlands, because nothing says “fashion” like a bulbous wooden heel—never mind that pairs either rot away or end up as firewood.

Kim Komenich/Getty Images

1966: Birkenstocks

On a spa trip to Germany, American Margot Fraser “discovers” the, um, supportive sandal—designed by Karl Birkenstock (and his son, Carl Birkenstock), descendants of arch-support pioneer Johann Adam Birkenstock. The inimitable cork-soled slip-on is imported to the U.S., and pot smokers everywhere rejoice.

earth shoes
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1970: Earth Shoes

The podiatrist- and commune-approved shoes debut three weeks before the first Earth Day. Designed by a Danish yoga instructor, they’ve got a negative heel and raised toes to “realign the body,” or something.

moon boots
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1971: Moon Boots

Is that a sleeping bag on your foot? No, it’s a Moon Boot.

adidas adilette sandals
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1972: Adidas Adilette

The sporty slides are originally introduced to German soccer players as a way to stave off the athlete’s foot lurking in communal locker rooms; we all immediately regret not leaving them in the shower (not to mention wearing them with socks).

david bowie wearing platform shoes
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1978: Platforms

Fueled by cocaine and the alluring glow of a disco ball, platform shoes emerge—and are quickly embraced by men, women and David Bowie.

doc marten shoes
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1983: Doc Martens

The pseudo-military boot becomes the shoe of the punk movement, the new wave movement and the grunge movement, after an unfortunate stint as the shoe of the skinhead movement. (Sorry if we ruined them for you just now.)

teva sandals
Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

1984: Teva Sandals

Noticing a need for river-ready shoes, geophysicist Mark Thatcher designs the Velco-y, strappy Teva. Upon introduction, the sandals (pronounced teh-vah) are synonymous with outdoor enthusiasts. Who could’ve predicted they’d become the footwear choice of your Midwestern parents and Phish-blasting RA in college?

princess diana wearing dad sneakers
Anwar Hussein/Getty Images

1995: Chunky Sneakers

“Borrowed from dad” is the look du jour, this time paired with tube socks. Princess Diana gets in on the trend (but that doesn’t mean we approve).

spice girls wearing ugly platform sneakers
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1997: Platform Sneakers

We seeeeeee you, Victoria Beckham.

sarah michelle gellar wearing ugly flatform sandals
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1999: Flatform Slides

The chunkier, the better.

beyonce wearing uggs
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2000: Ugg Boots

When Oprah listed the Australian shearling boot (originally popular with surfers) as a “Favorite Thing,” she probably didn’t know that in its motherland, it was a house slipper associated with being, well, unfashionable. Over the next decade, it was worn by Kate Moss and Beyoncé, reached the sweaty-footed, and then became synonymous with sorority girls drinking PSLs.

Cate Gillon/Getty Images

2002: Crocs

Fashion authority Tim Gunn would later call it a “plastic hoof.”

vibram five fingers
Joe Raedle/Getty Images

2005: Vibram Fivefingers

Genius idea: Make a creepy sneaker for the barefoot running set, because you know who wants to see the silhouette of your toes? Literally no one ever.

celine furkenstocks
Chris Moore/Catwalking/Getty Images

2013: Furkenstocks

Céline’s Phoebe Philo (bless her) stuffs blue mink fur into a Birkenstock-esque sandal at Paris Fashion Week; a trend is reborn.

christopher kane crocs
Estrop/Getty Images

2016: Haute Couture Crocs

Fourteen years after its invention, noted Croc-lover and fashion designer Christopher Kane sends models down the runway in luxury Crocs. By luxury, we mean marbled brown foam bedazzled in crystals. (How very 2016.)

balenciaga triple s sneakers
Christian Vierig/Getty Images

2017: Balenciaga Triple S

The Dad Sneaker 2.0 debuts, thanks to creative director Demna Gvasalia (aka the head designer for troll fashion brand Vetements). Its prototype? A triple-decker stack of molds taken from the soles of running, basketball and track shoes—hence the name. For a cool $950, you too can look like you have toy trucks on your feet. God, we hate them so much.


Senior Food Editor

Katherine Gillen is PureWow’s senior food editor. She’s a writer, recipe developer and food stylist with a degree in culinary arts and professional experience in New York City...