On My Style Radar: The Updated Skater Shoe

what to wear with embellished slip-on sneakers

I have to be honest: I’ve never been completely on board with a lot of the “athleisure” trend. Perhaps it’s the flashbacks to sadistic junior high P.E. teachers or a reminder of the languishing gym memberships I’ve poured money into over the years. Perhaps it was seeing too many Juicy velour track suits at the office in the early ‘aughts. It’s not that I don’t think some of the athletic-wear-inspired looks are cute and fresh, especially when mixed with more feminine or tailored pieces. I just couldn’t see myself wearing many of them, even if the comfort factor was tempting.

Above: cardigan | bag | scarf | tee | sneakers | bracelet | jeans

But slip-on sneakers are the exception. More “skater” than “jock,” they bring a touch of tomboy insouciance. I’ve always felt more at home in this style than in trainers or other lace-up sneakers. I like mixing them up with jeans or other non-athleisure styles to add a dash of casual cool.

This shoe style has come a long way from the original Van’s, and this season I’ve noticed a lot of options with prints and embellishments. I think this blending of feminine and masculine elements is really fun, and nods at the athleisure trend without evoking memories of Coach Ratched. Of course if you prefer the simpler styles, there are still plenty to choose from.

What’s your take on “athleisure?” Are there pieces that dovetail with your style?

I have my eye on a few of these to try…

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33 Comments

  1. LeesaS
    January 23, 2017 / 4:58 am

    Hi Susan. Take a look at Bucket Feet. Each of the sneaker designs are submitted by artists from the US, Europe, Latin America,etc. The designs are unique, the shoes are exceptionally well made and super comfy and the company is US based. I always receive compliments when I wear mine. http://Www.bucketfeet.com. I’m sure your readers will appreciate the tip.

  2. January 23, 2017 / 4:58 am

    I’m not a fan of this style of slip-on shoe for myself because of the big white “bumper”. They make my size 10 feet look too big for my 5’7″ frame. I do always keep a pair of Toms around as they’re comfy, but they don’t offer enough support for a long day of walking. I like the athleisure look on others, I just feel as if I look like I’m headed to the gym when I try it. I’ve adapted the idea, though. Yesterday I attended my niece’s gymnastics meet in a gym: faded jeans (fraying, but no actual holes), black leather Frye sneakers and a black boulce embroidered sweat shirt that says C’est Si Bon (Hush– UK–LOVE their clothes ) I felt comfortable and cozy on a rainy day, but stylish enough that I knew my niece wouldn’t be embarrassed to introduce me to her friends, lol!

    • Cynthia
      January 23, 2017 / 8:22 am

      Agree completely about the white soles (I don’t like white soles on any shoes) for the same reasons (size 10 feet here too) and because they show dirt too easily. They are fine for other people.

  3. January 23, 2017 / 5:44 am

    I love these, though with my wide feet I have a hard time finding a pair that fit.
    I think athleisure can be a good thing as far as comfort and practicality. I don’t like the sloppy side it can bring out. However, I completely appreciate walking around in shoes that don’t cause pain.

    • Sarah
      January 23, 2017 / 11:53 am

      I have wide feet too, and finally found a pair of Dr. Scholls at Marshalls that are cut a bit wider. They were still a bit snug at first, but I wore them out for the first time the other day and they’re stretching nicely.

  4. Sharon
    January 23, 2017 / 5:54 am

    I love this type of shoe as well! However, I have given up wearing them as they do not offer arch support for my high arches. I have found now that I am middle-aged that I need good arch support. If only there were a shoe like these that incorporated arch support.

    • Kelly
      January 23, 2017 / 10:21 am

      I need support. I have a pair of slip-on Ecco that are fabulous! Very supportive, and cute.

  5. Christina Oldham
    January 23, 2017 / 6:01 am

    I, too, have to be careful with this look. I wear a size 9, and the long upper only makes my feet look larger. On a dear friend with size 7.5-8, they look adorable, and I’m a bit envious when she finds a particularly cute style .

  6. Meg
    January 23, 2017 / 6:26 am

    I bought a pair from Taryn Rose and the tight fit over my instep after an hour means they were passed on to a friend. I have yet to find a pair that fits. Most are too big, wide and floppy , so I had high hopes for those taryns. Oh well. Lower cut shoes do me better, or I have to stick with tie laces.

  7. Jill
    January 23, 2017 / 7:00 am

    I wear an 11 4AAAA, Narrow!!! I’m 5’8″ and still they look like I’m wearing a pair of waterskis. I bought a pair of Van’s, very nice, but just didn’t stay on my narrow feet and I actually tripped wearing them and at 68 1/2, I don’t need to trip…..Cute but not for me.

  8. Librarianchic
    January 23, 2017 / 7:07 am

    i love the look but find them very heavy to wear and my heel slips out. I’m sticking to my Taos Freedom shoes – introduced to me on your blog several years ago.

  9. Giensie
    January 23, 2017 / 7:09 am

    Somehow I am not drawn to this type of shoes, nor the lace up kind. Is it because I am Dutch? When I want shoes that are easy to take of I will wear ballerina style shoes, they suit me very well , are comfortable and can be worn by numerous types of clothing. Sorry, I am not wtih you on that. Otherwise I like your style

  10. Linda
    January 23, 2017 / 7:11 am

    I love the styling of these, but cannot wear them. I wear orthotics in my sneakers (and well all my shoes) and have to have a shoe that comes up higher on the heel. I wear Ecco. They are a great brand for someone with my feet problems. Feel sorry for me! I cannot wear heels ever!

    • Kelly
      January 23, 2017 / 10:24 am

      I have the Ecco Aimee – a version of the slip-on in a comfort brand that fits me well 🙂

  11. Lori
    January 23, 2017 / 7:21 am

    I tried to wear this type of shoe, but if looked I was wearing the box they came in as they made my feet look huge and my skinny feet flopped around in them. I appreciate the look on others, but I need lace ups or a different type of flat.

  12. Shannon in Austin, TX
    January 23, 2017 / 7:26 am

    Great suggestions! For the warm weather areas – similar https://www.suavshoes.com/ . These were created by an Austin woman to wear without socks in very warm weather. They have removable, washable insoles and the entire shoe is washable. I’m a very satisfied customer (no paid endorsement) and wear the 3 pairs I have frequently. Plus they are uni-sex and both my husband and teenage son wear them too! There are lots of looks at @suavshoes.

  13. Debra
    January 23, 2017 / 7:41 am

    Love the Vince Blair! I feel comfortable but not sloppy in them. A couple of years ago I took my sister to Paris and we wore them on alternate days; she made the mistake of bringing new-ish shoes which didn’t work as we walked, and walked, and walked (how lucky we wear the same shoe size!).

    Have you looked at the Everlane slip-ons? I love the slim, pointy toe and think that they’re going to be my next athleisure purchase. Everlane also has a pair of dressier sweats that I think would be perfect for a trans-Atlantic flight, in case you ever take one of those 🙂

    Love the shoes above. Going to check them out. Great post!

  14. January 23, 2017 / 8:39 am

    I’ve been a recent convert to these style shoes as they fit my present lifestyle. I prefer the lighter tops so the sole is less prominent. Those ones with the gold grommets look right up my alley, as do the Soludos. I do add an insole for arch support which makes a big difference in their comfort.

  15. Maite
    January 23, 2017 / 8:56 am

    Hah! Three months ago I found a pair of blue Vans in good condition next to the trash can at the skate park while walking the dogs. I tried them on and they fit. Took them home, ran them through the washer and they have not left my feet since, even though my husband hates them. So comfortable and they add a certain “je ne sais quoi” to my casual outfits…must be that skater energy!

  16. maryzunino
    January 23, 2017 / 9:18 am

    Nice selection, Susan. Have to be honest and say that this style is not for me, though they do look very comfy and stylish. It takes a certain lady to carry off this look, the tall and lean lady who looks like she sails and plays tennis, and I am not she! Perhaps this is a shoe I could just about get away with on Martha’s Vineyard …?

  17. Maria
    January 23, 2017 / 9:19 am

    Love it all, esp. the Tee and those shoes!!

  18. Lee Cavanaugh
    January 23, 2017 / 9:58 am

    I discovered the Flexx skater style at the end of last summer and I am about to get a second pair in navy nubuck. They work for me and my lifestyle but as someone with often problematical feet I completely understand why others may not be able to wear these. I have major problems with ballerina flats and I drool whenever my friends wear them.

  19. January 23, 2017 / 1:40 pm

    I can recommend slip on sneakers from Blukicks.com. They are comfortable, washable and have high arch support. I own 3 pairs as they are reasonably priced. Check out the cool soles. These are great for travel, too.

  20. Cathy D.
    January 23, 2017 / 3:39 pm

    It took me a while to warm up to sneakers, but now I love them. About a year ago, I tore a tendon in my foot. After casts, boots, physical therapy and lots of swelling and pain, I’ve been told by my doctor that I will probably have to wear sneakers (the lace-up kind made for people who pronate) with orthotics most of the time for the rest of my life. Initially I was shocked and depressed, but then I reflected on the fact that sneakers are incredibly popular. I decided to make the best of the situation, and to try to acquire a wardrobe that not only works with sneakers, but actually looks good. This has been an interesting experience and I’m still working on it. Fortunately my life is quite casual, which has made it easier. What I’ve realized is that most people who wear high heels, flip-flops, clogs and other shoes that are not firmly attached to the foot are in serious danger of having a foot injury, one that can stay with them for the rest of their life. I know most people don’t believe this can happen to them… until it does.

    So why do I love sneakers? Not only are they comfortable and good-looking, but they enable me to walk normally. Thank you, New Balance, who makes the kind I need in a narrow width. You can have a lot of fun coordinating your sneakers and laces with your outfit, and I get lots of compliments, more than I used to before my injury.

    • Louise
      January 23, 2017 / 9:06 pm

      I have the same problem and was saved by discovering finn comfort shoes. Very expensive but with every penny. They last forever. Their soho and cusco styles are quite stylish.

      • Cathy D.
        January 24, 2017 / 8:11 am

        Louise, thanks so much. I’m going to look into them.

  21. Donna
    January 23, 2017 / 5:57 pm

    Love these beauties, especially the sneakers. I recently bought a pair of Tieks after talking to a woman that had worn them all day when we were on vacation. There will be more for warmer weather, cute, and the perfect ballerina slipper but not sure if they were worth the price I paid for them. Anyone else tried these, love to hear your opinion.

  22. bellsonme
    January 23, 2017 / 10:09 pm

    I think I need the ones with the tigers on them.

    • bellsonme
      January 23, 2017 / 10:11 pm

      Ooh, just looked at the price. I think I need to admire those tiger shoes from a respectful distance!

  23. Ann
    January 24, 2017 / 3:31 am

    What a useful post! Susan, one thing I love about your blog is that you encourage me to dress both stylishly and *comfortably*. The comments above were useful, too, leading me to more than several creative new sourcers I’d never heard of before. Good crew.

  24. Kelly
    January 24, 2017 / 10:58 am

    I realized I commented about the shoes but not athleisure overall – I can only handle in very small tailored doses. I barely wear jeans, so to contemplate going out in “sweatpants” – nope, can’t do it!! However, my daily work wardrobe is often black slim ankle pant, tee, cardigan & ballet flats (I work in academia – I might get more dressed up for important meetings). So maybe I can do a jogger (in a nicer fabric) instead of the slim tailored ankle. Have to stay somewhat current in fashion while still true to personal style, right?!

  25. Helen
    March 22, 2017 / 8:32 pm

    Wow, amazing looking shoes. The fit, I am not so sure! After a nasty foot and knee injury nearly 10 years ago, I had to stop wearing anything that doesn’t give me good support. And when you look at what is out there to wear for us with all the feet problems, it becomes a nightmare – finding the right GOOD LOOKING SHOE!! because there is not such a thing for anyone with feet problems. Shoe manufacturers are missing a massive opportunity here to make good looking and comfortable shoes for the problem feet people. Any “feet” engineers out there? because I have ideas coming out my ears!!!

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