Try walking a mile in someone else’s shoes. It’s undoubtedly difficult. But recently, thanks to trends like athleisure and collaborations between Kanye and Adidas, Rihanna and Puma, comfortable footwear is making it easier. And while 6 inch heels won’t ever completely disappear, they’re certainly becoming less popular.
Footwear itself has been a fast growing division of the accessories market in the past year with sales increasing 6% in 2016 to $79.7 billion. Within that, sports footwear represented 41% of total sales. But why are consumers drifting towards a shoe style that is far more practical than pretty? In 2015, “athleisure” became an official term in fashion vernacular. It meant sneakers worn to the boardroom, leggings worn as pants, and puffer jackets worn as statement outerwear. But it wasn’t just a declaration of changing fashions. It was a declaration of changing lifestyles. Wellness, fitness, and health also become more important to people. As the fashion industry debated what the true meaning of “luxury” was, the consumer began investing in their bodies, minds, and spirits.
In 2015, fitness guru Kayla Itsines began a worldwide tour for her famous “Bikini Body Guides.” Today she has over 7 million Instagram followers and is worth $46 million. More gyms and boutique workout classes have opened in the past two years than ever before, and more gadgets to help track your steps, heart rate, eating habits, and sleeping patterns are being marketed than thought possible. Whilst meditation apps and studios grow in popularity, their healthy eating counterpart is a multi-billion dollar business. The adoption of sportswear as everyday attire has gone from trend to a cultural norm, and with this shift in consumer attitudes, footwear with a blend of fashion and functionality will continue to perform well. Suffice it to say, the consumer cares about every aspect of their body, and investing in comfortable footwear is a huge part of it.
Over the past year (as we reported a few months ago), retailers have seen the increase in footwear sales outperform other accessory categories, especially low heeled and flat shoes. “We have really grown our flat shoe offering over the past few seasons from trainers to loafers to pointed toe flats and evening flats – not only do they feel more modern but our customer is also attracted to flat styles as they appeal to their busy lifestyles,” said MATCHESFashion.com’s Footwear Buying Manager, Cassie Smart. Brands like Sanayi313, Newbark, and Dear Frances have found success in their shoe silhouettes: babouche-inspired slippers, loafers, and low heeled slides respectively.
They all combine refreshing, new designs with beautiful materials and details. Think hand embellishments, unique leathers in interesting colorways and simple yet elegant features such as candy colored lucite heels. The common thread that binds them are their attractive design and wearability. Never has there been a time when so many chic—but still comfortable—footwear options have been available. You no longer have to sacrifice comfort for style, and the consumer doesn’t want to. Today, you can have anything, anytime, heel heights are no exception.