Dainty heels and slim shoes, step aside: The newest footwear in town is chunky, funky and more than a touch punky.
The season's hippest boot and sneaker styles feature distinctive lug soles with deep, exaggerated grooves. Though they’re more for stomping than for sashaying, the Bigfoot-esque styles are having a huge moment in fashion and can be found at many price points by designers from Prada to Dior to Skechers.
“It’s tough-girl chic,” says Adam Glassman, creative director of “O, The Oprah Magazine.” That said, the new bulky look is certainly not just for girls. “They’re Oprah [Winfrey’s] boot of choice these days. She has three pairs,” says Glassman of his boss. He calls the chunky trend, “a throwback to the '90s when Dr. Martens were in.” They are back and bigger than ever now, with a new and more obvious lug sole. Today, he says, “it’s really a fashion statement, though it’s truly a blend of fashion and function.”
Shoe haven Jildor is selling lug sole styles briskly at its four locations in Cedarhurst, Woodbury, Greenvale and Southampton, according to buyer Joe Friedman, who suggests that the beefy bottoms are more than simply fashion forward. “They’re not just on-trend, they’re comfortable, durable and offer more flexibility when walking. And because many of the styles have platforms, they can add a little height too. Some even have an extra no-slip feature.”
Versatility is a factor too. Friedman adds, “you can dress them up or down. You can wear them with a dress, leggings, denim … that’s the beauty of the style.”
Kate Bellman, Nordstrom's footwear fashion director, agrees on the style’s adaptability. “Tough lugs blend fashion and utility with a strong-soled combat boot or sport-inspired hiking boot. We love that they’re versatile and can be paired with a long, feminine dress or denim.”
Wearing combat boot-like footwear instead of heels may take some getting used to. “It’s a new way of looking at proportion,” says Glassman. To wear lugs well, he says, “avoid head-to-toe military looks — it’s a bit ‘costume party.’ What you’re going for is really the juxtaposition between feminine and masculine. That’s what makes it fresh.”
Unsure? He suggests testing the look by unearthing a flowery dress from your summer wardrobe, topping it with a woolly cardigan and wearing the big shoes or boots with tights. (In a similar color to the footwear, please). Fall dresses, whether mini or midi, should be “floaty and flirty” to balance the substantial shoe.
And if pants are your thing, keep them slim. “Wear a lean silhouette — a legging, a stretch trouser that’s long and tight and tuck them into the boot. The shoes are so chunky that if you wear a baggy pant or boyfriend jean, they can make you look bigger at the bottom,” says Glassman.
As for those stilettos and sleek heels you’ve favored for years? “Give them a rest and put them in the back of your closet, but don’t get rid of them. They’ll be back,” he says. The time is right to show some swagger with bold footwear. “It is, after all, the year of the fierce woman."
When the rubber meets the road
Boots and shoes can be an investment, so how do lug soles wear? According to In Kim, a shoe repairman at Tony’s Shoe Repair in Manhasset, a go-to resource for high-end shoe and boot repairs, "the material itself is a synthetic rubber and is very strong, much stronger than any other material and extremely durable."
The good news? “It’s very hard to wear out,” he says. But when it does get beaten up, it’s generally not the same way a leather sole wears down. “It’s usually because of a rip, crack or chip,” says Kim. “Or it gets caught or scraped on concrete or a stair.” It can be fixed, but repairs can be pricey. Just the heel can run $25-$35, while a full foot can go up to $65.