Sneakers are the workhorses in most people’s wardrobes. They can take a beating, are appropriate for almost all occasions, and require little effort to style. Since they’re a must-have shoe staple, the question then is how do brands keep the style feeling fresh season after season? An easy answer: Designers and retailers release new offerings in the latest colors and silhouettes each season or by periodic drops (in the hopes of enticing you to buy just one more pair).
For fall 2021, the sneaker trends touch on novelty — have you seen the space style? — as well as fashion with function. “Designers are innovating sneakers this season through an emphasis on shearling, metallics, and neutral tones in rich leathers and suedes. Luxe sneakers are the perfect way to showcase an elevated yet casual workplace style,” says Maya Sasaki Bryers, senior accessories editor at Neiman Marcus’ fashion & lifestyle office, to TZR.
Though there is a desire for the new, it’s important to note that many people, especially those who are still working from home, still crave comfort and functionality in the colder months. “[Nordstrom] customers want a chic pair of sneakers that they can style multiple ways: to wear to work, to run errands in, and then out to dinner that same evening,” says Anne Egan, vice president and divisional merchandise manager of designer women’s non-apparel at Nordstrom. After all, a sneaker that does the job of 10 pairs of shoes is one worth buying.
If you want to know what sneaker trends are in for fall/winter 2021, keep reading below. TZR tapped several industry experts to share key insights into what shoppers are actually buying. By the end of this post, you’ll want to add at least one new pair of sneakers into your footwear rotation — that’s a fact.
We only include products that have been independently selected by TZR’s editorial team. However, we may receive a portion of sales if you purchase a product through a link in this article.
“A departure from the OG ‘ugly’ sneaker made popular by Balenciaga’s Triple S, the tech dad has a distinctly retro flavor — think Princess Diana après gym. New Balance is the leader here with the 99,” says Harriet Hawksworth, editor-in-chief at Farfetch.
“This fall, [the Bandier shopper] is looking for injections of fashion in her footwear like Nike’s Air Force 1 high-tops. This footwear trend is perfect to combat any winter climate while maintaining a streetwear sensibility,” says Annie Chen, chief merchandising officer at Bandier.
“We’re seeing sports and outdoor gear blend into everyday fashion, which is causing a recent spike in demand for athletic sneakers. Performance shoes are no longer relegated to activities like running or hiking and have now become a staple on the street style scene. We’re seeing styles from Salomon, Asics, and Hoka One One currently rising in popularity,” says Kelly McSweeney, The RealReal’s shoes, handbags, and accessories merchandising manager.
“Sneakers are getting a serious upgrade for fall/winter. Pastel sneakers will continue to be a major trend for the season, giving women a fun way to add a bit of color into their fall looks,” says Will Cooper, senior vice president and general merchandise manager of women's shoes at Saks Fifth Avenue.
Precious Metals & Gems
“We are excited to see the use of embellishments and metallics in sneakers. I love the idea of dressing up an outfit with a pair of sneakers that sparkle and shine. Though we’ve seen a casualness of dressing over the last two years, the opposite is happening, too, with a formalization of this casualness,” says Egan.
The Space Shoe
“This is less of a sneaker and more of a design experiment on the future of footwear. This style is not for the faint of heart,” says Hawksworth.
“We are seeing women adding fresh silhouettes like skate shoes, high-tops, and the sneaker-boot hybrids into their wardrobes as an alternative to the typical boot for the colder months ahead,” shares Cooper.