Ah, the ’90s: Nirvana, Clueless, patchouli and flannel. And, oh yeah, some truly horrific shoes. After all, the footwear fashion of Generation X was a bizarre mishmash of either looking like you were about to go clean your garage or meet a really tall visitor from outer space.
Casual rubber sandals were the rage, but then so were kicks that sparkled, lit up, rolled and bounced. There were shoes that strove for an au naturel look, like moccasins and Birkenstocks, and shoes that looked so plastic that they’d surely melt to your feet if you stood too close to a fire. Here, then, we gather together some of the funniest and most bizarre ’90s shoes – so crank up the Alanis, put on a toe ring and let your feet relive their glory days.
20. Foam platform sandals
Remember that time we thought it would be incredibly sexy to stomp around on foam platform sandals? Yep, we cringe at the thought, too. Still, these shoes made dancing to Lisa Loeb extra dangerous – which also made it extra fun.
19. Heeled jelly sandals
Clearly we didn’t get enough of a jelly fix during the ’80s and so needed to go the extra step by adding thick heels to these plastic monstrosities during the following decade. What were we thinking?
18. Dr. Martens sandals
One day in the ’90s someone was like, “Hey, what if we wear shoes that look like giant leather picnic baskets?” And everyone was like, “Great idea!” Dr. Martens sandals were a huge hit, but perhaps more memorable than their look was their stink after multiple wears. Hurl.
17. Sugar Shoes Floaties
Judging by their love of both sandals and plastics, it seems like Generation X really wanted to be able to hop into the shower at any moment. And the inexplicably popular Sugar Shoes Floaties may have been comfortable, but they were also truly ugly.
16. Chinese Laundry flip-flops
Chinese Laundry flip-flops: for those special occasions when you thought, “Having a straw base to my beach shoes will really add some flare to this outfit!”
15. Steve Madden sandals
These shoes epitomize ’90s fashion. After all, practically every woman from that period can easily recall the feel of that gross synthetic stretch of vamp.
14. John Fluevog “Munster” shoes
So named for the classic TV show about a family of monsters, the John Fluevog “Munster” platform was a heinously witchy bit of footwear. And the company has actually since brought out an anniversary reissue of this shoe – so if you’d still like to look like you ride a broom to work, they’re available!
13. Candie’s clogs
As you might have guessed by now, the ’90s were all about clunky-looking footwear – and Candie’s clogs certainly fit that mold. Even more alarmingly, they sometimes came with an awful floral design on top.
Skechers is still on the go today but, fortunately, it’s since updated its designs. After all, although its ’90s footwear was considered so cool at the time, in hindsight its shoes were more hideous than hip.
11. Shiny Airwalks
Airwalks were the perfect choice of sneaker when you wanted to look like a back-up dancer for Bell Biv Devoe. And the more vibrantly colored kicks had extra sheen for extra awfulness.
10. Adidas sports sandals
For many Gen X-ers, the sight of Adidas sports sandals will instantly transport you back to your college quad, watching frat boys race to class in these little numbers. As an added style statement, they were often paired with white socks. Hot!
9. LA Gear light-up sneakers
Nothing says chic like lights in your high tops, right? LA Gear light-up sneakers were perfect for when you wanted to go jogging, er, in the middle of the night.
8. Birkenstock sandals
Flopping around in these brown Birkenstock Jesus sandals sent out a clear message in the ’90s: you were on your way to Lilith Fair and you reeked of patchouli oil.
Extra comfy and super ridiculous, moccasin shoes usually had filthy bottoms and colored beads as accents. And they added an interesting Native American vibe to your look – a look, moreover, which probably included bell bottoms and a bellybutton ring.
You can still catch some dudes of today in bucks-style footwear. During the ’90s, though, these casual dress shoes were popular among Ivy League hopefuls, as they managed to convey that you were both a conservative dresser and a future douchebag.
Creepers were popular with the goth and ska crowds back in the day, despite them being kind of a combo of your dad’s golf shoes and platforms. And, rather unfortunately, they’ve since had a small resurgence in popularity due to them being spotted on the feet of both Rihanna and Miley Cyrus.
The award for most absurd/awesome example of 90s footwear would have to go to Heelys. These sneakers with hidden wheels allowed every American sixth grader to glide through the halls of their elementary school with grace and ease.
3. Reebok Pumps
Reebok Pumps seemed like the ultimate in cutting-edge shoe technology back in the day. Shoes that came with a built-in pump! That you could customize to your own feet! They came in all kind of weird colors and were big favorites among NBA players. Nowadays, though, they’re a lot more tame and all the better for it.
These LA Gear sneaks were part of the special Paula Abdul line, back when she was known more for “Straight Up” than judging American Idol hopefuls. These ultra-feminine kicks even featured hidden flowers that only became visible in the sun. Adorable? Or vomit-worthy?
1. Moon Shoes
Perhaps the most hilarious and bonkers of all ’90s footwear, Moon Shoes were bouncy plastic shells that you attached to your feet. And they not only made you feel like you were walking on the moon but made you look like an absolute tool as well. Win-win!