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Are Designers Side-Stepping the Sneaker Trend to Embrace Heels Again?

Women’s relationship status with high heels is “complicated.” However, that on again, off again relationship may be rekindled again soon, thanks in part to an abundance of dress footwear on Spring ’19 designer runways.

Chunky sneakers remained a core part of collections, but luxury players like Chanel, Louis Vuitton and Burberry gave women’s fashion footwear another go. Even Fila, which has buoyed back into the spotlight with its streetwear ‘It’ item the Disruptor II sneaker, scaled new heights with strappy metallic stilettos.

But will a stamp of approval from the runway be enough to boost the sales of high heels? In May, the NPD Group reported women’s sneaker sales increased 37 percent in 2017, while sales for high heels dropped 11 percent during the same period.

However, NPD data from last month revealed that strappy sandals, mules/clogs and fashion slides were among the top-performing women’s footwear styles for the first half of 2018. The styles may not be stilettos, per se, but show an inclination to silhouettes outside the sneaker mold.

Non-athletic footwear caught the eye of retail analytics firm Edited, which named white ankle boots, slouch boots and lace-up sandals among some of the notable trends from all of the international fashion weeks.

Designers injected color into spring collections by way of footwear. Christopher Kane opted for wearable kitten heels vamped up in red patent leather and lace. Buckles snaked up the foot of Sies Marjan’s sandals with pedestal heels.

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Transparency is shaping up to be a new neutral. Marc Jacobs balanced ’80s-inspired trapeze dresses, oversized floral ornaments and decadent ruffle collars with high glam wedge sandals with clear heels and uppers. Chanel went to the beach with an array of slides with transparent uppers—an elevated alternative to sport slides. Mary Katrantzou applied an industrial approach to transparent materials with pumps and strappy sandals with cylindrical clear heels.

Other designers tackled heels with an architectural eye. Fendi’s warped heels were a playground for odd color and material combinations. Similarly, Thom Browne platform wedge brogues took on a cartoon look with bold colors and shapes. Avant-garde wedge heels by Nicholas Kirkwood added a tech-y vibe to the designer’s spring collection inspired by sci-fi films.

Louis Vuitton, Richard Quinn and Alexander McQueen each took an unseasonably witchy turn with black patent leather stilettos. The shoes were edgy with metal spurs, rod-like heels, steel cap-toes and buckles.

And to mark his eponymous brand’s 25th anniversary, designer Giuseppe Zanotti returned to elements that have always characterized the brand: jewels, heels and feminine silhouettes. The “everyday red carpet” styles spanned sandals with heels of varying heights to sandals with asymmetrical heels set with baguette crystals.