Top Shoe Styles of the 1980s

The 1980s had its own distinct style and fashion, as with every age and decade. The fashion of the 1980s was unique and included everything from spandex to big hair with bangs to flipped up collars and polos. Big hair and neon-colored clothing were undoubtedly popular throughout this decade, which many people refer to as “big and bright.” 

Bohemian, versatile, preppy, jelly, and inflated are just a few of the adjectives used to describe 80s footwear. The fashion landscape of the 1980s also featured a lot of footwear. Mostly because of a significant cult film presence, introduction of mainstream hip-hop, and the rising acceptance of athlete endorsement deals. There were countless fashion options to suit almost every style.

Top Shoe Styles of the 1980s

They claim you can tell a lot about someone by looking at their shoes. The 1980s were undoubtedly the time when that adage was most accurate. The decade that gave us shoulder pads, hair that really doesn’t care, and hair metal also gave us a broad variety of shoe styles and fashions, both new and old. Here are a handful of the most popular shoes that you can find in malls everywhere in the 1980s.

Converse All Stars/Chuck Taylors

The Chuck Taylor All-Stars, named after the American semi-pro basketball player, were developed as a basketball shoe for the first time in 1922. They mostly performed that function until the 1980s. Chuck Taylor had no idea that their shoes would end up being worn more casually and in a retro way, especially by musicians and artists. Additionally, they would come to represent 80s pop culture. Onstage and in music videos, groups like the Rolling Stones and the Mighty Mighty Bosstones rocked the shoe. The cult films Back to the Future and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off from the 1980s also contributed to the popularity of the canvas high-top.


The Minnetonka Moccasins were a staple of every 1980s closet. The Mocs with their traditional Native American beadwork were all the rage at the time because of the widespread Urban Cowboy style. The moccasins were in a class of their own as far as 1980s fashion was concerned. The sole of the shoe was durable enough to protect your feet while still allowing you to feel the ground comfortably. The shoes also served a versatile role in addition to being comfortable. They were therefore versatile enough to go with any style, even though Bohemian Chic fashionistas commonly wore them.

Reebok Pumps

The Reebok Pump was the only other athletic shoe to succeed in breaking the Nike/Air Jordan monopoly; it was introduced near the end of the decade. The shoe was the first of its kind to come equipped with a pump system that let users “pump” air into the shoe to increase ankle support. Dominique Wilkins, Michael Jordan’s on-court rival, was chosen by Reebok to be the face of their advertising campaign. Additionally, Reebok tacked a steep $170 price tag on the sneaker when it was first introduced in 1989. Both moves were brilliant. Dominique was popular with the general public. Additionally, even if spending $170 on a pair of sneakers is regarded as being excessively pricey, the shoe’s status symbol appealed to many people. As a result, Nike was expecting sales of $10 million for their Air Pressure inventory by the end of 1990, while Reebok was expecting sales of $500 million for their Pump footwear.


Which of the fashionable shoes from the 1980s was inexpensive, unique, and had glitter built right in? Of course, jelly shoes! The fact that Preston Haag Sr. discovered the shoe on a 1981 trip to South Africa is all the credit that can be given for their presence in 1980s fashion. The shoes made their debut at the World’s Fair in 1982, and by 1983, Bloomingdales had them in stock and they were flying off the racks. They were a terrific bargain since they were only offered for $1! Rain never posed a problem because they were also water-resistant. An 80s fashionista’s dream is realized when you add the numerous neon colors that are readily accessible with a splash of glitter.


After hearing their sister moan about her hurting feet when she returned home from school, three brothers decided to start the Ked Shoe Company in 1916. They named the shoe “Ked” because they wanted to design something that was easy to put on and take off and would work for school children’s needs.

Cheerleaders in the 1980s were probably sporting Keds if you ever went to an athletic event where they performed. Have you ever seen the popular television program Full House? You probably saw D.J. and Stephanie wearing Keds inside the Tanner residence. However, the fact that the shoe was prominently featured in the 1989 movie Dirty Dancing is the main reason why the majority of us are familiar with it. In the movie, Jennifer Grey’s character, “Baby,” performed some of her dirtiest dances while wearing the canvas shoe.

More women became interested when they saw Baby wearing the sneakers with khakis and denim shorts. Keds were no longer merely a kid’s shoe; they now also appealed to working mothers, professional ladies, and young women looking for a basic sneaker. In addition, the pricing was far more appealing at $20 per pair than what Nike and Reebok were promoting! Keds’ retail sales increased from $60 million in 1986 to $227 million in 1989 as a result of all of this.

Air Jordans

Before the number 23 ever claimed his first NBA title (or even finished his rookie season), he made a fortune with a lucrative endorsement deal with Nike for the Air Jordan. Even yet, Michael Jordan hadn’t exactly lived up to the shoe’s name. Nike, however, gambled on his potential to “fly” (due in large part to the balloon in the heel that was filled with compressed gas to provide additional comfort and support) by using advertisements, hype, marketing, and promotion. They even paid the NBA’s $5,000-per-game fine for Jordan’s violation of the league’s uniform and color code by wearing the shoes during games.


People fell in love with Sean Penn’s character Spiccoli and the checkerboard Vans he wore in the 1982 film Fast Times at Ridgemont High. Demand for the sneaker increased after viewers saw Spiccoli smack himself in the head with it in the movie’s trailer. Vans, however, were more than just a craze in pop culture. The Two Tone wave, the second incarnation of Ska music, was gaining popularity. The Toasters and the Specials were prominently featured bands. As the preferred shoe of the subculture, Vans, with their dual-colored checkerboard pattern, also came to represent unity.

Adidas Campus

The Beastie Boys, pioneers of hip-hop, became the face of the Adidas Campus after band members Ad-Rock and Mike D were seen donning the suede low-tops for the Beastie Boys Check Your Head album. “More Adidas shoes than a plumber’s got pliers,” is a line from the song “Shadrach.” The shoe became popular in the 1980s due to the group’s allegiance to it, without a doubt. Even after Adidas stopped producing the sneakers in 1987, they kept wearing them.

Colorful Pointy High Heels

Following their introduction to the catwalk and Hollywood by designers like Manolo Blahnik, high heels gained popularity in the 1980s. Therefore, it was only a matter of time before they were the popular shoe for a night out. It would not have been a genuine shoe of the 1980s if the women didn’t step out with a pop of pink or yellow on their stilettos since, as we all know, color was all the rage back then.

Penny Loafers

The penny loafer was undoubtedly the most distinctive shoe style from the 1980s. They were created in the 1930s primarily for practical purposes. No other shoe, after all, was made to fit a penny. If you ever needed to use a phone booth for an emergency call, those two cents would be quite helpful. The showy and rebellious teen culture that dominated the 1980s stood in stark contrast to the penny loafer as the decade came to a close. Prep school, affluence, and confidence were symbolized by the shoe. Even the wolves of Wall Street wore them.


Every decade has had a shoe or pair of shoes that have become a staple of fashion. However, compared to earlier decades, the 80s appeared to have a wider variety of shoes. And those of us who were present got to enjoy a fantastic journey across the decade.