80s Retro Shoes

1980's pink yellow blue shoes
Bright sneakers were all the rage.

Harkening back to the days when jelly shoes were cool and Marty McFly's Nike sneakers were all the rage, 80s shoes bring back some truly memorable fashion moments. Like all decades, of course, it was a mixed bag - some trends best forgotten, others embraced even today.

Popular Brands

A montage of 80s memorabilia would undoubtedly include everything from banana clips to armfuls of Swatch watches. And on the models' feet, there would be plenty of jelly shoes, boat shoes, colorful high tops, and penny loafers, to name just a few. Of course, there were many labels that made names for themselves during this era of distinctive fashion. What stands out most, perhaps, is the role shoes played during the '80s, and the strong statements they made through use of brilliant color and unusual designs. Some of the popular brands of the day included:

  • Adidas: The classic black tennis shoe with the white stripes on the side
  • British Knights: Skater shoes, both high top and tennis style
  • Converse: The classic Chuck Taylor high tops in a range of bright and florescent colors
  • Doc Martens: Eight, 10, or 15 hole boots with waterproof soles
  • L.A. Gear: Tennis and high top sneakers with bright colors and laces
  • Monkey Boots: Brown leather ankle boots with a soft sole
  • Pony: Men's athletic shoes
  • Spot-Bilt: Athletic cleats
  • Trax (a K-Mart brand): Brightly colored sneakers in suede and nylon

Shoes Styles of the 80s

Most shoe brands worn throughout the 80s were found in one of several popular styles.


Sneakers, in particular, were some of the most beloved shoes of the 80s. Among the brands that really took this particular genre by storm were Reebok, Converse, and Adidas. Converse was noteworthy because of the numerous colors available - it wasn't unusual for someone to have several pairs in the closet, and they were truly some of the most fashion-forward shoes of the day.

Women loved their bold pumps.
Women loved their bold pumps.

Not only did they appeal to individuals of all ages, they attracted legions of male and female fans. Sneakers in general were statement pieces. Kids would often scribble artwork on bare sides to add a touch of unique flair to their footwear (or, more likely, to fit in with the crowd). Women knew their Reebok high-top aerobic shoes weren't just for dance class (Jazzercise, naturally) - they work them everywhere. High-tops were worn with everything from miniskirts and off-the-shoulder sweatshirts to jeans and t-shirts. The shoe may be remembered well for its snug Velcro straps just over the tongue.

Jelly Shoes

Another style synonymous with hot 80s shoes were jellies. It wasn't just young girls who adored these rubber shoes. Women of all ages found favor with their rainbow-inspired colors. Some styles were infused with glitter and delivered serious sparkle to any outfit. No matter what style they were, though, they were always the perfect partners for a pair of beaded socks.


A very necessary element of the working woman's wardrobe was the pump. With their heavily padded shoulders, tapered pants, and silky blouses (completely with floppy bow at the neck), power suits needed something extra to provide a little balance. A sexy, smart pump was the obvious answer. Of course, pumps were favored by many women in the 80s, not just professionals. Women could often be found sporting vividly colored pumps (think yellow and turquoise) with frilly ankle socks. It was just one of many ways to wear the shoes that would eventually become a defining part of the decade's major fashion moments.

80's Boots
Fashionable 80s Boots


Many people may closely associate Doc Martens with the grunge trend of the 90s, but the shoes were extremely popular during the 80s - and perhaps a bit more versatile, too. Though the shoe has always been the sturdy, "old reliable" type, it made a place for itself nearly everywhere during the 80s. Artists like Cyndi Lauper made it cool to wear the chunky, masculine-style shoe with frilly skirts, and eventually Doc Martens were even designed in various prints. Males and females alike loved the shoe.

Penny Loafers

The 1980s were also the decade when penny loafers ingratiated with the mainstream and became a symbol of sorts for the preppy fashion movement. Middle and high school students also sported the shoe, complete with an inserted penny.

Where to Purchase

If you're intrigued by 80s footwear, you're not alone. In fact, you're in such good company that many of the brands popular during the 80s have returned in full force, reintroducing the shoes that were once all the rage. Check out Adidas, Converse and L.A. Gear for just a taste of what's available. The biggest difference now is the price tag, but for some it may end up being a small price to pay to go fashionably back in time. However, if your heart is set on something truly vintage, head straight to eBay. You'll find a vast selection, but be prepared to pay a pretty penny for some of the more desirable items.

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80s Retro Shoes