The Chunky Trend – How Long Will It Last?

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Chunky sneakers, bulky footwear or dad-shoes – the trend comes with many names and in multiple facets. One thing is certain, though, sole units have been getting bigger and footwear design comes with more layers and material than ever. The “chunky” trend is big and it’s contagious, and fashion brands like Balenciaga aren’t just following but defining the trend. And with sole units growing to extreme proportions it’s only natural that we ask ourselves: How long will this trend continue? We’ve decided to ask a few people who are involved in the industry – designers, store owners, editors and brand managers. Here’s what they came up with.


Erik Fagerlind (Co-Founder, Sneakersnstuff)
Chunky Sneakers Trend - Erik Fagerlind

Is chunky a short-lived trend or something that’s going to stay with us?
It has been here for a while already. I think the hype is over, so the over exaggerated versions we will see less of. But “normalized” versions will be a thing for a wider audience for a longer while.

Do you have a favorite chunky shoe?
Hate them or love them, but the Balenciagas took it somewhere else. They didn’t start it, but they took it further. I giggled a bit over the Nike Monarch moment.

What do you see coming after chunky sneakers?
Parallel to chunky, we’ve seen tech. Usually the counter-trends are the opposite of what is out there now. So, a pretty good guess could be more sleek design, and more low-tech. But these are exciting times as the consumer are more in the driver seat of trends than the industry – so it could swing in many different ways.


Till Jagla (Head of Energy, adidas Originals)

Till, adidas is at the forefront of the trend towards more chunky silhouettes and a lot of these shoes are coming straight from the archives. How do you see this trend evolving?
I believe that we are talking about something that is bigger than just a trend. adidas has always tried to move the market through top notch technology which sometimes led to very unique designs. However especially these very special products often offer the most substance for modern design interpretations.

Which particular shoes best represent this segment?
Every brand has interesting designs in their archive. For me there are plenty of shoes from adidas that are so sick. The OG version of Ozweego 2, Supernova or OZone for example or plenty of Feet You Wear Models are nice as well. But for me nothing competes with the early 2000’s, when adidas invested a lot into real visual tec. The adidas ONE, A3, Megaride, Bounce and Microbounce.

Do you think we’ve reached the peak?
I would rather call it a plateau, as I believe that we will see more good shoes in that category coming our way. There are just too many treasures in the archives. I think that the luxury brands will move on as the dynamic of the fashion market is even more crazy as in the sneaker market.

What do you see coming after chunky sneakers?
Every tend provokes a counter trend. I would bet money that we see “Flatforms” soon on the catwalks. Personally, I could skip that trend if this really happens.

Chunky Sneakers Trend - Till Jagla

Daniel Bailey (Designer & founder, Concept Kicks)

When did you first realize that there was such a thing as a dad shoe or chunky shoe trend?
I remember seeing a lot more volume in sole units, which seemed to be stemming from a few adidas Y-3 and Nike models, most notably the Roshe Run. I think the proportions on that unit had a big effect on fashion houses beginning to adopt that look, and seeing as older “dad” sneakers used to have fairly high volume sole units it was a matter of time till they gravitated to that.

How long is it going to stay with us?
I think it’s going to stay for a little while longer, we’ll then start to see it transition into something a little different but based on similar proportionality. For this time around with trends like this be cyclical and for what we consider dad shoes to be right now, I think the trend has peaked ­– It’ll be interesting to see what it morphs into from here though.

What do you see coming after chunky sneakers?
I think it’ll transition into cross functional, hybridized forms – a dressier aesthetic, but with a more aggressive, streetwear proportion, volume and utility. I think it’ll be a diverse mix.

Chunky Sneakers Trend - Daniel Bailey

Matt Welty (Editor, Complex)

When did you first realize the chunky trend?
I’ve always been into chunky sneakers, to be honest. New Balance, Nike Footscapes, Saucony, Air Max 95s … But once the whole industry turned into knitted sock shoes, I got really tired of the minimalist trend.

Do you consider it a short-lived trend?
Everything comes and goes. It won’t be chunky sneakers forever as a mainstream trend. The Fila Disruptor, thankfully, won’t be worn by everyone next year. But there will always be a place for regular sneakers.

Which particular sneakers from this segment are favorites?
To me, the New Balance 990 series is the only “dad” shoe that matters, because it’s an actual performance shoe that’s not trying to be part of the trend. It is the trend.

Have we reached the peak and if yes, why?
I think it can’t get any more absurd than it is right now. Nike is putting multiple soles on sneakers. Literally can’t go up anymore. Puma is creating faux-retro dad shoes, and they’re all awful.

Chunky Sneakers Trend - Matt Welty

What do you see coming after chunky?
I think we may go back to the classic sneaker trend: Stan Smith, ‘70s runners, tennis shoes, suede adidas. You see a bit of that coming back into trend right and I think it will be the next move.


Steven Smith (Designer of the NB1500 and Yeezy models)
Chunky Sneakers Trend - Steven Smith

Steven, you have contributed to the dad shoe trend in your own way. Where do you think it will go from here?
I don’t think it’s dead yet. I think it has just gotten more accessible. I see younger girls wearing the Fila Disruptor which is a great choice. I think like most other trends it will morph into other things. Comfort and durability are what it speaks to so I can see it continuing. they represent value and who doesn’t like a good value?

What’s your favorite of the chunkier silhouettes?
I think the original New Balance 900 series is the category king. The Yeezys have been a great catalyst to ignite the trend.

What do you see coming after chunky sneakers?
That’s a good question. I think it will be more of a broad exploration of heights and other influences.


Daniel Benz (Founder, asphaltgold)
Chunky Sneakers Trend - Daniel Benz

Dani, how do you see the chunky segment evolving?
I’m looking at two trends that need to be differentiated. Chunky is much louder and is short-lived. Dad-shoes have been there forever and have simply made it from the BBQ to the scene. I see a lot more permanence in the latter.

Do you have any favorite silhouettes?
The most iconic and probably most consequential chunky sneaker is the Balanciaga Triple S. Personally, I’m much more into dad shoes because in most cases they are sneakers with a sports heritage. The New Balance 990 and 991 are king and queen to me.

Do you see any signs of the trend coming to an end?
Loud and chunky models have seen their peak in demand. In the last three to four season we’ve seen a whole lot. It’s almost impossible to set yourself apart with a chunky model. That being said, I think classics will be coming back strongly.

What do you see coming after chunky sneakers?
I wouldn’t buy into the low profile trend right now. I think it will be a bit more diverse again, but at the same time a return to classic running, court and Bball styles. I see white sneaker and premium fabrics coming strongly.


Kasper Rasmussen (Co-Founder, Arkk Copenhagen)

Kasper, where do you see the chunky silhouettes in the cycle of trends?
The trend has definitely moved from the runway where it was a few years agointo the mainstream in 2019. As it continues to be accepted, I think we’re going to see this trend get more playful and even more extreme before it goes away.

Arkk is a new brand compared to the established sportswear brands like adidas. Where do you position yourself with regards to chunky or sleek? We have seen a bit both from your brand, haven’t we?
With the Raven, we were at the start of our journey and we had a lot to learn. It was necessary that our first sneaker design was clean, simple, and straightforward. Therefore, the Raven will always be the foundation of the ARKK journey. But now, five years later, with the Kanetyk, Lyron, and other “chunkier” styles we have in development, we’re moving far beyond the simplicity of the Raven and definitely adding complexity: more materials, more layers, more colors and technology.

What do you see coming after chunky sneakers?
I see two things coming in after chunky: first of all, a revolution back to more slim and lightweight silhouettes in the lifestyle segment, and secondly, a continued merging of athleisure styling with mainstream and casual fashion.


– Title illustration by Josh Parkin

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