12 Shoe Trends That Defined the 2000s

By now, anyone keeping tabs on fashion is well aware that we are in the midst of a Y2K fashion revival, and the comeback has only just begun. As we go further into the ’20s, it’s likely that the nostalgic trend will continue to grow even more, with Gen Z delving further into the archives to pull out more than just the crop tops, low-rise jeans, butterfly motifs and thong sandals that we’ve already seen over the past year.

On the runways, too, designers were eager to put their own spin on Y2K fashion, reinterpreting the era through a new lens. From LaQuan Smith’s sexed-up silhouettes and Brandon Maxwell’s groovy prints and polo shirts to Miu Miu’s ultra-low mini skirts and Versace’s neon colors and scarf prints, it’s clear that hindsight is exceptionally optimistic —  and especially ripe for post-pandemic “revenge fashion.”

But what exactly were the shoe trends of aughts — and how are they influencing fashion today? Sure, there are a few obvious options, such as the prevailing influence of the Steve Madden slinky sandal on both the ’90s and the first years of the 2000s. And the 2000s were the decade when flip-flops became an actual footwear choice for environments other than the beach or the pool. It was also the definitive decade of Ugg.

But a closer look back at the decade’s footwear shows that there were plenty of other trends to choose from. Below, a look at the top 12 shoe trends of the 2000s, how they defined the decade and will continue to influence in the coming years.

1. Square toe sandals

Most 2000s-era teens lived in platforms and chunky shoes of some sort, but the more grown-up look came from a square toed sandal, often paired with a kitten heel for a more delicate look. Worn with day and evening looks alike, it was a defining silhouette of the earlier half of the decade — and is proving that it might be the same for the early 2020s.

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Sarah Michelle Gellar at the David Letterman Show, 2002, in square toed heels.

2. Ugg, Ugg and more Ugg

When it comes to aughts-era footwear, there was Ugg and then there was everything else. Australian surfer Brian Smith may have brought the sheepskin boot to the California in the ’80s, but it wasn’t until 2000 when they really hit critical mass in the U.S., especially when Oprah introduced them as one of her Oprah’s Favorite Things on her show. By 2003, the company had yearly sales of nearly $40 million.

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Nick Carter and Paris Hilton at the Miami airport, 2004. Ugg were a staple of the heiress’s uniform during the early aughts.
CREDIT: Splash

3. Clear shoes

Back in the aughts, clear heels gained the very un-PC moniker of “stripper heels,” but many were actually very everyday-wearable, done in lower platforms, a slide silhouette and — much like we see now — with clear PVC accents only here and there. More popular in the early years of the decade, they were made by the likes of LEI, Mudd and Mootsie’s Tootsies. Now, the accents are regularly seen on statement heels.

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Britney Spears at the 2000 Teen Choice Awards wearing a pair of wood-soled lace-up heels with clear PVC toe straps.

4. Super-pointy pumps

What Uggs were to denim miniskirts, pointy pumps were to bootcut jeans. The classic pump was a staple in dressing up “going out” tops and bootcut jeans for a more sophisticated night on the town in the early- to mid-2000s. With the square-toe sandal having dominated for the past few years, a super-pointy pump is due for a revival.

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Juliette Lewis at the L.A. premiere of “Adaptation” wearing a then-familiar combination of low-rise jeans and pointy-toed heels.

5. Thongs

Thong platforms crossed over from the late ’90s into the early 2000s as means of taking a casual look and adding a bit of a statement. But as the aughts went on, the classic flat thong sandal (better known in the U.S. as the flip flop, as another “thong” trend was simultaneously taking off) reigned supreme, on both celebs and the masses. The trend is has been making a fast comeback in the past year with elevated, novelty takes on the style, often done in leather.

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Lindsay Lohan shopping at Ron Herman in L.A. in 2005 wearing denim shorts and flip flops.

6. The T-strap

The retro shoe style has long been out of fashion, but a look back at the mid-2000s shows that they were a consistent hit on the red carpet — and thus could make a comeback in this decade.

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Mischa Barton at the season finale party for “The OC” in 2004, wearing a pair of T-strap, ankle-wrap heels.
CREDIT: Splash

7. Ballet flats

In 2006, Tory Burch introduced her Reva, a flexible ballet-inspired flat that came in a host of hues and was topped with a gigantic circular logo hardware piece on the toe, which became a little like the shoe status equivalent of the Mercedes-Benz hood logo. Plenty of knock-off ballet flats followed, but there remained only one Reva.

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Blake Lively with then-boyfriend Penn Badgley in 2008, wearing a pair of then-ubiquitous ballet flats.
CREDIT: Splash

8. Platform pumps

Somewhere around 2007, fashion brands like Yves Saint Laurent, Gucci, Prada and even Chanel began to affix a tiered platform to the bottom of their leather pumps. Some of the platforms were hidden in the sole, while others look like they were hammered on as an attachment. Many of them had a peep toe, which is also due for a comeback any year now.

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Nicole Richie attending a Marc Jacobs fashion show in 2007 wearing platform pumps.
CREDIT: Splash

9. Strappy sandals

There isn’t really a decade in the modern history of women’s fashion that does not include a strappy sandal — how could one resist their universally flattering end result? The early aughts had plenty of the strappy sandals with kitten heels that are currently back, while the the shoe became progressively chunkier — in heel, platform and thickness of straps — as the decade progressed.

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Beyoncé at the 2004 MTV VMAs wearing strappy gold sandals to match her all-gold look. The decade began with more delicate versions of the perennial shoe style and became chunkier, with thicker straps and heels, as the decade progressed.
CREDIT: Splash

10. The riding boot

Brown leather knee-high boots in sensible heels were a staple of the decade — and we’re still seeing its effects today. It may have even secretly influenced the rise of the skinny jean and the legging, as women found it difficult to tuck their bootcut and flared jeans into the boots, even when they were slouchy.

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Rachel Bilson at LAX in 2007 in a cognac riding boot.
CREDIT: Splash

11. Converse All-Stars

The perennial sneaker dips in and out of the trend cycle but halfway through the decade, they were firmly placed back in the footwear zeitgeist. Teens and tweens — including Selena Gomez — rocked them with gray-black skinny jeans, tank tops and vests.

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Ashlee Simpson shopping in Beverly Hills in 2009 wearing skinny jeans and black Converse All Stars

12. Gladiator and cutout bootie-sandals

The 2000s was the decade of the hybrid heel and it evolved from beginning to end. Straps on sandals grew thicker to become more of a cutout and caged look, encompassing the idea of both the spine-like gladiator sandal and the silhouette of a high-heeled ankle bootie. Flat styles went all-in on the gladiator reference, decked out fringed suede, beads

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Lauren Conrad at the MTV Movie Awards in 2009 wearing the cutout sandal booties that dominated the end of the decade.
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