3 Outfits That Prove Backless Sneakers Are Underrated

I completely forgot about my prized middle school possession–backless slide-on sneakers that were blue suede with a black stripe down the front–until two weeks ago when I stopped by Mikaela’s apartment to drop something off, and noticed a similar pair lined by the front door. With a rush, I remembered how unexpectedly versatile a slide-on sneaker is–not to mention the fact that is has all the good parts of a sneaker, with the bonus of being slightly more stylized. I asked Mikaela if she would be opening to demonstrating their magic by collaborating on a mini style shoot with me, and she agreed with enthusiasm. Below is the result, accompanied by a conversation about our shared love for backless sneaks and some thoughts on how to wear them. –Elizabeth

Elizabeth: When I stopped by your home the other day, I noticed a pair of slide-on backless Nike sneakers that TOOK ME BACK. I had a blue suede pair years ago and I hadn’t thought about them until I saw your pair by your front door. Can you tell me about yours? Where do you wear them? Why did you buy them?

Mikaela: Hiii! First of all—you literally had blue suede shoes, like the song?? Fantastic.

Eliz: Oh, yes.

Mikaela: Unsurprised. You fashionista, you. So, the shoes! It’s funny you noticed them because they’re just my “bodega shoes,” that I’ve had since the early 2000s. I truly don’t recall them ever NOT being in my life… one day, they just kind of appeared. But I guess that’s the case when you’re the youngest kid. They’re a size too small, so it’s clear that my past self jacked them from my older sister. Youngest kids always end up with the best hand-me-downs.

Eliz: It’s true. I got a lot of my sister’s growing up. Actually–sneakers in particular. I guess it’s because they only get better as you wear them.

Mikaela: Yes! Something about a sneaker’s structure just ages like fine wine–I don’t mind if my sneakers look a lil’ ratty. My Air Maxes are shot and torn, but I love that about them! And you can’t tell in photos.

Eliz: The nostalgia hit me when I saw them, but they also made me newly aware of a hole in my shoe wardrobe. I only want to wear closed-toe shoes in general right now, so I can walk as far as I need to comfortably, and because I love how sneakers look styled with summer dresses–but historically that’s meant missing out on the ease of a slip-on sandal. I really feel like backless sneakers are the solution?

Mikaela: YES to all of the above. It wasn’t until I put those black Converse on with the slip dress that I realized how perfect that combination is.

Eliz: It’s such a good combo, and the backless element makes the look feel more summery than it would if the dress was paired with normal sneakers. I also like how the sportiness of that particular style juxtaposes with the flowy, lightweight sweetness of the slip.

Mikaela: Yes, and the backless look makes the outfit a little more unconventional. We’ve reached a peak with the slip dress + chunky sneaker combo, and the 3 wing 4 in me always wants to look a little ~different~ from the norm.

Eliz: Were they easy to walk in without sliding around?

Mikaela: My old ones are tough because they’re not my size, so I can’t make it far without them slipping, but that’s why they’re my bodega shoe. When I’m wearing the correct size, I find them very easy to walk in, and am much less prone to slippage than a traditional slide sandal.

Eliz: In addition to styling them with dresses, I also love pairing them with pants that naturally slope down in the back so it’s not obvious the shoes are backless until you start walking. And then it’s a fun surprise!

Mikaela: Hahaha yes! We love to keep the people guessing. Those pants combined with the slipper sneakers made me feel like I was wearing the most luxurious and fashionable pair of pajamas in my life. And I mean that as the highest compliment.

Eliz: I love those pants so much, too. That elastic waist band and big cuff. They’re by DIARRABLU and there’s also a matching top available. I think we should officially start calling that style “slipper sneakers.” They’re the ultimate loungewear of footwear–but you can still go outside in them.

Mikaela: Okay I’m going to have to snag that top ASAP. And yes, slipper sneakers are the backless sneakers’ bougie, sleepwear-loving cousin! Time to bring the loungewear to your feet, people. This outfit was definitely my favorite. I felt like that effortlessly chic, cool girl you see on the train. You just wanna be her friend, or know where she’s going! The knit top elevated it, but the sneakers kept it comfortable and approachable.

Eliz: Yes yes yes! Cool Subway Girl = the ultimate goal!

Mikaela: I hope I’ve been someone’s Cool Subway Girl before.

Eliz: Same. And those were your good ol’ bodega shoes! Their time to shine.

Mikaela: They never thought they’d see the day!!!

Eliz: LOL. And what about outfit number three: the mini skirt ensemble?

Mikaela: Oh you mean my Dionne from Clueless cosplay??! ICONIC.

Eliz: That’s the one!

Mikaela: I loved this outfit. The dainty sneakers kept it preppy without looking too tennis-y (but also, there’s nothing is wrong with a good tennis ‘fit). The layers are what got me, though. The T-shirt with the skin-tight, thin cardigan! It’s genius. I felt hawt.

Eliz: You looked it! And yeah, I liked the cardigan element, too. A tissue sweater is always a good investment because you can wear it through so many different seasons.

Mikaela: You are a master stylist, Eliz. I’ll say it every day.

Eliz: Oh jeez. It was all the model and… the backless sneakers, I tell ya! He he he.

Team Repeller

This byline is used for stories that involved several Repeller team members, and company announcements.

More from Style