Graphic by K8 Strassman

Why are sneakers the new power shoe?

November 15, 2020

Sneakers: modern dress shoe for power players

Athletes have always rocked sneakers to enhance their performance — helping them run faster, jump higher, and go farther. Now we’re sporting sneakers to boost our performance from the boardroom to the campaign trail.

This is no casual Friday dress down.

Sneakers are on the UP as our soon-to-be-VP Kamala Harris uses one of the world’s biggest platforms to show us that sneakers are the modern take on formalwear. Power players are lacing up in their favorite kicks to kick ass, get things done and show they mean business. The new power shoe lets us up our game in comfort.

The Decode

ON THE UP: Sneakers

Here’s how sneakers are hitting all 5 Drivers of Momentum right now:

DISRUPTION: Women in power like Kamala Harris and Jennifer Lopez are swapping stilettos for sneakers as a sign of modern female empowerment. They are using their sneakers to signal key personality traits: trailblazer, no nonsense, business minded and entrepreneurial.

  • Chuck Taylor Converse: rolling up your sleeves and getting back to business. In addition to being the first black woman and first Indian American Vice President-elect of the United States, Kamala Harris is the first to modernize the power suit on the campaign trail. She’s replacing kitten heels and stilettos with Chuck Taylors.
  • When asked if wearing Chucks signal that there’s a chance of a loosened up dress code in the Biden-Harris White House, she said “It’s not about loosening up — it’s about lacing up”. Harris’ Chuck Taylors send a clear message about who she is and her approach to politics — she’s the no nonsense type who’s focused on being practical. “The sneakers are acting as the sartorial equivalent of being willing to roll up her sleeves,” Elizabeth Semmelhack, senior curator of the Bata Shoe Museum, told The Guardian.”
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INNOVATION: Sneaker culture is the driving force behind the modern online marketplace & digital marketing.

  • StockX dubbed itself the “stock market of things” as it created the first stock market for sneakers (as well as a variety of other verticals — handbags, watches, tech, streetwear, masks, etc). StockX evolved the way the sneaker resale market works. The live bid/ask market place leverages technology & real time market data to inform prices based on supply and demand. For those who are looking to make a return on the sneaker market, StockX provides a platform for people to see high returns on assets in a fair and regulated way.
  • Adidas celebrated the Superstar’s 50th anniversary by creating new versions of the staple for the much-anticipated Miles Morales Spider-Man game. Expected to be one of the PS5’s biggest launches of the year, the special Spider-Man themed sneakers can be previewed in the game prior to their release — sparking excitement & buzz before they even drop.
  • Dior launched an augmented reality Snapchat lens to let consumers virtually try on the new b27 sneaker. The immersive experience helps engage typically passive browsers on mobile & convert them into active buyers. By using an AR lens to transform Snapchat into a direct sales channel, Dior is effectively reaching a broader group of consumers who may not have found the shoes otherwise.

POLARIZATION: Luxury brands are going to the extreme to reject the perception that sneakers can’t be high fashion. Rather than putting an expensive twist on staple sneakers (Keds, Vans or Converse) they are going to the extreme — sparking discussion & debate with intentionally provocative designs that have traditionally been ostracized as ugly.

  • Balenciaga is the perfect example — the ultimate sneaker troll & the master of leveraging polarization. They gave us the Speed trainer (otherwise known as ‘the shoes that look like socks’) in 2016. Later, they owned the clunky dad sneakers with their Triple S.
  • NOW… they’re serving us the Toe sneakers. Low-heeled sneakers with five toes might not be your cup of tea, but to be frank — Balenciaga doesn’t care… Rihanna has already given them her stamp of approval. The lip service these sneakers are giving the brand are more than enough to withstand a few critics here or there.

STICKINESS: Staple sneakers are a vehicle to create your OWN memorable moment.

The most iconic shoes have always been simple — not necessarily because they are timeless, but because they are a blank canvas that allows consumers to put their own stamp on them. And consumers have never had more pent up creative energy to express themselves than they do now.

The latest in a line of greats are Nike’s Air Force 1s — the sneaker of choice for the TikTok generation.

Why? Because TikTok is fundamentally a remixing platform. The all-white, easy-to-customize Nike’s are the latest physical manifestation of TikTok’s remixing ethos. The perfect blank canvas for personal branding.

SOCIAL IMPACT: Sneakers are the great equalizer. A means to connect & relate to others. The right pair of sneakers can act as a vehicle to social connections and breaking down barriers. From $40 pairs to $4000 pairs, sneakers level the playing field and create a sense of unity & belonging

ON THE DOWN: Stilettos

It’s hard to run the world in sky high heels.Women are taking a pass on the stereotypical belief that the only way to look professional or be taken seriously is by dressing up your outfit with “ladylike” heels. Powerful women like VP-elect Harris and Jennifer Lopez are showing women across the world that while stilettos might say certain things about you, sneakers can be just as strong a signal of who you are and what you stand for.


Power players are lacing up and coming back blazing. Flipping traditional notions on their heads — footwear is just the start.

Momentum Maker, Author of Maximum Momentum, Founder & CEO of Decode_M