The Evolution of the Light Up Shoe
Nineties trends are everywhere, and it’s not just on the catwalks; move over skinny jeans, because baggy, high-waisted denim is back. But between the chokers, bomber jackets, deliciously ugly sweaters and Fresh Prince of Bel-Air throwbacks, our favourite ’90s trend to make a comeback this time are light up trainers.
Once the domain of kids wanting to rule the playground—trainers with LED (light-emitting diodes) definitely weren’t a trend for wallflowers—in recent years, light up shoes have been finding favour amongst celebrities such as Victoria Beckham and Ellie Goulding. No longer just for children, the shoe has evolved for a modern generation, and taken on a new minimalistic-meets-maximalist persona. Think: a sleeker, more street-wise aesthetic with monochrome embellishment instead of an overly-detailed athletic style, and LED lights that circle the whole trainer, instead of being confined only to the heel.
From Sports Shoe to Fashion Statement
More than just a trend, LED shoes were the original evolution of streetwear and wearable tech. Before the term ‘athleisure’ was even coined, plain trainers that had originally been designed for athletes to improve performance and reduce injuries were adopted by the general public, who favoured the shoes for their comfort and ergonomics.
They were the ultimate equaliser—everyone from celebrities and models, to professional athletes, to skaters in the street wore them. Entirely practical and pragmatic, they also carried an element of attitude and personality that allowed everyone to embrace them. And as comfort became king for more and more people during the 1970s, it was only inevitable that trainers would become ubiquitous. By the time the ’80s came around, shoes like Nike and Adidas were as coveted as any other fashion label on the street circuit.
It was also the decade of big hair and big logos, and so it was almost inevitable what would come next—shoes that were not only bright and colourful in the day, but that also made a statement at night. Enter LA Gear, a US-based company who were the original designers of LED light up shoes. They were already known for their athletic trainers that were endorsed not only by NBA and other sports stars, but also by the likes of Michael Jackson and Paula Abdul—but they came upon the idea of embedding the heels of their shoes with small LED lights. Playing into the trending aesthetic of chunky-soled high top trainers, the company produced pairs in hues ranging from plain white to metallic, technicolor pinks, purples and golds. When pressure was applied, the heel of the shoe would light up. Impactful during the day and the night, trainers with lights were the apotheosis of the ’90s—more is more is better.
They were also the shoes that launched a thousand copycats, and flared into intense popularity for a short time, and over 100 million pairs were sold. The company decided to take LED trainers into the sports arena, literally, and designed shoes for the basketball court, with trainers that would light up when the player jumped, and shoes for the cross-country track that would light up with every step.
A Modern Take on LED Shoes
All good things must come to an end, and the passion for LED light up shoes eventually waned. But fashion is cyclical, and there’s nothing that’s trending more right now than nostalgia. Enter the new generation of LED trainers, resurrected and reimagined for a new era.
They’re not the light up shoes you knew before. This time round, they take their cues from minimalist, Scandi-cool designs that are worthy of being worn at events such as Milan Fashion Week or dancing on stage with Justin Bieber. In both low and high top styles, the LED lights are also embedded around the entire sole instead of just the heel. As a bonus, innovations with LED also mean the lights are more powerful and environmentally friendly than ever—the ones used in light up trainers are designed to be rechargeable, and are easily turned on and off with a subtle switch on the side. In other words, you control the party.
The latest LED shoes may have been developed for adults, but there’s no reason that kids should miss out—they were the ones who first fell in love with the light up soles, after all. But rather than deliver the original overly-complicated shoe, these new LED shoes for kids take their cues from the adult version. It’s the same effortlessly cool design and light up sole, but in mini-me sizes. Old school velcro straps hint at nostalgia but also make it easy for kids to put their own shoes on and take them off. They also feature 11 colour modes and a rechargeable battery for up to six hours. From girls’ light up shoes to boys’ versions in both blue and white (for both), kids’ light up trainers are back, and they’re better than ever.
So keep your eyes peeled—light up shoes are the next big trend for adults, kids, boys, girls, or for anyone with a sense of style and fun.