The Most Far Out Shoes of the 1970s : Top Footwear Styles and Trends

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Shoes We Dug in the Seventies

Close-up photo of block heel oxford shoes with thick platform soles and contrast stitching.
They were undoubtedly the biggest shoe trend of the 1970s, but platform soles weren't the only kind of shoes we were wearing. Check out the rest of the slide show for more of the hottest footwear trends of the decade. Evening Standard / Getty Images

Quick: What were the most popular shoe styles of the 1970s?

If you're like most people from the U.S., the first images that came to mind were probably those of thick platform soles, and guys wearing heels with white suits.

And, to an extent, you'd be correct -- those definitely were two of the decade's hottest footwear trends.

But those aren't the only styles that the foxes and hunks were digging up on in the seventies.

Jonesin' for the rest of the skinny? Just keep on truckin' through the rest of this slideshow for a closer look at platforms, men's high heels, and more of the grooviest shoe styles of the '70s.

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Men's High Heel Shoes of the '70s

1974 photo of hockey player Gary Unger receiving a new car in a checkered suit and heeled platform shoes.
This 1974 photo of NHL star Gary Unger shows that the men's heel and platform craze of the 1970s wasn't just confined to musicians and stage costumes. Bruce Bennett Studios / Getty Images

This is definitely one of the most memorable trends of the decade, but the history of men's heels of the seventies may not be exactly what you think.

Though a lot of people associate men's heels exclusively with the disco era, they had actually gained popularity with the mainstream long before John Travolta ever set a hustling foot on a lighted floor. In fact, the heels of Tony Manero's boogie shoes were actually low compared to some of the men's styles that came earlier in the 1970s.

Recording and performing artists of glam, rock and soul, like David Bowie, Marc Bolan, Peter Frampton, and members of The Jackson 5 were just a few of the male celebrities that helped popularize the men's "high heel" trend in the early part of the 1970s.

In those earlier years, very high, block or chunky heels were usually paired with extremely thick platform soles. Later in the decade, however, the height of the heels came down, while the platform soles were thinner, or completely eliminated.

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Platform Shoes of the 1970s

Photo of Bianca Jagger's platform sandal with backstage pass clipped to ankle strap.
These platform sandals of Bianca Jagger were pretty typical of what American women were also wearing in the 1970s. Although most of them didn't include backstage passes for the Rolling Stones. Christopher Simon Sykes / Hulton Archive / Getty Images

Another trend that is mistakenly associated exclusively with the 1970s is the modern platform sole.

Shoes with sky-high platforms, like chopines, date back to at least the 15th century. And, even modern platform shoes, like the styles we see today, had been in fashion in both the 1930s and the 1960s, before completely taking over in the 1970s.

But, make no mistake, platform shoes, boots and sandals were absolutely huge in the seventies. In fact, I'm not sure anyone escaped the trend.

During this era, shoes with platforms were popular with men and women. Initially they were mainly accompanied by high chunky, or block heels. But, as the decade progressed, thick soles also began being paired with thinner high heels and even stilettos -- although the latter combination was confined to women's styles.

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Athletic Shoes and Sneakers of the 1970s

Model wearing denim shorts, white shirt, and blue fashion sneakers. Photo taken in 1973.
The model in this photo shoot, from 1973, shows that sneakers were becoming fashion staples for adults. David Redfern / Redferns / Getty Images

Though the sneaker-craze of the 1970s seemed minor compared to what was to come in the 1980s, the "me" decade still saw an unprecedented rise in the popularity of athletic shoes.

Running and track styles were especially popular. And, for the first time in history, sneakers were being worn as fashionable street wear for adults -- instead of just being saved for the appropriate track and field events, or being worn by children for play or P.E.

This trend was, at least partly, due to the fact that sporting events were being televised around the country like never before. Professional and olympic athletes were becoming household names and celebrities outside of their respective sports.

Joe Namath, Hank Aaron, Muhammad Ali, Billie Jean King, "Mean" Joe Greene, Dorothy Hamill, and Mark Spitz, along with several others, all made their marks on the decade. But, if you wanted to credit the popularity of running shoes in particular to just one person, it would be easy to make a connection to Bruce Jenner.

In fact, the running shoe trend of the seventies could be directly correlated with the Jenner's success and subsequent celebrity status. The track and field start placed third in the decathlon event in the 1972 Summer Olympics, and went on to take the gold medal in the Montreal games in 1976.

Those same four years saw an increase in the popularity of track-styled athletic shoes -- a trend that would continue to grow until today, when it's nearly impossible to believe that they weren't always a part of our everyday wardrobes.

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Comfort Shoes and Earthy Sandals of the 1970s

Two models, photographed in 1973, wearing mini dresses, one with platform sandals, the other in flat exercise sandals.
Raye Chance (pictured with actress Kubi Chaza, in platform shoes) wearing exercise sandals. Graham Wood / Evening Standard / Getty Images

As a carry-over from the earthy/hippie/back-to-the-land movements that began in the 1960s, all things natural; organic; native; sustainable; and centered around wellness were popular in the early 1970s.

This mentality extended to footwear in a big way. Although not all of those concerns could necessarily addressed with one pair of shoes. Perhaps that's why so many brands and styles were introduced and/or popularized during the early part of the decade.

Kork-Ease, a brand which had gained popularity with the most eco-chic in the 60s, introduced styles with cork wedge heels and platform soles -- a look that catered to both the earth mothers and budding disco queens.

Meanwhile, guys were falling head over heel for Clarks' classic Wallabee boots, thanks to their moccasin-inspired stitching, and laid-back vibe.

Some of the other most popular brands and styles of the era included:

Birkenstock Sandals: Introduced in the late 1960s, these "fitness sandals," were all the rage with the comfort-seeking earthy types of the early 1970s. Birkenstock sandals featured anatomically shaped footbeds that offered more support than the average street shoes, and were said to improve posture -- and consequently, one's entire sense of well-being.

Earth Shoes: Though the first Kalso Earth Shoes store opened in New York, within the first 2 years of the decade, it wasn't until 1974, when TIME magazine published an article about the brand, that the craze began to sweep the nation -- to such an extent that the manufacturers could not keep up with demand for the iconic style. The shoes featured "negative" heels that were originally created by a Danish Yoga instructor named Anne Kalso.

Dr. Scholl's Original Exercise Sandals: Also developed in the late 60s, these sandals featured two vamp pieces that were buckled in the middle to form a single vamp band. In addition to elevated toe crest, these slides featured contoured soles that were intended to force natural gripping and flexing actions when walking.

Exercise sandals like these were associated less with the hippie/earth movement, and were actually more of a precursor to the coming health craze.

Eventually, several of these styles and brands made their way into the mainstream culture, and the majority of them are still popular today.

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Like a Rhinestone Cowboy

Black and white photo of country singer Dottie West, wearing fancy dress and cowboy boots.
Cowboy boots with fancy dresses may have always been costumes de rigueur for country music artists like Dottie West, but in the 1970s, the combination had made its way into much of the country's wardrobe. Hulton Archive / Getty Images

Picture it: It's the late 1970s, and everything "country" is cool. Country music singers like Kenny Rogers, Dolly Parton, Ronnie Milsap, and Eddie Rabbit had crossed-over from the country charts, and were turning out one pop hit after another.

But it wasn't just country music that gained popularity with the masses during the seventies.

The late 1970s brought with it a rush of western wear for both men and women. The trend started really gaining momentum in 1978, when the TV show Dallas became huge, and continued through about 1981, when the craze experienced a resurgence with the release of the film Urban Cowboy.

While some managed to work cowboy boots, and western-inspired shoes into their existing wardrobes, others went whole-hog, so to speak, wearing full western "get-ups", including tiered denim skirts, embroidered shirts with western yokes, and even cowboy hats. To, like, the office.

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Other Popular Shoe Trends of the 1970s

Photo of Peaches and Herb wearing roller skates, taken in 1979.
Peaches and Herb won't the only ones people roller skates in the 1970s, but they may have been the coolest. Gems / Redferns / Getty Images

We've covered some of the biggest shoe trends of the 1970s in this slideshow, but chances are, you may have already known about those -- they were the biggies, after all.

However, platform soles and cowboy boots weren't the only styles we were slipping into in the seventies. Some of us also couldn't get our fill of the following trends and styles.

Roller Skates: The decade started with Melanie's number 1, smash hit "Brand New Key," (a.k.a. "The Rollerskate Song"), and it ended with two of the seventies' hottest female stars roller skating across cinema screens across the country: Linda Blair in the 1979 film Roller Boogie, and Olivia Newton John in 1980's Xanadu.

In between, we had Rollerball; disco skating parties at local rinks; and The Facts of Life's "Tootie" spending the entire first season of the popular television show on skates. But whichever of those phenomena had you jumping on the trend, there was one thing that was certain: you wouldn't be out of place attending any 1970s party in a pair of roller skates.

Disco Slides / Slide Sandals: You had to be the right age at the right time to fully appreciate this one, but there was a brief window in the late 1970s when there was nothing cooler than heeled slide sandals, or "disco slides," as they were sometimes called. Candie's introduced their classic, single band, wooden-heeled slides in 1978, and teen girls and young women were instantly hooked.

Maybe it was the fact that they were advertised in every magazine we picked up. Or, perhaps, we just all wanted to look like the "bad girl" version of Sandy in Grease. But, whatever it was, those of us who are a certain age, will always have a soft spot in our hearts for the original Candie's slides.

Patchwork: Patchwork jackets, bags and hats also experienced a spell of popularity in the 1970s. And, being as the decade was all about extreme shoes, this look also had to make its way onto footwear. It did so mainly in the form of knee-high, platform boots.

Were patchwork boots as hot as, say, platform shoes? No. But, for those who lived through the 70s, it would be impossible to see patches of multicolored suede without thinking of them.