Chunky Sneakers & Sleek Tennis Shoes Are Both Hot - So When Should You Wear Each?

Sneaker fads come and go, and really, we don't mind — just consider each wave of new trends an invitation to give your feet a break from ankle-breaking heels and painfully flat sandals, all while experimenting with some fresh footwear.

Currently in rotation on the feet of influencers and fashion icons is a mix of classic dad shoes and sleek fashion sneakers. If you're not yet acquainted with the former, Dr. Jacqueline Sutera, a podiatrist and a member of Vionic Shoes' Innovation Lab, defined them to Today: "When talking about dad shoes, think practical, comfortable shoes that middle-aged men wear. Styles that are trending now are those with traditional features like thick soles and a lot of support." Dad sneakers tend to be chunky, sporty, and available in unisex sizes. Sleek styles, on the other hand, have a thinner sole and hug the feet more closely, though they still retain the street style casualness you'd expect from trainers. One popular example: Adidas' Sambas. According to worldwide Google Trends data, online interest in the search term "Sambas" nearly tripled between July 2022 and June 2023, catapulting the shoes to must-have status.

Chunky sneakers and sleeker styles don't have to compete in your closet — there's a time and place to wear both (and trust us, your feet will thank you).

Wearing basic jeans? Go for a chunky shoe

Sneakers and jeans go together like peanut butter and jelly, a hammer and nails, toothbrushes and toothpaste ... you get the idea. And while almost any kicks complement good ol' blue jeans, chunky sneakers especially shine when paired with the classic pant style. Go for an "ugly" gym shoe similar to what your dad wore in the '90s, or opt for a clean white pair like the ones seen here. Then top it all off with a simple cami or t-shirt.

With skirts, try a sleek Samba

If you're thinking of hopping on the Samba sneaker bandwagon, note that you don't have to be a soccer player to pull off this sporty shoe. These days, influencers and fashionistas are pairing their Sambas with feminine skirts and dresses for a cool high-low effect. Above, a black pair finishes off a head-to-toe dark look, but for light-hued attire, try white or clay-colored Sambas to avoid weighing down delicate garments.

Chunky sneakers offer balance to wide-leg pants

If you were part of the skinny jeans generation, transitioning to wide-leg pants can be a bit intimidating at first. One tip: Grab a chunky sneaker to keep proportions balanced. In the 'fit seen here, a classic thick-soled sneaker peeks out beneath wide, on-trend cargo pants. A light, frilly blouse (as opposed to, say, an oversized tee) keeps the ensemble from looking too heavy or overwhelming on the body.

Tennis court prep calls for sleek tennis shoes

A classic black cardigan and white linen shorts feel equally at home on the tennis court and on the street as part of a preppy get-up. Whether you plan to accessorize with a ball and racket or a handbag and sunnies, make sure to choose a light and sleek tennis shoe to complete the look. A trendy dad sneaker might unintentionally date this outfit and create a normcore feel, as opposed to a quiet luxury one.

An oversized suit needs an oversized shoe

A baggy, borrowed-from-the-boys suit set will swallow up itty-bitty shoes. The solution? Cuff your pants just a little and throw on your chunkiest sneakers so your footwear becomes an equal part of the outfit rather than an afterthought. To keep the whole look cohesive, try matching the color of your shoes to your top.

Team light fabrics with simple sneakers

Before pulling on your shoes and heading out the door, look in the mirror and note which fabrics are making an appearance. If you're donning lightweight fabrics, such as chiffon, silk, lace, or anything see-through (like your trendy sheer skirts), a sleek tennis shoe is a perfect match. Here, a delicately pleated skirt plays nice with simple, not-too-heavy sneakers.

With a blazer, chunky runners add a quirky touch

When throwing on a blazer, a slim ballet flat or polished heel is almost too predictable. If you want to shake things up, pair tailored jackets with a chunky dad shoe instead. In particular, go for a sporty pair of running shoes. "2023 will be the year of the runner," Ryan Kleman, Director of Non-Apparel at Moda Operandi, revealed to Marie Claire. "While not as large in scale as some chunky sneakers, this silhouette is unbelievably wearable. From casual to the club, this footwear option will take you anywhere in 2023."

Sleek sneakers lighten up coastal grandmother looks

In case you need more proof of how versatile Sambas can be, look to this coastal grandmother-ish outfit. A classic pinstripe shirt matched with easygoing linen pants can look a little too stuffy for some personal aesthetics, but bright green Sambas help break up the ensemble. Any other sleek and simple sneaker would work just as well, such as canvas Keds or classic Supergas.