This unconventional shoe styling hack will give your wardrobe a fresh feel this summer

Fashion experts (and TikTok!) make the case for the 'Wrong Shoe Theory,' and we're totally on board

a variety of shoes pictured for the wrong shoe theory; boots, sandals and sneakers on a pink and peach checkerboard background
(Image credit: Amazon + Nordstrom)

Combat boots with a maxi dress? Sneakers with a suit? The Wrong Shoe Theory is advocating for the unexpected and unusual. Plus, styling is all at your discretion. 

Even if you *think* your summer capsule wardrobe staples cannot be paired with the likes of loafers or hightops, fashion IT girls say it's time to be spontaneous. 

What is the 'Wrong Shoe Theory'?

Coined by stylist Allison Bornstein, the "Wrong Shoe" Theory is just as it sounds: styling an outfit with unexpected footwear. This idea stemmed from Bornstein's client who oftentimes wore sneakers with suits, as she was required to travel throughout the workday. Needless to say, this unorthodox concept was whacky enough to actually work—and inspire a TikTok movement in the process. (Right next to other fan favorites like the Tomato Girl Aesthetic, Red Wine Makeup and Coastal Cowgirl.)

"I'm a big fan of fashion juxtaposition—girly clashed against grunge, prepster style infused with an avant-garde edge, sporty paired with polish. Merging two unlikely aesthetics creates intrigue and is an easy way to elevate your look beyond the basic," says Emma Childs, style editor of our sister site, Marie Claire. "By opting for discordant footwear, you subvert expectations and automatically add more complexity and nuance to your look."

Well, now that we think about it, those slip dresses hanging in the closet are cute, but could use a little "oomph."


♬ original sound - Allison Bornstein


Ready to give the trend a whirl for yourself? Remember, no shoe is the wrong shoe and the sky's the limit! If you're thinking about adding a few pieces to your collection, we're particularly obsessed with these babies: 

How to style the 'Wrong Shoe Theory'


♬ original sound - Charlie ☻

Although there's no right or wrong way to attempt this new trend, associate editor Sierra Mayhew at our sister site Who What Wear did offer a few tips to keep in mind.

"Mixing and matching is often about balance, even though you’re choosing to wear the “wrong shoe,” try finding a way to select a style that ties back to what you’re wearing," she suggests. "For example, I’m currently wearing a dress that has just a touch of green in it. Styling this with a green pair of sneakers would create a cohesive look while also still questioning the norm."

And according to Childs, you're going to want to keep opposites in mind: "Start with a piece that represents an aesthetic you naturally gravitate toward—whether that's a boho maxi dress or preppy blazer—and team it with shoes that fall on the opposite end of the style spectrum."

Why you should try the 'Wrong Shoe Theory'


♬ be my baby by the ronettes - — jules ✿ ⋆˙⊹˚˖

Though it might be a little confusing to some, the Wrong Shoe Theory feels right to many. Plus, it has its perks. 

"Something I love about this theory is that you get to choose comfort whenever you’d like," Mayhew says. "Wearing a nice dress doesn’t mean that you have to style it with heels, you can throw on sneakers and spend the entire day on your feet."

And not only will it keep your feet happy, but it'll also keep the compliments coming. 

"It's a foolproof method to make any look more interesting and also a great way to hone your personal style," Childs adds.

Ready to kick things off? We're right behind you—in our chunky loafers. 

Danielle Valente
Digital News Writer

Need a TV show recommendation? Maybe a few decor tips? Danielle, a digital news writer at Future, has you covered. Her work appears throughout the company’s lifestyle brands, including My Imperfect Life, Real Homes, and woman&home. Mainly, her time is spent at My Imperfect Life, where she’s attuned to the latest entertainment trends and dating advice for Gen Z.

Before her time at Future, Danielle was the editor of Time Out New York Kids, where she got to experience the best of the city from the point of view of its littlest residents. Before that, she was a news editor at Elite Daily. Her work has also appeared in Domino, Chowhound, and amNewYork, to name a few. 

When Danielle’s not writing, you can find her testing out a new recipe, reading a book (suggestions always welcome), or rearranging the furniture in her apartment…again.