Look, I don’t want to be judgmental here; after all, beauty’s in the eye of the beholder and all that. But I think we can agree that Balenciaga’s latest shoes, including a toe shoe with a high heel, are some of the strangest and ugliest out there.
The Spanish design house, led by creative director Demna Gvasalia, last month released a collaboration with the footwear brand Vibram, known for its iconic FiveFinger running shoes. Now you can buy the high-heeled booties in two colors—bubblegum pink and black—along with the low-heeled sock sneaker version in black and red. Both styles cost $1,290.
Balenciaga debuted the shoes at Paris Fashion Week, where male models dressed in red and blue wet suits walked on a runway glistening with running water in a pair of Vibrams. (These didn’t have heels like the ones currently for sale do.) In that context, the idea made a bit more sense. The models looked otherworldly, like aliens or sea creatures. But the heeled version of the shoe doesn’t spark the same visions of a fantastical world. It’s just weird. On Balenciaga’s Instagram feed there’s an image of the shoes and a bottle of nail polish, along with the toe dividers used in nail salons.
Gvasalia has long gravitated toward designing shoes with strange silhouettes. He’s launched knit shoes that are a cross between a boot and a sneaker, hiking boots, and cycling shoes. All of these pushed the boundaries of shoe design, but still managed to look sleek and elegant with the right styling.
But then, in 2017, Gvasalia crossed the threshold into ugly-shoe territory. On the runway in Paris, Balenciaga unveiled its collaboration with Crocs. There was a $495 high-heeled platform version of the standard foam clog; for $850, you could buy the embellished version, which featured a random assortment of pins on the top, including flowers and flags. It was all very weird, and public opinion was utterly divided on it. Some argued that the shoes were just so ugly that they somehow turned the corner and became attractive again. They sold out almost immediately.
It’s unclear whether these toe shoes will have the same success. But one thing going for them is that Rihanna is an early adopter. The superstar was recently featured on Instagram wearing the high-heeled Vibrams styled with track pants and a yellow vest.