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Styling Sneakers

As April unfolds, we are leaving off sweater weather and headed into sneaker season.

Sneakers have become more and more ubiquitous as athleisure, gorpcore (a fashion trend in which outerwear typically designed for outdoor recreation is worn as streetwear), and a more casual approach to dressing have emerged.

Sportswear, in general, has become a modern sort of uniform, while sneakers are being worn with traditionally dressier garments like suits, trousers, and skirts. There’s an interesting tension between performance and lifestyle when it comes to sneakers. You may have orthopedic needs or simply want a supportive shoe that still isn’t boring. There are some very funky, graphic sneakers on the market that are practical in the sense you can walk in them but may not serve your true style needs. Here’s a rundown of how best to style sneakers this spring.

First up, flat black sneakers with cropped trousers, a button-down, and a sweater. Yes, above, I wrote that sweater weather was behind us, but a gray cardigan is seasonless and can still be necessary well into May. Black sneakers, especially of the slip-on variety, can easily double as basic black flats. I’ve been a fan of Vans classic slip-ons for years. You can pick them up in canvas, but I prefer them rendered in perforated leather, which tends to make them feel a little more chic. Or you can go a sportier route with an Adidas platform skate sneaker with laces and those classic three white stripes along the sides to coordinate with an overall black-and-white look of white ankle jeans, a black tee, and an oversized black sweater.

If you’re hesitant to don white jeans, which can be tricky to pull off in real life, you can still incorporate a crisp white into your spring look with Converse’s Chuck Taylors in all white. These fresh kicks can be styled romantically with a floral dress and denim jacket or functionally with cargo pants and a windbreaker. Puma’s Vikky women’s sneaker (currently on sale) has a bit more heft than Chucks and pairs just as easily with standard sportswear, like track pants, as they do with more on-trend joggers.

If you’re interested in a bolder look, wear graphic tennis shoes like Nike’s Air Max 270 with a crew neck t-shirt, jeans, a moto jacket, and a red handbag. You can semi-match your bag to the version of this shoe with the orange heel or go for contrast with the neon green sole option. New Balance also offers some fashion-forward kicks like their Calia Women’s 350 shoes in mint and pink. Not as bold as Nike, but just as statement-making when paired with lighter denim and a patterned top.

Try Allbirds’ tree runners with a midi or maxi-length dress for something softer this spring. These lightweight sneakers make a novelty-printed romantic dress like ModCloth’s Meet Me in Paradise Midi frock feel even more light and breezy and fashionably functional for the season. Or check out the boho maxis from Natural Life, any of which feels springtime fresh with Sofft Shoes’ Frayda slip-on. You can style these dress/sneaker looks with gold jewelry and a duster or keep it casual with a baseball cap and cropped denim jacket.

If you’re in the market for a dress look of a more fitted variety, try a more bodycon silhouette with a hiking sneaker. Bodycon doesn’t necessarily mean va-va-voom so much as streamlined. Spanx’s AirEssentials Tank Midi dress gives you a more structured look that can transition from work to a night out, even when worn with Teva’s Geotrecca sneakers in cream. Quince’s Tencil Rib Knit Sleeveless dress walks the line between loungewear and outdoor style when paired with Timberland’s GreenStride Hiking shoe.

These are just a few sneaker styling ideas to try this season. As the weather warms, you can pair your favorite kicks with trousers, shorts, and tank tops just as easily as you can with tennis skirts and polos. Just be sure, especially for lighter-shaded shoes, to keep them clean and scuff-free for the ultimate in sneaker style.