Dad shoes have cast a long, chunky shadow across sneakerdom for the better part of a decade. But, as they say: the bigger you come, the harder you fall.

Flat sneakers are about to bring their titanic progenitors down to size, ushering in a new era of exclusively low-profile shoes.

Or are they?

The flattened footwear boom may not necessary spell thick-soled sneakers' doom, given the splintered state of sneaker culture.

But it does signal a greater sea change that threatens their dominance at the very least. At most, the flat footwear movement foretells bigger, more complete transformation.

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Though they're typically fed by sportswear giants, footwear trends are also shaped, with surprising frequency, by the whims of luxury labels. Consider Balenciaga's titanic Triple S sneaker, a $1,000 shoe so influential that it inspired a brief boom of ultra-ultra stacked sneakers that even infused Nike's seminally unstylish Air Monarch with a sudden jolt of cool.

This was the contemporary intro to the now-dominant dad shoe, a hefty genre of lifestyle sneaker made coolly-uncool by its unpretentious heft and versatile, untrendy design. Normalized by trends and later canonized by universal acceptance, archetypal dad shoes like New Balance's 550 and ASICS' silver runners now epitomize a near-universal agreeable sneaker style.

But familiarity breeds contempt and we've been too familiar with the dad shoe for too long.

Debuted in 2020 and an all-out hit by 2022, Wales Bonner's collaborative iterations of the sleek adidas Samba sneakers were an apéritif for the full course of flattened footwear to come. What began as a light craving gave way to feeding frenzy by the middle of 2023 when the Samba hit peak saturation, driving low-profile sneaker adherents into alternatives like the Onitsuka Tiger Mexico 66.

This was part of a broader interest in flat footwear, one foretold by the Spring/Summer 2024 runways that spotlighting flip-flops, Mary Janes and ballet flats.

Sneakers fresh-squeezed into squashed shapes dominated early 2024, like Miu Miu's compressed New Balance 530 and PUMA's refreshed Speedcat sneaker line, quickly gobbled up during regional field tests before unleashed proper in June.

This was merely the beginning. For what comes next, again look to fashion designers.

Issey Miyake and Junya Watanabe each introduced their own extremely streamlined New Balance Minimus shoes in the first half of 2024, setting up a fresh (and flat) New Balance silhouette for unexpected fame.

Designers like Rombaut and Coperni likewise took PUMA to superflat extremes, pushing the football inspiration that birthed the popular shoes like the Samba beyond the pounded-down pale.

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These sneakers weren't meant for everyone but they're part of a bigger picture, moving footwear's Overton window further away towards minimal profiles. The push to normalize sleek sneaks is so powerful that even mighty Nike is laying low in response.

By year's end, for example, the Swoosh will release sporty shoes that sit between the Samba's terrace heritage and futuristic flatness, some even rocking fully next-to-ground outsoles that mimic the grippy bottoms worn by the many newly popular skate sneakers.

This is a snapshot of where dad shoes are going: reject modernity, embrace something a little less chunky.

In place of New Balance's mildly weighty '90s-era jogging sneakers, for instance, classic styles like the New Balance 475 and even the 574 are on the rise.

Likewise, ASICS is reviving its throwback GEL-Lyte III ahead of more function-driven models while adidas is retooling similarly classic styles like the Stan Smith, the ballerina-like Taekwondo and the sleek SL72 runner (another Wales Bonner favorite), runners from yesteryear that share DNA with the squished shoes of tomorrow.

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Remember that we're talking about what's currently a microcosm within sneaker culture. Those functional-looking ASICS sneakers won't suddenly disappear, HOKA won't suddenly toss out its signature ultra-cushioned soles.

There is no more monoculture. But prevailing tastes will always lead the pack and, through trends' trickle-down nature, these forward-looking inclinations eventually dictate wider interests.

Flat shoes are up next.

It's a simple fact, a natural result of big sneakers being so big for so long. In turn, low-profile footwear will influence the bigger picture of shoes in years to come.

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But, in the meantime, they aren't going to immediately usurp dad shoes as the top dog. Instead, dad shoes will adapt. They'll become a little less prevalent, a little less chunky.

Much like the fate suffered by the inanimate victims in oddly satisfying hydraulic press videos, what we're seeing is a gradual flattening of things, perhaps an inadvertent reflection of greater cultural compression. The crush is inevitable.

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