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Customized Orthopedic Shoes: Haute or Hideous?

Chinese fashionistas have found a way to turn ‘ugly’ orthopedic shoes into must-have accessories

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Beatrice Tamagno Headshot
8:01 PM HKT, Fri August 25, 2023

Chinese social media is home to some unique and unexpected fashion trends, from fake belly buttons helping some women achieve the illusion of longer legs, to post-pregnancy shoes.


This time around, the questionable fashion trend of the moment revolves around an accessory that's normally associated with the elderly: orthopedic shoes.



Instagram-like app Xiaohongshu was recently inundated with photos of orthopedic shoe makeovers, where users add stylish laces, bows and gems to their otherwise plain-looking orthopedic shoes.


“I paired my outfit with some orthopedic shoes for the elderly. They feel so comfortable, they are cheap and look great!” writes a Xiaohongshu user under her #ootd post.


Other users disagree, arguing that the customized shoes still look repulsive.


shoes china


A few major orthopedic shoe brands have caught on, sharing the creative makeovers on their own official pages, while other users showed how to pair them with outfits for a maximized comfort and style combo.


The phenomenon is part of a wider trend that revolves around comfortable clothing, or ‘relaxed and carefree’ aesthetics (songchi gan 松弛感 in Mandarin). A related hashtag accumulated over 330 million views, reflecting growing interest in comfort-first looks.



Besides orthopedic shoes, some staples of the relaxed aesthetic are UGG boots, Birkenstocks sandals, flowy pants, and blouses. Photoshoots that seek to embrace this style often feature influencers casually drinking wine or coffee, or leafing through books at home.


With some elements reminiscent of global interest in ‘quiet luxury’, the aesthetic embraces a casual and chic lifestyle, finding beauty in comfort and natural looks, instead of conforming to beauty standards rooted in heavy makeup and form-fitting clothing.


All images via Xiaohongshu

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