As the fashion and sport industries continue to converge, sneakers are big business. Traditional shoe manufacturers including Nike, Adidas and Reebok are scouring their archives to reinvent classic, street-ready sneaker styles that will appeal to a broad audience.
Meanwhile, smaller labels such as Veja and Everlane’s Tread have been eroding the market share of established players, with start-up mentalities and digital savvy. Others, meanwhile, are creating sustainably-made, vegan sneakers to meet the demands of a new wave of conscious consumers.
What does this competition mean? More sneaker styles for you. So we’ve scoured the streets and sites to compile a list of our current favourites, including ’80s-style trainers, mountain-hiking styles and some special, investment-worthy collaborations.
Adidas, 1-5923 – $119
These classic trainers were born as track shoes in the ’70s and ’80s and have since returned as everyday sneakers. They’ve got a retro look but still feel contemporary, and are made with a spongy, stretchy mesh fabric with a wedge of cushioning at the midsole, so they’re super comfortable and easy to slip on.
Tread by Everlane, Trainer – $144
San Francisco-based retailer Everlane launched a new footwear label, Tread, for men and women in May. The label’s mission is to create the world’s lowest environmental-impact sneakers, eventually hoping to make them carbon neutral. The sole of each shoe is made with a blend of natural and recycled rubber that’s 94.2 percent free of “virgin plastic” (plastic that’s been newly created without any recycled materials).
The first sneaker release is simply called the “Trainer”. It’s no-nonsense, simple design lends itself to most outfit choices, be it tailored pants or jeans. It’s made of leather and suede, and comes in muted colourways such as blush, off-white and grey. It uses 54 percent less virgin plastic than other similar trainers, and the company offsets the emissions it can’t yet disqualify.
The North Face, Mountain Sneaker – $147
The ugly “dad sneaker” movement, which dominated most of 2018, has given way to a new hiking-inspired style. Versace’s Chain Reaction trainers and Gucci’s Flashtrek were some of the pioneers of this silhouette in high-end fashion, but you don’t need to spend $1000 to get the look. This North Face option is more minimalist, and made to perform on mountain trails as well as in the city.
Oi Polloi x Reebok, Workout Plus – $86
In 2016 – under the new leadership of chief executive Kasper Rorsted – Adidas-owned Reebok rolled out a dramatic four-year growth plan. One element of the new strategy involved interesting collaborations, like this partnership with Manchester-based contemporary menswear store Oi Polloi. The reimagined version of Reebok’s Workout Plus launched in April this year. Made with a chalk-white leather upper, with the label’s signature perforations on the toe, these sharp trainers look great with retro socks. (We also like the ’90s retro flashback Aztrek style, and the latest rendition of the Club C trainer.)
Adidas, SC Premiere –$180
Adidas was founded in Germany in 1949 by designer Adi Dassler, who wanted to create the perfect shoe for athletes. It’s since become so much more than a sportswear brand, with strong followings in the fashion and culture industries. It’s SC Premiere unisex sneaker is archive-inspired, drawing on 30 years of Adidas’ court-shoe designs. Modelled off the 1988 ASC Trainer, this design debuted in January and pays tribute to ’80s tennis sneakers. It comes in three easy-to-wear colourways: white, pastel pink and black – and is made of leather with a flat rubber sole.
Veja, SDU HEXA – $164
Sébastian Kopp and François-Ghislain Morillion founded Veja in 2004. The in-demand, ethical French footwear label released a collection of vegan sneakers earlier this year. The SDU HEXA is an adaptation of the label’s popular SDU style, which takes inspiration from the classic trainers of the ’80s, although the HEXA version is more aligned with waffled ’70s designs.
The upper is made from 70 per cent organic cotton and 30 per cent recycled polyester, while the panels are made of vegan suede. The sole is made from a special wild rubber from the Amazon rainforest.
Adidas x Pharrell Williams, Human Body NMD – $245
Out of all of Adidas’s collaborations with American rapper, singer and songwriter Pharrell Williams, this one impressed us most. The new take on the Adidas Originals comes in a few colourways, including a stark white option or royal blue. They feature bold, colourful embellishments, embroidered Chinese lettering, and a plastic cage detail that looks like the silhouette of a sneaker. It’s Inception, sneaker-style.
Common Projects, Bball Leather Sneakers – $396
American-Italian luxury footwear maker Common Projects, founded in New York in 2004, is known for its minimalist, polished footwear for men and women. The label has released a new twist on its original sneaker, which looks like an old-school basketball shoe with sporty puncture holes at the top. Crafted in Italy and made from panels of smooth, textured leather, these kicks look great worn sockless with a pair of jeans or chinos.
Eytys, Angel Canvas – $443
Sweden is home to many emerging sneaker labels, including Eytys, a unisex label launched by childhood friends Jonathan Hirschfeld and Max Schiller in 2013. The purple tab at the heel is their signature. The new unisex Angel Canvas canvas-style sneaker draws inspiration from ’90s trail shoes, featuring a chunky, elevated rubber role, heavy-duty hooks and nylon laces.
CQP, Quarta “Cement” – $561
Designed in Stockholm and made by hand in Portugal, CQP’s new Quarta style has been released as part of the spring-summer 2019 collection. It looks like a ’90s tennis or skateboarding shoe, with a narrow and elegant design that will look smart with any style of pants. They come in dusty shades of suede and offer solid arch support with minimal padding to ensure a glove-like fit. Each pair is made by hand – soles are stitched in place rather than glued.
Acne Studios, The Bolzter – $780
The cult Swedish label’s take on the mountain trainer looks lived in – like you’ve already worn them on a hike. They’re available in six “distressed” colourways, and can master all terrains (with reinforced uppers for extra support).
Nike and Virgil Abloh, Athlete in Progress – $552
American sportswear giant Nike collaborated with Off-White designer Virgil Abloh on a collection of apparel and footwear, which Off-White debuted in Paris last year in its spring-summer 2019 runway show.
The track-style trainer collab salutes Nike’s history, using the 1984 LA Olympics marathons as a muse. The athletic style features a fluoro base in various colours, and the words “shoelaces” printed on the laces (in keeping with Abloh’s obsession with pointing out the obvious and making it fashion.)
This article was updated on August 8, 2019.