The hunt for the best sneaker around can be daunting. Beginner sneakerheads and sneaker-savvy people alike go through the same dilemma. To help with the search, RunRepeat has come up with a comprehensive list of top-rated kicks in the market to date.
Taking a step further, RunRepeat also saw it fit to provide a detailed, unbiased overview of each product, thus, enabling consumers to make a sound, informed decision.
Sneakers and How It All Begun
The popularity of sneakers does not show any signs of abating. Worn by all genders, most especially men, regardless of age, it has left its imprint on a variety of cultures. Its iconic status has even led it to establish its own subculture. Here is how it began in a nutshell:
- Identified as a fashion item, a status symbol and a socio-cultural object, the sneaker’s history dates back to the 18th century.
- Formerly known as “plimsolls,” these rubber-soled shoes did not make any noise thereby allowing its wearer to sneak behind someone unnoticed. Soon enough, this athletic footwear was dubbed as “sneaker” for its noiseless footfall.
- Sneakers were initially made to allow the wealthy to play their favorite sports outdoors. This luxe item, later on, turned into a mass-produced, low-cost athletic footwear in the 1920’s.
- Its history, however, moved past the world of sports and transcended in other cultures, niches and social groups.
Origin and Construction
Many of the most in-demand and popular men’s or women’s sneakers took its roots from athletic shoes. Despite its sporty origins, performance in many models has taken a backseat. Some, however, still equipped with the basic components a sports footwear requires, can still double up as a trainer.
Sneakers that borrowed the design elements of a specific sports shoe typically share the same structure.
- Running-inspired kicks are usually made with a breathable upper as well as a flexible and lightweight yet stable sole that offers ample cushioning and reliable impact protection.
- Basketball-inspired sneakers are distinguished for its chunky exterior that offers sufficient support. Its heavy sole also provides stability, not to mention multi-directional traction.
- Tennis-inspired lifestyle shoes are commonly sleek and minimally styled with adequate support.
- Hiking-inspired casual shoes are recognized for their rugged outsole with deep grooves that are designed for the outdoors. Its mid- or high-top upper is also made of durable, thick material, commonly with leather or suede.
- Soccer cleats-inspired sneakers are usually donned with leather or suede upper with a slightly higher collar for durability and ankle stability. Flat soles offer multi-directional traction. Spikes are removed for a more casual look.
- Training-inspired casual shoes that can be reliably worn for gym training or weightlifting commonly have flat, stiff soles for stability. Some have raised heels for a more upright posture and enhanced ankle motion.
- Skate or skateboarding kicks are casual shoes revamped with additional overlays, internal toe protection, double-stitching and lace guards to make it skate-worthy.
These sneakers have successfully crossed over to the lifestyle section because of cult following, historical significance, or sheer popularity that the people simply want to get a pair. From their sporty origins, they are now a staple of basically every sneaker closet.
Things to Consider when Sneaker Hunting
How are sneakers made available?
Also known as “GR,” these sneakers are readily available and can be obtained effortlessly. Typically, released in generous numbers, consumers can find these displayed in malls and sneaker boutiques.
These products’ designs are usually influenced by the design of sought-after sneakers as well as athletic shoes but with a casual flair.
It's common for brands to update standard models with high-quality materials while keeping its original silhouette intact. These iterations are priced a bit higher than the regular editions. To top it off, it boasts better comfort and durability.
As the name suggests, these refer to sneakers sold in selected retailers and manufactured in limited numbers. Hard to obtain, getting a pair would mean long queues as well as sleepless nights in front of computer screens.
Hyperstrike and Quickstrike or “QS” versions of Nike sneakers are among the limited edition models that pop up in stores quickly and in few quantities.
These models are usually created to celebrate a specific event or to pay homage to a particular person, team, etc. Some models, however, are tagged as a Special Edition or “SE” due to its notable popularity or because of its sought-after colorway.
Types of Sneakers
A sneaker’s design is remarkably altered with a simple change of its cut or top. Consumers’ varying taste in style has resulted in brands revising a shoe’s profile in usually three different ways, namely:
- Low-top. The most famous among the three, its collar lies just below the ankle. Many prefer these over the other cuts since it provides enhanced freedom of motion. It is also perceived as the most versatile as it can be paired with a wide array of sporty and casual clothing.
- High-top. These are distinguished by their collar which extends over the ankle. Known for providing additional ankle support, this style has invaded basketball courts in the past years. When it comes to aesthetics, its edgy look is regarded as stylish. Although attractive, some think this type lacks versatility.
- Mid-top. The least popular among all three, these have a collar that extends no higher than the ankle. These types of footwear frequently feature a strap that helps keep the foot in place. Looking a bit similar with the high-tops, many consumers get the two interchanged.
Style is intensely personal and sometimes the biggest factor in choosing a sneaker. Whether one’s style is understated or a bit flamboyant, colorways and design can decisively affect a sneaker fan’s choice.
There are simply no shortage of options where colorways and design go as sneakers across all brands use a motley assortment of color combos and design.
- The shoe's colorway is an essential factor to consider when searching for a sneaker. It refers to the combination of colors the sneaker is outfitted in. The popularity of some models can sometimes be attributed to its colorway. Till now, the BRED or black/red hue remains appealing to many. The popularity and historical significance of colorways often dictate the sneakers’ price range on the market.
- Two-tone sneakers are not just the craze in the market. Many sneaker fans also opt for monochromatic looks for style versatility. Monochromatic shoes work very well with an outfit of the same tone.
- For those who wish more oomph in their style, there is a wide array of options to choose from. There are sneakers that are considered fire because of the rainbow of colors in the upper, the midsole, and even the outsole.
- Style also becomes a form of self-expression, particularly when the shoe is a collaboration. There is just a certain sophistication or cool factor when wearing a sneaker that Stella McCartney, Kanye West, or Tinker Hatfield designed.
- Recently, the demand for fuss-free kicks has increased. In response, brands introduced the slip-on. These laceless sneakers are easy to wear yet equally stylish.
Time or the season plays a major role in the selection of sneakers. The time of the year can clearly have an effect in getting a new pair as everyone would still want to look good in a shoe that offers the right functionality or utility.
- Every summer, most brands show off their sneakers that flaunt an all-white upper. Some are outfitted with light yet bright hues to match the season. These shoes commonly have a low-cut construction and are made of light, breathable mesh or textile. Others are equipped with an insole that wicks away moisture to keep feet dry and odor-free.
- To prepare for winter, brands weatherize new releases, not to mention classics, with a rugged sole for improved traction and grip on slippery surfaces. Usually designed with a high collar, its upper is covered with waterproof tech or treated to make it water-repellent for added protection.
- A gusseted tongue and leather overlays are also added for moisture protection. For warmth, the sneakers interior are lined with either fleece or wool.
A hands-down factor in looking for the next pair is the material the sneaker is made of. Since comfort, style, and even functionality play by the rules dictated by the material used, knowing what makes the sneaker hum is essentially important.
The market is flooded with a multitude of materials that fit perfectly to the styling and functional needs of the buyer. Here are some of them:
- Leather shoes are known for their durability. Various types of leather are used to make sneakers. Elegant-looking yet strong, capable of molding to the feet and able to endure rain while offering ample breathability, it is commonly applied on athletic shoe-inspired sneakers.
- Textile/canvas is known to be light, airy and easy to clean. Its downside is that it’s not waterproof. Sneakers that are made of this material are best worn during sunny weather.
- An all-synthetic sneaker is usually inexpensive yet uncomfortable and lacks ventilation. However, when used as an overlay, this material adds lightweight support and protection to the shoe. It also improves the sneaker’s durability.
- Advancements in tech allowed brands to use mesh and neoprene on shoes. The former is known for its breathability and reduced weight. The latter, a stretchy, synthetic rubber material, is renowned for its supportive yet flexible structure. Applied to an upper, the shoe is then able to provide stable, sock-like comfort.
- The type of material used in a shoe will affect its pricing. Kicks crafted with top-grade leather are costly compared to those made of manmade leather or canvas.
- Many shoes are made of a mix of materials to improve its durability, support and aesthetics.
The sneaker’s design has transformed remarkably throughout the years. New designs and never-before-seen colorways are introduced every so often as a result of consumers’ ever-changing needs and demands, shoe designers’ endless creativity and the boundless emergence of new technologies.
In spite of all the developments, some classic silhouettes remain in circulation for its timeless design. Fans’ excitement and sneakerheads’ curiosity are roused with every updated release of these vintage shoes. The past is clearly a huge part of how sneakers are produced and made available to the public.
A model that flaunts a new silhouette is called an “OG.” Depending on how it is accepted by the masses, the new model can instigate the rise of a new collection. Many of the vintage-inspired shoes today got their looks from a model launched years ago. Modern tech has also allowed brands to develop never-before-seen designs.
Usually, OGs are released ten years after the launch of its initial model. Some brands, however, introduces an “OG” edition, which carries the original’s colorway, a few years after the original model gets released.
This type refers to sneakers that were launched back in the days and are re-released due to an increase in demand. Most of the time, these are released five years after the unveiling of the OG silhouette.
Normally donned in the shoe’s original colorway, these versions are made with more premium materials. Slight tweaks in the design can also be expected. Some models, though, are dressed in new colorways.
Classic sneakers have been given a new life and new models have been conceived with the help of pro athletes, artists, musicians, top-tier shops and the like. Suddenly turning into designers, models named after these iconic figures are commonly hyped up and released in limited numbers with a slightly higher price.
There are some, though, that become crowd favorites, are produced in large quantities and maintain a reasonable price tag.
These collaborations have turned seemingly regular sneakers into luxe items in an instant. These team-ups have also produced a couple of new models usually priced from $200 or above.
Sneakers’ Ties with Popular Culture and Its Rise to Fame
Nowadays, sneakers, also known as tackies, kicks and trainers, can be seen on the foot of the majority of people. Its global presence is outstanding. So, how did this shoe attain so much popularity?
History would reveal how much this inexpensive object has been the focus of public attention. Both functional and aesthetically pleasing, it has caught the attention of seasoned athletes, not to mention the popular culture.
The craze started in the 1970s when kicks with brightly-colored hues were introduced. Formerly used only in the track or on the court, the shoes became an appealing streetwear option.
Its prominence intensified with the growth of the hip-hop community. Sneakers became a subject of songs sang by famous artists like Run DMC and Nelly.
In the year 1985, sneakers also became a topic of debate and a symbol of youthful rebellion as Michael Jordan wore the controversial $65 Air Jordan despite it being banned by the NBA. It was and is still is embraced by the alternative culture for its authenticity.
Like a blank canvas, it has also been used as a tool for cultural expression by many designers, artists and celebrities.
Currently, sneaker industry is among the largest markets. Having a $75 billion market price and growing by over 40% in 2004, Transparency Market Research revealed that a significant increase in revenue is expected by the year 2020.
Sneakers Technologies and How It Changed the Way Sneakers Are Made
Primarily worn for tennis when it first appeared, sneakers have evolved in numerous ways. Its design, quality and comfort enhanced with all the technological advancements developed throughout the years. One discovery led to another making the shoe production process progress in unimaginable ways.
A practice perceived as a sustainable innovation for its ability to dramatically speed up the design process while significantly reducing waste, this tech allowed brands to create shoes made with a one-piece knit upper. Regardless of what brand’s call it, the knitted construction boasts lightweight feel and superior breathability.
Later on, the same tech was used to create a midsole. Molded according to the shape of the foot and tailored to meet an individual’s specific cushioning needs, it promises to offer a stable yet barefoot-like feel and a natural ride.
Unique Fastening System
From Puma’s Disc Blaze to Nike’s recently launched HyperAdapt and Flyease, brands are undeniably pushing their limits to come up with new ways of improving the shoe’s fit, which in turn helps consumers make their life easier. Now, wearers can say goodbye to the tiresome task of tying shoelaces.
Lifestyle shoes have been known for their comfort. Tech these days have allowed brands to provide wearers plush comfort not only around the foot but also underfoot. With the creation of the Nike Air-Sole, the Adidas Boost and the Asics Gel cushioning, modern footwear now boasts overall comfort plus superior impact protection. Vintage kicks are also updated with the same tech.
A great way to boost style points, this reflective material, also considered as a lifesaver, became known in the mid ‘60s. Applied on orange jackets used by engineers, it was later on utilized on high visibility casual clothing and then on sneakers. To date, other kinds of tech like Xeno have been developed to improve the shoe’s visibility.