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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-based 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.
- Football 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.
- Casual shoes with training roots 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
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:
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.
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.
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.
Recently, brands have entered the world of high-fashion and have partnered with renowned fashion designers like Yohji Yamamoto, Stella McCartney, Raf Simons, Kanye West and Rick Owens.
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.
Sneaker technologies and how they 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.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the proper ways to wash sneakers?
Sneakers are comfortable, versatile, and easy to wear. Because of these features, it is inevitable for our well-loved pairs to require care and proper cleaning. Washing or cleaning your sneakers is easy, sure - but it can be tricky. Proper cleaning is crucial to maintaining the quality and aesthetics of your sneakers since one wrong move could quickly destroy their material, colors, or overall construction.
Below are some practical tips to keep in mind:
- Remove the laces before cleaning your sneakers. These should be washed separately with soapy water.
- Remove any excess debris such as mud or dirt with a soft brush.
- Avoid using harsh chemicals like bleach as it may cause discoloration and damage to your sneakers.
- When cleaning your kicks, use a soap solution by mixing powder soap, laundry detergent, or dishwashing liquid with water and a soft brush.
- Avoid any leather or suede from getting wet as this would quickly damage the material. There are available cleaning kits that specifically cater to such types of materials for shoe cleaning.
- Use baking soda to remove undesirable odor from the insoles.
- Once done cleaning the sneakers, allow them to air dry and do not expose them to direct sunlight and high temperatures.
How should sneakers fit?
Sneakers should fit comfortably on foot – not too tight nor too loose. Sneaker models across brands, and even within the same brand, vary in size both in length and width. This means that not because you are a size, say, 10 in one brand would mean that the same size in another brand would give the same exact fit.
One way to know if your sneakers fit correctly is through the finger test. When wearing your sneaker, you should be able to insert your index finger comfortably between your heel and the shoe's heel part. If you are able to wiggle around your finger, then it means that your pair fits too big. On the other hand, if you can't even place your finger in between your heel and the shoe's heel, then it implies that your pair is too small or tight.
Also, when you feel pressure or squeezing on the sides of your feet, it means that you have to size up.
My sneakers fit too tight. How can I stretch them?
Sneakers naturally stretch out over time, especially when being worn regularly. However, there are alternative ways to speed up this process. Here are some useful hacks:
- Wear your sneakers around the house, and wear them with a pair of thick socks to speed up the procedure. By doing so would help loosen the materials and stretch out your shoes.
- A simple alternative is to use a shoe stretching tool. This kind of device can stretch out the length and width of your pairs.
- Another known method of breaking in leather and suede sneakers is by heating it with a hairdryer. leather and suede sneakers. Wear your tight sneakers with thick socks, and aim the hairdryer (set at medium heat) on the tight areas of the shoes while flexing your feet and wiggling your toes.
- Freezing your sneakers is another way. You just have to place a sealed plastic bag filled with water into each pair and freeze them. Once the water freezes, allow it to thaw then remove the plastic bags from the shoes. Although a bit tricky than the other methods mentioned, this one is also effective.
Why are the sneakers called sneakers?
Sneakers are called as such because of how quiet their rubber soles are compared to other kinds of shoes with leather soles. Back in the day, it was the perfect shoe to “sneak” around without being noticed by other people. Although initially known as “plimsolls” and otherwise referred to as “trainers,” “athletic shoe,” “kicks,” or "beaters" among others, the name sneakers stuck and widelybeing used up to this day.
What are the best ways to lace lifestyle shoes?
Here are some of the basic lacing techniques for sneakers:
- Criss Cross Lacing. The most common lacing technique used in sneakers and shoes in general, and mostly the default lacing method that comes with a pair of newly bought shoe. It showcases a simple crisscrossing of laces as they work their way up the sneaker.
- Straight Lacing. Otherwise known as fashion lacing, street lacing, or straight bar lacing, this lacing technique is also a popular choice amongst sneaker wearers. It gives a neater look, and more room for your feet to breathe.
- Ladder Lacing. Although used typically on military boots, the ladder lacing technique can also be applied on sneakers. The laces are weave horizontally and vertically forming a ladder-like appearance and a secure fit.
- Spider Web Lacing. This impressive lacing technique requires intricate details by weaving the laces horizontally and vertically to form a "web." Aside from the head-turning aesthetic, the spider web lacing technique provides a firm, tight, and secure fit, as well as shorter lace ends.
For more detailed lacing techniques and knots, see our Top 10 Running Shoe Lacing Techniques here.
How do you style sneakers?
As pointed out above, style is personal and varies from one person to another. Fashion knows no rules, but a right pair of sneakers could make or break your entire outfit. Below are some basic tips to wear sneakers.
- Choose a pair of skinny or straight cut jeans to wear with either low-top or high-top sneakers.
- Avoid pairing high-top sneakers with boot cut or wide-legged denim as it will just swallow up your kicks.
- Pin roll your jeans to show off your ankle bones and draw attention to your sneakers. Pin rolling is done by folding your jeans two or three times until they are hugging your ankles.
- A solid-colored pair or classic style is a surefire way for a no-fail look.
- Wear no-show socks with low-top sneakers to further highlight your kicks.
- Buy sneakers that suit your wardrobe and personal style.
- Keep your sneakers clean. Even the most stylish pair will lose its charm if they're not well-maintained.
How are men’s sneakers different from women’s sneakers?
Men’s sneakers primarily differ from women’s sneakers in overall shape and width. Because of this, they have different sizing systems. Sneakers made in men's sizing are generally broader and bigger in size while those made in women’s sizing are made with wide forefoot but narrow heel area.
Often, brands release sneaker models that are unisex in style but only available in men’s sizing. In such cases, the ladies should get a pair that is 1.5 to 2 sizes down their usual size as an approximate women's to men's sizing equivalent.
What are the different widths available for sneakers?
Although most sneaker brands only offer standard width sizes for most of their sneaker models, some brands like New Balance, Ecco, Sperry, Under Armour, Asics, Nike, and Adidas also have sneaker releases in various widths. Below are the size equivalents for each varying width sizes:
- Extra Narrow – 2A (men’s) or 4A (women’s)
- Narrow – B (men’s) or 2A (women’s)
- Standard/ Medium – D (men’s) or B (women’s)
- Wide – 2E (men’s) or D (women’s)
- Extra Wide – 4E (men’s) or 2E (women’s)
What sneaker trends are currently popular?
These sneakers have dominated the fashion scene in recent years since Adidas strategically relaunched the iconic Stan Smith in 2014, and it seems like that they are not going anywhere else anytime soon. Men and women alike adopt the trend primarily because of its versatility and no-fail style. All-white sneakers offer minimal yet stylish aesthetics that matches a wide variety of outfits.
Otherwise referred to as "chunky sneakers" or "ugly sneakers," dad sneakers typically exhibits chunky or thick soles and overall look that reflects the retro ‘80s or ‘90s era. Some of the most popular dad sneakers include the Adidas Yeezy Wave Runner 700, Balenciaga Triple S, Gucci Rhyton, and New Balance 990.
Typically offered for the ladies, platform sneakers exhibit elevated soles of at least 1” high for extra height and edgy look. Some of the most popular sneakers that follow this trend are the Puma Fenty Creepers, Keds Triple, Vans Platform Slip-On, and more.
Unlike white sneakers, metallic sneakers are more adventurous and playful. These sneakers ditch the typical plain leather, mesh, or suede upper for metallic, satin, or even glittered material. The new façade of these kicks instantly gives a statement, but wearing them with the right outfit could be crucial.
Why are some lifestyle shoes more expensive than others?
Like with any commodity, prices of sneakers vary depending on the brand, materials and technologies used, or availability. Most of the time, basic sneakers or those released in greater quantities and available across several retailers are budget-friendly or affordable. These are usually called General Releases.
Limited-edition sneakers or those that released in limited quantities, on the other hand, are typically priced higher than usual because of their exclusivity. These shoes are also often products of unique collaborations between brands and designers, celebrities, or artists, which add value to their overall package.
Same goes with Premium Editions. These sneakers are also more expensive than regular models primarily because they utilize premium materials. The increase in price, however, equates to better quality and craftsmanship.
Another category of expensive lifestyle shoes is called luxury sneakers. Made and designed by renowned fashion designers and luxury fashion brands such as Gucci and Balenciaga, among others, these shoes are also known to exhibit premium materials and quality.
Sneakers fun facts!
- Keds is known to be the first mass-produced rubber-soled shoes or sneakers. It was made by the U.S. Rubber Company around 1982 and mass-produced in 1917.
- Basketball player Chuck Taylor pioneered the celebrity endorsement of shoes in 1921 through the Converse All Stars sneakers. He suggested innovations and design improvement on the classic shoe based on his professional knowledge in basketball. To date, the Converse Chuck Taylor All Star sneakers remain as one of the favorite classics.
- It is believed that the sneaker culture commenced in 1984 during Nike’s endorsement deal with professional basketball player Michael Jordan for the first Air Jordan shoe. He was fined by the NBA every time he wore the “bred” AJ1s in a game. The Swoosh took it as its marketing advantage when they officially launched the shoe the following year.
- Nike was originally known as the Blue Ribbon Sports (BRS), a US store distributor for Onitsuka Tiger. After the BRS’s partnership with the Japanese footwear brand ended, it rebranded to Nike, Inc. which was named after the Greek goddess of victory.
- Nike’s Swoosh logo was designed by Carolyn Davidson, then graphic design student at Portland State University in 1971, for only $35. It was first used on June 18, 1971, when the Nike Cortez. Although the initial payment was only $35, Davidson was given a huge amount of stock in the company and a gold and diamond ring shaped as the Swoosh. When she graduated from PSU, she worked at Nike for four years and then decided to work from home as a freelance designer.
- Lutz Backes created the Puma’s jumping cat logo in 1967. The Puma King was the first shoe exhibiting the said logo.
- The Onitsuka Tiger Stripe is the iconic shoe stripe design that first appeared during the pre-Olympic trials in 1966. The shoe that initially unveiled it was called as the Limber, which was used during the 1968 Mexico Olympic games and subsequently renamed as the Mexico 66.
- Founded in 1906, New Balance started off by selling arch support and did not manufacture sneakers until 1938. The company name was based on founder William J. Riley’s observations that a chicken’s three-toed foot exhibits perfect balance. As a result, the brand produced arch supports with three prongs.
- New Balance follows a model/ style number naming system for its shoes. Each model name is divided into four sections, and each corresponds to the categories in which that particular model belongs.
- Skechers started as the largest distributor of Dr. Martens in the US. Eventually, it had a falling out with the makers of Dr. Martens shoes and had to go on with its own label.
- Saucony, Keds, Merrell, and Sperry are sneaker brands that are all owned by Wolverine Worldwide, Inc., a footwear manufacturing company based in Michigan.
- Reebok is named after a small antelope from South America called rhebok.
15 best sneakers
- Nike Tanjun
- Nike Air Force 1 Low
- Nike Air Max Motion 2
- Nike Air Max 270
- Adidas Continental 80
- Adidas POD-S3.1
- Nike M2K Tekno
- Nike Air Force 1 07
- New Balance 990
- Adidas Cloudfoam Ultimate
- Onitsuka Tiger Mexico 66
- Nike React Element 55
- Nike Air Max 720
- Asics Gel Lyte III
- Nike Air VaporMax Plus
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