7 Best Retro Trainers in 2024

Sheena
Sheena on
7 Best Retro Trainers in 2024
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Yes, every sneakerhead has to have a pair of old-school, retro trainers. Good thing, we have loads of them.

There is a wide array of trainers from stylish Adidas kicks oozing with a vintage vibe to timeless Nike sneaks that have been around since the bygone days. Because of this, we took it upon ourselves to pin down the most outstanding kicks by performing actual tests on them. We acquired the shoes and put them on in real life to gain concrete knowledge about them. 

You might want to check out our top picks, which also feature the best retro kicks overall. These shoes have been thoroughly reviewed and assessed. So, when we say one shoe is excellent, you can take our word for it.

How we test sneakers

Retro trainers may have been around for ages. However, some are no longer as high-quality as they were back in the day, while others somehow aged like fine wine. Enter RunRepeat.

Your team of shoe-doting geeks, RunRepeat, is here to tell you which among the hundreds of retro kicks are value for money. We do this by doing the following:

  • Buy the shoes and test them out ourselves. NOTE: We make sure to BUY the shoes to avoid biased reviews.
  • Emerge ourselves into the shoes. We use them in our daily undertakings to actually have valid opinions regarding their performance, durability, comfort, price, fit, and others.
  • Weigh, measure, and even dissect the shoes to get into their nitty-gritty details. We really go deep with the numbers behind how the shoes respond to each of our tests, both on the foot and in the lab.

 

Best retro trainers overall

Adidas Busenitz
92
Great!

What makes it the best?

Style defying time. This is what Adidas Busenitz is all about, and this is also the reason why out of all the retro sneakers, we specifically picked this pair as the best! Being retro doesn’t mean everything about it is out of date. In fact, it exceedingly met our expectations with a lot of things…

…starting with durability! We used a Dremel along with a wire brush attachment and pushed it to Adidas Busenitz’s upper, and we were ecstatic at how it withstood the friction like a champ. Its durability was also consistent with what we experienced on our walks and skating sessions: abrasion-free kick.

Even on damp outdoor trips, we trust Adidas Busenitz, as we didn’t end up with soggy feet during our strolls. In our lab, it became more absolute that the sneaker repels water. We showered its upper with water, and let’s just say the insides were as dry as it was. 

Underfoot comfort and support are also something we felt wearing this sneaker for hours, thanks to its thick cushioning. Unfortunately, this came at a cost: stiffness. As shown in our flexibility test, Busenitz didn’t bend considerably when we used our bar clamp in the lab. Also, on foot, it took us quite some time before fully breaking into the pair. If you can’t forgive lengthy wear-in time, seek other pairs with zero break-ins. 

Pros

  • Incredibly durable
  • Fits true to size
  • Grippy as anything
  • Technical shoe for responsive skating
  • Surprisingly weatherproof
  • Classic silhouette
  • Easy to clean

Cons

  • Takes a long time to break it
  • Narrow in the toe box
  • The big tongue isn't for everyone
  • Not very breathable
Full review of Adidas Busenitz

Retro trainers with the best cushioning

What makes it the best?

The Nike SB Nyjah Free 2 impressed us with its outstanding cushioning, surpassing all other retro-themed sneakers in our database. Our extensive laboratory testing and walking around town revealed that the foam midsoles of these 90s-inspired kicks offer exceptional support and responsiveness, providing a cushioned experience with every step. Adding to the comfort, the Ortholite insole with a deep heel cup delivers a plush feel and additional support too.

During our walk around the city, these kicks proved to have an incredibly comfortable footbed. The combination of the supportive midsole foam and gum sole felt like a heavenly mattress for the feet from the moment we put them on. The cushioning of the Nyjah Free 2 is truly exceptional, to the point where we don't want to take them off!

In our lab, we conducted a flexibility test on the soles, using a bar clamp to gauge their bending capacity under pressure. We squeezed the sneakers in between the jaws of a clamp and the results mirrored our experience on the streets—the Nike Free Technology allowed the soles to flex along with our feet promoting control and natural movement.

It is worth noting that we found these kicks to lack grip. Individuals who prioritize traction should explore other options.

Pros

  • Supreme fit
  • Comfortable in-shoe feel
  • Durable upper construction
  • Breathable
  • Variety of colorways
  • Tight lock with Nike's lace system

Cons

  • Mesh is not as durable as the rest of the shoe
  • Not the grippiest
  • Hard to clean some areas
Full review of Nike SB Nyjah Free 2

Best retro trainers for skating

What makes it the best?

Combining a nearly indestructible upper with a cushy and responsive footbed, the Vans Old Skool Pro outshines its rivals to become our ultimate retro sneakers for skating. Results from testing the sneaker around town and inside the lab also confirm that the Old Skool Pro is extremely comfortable and breathable.

When we skated in these kicks, we appreciated the cushioned comfort that the PopCush insoles provided right from the get-go. As we hit the pavement, the midsoles' responsiveness and the grip of the waffle outsoles resulted in excellent board control. This allowed us to skate freely and enjoyably. Additionally, we noticed that the suede panel on the toebox and counter protected the sneaker from abrasions and board scratches.

To further test the durability, we intentionally scuffed the upper in our lab using a metallic brush attached to a Dremel drill. The Old Skool Pro showed its true grit, taking the beating like a pro. The abrasions produced only a small amount of powder residue, while the resulting ruggedness made the retro appeal stand out even more. 

During the walk test, we were pleasantly surprised by the breathability of the canvas. The comfort was further amplified by the generous amount of padding that was gentle to the back of the foot.

However, when we applied 2 colors and chalk on the upper, we found that these sneakers love the stains. The canvas part especially and that's the part that is also very difficult to clean, unlike the suede one. This is why we recommend looking elsewhere if you love your sneakers sparkling clean at all times.

Pros

  • Fits true to size
  • Super durable skate shoe
  • Extra comfortable inner sole
  • Flexible
  • Relatively breathable
  • Many colorways to choose from
  • Still the same Vans we love
  • Easy to clean
  • Weatherproof

Cons

  • Can be hard to put on
  • Parts of it still susceptible to stains
Full review of Vans Old Skool Pro

Best Air Max retro trainers

What makes it the best?

After rigorous testing inside and outside the lab, we have found that the best retro Air Max sneaker is none other than the Nike Air Max Excee. Its 80+ old-school colorways perfectly embody the sporty aesthetic of the sneaker line. Aside from being ultra comfortable, the kicks are also much cheaper than other Air Max sneakers.

The sneaker boasts its multi-textured upper with layers of mesh, suede, and leather, making it a distinct Air Max silhouette. The colored air bubble further retro-fies the Excee.

We subjected the sneaker to a durability test in the lab by scratching the upper with a Dremel drill fitted with a wire brush. Although the mesh and suede started fraying, the leather showed utmost resilience.

We experienced the kicks' sensational comfort during our stroll around the city. The collar and tongue are well-padded, creating a snug and comfortable wrap around our feet. With such a high level of comfort, it's hard to believe that the Excee is 19.8% cheaper than the average price of all the retro Air Max sneakers in our database (£120.2). A pair of Air Max Excee sells for £100.

However, based on our tests, we have also confirmed that the Excee is not breathable. Therefore, we don't recommend the kick to those who prioritize breathability.

Pros

  • Fits true to size
  • Perfect for sporty outfits
  • Insanely comfortable
  • Cheaper than many Air Max
  • Colours IRL are even better than the ones on the screen
  • Wide choice of colorways

Cons

  • Stiff
  • There's very little airflow
  • Poor durability
Full review of Nike Air Max Excee

Best retro trainers for cold weather

What makes it the best?

The Nike Air Trainer 3 solidified its status as a staple fall/winter sneaker when Eminem wore them during his performances for the "Marshall Mathers LP 2" album in November 2013. After extensive lab testing and wearing them around the city, we discovered that the mid-top sneaker also provides the necessary warmth and comfort for the winter season. Additionally, the construction is quite watertight, making it ideal for the rainy fall weather.

During our walks around town, we found that the ankle-length profile of the sneaker hugged our feet comfortably, exuding a cozy vibe that is perfect for the cold season. In the lab, we conducted water-tightness tests by pouring water onto the leather upper. While not completely waterproof, the sneaker repelled a significant amount of water, keeping the interior relatively dry.

We also subjected Air Trainer 3 to a stain test using colored chalk and dye on the toebox. The sneaker exhibited remarkable resistance to stains, making them easy to maintain. A simple wipe was enough to restore them to their original condition. 

However, it's important to note that Air Trainer 3's rubber soles are inflexible. When squeezed using a bar clamp, we observed minimal bending, confirming the stiffness we experienced during our walk test. Hence, we don't recommend them for individuals seeking sneakers with flexible soles.

Pros

  • Fits true to size
  • Durable leather construction
  • Retro styling
  • Surprisingly breathable
  • Could make a winter sneaker

Cons

  • Limited colorways
  • Not very flexible
  • Has hotspots where the shoe rubs on the toe
Full review of Nike Air Trainer 3

Retro trainers with the best comfort

PUMA RS-X
91
Great!

What makes it the best?

We discerned from our wear tests that the unrivaled comfort provider of retro sneakers is the PUMA RS-X. We found that while the PUMA RS-X captures the essence of a 1980s aesthetic, its delivered in-shoe pleasure is in line with our current demands. We are in a state of euphoria when we wear this sneaker the entire day. 

Beyond the broad-ranging retro style of the PUMA RS-X, the reason we are drawn to wearing it daily on our trips is its exceptional comfort. We confirmed that any kind of discomfort is completely out of the table with this sneaker even if we spend the whole day on our feet. We also experienced spring in our steps, courtesy of the liberally cushioned midsole.

The best thing is, that this retro sneaker, albeit a thickset, is unnoticeable on the feet. It felt so light that we enjoyed standing and walking more. The downside is that PUMA RS-X is a needle in a haystack, meaning, it is hard to obtain a pair. If tracking it down is something you wouldn’t like to consider, we suggest settling for other instantly procurable retro sneakers.

Pros

  • Retro charm
  • Numerous vivid colorways
  • Very comfortable step-in feel
  • Plenty of cushioning for all-day wear
  • Breathable, summer-ready upper
  • Very stable platform
  • Highly durable outsole
  • Reasonably priced

Cons

  • Heavier than average
  • Stiff forefoot
Full review of PUMA RS-X

Best basketball inspired retro trainers

New Balance 550
86
Good!

What makes it the best?

The outcome of our wear tests showed that the New Balance 550 is the irrefutable victor of basketball-inspired retro sneakers. We most certainly enjoyed donning this sneaker on different occasions with different fits, even though its style dates back to the 1980s. Also, we are ecstatic with the quality and craftsmanship of this basketball kick that is still ahead of the curve!

Upon close scrutiny, we could not spot any trace of glue stains. All the seams were done and everything was flawless. We also challenged the quality of the New Balance 550 by putting it through practical situations, and we were stunned by its strength and ruggedness. 

Moving on to the underfoot feel, we were over the moon! We were beyond content with the super plush feeling that this sneaker’s two-layered Ortholite insole offered. One thing we noticed about its fit was it has a spacious toe box, which was perfect for wide footers but might be a deal breaker for those with narrow feet. If you also have narrow feet, we suggest considering a smaller size or looking for other snug retro sneakers.

Pros

  • Attention-grabbing throwback look
  • Well-cushioned insole
  • Incredibly clean details
  • Suitable for various outfits
  • Durable, high-quality construction
  • No visible wear after several uses
  • Easy to clean
  • Striking shades
  • Reasonably priced

Cons

  • Insufficient lockdown feel
  • Not ideal for wide feet
  • Released in a limited quantity
Full review of New Balance 550
Author
Sheena
Sheena
Sheena is a wordsmith turned sneaker addict. Her sneaker fixation intensified as her passion for writing grew. A hands-on mom of two sweet yet spunky kids (plus three dogs and two cats), she finds solitude in leafing through shoe catalogues to find the next "it" sneaker. Scrutinising hugely popular and underrated kicks is her favourite pastime.