There was a time not so very long ago when attending a special event in a pair of sneakers was a surefire way to flag yourself to your shiny-shoed peers as a sartorial pariah. However, sneakers are now en vogue, with the best sneaker brands constantly innovating new and stylish footwear. Attitudes have shifted in unforeseen ways and what was once the scruffy outlier is now the footwear gold standard.
The transition from running track to the runway has been a slow and gradual one, but in recent years it has reached a crescendo; a crescendo that looks set to blare on indefinitely. This is thanks in no small part to a number of key designers and best sneaker brands who have been pushing footwear to its limits in every conceivable direction.
Some have created white leather kicks that look right at home with tailoring. Others are inventing technology that might as well have come straight out of a
Here we take a look at the most influential sneaker brands in the world right now and what they’re doing to help elevate the world’s favorite footwear.
Yeah, in 2016
Founded in 1964 by University of Oregon track-and-field coach Bill Bowerman, the brand has a long track record of world-beating performance footwear as well as technological innovation (Flyknit uppers and NikeID personalization in the last decade). More than that,
Still the most recognizable. Still the most wanted. Still, the ones to beat.
The ongoing technological arms race between the world’s sneaker brands the big hitters has produced some of the boldest innovations in footwear. Luckily for us, it doesn’t show any sign of letting up.
Ask any sneakerhead on the street who’s in pole position, and they’ll tell you it’s
There are the beloved classics — the Superstar, Stan Smith, and Gazelle all come to mind — and they’re not going away, but in recent years the brand’s R&D
It’s incredible (and slightly terrifying) to think about how much the world has evolved in the last 100 years. Commercial flight, television, mobile phones, and the internet are just a few of the inventions that have revolutionized the way we live.
With that in mind, it’s a real triumph of design when something introduced a century ago is still being used globally today.
Converse’s famous high-top, the Chuck Taylor All Star, is one such item. Born in 1917, the iconic basketball shoe has remained 99.9 percent unchanged and is now the best-selling shoe in the US, UK, and far beyond. Yes, this sneaker brand has other excellent shoes, like the Run Star Motion and the Chuck 70s, but this is arguably the most iconic sneaker ever made. And what’s more, it’s for everyone.
When luxury New York sneaker brand Common Projects first introduced its Achilles Low model in 2004, the menswear world went mad for it. But why? Was it innovative? No. Was it next-level comfortable? Hardly. Did it come in at bargain prices? Quite the opposite.
This shoe was nothing more than a plain, leather sneaker. However, the thing that had the fash pack fawning over this minimalist trainer was that every little detail was meticulously executed to the nth degree. This was a sneaker created like an Oxford shoe handcrafted in Northamptonshire.
Buttery Italian leather, exquisite streamlined shapeliness, and timeless wearability made each pair the perfect accompaniment to anything from a suit to shorts. It arguably started today’s thriving luxury sneaker market, and all of this, in a world now dominated by Balenciaga beetle-crushers, is not to be taken for granted.
As time marches on, there are fewer and fewer brands willing to take a financial bullet in the name of quality craftsmanship and have products manufactured on home turf. When talking about sneaker companies, the numbers are lower still.
That’s what makes New Balance one of the best in the game. Not only is the Bostonian firm responsible for some of the comfiest and most iconic running shoes ever made since 1906, but it also produces its premium range half in the US and half in the UK’s Lake District in factories staffed with highly trained craftspeople.
It’s because of this approach to manufacturing that New Balance has a glowing reputation among athletes, sneakerheads, and just everyday folks. From their Fresh Foam Beacons to their 608s, the blend of dad style and modern hipster elite is here to stay, thus earning itself a spot in the FashionBeans hall of fame.
It may not make as much noise as some of its contemporaries, but while they’re all battling it out trying to come up with the next big thing, Puma has been quietly working away in the background, perfecting the classics, since 1948. And inventing a few new ones, too.
A prime example of this is the brand’s take on the chunky sneaker trend. Puma has taken the look, put its own stamp on it, and made it accessible to those whose wallets might not be able to stand up to the strain posed by a luxury pair that cost as much as a month’s rent.
Turn to the Thunder Electric model for a bulky-but-athletic shape and bold nineties-esque color pops, or the covetable Tsugi line for a more stripped-back melding of mesh and neoprene atop a thick cushioned midsole.
From riding empty pools in suburban LA to jumping around on stage at the Warped Tour, Vans has earned itself a deserved reputation as the shoe brand of choice for alternative lifestyles.
Its appeal is due in no small part to the simple styling, timeless appearance, modest pricing, and, of course, plentiful color options offered by its designs. The Old Skool, Classic and Authentic is all instantly recognizable designs that haven’t changed in decades, mainly because they don’t need to.
What has changed is how people wear them. Once a shoe for kids and skaters only, it’s now equally comfortable on rock stars and hip-hop icons, with jeans or casual suiting. From the mid-1960s right up to now, Vans has always offered people a way to add a dash of color and charisma to an outfit without breaking the bank. Something, which has seen its products remain relevant throughout the years, regardless of passing sneaker trends.
Okay, so it’s not exactly shaping the future with its footwear offerings, but when you do the classics (and the Classics) this well, why would you need to?
The British-born company, now a subsidiary of Adidas, is one of the oldest UK sneaker brands, having been established in 1958 as a partner company to an English sporting goods company — something which is evident when you look at its retro silhouettes.
Its best sneakers, like the Club, the Classic, and the Workout are nothing short of iconic and all ooze plenty of that throwback charm we all love so much. They may not be made of knitted mesh and be 3D printed, but they look great, are undeniably comfortable, and are never going to go out of style.
Can you confidently call yourself a sneakerhead if your wardrobe isn’t filled with Jordans? Perhaps not.
One of the main draws to the shoes for some is the collectible element, with many special releases and collabs being issued in seriously limited runs. Some recent partnerships have included Supreme, Off-White, Levi’s, and Kaws to name only a handful, making this one instance in which you definitely should believe the hype.
Balenciaga’s output under the guidance of Georgian fashion maverick Demna Gvasalia may be the sartorial equivalent of Marmite or Björk, but whatever you think of his work, there’s no denying he’s changing the face of fashion, one broken ankle at a time.
The sleek, minimalist speed sock was the label’s first standout sneaker with Gvasalia at the helm, which led the way to a few running sneakers from this luxury fashion house. But it was the now-inescapable Triple S that really took things in a new direction.
This beast of a shoe single-handedly remodeled the fashion footwear landscape and made big, chunky silhouettes the new gold standard. Minimalism is giving way to maximalism, and this Spanish fashion house is at the center of it all.
Changing the sneaker game since 2015, Oliver Cabell has revolutionized the way we look at and think about designer kicks. With a plethora of high-end styles to choose from, sans the luxury good price markup,
But not only are
Crafted with only the finest Italian leather using old-school techniques, it’s safe to say that you’ll never be disappointed with a pair of kicks from this life-changing sneaker brand.
The Japanese brand of sneakers, Asics, has a massive and fiercely loyal following among runners and boasts a serious running pedigree — but just because you’re not a runner, doesn’t mean you can’t benefit from these kicks. Established as Onisuka in 1949 (before becoming Asics, this company became the birthplace of, surprisingly,
However, Asics still proves it has what it takes to provide both a functional and fashionable sneaker with their innovative and dependable daily trainer, Asics Gel-Kayano, and other models such as Gel-Odyssey, Gel-Pulse, and the GT-2000s.
While you may want to save these shoes for the running trails (because hey, you can make an impression anywhere), these will still complete a casual look.
Playing the French alps since 1947, this family-founded business didn’t get into the sneaker game until much later. Originally a ski and boot company — and becoming a favorite for the Winter Olympics — Salomon has ventured out beyond the ski slopes to bring hiking boots, sneakers, and more to the population.
Salomon is meant for the man who likes to be one with nature; a man who needs a sneaker brand that doesn’t actually look like an athletic sneaker but can also handle the great outdoors. From their Cross Hike Gore-tex hiking sneaker to S/
A Swedish sneaker brand that’s made a splash in the luxury market,
Anyone fashion-forward gentleman looking to update his sneaker game will greatly benefit from a pair of these kicks. A smattering of simple designs, a handful of neutral colors, and thoughtful details are what you can expect in the footwear department, ideal for the modern man looking for a new go-to sneaker brand.
Take these shoes from the office to happy hour to an evening out on the town and rack up compliments along the way.
In fact, it could be argued that the Italian house’s offerings have set a new standard for luxury sneakers, with the clean lines and eye-catching embroidery of the Ace making it the new favorite white sneaker of the fashion elite.
And it’s not just classic styles that
Whether or not you love them or hate them, there is no denying that Kanye West’s brainchild with Adidas has changed the course of sneaker trends over the past few years. Ever since the original Boost 750s dropped onto the market, knockoffs and imitations haven’t stopped, with a whole new generation of sneaker trends desperately trying to tap into the market.
Originally in partnership with
The latest release was the Yeezy Knit Runner, which takes on the style of the Yeezy Foam Runner, but with mostly knit material. Continuing the trend of browns, beiges, and more, the colorway for these $200 sneakers is “Sulfur.” From taking a stroll around town to even popping these bad boys on for an after-work happy hour, you are sure to impress.
With over 120 years of experience under its belt, Saucony knows better than most about what goes into crafting the perfect pair of kicks
The American brand’s casual footwear really taps into the nostalgia, with bold colors acting as a nod to the ‘80s and ‘90, along with busy detailing and plenty of bright white hits to make any outfit pop. This is especially true for their Shadow 6000 model.
Not really in the mood to go back to your childhood? Saucony has plenty of modern sneaker designs to keep your sneaker game on point, including their Excursion TR15 GTX, Omni Walker 3, and more.
Made recognizable by the Duchess of Sussex, Meghan Markle, Veja was originally founded in 2003 by two Frenchmen. Supported by a green supply-and-demand chain, these shoes can help you look fresh and keep the planet from its impending climate change doom.
Outside of being an eco-friendly product, Veja also practices pretty radical transparency. Not only did the brand calculate its CO2 emissions, starting with the raw materials, accounting for transportation, the sneaker factories, and transportation for shipping, for the first time in 2019, but they have also released their carbon footprint for 2020.
Sustainability should never go out of style, just like how these vintage, yet practical designs haven’t. From keeping with their classic design in models like the Esplar Leather White Marsala to honing in on high-tops, like V15-CWL, there is a sneaker for every occasion.
Lanvin may not have always been the calling card for modern-day CEOs, but they sure know how to set the bourgeoisie from the proletariats. From their chunky Curb Sneakers to their leather and cotton DBB1 sneakers, this luxury fashion was founded by Parisienne Jeanne Lanvin in 1889 (originally as a hat shop!).
From there, the brand exploded into a lifestyle, with the rich and famous making sure everyone knows just who and what they can afford — and this is still true today. With each pair of sneakers averaging about $500 a pair, you want to make sure these shoes last forever. Luckily, their designs are both unique and dazzling, meaning it would be a worthy investment to have your feet looking this good.
Hoka One One
This niche running shoe brand released its first ‘maximal’ cushioned shoe in 2009, making their running sneakers some of the most comfortable on the market. The brand, founded by two former Salomon employees, not only appeals to athletes — it appeals to all people who crave both comfort and style.
With a range of designs, including the sleek and minimalist Gaviota 3 or something a bit more nostalgic and fun like the Bondi L Suede, Hoka isn’t just for those who run miles each day. Instead, these are the type of comfy sneakers that can get you to the office, the club, the supermarket, and more without the aches and pains.
FAQs About Sneaker Brands
Which brand makes the best sneakers?
What is the most expensive sneaker?
According to Guinness World Records, the most expensive sneakers sold at auction were a pair of
These shoes quickly took the title from a pair of 1972
However, on April 26, 2021, in a private sale, a pair of
What is the most popular sneaker brand?
A study done by The Sole Supplier revealed that