Style

The Something-for-Everyone Sneaker Guide

Written by: Amanda Chung

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Updated: September 14, 2022

Fashion editors: Sandra Slusarczyk and Caroline Griswold

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Twenty-eight options for every style, sensibility, and setting. And the stories behind the rise of the fashion sneaker, the brands moving toward sustainability, the first celebrity-endorsed sneaker, and what’s happened since the 1982 appearance of the dad sneaker. Plus, advice from our fashion director on how to wear jeans and sneakers in a nondweeby way.

THE SUSTAINABLE SNEAKER

  1. In an industry notorious for pollution, underpaid labor, and virtue signaling, Veja makes every effort to do things right. The French footwear brand doesn’t just use environmentally conscious materials, like responsibly sourced Amazonian rubber and Leather Working Group–certified suede. It also purchases those materials directly from farmers, paying above-market prices and, in some cases, even prefinancing harvests up to 40 percent. Cooler still, it conducts comprehensive carbon studies and publishes the results on its website.

  2. Veja Rio Branco Sneakers goop, $145
    Veja Rio Branco Sneakers goop, $145
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FASHION’S TAKE

  1. As part of its new sustainability project, Open for a Change, Valentino recently unveiled eco-minded versions of its Open and Rockstud Untitled sneakers, which are made with some biobased materials and have recycled polyester laces.

    Valentino open for a change sneaker Valentino, $690
    Valentino open for a change sneakers Valentino, $690
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  2. These ’90s-inspired basketball sneakers are done in Demetra, a new leather alternative from Gucci—announced in 2021 after two years of research and development and made of animal-free raw materials.

    Gucci Basket sneaker Gucci, $950
    Gucci Basket sneakers Gucci, $950
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  3. With Gabriela Hearst at the helm, Chloé has done an impressive job of increasing its use of lower-impact materials. Forty percent of this sneaker’s weight is recycled material, including the hand-stitched mesh and the EVA midsole.

    Chloe nama sneaker Chloe, $795
    Chloé nama sneakers Chloé, $795
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THE DAD SNEAKER

  1. New Balance basically fathered this trend (sorry) with its now-iconic 990 series, which originally launched in 1982. This particular model, the 990v5, has the kind of comfort-centric design and unpretentious aesthetic that any man over 50 would appreciate. And while they’re engineered for running (the ENCAP midsole cushions your every step), they work just as well in nonworkout settings—say, styled with a well-cut pair of straight-leg jeans.

  2. New Balance 990 v5 core sneaker New Balance, $185
    New Balance 990v5 core New Balance, $184.99
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YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE…

  1. Loewe’s creative director, Jonathan Anderson, put a chic spin on this old-school silhouette with suede panels and a swirly Anagram logo.

    Loewe Flow sneakers Net-a-Porter, $690
    Loewe Flow sneakers Net-a-Porter, $690
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  2. If you can’t quite get behind the 990v5s, try a more streamlined style in a feminine cream-on-white palette.

    New Balance x Staud xc-72 Staud, $150
    New Balance x Staud xc-72 Staud, $150
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  3. These trainers stand out with their grippy lug soles, which are built for everything from rain-slicked concrete to uneven dirt trails.

    Salomon XT-6 MatchesFashion, $177
    Salomon XT-6 Matchesfashion, $177
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THE FASHION SNEAKER

  1. Only a year after the release of its notable sock sneaker, Balenciaga changed the shoe landscape once again for fall/winter 2017. Heavily padded and inherently polarizing, the Triple S was a complete departure from the sleek standard the sock sneaker had set, splicing together three different shoes—running, basketball, and track (hence the name)—to form a chunky, culture-shifting shape lusted after by fashion editors and sneakerheads alike. Fast-forward five years and the superstacked silhouette is still kicking.

  2. Balenciaga triple s sneaker Balenciaga, $995
    Balenciaga triple s sneakers Balenciaga, $1,150
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BULK UP

  1. Powder-blue Prada sneakers combine technical mesh uppers, intricate rubber paneling, and a dramatic sawtooth thread (look closely—you might recognize it from the brand’s viral Monolith loafers and combat boots).

    Prada Cloudbust Thunder sneakers Prada, $1,200
    Prada Cloudbust Thunder sneakers Prada, $1,200
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  2. Louis Vuitton’s version debuted during the spring/summer 2018 show and features a wave-shaped outsole and extra-tall tongue. The lower cut around the ankle, along with the monogrammed trim, gives it a distinctly more feminine look.

    Louis Vuitton ARCHLIGHT SNEAKER Louis Vuitton, $1,230
    Louis Vuitton ARCHLIGHT SNEAKERS Louis Vuitton, $1,230
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  3. The sequel to the ultrapopular Triple S, Balenciaga’s Track sneaker borrows visually from traditional trail runners and hiking boots, which is evident in the breathable mesh upper, elaborate rubber paneling, lug soles, and cord laces.

    Balenciaga track sneaker Balenciaga, $1,050
    Balenciaga track sneakers Balenciaga, $1,050
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THE WHITE SNEAKER

  1. A mini history lesson for you: In 1963, adidas produced its first leather sneaker. It was exceedingly simple, done in all white with perforations where the signature stripes should have been, and it was named after the French tennis player Robert Haillet. It wasn’t until over a decade later, when Haillet retired, that adidas officially renamed the style after American player Stan Smith and the shoe gained traction in the US market.

    The now-ubiquitous sneakers have been worn by everyone from Jay-Z to Phoebe Philo, who was routinely spotted in them at Celine shows during her tenure as creative director. And for good reason(s): They’re clean, they’re classic, and—best of all—they go with everything in your closet.

  2. Adidas stan smith Adidas, $95
    adidas stan smith adidas, $95
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SAME BUT DIFFERENT

  1. While the round toe, perforated details, and colorful heel tab make these aesthetically similar to Stan Smiths, Alexander McQueen’s signature sneaker features a pumped-up sole, giving the wearer a not-insignificant height boost.

    Alexaner McQueen oversized sneaker Alexander McQueen, $580
    Alexander McQueen oversized sneakers Alexander McQueen, $590
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  2. These Guccified Gazelles are fairly understated given the Italian fashion house’s penchant for maximalism. Lace them on with everything from dresses to jumpsuits to jeans.

    Gazelle sneaker
    adidas x Gucci Gazelle sneakers Gucci, $850
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  3. In a logo-obsessed culture, Common Projects is a breath of fresh air. Save for the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it gold-foil serial number stamped on the outer ankle, these Italian-made sneaks are a chic study in minimalism.

    Common Projects Achilles Sneakers Bergdorf Goodman, $445
    Common Projects Achilles Sneakers Bergdorf Goodman, $445
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THE ICONIC SNEAKER

  1. The Air Jordan 1 is easily the most famous style in this roundup: Even those who claim to know nothing about sneaker culture will recognize the silhouette. It debuted in 1985, after a struggling Nike inked a five-year contract with then-rookie Michael Jordan. The shoe was red, white, and black, to match Jordan’s Chicago Bulls jersey (a wild choice because at the time, every other player in the league wore all-white sneakers—an NBA rule). Legend has it that the NBA banned the shoe and fined Jordan $5,000 every time he played in them. Nike footed the bill—a small price to pay for publicity—and the rest, as they say, is history.

  2. Nike air jordan 1 Flight Club, $210
    Nike air jordan 1 Flight Club, from $163
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MORE FROM NIKE

  1. The Blazers predated the AJ1s by a little over a decade, which is reflected in the slimmer, less-bulky profile that was popular in the ’70s.

    Nike blazer Nike, $100
    Nike blazer Nike, $105
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  2. If you want the Jordan look but don’t love a high-top, Dunk Lows have a similar aesthetic (both styles were designed by Peter Moore) but with an ankle-revealing cut.

    Nike dunk Goat, from $222
    Nike dunk low Goat, from $181
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  3. The Cortez—with its bullet-like shape and patriotic palette—has been a pop-culture favorite since its release (think Farrah Fawcett, Forrest Gump).

    Nike cortez Goat, from $59
    Nike cortez Goat, from $53
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THE WORKOUT SNEAKER

  1. If you haven’t heard of On, allow us to introduce you to the fastest-growing running-shoe company in the world—and the featherweight trainers favored by Olympians. What makes these shoes different: the easy-entry lacing system, the minimalist design, and the fact that those antimicrobial mesh uppers feel fresh even after a whole hour of Tracy Anderson. But what makes them outstanding are the CloudTec soles, which provide an insanely smooth, even step. Reinforced with signature grippiness on the bottom, this classic pair is fit for just about any activity: intense runs, leisurely hikes, dance cardio, treadmill climbs—you name it.

  2. On Cloud 5 Combo On-Running, $150
    On Cloud 5 Combo On, $149.99
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GYM BUDDIES

  1. As with everything she touches, these running shoes from Stella McCartney’s ongoing collaboration with adidas are thoughtfully made with sustainable materials.

    Adidas by Stella McCartney ultraboost 20 no dye goop, $230
    adidas by Stella McCartney solarglide sneakers goop, $220
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  2. Why we love them: They’re high performance. They’re slightly hypebeast-y. And that soft, flexible tongue molds to your ankle, so it won’t rub the skin raw.

    Adidas by Stella McCartney Solarglide Sneakers goop, $200
    adidas by Stella McCartney Solarglide Sneakers goop, $200
    SHOP NOW
  3. Wearing Hokas feels like you’re walking on clouds. And according to the American Podiatric Medical Association, they can help promote foot health.

    Hoka One One Clifton 8 goop, $140
    Hoka One One Clifton 8 goop, $140
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THE HIGH-TOP

  1. In their 80-something-year history, Converse All Stars have been many things: the first-ever celebrity-endorsed sneaker (Chuck Taylor’s signature is still on the ankle patch), the official shoe of both the 1936 US Olympic men’s basketball team and the American armed forces during World War II (talk about range!), and a favorite style of entire musical subcultures, from punk rockers to grunge kids.

    We particularly love the Chuck 70s: a revitalization of the classic retro design, made of a slightly more-substantial-feeling canvas with yellow-tinted soles reminiscent of aged rubber.

  2. Converse chuck 70 Converse, $85
    Converse chuck 70 Converse, $85
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TALL ORDER

  1. Veja’s eco-minded version is made of organic cotton canvas (for the upper) and a combination of recycled rubber, sugarcane, and rice waste (for the soles).

    Veja Nova High-Tops goop, $120
    Veja Nova High-Tops goop, $120
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  2. Scuffed soles, distressed heels, subtle signs of wear throughout: These beat-up Balenciagas bring a punk-rock vibe to the rest of your outfit.

    Balenciaga Paris trainers MatchesFashion, $750
    Balenciaga Paris trainers Matchesfashion, $750
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  3. Crafted in Italy from snowy cotton canvas, tonal leather heel tabs, and silver-tone eyelets. And how good is the logo scribbled on the side?

    Saint Laurent Malibu Sneakers Net-a-Porter, $595
    Saint Laurent Malibu Sneakers Net-a-Porter, $595
    SHOP NOW

Ask Ali

Q

How do you wear jeans and sneakers in a nondweeby way?

A

First things first: Go for well-fitting wide-leg jeans. When you’re standing, the hem should skim the top of your foot without pooling so that your shoe just barely peeks out. (You can check this by turning to the side in front of a full-length mirror; your outside seam should be straight all the way down.) I styled these on Gwyneth with a slim, retro-looking sneaker—you can shop similar ones here.

These tips also work for flared jeans and straight-leg jeans, so wear what works best for you!

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