Style

The Something-for-Everyone Sneaker Guide

Written by: Amanda Chung

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Updated on: March 22, 2023

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 dad sneaker, the brands moving toward sustainability, the first celebrity-endorsed sneaker, and what’s happened since the 1963 appearance of a particular white leather 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 v-12 sneakers
    Veja v-12 sneakers goop, $155
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FASHION’S TAKE

  1. As part of its sustainability project, Open for a Change, Valentino 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 change sneaker
    Valentino Garavani open for a change sneakers Valentino Garavani, $770
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  2. 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 EVA midsole.

    Chloé nama sneaker
    Chloé nama sneakers Chloé, $795
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  3. Made with a vegan leather created from grape waste, recycled TPU, and ECONYL (an infinitely recyclable form of nylon), the S-Wave 1 is Stella McCartney’s most sustainable sneaker to date. No small statement from a brand that’s long been an industry leader in the space.

    Stella McCartney s-wave 1 trainers
    Stella McCartney s-wave 1 trainers Stella McCartney, $770
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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 sneakers New Balance, $184.99
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YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE…

  1. The 574s have a similar vibe to the 990, but with a slightly lower profile and a less chunky sole. This iteration, in a cool taupe with tonal trim, is particularly versatile.

    New Balance 574 sneakers
    New Balance 574 sneakers New Balance, $84.99
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  2. The Row’s entry into the genre is characteristically streamlined, with vintage-y leather-and-mesh uppers and a soft white-on-white palette.

    The Row Owen sneakers
    The Row Owen Runner sneakers Net-a-Porter, $790
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  3. In white denim with raw-cut edges, Miu Miu’s reinterpretation of the 574s (which debuted at its spring-summer ’22 show) is a fresh take on a retro silhouette.

    New Balance x 574 Miu Miu sneakers
    New Balance 574 x Miu Miu denim sneakers Miu Miu, $950
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THE FASHION SNEAKER

  1. Introduced in 1966 and intended to be worn by Olympians in training, the adidas Gazelle has a low profile and a sleek, streamlined design. The simplicity of the now-iconic design makes it an apt canvas for exposition. Case in point: Alessandro Michele’s reimaginings of the shoe for the adidas x Gucci collaboration. The wide-ranging collection, which draws inspiration from vintage ’80s and ’90s looks, riffs on the iconography of both brands. One standout: a pair of Gazelles done in the house’s beige-and-brown GG logo fabric and finished with adidas’s three-stripe mark and a cobranded trefoil created for the collab.

  2. adidas x Gucci gazelle
    adidas x Gucci gazelle sneakers Gucci, $850
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STRIPES FOR THE TAKING

  1. A reissue of the 1991 Gazelle, this green suede pair has off-white outsoles done in pebbled rubber and high-contrast white stripes.

    adidas gazelle
    adidas gazelle sneakers adidas, $100
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  2. The Sambas have a silhouette similar to the Gazelle’s—this version, with black stripes and a tan T-toe on a white ground, is neutral-leaning but still distinctive.

    adidas samba
    adidas samba sneakers Farfetch, $105
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  3. The bold peony-pink velvet Gazelle from the Gucci collab is finished with black stripes, a textural tongue, and a grass-green version of the cobranded trefoil.

    adidas x Gucci gazelle
    adidas x Gucci gazelle sneakers GOAT, price varies
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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 sneakers adidas, $100
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SAME BUT DIFFERENT

  1. True to form, Toteme’s rendition of the everyday white sneaker is chicly minimalist, with a low profile and tonal details.

    Toteme sneakers
    Toteme leather sneakers Toteme, $570
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  2. Handmade in Italy (the brand is known for its superb craftsmanship), these chunky platform trainers are a favorite of Gwyneth’s.

    Santoni sneaker
    Santoni double buckle sneakers Santoni, $690
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  3. Veja uses ChromeFree leather and a blend of sustainably sourced rubber, recycled rubber, and rice waste to create its eco-minded version of this streamlined style.

    Veja campo sneakers
    Veja campo sneakers goop, $175
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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 OG 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
    Nike air jordan 1 sneakers Flight Club, price varies
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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 sneakers 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 sneakers GOAT, price varies
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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 sneakers GOAT, price varies
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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 x 3
    On Cloud x 3 sneakers On, $149.99
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GYM BUDDIES

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

    Adidas by Stella McCartney
    adidas by Stella McCartney solarglide sneakers goop, $220
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  2. Light and durable, these trail shoes have deep-lugged outsoles for traction and a technical construction that provides maximum stability on a variety of surfaces.

    Salomon xt-4 low-top sneakers
    Salomon xt-4 low-top sneakers Farfetch, $140
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  3. Wearing Hokas feels like you’re walking on clouds. And according to the American Podiatric Medical Association, they can help support foot health.

    Hoka One One transport
    Hoka One One transport sneakers Hoka One One, $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 sneakers Converse, $90
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TALL ORDER

  1. We particularly love the forest-green 70s for a punchy but versatile splash of color. Wear them with shorts, jeans, dresses, skirts…

    Converse chuck 70
    Converse chuck 70 sneakers Converse, $110
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  2. Veja’s eco-minded version, done in deep indigo with a crisp white V logo and sole, is a preppy-leaning spin on the style.

    Veja Minotaur Sneakers
    Veja Minotaur Sneakers goop, $205
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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, $725
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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 wide-leg and straight-leg jeans, so wear what works best for you.

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