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There are few things we can still depend on in this crazy world of ours, but sneakers are definitely one of them. You really can’t beat a reliable pair — the type that can be worn five days a week and eventually become so perfectly worn-in that the mere suggestion of replacing them with a brand new pair feels like sacrilege. That’s coming from me, someone who habitually sees a new sneaker release and clicks “confirm order” as if it were an instinct.
Nike’s Tennis Classic ($100) is one such shoe. It’s so simple in its execution — perfectly suited for the business-casual office, but maintains an air of class with the not-quite-white colorway. While you won’t find it on the shelves of your local department store, it also won’t put your wallet in a headlock. All in all, a fine pair of sneakers.
But for some reason, these might not float your boat. That’s why we’ve gathered an unbeatable lineup of possibilities for the sneaker-hungry person who just needs a pair that can do it all, and maybe a little extra.
If You’re a Nike Fan, But Secretly Prefer Adidas
In the battle for sneaker supremacy, Nike and Adidas are the major players driving the market. Nike has its fair share of perfectly versatile shoes, but Adidas’s archive goes deep on this particular type of sneaker. There are plenty to go around, like the Stan Smith ($75) (whose cultural moment feels never-ending), the iconic ‘80s Superstar ($80), the soccer-esque Gazelle ($80), or the perfectly minimal and often-forgotten Campus ($85).
If Old-School Cool Is More Your Flavor
For the B-boys jumping on the full tracksuit trend, there are few sneakers as enduringly retro as the Puma Suede ($59). The official shoe of breakdancers everywhere, Suedes work as well today as they did more than 30 years ago.
For the small-footed among us who can fit into women’s sizing, the Puma x Rihanna ($150) collaboration brings us a platform take on a similar Puma silhouette. Meanwhile, trendy Russian designer Gosha Rubchinskiy recently collaborated with Italian heritage sportswear brand Fila for these beautifully bulky T1 sneakers ($146).
If You Want Something a Little Different
The staples will always have a place in our hearts, but there’s always a need for new blood. Designer Tim Coppens has taken his creative director role at Under Armour to heart and injected some life into its new fashion-oriented offering, UAS. The result is the UAS Under Armour Club Lows ($130) that mash together tech and casual pretty well.
New Balance, typically known to be the official shoe brand of dads, put aside its usual style to introduce the MRL247 ($90) that’s got a bit more bite than we’re used to seeing from the brand. But if you’re looking for something truly different, look no further than Karhu, a century-old Finnish sports brand; the Fusion 2.0 ($140) recently become a favorite of none other than Kanye West.
If Your Idea of “Classic” Strays From the Beaten Path
Nike and Adidas are enormous, but they also have stakes in a few smaller, albeit still very large, brands that turn out great sneakers. Reebok, which is owned by Adidas, has its Club C 85 ($80), a solid casual choice that is neither too chunky nor too sleek.
Then, of course, there’s Converse. The Nike-owned company may be famous for the canvas Chuck Taylor All-Stars, but its Pro Leather Low ($80) often flies below the radar, and the recently released Chuck Modern ($100) is, well, a modern take on a true classic with improved comfort.
If You Want Something a Bit *ahem* Elevated
When we talk about taking a sneaker made for the masses and turning it into a luxury item, New York-based Common Projects is still the authority. Its Achilles Low ($425) is the benchmark by which all other minimal high-end sneakers are judged — and for good reason. Personally, though, I’m partial to the Retro Suedes ($440), which have just a few small tweaks on the same shape.
Scandinavian brand Acne Studios also has its own version, the Adrian ($380), that has gained a cult following and comes in a variety of different makeups, from gum soles to shiny leather.
If Your Life Is Really All About Labels — Designer Labels
Can we get much higher? Yes. Yes we can. All sorts of truly designer-level brands have their own take on simple sneakers. Saint Laurent’s SL/06 ($495) is my personal favorite, and it comes in a wide variety of colorways.
Ever one to make a statement, Tom Ford has his own staggeringly expensive version ($870) that is so quintessentially Tom Ford with its large perforated “T,” while the ostentatious Gucci continues its renaissance of all-embroidered-everything on its popular Ace sneaker ($695).
If You Want Something That Defies Category
Feit, New York-based but from two Australian brothers, has put its own definition on what qualifies as a sneaker. Its Hand Sewn sneakers ($540) are, as the name implies, handmade with rigid vegetable leather, and they have a coated leather outsole instead of your typical molded rubber. It might lack the grip and comfort of your typical sneaker, but these will age beautifully and can take a beating your other shoes might not handle.