I just got back from a trip to Florida during which I wore sneakers almost exclusively (the versatile, relatively anonymous J. Crew Nike Killshot 2)–on the plane, chasing my kids (maybe chasing my kids on the plane), to the local botanic garden, even dining on the beach. Slipping back into my routine at home, it was sort of a bummer to slip back into dress shoes. With the recent sort of sea change in sneaker design, I’ve been thinking a lot about what sneakers I actually like and why, and also trying to expand my awareness beyond standard Vans Era or Converse Chuck Taylor recommendations, which remain relevant, cheap, and wearable. Five sneakers I think are worth considering right now, which are neither budget (<$100) nor designer ($400+):
- Hoka One One Hupana: I appreciate genuinely comfortable sneakers (I also like Vans Old Skools, which I find terribly uncomfortable). If you want to get on the comfy dad sneakers wave but aren’t ready for the “full father” of Nike Air Monarchs, the Hupanas are relatively low-key shoes from Hoka One One, which makes technical running shoes with big fat, cushion-y soles–the anti-Vibram five fingers. They’ve recently gotten some additional attention from snobs like me due to a collaboration with Engineered Garments
- Nike Air Max 180 (lead image, also modeled by our friend Kyle above): I like retro sneakers whose technology, considered cutting edge at one time, now seems sort of quaint. Nike recently retro-ed this pair of running shoes, originally released in 1991 with a weirdly artsy ad campaign featuring Ralph Steadman. I remember being blown away by the full air sole unit, which in retrospect doesn’t seem that crazy? Other brands were putting catapults in their soles. The Air Max 180 in the original colors of blinding white, blue, and sort of pink, seems particularly easy to wear casually, with chinos and a leather jacket or in hot weather with shorts.
- Asahi Belted Low: I still love classic sneaker silhouettes and I love old things recreated with a level of detail and craft that are not at all warranted by the originals. Asahi built the belted low based on an old Nike tennis sneaker that used canvas tape in an effort to keep the sole and upper intact during intense tennis. Asahi’s version has an elegant shape and a thick, vulcanized sole (as with most vulcanized shoes, your foot actually sits below the top of the tape line–it’s not THAT thick of a sole).
- Reproduction of Found French military sneaker: I like the running shoe formula of rubber outsole, white foam midsole, and colorful suede upper found in dozens of vintage Nike, Saucony, and New Balance models. Reproduction of Found, which specializes in recreating various military sneakers (like Margiela’s German Army Trainers, only for many services/periods), made a version of a French military issue sneaker from the 90s that I really dig. I like that, at first glance, you can’t tell if it’s fancy or from KMart.
- Vans Full Cab: Shoes that show allegiance to a particular subculture appeal to me. Vans Caballero’s are arguably the first pro skateboard shoe and although the Half Cab is far more popular, Vans breaks out the original high version every few years. It’s the missing link between the Air Jordan I and modern skate shoes.