Is there a fashion community that’s more passionate, more devout, more opinionated than sneakerheads? Researching and testing the best cool sneakers, I fell down a rabbit hole dug by thorough reviews, territorial debates, and a whole lot of hype-mongering. When certain aficionados find a pair of sneakers they love, be it the resurgent Adidas Samba or the classic Air Force 1s, they want everyone to know (and shop accordingly).
I understand the enthusiasm. Sneakers are one of fashion's few universal items: Almost everyone owns them, and almost every brand releases their own version. Between athletic powerhouses like Nike, Puma, and Reebok, plus designers like Chanel and Gucci getting into the sneaker game, shoe dogs have enough options to fill a basketball court. Then, a lot of opinions to go with them.
When you get down to it, cool sneakers come in all sorts of rises, color combinations, and levels of support. Some are running shoes and walking shoes with fits calibrated for getting active; others are homages to sport that are purely for casual styling. As a recreational runner and fashion editor, my definition of the best cool sneakers always involves a cushioned sole and sleek shape I can wear jogging in the park or to work. In more exacting footwear circles, sneakers with vintage DNA are having a moment. "Retro runners will be very big in 2023," says Cynthia Lee, vice president of merchandising at StockX. "Running shoes from the 90s and 2000s have been reintroduced with fresh new colorways and collaborations, and people are wearing them as everyday shoes."
Lee name-checks New Balance and Nike as labels where vintage styles are gaining momentum, but they're just the beginning. From modern chunky sneakers to highly coveted designer collaborations, scroll on for the 25 best cool sneakers that live up to their hype.