Sportswear or ‘Athleisure,’ has dominated the fashion pages for a few years, but if you like your clothes comfy, the good news is, it’s still going strong next season and beyond. So, if you were the kid at school who never sported the coolest kicks, now is your chance to set the bar high.
New sneakers are dropping every week so there’s no shortage of releases to keep your rotation fresh. But one thing becomes clear eventually – some kicks are all hype, while others stay on our minds and feet for the long haul.
Whether you’re after some retro classics that will continue to be cool for a few decades, or the fashion ‘it’ kicks, we’ve rounded up the trendiest trainers to help you put your best fashion foot forward.
- Want something more practical? These are the best running shoes
- Adidas sale: the best Adidas deals
- Nike sale: the best Nike deals
Overall, the best pick here is the timeless Common Projects Original Achilles. They're an everyday sneaker, that's comfortable and practical enough to be worn around town with a design that’s low-key enough to avoid ostentation. They're in demand because they're simply special, not insanely expensive, yet is high on quality and style. It ticks many boxes for design, wearability and more.
Best places to buy sneakers
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Best sneakers: styles explained
Tennis shoes are typically light canvas or leather shoes, which are a staple for summer. While you might want to retire yours this autumn (puddles, mud and canvas don’t mix) it’s a great time to refresh your favourites for next spring when they go on sale. If you’re wedded to your Converse or New Balance you might want to invest in your go-to style in a more durable leather material too.
Mesh running trainers
Sure, casual kicks are important, but everyone needs a killer pair of technical trainers in their sportwear arsenal for running and trips to the gym. Whether you opt for Nike Flyknits or trendy Adidas ‘Speed Socks’ there’s a high-tech trainers to make you perform better (or at least feel swanky).
High-tops are as American as Charlie Brown or the Statue of Liberty with iconic shoes including Converse All-Stars, Nike Air Force 1s and Reebok Freestyles. Whether you play basketball or not (we’re guessing mostly not) there’s still a space for high-tops in your wardrobe and they look great paired with jeans or trousers on a crisp autumn day.
The chances are you yearned for a particular pair of trainers as a kid. For me, it was Nike ‘97s. The good news is that now you’re all grown-up you can afford to buy these icons, which somehow feel even more special. Perhaps absence does make the heart grow fonder. Whether you’re all about minimal Stan Smiths, or neon ‘95s, buy the style that makes you happiest and relish the joy they bring.
Plimsolls aren’t just for school. Defined as having a rubber sole and canvas upper, they were originally developed as beachwear in the 1830s, and are still a summer staple for many. Much like tennis shoes, it’s worth investing in a new pair in the autumn when they’re in the sale and stashing them away for the spring. But there are also leather options for Vans, for example, making plimsolls a goer in wet weather and a good option when it comes to transitional dressing.
Chunky ‘Ugly' sneakers
Ugly trainers have been all over the catwalks for a while, with Calvin Klein and Balenciaga doing some seriously coverable (and expensive) styles, while the likes of Nike and Adidas have had hits with the Tekno and Falcon styles respectively, for that geek-chic look. If in doubt, ask yourself: “What would Steve Jobs wear?” Whatever your budget, the fashion mantra is, the uglier the better.
Best sneaker brands
Nike is the world's largest supplier of sneakers and dominates the serious trainers and casual classics markets. Surprisingly, it was only founded in 1964 (as Blue Ribbon Sports) and was named Nike Inc in 1971. But since then it's created some of the most iconic trainers on the planet, from the preppy Cortez (which was popular in the 1970s) to Air Jordans, Air Force 1's and Air Max running shoes in the 80s, which set the scene for more 1990s icons such as 95s and 97s, which are having a major fashion moment at the moment. The new Tekno Mk2 design is also popular, not to mention the Flyknit finish on its more serious running shoes.
German sports giant Adidas has been producing top-notch trainers sporting its iconic three parallel stripes (or bars) since 1949. While Falcons are seriously popular at the moment, the Stan Smith is one of its most iconic. It first made its debut in 1971 and was a hot favourite a couple of years ago. But they are still a minimalist classic, alongside the ever-popular Superstars, which were famously a hit with Run DMC in the 1980s. But you don't have to wear bling with yours.
A newcomer to the trainer market, Common Projects was only founded in 2004, by an art director and creative consultant. But its Achilles shoe has made a big impact in the fashion world, as one of the more minimalist designs of choice. All the brand’s shoes are hand-stitched in Italy, often using Nappa leather and feature a line of numbers along the heel, displaying the style, the size and colour.
If you’ve ditched dairy, eschew meat and try to live a more environmentally friendly life, you’ll have heard of Veja trainers. Since 2003, the French firm has been making shoes with a conscience. From making sure rubber tappers in the Amazon are well looked after to vetting the supply chain of materials used and choosing 'ecological leather' over the usual chemical-tanned stuff, they are the footwear of choice for trendy eco-warriors.
Whether you can skateboard or not, you’ve probably rocked a pair of Vans. The brand has always been cool, opening its first store in 1966 and getting its skateboard logo in the 70s (penned by a rad 13-year-old no less). Now its classic styles are super cool again, and handily come in leather for autumn. And you might be able to bag a piece of a limited-edition collaboration with another brand, movie franchise or artist. So, whether you opt for easy-to-wear black, flexible neutrals or an eye-catching design from an urban artist, there’s something for everyone.
While the brand fell out vogue, it made a triumphant return when everyone went nuts for minimalism, and its iconic kicks are still popular, mainly because they go with everything and come in a kaleidoscope of colours. The company describes its shoes as ‘the perfect blend of function and fashion’ and they are super comfortable – and affordable too. Plus, for those worried about their carbon footprint and causing harm with their fashion choices, New Balance is big on reducing waste, using more sustainable materials and looking after its employees, which is a step forward.
Allbirds is a relatively new sneaker brand. Their shoes are planet-friendly and made with premium natural materials like wool. Their shoes are often defined by comfort and lightweight, with a low carbon footprint.
Best sneakers: buying tips
First thing’s first, before you hit a sport shop (and have to mingle with petulant teenagers and contend with pumping music) spend a bit of time with your own tranquil closet, to check out which trainers will match your needs and style the best. If you have some favourites that are looking a bit tired, why not invest in an updated pair of the same style but in a different colour or finish? Or if you always reach for a particular hue, try it out in a new style from another brand?
Once you’ve decided what you want or need, try not to get sucked into sneaker hype. Yes, some designers are super ‘now’ and you will be the coolest kid in the playground – but it will only last for 10 minutes before you want the next ‘latest’ pair. Instead, have confidence in your own style and what you like.
If you have problematic feet, choose a pair of shoes to suit them. New Balance tend to be great for narrower feet and few trainers come up as wide as a pair of Nike Air Max! Try some different styles on and make sure they’re comfy. No-one likes a fashion victim.
Last but not least, have fun! Trainers go in and out of fashion and they’re a really easy way to express yourself and embrace your inner child. While you may never wear a sunshine yellow blazer, or a purple suit, you can really go to town with your kicks and no-one will bat an eyelid. Even the most ‘out there’ of shoes are totally wearable.
So, now that you're armed to the teeth with advice, you can find the best sneakers listed below:
The best sneakers you can buy right now
You can’t go wrong with the Achilles from Common Projects. The minimal white leather upper is combined with gold stamped serial numbers on the heels, leather linings and rubber soles.
This might just be the perfect all-round sneaker for spring/summer. Common Projects has a reputation for quality and the Achilles is no exception.
Whether you’re into the pinroll trousers look, dad chinos or denim shorts, this silhouette is simple enough to go with just about any outfit. Understatement is the key here and if that’s how you roll, this should be your next purchase.
There are a handful of sneakers you could label iconic, but there are few that are so all-pervasively popular as the Vans Old Skool. Whether they remind you of yesteryear or you are considering a new pair simply for a new outfit, this pair is a reliable option for spring/summer ahead.
Not just your average beaters, these are finished in soft off-white suede that’ll look great in just about any casual outfit, particularly if you throw jeans or chinos in with a white T-shirt. And you don’t need to be a skater boy to appreciate it, but the brand’s waffle outsoles provide loads of grip for when it gets slippery.
If you’ve swapped your 4x4 for a Prius and ditched dairy, you might want to consider some do-gooder trainers too. Veja's environmentally friendly sneakers are made from raw materials sourced from organic farms and ecological agriculture without any chemicals and pollution, making them good for the planet and your wardrobe, as this brand is really having a fashion moment.
This sturdy 'V-10' pair has rubber trims and soles sourced sensibly from trees in the Amazonian rainforest and the price is sensible too. The all-white palette and chunky-but-not-too-chunky profile mean they'll go with just about anything.
New Balance ticks just about every box you can think of when it comes to combining affordability, details and style. The 997 is a popular silhouette from the brand and, if you don’t already own a pair, is a refreshing switch from the tech-soled offerings from Nike and Adidas that can sometimes become be a little overdone.
This pair comes in grey and is detailed with flexible mesh, suede and nubuck for a comfortable finish. While you might see design similarities with a 1998 Le Mans prototype as you stare these over, every line and layer has purpose. As such, wearing these 997s will add a new kick to your sneaker rotation.
Offering an on-trend take on the authentic twin-cup silhouette, the Lacoste Game Advance features a textured rubber outsole inspired by tennis court surfaces, meaning they'll look just as good on-court as they do off the court.
This trainer lands in a white leather upper paired with the aforementioned textured rubber outsole, and a comfortable fabric interior. It's a versatile tennis silhouette that every collection needs. Simple, stylish and definitely on our wish list.
Okay, how about something a little different? These limited edition Wool Runner Fluffs from Allbirds are astonishingly soft and cosy thanks to the ZQ Merino wool they're made from. The shoe is carbon neutral thanks to a combination of sustainable practices, like using natural materials and carbon credits. The laces are made from 100% post-consumer recycled polyester and the cushy insole is made from layered castor bean oil with ZQ Merino wool. It wicks moisture and reduces odor.
Every Instagram influencer worth their salt has a pair of these trainers. But Gucci’s latest update to its Ace trainers has still got us drooling. The brand’s covetable Ace kicks now come in navy and red – a really easy to wear colour combo. In fact, Gucci’s striped webbing has been around since the '50s, so these sneakers are not a stylish flash in the pan, which is a good job because they're not cheap.
While they may be too flashy for some, the shoe’s minimalist profile means they'll look great with smart trousers, jeans and sweatpants alike and add a little glamour to your go-to. Tennis inspired, you won’t want to wear them to the gym, but they are made in Italy from smooth leather with watersnake heel tabs and flexible rubber soles, so are built for comfort as well as looks.
These low-tops from Y-3 are yet another example of the fusion of sportswear and fashion that the brand has become famous for. The panelled neoprene upper is combined with mesh for a design that’s both soft and textured. The laces are secured with grosgrain piping along the upper which is complemented with off-white suede trim.
Aside from the many other details that make the Kusari silhouette stand out is the Boost midsole. Not only will this be a comfort cushion for your feet, but also a marker of your taste in streetwear and the oft-debated marriage of high-low within contemporary fashion.
It’s no secret that the Air Max 97 is the beloved silhouette of sneakerheads the world over. And what better way to rock it than with a newer, more technical midsole than Vapormax? This low-top comes in a canvas and faux-leather upper in white, purple and silver tones and are a solid combination for a sporty ‘fit, or just a pure street style look.
This model features a logo patch and grosgrain pull-loop that match the silver highlights throughout. Aside from the deep varsity shade of purple strewn about, you’ll find a transparent rubber Vapormax midsole to provide not only cushioning and comfort, but a killer combination of 90s Nike design along with contemporary technology.
Adidas’s Boost-soled sneakers have been around long enough that you just might have a pair. That doesn’t mean you should stop at one or more – especially when you take a look at the NMD City Sock.
This particular CS1 variant comes equipped with Gore-Tex linings, meaning you’ll have extra waterproofing over the standard model (great in the spring).
Essentially what you’re getting here is the best of everything from Adidas plus some extra technology thrown in for good measure. You can style this with your favourite streetwear brands and, aside from the Boost-Primeknit comfort combo, this is still a comparatively affordable crep.
2020 marks the 30th anniversary of the creation of the 'Air Max 90' and Nike has released new 'CS' version of the sneakers to celebrate. Guaranteed to excite fans of the 1990s and sneakerheads alike, if you’re a fan of ‘90s styling in particular (say, baggy blue jeans) then you can do no wrong with a pair like this. The uppers are panelled from leather and breathable mesh in a pared-back 'Sail' colourway that lets the iconic silhouette speak for itself and there are nice little touches like laces detailed with 1990 and 2020 to honour the occasion. There’re good value, but you won’t want to get them dirty.
Balenciaga’s Triple S mesh, nubuck and leather sneakers were arguably the first designer take on ‘ugly’ trainers and kickstarted a huge trend. Now, the fashion house releases them in new colourways every season so you’ll be able to find a pair that suits your style. This pair is panelled from white mesh, red leather and black nubuck to create a graphic tri-colour combination, making them eye catching but super wearable as they’ll go with most things. These trainers are an investment and might be a trend-led purchase, but they might well be one of those items that you can store for a few years then bring them out of retirement as a classic.
You can't go wrong with Converse's 'Chuck 70' sneakers - they're a timeless shoe that will seamlessly fit into any wardrobe, no matter what your style. In fact, we bet you have a pair already, but they probably need an upgrade, as they do get worn out. This pair are a versatile grey, but these kicks come in pretty much every colour and pattern. They’re a great buy…just don’t try and wear them in the rain.
Adidas’ UltraBOOST sneakers were already pretty cool, but now Adidas Consortium has joined forces with Japanese label Neighborhood for an eye-catching update. This monochrome pair features the Tokyo brand’s logo prominently and the comfortable Primeknit material, as well as textured foam midsoles. If you want to jump on the brand name bandwagon but don’t want to shell out for Gucci and like the streetwear look, these could be a great buy.
Everyone needs a good pair of trainers for working out and if they look good, you’ll be more likely to look forward to hitting the gym or the park. Nike’s Epic React 2 trainers are a favourite amongst runners and are made from lightweight Flyknit, giving them a sock-like fit. The React foam technology in the sole cushions the feet, while a new moulding at the heels keeps them stable and supported, making them the comfiest way to go for a run. These are great value sneakers and look so good you can wear them out and about too.
Harry Styles and Gucci are some of the big hitters bringing the 1970s back into fashion. But if you want a piece of the action consider Adidas Originals’ SL 72. The original design was the first to feature the brand's Trefoil logo, which debuted at the 1972 Olympic Games and has been a customer-favourite ever since. Updated in new materials, this bright-blue faux suede and shell model is set on specially tooled EVA midsoles and rubber gripped outsoles. Vegan-friendly, these kicks might be a little in-your-face for some, but they’re definitely an easier way to get in on this trend than wearing bright flares.
Nike's Air Max 95 model has taken so many forms over the years, and this latest pair is a riot of colour. They won’t be for shrinking violets, but bright trainers like these are a great value way to make a real fashion statement and can easily elevate a boring casual outfit like jeans and a white t-shirt. They’re slightly expensive, but the iconic shape and comfy bubble sole will mean they earn a place in your wardrobe for ages.
Gucci is having a major fashion moment and seems to be everyone’s favourite. But if you don’t have the nerve (or bank balance) for a velvet suit, you could invest in some trainers. The Italian fashion house’s latest iteration of its Rhyton sneakers boast Gucci’s ‘Worldwide’ emblem, which makes for a fun splash of colour on a very versatile white shoe. While you probably wouldn’t want to wear the trainers on a muddy walk, the thick rubber soles make them more practical than they might seem, and you can wear them with sweatpants or tailoring for big fashion brownie points.