With the global sneaker market projected to reach $215.6 billion by 2031, the demand for sneakers worldwide isn’t stopping soon. Much of this demand is due to cult-like sneaker trends and increased disposable income.
As more sneakers continue infiltrating the fashion world, there are debates over the best sneakers of all time. The list comprises everything from low-top kicks to high-top shoes.
We reviewed all the sneaker releases and picked out the 7 best ones of all time. The rankings reflected the shoe’s overall playability, technological advancements, and historical importance. Take a peek at the list below.
Nike Air Force 1
The number one shoe on this list is the Nike Air Force 1, conceived by the legendary shoe designer Bruce Kilgore and introduced in 1982. While designing the shoe, Kilgore focused on incorporating the traditional Nike Air sole into a performance basketball shoe.
Air Force 1 was the first basketball shoe to embrace the Nike Air technology. It also revolutionized basketball and sneaker culture for decades. Today, sneakerheads consider it a fashion staple.
The shoe takes styling cues from Lava Dome sneakers, Nike’s early hiking boots. It features a tough and durable surface, making it function more than a typical basketball shoe.
The Air Force 1 is popular with millennials due to its minimalism and gender-fluid aesthetic. It is also a source of nostalgia for people who grew up in the early years of its release.
Vans Old Skool
The Vans Old Skool is one shoe reminiscent of Southern California’s sun-weathered surf heroes. It was the shoe of choice when people were heading to the beach or loitering in the coastal streets.
Van Doren Rubber Co, known as Vans, started manufacturing high-quality deck shoes in 1966. Under the leadership of Paul Van Doren, the company made shoes using premium materials. It wasn’t until 1977 that the company introduced the iconic Vans “jazz stripe” on its shoes.
The Vans Old Skool shoe is quite versatile and minimalist in design. It pairs well with jeans or chinos. You can also add to your business casual look or wear it with shorts and tube socks of calf length.
Vans launched multiple collaborations with shoe designers and fashion icons on its iconic Old Skool shoe. Their goal is to create a “little something for everyone” in line with the modern trends in sneakers.
Air Jordan 4 Retro
In 1989, Nike tasked Tinker Hatfield with one job: to develop a shoe that would top the Air Jordan 3. As Tinker brainstormed ideas for the shoe’s design, he focused on performance rather than aesthetics.
The upper section of the Jordan 4 retros comprises three panels of breathable mesh on the sides and tongue. It also features support wings on the eye stays, allowing you to customize the lace style and fit. Other shoe features include a thick, multi-layered sole and a visible Air unit like the Jordan 3 and Air Max 1.
Upon its release in 1989, the shoe received mixed reviews from sneakerheads. Most people found the design ugly before the shoe grew on them. The shoe also looked cheap due to the over-molded mesh made of soft plastic.
Record-breaking basketball player Michael Jordan wore the shoe in the 1989-90 season, dropping 28 points in the game. He even had them when winning the Playoff game against the Cleveland Cavaliers.
During the design of the Jordan 3, Tinker Hatfield collaborated with Michael Jordan. The goal of the collaboration was to create a flexible, light, and sleek shoe. And the result got lots of praise from sneaker enthusiasts.
Upon its release in 1988, the Air Jordan 3 made history on its own. It marked a period when sneakers made a huge crossover from disposable fashion items into the luxury market. The Jordan III was also the first shoe in the Jordan sneaker line to have a sole with the signature Nike Air cushion system.
Tumbled leather is on the shoe’s mid-top part, while the heel and toe feature gray elephant skin accents. The eye stays are gray.
Michael Jordan’s on-court prowess made the shoe more popular. In particular, he won the All-Star MVP, Defensive Player of the Year, and NBA MVP upon the shoe’s release.
Converse Chuck Taylor Hi-Top
Also known as the Converse All Stars, the Converse Chuck Taylor hi-top shoes boast a timeless black colorway. They are a product of Nike’s subsidiary, Converse.
The design of the Chuck-Taylors remained the same since its introduction. Particularly, the upper portion of the shoe features minimalistic stitching. It also has a rubber outsole and toe cap.
While newer versions have suede or leather as the primary material, the original had cotton canvas. The loose lining of the soft canvas on the Converse All-Stars helps prevent blisters and provides flexibility.
Adidas Stan Smith
Considered the pioneer of minimalist sneakers, the Adidas Stan Smith is a comfortable shoe with a simple design. It comprises a white leather upper without the signature “three stripes,” like most Adidas shoes.
Adidas focused the shoe’s design on performance rather than aesthetics. They also named it to honor the legendary tennis player Stan Smith. Today, the Stan Smith is still a street-style staple, donned by everyday folk and celebrities.
New Balance 990
Born out of four years of research and development, the New Balance 990 combines support with flexibility. The shoe also strikes the right balance between athletic performance and comfort. Icons like Steve Jobs, Timothee Chalamet, and Kaia Gerber wore them frequently.
Originally a running shoe, the New Balance 990 evolved as a street-style item. Its chunky silhouette inspired the growing “dad shoe” trend. The mesh construction with a gray color scheme and suede overlays makes the shoe stand out.
Satisfied with this Best Sneakers List?
Sneaker designs differ depending on the purpose they intend to deserve. But when you think of the best sneakers, think of shoes built to stand the test of time.
All sneakers discussed in this guide feature a timeless design and performance-enhancing parts. They are products of great talent and serve the purpose the designers built them for.
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