Whether you’re looking for a pair of running sneakers, hoping to hit the tennis court, or are picking out a pair of fashion-forward canvas high tops, it is essential to choose the right pair of sneakers. Sneakers are multipurpose. They can complete an outfit, or elevate your exercise routine. A great pair of sneakers will weather the wear and tear of everyday life, allowing you to put your best foot forward. But with so many styles on the market, it can be difficult to choose the right pair of sneakers for you. That’s where we come in.
We’ve taken the time to pull together the best sneakers on the market and review them for you, so you can spend less time stressing over the pair that is just right for you, and more time enjoying your new sneakers. Our reviews break down buying the right pair of sneakers into easy-to-follow recommendations that sort through the less ideal options on the market, so you can shop with confidence. And with a commitment to sourcing real customer reviews on each of the products we review, you can rest easy knowing you’re investing in a quality pair of shoes.
But that’s enough about us, here’s a breakdown of some of the kinds of sneakers on the market, as well as a brief history of sneakers and how they came to be one of the most popular styles of shoes on the market today.
Types of Sneakers
Sneakers go by a variety of names, including trainers, athletic shoes, tennis shoes, gym shoes, kicks, sports shoes, and runners. Sneakers come in a wide variety of makes and styles, from those intended for general wear-and-tear to fashion sneakers and exercise sneakers made for a specific activity. But within those categories, there are countless cuts and styles of sneaker to consider when looking for the right pair for you, which is why we’ve put together a quick list of the different types of sneakers:
- Running sneakers: Running sneakers, as evidenced by their name, are developed for runners, and are usually lightweight and formfitting. They are made of breathable materials with a solid enough sole to provide support while exercising. Unlike some other sneakers on this list, running sneakers are made to protect your feet while still being light enough to not put added strain on the athlete while working out. Many generic exercise sneakers are built like running sneakers but may have a thicker sole. Remember, it’s a good idea to replace your running shoes every three to six months, or 500 miles, as they will wear out from constant use and have less tread.
- Athletic sneakers: This is a more general category than running sneakers, as there are countless sports that call for specialized sneakers that may not fall into the realm of basketball or running sneakers. While tennis shoes (not to be confused with the general term for sneakers) may fall into a specialized category, the average athlete will usually have a pair of sneakers that can handle multiple different exercise routines, whether that means running on the treadmill or going for a bike ride. As mentioned above, these sneakers usually have thicker soles and some level of tread to stand up to the wear-and-tear of constant use, and should be replaced every six months to a year of continual use, as they will wear out over time.
- Basketball sneakers: Basketball sneakers have a higher cut that covers the ankle, as well as a sole made to grip the court without sliding around. In many cases, a good pair of basketball sneakers will allow you to wear two pairs of socks comfortably to prevent chafing and blisters. Basketball sneakers are unique in that most if not all basketball courts will not allow you on the court without basketball shoes, as regular shoes and sneakers can damage the court itself. Basketball sneakers have increased in popularity as fashion shoes, especially with high-profile brand-name shoes like Air Jordans on the market.
- Low-top sneakers: Low-top sneakers are fashion sneakers that come up to the ankle and include laces. Most low-tops have white rubber soles, and the most typical pair of low-tops come from the Converse brand. Low-top sneakers are great for casual wear, as well as fashion wear due to their canvas or light fabric construction, which allows them to slip on and off easily and sport a wide variety of patterns.
- High-top sneakers: High-tops cover the ankle and are usually made out of canvas or another fabric. Like low-tops, they are ideal for fashion and casual wear, although the original high-top Converse were the original cheap basketball shoe when they first came out on the market. High-tops sport rubber soles and usually do not have tread on the bottom, as they are made for use in urban areas.
- Slip-on sneakers: Similar to low-top sneakers, slip-ons are for casual or fashionable wear, but they do not include laces. They are cut low for ease of wear, and in some instances have a rubber band at the base to secure the shoe during wear. Some popular slip-on sneaker brands include Keds and TOMS.
A Brief history of Sneakers
Sneakers were first called plimsolls in the 1870s, due to the line joining the rubber sole to the uppers of the shoe, which resembled the Plimsoll line on a ship. These shoes were first worn for leisurely activities, such as while on vacation, and soon became popular with tennis and croquette players. Soon, patterns were worked into the soles of the shoes to provide grip, and they became popular with athletes and some armies due to their comfort and convenience. Given the name “sneakers” in the United States due to the fact that the rubber soles made less noise than the standard hard-soled shoes of the time, the first rubber soled shoes made their debut state-side in 1892, and rose to popularity from there.
Around the same time that sneakers rose to prominence, the British company J. W. Foster and Sons created their own running shoe design that included spiked soles to help increase an athlete’s grip while running in 1895. They became incredibly popular with athletes and even found their way into the 1924 Summer Olympics, where Harold Abrahams and Eric Liddell both went on to win gold medals while using J. W. Foster and Sons equipment.
Soon, different styles and makes of sneakers found their way onto the market, and thanks to sponsorship deals with high-profile athletes, sneaker brands became both a fashion statement and a sign of status. In the modern day, sneakers come in all kinds of makes, styles, and brands, with countless engineering developments to make them perform better, last longer, and feel more comfortable than ever.
Choosing the Right Pair of Sneakers
As with any shopping trip, the better idea you have of what you want, the more likely you’ll be able to find the right item for you. While you don’t need to know everything about your dream sneakers, you should know what you want to use them for. Whether you’re looking for a fashionable pair of kicks, or a pair of running shoes to take on your next marathon, knowing what you expect out of your new pair of shoes can take some of the stress out of shopping.
The next thing to keep in mind is what size shoes you are looking for. While you may be very aware of your shoe size, different styles of sneakers fit differently, and for shoes like basketball sneakers you may want a little added room to double up on socks, while running shoes should be snug to your feet. It is always a good idea to take inch or centimeter measurements of your feet and compare them to different companies’ sizing charts before making an investment, as there may be some discrepancies between shoe sizes.
Another thing to keep in mind is the material the shoes are made out of. While you may be tempted to buy cotton shoes, remember that exercise sneakers should be made out of a breathable fabric that is moisture-wicking, as well as water-resistant. While this isn’t so much of a concern with fashion sneakers, choosing a comfortable fabric for your shoes can help prevent blisters, and can give you even more confidence in your fashion choices.
The final thing to keep in mind when shopping for sneakers is the overall customer reviews. While some people will find any reason to complain, in many cases customer reviews give you an honest look at the quality of a product and can help you weed out less-than-stellar options. Thankfully, we’ve gone ahead and narrowed down the options to the best of the best, so you can shop with confidence. Here are some of the shoe types we have reviewed:
Get off on the Right Foot
Whether you are looking to invest in a new pair of running shoes or are looking for a pair of slip-ons to complete the perfect outfit, there are plenty of sneaker choices available on the market for you. Thankfully, we have countless articles to help you narrow down your options and invest in a new pair of sneakers that will provide you comfort for years to come. No matter your needs, there are a pair of sneakers out there for you, you just have to get out there and find them. Trust us, once you have that perfect pair of sneakers, you’ll be ready to put your best foot forward, no matter where you find yourself heading next.
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