The Best Sneaker Brands: What to Get in 2021
Quick! Name the best, most popular, or most wanted sneaker brands right now. Chances are the labels on your shortlist are the same ones in the story. There’s a reason why the likes of Nike and Adidas are top-of-mind when it comes to sneakers: They’ve proven themselves as makers of classics—the beloved styles that please most everyone and also resist the vagaries of trends and time. And though their archives are rich with crowd-pleasers, these brands don’t stop innovating, tweaking shoes here and there, combining and recombining proven elements, and also creating totally new models for you to enjoy. Take a look below.
Nike Blazer Mid ’77 Vintage
Check out any sneaker list and you’ll most likely find The Swoosh on top. The American sports brand has done a fantastic job of cultivating an image of coolness, perseverance (Just Do It!), and success. No need to remind you that Nike is also the Greek goddess of victory, that winged figure that will help you smash PRs at the gym or on the street.
Nike Air Force 1 Experimental
Right now, the buzz is exploding around its Go FlyEase, the innovative sneaker that addresses your lazy attitude toward laces, but how about you do away with the bells and whistles and go for an OG hit like the Nike Blazer Mid ’77 Vintage. You’ll get a lot of more use from sneakers that are in your favorite color: white. These are made with at least 20-percent recycled materials. But if classic is too Basic Bro for you, however, there is also the Air Force 1 Experimental, a melt-your-eyes pink creation that launches tomorrow, February 6.
Adidas 4D Parley
A very good reason to look to the Three Stripes (apart from its status as a sneaker leader) is its commitment to the planet. In 2021, Adidas vows to make more than 60 percent of all its products out of sustainable materials. By 2024, its goal is to use only recycled polyester. You can thank the company for thinking of your future children’s world by supporting its sustainable products like the Adidas 4D Parley, a running shoe made with upcycled plastic waste.
Adidas Ozweego Flipshield Shoes
If you’re just going for sheer cool factor, then it’s the adventure-inclined Ozweego Flipshield in this smoky gray colorway. We like the look of that shield, which is really a magnetic buckle closure for easy wearing. Don’t you think it feels like a Yeezy, too?
New Balance 990v5
We can’t have a list of sneaker brands without the geek-dad shoe creator, New Balance. As an old NB ad proclaims, its sneakers are: “Worn by supermodels in London and dads in Ohio.” That was the 990v5. But in case you’re sick of us drooling over the running shoe (it’s really good!), we’ll recommend… the 990v5 but in this white-black-red combo.
New Balance 57/40
And for something newer (like January 2021), here’s the '80s-meets-'90s 57/40. From the fat N to the suede and mesh upper, the model brings together beloved elements of past New Balance sneakers. The 57/40 has a black version, but just go all the way with the Rainbow Brite vibes above.
Asics Gel-Quantum Infinity Micro
So we only have two speeds: If not a reserved sneaker (read: white, black, or black and white), it’s a balls-to-the-wall stunner. This Gel Miqrum from Japanese sports brand Asics meets both. The white-gray combo fulfills the desire for order, while that acid green bubble propels the unit into something futuristic. You should know that the ’90s-inspired unit has been made with performance tech—that Asics Gel heel—but you’ll probably just wear this to lounge around because you hate cardio.
Need something so new it's not yet here? SneakerNews just announced Asic’s upcoming Monozukuri Collection, which draws from the label’s Japanese heritage.
Vans Bandana Classic Slip-On
Vans is on the pulse of what’s cool and hot and fresh. The lifestyle and skate label is, after all, known for the checkerboard Slip-On worn by Sean Penn in Fast Times at Ridgemont High. Consider updating the style by wearing it in another print: a skull bandana. All the other details that you love, from the easy wear (slip it on—duh) to the rubber waffle outsoles, are here. The Slip-On is just more lively now with paisleys and skulls. Do it in blue.
Air Jordan 1 High OG Dior
Sneaking in something very expensive because you should have a #goal. Dior crushed the sneaker game in and beyond the realm of luxury with the release of the Air Dior. In partnership with Jordan Brand, the Paris fashion house presented the Air Jordan 1 High OG Dior sneaker in 2020. The Oblique pattern in the Swoosh, the dove gray colorway, the premium leathers, and the handmade construction all made it one of the most coveted units last year, and also properly launched Dior as a sneaker brand to watch. Can you get Air Diors now? Nope. There are the B23s though.