There’s no doubting a zip-tied OFF-WHITE or bulky Balenciaga sneaker’s ability to turn heads, but certain times call for something functional in your rotation. Hyped releases might have you thinking otherwise, but there’s more to sneakers than just foot flex, you know.
Fortunately, brands from adidas, Nike, and New Balance to technically-focused newbies like Swiss brand On all have silhouettes engineered to up your game in all types of active pursuits. Whether you’re looking for the most technically-accomplished high-top to rock on the court, something with grip for the skate park, or a shoe to clock miles with on the treadmill, there are still plenty of sneakers out there that turn heads for their spec, and not their limited colorway.
So for those who’ve had their head in the hype clouds, we’ve rounded up all the best performance-enhancing kicks, whatever your discipline. Scroll through our selection below and start building a rotation that’s as functional as it is fire.
When you’re hitting the gym, your footwear should be lightweight, flexible, and support natural movement. Might sound like a YEEZY boost, but the knitted uppers on the Nike Air VaporMax and adidas models below are primed for an adaptive fit that’s versatile no matter what you’re working out. Meanwhile, the durable support offered by Nike’s dadcore Air Monarch 4 might, ironically, be your best way to keep dad bods at bay.
Nike continues to adapt its winning runner formula on new models such as the Epic React Flyknit and Zoom Fly, the latter of which comes with the tagline of the brand’s “most efficient marathon shoe ever made”. Meanwhile, On’s Cloud X silhouette is one of the Swiss running brand’s most technical sneakers ever, with a CloudTec® sole engineered for moving in all directions flawlessly.
Veering from the track requires a sneaker with a more rugged traction sole, added stability, and weatherproof materials. Luckily, New Balance pretty much nails the criteria with its 510v4 Trail shoe, which uses dual-use AT Tread, responsive ABZORB cushioning and Toe Protect technologies.
But if you have a brand affinity with Nike or adidas, each of their all-black off-road options also come with rugged toe caps and a sturdy outsole that’s perfect for gripping uneven surfaces.
Look out for the added ankle-support of high-top basketball sneakers if you’re regularly hitting the court. As for brand, do you even have to ask? The original Air Jordan 1 came in 1984 and the brand has been at the top of the game ever since. While each of the three below will help you net more three-pointers, any true baller knows that the Air Jordan 1 Retro cannot be beaten.
Skaters can’t really go wrong with a pair of classic Vans, whether you’re opting for some retro black high-tops like the ones below or a flashy flame-print collaboration. That said, Nike and adidas are also trying their hands at tailoring silhouettes to skateboarding, with flat, grippy soles that are perfect for nailing that ride life.
Tis the season for tennis whites. Emerging as the wimbleDON of the discipline right now, adidas’ latest Baricade Boost has exceptional cushioning and Geofit padding for a super comfy fit. Meanwhile, New Balance’s 696v3 come with lightweight cushioning and a herringbone outsole pattern to help maximize performance on hard courts.
Not about the non-flex life, check out how to cop all the OFF-WHITE x Nike sneakers you previously caught an L on.
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