Best trainers (2021): the best sneakers for fashion and beyond
Updated: The best trainers for those who want shoes with street style.
The process of picking out the best trainers for you can be surprisingly stressful. If you’re anything like us, you’ll make several ‘definite’ choices, only to renege on them the minute you’ve reached any level of certainty.
UPDATE: This is a fun collab. SEGA has teamed up with Lavair to offer up some fantastic-looking retro kicks. The Exo SEGA Mega Drive Analog trainers have a streetwear feel with outdoor trekker detailing. There's 16-Bit Printed Ribbon on board, as well as the SEGA logo and a Circuit Board Printed Inner Sole. You can buy a pair now for £200.
It’s really difficult to identify the blend of comfort and style that you need from an everyday pair of trainers.
It’s not the same as picking out a pair of running shoes, for which you need certain criteria – personal taste has more of a role to play here – after all, people are going to see them on your feet far more often than the shoes you’re only wearing down the gym or when jogging outside. Here’s our top choices – let us know if there are any others you think we need to include, and upvote your favourite pair.
- The best running shoes, tested by our marathon-running experts.
1. Converse Chuck 70 Classic High Top
The classics are classics for a reason. You’ve been able to get your hands on Converse’s Chuck Taylors since… well, since before you were born. The folks behind the design have recognised you can mess with a good thing as much as you want, as long as you keep the things that made it great to begin with. The All-Star 70 high-top trainer marked one of the early tweaks that modernised the original, while keeping the good bits very much intact.
2. Adidas Stan Smith Shoes
Arguably a veteran of the trainer world, Adidas' Stan Smith silhouette was first released in 1973 and has stood the test of time for a reason. Sure, they've had countless limited-edition iterations over the years, however, the core design has changed very little. Featuring a lace-up front (or velcro, depending on your preference), visible side vents and a distinctive coloured heel tab adorned with the Adidas logo, there's a classic colour scheme to suit every possible taste.
3. Adidas Continental 80
The 1980s: best decade for trainers? It’s hard to say for sure, but these classy, understated 80s inspired adidas trainers make a solid case for it. The Continental 80 comes with the old trefoil logo, giving things a proper retro feel and evoking an entire era, while the wide range of colourways ensure simplicity is put front and centre while ensuring an extremely wide choice to suit your personal taste.
4. New Balance Made in UK Colour Circle
Variety is the spice of life, and these trainers – part of New Balance’s extensive Made in UK collection – blend simplicity with choice. Available in red, blue, purple, green or mustard yellow, they are modelled on various designs throughout the years that combination of simplicity and statement looks with the choice of a solid colourway with an unintrusive amount of white to bring it out.
5. Adidas Ultraboost 21
If you are looking for an elegant trainer that will also help you smash that 5K PB, then the Adidas Ultraboost 21 is it. Designed to propel your foot when running, thanks to its dual density cushioning, and to feel like its part of your foot (that would be the second skin-like fabric stocks) this is a trainer that looks ace and has a vital second purpose.
6. Adidas Originals Sl72
A classic Adidas trainer, this is a slimline trainer with a vintage look that can be paired with pretty much and jean you are wearing. If you are looking for a classic pair of kicks that won't age, because they are of a particular vintage already then these are for you.
7. Nike Air Max 95
Okay, we might have found the most garish-looking Nike Air Max 95 to showcase but we are big fans of this shoe. It is one of the most classic from Nike's Air Max line-up. Originally released as a running shoe, the look of the thing has endured over the years and is now way up the list when cool folks are compiling their best Nike Air trainer lists.
8. Reebok Club C 85
Reebok has always been a master of prioritising comfort in trainers that also look the part. If you want a shoe that you can wear day to day and look good doing so, a Reebok Club C 85 fits the bill. The intense white/green two-tone contrast gives you an 80s throwback feel, while it’s also on the market in various black and white variants, to give you a strong look whether wearing them to work or on your days off.
9. Diadora Trident 90 Suede
It was love at first site when Diadora announced that it was releasing the Trident 90 Suede SW in the autumn of 2020. This is part of the brand's Heritage line-up and is a beautiful suede-based trainer that has been given a modern twist. They are a touch on the expensive side but if you see them under £150 then snap them up
10. Veja V-10
Despite being fairly new to the UK trainer scene, this environmentally-conscious brand has quickly gained a significant following. It is easy to see why; the design is clean and classic. There are also over 10 different colour options for the ‘V’ logo, which allows you to customise a little without losing the simplicity of the design.
11. GUCCI Ace
By far the most expensive trainer on this list but, hey, it's GUCCI. Made from Italian leather and based on a tennis shoe, these have weathered many a decade having first been released way back in the 1950s. These are fashion trainers at their most elegant - they don't shout money, but they don't need to.
12. Common Projects Original Achilles
To call these minimalist would be an understatement. The Common Projects Original Achilles are the classic white trainer kicked up a notch to the point that they’re essentially whiter than white. The simplicity means they’ll fit with more or less any look, and it’s easy to see why these are credited with leading the revival of the clean white trainer trend. Clean is the operative word with the Original Achilles.
13. Onitsuka Tiger Mexico 66 SD
Available in more than a dozen colours, allowing you to cater to your personal style, the Mexico 66 collection can be as expansive or as no-nonsense as you want it to be. Its classic 60s design should ensure it stands the test of time looking forwards as well as back, inspired by the shoes first unveiled in 1966 ahead of the Japanese team’s trip to the Mexico City Olympics two years later.
14. Axel Arigato Clean 90
Swedish brand Axel Arigato has provided a strong take on the classic white trainer, so clean and unspoiled you almost don’t want to touch it. There’s also a black leather version if all-white isn’t your thing, but the all-white wins points for versatility. If you’re looking for trainers for a range of situations and looks, there’s plenty to be said for these. The company might have only been formed in 2014, but it’s quickly making its case.
15. Nike Air Max 720
You thought we were going to make it through this list without a single Air Max mention? How naïve of you. The Air Max 720 is up there with the best of the bunch, with even more air underfoot than you’re used to. Even if the ‘walking on air’ ideal might feel like a stretch, these have few equals when it comes to comfort in an everyday trainer. You have a choice of eight colours too.
16. Puma Tsugi Kai Jun
The Tsugi Kai Jun sees Puma attempt to capture a trainer that can be worn daily when you’re out and about and at the gym. It’s one of a number of designs that slips on like a sock, making it feel like you’re walking around your living room even when you’re taking a stroll outside. It’s available in glacier grey or black, ensuring things don’t get overcomplicated.
17. Lacoste Carnaby Evo
A proper ‘goes with anything’ trainer, the Carnaby Evo has a neat pared-back look, and does skimp on comfort. It's the kind of trainer you can wear to work without compromising on smartness, but they’re also a safe bet in more or less any other situation. The premium leather trainers are available in white as well as black, if you’re after a crisp look that recalls older Lacoste models.
How to buy the best trainers for you
When it comes to investing in a new pair of trainers there are myriad reasons why you are looking for a new pair. It could be that you have worn out your favourite pair and are looking for a replacement. Or you are looking to add to your burgeoning collection. The following tips will help you in your training buying needs.
Choose a trainer brand that suits you and your feet
Sometimes you are dead set on a brand of trainers and won’t want to sway from them, but trying out different brands could open up a whole new area of comfort for you. Each trainer manufacturer has their own idea of comfort and that may not suit your foot type.
For instance, if you are looking for a trainer for wide feet then a brand such as Vionic and New Balance seem to cater for this style more than others. Those who have high arches may want to look at a sportier trainer brand such as Asics or Brooks - both of which make running shoes that take into account a high arch.
Choose a style that suits your needs
There is a big difference in wearing a trainer outside and wearing one in the house. If you are housebound and want a trainer for comfort, then you will be looking for a shoe with a softer cushion and probably one without garish tread markings that can play havoc with carpets. If you are going to be wearing your trainers outside in, say, the winter then maybe bright white isn’t the way to go.
Look out for limited edition trainer drops
There are a number of places where you should keep a lookout for trainer news. SoulSupplier is a great UK site that knows all there is to know about trainer limited edition releases and where to find them. There are also a number of Twitter accounts that are worth following, including The Sole Restocks and Sneaker Deals GB.
Taking care of your trainers
Use inserts: if you want your trainers to keep their shape while in storage then shoe inserts are a must. Here are a few options.
Spray away: a decent hydrophobic shoe protector spray will help your trainers keep their clean look - we are a fan of Reshoevn8r Shoe Water & Stain Repellent. As for actual cleaning, then you can’t go wrong with Sneaker LAB Shoe Cleaner Kits.
Fight the light: Make sure that you don’t store your trainers in direct sunlight as this will fade the trainer’s colour. Instead try and keep them in a dark place and, better still, in the box they came in - yes, it’s a git for storage but will help with trainer maintenance.
Plastic is not fantastic: again, when it comes to storage, putting them in a plastic box will just encourage mould so it’s much better to store them somewhere that has a bit of ventilation. That will also help with any unwanted trainer odours.