Best trainers in 2023: the best sneakers for fashion and beyond
Retro sneakers are the best trainers you need to be seen wearing this year.
A look at the most iconic trainers money can buy also acts as a history lesson in the last 70 years of footwear design. Styles that were once made for athletes now become a pair you wear to the shops.
But most people want a blend of comfort and style from the best trainers. You don’t need to agonise over the details like you might with a pair of the best running shoes. This means personal taste has more of a role to play here – after all, people will see them on your feet far more often than the shoes you’re only wearing to the gym or when you’re jogging outside.
UPDATE:A legend has entered the building. We have added the classic Nike Air Force 1 to our list of the best trainers. Specifically, we went with the all-white Air Force 1 '07 edition, representing the classic in perhaps its purest form. Love it? Loathe it? Make your opinion known by voting.
In this guide, we’ve selected our top choices. But do let us know if there are any others you think we need to include, and remember to upvote your favourite pair.
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 Samba
Trainers don’t get more retro or instantly recogniable than the Adidas Samba. This unisex design is the epitome of athleisure. You could work out in these sneakers, but they’ve moved on from their days as soccer shoes and are now a lifestyle trainer staple. The Adidas Samba has had many redesigns and alterations over the years, but the defining features are a classic leather upper and a gummy rubber outsole in a lightweight and low-profile design. We’ve recently spotted these trainers on many famous feet, as Rihanna, Frank Ocean, and Bella Hadid have all taken their Sambas for a spin.
3. Adidas Originals Gazelle
The Gazelle line was introduced in 1966 as a running and sport shoe, but it looks nothing like modern running trainer designs. It has a suede leather upper, and nowadays is available in a rainbow of colours. However, the originals were red or blue, with white stripes across both.The Gazelle is a true Adidas icon, and these days comes across much more a casual wear shoe than something designed for sports use.
4. 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.
5. 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.
6. Adidas SpezialView now at Amazon
You might consider the Spezial the sibling of the Gazelle and Samba. But how is the Spezial different? While it is aesthetically close to the Gazelle, it’s a little wider in the mid-foot, which some folks find more comfortable. As ever, it all depends on the shape of your foot and the fit you tend to prefer. The Adidas Spezial was introduced in 1979 as a handball shoe, a decade on from the Gazelle.
7. Nike Air Force 1 '07View now at Nike
The Air Force 1 was introduced in the 1980s as a basketball shoe. It was the first to use the air cushion tech we now take for granted. This 07 edition has a more easygoing low-rise design than the original, and it's one of the all-time classic trainer styles. Just recently, Nike announced a Molten edition of this trainer, with a metal Nike swoop across the side. But you still can't beat the classic all-white leather version for our money.
8. Puma Suede / Puma Clyde
Another classic shoe. There are more than 50 years of history tied up in its laces. The critical thing to know about the Puma Suede is its name has changed several times over the years. It’s been called the Puma Crack, the Clyde, the States. The last time we checked, the brand had settled on Puma Suede. Like all of the retro styles in this list, it started life as a training shoe – it was called Puma Crack because ‘crack’ means a highly-skilled person. It’s been refreshed over decades and made from canvas, wool, denim, and even snakeskin. But now, it features premium Italian leather and is a street-style staple.
9. 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.
10. Saucony Endorphin 3 ProView now at Saucony
If you’re looking for the ultimate running trainer for, well, just about everything, you’ve found it. The Saucony Endorphin 3 Pro is a carbon plate running shoe. And the kind of money-is-no-object shoe you could use for everything from a casual jog around the park to a competitive race. It’s that good. Price is the only roadblock here, particularly if you tend to go through running shoes at a rate of knots.
11. New Balance 574 Core
Chunky dad shoes are still very much on trend in 2023. Why not make sure that trend looks good with a pair of New Balance 574s? These are another pair of wonderfully retro sneakers. They’re instantly recogniable thanks to a slight wedge on the hell, a broad base and the iconic New Balance ‘N’ logo. They’re built to be comfortable and reliable, which means they should suit a wide range of scenarios. Especially considering you can get them in an extensive range of colors and fabrics.
12. Nike Max Aura 5Buy now from Foot Asylum
A fresh take on a retro style, the Max Aura 5 are distinctive but also casual. For maxed-out visual impact consider the black version with bold red accents and white midsole. This design is roughly based on that of the Air Jordan 3. It’s a quality shoe, with an upper made using a mix of leather and textile, and a Nike Air bubble at the heel. It’s also available in pure black, and in white with red and orange accents.
13. Asics Gel Nimbus 24
If you want a pair of trainers that straddle the line between stylish and sporty, look no further than the Asics Gel Nimbus 24. Considered one of the most reliable pairs of running shoes you can buy, they’re ideal if you need your sneakers to be versatile. They offer a new level of comfort thanks to the gel technology Asics pioneered. The result is a cushioned pair of shoes with lots of bounce – if you love that cloud-like feeling when you put on a pair of new trainers, you’ll find it here.
14. Adidas Ultraboost 22
If you are looking for an elegant trainer that will also help you smash that 5K PB, then the Adidas Ultraboost 22 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.
15. 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.
16. Lavair Creator Neo Triple Black
New in the SS23 collection, this Neo Triple Black version of the classic Creator is a decent upgrade to the already great trainer. While they were a little snug the first time we tried, they moulded around our foot well after subsequent wears and had the comfort factor that comes with a trainer that has a bit of bulk. There's a really nice mix classic and modern design elements and while the design is a touch understated, it means that these sneakers aren't going to go out of fashion anytime soon!
17. 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.
18. Nike Air Max 95
We are big fans of the Nike Air Max 95. 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.
19. 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.
20. Belvotti Milano Sala-Grey
Belvotti Milano has impressed us again with its AW22 range. Our pick of the bunch are the great-looking Sala-Grey trainers. These are everyday trainers with a fantastic design, which mix premium leather uppers, with suede panels. There are some really nice flourishes throughout the design, including branded eyelets and tonal stitching. There is a nice minimalist approach to the design, which is inspired by Italian silhouettes, which we are big fans of.
21. 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.
22. 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.
23. 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.
24. 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
25. 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.
26. 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.
Additional words: Marc Chacksfield; Becca Caddy
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.