Nike pioneered what we now know as the modern running shoe back in 1972 with the Cortez and have been pushing the limits ever since. In 1987, their Air technology burst from the midsole, resulting in Visible Air (and millions upon millions in sales). While Max Air worked its way through all categories, running was where its impact was felt most. Sergio Lozano’s Air Max 95 is an all-time classic, but it’s not alone.
Alternatives: Nike Air Max 90 “Infrared,” Nike Air Max 1
Greatness By Designer
Like the GZA once said about something totally different, “you gotta read the labels.” The Gucci Tennis 84 has been a legendary sneaker in the game for decades now, and designer-label joints have been poppin’ since Ballys first came out of Switzerland. There’s been plenty of options since when it comes to the highest of high-end, so save that Flight Club money and step up to the plate.
Alternatives: Atu Matsumoto Cowhide Sneaker, Kanye West x Louis Vuitton Jasper
Born In The USA
No way you could just name one New Balance that is a must-have for the sneaker rotation, although the classic “steel grey” 1300 is a good a place as any to start. The brand takes style and comfort to another level and, their “Made in USA” line should be a necessity to the American wardrobe — and any collector’s racks. If the 1300 isn’t your style (who ARE you?), there are always the custom options of the 574 or 993, or other USA-made classics like the 990 or 998.
Alternatives: New Balance 574, New Balance 998
It’s not just Weezy, everyone’s got skate shoes in their arsenal these days. And whether they’re a basic OG like the Vans Era or some modern joints like the Supra Skytop II, there’s something for everyone whether you own a board or not.
Alternates: Nike SB Stefan Janoski, Supra Skytop II
The Game Changer
No one’s had an impact on the sneaker game quite like Michael Jordan (and Tinker Hatfield). The black/cement Air Jordan III could be considered the greatest Js of all time, you can rock them with virtually anything from khakis, camo shorts, even a suit if you are willing to risk it. No sneaker has ever looked better with jeans and a hoodie. Tinker’s elephant-print trimmed mid-cut design helped keep Mike with Nike and did for sneaker design what the ’57 Chevy did for cars. That said, it wasn’t the only J that flipped the script.