A decade ago, the coolest sneakers were the most minimal, hand-crafted, and “clean” options on the market. In 2018 we haven’t completely abandoned classic, white low-tops, and we never will. It’s just that there’s a new, bolder design in town that’s been taking over for the better part of the last 12 months. These are sneakers that are bigger, chunkier, more colorful, and frankly more orthopedic-looking than anything we thought we’d be endorsing back when Ryan Gosling was throwing Steve Carell’s New Balances from the balcony of a mini mall.
These are sneakers your dad might have once reached for (and maybe he still does). At the very least, these new-wave designer dad kicks are inspired by the shoes your pops has been defending for a quarter century as “good for his feet.” But with every designer jumping on the dad sneaker trend right now, we wanted to make it easy by breaking down our favorites out in the market right now not by price, color, or hue, but by which kind of dad you can expect to be (or feel like) when you slip these on.
The Fashion Dad Sneakers
Dior Homme Trainers
> $930, available late February 2018 in-store at Dior Homme boutiques worldwide
The Balenciaga Triple S was the buzziest, most Instagrammable dad sneaker of 2017. But in the new year there’s, as your dad might say, a new sheriff in town—Dior Homme’s trainers. These sneakers, which are part of Kris Van Assche’s sporty Spring-Summer 2018 Dior Homme collection, hit on all of the notes you’d want from a true dad sneaker, then crank them up in terms of quality and design to make them fit for any fashion dads out there. They’ve got an oversized sole, a paneled upper (with mesh and premium leather details), a pop of neon yellow, and a made-in-Italy tag. (The fact that they’ve got a small Dior Homme logo on their upper doesn’t hurt their clout, either.) But though these fashionable kicks might resemble the ’90s-era running sneakers your pops refuses to get rid of, already these Dior Homme shoes have been spotted on some of the most influential young guns in fashion, including Luka Sabbat, A$AP Rocky, and Bella Hadid. At the end of the day that’s what fashion dad sneakers are all about: channeling what’s old for something entirely new.
The Dad Sneakers Hypebeasts Love But You Can Actually Run In
Asics Gel-Burz 1 Kiko Kostadinov “Limeade”
> $250, available in-store at Kith NYC, online at Stock-X (prices may vary), and online soon at End, Mr Porter UK, and Luisaviaroma
Asics running sneakers have had a resurgence in recent years thanks to collaborations with J.Crew, Kith, and several others. But almost every Asics collab is a reference to its 1990s classic, the Gel-Lyte III. Yet no in-demand designer has dared to take on the brand’s more modern, technical, and frankly high-performing running shoes. Apparently, they were too ugly even for the ugly sneaker trend—until now. Up-and-coming Bulgarian designer Kiko Kostadinov has taken elements of the Asics GEL-NIMBUS 20 and GEL-VENTURE 6 and created something that hypebeasts are desperate to get their hands on yet are still totally functional as running sneakers. Still, we’re wise enough not to get lost in the vortex hype, and we’d be lying if we said that these neon yellow sneakers looked radically different than the Asics you can buy on their website for around $160. But there are other reasons these kicks are worth their premium price and the hassle it’ll take to get a pair before they sell out.
But first, how did a pair of Asics end up the most re-sellable dad sneakers of the year so far? (And at $650 on StockX, that’s a 100% profit on a pair of already expensive sneakers.) The fact that these Asics kicks are so close to the shoes you’d buy if you were a runner in need of some solid arch support (but done up in fresh colorways) is what makes them strike the same cord that, say, a $2,000 Vetements x Levi’s trucker jacket does. In each case, the designer has taken the seemingly banal and perfected it, taking what was already a good product and made it great through an improved silhouette, new colorways, and premium materials.
But for us, if you’re gonna drop $300 on some Asics, you should go big or go home—meaning pick-up the kicks in the “limeade” version you see here. Sure, the gray and black versions are cool, but for us they maybe fall a little too close to the ones your dad wears to hit the stationary bike at his local gym.
The Dad’s Dad Sneaker
New Balance 990V4
Like we mentioned earlier, dad sneakers—New Balances in particular—were regarded as “Steve Jobs sneakers” or “frat bro specials” back in 2011, the year of Gosling’s oft-discussed balcony toss in the movie Crazy, Stupid, Love. And in context of a 40-something-year old guy in a schlubby polo and bad jeans, we still agree that New Balance’s bulkier models aren’t doing anyone any style favors. But take that same 40-something and put him in the right New Balances—a pair of Made-in-USA 990s—and throw in some stylishly baggy trousers (not jeans) and a crewneck sweater, and suddenly he’s the most stylish man in the neighborhood. Frankly, there would be no dad sneaker trend without New Balance and its 990V4.
See, the 990s are somewhat unimpeachable as a sneaker when you break down what makes them great. They’re made right here in the United States, which isn’t an automatic sign of quality but is when we’re talking NBs. That means they’re a little more expensive than your average pair at $175, but you’re paying for a pair of shoes that will truly last. There’s a reason 990s-loving dads only buy a new pair of these once every decade. And style-wise, they’ve got the perfect balance of paneling and detailing that align them with the dad sneaker trend without being in your face about it. In the medium gray hue you see here they’re actually pretty unassuming, even more so than a pair of stark white Common Projects. Where a pair of CPs can shock you in just how minimal they are, New Balance 990s are for the man who truly doesn’t want to draw attention to himself—even if wearing some dad sneakers with your coolest high-fashion pants will still earn you some double-takes.
Gucci “Rhyton Logo” leather sneaker
Gucci’s take on the dad sneaker makes the world know which brand you’re repping.
Asics Gel-Lyte III sneakers
The J.Crew x Asics Gel Lyte III shows that the dad sneaker trend has hit one of America’s favorite hubs for dudes who want to be on-trend, but not too ahead of the curve.
Paul Smith “Rappid” Knitted Trainers
British designer Paul Smith offers a knit version of the dad sneaker that looks just like your old man’s favorite sweater—in shoe form.
$250, Paul Smith
Prada runner sneakers
Leave it to Prada to take the dad sneaker idea and make it the sleekest, sportiest damn-looking shoe we’ve seen in a while.
New Balance 574 sneakers
If the 990s are not your steez, opt for the even more classic 574.
$80, New Balance
Our Legacy “Monorunner” sneakers
Swedish label Our Legacy tapped Vibram for its reliable, rugged sole, which gives these kicks an added layer of durability.
Zara sneakers with thick soles
To the surprise of no one, Zara has already turned out its take on the trend in a version that, frankly, looks darn good and is as affordable as you’d expect.
Spalwart Marathon Trail leather sneakers
Spalwart has been doing the dad shoe thing since well before the dad shoe thing was a thing. Their take on the shoes will never go out of style.
$300, Mr Porter
Nike Air Humara 17 Premium
Nike’s Air Humara debuted in the 1990s and got reissued this year right on time. These are certainly one of the most attention-grabbing dad sneakers on the market.
$149, End Clothing
Adidas Yeezy Boost 700 Wave Runner
Kanye West’s foray into the ugly sneaker trend is one of the most limited he’s ever made, and its resale price reflects that.