Techy, tricked-out trainers are par for the course with today’s sneaker trends. So, if you really want to take your footwear game in a bold new direction, look to the past, not the future, for inspiration.
Eye-popping coloured suede, ice-white mesh, foamy midsoles and simple styling. Retro running shoes aren’t going to win any prizes for mind-bending tech by today’s standards, but they get things done. And, in terms of looks, they leave most of their modern counterparts way back on the starting blocks.
It’s the trend that never died. Retro runners have become almost as evergreen as a pair of Chuck Taylors, resiliently stylish and capable of working with a number of different looks. So now is as good a time as any to add a pair to your shoe rack.
Why You Need A Pair
Saucony Jazz OG Vintage
Minimalist, hi-top, suede, chunky trainers – there’s a number of timeless styles that should be in every man’s rotation, but these retro sneakers are up there with the best.
These golden oldies may not boast the same technical prowess as the featherlight track footwear doing the rounds today, but they more than compensate for it in their good looks and casual versatility.
There’s something about that sporty silhouette and simple styling that lends itself very nicely to anything from jeans and a T-shirt to joggers and a hoodie. These shoes are weekend warriors through and through, a great starting point for many a casual outfit. That makes them great value for money, too.
Onitsuka Tiger Corsair
Then there’s the history. Heritage is a hot commodity in men’s fashion, and knowing that the shoes on your feet paved the way to success for one of the biggest sports brands on the face of the Earth, or facilitated the winning of a gold medal at the 1972 Olympic Games is, well, kinda cool.
How To Wear Retro Running Shoes
If you’re used to wearing minimal sneakers, you’ll feel right at home in retro runners. Both are fairly interchangeable and can be worn with a range of outfits, although minimal sneaks are more formal friendly.
Running shoes are generally more comfortable, as they’ll often feature some form of cushioning tech the likes of Nike’s Air or Adidas’ Boost systems, so they’ll complement sweatpants perfectly. A simple outfit worth experimenting with is tailored tracksuit bottoms with a slightly oversized knit – the perfect blend of comfort and warmth.
For a smarter angle, try swapping your loafers with retro runners in a smart casual outfit. They’ll combine well with similarly leisurely pieces such as chinos, tees and denim jackets for ultimate off-duty cool.
You could of course wear a suit, but it would have to be the right one, i.e. unstructured shoulders with tapered, slightly cropped trousers. And if streetwear’s your bag, retro running shoes fit right in when paired with hoodies, coach jackets, snapbacks and technical outerwear. In short, wear them for everything but your half-marathon training.
The Best Brands For Retro Running Shoes
You may have seen us mention Slovakian sneaker brand Novesta before. There’s a pretty high chance that was in relation to heavy-duty canvas pumps. However, the Eastern European label also has a sideline in making some of the finest retro runners around.
Featuring minimalist branding, a rainbow of colour variations, and fabric options that encompass everything from suede to wool.
The fact that some of the Swoosh’s very first running shoes are still popular today is testament to the brand’s status as the best best sneaker brand under the sun.
The Cortez represented the beginning of a long and fruitful reign as the premier manufacturer of athletic footwear, while the Tailwind ‘79 introduced the world to Nike’s iconic ‘Air’ sole technology. Oh, and did we mention they look awesome, too?
Bolton, Lancashire, may not be the first place that springs to mind when you think of retro kicks, but it should be.
This, after all, is the town that ‘80s aerobic-footwear legend Reebok calls home, and out of it have jogged some of the finest running shoes ever to have touched track or turf.
With over 120 years of experience under its belt, it would be fair to say that Saucony (pronounced ‘sock-a-nee’) knows better than most about what goes into crafting the perfect pair of kicks.
The American brand’s casual footwear offerings are heavy on the nostalgia, featuring bold colours, a nod to the ‘80s and ‘90 through busy detailing, and plenty of bright white hits to make any outfit pop.
If you think Asics’ iconic Corsair looks familiar, you’d be right. The Japanese brand’s oldest and best-selling running shoe is at the core of a sort of chicken-or-egg style conundrum alongside Nike’s Cortez.
The two shoes are essentially exactly the same – the result of a historic distribution deal between the two labels. Interesting stuff, but it’s just one of Asics’ classic sneakers and believe us, there are plenty more.
Founded in 2009, Swedish label Spalwart may not appear in a strong position to make true retro runners. However, thanks to its founders stumbling upon a historic sneaker factory in rural Slovakia, complete with vintage moulds, it’s giving many better established luxury sneaker brands a good run for their money.
Elegant, simple and heavy on the wabi sabi, these may not be the cheapest shoes out there, but by God, they’re some of the best looking.
In today’s bizarre fashion climate, it’s not unusual to find pieces on the runway that could’ve come straight out of your dad’s weekend wardrobe. For American sneaker don New Balance, however, this idea is nothing new.
The brand has long been kitting out both ultra-hip sneakerheads and balding, 50-year-old, jort-wearing men from the suburbs. Because, hey, we all know a great pair of kicks when we see them, right?
Where other sportswear heavy hitters focus on the cutting edge, German giant Adidas has built the core of its brand image around the retro goodness that fills its archives. So much so that simply hearing the words “retro sportswear” probably lights up that stylised trefoil leaf that’s been subliminally seared into your brain.
It’s no wonder. Adidas’ throwback runners have set quite the benchmark and even today, few shoes come close.
Finnish footwear purveyor Karhu is probably one of the lesser-known names on this list. However, it’s actually one of the oldest.
The brand’s unique designs and trademark unconventional lacing systems have earned it a cult following and a place on the shelves of some of menswear’s most exclusive retailers.
There must be something in that Bolton air, because not only does Reebok call the Lancashire city home, but so does Walsh, the only 100 per cent English sports footwear manufacturer left standing.
It may not have the profile of some bigger British shoe brands making your go-to Derbies, but Walsh has earned a cult following for its retro running shoes, which all feature trademark stripped-back styling and bare a small Union flag logo carefully stitched onto each shoe right here on British soil.