The ugly-sneaker fashion trend is great news for the running shoe — and the people who love to wear them. Many of the stylishly questionable characteristics of running shoes — chunky soles, clashing neon colorways, orthopedic flair — are now selling points for designer sneakers that cost several hundred dollars and aren’t even meant for exercise. In other words, we’ve entered a rare planetary alignment where running shoes can be fashionable. For runners, this means that the same pair of shoes can now go from work to workout to a night out. And if you don’t run, these actual running shoes are more comfortable and affordable than the designer items, anyway. Below, 11 pairs of shoes that are equally trendy and technical.
Bright white sneakers will always look fresh, whether paired with a summer dress or your running gear. Constructed from lightweight mesh, these Under Armour sneakers feel fast on the road, and the metallic detailing is subtle yet eye-catching, kind of like the gold trim on the heels of these white Alexander McQueen platform sneakers — but $500 cheaper.
The Brooks Adrenaline is one of the best models on the market for overpronators (that’s when you wear out the inner sides of your shoes quicker than the outer sides), and it has been for nearly two decades. The latest version is incredibly soft for a shoe with so much firm support. The built-up sole prevents the arch of the foot from rolling inward, and also echoes the exaggerated proportions of designer ugly sneakers. The two-tone gray-on-white design is not dissimilar from this much pricier Prada pair.
A little bit ’80s and a little bit Isabel Marant with their jagged lines and rugged white sole, these Adidas sneakers hug your feet with a socklike feel. The light and bouncy foam underfoot is easy on the feet whether you’re running intervals or running errands.
These all-black Balenciaga sneakers are so understated that they’re almost not ugly; and these way less expensive Nikes, with a very similar black-and-white marled knit and thick white sole, also straddle the thin line between ugly and elegant. With stretchy overlays instead of leather, they’re also a much better pick for actually running. There are two types of cushioning — soft foam in the mid-foot and Nike’s signature sturdy Max Air in the heel — for a comfortable stride.
Of course the color that will not die has popped up on sneakers — including this pair from Giuseppe Zanotti — so you can match your kicks to your headphones, water bottle, or even toilet seat. APL’s proprietary “Propelium” material absorbs impact without adding weight — always a fine balance to strike with a running shoe — making them a smart pick for everyday running.
There are a variety of running shoes in the up-and-coming millennial-green color, like these olive-tinted distressed Golden Goose sneakers. For a fraction of the price, these mint Cloud shoes from On are nearly weightless for runners who like a minimal feel. The elastic speed laces and built-in sock liner create a snug yet supportive feel around your foot, and the rubber “clouds” underfoot distribute impact without adding any bulk.
If you’re feeling these color-blocked Valentino sneakers or the combo of leopard print and neon green on this Stella McCartney pair but not their high price tags, you’ll love these colorful under-$100 Nikes splashed in bright shades of blue and green. Made for trail running, the Wildhorse sneakers have added traction for gripping uneven terrain — or city streets.
While extra-thick and chunky soles have become de rigueur in ugly sneakers, runners will recognize the style from the HOKA ONE ONE shoes that exploded on the scene a few years ago. The jumbo-size sole ran contrary to everything runners thought they knew about shoes — go as thin and lightweight as possible for speed — but after trying the HOKAs, many were converted to the cloudlike sensation of running in their marshmallow-fluffy foam.
Another company’s shoes that initially baffled runners were the Altras, which get wider at the toe instead of tapering off like most shoes. The advantage: Toes can splay out naturally with each stride instead of being jammed into a narrow toe box that can cause blisters, bruised toenails, and foot pain. The Torin is Altra’s most cushioned style, evident from the thick sole, great for runners tackling longer distances.
These fantastic Alexander Wang shoes go full-on knit, but the espadrille sole doesn’t exactly scream running-friendly. For an athletic alternative, try these gray-and-white speckled Sauconys with highly responsive cushioning that will keep your legs feeling fresh as the miles clock by.
Besides sharing some style DNA with these chic Vince slip-ons, the salt-and-pepper mesh knit on these New Balance sneakers is very breathable for staying cool on the run. Nicely balanced between minimal and cushioned, the thin layer of flexible “Fresh Foam” allows for a natural feel with enough springiness to feel comfortable on the run.
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