List of Sneaker Brands
What are the best sneaker brands? The answer is kind of complicated. The sneaker market is vast and multi-varied, and, let's face it, "best" is a tad too definitive. We could rattle off a list of the largest sneaker brands by sales per square foot or some other arbitrary metric of commercial success, but bigger isn't always better. (Though, yes, some of the biggest sneaker brands in the world also happen to be some of the best.) In the sneakers game, cult-loved boutique labels routinely go toe to toe with billion-dollar sportswear behemoths in a cutthroat competition for sneakerhead attention—that's what makes keeping track of it all such a blast.
So what truly separates the companies making waves in the sneaker space from the names that could drop a new silhouette overnight without the internet making a peep? A longstanding history of innovation always helps. A deep roster of beloved retro styles to fall back on never hurts. Above all else, though, a reputation for consistently providing a high-quality product tends to do the trick, whether you're hawking running shoes available at every Foot Locker in the world or high-end, limited-edition kicks that resell for quadruple their asking price.
So consider this, if not a definitive list, then at least a comprehensive breakdown of who's who and what's what in today's sneaker market. Below you'll find 22 of the best sneaker brands you need to know—including the requisite Nike, Adidas, and New Balance shoutouts—along with a whole bunch of styles they're famous for. From Italian-made suede low-tops, italian sneakers, casual walkers to dependable canvas high-tops, one of these brands is guaranteed to have what you need.
History of Sneakers
The earliest sports shoes were created by The Liverpool Rubber Company, founded by John Boyd Dunlop, in the 1830s. Dunlop was an innovator who discovered how to bond canvas uppers to rubber soles. These were known as sandshoes and worn by Victorians on their beach excursions.
In the late 18th century, people wore rubber soled shoes called plimsolls, but they were pretty crude—for one thing, there was no right foot or left foot. Around 1892, the U.S. Rubber Company came up with more comfortable rubber sneakers with canvas tops, called Keds. By 1917, these sneakers began to be mass produced.
Who Invented the Word Sneaker?
The word was already in use at least as early as 1887, when the Boston Journal made reference to "sneakers" as "the name boys give to tennis shoes." The name "sneakers" originally referred to how quiet the rubber soles were on the ground, in contrast to noisy standard hard leather sole dress shoes.