Sneakers Hot 10
The Best Sneakers For Men Right Now
MR PORTER’s list of the trainers topping the charts in 2019, including Balenciaga, Prada, Nike and more
MR PORTER’s Sneakers Hot 10 is our regularly updated primer on the sneakers we think should be on your radar right now. It’s not your average hype list, so don’t simply expect a countdown of this month’s latest limited-edition Nikes, though they certainly have a place here. The sneaker market is increasingly diverse and caters to men of all stripes, so we’ve made the conscious decision to choose from as wide a range of designers and price points as possible. There’s something here for everybody.
New entries will be announced on Instagram, so follow @mrporterlive if you want to be the first to know.
Sneakerheads worldwide have been waiting with bated breath for the LDV Waffle, Nike’s most recent collaboration with Sacai, ever since early prototypes were revealed at the Japanese streetwear brand’s SS19 runway show in Paris. That was back in June 2018. Ten months on, we’re still waiting on a global release. But not for much longer.
The Nike x Sacai LDV Waffle is a hybrid of the LDV, a long-distance running shoe released in 1978, and the Waffle, released four years earlier in 1974, the same year that Nike patented its now iconic Swoosh. This, then, is a little piece of sneaker history. In the hands of Sacai’s creative director, Ms Chitose Abe, it serves up a glimpse into the future, too.
The design philosophy? Double up on everything. The toe and heel caps, the tongues, the laces, the Swoosh. If there’s space for another, it’s going on. What you’re essentially getting with the LDV Waffle is two shoes spliced into one, almost as if they had been placed into the teleportation machine out of The Fly. There’s that aggressive mid-sole, too, which juts out from the heel by nearly an inch and lends the sneaker its avant-garde silhouette.
Make no mistake, the hype is real with this one. How to ensure you get your hands on a pair without paying a huge resale premium? We’re under instruction to keep the release date a secret for now, but trust us when we say it’s coming very soon. Keep an eye on MR PORTER’s What’s New page and sign up for email updates to be the first to know.
Valentino was an early entrant into the luxury sneaker market with its sleek camo-print Rockrunner, which first appeared on the runway in 2012 and is still available – and still desirable – today. The newer Bounce is a more muscular, steroid-enhanced sneaker by comparison. Echoes of the Rockrunner can be seen in the camouflage uppers and panelled construction, but that chunky, angular sole places it firmly in the “dad shoe” category.
Who are these sneakers for? Suffice to say conservative dressers need not apply. Camouflage or no, they are clearly designed to be seen. And if you do want to make a statement with your footwear, the Valentino Bounce might just be the connoisseur’s choice. Less widespread than dad sneakers, such as Gucci’s Rhyton or Balenciaga’s Triple S, but just as conspicuous, they’re a powerful point of difference in a market that too often tends towards homogeneity.
Balenciaga’s Triple S blew the market for high-fashion sneakers wide open. A crossover hit that appealed to sneakerheads and luxury shoppers alike, it spawned legions of imitators and is credited with kick-starting the “ugly sneaker” trend that dominated 2017 and 2018. Success comes at a price, though, and as the Triple S went from outlier to everywhere, Balenciaga found itself in the unenviable position of having to design a successor to one of the most sought-after sneakers of all time.
How do you even attempt to follow that? To put it simply, you don’t. With the Track, Balenciaga never set out to make the Triple S Mark II. Despite carrying over certain design details – the shoe size stitched onto the tip of the toe, the protuberant heel – this is a markedly different shoe, which owes as much to hiking brands such as Merrell, Salomon, ROA and Hoka One One as it does to mainstream sneaker brands Nike and adidas.
Released in late 2018, the Track is only now getting into its stride, if you’ll pardon the pun. It’s not made quite the same splash as the Triple S – really, could anything have? But to our mind it’s a much more wearable sneaker, which speaks to the current mood in menswear while retaining the proportions and haute-normcore looks that Balenciaga fans are sure to love.
It’s easy to forget it was Prada that pioneered the luxury fashion sneaker. Launched in 1997 with a young Mr Neil Barrett at the helm, its Prada Sport line did “athleisure” before the term even existed. Its use of technical materials, such as rubber and industrial nylon, was years ahead of its time. The very first Prada sneakers were designed for its CEO Mr Patrizio Bertelli’s newly formed Luna Rossa sailing team, and the signature red line, or Linea Rossa, went on to become one of the house’s most recognisable motifs.
Fast forward to 2019 and, while the rest of the world has just about caught up with Prada’s vision, the Milano 70 sneaker acts as a reminder that the brand hasn’t lost its touch for the avant-garde. In a more-is-more market, the Milano stands out as a beacon of sleek minimalism. Its combination of clean lines, suede panelling and rubberised trims conspires to somehow make it seem old-school and futuristic at the same time, like the sort of sneakers that the Jetsons might wear. Now, as ever, Prada points the way forward.
Sneakerheads might recognise this as the adidas Yeezy Powerphase Calabasas, the 2017 collaboration between the German sportswear brand and Mr Kanye West. Peer a little closer, though, and you’ll find that the gold foil “CALABASAS” imprint on the side has been scrubbed out and replaced by one that reads “POWERPHASE”. This, then, is a return to the original 1980s design, the one that Mr West drew from in the first place.
Despite each of its three colourways selling out almost instantly, the Calabasas was one of Mr West’s least talked-about projects for adidas. So what, you might ask, is a mainline version released two years later doing on MR PORTER’s Sneakers Hot 10? Quick answer: the adidas Yeezy Calabasas was ahead of its time. It channelled the whole “dad shoe” thing before it was a particularly cool thing to do.
A lot can change in two years, however. The summer 2018 launch of the adidas Continental 80 – retro tennis sneakers that bear more than a passing resemblance to the Calabasas – was a sign that the winds of fashion were beginning to change. And it appears that the commercial success of the Continental 80 gave adidas the confidence to relaunch the Powerphase, this time without the Calabasas name, in March 2019. Back with a bang, this has sneaker of the summer written all over it. Get it while it’s hot.
Mr Virgil Abloh is a master of the motif. His cult streetwear brand Off-White is instantly identifiable by any one of a multitude of recurring design details, from double-ended arrows and diagonal stripes to plastic tags and “quotation marks”. Said motifs are present in abundance on the Polo 3.0, a low-top sneaker that appears to have been designed with the intention of leaving no doubt whatsoever of its origins. (“Where did you get your shoes?” is not a question you should expect to hear very often while wearing a pair of these.)
Mr Abloh honed his deconstructivist approach to sneaker design while working with Nike on a series of highly sought-after collaborations known as The Ten. Released between 2017 and 2018, they were a reimagining of classic styles from Nike, Jordan and Converse with cable-tie tags left on, Nike’s corporate address printed on the side, and Swooshes removed and loosely reattached. They looked a bit like half-finished sneakers that had been snuck out of the lab, which obviously made them incredibly desirable, because nothing screams exclusivity more than, “Oh, these? They’re a prototype.”
The Polo 3.0 takes elements of The Ten and turns the luxury up to 11 with full-grain leather and Italian construction. We’re particular fans of the crimped finish on the tongue, which lends the shoe a bit of a ghillie brogue look, and the silhouette, which is heading towards early 2000s skate-shoe territory. A sign of things to come?
Taking its design cues from legendary Converse Chuck Taylor, visvim’s Skagway is the ultimate “if you know, you know” sneaker. They’re seven times the price of a pair of All Stars, and you might reasonably wonder who could possibly justify spending so much on something that looks so similar. This is where we urge you to take a closer look, because to understand the appeal of the Skagway is ultimately to understand visvim.
Founded in 2000 by ex-Burton Snowboards designer Mr Hiroki Nakamura, visvim has a reputation as perhaps the most uncompromising, details-obsessed streetwear label on the planet. Mr Nakamura breaks clothes down to the fabric, down to the thread, down even further in his search for perfection. Among menswear aficionados, who scramble for its latest releases, the brand is less a cult and more a full-blown religion.
The Skagway appears in every visvim collection in some form or another, often featuring a different fabric, such as washed denim or Japanese woven bamboo, in place of the traditional canvas. That somehow makes this season’s black canvas Skagway sneakers seem all the more appealing. They’re straight up, unadulterated and make those tiny little visvim details – the leather trim on the tongue, the hand-painted zig-zags on the sole – seem all the more noticeable.
The twisted brainchild of Versace’s head sneaker designer Mr Salehe Bembury and Atlanta rapper 2 Chainz, the Chain Reaction is by a comfortable margin the wildest, most outrageous sneaker on the market right now. Strong statement? Just look at it. The name is a reference to the outsole, which looks like a stack of marshmallows from the side but from beneath reveals itself to have been moulded in the shape of a Cuban-link chain.
The upper is a riot of seemingly disparate patterns, colours and references to the House of Versace: the golden baroque print; the winding Greco motif on the toe, rubber foot cage and midsole; the 3D Medusa’s head affixed to the heel. The word “love” has also been printed on the toe in braille for no apparent reason whatsoever, and the tips of the laces have been dipped in wax, a trick used to seal the stems of cherries in order to keep them fresh for longer. It’s all very excessive, very extravagant and very Versace.
We’ll just come out and say it: there’s every chance you’re going to hate this shoe. And if you do, that’s fine. It was designed to divide opinion. But for its sheer bravado, and for the fact that there’s simply nothing else out there quite like it, the Chain Reaction rightfully earns its spot on the Sneakers Hot 10.
Trust Tom Ford to transform the modest sneaker into something as opulent as this. A classic cap-toe tennis shoe in the mould of an adidas Stan Smith, it’s been executed with such finesse that it almost feels wrong to categorise it as a sneaker. Only the stuffiest of establishments would turn you away if you showed up wearing a pair of these.
Cut from a rich navy-blue suede that’s been subtly perforated with the brand’s “T” motif and with a “TOM FORD” logo stamped in gold on the heel and tongue, this sneaker doesn’t try to hide its provenance. But, unlike a lot of other sneakers, it doesn’t shout it from the rooftops, either. The Tom Ford brand is more than just a gold-foil logo, carefully positioned for all to see; it’s a promise of uncompromising quality and of understated, timeless style. This sneaker has both in abundance.
The Flashtrek is Gucci’s take on the hiking shoe, though it’s decidedly more flash than trek. When they debuted on the runway last winter, they came with removable crystal-embroidered straps, a less than subtle reminder that these are not intended to be worn on your next ramble across the Yorkshire Moors.
In a sense, the Flashtrek was an inevitability, the all but certain result of a series of environmental factors: one, the current mood in fashion favouring all things utilitarian and outdoorsy; two, the “ugly sneaker” trend; and three, Mr Alessandro Michele’s maximalist design ethos, which has reinvented Gucci as one of the world’s most desirable brands. But that’s reductive. The Flashtrek is a great deal more than the sum of its parts.
Six months into its lifecycle and now available in a multitude of colours and materials, our pick of the bunch is this version in highly reflective grey rubber. A relatively understated choice during daylight hours – and we do stress the word relatively – it comes into its own after dark.
This one’s straight out of left field. Loro Piana is a name you’d typically associate with cashmere and high-end casualwear, not with sneakers. And yet what do we have here? A Nike Flyknit given the luxury treatment, by the looks of it. Call it a sign of the extent to which sneakers have infiltrated every avenue of our lives. They are the new Everyman shoe and, fittingly, there’s now a style for every man.
On the one hand, there’s something rather incongruous about this sneaker. Loro Piana is a brand that stakes no claim whatsoever on the sneaker market. Its target demographic scoffs at the idea of newness, hype or any of the other driving forces that keep the wheels of the industry moving. On the other hand, it makes a great deal of sense. As a sneaker sub-category, the “sock sneaker” plays to the brand’s strengths as a manufacturer of high-quality performance fabrics. If anyone can pull it off, it’s Loro Piana.