Shoes | October 19, 2022 12:23 pm

From Samba to Superstar: Which Adidas Sneakers Are Right for You?

The three-stripe staples, explained

a collage of Adidas shoes on a light blue background
From Samba to Superstar : all the Adidas styles you need to know.
Adidas

Nota bene: If you buy through the links in this article, we may earn a small share of the profits.

Depending who you ask, Adidas sneakers make the world go round. Even those allegiant to Nike’s swoosh or recently converted to the cult of New Balance can confirm that the three stripes is one of the biggest players in the sneaker game. Adidas sneakers have been a defining part of footwear history for decades.

And while Adidas might not have the sheer volume of styles that the mantle of Air Max commands, or the nifty numerical styles like New Balance, there’s still a ton of options from the German-based athletic company. Shoes like the Gazelle and Forum ’84 Low have enjoyed recent time in the limelight. While others — we’re looking at you, Stan Smiths — have transcended the plane of trends and fads, assuming a preeminent status with the likes of Converse and Nike as a truly ubiquitous sneaker and oft-copied muse.

Adidas sneakers are everywhere, with new colorways, updates and entire styles released daily to a ravenous gaggle of sneakerheads and the general population alike. This influx of stripey silos is enough to make an OG’s head spin, and as such we’ve compiled a guide to all of the need-to-know Adidas sneakers, from Samba to Superstar. Chances are, you’re familiar with a few (or more than a few), but for those who struggle to pin the difference between a Nizza and an NMD, fear not — we got you.

To keep things digestible (and under a couple thousand words), we’re sticking to lifestyle sneakers, and while various labels technically fall under the mantle of Adidas — namely, Japanese label Y3 and the infamous YEEZY — brevity and cohesiveness demand strictly Adidas-label styles only. Below, a comprehensive guide to the Adidas sneakers you should know.

a white Adidas Superstar sneaker on a light blue background
Adidas Superstar
Adidas

Adidas Superstar

The Adidas Superstar is sneaker royalty, full stop. Tracing its origins back to the ’70s, the three-stripe silo proved synonymous with cool thanks to endorsements first by court stars like Kareem Abdul-Jabar and later by hip-hop titans Run DMC. Its textured toe-box may no longer be a novel concept, but it remains an iconic Adidas style to this day.

a tan Adidas Stan Smith sneaker on a light blue background
Adidas Stan Smith
Adidas

Adidas Stan Smith

If you don’t automatically recognize the clean colorways, sleek profile and mustachioed tongue-graphic of the Adidas Stan Smith, we’re not so sure we can help you. Arguably Adidas’ most notable lifestyle sneaker, and certainly among the best-selling, the Stan Smith has withstood the test of time, with over half a century of blessing feet everywhere since its namesake dominated the court.

a black Adidas Samba sneaker on a light blue background
Adidas Samba
Adidas

Adidas Samba

What more is there to be said about the Adidas Samba? A seminal three-stripes style, the football trainer turned cultural icon mainstay cool people’s feet for decades, and will probably continue to do so for decades more. It’s recently gained a new level of hype among sneaker fans, thanks to frequent collaborations with the British fashion label, Wales Bonner.

a red Adidas Gazelle sneaker on a light blue background
Adidas Gazelle
Adidas

Adidas Gazelle

Another sneaker to draw inspiration from soccer, the 1966 release has remained a linchpin in the Adidas catalog as a casual alternative to the Stan Smith and Superstar, passing through numerous iterations of design and a plethora of different constructions — kangaroo leather, synthetics and the current suede finish have all composed the Gazelles upper — over its 60-odd lifespan. A football-adjacency has elevated it to cult status specifically in the U.K. — you might remember a little band called Oasis donning the Gazelle from time to time.

a pair of green Adidas campus sneakers on a light blue background
Adidas Campus
Adidas

Adidas Campus

A fraternal look-alike to the Gazelle, the Adidas Campus, like most of its brethren, began as a performance shoe, dubbed “Tournament,” an alternative to the court-dominating Superstar. Renamed “Campus” in the 1980s, the style slowly gained notoriety for the pared-back stitched sole and buttery-suede suede upper, as well as for its penchant for popping up on the feet of The Beastie Boys. Although less popular than the Superstar and Stan Smith, the style maintains its claim as one of the coolest models around, featuring a host of coveted collabs and endorsements.

a pair of grey Adidas Ultarboost sneakers on a light blue background
Adidas UltraBoost 5.0
Adidas

Adidas UltraBoost 5.0

One of Adidas’ most instantly-recognizable silhouettes, few shoes have had the cultural impact of Adidas’ bubbly-soled UltraBoost sneakers in as little time. Released in 2015, the style rocketed from a niche running shoe to must-have lifestyle grail overnight thanks to some excellent collaborations, unparalleled comfort, and an endorsement by a one Kanye West. While they’re transitioned from hype-forward grail to something of a commonplace kick, there’s zero denying that the UB’s grip on hypebeast culture will go down in history.

a pair of white Adidas NMD_R1 sneakers on a light blue background
Adidas NMD_R1
Adidas

Adidas NMD

Utilizing the same Boost midsole technology as the UltraBoost, the NMD’s lightweight Primeknit gives it an appeal similar to that of the Nike Roshe Run — easy on and easier still to wear. The NMD silo has been bolstered by an abundance of iterations over the years, from the weatherproof GORETEX styles to the bootie-esque City Sock, making it practically impossible not to find a style right for you.

a pair of Adidas sneakers on a light blue background
Adidas Busenitz
Adidas

Adidas Busenitz

A vicennial release, the Busenitz was designed for Adidas’ kickflip-focused contingency, originally the pro model for skater Dennis Busenitz. Co-opted from the Copa Mundial football boot, the Buenitz takes many cues from the classic soccer-style fold-down tongue and cupsole, but details like the Geofit collar make it all it’s own.

a pair of yellow Adidas Nizza sneakers on a light blue background
Adidas Nizza
Adidas

Adidas Nizza

The presumed answer to the Converse All-Star, the Nizza was released in 1975 as an all-around athletic shoe, with a reinforced toe-cap, and a grippy, high-profile gum sole, which has made the Nizza a sneaker of choice for skaters everywhere — along with their reasonable price tag.

a tan Adidas Ozweego sneaker on a light blue background
Adidas Ozweego
Adidas

Adidas Ozweego

Originally released in 1996, the Ozweego (and following OZ styles) integrated athletics and sportswear with then-innovative adiPRENE cushioning and Torsion sole support, creating a meshed experience between performance and lifestyle. While the original design faded from Adidas’ core silos, the unique structure made it a favorite of ‘heads and designers everywhere — most notably, Raf Simons — and the style was rebooted in the late 2010s.

a pair of tan Adidas Forum Low 84 sneakers on a light blue background
Adidas Forum 84 Low
Adidas

Adidas Forum

Adidas’ latest basketball reboot, the Forum (in particular, the Forum ’84 Low) has seen a resurgence in the past months, perfectly scratching the retro-kicks itch at a fraction of the resale price. The suede lining and rubber sole may nod to their original purpose, but the Forum ’84 Low is a modern lifestyle shoe, through and through.

a pair of teal Adidas 4D Futurecraft sneakers on a light blue background
Adidas 4D Futurecraft
Adidas

Adidas 4D

Adidas’ most recent foray into the cutting edge of performance and lifestyle, the 3D-printed lattice midsole of the 4DFWD was crafted over four years, utilizing data from runners to create a functional, ergonomic and lightweight cushioning tech that you have to wear to believe.