You Need a Pair of British Badminton Sneakers

Get yourself a pair of Golas, the perfect summer shoe

A man and woman playing with badminton equipment.
Gola had its heyday in the 1970s, but the brand has recently made a comeback.
Paris Match via Getty Images

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Up until a few weeks ago, I didn’t have “badminton sneakers” on my bingo card for summer essentials. What a fool I was. While random sports footwear often bleeds into the lifestyle space (e.g., futsal shoes, wrestling shoes, kung fu shoes), with varying degrees of success, badminton sneakers are uniquely positioned for everyday use.

They’re typically characterized by gum rubber soles, hefty cushioning in the midsole, mesh uppers and a stiff heel (to help stabilize the foot through all those leaps and bounds). I can’t say I know when my next badminton match will be, but I’ve discovered those qualities work quite well for commutes and lunch walks.

Besides, badminton is historically pretentious, which means its equipment is accordingly handsome — and appropriate (at least in my casual, digital media office) as workwear.

A pair of Gola badminton shoes.
I can’t say I’ve played badminton this year. But I love the sport’s sneaks., Gola

If you’re in the market for a pair, I specifically recommend Gola’s Plimsolls. Plimsoll (or plimsole) is an old British term for sneakers, and Gola is indeed a British brand. Originally founded in 1905, it was relaunched in the 2000s after fading from its mid-century apex.

From a stylistic perspective, they’re a nice reprieve from Adidas fatigue (Sambas and Gazelles are everywhere I look right now), and way more affordable than Onitsuka Tigers (which are also super popular, but the Japanese label shut down its American website last fall, so prices are up).

From a functional perspective, they’re a fantastic “counting steps” shoe. Sometimes I see people walking around the city in those hyper-cushioned On or Hoka running shoes and scratch my head; there’s less stability in those sneakers by design. They’re intended for propulsive forward motion. But a shoe like the Gola Plimsoll will give you more purchase with the ground — and might even empower you to experiment with uneven surfaces, which can supercharge long-term mobility.

While Gola has tons of options available, I’m most fond of this pair with the mesh upper. It mimics one of the label’s classic silhouettes from the 1970s, featuring that icy wingflash branding. As for sizing, I recommend going a half-size down.

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