15 New Sneaker Brands Every Guy Should Know

An alternative to your swoosh’d and three-striped overlords

October 3, 2018 9:00 am
Sneaker Brands Greats APL Koio

Footwear giants Nike and Adidas control around 60% of the U.S. market share. We’ve got sneaker almanacs. Sneaker museums. Hell, there’s even a veritable sneaker stock exchange. That said, ours is the era of disruption, and the sneaker industry is no exception. Thanks to the ubiquity of e-commerce and direct-to-consumer production, new sneaker brands have been sprouting up like weeds in recent years, waiting patiently to be discovered by men of your ilk.

And discover them you shall.

You see, the beauty of sneakers is that a man can never really own too many pairs. Thus, there can never be too many sneaker brands. Different styles are appropriate for different occasions, climates and choices of attire. With that in mind, we put together a brief guide to the 15 best sneaker brands founded over the last decade.

From dad kicks to streetwear designs to the ultimate airport shoe, don’t you think it’s time you tried something new on for size?

Koio Sneakers

Year Launch: 2014
The Skinny: Founded by two former finance folks who wanted to make a shoe that could toe the line between luxury and everyday city life. That naturally led them to Italy, where they work with craftsmen in a small coastal village to produce shoes that are the definition of a modern, elevated sneaker. While they’re slightly more expensive than many of their direct-to-consumer competitors, they have the quality and craftsmanship to back it up.
Favorite Model: The Capri is a minimal silhouette with a few different material options (leather, suede, canvas) and a wide range of colors. Wearable with anything from jeans to a tux. They also recently released The Avalanche, making chunky sneakers slightly more palatable to the layman.

Greats Sneakers

Year Launch: 2012
The Skinny: Founded in 2012 by Ryan Babenzien and designer Jon Buscemi in Brooklyn, Greats was one of the first players in the direct-to-consumer shoe market. They make simple designs with very little branding that borrow styling cues from iconic court-shoe designs.
Favorite Model: The Royale is similar in appearance to Common Projects at less than half the price. The Rosen is a slightly sportier option.

Axel Arigato Sneakers

Axel Arigato
Year Launch:
The Skinny: Axel Arigato lies at the intersection of luxury and streetwear, minus the gaudy, awkward designs many other sneaker brands use to approximate that combination. Made from the finest Italian leather, these shoes ooze confidence without shouting, “Look at me!”
Favorite Model: The Clean 90 Collection runs the gamut of options, from flashy to subtle. Depending on your style, you can have everything from an all black slim leather sneaker to a number involving colorful, embroidered birds. These are somewhere in the middle.

Vessi Sneakers

Year Launch: 2017
The Skinny: Launched on Kickstarter in late 2017, Vessi raised over $1M on a $20k goal and for good reason: these sneakers have a lightweight but waterproof upper to keep your feet dry.
Favorite Model: The Cityscape is currently their one and only model; it’s a Yeezy-reminiscent mid-top with the aforementioned waterproof construction.

Suavs Sneakers

Year Launch: 2017
The Skinny: Suavs started with the goal of being the most versatile shoe in your wardrobe thanks to their 3D digitally knitted upper (which provides great breathability) and their light rubber soles (which make for superior flexibility and packability). They also mention that the shoes are constructed to prevent blistering, even sockless.
Favorite Model: The Legacy is a great option that is sure to ride a lot more comfortable than the majority of stiff high-top options out there.

Allbirds Sneakers

Year Launch:
The Skinny: The sneaker of choice of tech and finance bros alike, Allbirds are the first sneaker brand to popularize the use of Merino wool and its moisture-wicking and temperature-regulating properties. Time Magazine calls them “the world’s most comfortable shoes” and they recently received funding from Leonardo DiCaprio, the king of comfort himself. Also jiving with Leo’s ethos is the fact that Allbirds place high importance on sustainability: they’re a certified B Corp.
Favorite Model: The Wool Runners are minimally branded, extremely comfy and essentially a laced slipper masquerading as a sneaker. At least one InsideHook editor considers them to be the ultimate airport shoe.

APL Sneakers

Year Launch: 2009
The Skinny: Co-founded by twin brothers that were two-sport athletes at USC, they pride themselves on being as much a technology company as a shoe company. They also happened to be the first ever shoe banned by the NBA, who deemed they gave wearers a “competitive advantage.” They mostly make athletic shoes (running, basketball, training) but also have a luxury section that includes sneakers built from cashmere and patent leather.
Favorite Model: The Techloom Pro looks similar in style to a Nike Flyknit thanks to its interesting melange of fabric. Wear it running or as a casual sneak.

Baabuk sneakers

Year Launch: 2013
The Skinny: Another wool shoe company, their first product was a 100% wool slipper. Since then, they’ve graduated to sneakers with a wool upper over a rubber sole. Similar to Allbirds, and just as committed to sustainability.
Favorite Model: The Urban Wooler is a super comfy sneaker with a slim profile available in a wide variety of colors.

York Athletics Sneakers

York Athletics MFG
Year Launch: 2016
The Skinny: A recently launched entity from a pair of third-generation athletic-company vets and Mark McGarry, a footwear industry veteran (his previous job was as Puma’s global head of lifestyle footwear). York makes shoes meant for athletic activities and cross training. They currently only offer a few models, but it’s quality, not quantity, with these guys.
Favorite Model: The Henry Low features a nifty half-and-half design and is water resistant to boot.

Jak Sneakers

Year Launch: 2014
The Skinny: Founded in Lisbon and made in Northern Portugal, a region renowned for its deep roots in artisanal shoemaking. Jak focuses on shoes made from full-grain leather, due to its durability and ability to develop character over time.
Favorite Model: The Atom is similar to many other popular silhouettes of the moment, but is unique in that it features a one-piece upper.

Native Sneakers

Year Launch: 2009
The Skinny: Native pride themselves on being completely “beast free”: they use zero animal products in any of their sneakers. Their styles still comprise a pretty wide range of offerings that resemble everything from Flyknits to Toms. Lightweight and made to be slipped on for a quick jaunt around the city.
Favorite Model: The AP Moc is an absurdly lightweight sneaker with a perforated microfiber upper and soft polyester lining. Supremely easy to clean as well.

Oliver Cabell Sneakers

Oliver Cabell
Year Launch: 2016
The Skinny: Started by a former non-profit employee with zero footwear or fashion experience, Oliver Cabell takes the direct-to-consumer approach to the extreme, providing a full price breakdown on each sneaker so you know exactly what they cost and where the markup comes from. They claim they “hand make sneakers using old-school techniques coupled with the latest technology.”
Favorite Model: The Low 1 looks like the lovechild of a Stan Smith and Common Projects, in the best way possible. They have quite a few colors/materials available, so we recommend exploring.

Buscemi Sneakers

Year Launch: 2013
The Skinny: The namesake of Greats co-founder Jon Buscemi (yes, a cousin of Steve), these are the most luxurious and fashion-forward sneakers on the list, and they have the pricetag to prove it; on some models, 18k gold complements the Italian leather base.
Favorite Model: The Ventura is a new model that evinces a trainer made from supple patent leather: something you don’t want to work out in, but definitely want to wear. The 100MM is their staple.

Wado Sneakers

Year Launch: 2018
The Skinny: Currently available for preorder, these Spanish shoes were absurdly successful on Indiegogo (they raised 3307% of their goal) thanks to their retro styling and a focus on sustainability; they use chromium-free leather and plant two trees for every pair sold.
Favorite Model: The Modelo ‘89 is currently their only model. It looks like a revamped, colorful ‘80s Reebok.

Filling Pieces Sneakers

Filling Pieces
Year Launch: 2009
The Skinny: Out of Amsterdam, this brand was one of the first brands to wed the worlds of streetwear and high fashion. With their premium materials and signature elongated tongue, their Low Top has become one of the staples of high-end sneakerhead culture.
Favorite Model: The Low Top is their signature shoe and we aren’t here to argue with it.

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