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12 Legit Performance Sneakers That Are Just As Great For Style

No need to carry a spare pair for working out!
by Miguel Escobar | Nov 2, 2016
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There’s a reason why the pros of today don’t ball in classic Jordans (well, for the most part, anyway): the technology simply isn’t up to par anymore. Once upon a time, Michael Jordan’s shoes were among the most cutting edge basketball footwear—but that was decades ago. To take the same pairs out for the court today would put you at a little bit of a disadvantage up against players in modern Air Jordans, Hyperdunks, and Crazylights. Today, the classics are mostly for style.

The same can be said about running shoes—or any other type of athletic footwear for that matter. If you’re serious about running, you’re not going to do it in a pair of New Balance 574s (which, cool as they are, were designed for the runners of 1988, not 2016). And as much as you love your crispy white Stan Smiths, they’re still based on a design from 1963—they won’t do you as much good on court as, say, a pair of Roger Federer’s signature Nikes.

The problem, of course, is that most modern, pure-performance sneakers, are just that: pure, designed exclusively and single-mindedly for the game, without consideration of their viability for casual outfits. That’s why performance and lifestyle are often two different sections in a sneaker store—there’s an unspoken delineation between shoes that are designed to look good and shoes that are designed to push the limits of athletic performance. And if we’re being honest, many of the best and most cutting-edge sneakers of today are meant to be kept in your locker, not your wardrobe.

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But of course, there are exceptions. Sneaker companies are getting better at negotiating. They’re making their best-performing sneakers look great and equipping their great-looking sneakers with the best for performance. It no longer has to be one or the other. We’ve gathered a few examples of this, so take heed if you’re looking for a new pair of 2016-standard performance shoes that you could also take out on the weekends.

1) adidas Ultra Boost

Let’s start with the most obvious. If you’re keen enough, you’d know that unlike the Tubulars, the Stan Smiths, and the Gazelles, the adidas Ultra Boost is not an adidas Originals shoe. Despite how many people wear Ultra Boosts for porma purposes, they’re actually part of adidas Running—their flagship model, designed for performance. It so happens, because of the shoes’ cool, sleek look, that most people know them as a streetwear staple rather than the cushioned, high-energy running shoes that they are.

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2) Zoot Makai

Legit performance running shoes are no strangers to bold colors. Often, performance runners come in colors that are silaw-level bright, in unicorn-vomit combinations. Here’s a pair that actually makes that work. Zoot has never been known for making good-looking casual shoes; they’re a hard-and-fast performance running brand. But in comes the Makai—inspired by triathlon racers and ultimately built for running, its focus is fast transitions and a stable, responsive ride. It also happens to be the only Zoot shoe we’ve ever seen that might actually work well with jeans or joggers.

3) Nike Flyknit Lunar 3

Flyknit has been around for a minute now, but it’s still just as able to keep up and innovate alongside the technologies of 2016. Nike uses it in designing basketball and running shoes to make them lightweight, breathable, adaptive, and also, good-looking. The Flyknit Lunar 2 was a little bit of a hiccup in terms of looks, but its successor, the 3, more than made up for it. The Flyknit Lunar 3 has a great shape, a subtle sole, and of course, the popular knit pattern. We’d say it’s up there with the Ultra Boost in terms of great-looking performance runners; but it’s just a little harder to come across a good colorway of this than the latter.

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4) Nike Lunarglide 8

You could say that when it comes to performance runners, minimalism is Nike’s strong suit. That’s especially evident with the Lunarglide 8, one of their running flagships this year. While it has the Lunarlon sole, the breathable sports mesh, and the lace cables that most other Nike runners have, the Lunarglide 8 puts those together elegantly. No panels, no fuss—just a straightforward, cool-looking road runner.

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5) 361 Degrees Omnifit

This one looks a lot more like the performance runners we’re used to—loud, maximalist, lots of lines and materials and details and bright colors that look cool with workout clothes, but not so much with jeans. But the Omnifit manages to do that in the way the Reebok Instapump Fury does—a harmonious mix of details and shape that just works. It certainly isn’t your first choice for a style sneaker, but we’d venture to say that among traditionally designed performance runners, this one takes the cake.


6) Puma Ignite v2

Puma claims that Usain Bolt—the fastest man on Earth, who just this year won his ninth Olympic Gold—wears these to train. That alone should make you feel faster when you wear these. But they’re also an incredibly responsive running shoe that’s designed for high energy rebound, like the adidas Ultra Boost. It doesn’t hurt that in the right colorway, they look pretty great too.

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7) adidas ClimaChill Cosmic Boost

The ClimaChill Cosmic Boosts are part of adidas’ consistently elegant use of their Boost technology to create great shoes. But this one also employs ClimaChill, which helps keep the wearer’s feet cool during a run. A nice, seamless Primeknit upper gives it a sock-like fit and that nice, contemporary running shoe look. In the right colorway, like this delightful multicolour one, the shoes might even be mistaken for lifestyle models.

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8) adidas Alphabounce

Have you ever wanted to go jogging in a pair of Yeezys? Well, don’t. You’re going to look like a damn fool. But if you are so inclined, try instead the adidas Alphabounce. It has a similar look to the Yeezy Boost 350, in that it has the ridged sole and a sleek, seamless upper. Some have even called it the poor man’s Yeezy. But the poor man who would opt for these would get much more performance out of it than he would from any of Kanye’s shoes.

9) Under Armour Fat Tire

We’re going to go out on a limb here and say that these would actually look great for casual outfits. The Fat Tire is a trail running shoe by Under Armour. It looks more like your standard basketball high-top, but with a chunky, tire-like sole. On feet, they could look a little goofy. But with the right outfit, they might actually make for a good fashion statement. They look enough like combat boots to wear with military-themed streetwear, and also have low-top versions that are a little more subtle than that. It’s that thick sole that sets it apart—your main consideration when figuring out how to style it.

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10) Nike Zoom HyperRev 2016

Okay, we have to admit: a lot of modern, performance-oriented basketball sneakers are already acceptable, good-looking casual shoes. But the Nike HyperRev 2016, especially in its black colorway, still bears special mention. Among non-signature basketball sneakers, the HyperRev 2016 is the first in a long while to look this good. The strap with the backwards swoosh and the curved collar—you can already imagine them looking awesome with black jeans or joggers.

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11) Nike Zoom Metcon 2

A lot of you may be reading this to see if you can’t find your next pair of gym sneakers (New Year’s Eve is right around the corner!). If that’s the case for you, then the Metcon might be the answer. It’s a cross-training shoe that Nike designed specifically for CrossFit. They have, however, had to change the marketing for it, since Reebok owned the license to CrossFit’s trademark and title. Nevertheless, the shoe is a great-looking option for any rigorous cross-training. In fact, because it looks so good, Nike even released two pairs in the classic Air Jordan 1 colorways: Banned and Royal.

12) Brandblack J Crossover 3

Brandblack is a lesser-known basketball footwear brand that’s seeing a lot of exposure in the Philippines thanks to basketball boutique Titan, with whom they’ve collaborated. Despite not being among the most-recognized sportswear brands, Brandblack is a force that even Nike and adidas, with their larger investments into footwear technology, should reckon with. They’ve gotten the attention of noteworthy performance reviewers for creating truly effective basketball shoes. Also, their creations are incredibly minimal basketball sneakers—fewer lines and shapes and gimmicks than, say, a Nike Zoom Kobe or Zoom Lebron. The Brandblack J. Crossover III, which launched this year, is a great example of just how elegant their shoes are. If we didn’t know any better, we’d think that it’s a lifestyle shoe; high cut with a nice, textured panel. But it’s actually a performance sneaker that can keep up with the best of them on court.

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