Think about the last few pairs of shoes you bought. If at least one pair of sneakers wasn’t among them, I’d be shocked. Sneakers have become a mainstay of luxury footwear. And while it may have been NikeⓇ who pioneered what’s now considered a modern sneaker (think Air JordanⓇ), there is a panoply of other brands, luxury brands specifically, behind the burgeoning sneaker market.
For women, a great sneaker will tie together many looks. A luxury sneaker, despite the apparent contradiction in terms, can also elevate an ensemble.
So, who makes the best luxury sneaker for women? There are quite a few; the best one for you boils down to your lifestyle and your aesthetic preferences. That’s why I’ve compiled a condensed list of designers and brands perfect for an assortment of consumers, which you’ll find below.
Originals is the heritage line from sportswear brand adidas, made up of everything from sweatpants to sneakers (namely, the ever-popular Stan Smith style). Regarding its sneakers, Originals toes the line of extremely wearable luxury and thus has approachable pricing, with most styles falling between a range of $90 to $200, so you won’t deem them too precious.
Axel ArigatoⓇ entered the fashion industry in 2014 as a fashion-forward sneaker brand and has since expanded into sustainable streetwear. From the beginning and in all of its endeavors since then, it has maintained a mission to create luxury products that are accessible and wearable. You can recognize the brand’s sneakers for the chunky rubber soles and creative mixes of mesh, suede, buffed leather and patent leather.
For a clunky, chunky or “ugly” look, head straight to BalenciagaⓇ. The brand’s Triple S sneaker, Speed sneaker and Track sneaker are in the mix of styles that offer a lot of look—and, actually, a popular look for women and men alike. In fact, an employee at the brand’s Madison Avenue location told The Wall Street Journal that when the first two colorways of Triple S sneakers launched in September 2017, they sold out in a half an hour.
To lean closer into the realm of classic sneakers means to look at Brunello CucinelliⓇ, a luxury brand that designs for a slightly retro, more tailored look and ultra-luxurious feel. Essentially, its “wow factor” comes from a track record of creating timeless styles from some of the best quality suede and leather and with utmost precision.
Put simply, Common ProjectsⓇ was born for the extreme minimalist. The brand’s Achilles Low style tops the market of premium white leather sneakers, presumably because of its relaxed-yet-sumptuous look and feel. For shoes so simple, they carry heavy price tags (in a range of roughly $300 to $500), which fans can justify based on their versatility.
Golden GooseⓇ offers low- and high-top sneakers unlike any other purveyor listed here. Its sneakers are subversively designed to look worn; each pair is complete with scuff marks, stains and the like that are achieved using exclusive treatments. What adds value is its proposition to customers to “write a story” using a selected combination of charms, crystals, studs and handwritten messages.
And while the worn and heavily adorned look may be a trend, it’s certainly not one that’s here today and gone tomorrow, as A-listers like Reese Witherspoon and Selena Gomez have been sporting them for years.
GucciⓇ products are very high quality, and its sneakers are no exception; they’re made with top-quality materials and attention to detail. Their styles are mostly classic—made of a slim profile with a brand-defining feature, like the stripes or the printed logo or both, though in some past seasons they’ve taken more creative liberties by adding distressed effects, embroidery and chunky rubber soles.
With designs that are nearly identical to fellow sneaker designer Common Projects, KOIOⓇ offers great options for those channeling luxurious minimalism for a lesser price (roughly $150 to $200 less). According to the brand’s website, KOIO manufactures in similar high-end factories, uses premium Italian leather for its styles, and offers more support (e.g., extra heel padding) in its shoes than its main competitor.
A sneaker that is aesthetically classic yet innovative is made by French fashion house Maison Margiela™. They’re made with supreme-quality linens, cottons, suedes and leathers, and the brand’s iconic low- and high-top Replica sneakers, based on 20th-century German army trainers, come in a wide variety of colorways and effects to appeal to minimalists, maximalists and everyone in between.
From classic white low-tops to chunky sneakers in vibrant hues, Nike has an array of sneaker offerings that can compete with the crème de la crème of luxury. Like many luxury brands, craftsmanship is paramount to Nike, and it’s widely understood that all of this comes from the brand’s value for versatility and meeting the needs of as many consumers as possible.
Since his debut in the mid-90s, Simons has made an indelible impact on the fashion industry and, more specifically, on the luxury sneaker market. His relationship with AdidasⓇ resulted in many noteworthy releases, like a Stan Smith strap and the RS Replicant Ozweego, and as a chief creative officer for Calvin KleinⓇ, he made several equally memorable models. Now, he’s designing sneakers for his eponymous label with statement designs that rival Balenciaga and Maison Margiela. Check out the Cyclon-21 and the Antei-22 sneakers to see for yourself.
For those looking to get behind a brand with earnest sustainability goals, French sneaker brand VejaⓇ presents some enticing luxe sneaker options and a lot of transparency regarding how their shoes are made. You can find a full report on Veja’s sustainability efforts by visiting the brand’s website, but in short, what makes Veja a luxury sneaker brand are its extensive efforts to create a “green” pair of shoes, from its use of fair trade, organic materials and to its endeavors to remove hazardous chemicals from the production process.
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It’s important to note that these are just guidelines for purchasing the best luxury sneakers. With over 20 years in the fashion industry, Esquivel Shoes takes pride in being a valuable resource for shoppers. To learn more about our sneaker collection or any other products we offer, send us a message through this link. We’re here to give you peace of mind and help you find the best sneakers for you.
George is a Southern California-based designer and craftsman who designed his first pair of shoes in 1994 and began honing his craft thereafter. For over 20 years, he’s operated his namesake brand, Esquivel, which specializes in handmade shoes and accessories. In the last decade, George served as Creative Director of renowned luxury bag and luggage brand Tumi Inc. and as Creative Consultant for Italian heritage brand Fratelli Rossetti, and has collaborated with many others for his own brand. George was a 2009 CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund finalist, and has been a CFDA member since 2010. When he’s not working alongside his team of artisans at his atelier, Esquivel House, in Downtown Los Angeles, George is enjoying time with his wife and high school sweetheart, Shelley, and their three grown children. He also loves mountain biking and hosting good friends for dinners and fêtes.