What is a luxury sneaker?

If you think about the last few pairs of shoes you bought, is a pair of sneakers among them? I’d wager there are, and I’d even say that they were likely high-end, or designer, sneakers. That’s because sneakers have become a mainstay of luxury footwear, despite that Nike pioneered what’s now considered a modern sneaker, and there is a slew of luxury brands behind a burgeoning market for luxury sneakers.

Besides the heritage or luxury brand status and relative pricing, what qualifies a sneaker as luxury? That depends, but as someone who has been in the footwear business for over two decades, extreme comfort, which is a direct result of how well luxury sneakers are made, makes me excited to wear them.

Read on for a more in-depth explanation of the qualities that define luxury sneakers.

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Materials

As with any type of footwear, apparel or accessory, materials used factor into the quality, which ultimately determines whether or not that product can be considered luxury. Be it for low- or high-top sneaker styles, high-quality, not necessarily Italian, but certainly European, skins will elevate the look and feel of any pair of leather sneakers. Berluti uses materials (e.g., calf and alligator leather) that are on par with its dress shoe offerings, so it’s easy to see how such sneakers could be considered opulent and indulgent.
In terms of how and where the materials are allocated, not many companies use a leather insole, which maximizes comfort. Nike uses a sponge material, but the problem is that the rebound of such a material slackens after a while. Meanwhile, cardboard, which is used by Common Projects and other notable sneaker brands, is too stiff and will never break in.

Craftsmanship

How garments and accessories are made also plays a role in true luxury status. That said, leather goods that take time are generally considered luxury. Those that are thoughtfully designed and constructed are luxury, and in the case of sneakers, they also have to be comfortable.

Another thing worth noting is that sneakers aren’t meant to last 20 years. Many designers, namely heritage brands (think Alexander McQueen, Maison Margiela and Saint Laurent) and Italian fashion houses, make stiffer sneakers to last longer and thus justify the price. But it’s my humble opinion that if designers made sneakers softer to begin with and lowered the price, it would be a lot better for the wearers.

Preference

A great pair of shoes is, in essence, a luxury, but the definition of such shoes is subjective. For those who spend an exceptional amount of time on their feet, comfort always comes first; but for most men and women, a combination of aesthetic and function is the sought-after sweet spot. And the good news is that this is pretty easily obtained, once you’ve nailed down what you’re looking for aesthetically, what feels good to walk in and what you’re willing to spend. (Luxury sneakers range in price from approximately $350 to $4000.)

Of course, when it’s all said and done, the best pair of luxury sneakers will be a closet essential to you—one that you can enjoy for seasons from both a style and a comfort perspective.

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Ready to order a pair of luxury sneakers?

Just remember: There are a few major variables to consider when defining a pair of luxury sneakers. The brand on its own doesn’t make a great pair of sneakers, even if it’s widely deemed a reputable or a heritage brand. Rather, it’s the quality and the reputation of the brand’s offerings, i.e., the elements afforded to make a beautifully constructed and visually appealing product, that define its excellence and luxury status.

And as always, these are just guidelines for purchasing 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 Esquivel

George Esquivel

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.