What is a casual sneaker?

If the term “casual sneaker,” seems redundant, you likely have a thing or two to learn about the versatility of sneakers today. The zeitgeist has created subcategories of sneakers, like dress, luxury and—to delineate their original purpose in fashion—casual.

Sneakers, which have a rubber sole and flexible uppers, have the benefit of versatility in today’s world, and they may take on many different aesthetics, including but not limited to retro or grunge. And looks aside, they may be comfortable—good for walking, traveling and the like. Actually, they should be comfortable.

For more about what a casual sneaker is and what makes a great pair, read on.

High-quality materials

Just because it falls into the category of casual doesn’t mean it has to look or feel shabby. And as with any type of footwear, apparel or accessory, materials used factor into the quality, though materials don’t necessarily determine the subcategories of sneakers.

For low- or high-top sneaker styles, high-quality—not necessarily Italian, but certainly European—skins elevate the look and feel of any pair of sneakers, and the best sneaker makers will use such materials to make a great pair.

Regarding how and where the materials are allocated, not many companies use a leather insole, which maximizes comfort. Some use a sponge material, but the problem is that the rebound of such a material slackens after a while. Other notable sneaker brands use cardboard, which is too stiff and will never break in.


Thoughtful design

How garments and accessories are made also factor into the quality of a pair of casual sneakers. Those that are thoughtfully designed and constructed are luxurious but don’t necessarily lean towards formal. (Luxury can be casual.)

A great example of this is Golden Goose, a brand that subversively designs its products to look and feel worn. The sneakers don’t change with wear; scuffing them further should barely change their look. And the lifts built into the insoles of each pair of Golden Goose sneakers, a feature that’s unique to the new-age brand, is generally a hit because it elongates the figures that are wearing them.

Of course, in the case of sneakers, they also have to be comfortable, which is why the allocation of material and the structure of the shoe is so important.
Another thing worth noting is that sneakers, especially casual ones, aren’t meant to last 20 years. Many designers, namely heritage brands both in the United States and abroad (think Balenciaga and Maison Margiela), make stiffer sneakers to last longer and thus justify the price. But if designers made sneakers softer to begin with and lowered their price points, it would be a lot better for the wearers. The best casual sneakers should feel as comfortable as house slippers from the first day you wear them.

Consumer preference

Your taste and preferences play a role in what you might consider casual, so 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 this is certainly the case when selecting casual footwear intended to top off a street style look.

From an aesthetic perspective, you may be more interested in a certain material, be it high-quality knit, canvas, suede or leather, and seek out the appropriate makers. For suede, for example, you may like Maison Margiela; for simple leather, you may look at Adidas or Veja; and for something distinct, like a chunky or ugly sneaker, you might consider the Triple S by Balenciaga or New Balance’s 990V5.

The good news is that, given the number of options on the market, anything you like 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. (Casual sneakers for men and women range in price from approximately $50 to $1,000.)

When it’s all said and done, the best pair of casual sneakers will be a closet essential to you—one that you can enjoy many times over from both a style and a comfort perspective.


Ready to order a pair of casual sneakers?

The best casual sneakers for men can take any look from drab to fab. And while “fabulous” may not be the descriptor you’re going for when getting dressed on an average day, you do want to look stylish and put together. On top of that, they should be comfortable—shoes on which you can rely again and again, be it for breakfast with friends, an afternoon at the museum or even a long day at work.
Of course,  these are just guidelines for purchasing the best pair of casual sneakers for men and women. 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.