Over the years, lots of the top sneaker brands have largely been thought of as practical or functional, rather than necessarily stylish or fashionable. For instance, Sketchers, ASICS, Brooks, and even New Balance (known affectionately as the “dad shoe”) have mostly been known for functionality –– which they do very well! These shoes are comfortable, effective, and tend to match with just about anything. In the last few years, however, brands like these seem to be updating their images, from being solely functional (see what I did there?) to embracing both style and function. Let’s take a closer look at some of the changes….
Skechers is a brand that has long been focused on comfort. Memory foam insoles, wide toe boxes, and support that is favored by people like nurses and teachers (who are on their feet all day) have pretty much defined these shoes’ reputations. However, with Skechers launching its second round of Premium Heritage Collection Dad Sneakers, form and fashion are being married in the best way. These are comfortable sneakers with some glam thrown in for those who think classic sneakers are boring. They’re also perfect for women who love “dad” shoes but haven’t seen them marketed to women previously.
ASICS are loved by runners around the world, and they’re well-known for their comfort –– especially for long-distance running. Gel inserts and a design that hugs your heel and midfoot make these shoes perfect for runners and other athletes that depend on their shoes for optimal performance. None of this is new, either; the brand took off way back in the late ‘60s, in part because one Amby Burfoot won the Boston Marathon in a pair of ASICS Onitsuka Tiger TG-4 nylon marathon shoes. Since then, athletes have appreciated their comfort and performance. But of late, those benefits are being packaged into ever-more-attractive packages. Prior designs –– which often had almost grid-like, spider-webbed designs –– are being updated to sleeker and more modern looks. More solid color bases and toned-down logo patterns such as we see in shoes like those in the Gel-Nimbus series exemplify the change.
New Balance remains a thoroughly functional brand. And yet, the designs of some of New Balance’s hottest new sneakers just goes to show that the brand is moving away from the classic “dad shoe” look and toward more inventiveness and fashion initiative. Sneakerheads are going to enjoy the new variety of colorways that accompany the classic fit and design of New Balance shoes, in particular with the arrival of this year’s New Balance 327. It’s been in the works for 15 months and represents a fairly significant refresh for the brand.
Brooks shoes have a long-running tradition of being rather plain, sticking to neutral colors with the occasional pop of navy, forest green, or burgundy. However, with the release of the new Glycerin 20, complete with a gradient sole and neon logo highlight, it’s clear the brand is embracing a more stylish approach. It may just be paying off as well, with Brooks having become a billion-dollar brand even in difficult times. Runners now have more options, particularly from the Glycerin line, to throw some color into their running ensembles and turn heads –– whether during everyday workouts or marathon runs. We can all appreciate a simple running shoe that fits perfectly –– and many of us are known for sticking with the same model and brand year in and year out, because we don’t want to sacrifice comfort simply for a stylish-looking alternative. However companies are now giving us the chance to buy fashionable shoes that have the same comfort and fit as always, proving that fashion and comfort can indeed go hand in hand.