Top 12 Most Iconic Sneakers in History

Everyone loves a good pair of sneakers- they’re essential to any wardrobe. Whether you’re a baller or a canvas shoe fanatic, you’re bound to find a pair that suits your style.

But don’t you ever wonder about the shoes that started it all? We do. Here are the 12 most iconic sneakers that have totally changed the game.

1. Chuck Taylor All Star

Chuck Taylor All Star sneaker side profile


Released: 1923

From its origins as a go-to basketball sneaker, it has quickly risen to become one of the most popular shoes of all time. Its classic design and versatility makes it a timeless wardrobe staple.

These shoes go with practically everything: from lazy gym fits to dresses, they’ve got your back. They just work so well with practically everything that people wouldn’t even bother to question them.

While multiple versions of the shoe have been made since then- they practically started the whole canvas shoe trend- there’s no beating the classics.

Buy Chuck Taylor All Stars for $55 on Converse’s website.

2. Vans Sk8-Hi

Vans Sk8-Hi shoe side


Released: 1978
From their conception in the late 70s, the Sk8-Hi has been the go-to shoe for skateboarders all around the world. While skate culture had already been on the rise, the sneaker created an aesthetic that established their influence on the fashion scene.

These sneakers are sturdiness, style, and flexibility all in one. With a simplistic yet charming hi-top silhouette, the sneakers easily solidified their spot in skaters’ hearts everywhere. In a day and age when sneakers become more extravagant by the minute, it’s always nice to remember that skate shoes are always there to bring back love for the basics.

Buy Vans Sk8-His for $65 on Vans’ website.

3. Nike Air Jordan 1

Original Jordan 1s

Flight Club

Released: 1985

No sneaker list worth taking a second glance at skips out on these majestic shoes. If there’s one shoe all sneakerheads can agree on, it’s the Air Jordan 1s. Created by designer Peter Moore, they started off with the hit ‘Chicago” colorway and quickly worked their way up from there. It definitely wouldn’t be a stretch to call them the best sneaker of all time.

The original black-and-red colorway of the shoe, which has since been named “Banned” by both fans and Nike alike, made its mark on history when the NBA banned them completely. As sneaker folklore goes, Michael Jordan was actually fined $5,000 for every single time he wore the shoes during a game.

Nike quickly took advantage of the hype that formed around it and have made them the well-loved sneaker they are today.

Prices for the OG Air Jordan 1 Retro High “Bred” start at $300 on Flight Club’s website.

4. Puma Suede

Puma Suede sneakers side view


Released: 1968

While only recently regaining the love it deserves, the Puma Suede was an integral part in the cultural rise of hip-hop and b-boy fashion. Its comfortable yet sleek look made it a popular choice for most breakers of the 70s, and its fame persists to this day.

But don’t think that this sneaker is limited to hip-hop fans. The shoe first rose to popularity when Track & Field athlete Tommie Smith unlaced his Suedes before claiming his gold medal for the 200-meter dash at the 1968 Olympics. Raising his hands up high alongside fellow athlete John Carlos, it was a tremendous show of support for the Black Power Movement.

The shoe, unfortunately, is very under-appreciated in comparison to the global affection given to most other shoes on the list, but that doesn’t make it any less of a shoe. In fact, if you haven’t already, I definitely urge you to grab a pair of your own.

Buy Puma Suedes for $65 on Puma’s website.

5. Onitsuka Tiger Corsair

Onitsuka Tiger Corsair side view


Released: 1969

Ah, yes. The Onitsuka Tiger Corsair. Few get better than this shoe. With several layers of cushy foam and an elegant design, the lightweight shoe was so comfortable everyone wanted to try it. Not only are they perfect for running, but they could also be worn casually.

The retro racers were originally designed for the 1969 Mexico Games by Oregon track coach Bill Bowerman, who you may now know as the father of Nike.

In fact, if you weren’t aware of the shoe until today, that may explain why this shoe looks so familiar. Just hold on for a bit- we’ll be getting to that shoe later.

Buy Tiger Corsairs for $90 on Onitsuka’s website.

6. Nike Air Max 1

Air Max 1 side view


Released: 1987

The second Nike entry on the list, the Nike Air Max 1 is the definition of retro. If you’re a budding sneakerhead, or even just a  fan of 90s’ styling, you’ll definitely want to go for a pair of these.
Once the Air Max 1 dominated the 80s scene, the ‘Air’ branding became so popular that no one could be called a sneakerhead without them. Designer Tinker Hatfield created an Air Max phenomenon with these fashionable bubble-soled shoes.

But these aren’t just designed to look pretty- they made running popular again. The trend slowly started dying out towards the early 90s, but Nike was quick to change this. Several trends come and go with time, but if anything’s certain, it’s that Hatfield’s masterpiece is here to stay.

Buy your own custom pair of Air Max 1s for $150 on Nike’s website.

7. New Balance 574

New Balance 574 side view

New Balance

Released: 1988

The sneaker that everyone’s dad loves that only goes to reinforce their status as a classic. They aren’t the prettiest sneaker out there, but the subculture built around the conservative subculture built around these shoes may beg to differ.

While many may take or leave New Balances, they defined a generation of sneakerheads that continue to swear by it to this day. Once leisure culture started appealing to a wider demographic, New Balance took what they did with the 575 and 576 to create the 574- a hybrid of the two designed for the casual wearer.

Buy the 574s for $79.99 on New Balance’s website.

8.) Adidas Stan Smith

Adidas Stan Smith side view


Released: 1971

Named after American tennis superstar (that totally wasn’t a pun) Stanley Roger Smith, the sneakers were formed as a tribute to the two-time Grand Slam champion. While they may have taken more than a few notes on Robert Haillet’s own iconic shoes, the shoes remain world-changing.

The Stan Smith was one of the first sneakers to ever implement a completely smoothed-out toe box made only from a single piece of leather. On that same line of thought, it was the first leather tennis sneaker, completely changing the game for athletic shoes since.

While some may favor the older Superstar, many still testify to its duality- making you look good both on- and off-court.

Buy Stan Smiths for $80 on Adidas’ website.

9. Nike Air Force 1

Nike Air Force 1 08 side view


Released: 1982

Yep, it’s another Nike shoe (and it won’t be the last one on this list, either). Designed by Bruce Kilgore, these shoes paved the way for several basketball shoes that followed after them.

While the basketball scene has since out-grown the sneaker in favor of more technologically-advanced shoes, it remains Nike’s biggest seller. And brands have drug dealers and hustlers to thank.

The East Coast was overwhelmed by a crack epidemic between 1984 to 1993. While many may think this has nothing to do with Air Force 1s, the sneakers immediately claimed by the subculture.

Though the vast majority had a great amount of cash on hand, it seems they were in on both availability and price as well as style of the iconic sneaker. When the hustlers eventually merged with the hip-hop scene, the shoe’s influence continued to spread, making them the ever-popular sneaker we know and love today.

Buy Air Force 1s for $100 on Nikes’s website.

10. Reebok Classic Leather

Reebok Classic Leather side


Released: 1983

There’s a reason these shoes haven’t gone of style. The classic leather look of the shoe is simply too great not to keep around. The piece particularly gained popularity as a casual shoe; its accessible design made it stand out from the technical running footwear that followed its release.

While most might not be too into the colorful shoes Reebok has to offer, the leather sneaker seems to unite everyone under its sheer beauty.

Buy the Classic Leather for $75 on Reebok’s website.

11. Nike Cortez

Nike Cortez side view


Released: 1972

Remember that tidbit about the Tiger Corsair from earlier? Yeah, the Nike Cortez is basically a ripped-off version of that. Still, the shoes play a very important role in pioneering the running-sneaker fad. It would be a crime not to acknowledge them on this list.

Also designed by Bill Bowerman, the creation of the shoe was seen as the final cutting-of-ties between Onitsuka and Blue Ribbon Sports. In the midst of promoting Tiger, Bowerman and friend Phil Knight started working on Nike. This was also how the signature Nike Swoosh was born; a much thicker version of the slim Onitsuka stripes that had been loved by the public then.

Rip-off or not, the shoes are still incredibly attractive. And with an interesting history to back it up, who wouldn’t want this shoe?

Buy the Cortez for $70 on Nike’s website.

12.) Adidas Superstar Pro Model

Adidas Originals Pro Model


Released: 1965

While the low-top Adidas Superstar has since been associated with the basic Gen Z girls of today, not many give enough credit to the Pro Model that started it all.

Damaged toe boxes were a problem many sneaker-wearers before the 60s faced on a regular basis. When Adidas finally took matters into their own hands and created their iconic rubber shell toe, they sparked a revolution that continues to flourish even 50 years since its conception.

Can you really blame the basics for loving them so much?

Chuck Taylors took a massive hit once the Pro Model hit the hardwood. Being the first ever leather basketball sneaker, the canvas shoe simply couldn’t compete. The material pressed on to be the material-of-choice for basketball sneakers for a long time since.

Buy the Superstar Pro Model for $89.99 on Footlocker’s website.

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