Running shoes are built to fit comfortably and protect feet through any performance, but every once in a while the look wins you over before the first step.
Today's running market effortlessly fuse innovation and style, inspired by modern requirements like minimal construction and use of lightweight materials. The adidas adiZero Feather 2.0 and the Nike Flyknit Trainers are great examples of this new hybrid, looking fresh while incorporating the newest technology for a supportive and speedy ride. But remember these trendsetters wouldn't be possible if it weren't for the trailblazers before them, so this is a look back at 20 Iconic Running Sneakers That Perform As Well As They Look.
Click through above to see if your favorite retro runners made the cut.
No. 20 - Nike Windrunner, 1987
The Windrunners were inexpensive and aimed at the casual runner. The sole featured Nike Air, but these were more about style. They toyed with the design through the years, even adding elephant print at one point. The upper is a mix of leather, mesh, nylon and nubuck—not ideal for everyday running, but perfect for everyday stuntin'.
No. 19 - New Balance 1500, 1988
When these first dropped New Balance referred to them as, “the closest thing yet to the perfect running shoe,” and they weren't lying. At $150, the 1500s were one of their more expensive models because of the materials used. NB took their ENCAP midsole technology and padded it with triple-density Evathane, making these one of the most comfy kicks of their time. The leather, mesh and the touch of suede on the back color make these nice to look at, depending on the colorways.
No. 18 - Asics Gel Lyte V, 1994
The Gel Lyte Vs feature three independent packets of Gel in the midsole making these extra comfy. The tongue was fused to the sole like a sock which enabled the foot to remain secure, perfect for long distance running. Many marathon runner refer to this particular pair as their favorite.
No. 17 - adidas adiZero Feather II, 2012
The adiZero Feather II is extremely lightweight and makes your foot feel like, well, a feather. It weighs around 7 ounces and features ADIPRENE technology to give your foot the cushion it needs while getting those miles in. They also boast SPRINTWEB technology which helps lock out moisture and increase durability. They're also cool looking with their sleek design and loud colorways.
No. 16 - adidas ZX 800, 1984
When adidas dropped these, they were ahead of their time; from the futuristic look all the way down to the technology in the sole. They were one of their first shoes to incorporate the Torsion and Soft Cell technologies. The ZX 800 were made with the London street culture in mind.
No. 15 - Puma evoSPEED, 2012
If they're good enough for Usain Bolt, then they should be good enough for you. The sole is made of a combo of foam and rubber for maximum shock absorption. The upper is made of premium mesh for breathability and the sockliner contains OrthoLite for moisture control. Puma made these for runners that want to look good on and off the track. And don't forget bolt won three gold medals while rocking the evoSpeeds.
No. 14 - adidas ZX 8000, 1988
The ZX-8000 is one of adidas' most stylish models. They were originally released in the aqua colorway pictured above in order to stand out from the pack. They also feature adidas' Torsion system in the sole which absorbs shock from pounding the pavement.
No. 13 - Asics GT-II, 1986
The GT-II was the first shoe to feature ASICS Gel technology. ASICS created the Gel in response to Nike's Air and marketed it as superior and it worked. Asics was able to compete with Nike on the running market, making it a go-to for runners 'til this very day.
No. 12 - New Balance 1300, 1984
The 1300's silhouette is timeless. People still rock these twenty-eight years later on the regular. Footlocker had the 2 for $89 sale on these for ages. ENCAP technology is in the sole, making these a good option whether you want to get a run in or if you want to just chill out.
No. 11 - Nike Air Flow, 1989
The Huarache and the Presto are Air Flow's sons. The designer of the legendary Air Force 1, Bruce Kilgore, added these to his resume in '89. The Flows took the Nike Sock Racer's neoprene sock and freaked it. The sock made these lightweight and ideal for running marathons, putting less stress on the foot.
No. 10 - adidas ZX 500, 1984
Adidas has been in the running game since forever and were the first sneaker company to endorse a black athlete. The ZX 500 kept that tradition going with its clean look and hefty EVA cushioning—making them popular in the '80s. So popular that adidas decided to retro these numerous times in multiple colorways.
No. 9 - Nike Air Pegasus, 1983
The Pegasus was made to be affordable so everyone could run in them. It featured Nike Air and a modified Waffle sole for superior comfort and traction. The suede and nylon upper gives your foot air to breathe and the silhouette is as beautiful as the mythical creature it's named after. There have since been 29 different versions, but the OGs are still king.
No. 8 - Onitsuka Tiger California, 1978
The Tigers were the offspring of the jogging craze that hit the left coast and eventually the rest of the country during the late '70s. The mesh upper was the first of its kind and the reflective material on the heel helped drivers spot joggers at night. And lets not forget, without the Onitsuka Tiger, there's no Nike.
No. 7 - Nike Waffle Racer, 1973
Bill Bowerman invented the Waffle sole with the help of his wife's waffle iron. The Waffle sole gave runners more traction and was tested on Coach Bowerman's University of Oregon running team. The nylon and suede upper gave them a lightweight feel, making them ideal for long distances. Steve Prefontaine wore them during the 1972 Munich Games.
No. 6 - Nike Tailwind, 1978
Produced in a lab deep in the forests of New Hampshire, the Nike Tailwind was the first sneaker to feature Nike's revolutionary Air technology. The Air-cushioning system was developed by aerospace engineer Frank Rudy and rumor has it that testers didn't want to give them back because they loved them so much. The Tailwind also comes with their Waffle sole, giving it two times the innovation.
No. 5 - New Balance 420, 1982
The New Balance 420 features ENCAP technology in the midsole providing stability and shock dispersion. ENCAP is a polyurethane shell with an EVA core placed in the midsole—this was futuristic stuff back in the '80s. The 420's classic silhouette of suede and mesh helps them to be lightweight and easy on the eyes.
No. 4 - Nike Cortez, 1972
Bill Bowerman made the Cortez's when he combined a pair of flip-flops with training shoes to make the sole shock absorbent. This was the design and technology that put Nike on the map. True the technology is dated, but the design is timeless.
No. 3 - Nike Flyknit Racer, 2012
Yup, the Flyknit makes this list. Nike raises the bar with these unique running sneakers. The Swoosh sort of fell off in the running department until they came out with the Lunar Racer, but the Flyknits are on another level. The shoe's upper is entirely made of woven materials, giving your foot everything it needs—nothing more, nothing less. The sole is made of Phylon and Nike Zoom Air for maximum comfort.
No. 2 - Onitsuka Tiger X-Calibur GT, 1982
The X-Calibur GT incorporated ridges in the front for flexing and in the back for cushioning—the first of its kind to do so. The upper consisted of nylon and mesh for breathability and optimal support, along with, a toe design to help prevent toe injuries. Onitsuka eventually became Asics and the sequel to this shoe the X-Caliber GT II, featured their patented Gel technology.
No. 1 - Nike Air Max, 1987
The Nike Air Max was the next step in Nike's evolution. After they harnessed air into a sole in the Tailwinds back in '79, Tinker had a clever idea. He designed the Air Max with two holes on each side of the midsole displaying said bubble. Thus, bringing about the Visual Air unit while ushering in a new era of style and performance. Along with the Air unit, Nike's Max Air technology provided bigger Air bubbles for multiple impacts and a lighter sole. Suede and mesh made up most of the shoe, making them breathable and lightweight—perfect for nice run.