Introducing The Kit’s new editor-tested shopping awards, the Shop Smart Guide. The idea is simple: Every month, The Kit editors exhaustively test-drive items in desert-island categories—not the season’s exciting yet ephemeral trends but the evergreen essentials you’re most likely to buy now and wear or use forever. We’re talking mascara, jeans, retinol serum, black turtlenecks, white sneakers, etc. Our hope is that Shop Smart helps you reach that mythic shopping ideal: to buy less but better. Next up, our guide to buying white sneakers.
Thanks to two major trends—athleisure and #normcore (remember that?), white sneakers have long left just-for-the-gym territory. They’re now firmly established as a stylish essential in even the highest of high fashion spheres, and our feet will be forever thankful, especially mine—which is why I jumped at the chance to test a shoe closet’s worth of them to find the very best ones for everyday wear. What’s the criteria for landing the top spots in the white sneaker division? Versatility in styling, overall aesthetic (garnering compliments is a nice bonus), and level of comfort from the get-go. No one has time for pinching or blisters.
The thing about white sneakers is they work with almost every look you could want to go for, and they automatically make any outfit feel more effortless, cool and casual (but on purpose). And whether they’re clean and fresh, right out of the box, or well-worn and beat-up, they never feel outdated. Some of the styles below have been around for decades, and to this day, they’re still go-tos (if it ain’t broke, do not fix it). But more and more, a wide range of brands are wowing us with new innovative, sustainable or super-luxe designs, and some of those made the cut, too. So if you’re looking to add a new pair to your closet, here are the best, most versatile, most comfortable white sneakers.
Winner: Converse Chuck Taylor All Star Canvas Platform High Tops
The cost: $85
The material: Canvas
The options: Available in high top or low top styles, with or without a platform
The review: If you’re wondering why a pair of platform sneakers made it to the top of this list, hear me out. Yes, platforms are a hot shoe trend, but the extra lift is more than just an aesthetic. I, too, was at first worried about the height because platforms can be clunky. But to my surprise, these aren’t. They feel like any other Chucks but offer an extra layer of polish, and height. I brought these to Paris and walked all over the city in them, which sealed it for me. Not only were they so light and took up little to no room in my carry-on luggage (they’re canvas after all), but they worked with literally all my looks—from jeans to leather pants to midi dresses. The bonus? No need to break them in. Zero blisters after a three-hour walk from the first to the sixth arrondissement on the first day. A true win.
The softest leather: Zvelle Ray High Tops
The cost: $295
The material: Deerskin leather and goatskin lining
The options: Available in high top and low top
The review: When Toronto-based shoe brand Zvelle announced the launch of its first sneakers, I knew I had to test-drive them. Known for fashion-forward designs and great comfort, Zvelle’s minimalist, unisex high-top sneakers do not disappoint. Handcrafted in Italy and made from deerskin, these are so, so, *so* soft, and as luxe looking as a high-designer pair without the empty-the-entire-piggy-bank price tag. The interior (which has a chic metallic finish) is made from goatskin, so it feels super supple and there’s no break-in period like with other leather sneakers. From the shopping mall to the grocery store, they felt so nice to walk (and drive) around in. I love that there is no big logo emblazoned on the shoe—it’s subtly embossed in gold on the tongue. In fact, they are so minimalist and sleek that they work beautifully for a more elevated situation, too. Imagine these with a camel-coloured suit? *Chef’s kiss*
The most effortlessly cool: Vans Old Skools
The cost: $85
The material: Canvas and synthetic uppers
The options: Low top and high tops
The review: I can’t look at these and not automatically think about that viral “Damn Daniel” Vine video from 2016. But even in 2022, they still have that effect on people. When I went to pick my sister up from work, her 3-year-old student pointed at my Vans and said “nice shoes.” She told me later he’s one of the students that doesn’t talk much at school. I mean, need I say more?! Heartwarming child approval aside, the durable canvas material of these means they’re so easy to slip in and out of when you’re in a hurry without destroying their form. They’re also comfortable enough to stand in all day, and the padded heel means there’s no chafing at the back of the foot. It’s such a classic design, with subtle skater boy vibes from the white on white wavy design that blends right in. People of all ages just appreciate the clean and beautiful form.
The designer investment: Alexander McQueen Sprint Runner
The cost: $850
The material: Calf leather
The options: Many accent colours, additional laces
The review: When British designer brand Alexander McQueen got into the sneaker market, it became the brand of choice for anyone shopping for a luxe pair. The house recently launched a new style on the Spring 2022 runway—the Sprint Runner—and I took a pair for a test drive. It was a tighter fit than I expected with its padded tongue, but there was no uncomfortable pinching—I just had to wear thinner socks. The oversized sole gives you a nice lift without looking like a platform shoe. If anything, it has that dad sneaker look, but with extra curves. I gladly wore them to meetings without worrying I’d be too casual, and sure enough, they got so many compliments. Someone at a store even wanted to touch them because they looked so soft. And boy, they are—the calf leather feels like butter. Unlike other designer styles, I appreciate that the logo is subtle at the back of the heel and the brand seal on the side is embossed. If you’re looking to make a statement, and an investment, this is the pair.
The gender-neutral classic: Adidas Stan Smith
The cost: $120
The material: Synthetic upper with 50% recycled content (these are a great vegan option)
The options: Pick between laces or velcro; personalize with coloured accents at the heel and tongue
The review: Adidas Stan Smiths are simply a timeless classic, and the sleek silhouette is often copied. That’s probably because they’re adored by literally everyone. To everyone in my life’s surprise, I’d never owned a pair, but both of my parents do (with different coloured accents, of course), and they keep buying them over and over again. While my dad loves pairing them with his casual denim looks, Mom wears them with leggings for her Zumba classes. At first, I thought I would need to put my feet through it to test these because they looked stiff, but I was surprised that they didn’t take long to break in. I ran errands in them and went out to lunch with family and friends, and they were comfortable. No blisters in sight. I did accidentally get a bigger size than I wanted because they run big, so consider ordering a size (or even a size and a half) smaller.
The sustainable sneaker: AllBirds Tree Runners
The cost: $140
The material: Upper made from eucalyptus tree fibre, midsole made with sugarcane-based green EVA and shoe laces made from recycled plastic bottles
The options: There’s a wool style to keep your feet warm
The review: I’m not going to lie: When I first heard about AllBirds sneakers, I was intrigued by the sustainability claims but unconvinced about the aesthetic. They looked different from the other white sneakers in my closet—sporty in silhouette but not as athletic as I’m used to from that category. But when I was about to take these for a walk, my auntie came by and stopped in her tracks. Before she even said hi, she pointed at my sneakers and commented on how nice they looked. I left to meet a friend for coffee with a skip in my step (literally, from the cushioned sole and arch support). These are super lightweight, but they felt a bit snug when I first put them on, as I have a more prominent bump on the top of my foot, but thanks to the flexible mesh upper, it didn’t bother me too much. Knowing these shoes are made from sustainable materials feels great, but also the eucalyptus fibre is breathable, so my feet didn’t overheat after a long walk, which made me think these are going to be especially great for hot summer days.
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Renée Tse is the editor of The Kit Chinese edition, based in Toronto. She writes about beauty and fashion. Reach her via email: [email protected]