The once-humble sneaker has long surpassed the domain of athletics and now proudly sit at the peak of contemporary streetwear and haute couture. Much of this can be credited to creatives and designers like Kanye West, Virgil Abloh, Yohji Yamamoto and Pharrell Williams who have jumped on board the sneaker game, adding their own distinct takes on footwear staples.
The result? Premium materials, luxury detailing, superior craftsmanship and signature design. It’s a no-expenses-spared approach and it’s not for everyone, but for those who want to elevate their personal style with a decent pair of kicks, you can look no further than the ones from our luxury sneaker brands here.
Before we get into it though, a bit of leg work is necessary (pun intended).
What Makes Luxury Sneakers Expensive
- Use of expensive high-grade leathers e.g. pebble leather, which doesn’t crack as much over time
- Thicker leather – this ensures the shoe retains its shape and looks newer for longer
- Tumbled leather – some mid-range shoe brands use this to achieve a balance between quality and affordability
How To Pick High-Quality Sneakers
- Leathers are the easiest to determine in terms of shoe quality but for performance shoes like Nike Flyknits it’s a bit harder
- For materials like suede and leather, test how flexible it is by bending the shoe
- Smell is also a sign – you can smell the inside of a shoe and if it smells like glue you know it’s been made on the cheap
- A good quality shoe needs to smell like good quality leather – as long as they are new, sniff away
- If they are lightweight they will be using more expensive soles which are generally better quality
- If it doesn’t look like it has a lot of manufacturing hours put in then the manufacturing costs shouldn’t be that high – think Converse
Where Luxury Sneakers Are Made
Plenty of luxury sneakers still pride themselves on being made in Italy but this is not the only country of origin for good quality kicks. These days China has matched the Italians when it comes to sneaker construction technology – according to Sneakerboy founder Chris Kyvetos, it’s a defining reason why Balenciaga moved their operations from Italy to China for their popular Triple S line.
“Even with this move to China, Balenciagas aren’t being made in a sneaker factory – they’re still making them in a women’s shoemaking factory in China which has the tools to create a stitched and turned upper that is applied to a sneaker midsole – a process which can’t be achieved in Italy,” he told us.
Beyond Italy, brands like New Balance continue to manufacture sneakers like their flagship 990 ‘dad shoe’ in the USA, using proven methods that date back decades. So the question really shouldn’t be which country luxury sneakers are made in, but what kind of factory or workshop they come from.
A prime example of this is Adidas’ 4D technology sneakers which require special 3D printing machines to construct the intricate sole. As a result, all Adidas FutureCraft 4D sneakers are made in Germany with materials primarily sourced in Germany.
Cost Of Luxury Sneaker Design
Look at any sneaker blog and you’ll be dazzled by the array of premium designs on offer implementing some of the most innovative materials. Gore-Tex, Flyknit, React, Boost, Primeknit…the list goes on.
You would think that design plays a huge role in driving up costs of any sneaker, but you’d be wrong, Chris Kyvetos told us.
“A lot of these technologies aren’t developed by the sneaker brands for your running pleasure,” he says. Instead the cost is usually factored into manufacturing, marketing, branding and profits.