If you thought the 2010’s ugly sneaker trend had died, think again. It’s actually alive and well; evolving into new, even more questionable forms and reaching ever more ridiculous heights, as Converse’s latest sneaker demonstrates.
Meet the Converse Sponge Crater: an unexpectedly avant-garde, high-tech foam sneaker from a brand that’s most famous for producing classic, low-tech canvas basketball shoes, namely the iconic Converse Chuck Taylor All-Star.
The mule-cut sneaker, which was launched last week, is formed with a sculpted foam body with a knitted sock-like upper. it has no traditional outsole: the foam midsole is formed into pods on the sole of the shoe for traction.
Specifically, the foam is Nike Crater Foam (Nike owns Converse), a material that’s previously been used for sneakers like the Nike Space Hippie. It contains Nike Grid, a recycled scrap product made up of rubber, fibre, leather and textiles, which gives it a gnarly look and texture.
It’s kind of similar to the Yeezy Foam RNRR in appearance – and that’s not by mistake. It seems the current ‘big thing’ in sneaker design is foam or rubber clog designs, with brands as diverse as Adidas, Bottega Veneta, Louis Vuitton and New Balance all getting in on the action. Converse is just the latest trend follower – and that’s the issue.
Regardless of the way you feel about these sorts of clog-like sneakers, the issue is that this doesn’t look like a Converse. It looks like a Nike, uses Nike technology, and probably should be branded as a Nike.
We’re not so sure about the whole cage design. Making the structure, midsole and outsole out of the same material might look distinctive but what are the implications for durability? How long will this foam and knit sneaker last? Of course, this is a problem with all clog-like sneakers, but the Converse Sponge Crater seems particularly volatile.
Converse is almost a victim of its own success. While the brand has previously experimented with more modern designs (e.g. in the 80s, the Converse Weapon was the must-wear sneaker in the NBA, with Larry Bird and Magic Johnson both rocking them), the enduring success of Chucks means that’s really all the brand’s known for – and its success has stymied their technical growth, both internally and in the eyes of consumers.
It’s a conundrum: futuristic clog sneakers like the Sponge Crater don’t really make sense for a brand like Converse; they’re not identifiable as Converses… But if Converse doesn’t experiment, they’ll just stay in their pigeonhole and make nothing but Chucks. It’s a catch-22.
We might not be fans of the Sponge Craters but we’re not enemies of progress. Converse has also produced more modern-looking sneakers in collaboration with rapper and tastemater Tyler, the Creator – like the Gianno and the recently-released GLF 2.0.
The inclusion of Nike tech in their sneakers is also not in itself a bad idea. Ever tried on a pair of Chucks with a Nike Lunarlon insole? It’s like walking on air.
But you’d have to pay us to be caught out in public with these Sponge Craters.