For me, the casual sneaker is a very specific category, distinct from athletic sneakers. Casual sneakers have to carefully straddle the line between sporty and streamlined, so you can wear them with all your casual outfits and not just exercise clothes. If it’s done right, they are some of the most practical shoes around.
I’ve been on the prowl for a foot-friendly casual sneaker in the vein of Ked’s, Sperry, or Van’s for a LONG time. Up until 2019 there just weren’t that many wide, flat, and flexible options. But brands have really stepped up (and popped up! Several of these brands didn’t exist before last year) so we all can pretty much have our pick. The following guide covers all your sneaker needs, for both men and women.
For reference, I normally wear a US 6.5/7 or EU 37 in sneakers and do not wear socks with my shoes. If you do wear socks, do everyone a favor and get socks you can’t see, like these.
In this post:
- My Sneaker Picks
- The Full Sneaker List
- All-White Sneaker List
- All-Black Sneaker List
- High-Top Sneaker list
- Slip-On Sneaker List
My Sneaker Picks
My current favorite sneaker is the Vivobarefoot Court that I reviewed in detail here. I could wear these every day and I love them to pieces. Vivobarefoot shoes last forever, but they don’t breath really well and make your feet sweat. Otherwise, these are perfect. Leather, $150, men’s and women’s sizing (a canvas option will be released later this year!)
The Zaqq Piquant, reviewed here, is another super-durable but kind-of-sweaty sneaker. They are one of the few options made in lots of different colors, so that will tickle your fancy if you’re a colorful person (I, obviously, am not). Zaqq really nailed that classic, streamlined look with this sneaker and they are super versatile. Leather, $165, men’s and women’s sizing (vegan options on the website)
Feelgrounds are reminiscent of a skater shoe and a little edgier than the other options. The mesh dresses them down a bit, but they are so lightweight and flexible you forget you’re wearing them. They also have some good color combinations you don’t see often, like blush/white sole and black/white sole. I I reviewed these in detail here. Vegan, $131, Unisex sizing.
The Vivobarefoot Ra is one of only a handful of slip-on sneakers available. They release them in a different color each season, and this season is a vegan pewter. I prefer to wear them with the tassels tucked inside (the toggle can be removed easily) so that they look like a Van’s slip on. There is an elastic piece on the inside that keeps them secure to the foot, so you could even cut the tassels if you wanted. Overall it is a low-volume shoe which is nice for me because I have low volume feet, but if you have high volume feet you might want to size up. I got my usual Vivobarefoot size 37 or US 7. This one only comes in Women’s sizing.
Very similar to a classic Ked’s, these Bohempia sneakers in grey are one of my favorites for looks. The aesthetic is simple, low profile, and they will match most things I wear. Bohempia makes a few other lace up styles that are really on point and a little more masculine looking. One of the cool things about Bohempia (besides the fact that the shoes are sustainably made from organic hemp) is that their barefoot shoes come in an extra wide version! I got a size 36 regular, and they are a good width and length for me. They are high volume, so I had to put in an insole to keep my foot from sliding around. The sole feels about 5mm thick with average groundfeel.
Splay shoes are incredibly comfortable and lightweight. The toe box shape is good so I was able to get a smaller size than I normally wear in sneakers (4Y, or size 6) and still have enough width for my toes. They’re a solid shoe for only $44, albeit on the casual side. The main caveat about these is that they currently only go up to a size 38, so are not likely to fit most adults (don’t worry though, they’ll be adding adult sizes eventually).
These Callisto sneakers are only available in a few more sizes because they are being discontinued, but they remain one of my favorites. They have a very good shape to them, and I fit comfortably in a size 6. Like Bohempia, the lacing pattern is reminiscent of Ked’s and they’re just really cute. Sole Runner has a few other casual sneakers and they release some different colors every year.
Full Sneaker Brand List
Belenka – Ace and Prime are their two sneaker styles
Zaqq – SO many great casual sneakers
Groundies – They’ve got everything, even metallic options!
Muki Shoes – Vegan and sustainably made, this brand is a new one from last year.
Peerko – vegan and made in the Czech Republic. The only way for customers outside CR to get them is through the website Happy Little Soles.
Kigo Shoes – Vegan and sustainably made in the US, they run small batches with only a few color options.
Som Footwear – (vegan) I’ve heard these are good shoes with a medium width, but the soles are on the thicker side.
Wildling – vegan
Ani Brand – (vegan) This brand makes regular width sneakers that are zero drop and flexible. They look awesome, but won’t be as wide as other barefoot brands.
Leguano Shoes – Leguano has a line of sneakers that are pretty sleek looking, but fall on the athletic side.
Bearfoot Athletics – These are shown in men’s sizing and don’t go small enough to fit me, but look like a good sneaker option.
Splay Shoes – EU 38 is the largest size they produce.
Birchbury – not yet in production, but they look like nice leather sneakers!
Minimas – Don’t ship outside Spain currently, but they look so good I couldn’t resist!
The All-White Sneaker List.
Feelgrounds All White Original – $131 (mesh)
Belenka Prime White – $128 (leather)
Sole Runner Callisto – $140 (canvas) There are only a handful of sizes left in this style, but it’s a great white Ked’s dupe.
Ani Low Top – $70 (vegan)
Leguano Active White – $159 (vegan)
The All-Black Sneaker List
Feelgrounds All Black – $131 (vegan)
Belenka Prima Black – $128 (leather)
Peerko Plain Black– $86 (vegan) unisex but sizing doesn’t go up very high
Sole Runner Metis – $130 (leather)
Som Footwear Norwood – $149 (canvas)
Zaqq – $165 Again, several styles in both vegan and leather.
Bohempia – $115-$130 (hemp) All 4 of their barefoot styles come in all-black
Unshoes Terra Vida – $74 (hemp) Unshoes just released an all-black version of their Terra Vida.
Bearfoot Athletics Ursus – $80 (Leather). These are in men’s sizing, so won’t fit some ladies.
The High-Top Sneaker List
Feelgrounds Highrise – $109 (vegan) This is just a preorder (they’re shipping in March) but they look dope. The material is knit, not mesh like the original, so it has a cleaner look and is water resistant. Vegan, on sale for $120.
Vivobarefoot Kasana – $220 (leather) This is a new women’s style from Vivobarefoot with a pretty slick (slick? who am I?) design. I’m not stoked about the color options, but they’ve got style for sure. The men’s version is the Borough.
Xero Shoes Toronto – This high top is a brand new style from Xero that they are doing a limited release of on February 4th (will be 20% off!). They’re the best looking Xero shoes to date! $80 on sale, $100 normally, they are made of hemp canvas.
Muki Shoes – $120 (vegan & leather options) Muki always has a few high top styles in different colors.
Sole Runner Naiad – $165 (leather)
Ani High Top – $115 (vegan)
The Slip-on Sneaker List
Bohempia Slip On – $114 (hemp)
Vivobarefoot Ra Slip On – $160 (leather)
Ani Slip On – $65 (canvas) Cool black slip-on, but they don’t plan to restock
Unshoes Terra Vida – $74 (hemp) – This slip on shoe only really looks like a slip-on sneaker in the all-black version. The others look more like Toms.