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When you’re ready to step out of those high heels and pair your baggy jeans with something more casual, you really can’t go wrong with a great pair of sneakers. A step up from basic white kicks, retro runners are shaping up to be one of the top trends of 2021 that transition well from summer to fall and beyond, all while looking to the past to add a bit of old-school playfulness to modern-day wardrobes.
Meghan Markle was previously spotted in eco-conscious sneakers from Rothy’s and Veja, and classic athletic footwear brands like Adidas, New Balance and Nike are regularly seen on stars including J. Lo, Gigi Hadid, Hailey Bieber, Naomi Watts, Shay Mitchell and Katie Holmes, to name just a handful.
If you’re looking to add vintage-inspired flair to your fall ensembles without crossing too far into the dad shoe trend or ugly sneaker territory, we’ve rounded up the best retro sneakers for women to shop this fall. You’ll find a slew of unisex trainers from the above go-to sportswear labels, as well as sustainable styles from Everlane, Madewell and others. See all of our top picks ahead.
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1. Nike DBreak Sneakers
Though Nike has no shortage of vintage-inspired sneakers (think the Challenger, the Cortez and the Waffle Trainer, to name a few), we’re fans of these DBreak sneakers for their sustainable makeover. The ’79-born silhouette features an upper made of 100 percent recycled canvas, and the embroidered floral design is a nod to the fact that plant-based dyes were used.
2. Veja Rio Branco Leather-Trimmed Mesh & Suede Sneakers
Hands-down one of the best eco-friendly sneaker brands, Veja is regularly seen on the feet of stars like Chloe Grace Moretz, Emily Ratajkowski and Emma Watson. The France-based, Brazil-made label’s Rio Branco sneakers are made with its breathable Alveomesh material made of 100 percent recycled plastic bottles and a rubber sourced sustainably from the Amazon forest. This pair is finished with water-repellent suede and leather, and they’re available in other colorways, too.
3. Adidas Superstar Sneakers
You’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who doesn’t look good in Adidas’ cult-favorite Superstar sneakers, so it’s no wonder that they are among the brand’s best-selling styles. These leather kicks feature the label’s signature rubber shell toe and three-stripe design, which has been updated in an array of modern shades and metallic hues. If you’re seeking a more modern look, you can always try these Adidas by Stella McCartney Treino kicks.
4. Onitsuka Tiger Unisex Serrano Sneakers
Onitsuka Tiger is synonymous with the retro trainer aesthetic, as the Japanese sportswear brand was founded in 1949 and became known for outfitting the feet of marathon runners, Olympians and Bruce Lee — and let’s not forget the label’s cameo in Kill Bill (where Uma Thurman’s The Bride wore the Tai-Chi-Nm style in yellow). The revived footwear label’s unisex leather Serrano sneakers offer the same effortless look and come in a range of colors, and they pair easily with denim and maxi dresses alike.
5. Re/Done ’70s Runner Shoes
It Model-beloved brand Re/Done brings a luxurious spin on the ’70s-inspired shoe silhouette with these retro women’s sneakers. Handmade in Italy, these shoes are crafted from ethically-sourced leather and suede and are finished with a foam tongue.
6. New Balance Women’s 574 Sneakers
We’re fans of the chunky silhouette of New Balance’s popular 574 sneakers, which are made of a suede and mesh upper and feature a durable rubber outsole and lightweight foam cushioning in the midsole and heel for comfort.
7. Gucci Screener Leather Sneakers
For the label lovers, Gucci’s Screener leather sneakers are no doubt a luxury upgrade to your worn-out kicks. Inspired by the classic ’70s shoe style, this made-in-Italy pair boasts white perforated leather and all-over distressing for a vintage aesthetic. They’re finished with the Italian fashion house’s inimitable red and green web stripe and its classic double-G logo.
8. Madewell Kickoff Trainer Sneakers
There’s still time to take advantage of Madewell’s 20 percent off Insiders sale event, which includes these stylish retro trainers. Eco-conscious wearers will be happy to know that the kicks are made of recycled cotton lining and rubber outsoles, while the nubuck leather was sustainably sourced. On top of all of that, the shoes are made with the brand’s “supercushy, ultrasupportive” Cloudlift insoles.
9. Rothy’s RS01 Sneakers
Although they come in men’s sizing, these incredibly comfy RS01 sneakers from Rothy’s are unisex and fit almost all feet. Made from the brand’s signature knitted material spun from plastic water bottles, the shoes channel ’80s vibes and come in a range of classic colors. You’ll walk easy with the contoured footbed and grooved gum outsoles that are made of 20 percent bio-based materials.
10. Merrell Alpine Sneakers
For when you plan on hitting up the trails, Merrell’s Alpine shoes are among the best hiking sneakers for women who want to traverse rugged terrain in style. These cool retro shoes have a leather and nylon upper, a breathable mesh lining, an EVA midsole for comfort and a rubber outsole for traction. It’s also got a removable Kinetic Fit contoured insole so you can customize your foot support.
11. Everlane ReLeather Court Sneakers
Everlane’s ReLeather Court sneakers are made from — you guessed it — recycled leather. Also available in men’s sizes and other colors, these sleek steppers are an eco-friendlier version than the direct-to-consumer brand’s original style, thanks to a manufacturing process that requires no dyes, uses less water and creates less waste.
12. Clarks Un Rio Run Sneakers
Clarks’ Un Rio Run sneakers are your best bet if you need all-day arch support. They’re equipped with an OrthoLite footbed that keeps your feet comfortable and dry, and they also happen to be on sale for 40 percent off.
13. Saucony Hornet Sneakers
Heritage running brand Saucony is a natural choice if you’re looking for the best retro sneakers for women, men and kids. The company’s classic Hornet shoes are inspired by the brand’s 1975 design, but with new materials (such as suede, mesh and a faux leather upper), an EVA midsole and a cushioned footbed for getting you where you need to go in style and comfort.
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Jamie Lee Curtis
Taraji P. Henson