Somewhere between feminism and the rise of athleisure wear, trainers have become a staple of our wardrobes. The fact that many of us have spent much of the past year shut away at home looking forward to our one hour of exercise a day has only raised their profile. We can’t get enough of their blend of fashion and function, comfort and cool.
It used to be that trainers were not seen in polite society away from the gym or athletics track. The thought of wearing them as part of a chic ensemble would have sent stylish women running (as well as they could in teetering stilettos) for the hills. Oh, how times have changed. The sneaker has sneaked in from the gym bag and the street and got its feet firmly under the high fashion table.
Of course, we still love heels. There’s nothing quite like that feeling of glamour that they can convey and the fact that they make you walk (quite literally) taller and more sensuously. The return of Sex and the City, the spiritual home of heels, will be interesting: will Carrie have swapped her Manolos for something more podiatrist approved?
For many of us, something happens with the approach of middle age and walking in heels suddenly seems downright precarious and uncomfortable. Caitlin Moran’s witty take on the torment of heels in her book ‘How to be a Woman’ declares the minimum spec for shoes should be ones that she can ‘a) dance to ‘Bad Romance’ in, and b) will allow me to run away from a murderer, should one suddenly decide to give chase’. Freed from any expectation to wear heels to the office or out partying, trainers have come into their own. They are comfortable enough to wear working from home, while making us feel more put together than we would in our slippers.
In an industry dominated by big brands, we want to shine a light on independent trainer brands that are also invested in sustainability:
French sneaker brand Veja is now seen everywhere from hipster coffee shops to suburban school runs. No ordinary trainers, these are ‘sneakers with greater economic justice’ as the two founders put it. Having met while inspecting a Chinese factory and been appalled at the workers’ living conditions, they decided to create a product that doesn’t damage the earth or the people who make them. And they look pretty cool too.
Allbirds Hailing from the wide-open spaces of New Zealand and with the tag line ‘Mother Nature made us do it’, Allbirds are focused on planet-friendly production and proving that natural materials can be superior to synthetic. Rain-proof shoes made from wool and trees? Why not? They have a performance shoe, named the Tree Dasher, made in part from the eucalyptus tree and a range that harnesses the comfort and weather-proof qualities of superfine merino wool.
Norman Walsh Made in the UK since 1961, the company is based in Bolton. Before setting up his eponymous brand, Norman’s talent saw him making the track spikes in 1948 for the Great British Summer Olympic teams and the shoes that Roger Bannister broke the 4-minute mile in. The company is 60 years old this year and still going strong making handcrafted specialist sports shoes. Even if you are not planning on scaling Everest (Sir Chris Bonington wore Walsh shoes on his successful summit in 1985) the trainers are beautifully made with a cool retro vibe.
Good News Sustainability is the name of the game for this London-based team. They aim to be environmentally and socially progressive with trainers made from recycled rubber soles and organic cotton, and a policy of donating shoes to the homeless and to refugees. With high- and low-top styles featuring design details such as corduroy and tie-dye they can add fashion progressive to that list too.
Stepney Workers Club From East London, this brand was inspired by traditional Workers Sports Clubs and celebrates inclusiveness through sport. Made using traditional methods, their unisex vulcanised trainers come in a range of canvas, leather, suede and cord. If you’re looking for something a bit different it’s worth taking a look at their artist collaborations as well as a collaboration celebrating the folk sports of Britain (shin kicking anyone?).
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