The 80s might just be the decade of the sneaker. First up, 80s sneakers represented a huge range of technical innovations in terms of sneaker design – from ASICS GEL soles to Reebok Pumps. But it’s also the decade where sneakers made the leap from the athletic world into the cultural mainstream.
Choosing our favourites was tough – a quick scan of just how many sneakers were issued in the 80s is totally overwhelming. So many stone cold classics emerged on the basketball court, the athletics track, the tennis court, you name it. But quality always wins out over quantity, and the true classics shine through. They may be pushing 30, but these kicks look as fresh today as they did when we were wearing them to highschool.
Adidas LA Trainer
You ain’t never seen soles like this before or since. These beauties were designed as part of Adidas’ gear for the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles (hence the name). LA Trainers were the first sneaker to make use of Adidas’ peg cushioning system. As well as pushing the boundaries of cushioning technology, the triple-peg sole looked supercool and allowed for a triple dose of patriotic color. There was plenty of experimentation with cushioning during the 80s, but the LA Trainer stood out. Proving it’s still got what it takes, you can get your hands on the LA Trainer today over at JD Sports thanks to a retro relaunch courtesy of Adidas Originals.
Nike Air Flow
They don’t come much more colourful than these kicks. Thanks to Nike design genius Bruce Kilgore, we have not just the Air Force 1 to give us some street swagger, but the Air Flow too. Proving that Kilgore’s design talent remained stellar across the decade, the Nike Air Flow emerged in 1989 as sort-of update to the Sock Racer. Nike’s original marathon shoe inspired the upper part of the Air Flow, as well as influencing future designs like the Huarache. As well as its sleek silhouette and superior functionality, the Air Flow stood out a mile thanks to its bold use of insane day-glo colour – and it’s guaranteed to still turn heads in 2013.
When these first emerged on the scene back in 1983, competitors sniggered. Nike thought that the oh-so-soft garment leather used to make these Reebok mid-tops wouldn’t cut it with consumers. Turns out Nike couldn’t have been more wrong. Introduced as a more masculine version of the already hot women’s Reebok Freestyle, the Ex-O-Fit’s classic and clean all-over white colourway, simple design, and superior comfort thanks to that ultrasoft leather made it an instant hit. Another shoe that helped Reebok own the growing aerobics craze, it also crossed over into the casual market too.
Nike Air Force 1
When you’re talking 80s sneakers you can’t leave this one off the list. Released in 1982 this legendary shoe, another Bruce Kilgore masterpiece, completely transformed the world of basketball shoe design. Originally named just the Air Force, as Nike weren’t expecting this one to run and run like it did, it’s now spawned more successors than we’ve had hot dinners. And it’s not hard to see why. With some of the biggest names in the NBA making it their shoe of choice, and one of the cleanest and boldest hi-top designs the world had ever scene, this one was only ever going all the way to the top.