The ’90s was a stylish era for many reasons, especially in the aspect of footwear. The decade was crazy for sneakers – From Air Jordans to different iterations of Nike Air Max to the Vans – many amazing shoes hit the shelves in the last decade of the 20th century, which we still love until today. With the resurgence of vintage things, some of the most popular and well-loved sneakers today originated and became popular in the 90s. Check out this list of the most popular sneakers from the decade:
Released in 1995, this iconic shoe almost never happened. At the time, Nike was almost ready to close the book on Air Jordan. But Nike designer Tinker Hatfield kept on tinkering, and the final result was one of the greatest shoes of the ’90s, and probably one of the greatest sneakers of all time. The patent rand was actually inspired by a lawnmower to provide protection where Michael Jordan needs it the most, but it became a go-to for other designers who needed to add a bit of flash.
When Hatfield thought of this, it was so revolutionary that he had to fight for his design. Fortunately for him, he had a decade of successes to prove that his idea is great, along with the backing of the best basketball player of all time. Patent leather, carbon fiber, and ballistic mesh existed in perfect harmony in this shoe.
When it comes to a kickflip, there’s no better shoe to wear than the Vans Half Cab. Skateboarder Steve Caballero’s second signature shoe remains a staple among kids and teens even until today. When it was released in 1991, it became the most historic skateboarding sneaker models of all time.
The shoes’ classic silhouette features a suede upper in a technical mid-top skate shoe and a round toe. The vulcanized sole and its waffle grip make it durable enough to hold up even for the most serious skaters. And even if you’re not a skater, it’s easy to don around with your casual attire.
In 1990, Nike released the Nike Air Trainer SC, the original classic. It dropped right at the start of the decade behind a major campaign for Bo Jackson. The shoe was built to handle the durability of Bo’s high-level training and play on the field. Then, it got an upgrade: the Nike Air Trainer SC II the next year, making it perfect for those who want a classic and premium design with amazing support.
These two mid-profile shoes give increased ankle support when you need it the most. It comes in a premium fit and feel, along with a full-grain leather upper. The forefoot strap, interior boot, and sail cloth anchoring make it one of the sickest sneaker models in the 90s.
When the Nike Air Max 95 was released in 1995, it became the first of its kind for many reasons. At that time, Nike decided to focus on its basketball line, and designer Sergio Lonzano turned the consumers’ attention with its brand new design featuring a gradient gray with a pop of neon color. It also pioneered the new Swoosh placement and visible Air unit at the forefront. The initial neon gradients still look fresh today.
The attention to detail on these sneakers was remarkable. The upper midsole to the center was inspired by the human spine and skin, with colors building atop one another from the outsole to the tongue.
The ultimate luxury runner shoes, the New Balance M998 effortlessly mixed high-quality materials with state-of-the-art running technology to create a timeless design and silhouette. If you wear the M988 today, you won’t look outdated or feel like you’re sporting a ’90s outfit, even if it was released back in 1993.
This shoe was initially designed for large-frame runners, but many sneakerheads started noticing how great is its sleek, simplistic and versatile design. The design team kept the shell of a vintage shoe and focused on perfecting the support and comfort inside of the footwear.
The Nike Air Jordan VI is iconic for so many reasons. When it hit the market in 1991, this sneaker’s design is on point, thanks to its visible Air unit, hits of the infrared, translucent outsole, and pull tab inspired by the spoiler on Michael Jordan’s Porsche. Between this and the fingerholes in the tongue, it was one of the easiest Jordans to put on ever. The Jordan Retro VI is a retro version of this classic shoe, offering a fresh look with the same iconic details.
It was the shoe Michael Jordan wore as he captured both the league and the Finals MVP. Even Kanye West himself endorsed these shoes pretty heavily, even 20 years after the release.
Launched in 1992, the Nike Air Flight Huarache promised to perform with only the basic necessity of a shoe. It’s smooth, comfortable, and functional, yet it remains to be one of the most iconic Nikes ever made. This shoe was noted for its bare-bones look in a lightweight build. It featured the blend of neoprene and Lycra fabrics that marked the start of the move from bulky predecessors, which changed the course of Nike history. Again, you have Tinker Hatfield to thank for this idea.
Inspired by the simplicity of a Mayan sandal, the elastic inner bootie will remind you of a pair of comfortably fitting socks. Its outer structure consisted of only the materials you need to lock your foot in place, giving you the maximum comfort with the least amount of weight. It’s highly supportive and offers you multiple lacing options and decent ankle support.
Released in 1993, the New Balance 1500 has always been a favorite kicker in the sneaker society. When it was first launched, the company called it the “closest thing yet to a perfect running shoe.” The fact that it is still available almost 30 years later is a testament to that statement and to its classic, functional design that didn’t go out of style.
This classic running shoe offers a simple silhouette made in leather, suede, and mesh upper. It gives off a retro look with a comfortable feel. The midsole offers quality cushioning that can provide all-day support and is available in a range of colorways so you can get more choices.
The GEL cushioning of the Asics Gel Lyte III was the major selling point of these timeless Asics that were popular in the 90s. When it came into the marketplace in 1991, this lightweight performance shoe offered maximum comfort that consumers loved. Also, the lines of the shoe really allowed designers to go crazy, as they went on dropping numerous colorways that were just as appealing as its performance.
The added features in this shoe include a Sure-lace system that keeps your foot in place and an Abzorb technology that brings superior shock-absorption. The split tongue was also distinctive, and the Gel Lyte III still lives on today as one of Asics’ most sought-after models.
There’s no other shoe like the Fila Disruptor. First released in 1996 as a lifestyle sneaker, this shoe was a product of the platform shoe trend that was highly popular in the ’90s. Its extra-thick sole makes it stand out and give you the feeling that you’re walking in clouds. The tongue, the special lacing, and the brand logo on the side of the shoe make this sneaker unique. It’s the kind of a sporty, chunky shoe that won’t ruin your look if you’re going feminine with your outfit.
After being quiet for some time, this shoe was revitalized in 2018, as many celebrities and influencers were spotted rocking this chunky sneaker with their streetwear. It became a must-have for fans of vintage footwear.
There are plenty of other amazing sneakers released in the ’90s that you can still buy today. A lot of shoe manufacturers stepped up their game, including the release of LA Gear shoe 90s – the LA Lights. These shoes that lit up were popular with kids, teens, and tweens. If you’re wondering what other types of shoes were fashionable during the 90s decade, check this out.