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Best minimalist sneakers for men 1

5 Best Minimalist Sneakers for Men

While most sneaker brands spend their time focusing on performance, retro-releases, and chunky designs (dad shoes), the best minimalist sneakers for men take things in the opposite direction. These shoes emphasise quality through subdued designs, basic colours, and handmade construction. As a result, the sneakers we’ve tested below will deliver a new tier of versatility for a broad spectrum of outfits and occasions.

Best Minimalist Sneakers at a Glance

Highlights from our list include the following sneakers:

Now we’ve had a look at our favourites, let’s check out the complete list.

RELATED: These are the best white sneakers for men that we’ve tested.

Common projects achilles on foot
Common Projects Original Achilles | Image: MR PORTER

1. Common Projects Original Achilles – Best Overall

Price: from $730 AUD

  • Pros: THE minimalist sneaker, Common Projects defined a whole footwear category with the Original Achilles, bringing many copycats with it. Still, it remains the benchmark with a hefty price point attached to it. The shoe is comfortable, lasts forever, and keeps its structure over time. There’s no situation where these won’t work and the versatility is off the scale.
  • Cons: Expensive for a very basic white sneaker with a rubber outsole. Of course, when you factor in cost per wear, it doesn’t look quite as tough to stomach. What was originally a fly-under-the-radar type sneaker has now become extremely popular.

The benchmark for minimalist sneakers, the Common Projects Original Achilles continues to define the category with quality, comfort, and luxury. We recommend picking a solid colour that reflects your style, e.g. if you wear blue jeans often, don’t choose navy or green, as they’ll disappear under your pants. The same goes for your foot style. The shoe’s length measures true to size, but the width is better suited to a narrow foot. They’re not wide-foot-friendly and we’d be looking at Crown Northhampton, Greats, or the Common Projects Retro lows if you have a wider foot.

We like to keep things simple and often go for the all-white silhouette (gold-embossed serial number notwithstanding) and pair them with everything from chinos to dress pants and suit trousers. Seriously, they work with everything. We’ve owned multiple pairs over the years and our original navy pair is still kicking to this day, albeit with some serious evidence of heel drag. With a comfortable Margom outsole, expect up to 500 wears from these. We’ve likely worn them even more over our 8 years of ownership.

Oliver cabell low 1 ben mckimm shot
Oliver Cabell Low 1 in White | Image: Ben McKimm / Man of Many

2. Oliver Cabell Low 1 – Best Value-for-Money

Price: from $219.99 USD (approx. $330 AUD)

  • Pros: They remain our favourite Common Projects alternative with high-quality construction, durable outsoles, and all-day comfort for desk jockeys.
  • Cons: The price has slowly been creeping up since we began recommending these years ago and new players have entered the market with cheaper alternatives that offer similar quality e.g. Gustin whose Common Projects alternatives are priced at USD$199.

The Oliver Cabell Low 1 has made a name for itself as a quality Common Projects alternative. The Minneapolis-based sneaker brand launched in 2017 and wasted no time in taking the minimalist sneaker sub-genre by storm with quality at an affordable price. We’ve been wearing the Low 1 for years and it remains the brand’s finest statement. Every pair is hand-stitched using an array of quality leathers, and a durable Italian outsole, and sealing the deal are waxed cotton Italian laces.

The insoles provide most of the cushion in terms of comfort. Don’t expect much from the outsoles, though, because while durable and long-lasting, they’re not designed for comfort. You’ll happily wear these all day if you’re an office worker, but if you work in retail, hospitality, or areas where you spend extended time on your feet, look elsewhere.

The leather on the upper takes a few hours to break in (8-10 hours) but it does a great job of holding its shape over time. We also recommend going true-to-size if you have a narrow foot and sizing up if you have a wider foot.

Zvelle ray sneaker
Zvelle Ray High Top Sneaker | Image: Ben McKimm / Man of Many

3. Zvelle Ray Sneaker – Best Quality

Price: from AU$850

  • Pros: These are the highest-quality minimalist sneakers for men we’ve ever tested. The leather is so soft that you don’t even have to break them in. They have a true-to-size fit and a durable rubber outsole and are handcrafted in Italy; there’s so much to like about the Zvelle brand.
  • Cons: There’s no hiding from the fact they cost more than a pair of Common Projects Original Achilles, which has become the go-to choice for minimalist men’s shoes. However, if you can stretch your budget, these are higher quality, they’re more comfortable, and you’d be supporting an independent shoe-maker.

When we heard Toronto-based founder and designer Elle AyoubZadeh was switching her premium sneaker brand, Zvelle, to a men’s only label, it caught our attention. Previously, the brand had been a favourite of female celebrities like Bella Hadid, Heidi Klum, and Sharon Stone. However, after crafting sneakers for a handful of stylish men – including Dwyane Wade, Kieren Culkin, Pablo Schrieber, Jeffrey Wright, Sterling K. Brown, Chase Stokes, and more – AyoubZadeh found a new love for men’s sneakers.

Now, she’s making some of the highest-quality minimalist shoes for men that we’ve had the chance to try on our feet. Through our decade of testing the best sneakers for men, we’ve seen brands come and go, all in a quest to battle Common Projects for the crown of minimalist sneakers. However, in our opinion, none have stood up against the crowd-favourite CP Original Achilles until now.

These arrived on our desk recently, and without even reading about the construction, we slipped them on, and we were astounded by the quality and true-to-size fit. The leather is so incredibly soft you won’t need to break them in. Handcrafted in Italy, the shoes use LWG-certified deerskin leather on the upper, which is combined with a metallic goatskin leather lining. However, all you really need to know is that they’re absurdly soft and comfortable yet remarkably lightweight. We’ve heard they’re using the same leather suppliers as Hermès.

The image we’ve used above is the sneaker after 3-days of wear, it still looks new. There’s nothing to say that they won’t stand up against the test of time either with durable rubber outsoles, but we’ll update this article if we find any grievances. Right now, we’re just enjoying the comfort and, frankly, unmatched quality.

If we had to point the finger at something, it would be the price, which is quite high at $850 AUD. That being said, in a world where Common Projects cost nearly the same, these are higher quality and more unique. You can shop from two styles on the brand’s website linked below. The first is the high-top Ray Sneaker as we tested, but you can also pick up the low-top Lore sneaker if that’s your preference.

Adidas stan smith on foot 1
adidas Stan Smith on foot | Image: Supplied

4. adidas Stan Smith – Best Casual

Price: from $170 AUD

  • Pros: The Stan Smith remains a classic after all these years. Grab a pair in an OG colourway and wear them casually for years to come. They go perfectly with jeans, chinos, and dress trousers. Style them up or down, it doesn’t matter.
  • Cons: Can be a little too casual for formal situations where suit trousers and jackets are expected.

While the Common Projects Achilles Low set the benchmark for minimalist sneakers, the adidas Stan Smith has only added to the trend in its modern outfit. Many will argue that it started the trend in 1963 when the brand unveiled it as the world’s first leather tennis shoe.

In the time since, Adidas has explored a full spectrum of styles and materials on this famous tennis shoe, inspiring sneakers such as the Rod Laver in the process. It continues to be a favourite amongst the style-conscious today, simultaneously blending retro style and modern allure that comes at a price simply too good to refuse.

Comfort, style, and affordability with a casual design that’s versatile enough to wear on formal occasions. If you don’t want to splurge on your minimalist sneaker purchase and grab something for the low, just grab a Stan Smith.

Saint laurent andy in white
Saint Laurent Andy in Black | Image: MR PORTER

5. Saint Laurent Andy – Best Designer

Price: from $1,020 AUD

  • Pros: The most expensive minimalist sneakers we tested have some of the softest leather available and designer detailing to boot. There’s a reason these are the choice for most stylish celebrities.
  • Cons: They’re very expensive at over $1,000 AUD making them unattainable for most buyers.

The Saint Laurent Andy has remained a favourite of ours. Its leather is some of the softest, most comfortable of any minimalist sneaker we’ve tested. So it should be at this (quite frankly) ridiculous price point, but with manufacturing in Italy from the finest calf leather and comfort that beats Common Projects, it makes sense.

There are quite a few things that you’ll want to do if you want to invest in a pair. First, try them on in-store as the sizing can be quite strange. Second, get yourself some high-quality shoe trees to keep the shape after wearing them. We use these wooden shoe trees from Amazon, they work well.

Durability is a point of contention for us as they’re noticeably ‘flimsier’ and softer than those from Common Projects and Oliver Cabell. Still, if you can splurge on a pair, wear them with care and they’ll offer years of comfort, style, and versatility.

Alternatives to These Minimalist Sneakers for Men

  • Axel Arigato Clean 90 (from AU$445): We love the brand’s use of prime leather for the upper, and the overall silhouette is simple and clean. We found the sneakers comfortable and durable, and they seem to go with everything, including blue jeans, which can be tough for minimalist footwear.
  • Gustin Low Tops (from US$199): These are quite hard to come by as the brand operates a pre-order business model. Depending on how long it takes to reach the campaign goal, they might take weeks or months to arrive at your front door. That being said, they do keep some products in stock at all times, but they’re typically coloured options in black, white, and natural leather so you don’t get much of a choice. Nevertheless, they’re outstanding value for money and offer all the pros of the Common Projects at a more affordable price point. The Margom soles are comfortable and thick.
  • Golden Goose Pure Star (from AU$790): It’s hard to put together a list of the best minimalist sneakers for men without mentioning the Golden Goose Deluxe Brand. They have an impressive lineup of sneakers to suit just about any lifestyle. And while the traditional ‘Superstar’ sneaker isn’t minimal (at all), the Pure Star ditches the distressed look for a clean, crispy white upper.
  • New Balance BB480 (from AU$140): It follows the success of the NB550 and brings a low-top silhouette and clean minimalist upper to the market. Of course, in staying true to the premium nature of the brand, full-grain leather is used on the upper and there’s a medium-thickness midsole for all-day comfort. We also love the new T500 which takes inspiration from old-school tennis sneakers. It’s a great choice if you prefer a nubuck, suede-like material on the upper.
  • Converse Jack Purcell (from AU$140): Speaking of timeless street style, meet the Converse Jack Purcell. Well known to be a favourite of the Eames design family, the vintage aesthetic and monochromatic colour scheme is smart, savvy and minimalist by default.
  • Vans Authentic (from AU$99.99): This sneaker is a classic skate shoe, and each pair combines a canvas upper with a rubber sole and offers the kind of low profile that the brand has banked its reputation on. Opt for the sleek black colourway, or say good riddance to all this minimalist philosophy and get chequered out instead. Either way, you’re rocking some timeless street style.

Why You Should Trust Our List

We’ve curated together a succinct list of the best minimalist sneakers for men by combining the experience of author and sneaker expert Ben McKimm with the wider editorial team’s opinions. Our list looks at the quality of construction, price point, and durability to determine the best, but we also consider what you’re looking for when buying a minimalist sneaker. Ultimately deciding to include those shoes that represent outstanding cost-per-wear value at all ends of the spectrum across four key categories: best overall, a value-for-money alternative, a casual option, and a designer pair.

Your FAQs Answered

What is minimalist fashion?

Minimalist fashion is simple, all you have to do is keep it simple. Streamline your clothes, designs, and limit yourself to a small selection of colours. We like to wear plain white t-shirts, chino pants, and simple dress watches.

What are the best minimalist sneakers?

There are several good minimalist sneakers. At the value end of the spectrum, you have the adidas Stan Smith and Converse Jack Purcell, but if you’re looking to spend more money on a luxury item, you can’t go past the Common Projects Achilles Low and Saint Laurent Andy.

What are good Common Projects alternatives?

While Common Projects are without a doubt the benchmark for minimalist sneakers, the Oliver Cabell Low 1 and Gustin Low Tops present great alternatives at a more affordable price point. They have similar quality leather uppers, Margom outsoles for durability and all-day comfort.

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