If you’re a nostalgic runner, you’ll love the shoes we’re reviewing today. In a running world where most sneakers have fancy footbeds, built-in technology to track your every move, and anti-overheating innovations, it’s a refreshing change to be looking at the best classic running shoes that are still available on the market today.
They’re simple, clean-lined, and most of them are not nearly as iridescent as those designs today. But they have an undeniable cool element, bring back memories, and serve their purpose just as well as they always used to.
Most of their designs have been so popular over the years that they’ve remained relatively unchanged as time has gone by.
We chose the Saucony Jazz Original as our number one pick. They’re stylishly retro, comfortable, and surprisingly durable. They also come in men’s and women’s styles, so there’s something for everyone.
Let’s take a step back in time and have a look at these eye-catching vintage running shoes.
Top 3 Best and Favorites
Saucony Jazz Original
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New Balance 990v5
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Reebok Classic Leather
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1. Saucony Jazz Original
These attention-grabbing running shoes are the typically old-school style, featuring all the original functions and designs of Saucony’s best-known model, the Jazz.
There are more than 20 different colors, and they come in men’s and women’s variations. There’s something for everybody in this collection!
The shoe’s upper is crafted from a combination of nylon, mesh, and suede. This mix allows for some breathability, but also impressive durability.
An unusual feature that’s not often seen in newer shoes is the unlined tongue. It may seem counterproductive to remove the padding from the tongue, but it allows the material to lie flat against your foot and reduces chafing and some heat build-up.
Another feature that’s got some great feedback from customers is the wider-than-average toe box. Saucony strikes a perfect balance between providing extra toe room and still looking sleek and not bulbous.
Saucony has slightly modified this shoe to include better cushioning and a removable insole, as well as a shock-absorbing midsole. But apart from that, it’s the same classic style, including vintage Saucony branding.
- Men’s and women’s variations available
- Textured rubber soles
- We like the thin, unlined tongue
- Nylon and suede fabrics for style and durability
- The dye can run if it gets wet
2. New Balance 990v5
These are well worth a spot on any list of the best classic running shoes. They’re built on New Balance’s 75 year-old reputation for making classic shoes that perform and last. They’re as retro as they come.
You won’t find these clean, sleek shoes in bright colors. Blacks, grays, whites, and silvers are the hues of choice, and that’s part of what gives them their timeless appearance.
A pigskin and mesh upper makes these shoes cool (in more than one way). Your feet have space to breathe, and the pigskin makes them quite durable with everyday use.
The blown rubber sole is thick and long-lasting, but not the most textured. These are definitely best suited for road running in decent weather.
One of the big thumbs-up these shoes get is for their sheer array of sizes. You’re almost guaranteed to find a shoe to suit you. Not only are they available in almost every size possible, but most of them come in X-Narrow, Narrow, Wide, and X-Wide, with a few even available in 3X-Wide.
New Balance have added a couple of improvements to the original design, such as ENCAP sole technology for extra cushioning. But they’ve remained largely true to the original, classic design.
- Timeless, contemporary look
- Added Ortholite insert for extra comfort
- Reflective accents for safety
- Comes in a surprising array of sizes
- They’re a fairly pricey pair of shoes
3. New Balance 574
New Balance’s 574s have been going strong since the ‘80s. They’re one of NB’s classic retro silhouettes, and feature their particular and attention-grabbing color blocking and logo.
They’ve added some modern technology to increase the comfort factor, but the shoe is still the same old vintage design that New Balance fans have loved for decades.
Available in a multitude of colors, and in men’s and women’s designs, all NB wearers will find something to suit their tastes. All sizes are built with a fairly wide toe box, and are also available for purchase in Wide versions.
The mesh part of the upper allows for decent airflow inside the shoe. This particular design, the 574 V2, comes with ENCAP cushioning technology that wasn’t present in the original shoe.
But apart from that, New Balance has preserved the vintage integrity of these running shoes. Nostalgic New Balance fans, you’ll enjoy these.
- Retro ‘80s style with some modern built-in elements
- Wide toe box
- Removable insert
- Mesh upper for good airflow
- Tend to run small
- Seem to be less durable than others
4. Saucony Shadow Original
The Shadow Original is a Saucony icon, and old-school fans will love this version. The very first Shadow Original was introduced in 1985, specifically as a performance sneaker.
Saucony has kept the Shadow Original’s stability and comfort, and the “marshmallowy” EVA midsole that cushions the foot like a cloud.
The classic silhouette remains, along with the timeless Saucony branding, and you can choose them in a multitude of colors.
They’re also available in both men’s and women’s options, so anyone who has loved the Original for decades can take a step back in time with these stylish classics.
With a slightly padded tongue, more padded collar, and fabric lining, your ankle is kept stable but comfy while moving. The TPU heel piece also keeps your foot from moving too much in the shoe.
You’ll also leave a traditional Saucony triangular-tread footprint behind wearing these. The only slight thumbs-down is that runners with wide feet may struggle to find the right fit.
- TPU heel cup for added support
- Padded tongue and collar for comfort
- Designed as a performance trainer
- Classic marshmallowy EVA midsole
- Don’t come in wide sizes
5. Reebok Classic Nylon
Reebok began in the 1890s, so they’ve been creating some of the best classic running shoes for as long as anyone. These ones feature an EVA midsole for better arch support, while looking pretty sporty and stylish at the same time.
The low-cut design allows for flexibility of the ankle, which means no restriction whether walking or running.
These Reeboks are seriously sporty-looking, so not only will you get a good dose of nostalgia with them on your feet, but you’ll look like you mean business on the road.
The rubber outsole is grippy enough for road or track use, but most likely won’t be suitable for trail running.
Nylon uppers provide some breathability, while the traditional lace-up system allows you to get a tight but not restrictive fit for your own foot.
- Men’s and women’s variations
- Low-cut for more ankle mobility
- Abrasive rubber outsole
- Nylon upper with suede overlays
- Seem to run slightly narrow
6. Reebok Classic Leather
If you liked the Reebok Classic above but prefer leather, this is the shoe for you. Instead of a nylon upper, these shoes feature a leather upper.
It is perforated to allow for better airflow, but may be slightly less breathable than the nylons. But it does add an undeniably cool element, and is likely to be more durable than its nylon counterpart.
It has all the same features apart from the upper, although the color variety may be slightly less. The women’s shoes even come with an extra set of shoelaces.
- Women’s include an extra set of shoelaces
- Leather upper for added durability
- Wide variety of colors available
- Molded polyurethane sockliner
- May run a little narrow
7. Onitsuka Tiger Serrano
The Tiger Serrano was designed drawing on inspiration from track running shoes in the ‘70s. Its lightly spiked sole offers good grip both on the track and in the streets.
The sole is quite flat, and they’re quite minimalistic in terms of technology. But that’s what makes them a true retro shoe!
Both the heel and toe feature suede overlays, and a thick tongue and collar cushion the foot and provide extra comfort.
Although some customers report that the shoe isn’t as breathable as others, the nylon upper is lightweight and easy to move in.
Although they are less fancy than newer models, the Serranos were designed to be a high-performance track shoe. You’ll still get a comfy and solid run out of a pair of these, and you’ll be rocking some old-school style at the same time.
- Minimalistic design
- We love the huge array of colors to choose from
- Lightly spiked rubber outsole
- Great for both women and men
- Not the most breathable shoes
- Customers report that there isn’t enough room for an insert
8. Reebok Classic Harman Run
This heritage design is eye-catching, no matter what color you go for. Leather uppers provide a smooth vintage appearance, and still allow for some breathability due to a series of perforations on the top of the foot.
Extra airflow is provided via the perforated nylon tongue, which also serves to cushion the top of the foot, providing a cocoon-like feel around your feet. The lace-up closure adds to the snug feel.
The die-cut EVA midsole offers bouncy and comfortable cushioning, while still being lightweight enough to take a speedy run. The support is adequate for a decent run.
The rubber soles are non-marking and provide a good bit of traction. They’re also quite durable, and shouldn’t be wearing away any time soon.
The Reeboks get a thumbs-up for being available in wide sizes. No matter the size and shape of your feet, you should find a pair of these to suit you and bring back memories of the old days.
- Timeless leather design
- Come in wide sizes
- Iconic ‘80s silhouette
- They seem to run true to size
- Some customers feel that the arch support isn’t sufficient
9. Nike Court Royale AC
The Court Royales are your tennis shoe-style, flat-soled running shoes created by a renowned brand that’s been one of the top running shoe creators for decades.
They’re full of sleek, clean lines and bold colors, so you’ll make a statement while you’re out and about. They also feature the classic Nike swoosh on either side.
Leather uppers give them a classy matte look, which pairs well with the sporty design to create something unique and eye-catching.
They’re not just pretty, though. The fairly flat sole makes for easy walking and running, but can also be used for other sporty activities like basketball or gymming. You’ll also find men’s and women’s designs separately, to ensure the most comfort for your foot shape.
The midsole and outsole are fused, adding to the durability. A herringbone texture underfoot gives some good traction that will be beneficial on most surfaces.
Designed in quite a narrow style, they may not be suitable for runners with wider feet. If you do find them to be a good fit, though, they’re foot-hugging and still provide ample toe room.
Their lack of proper arch support means they probably wouldn’t be too comfortable on long runs or trail runs, but they’re great, vintage-style shoes for light exercise or a casual outing.
- Herringbone sole texture for added traction
- Old-school tennis shoe style
- Fused midsole and outsole
- Suede upper is durable and looks great
- Less arch support than others
- May run narrow due to their shape
10. Onitsuka Tiger Mexico 66
If you’ve been an Onitsuka fan from the start, you need no introduction to these impressively light running shoes.
But if you’ve never heard of them, all you need to know is that Bruce Lee favored these shoes, and Freddie Mercury wore them on stage!
The soles are noticeably thinner than most other shoe brands. It may be tempting to disregard these because of that, but by all accounts they offer impressive arch support, even for those with high arches.
As for traction, they’re somewhat less grippy than most, so they’re suited to straightforward running on a decently grippy surface.
The attention to detail is apparent in these shoes. Everything from the stitching to the perfect design around the laces is pristine.
If you’re ready to look like a hero, feel like a high school kid again, and have happy feet whether you’re running, walking, or running, the Onitsuka Tiger Mexico 66 would be a super choice.
- Reported to be light and soft
- Impressive arch support for such a thin shoe
- Can add custom insoles
- Worn by Bruce Lee and Freddie Mercury!
- The sole is much thinner than others, which some runners may find uncomfortable
Interested in getting yourself a pair of stylish old-school sneakers? Here are some questions you may be wondering about before buying.
What Years Did These Types of Shoes Originally Come Out?
These retro shoes were first released throughout the ‘70s, ‘80’s and 90’s by the big brand names. Adidas, Nike, and Reebok were among the first to bring out these stylish running shoes, and they’re still renowned decades later.
Are Old-School Running Shoes Still Good?
It may look like old-school running shoes are technological dinosaurs, but they still do the job. These days, every new pair that comes out is loaded with the latest innovation.
Smart shoes that can track your distance and cadence, booster soles for better shock absorption, and contoured footbeds to suit every foot shape are some of the modern things you won’t find in these old-school, classic running shoes.
But there’s a reason these old classics are still around and well-loved. They’re great to use, comfortable on the feet, and sport a minimalistic style that’s unique in the current world of bright colors and patterns.
In fact, many of the retro sneakers that big brands offer are as close as possible to their popular old-school styles, but have some basic cushioning technology to make them slightly easier on the feet.
How Do You Wear Retro Sneakers?
Retro sneakers can be worn anytime, anywhere. Need to walk to the store? They’re a comfy option. Want to take a run around the block? They’ll do the job well. Need a minimalistic, non-fancy pair of shoes for the gym? These fit the bill.
These classic running shoes are also great for workwear (if you’re allowed a more casual style), weekend wear, or just hanging around the house. There’s basically no restriction on where and how you can wear them, and they may be old-school, but they’re still well-made.
Should Classic Running Shoes Be Used Every Day for Running?
As cool as these running shoes are, it’s probably best to stick to a pair of the latest running shoes for everyday running.
There’s nothing wrong with the occasional run in a pair of these old-school beauties. But there’s no denying the fact that modern running shoes are built to protect the feet from taking a serious pounding, much more so than the old classics.