Japan’s No.1
Sneaker Marketplace

30th November 2022 EDT FEATURES

What’s So Special About TikTok’s Biggest Sneaker Trend?

There's something different about the sneakers that go viral on TikTok. We took a deep dive into what that is, and why.

What’s So Special About TikTok’s Biggest Sneaker Trend?
What’s So Special About TikTok’s Biggest Sneaker Trend?

By Anton Karve

If you haven’t been living underneath a rock for the past 6 years, you’ll have heard of TikTok. As the descendent of Musical.ly and spiritual successor to Vine, TikTok had big shoes to fill – and it exceeded them by a few sizes over.

Currently, the app’s home to over 1.5 billion monthly active users, and as with any platform of this size, it hosts countless subcommunities, including a massive community of sneakerheads and sneaker enthusiasts. To date, the most popular sneaker hashtags, #sneakers and #sneakerheads have already accumulated a whopping 60 billion views. Given how influential the platform has become in the sneaker game, we thought it would be worth diving into the app with two questions in mind: what sneakers are blowing up on TikTok, and why?

The Trend

TikTok Tik Tok Sneaker Trends TrendingUnsurprisingly, many of TikTok’s sneaker trends are nearly identical to those existing on other platforms and within the market. For example, high-profile Air Jordans like the “Lost & Found” still go viral, Travis Scott x Nike collabs get happily eaten up by sneakerheads, and adidas Yeezy still keeps doing its thing despite Ye’s controversial status.

However, after countless hours of research (scrolling through TikTok for work purposes), we did discover one particular phenomenon that seemed to be specific to, or at least much more relevant on TikTok. 

The trend in question: budget, neutral sneakers.

Now, sneaker lovers have been looking for deals and steals since the beginning of time—that hasn’t changed with the creation of TikTok. What seems to be unique, however, are the types of budget sneakers the community seems to be looking for.

Rather than the typical chatter of hype sneakers going for cheaper prices, the community seems to have gained a particular liking for low-profile (underrated, as many would call it), cheap kicks that can go along with any outfit, rather than standing out as statement pieces. Needless to say, the TikTok sneaker community LOVES New Balance.

You may be wondering: why this specific subset of sneaker releases, and second of all, why TikTok? The answer lies in the algorithm. What TikTok seems to have achieved more successfully than other platforms is an algorithm that pushes videos to virality much more easily and rapidly than ever before. No longer do sneaker content creators have to hop on the bandwagon of massively popular releases to get views on videos—they could make content about lesser-known, less flashy silhouettes and do equally as well, if not better.

Just as the algorithm influenced the audience, the audience influenced the algorithm—eventually leading to the TikTok sneaker community we have today. After looking through some of TikTok’s most viral sneakers, as we’ll share below, the community’s priorities became clear: the sneaker’s hype and grail status didn’t matter, nor did its exclusivity or luxury. What matters most is its wearability.

Without further ado, here’s our list of TikTok’s biggest viral sneakers.

1. New Balance 550

After all the virality NB550s have received from both the general social media crowd as well as massive celebrities like Jack Harlow, it’s difficult to call NB550s ‘underrated’ sneakers anymore. Regardless, they still fit squarely into the requirements of low-cost, high-wearability.

These frontrunners for the retro sneaker category can be seen nearly everywhere on SneakerTok: unboxings, fit checks, video edits and more. While the hype made 550s previously difficult to get at retail prices, they’ve been made increasingly available by New Balance, to the delight of many.

New Balance’s signature high quality, vintage-like materials on an ‘80s basketball shoe-esque design fit perfectly into the fashion trends of today, adding flavor to baggier fits and neutral colour tones without overpowering them. The miniaturised “N” logo and accompanying “550” branding quickly became iconic, and the community just couldn’t get enough.

2. Reebok Club C 85

Reebok Club C 85 Vintage GreenSomewhat seen as a more easily-accessible cousin to the NB550, the Reebok Club C 85 Vintage had all the right ingredients to make it to TikTok trendiness. Another 1980s-inspired silhouette, the Club C 85 was right there to pick up where the 550 had left off—or rather, ran out of stock.

The durable, vintage off-white leather upper, accented with criss-crossing stitches and panels which gave shape to the silhouette, was a good look no matter what colors you paired it with. Variations between colourways were minute, which lended a consistent, signature look to the Club C 85, perfect for the younger generations of viewers looking to come into their own style.

3. adidas Samba

adidas Samba OG Golf SneakerFor a slim, simple, rugged silhouette such as the Samba, one wouldn’t expect it to gain so much popularity—but of course, the same could be said for each of the sneakers we’ve mentioned above. In the past 2 years, adidas Sambas have gone from low-key football court shoes to some of the trendiest, yet un-hyped sneakers out there. 

Though the Samba has undergone collaborations with highly-regarded fashion labels such as Kith and Humanrace, and the silhouette has been worn by the likes of A$AP Rocky and Rihanna, it still stays out of the spotlight, perhaps due to its inconspicuous, unassuming design. This leads to the strange contradiction between the sneaker’s popularity and general absence from popular media—exactly the type of sneaker that TikTok loves.

Rihanna ASAP A$AP Rocky Adidas Samba SneakersBesides the shoe’s reputation, we also have the Samba’s history and utility to take into account. The Samba was initially created in the 1940s as a traction-focused football shoe that was specialized toward maintaining grip on icy football fields.

Over time, the sneaker evolved to support more football environments, eventually becoming one of the brand’s most reliable all-rounder sneakers for sports that required balance and grip, in particular, skateboarding. Now, the Samba remains a top choice for court football and skateboarding, lauded for its low cost, grippy outsole and stable base.

Images: Highsnobiety

4. adidas Forum 84

adidas Forum 84 High Black WhiteThe adidas Forum 84 is probably one of the most prolific silhouettes out there. Not only has addias released Forum 84s in an overwhelming number of colorways, but the brand also seems to have picked it as its collaborative silhouette of choice, utilizing the shoes as a canvas to allow other brands, designers and personalities to display their creative prowess. 

In terms of collaborations, the Forum 84 has hosted fashion and streetwear labels such as Kith and atmos, sports teams such as the Celtics and the Lakers, and even TV shows such as The Simpsons.

The list of possibilities for the Forum 84 never ends, and when paired with the accessibility, high comfort, great durability and ability to fit into any outfit, it’s a no-brainer that the Forum 84 has made its rounds within TikTok sneaker communities.

5. Nike Blazer

Nike Blazer Mid 77 '77 Vintage Black WhiteThough the Blazer never had quite the same star value as Air Jordans, they shared the same history of jumping between basketball, skateboarding and casual wear. Needless to say, Nike Blazers have had a massively long run. Most would agree that there’s strong nostalgic value attached to Blazers, and it’s obvious why—the silhouette was introduced in 1973, just shy of 10 years after the founding of Nike (then known as Blue Ribbon Sports), and has stayed practically the same ever since. Sure, Nike’s produced low-cut versions, and given the line-up the Nike SB treatment, but besides that, the iconic design has remained true to its roots. 

If nothing else, Nike Blazers are consistent. You’ll never see stores with them out of stock, and if you’re in the market for a pair of Blazers, you probably know exactly what you’re getting—down to the familiar exposed yellow sponge tongue. There’s something refreshing about designs that don’t feel the need to constantly change over time, and this sense of reliability, packaged into a timeless, budget-friendly sneaker, is what makes Blazers so attractive to audiences that highly value function and versatility. What’s there to hate?

6. Converse One Star

Converse One Star Black WhiteSpeaking of consistency, Converse is one of the brands that does it best. The One Star silhouette is a close sibling to the iconic, massively popular Chuck Taylor All Star, featuring a Star cut-out in replacement to the classic circular Converse insignia. The silhouette hasn’t exactly had a smooth-sailing history, though. The One Star we know today was born in 1969 as a leather version of the All Star, meant to be Converse’s big step into basketball shoes—but was overshadowed by the Converse Pro Leather sneaker just 6 years later.

The Leather All Star had all but disappeared from Converse’s lineup until it was rediscovered by streetwear communities searching for the perfect retro sneakers, and where else for the silhouette to be found but Japan? Japanese streetwear and sneaker communities favoured the clean and simple design coupled with athletic functionality, paving the way for a new wave of demand for the Leather All Star design.

In response, Converse repackaged and re-released the sneakers as the newly-named Converse One Star in 1993. Since then, One Stars have remained widely accessible, providing an aesthetic, iconic alternative for those looking to refresh their look.