Japan’s No.1
Sneaker Marketplace

8th May 2024 EDT FEATURES

7 adidas Samba Alternatives for the Avant-Garde

The adidas Samba has been dubbed the "new Panda Dunk" by voices in the industry. And for some, wearing a shoe that's considered overrated is unacceptable. We get it. So, if you're a fan of the aesthetic of the silhouette but want something offbeat, look no further.


You don’t have to be au courant to sneaker culture to be aware that the adidas Samba has made more than a comeback—it’s the “it” silhouette right now. Everyone from Hailey Bieber and Timothée Chalamet to the bike messenger delivering your package is wearing them. It’s not uncommon to spot a group walking by and having more than one person in it rocking a pair of one of adidas’ most popular Terrace Shoes.

And it’s no wonder why. The silhouette has had notable collaborations with the likes of Wales Bonner, has been spotted on the feet of influential names, and has had social media amplify its popularity. The best part is that this is an attractive shoe with a reasonable price tag. A classic pair would run you around US$100 at retail, more or less.

This means people can get what’s now one of the hottest silhouettes without breaking the bank. For such a storied shoe that is donning the feet of those who influence culture to be so accessible is definitely a draw for a lot of people.

But on the flip side, for some, the shoe has consequently encroached a territory known as “overrated”, which puts it at the bottom of their list. For these people, and for those who like to look a little different from the crowd, we’ve curated a list of shoes that share a similar look to the slim, sleek aesthetic of the adidas Samba, and would make good alternatives.

Of course, we have to make honorable mentions of adjacent adidas silhouettes that fit the bill: The Spezial, Campus 80s, Gazelle, Tobacco, Nora, BW Army, Munchen, Busenitz, and SL72. But for all intents and purposes, we’d like to focus on pairs that fall outside the realm of the Three Stripes, if you don’t mind. Let’s have a look, shall we?

1. Onitsuka Tiger Mexico 66

Onitsuka Tiger Mexico 66 "Yellow/Black"

The Onitsuka Tiger Mexico 66 “Yellow/Black”.

This pair debuted in 1966 as the “LIMBER UP Kawa BK”, and its purpose was training footwear for Japanese athletes during the Olympic pre-trials in Mexico City. It was the first shoe from Onitsuka Tiger to sport the now-iconic stripes, a design element that would become a signature for both Onitsuka Tiger and its successor brand, ASICS.

After a name-change and gaining popularity, the shoe, now known as the Onitsuka Tiger Mexico 66, has become a cultural phenomenon. If it’s good enough for Bruce Lee and Uma Thurman, it’s good enough for us.

Movie stars Bruce Lee (left) and Uma Thurman (right) have worn the Onitsuka Tiger Mexico 66 in movies. Image credit: Miramax/Courtesy Everett Collection.

2. PUMA Palermo

Puma Palermo Leather "Puma White/Vapor Gray/Gum".

The Puma Palermo Leather “Puma White/Vapor Gray/Gum”.

The PUMPA Palermo emerged in the early ’80s, and quickly gained popularity through the terrace scene at football stadiums in Britain. Much like the addias Samba, this silhouette is low-key and clean. Its upper is crafted from leather and soft suede, featuring stitched panels and overlays for durability.

Its gum sole and T-toe construction add to the aesthetic as well as heritage of the shoe, with branding details seen via a metallic PUMA Palermo wordmark on the tab.

Dua Lipa wearing the PUMA Palermo.

Dua Lipa wearing the PUMA Palermo.

3. Nike Cortez

Nike Cortez "Midnight Navy".

The Nike Cortez “Midnight Navy”.

The Nike Cortez is an iconic 1972 Swoosh silhouette that has transitioned from a lightweight running shoe to a streetwear staple (and gang uniform for some). Designed by Nike co-founder Bill Bowerman, the shoe commonly features a nylon upper for breathability, and a signature Swoosh logo.

The silhouette is probably most famous for its appearance on the movie Forrest Gump, as well as on Charlie’s Angels. Whether you choose an in-line iteration or a collaboration, it’s sure to live up to its legacy.

The Nike Cortez on Forrest Gump and Charlie's Angels.

Iconic scenes featuring the Nike Cortez. Forrest Gump (left), and Charlie’s Angels (right).

4. Nike Field General ’82

The Nike Field General '82 "Black and White".

The Nike Field General ’82 “Black and White”.

The Nike Field General ’82 debuted in the ’80s, and was intended to be a performance shoe on the gridiron. It is made with a mix of materials that include leather and tough textiles for durability and support. The recent resurgence of the silhouette (18 April 2024) features a classic black and white color scheme, a nod to its original release, and sits atop a waffle sole for traction.

Timothée Chalamet wearing the Nike Field General '82 SP "White/Varsity Red".

Timothée Chalamet wearing the Nike Field General ’82 SP “White/Varsity Red”.

5. New Balance RC30

New Balance RC30 VC "Black".

The New Balance RC30 VC “Black”.

The design language of the New Balance RC30 draws inspiration from the running silhouettes of the ’60s and ’70s. It is a slim, low-profile silhouette that is made up of a mix of materials that include nylon and suede. Its chunky “ripple sole” provides enhanced grip, and is probably what sets this pair most apart from the traditional aesthetic of the adidas Samba.

A still from Donald Glover's (Childish Gambino) animated promotional video for his New Balance RC30 collaboration.

A still from Donald Glover’s (Childish Gambino) animated promotional video for his New Balance RC30 collaboration.

6. New Balance T500

The New Balance T500 "Off White".

The New Balance T500 “Off White”.

The New Balance T500 was introduced in 1982 as a high-quality tennis shoe. Since then, the silhouette has transitioned into more of a lifestyle pair. It features a mix of premium pigskin suede and nubuck leather and is adorned with a perforated toe box for breathability.

American professional tennis player, Coco Gauff, wearing the Aimé Leon Dore x New Balance T500 for a campaign photo shoot. Images via @aimeleondore.

7. Vans Sport Low

The Vans Sport Low "Bambino Chocolate Brown".

The Vans Sport Low “Bambino Chocolate Brown”.

The Vans Sport Low is a modern silhouette that draws inspiration from the brand’s ’90s roots. It’s a low-profile sneaker with Vans’ “V” sidestripe and a classic logo label adorned on it, tying the old-school look together nicely.

Vans Sport Low Looks.

Now’s the easy part; browse our curation of some of the hottest adidas Samba alternatives for you:

Onitsuka Tiger Mexico 66 "White/Blue".

Onitsuka Tiger Mexico 66 “White/Blue”
Style Code: 1183C102-100

Puma Palermo Leather "Puma Black/Feather Gray/Gum"

Puma Palermo Leather “Puma Black/Feather Gray/Gum”
Style Code: 396464-03

Nike Cortez "White/Black"

Nike Cortez “White/Black”
Style Code: DM4044-105

Nike Field General '82 "Black and White"

Nike Field General ’82 “Black and White”
Style Code: FQ8762-001

Junya Watanabe MAN × New Balance RC30 "Yellow/Blue/Green"

Junya Watanabe MAN × New Balance RC30 “Yellow/Blue/Green”
Style Code: WK-K103-001

New Balance T500 "Off White"

New Balance T500 “Off White”
Style Code: CT500AG

Vans Sport Low "Bambino Honeysuckle"

Vans Sport Low “Bambino Honeysuckle”
Style Code: VN000CQRCHL

For the latest releases, breaking news, and exclusive interviews, stay tuned to the SNKRDUNK Magazine and @snkrdunk on Instagram. Explore the SNKRDUNK App too and don’t forget to use our welcome code from the banner below before making your first purchase. Additionally, if you would like to try a pair out, visit our stores in Singapore and Japan!

More SNKRDUNK Features:
Celebrating Star Wars Day: How Star Wars Conquered Pop Culture (and Your Closet)
The Philippines’ Passion for Sneakers and Manila’s Hottest Stores
Discovering Malaysia’s Elite: Top Local Streetwear Brands Dominating the Scene
Revisiting the Legacy of the Nike Cortez
Cactus Jack of All Trades: The Collaborative Legacy of Travis Scott