7 Best Minimalist Sneakers for Guys: Essential and Timeless

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by  Karlton Miko Tyack | Last Updated: 
best minimalist sneakers for guys

Looking for minimalist sneakers? Makes sense. They’re true essentials. As such, every brand seems to have a model. And to make things confusing, they all look fairly similar, but can have wildly different constructions, price points, and user experiences.

Save yourself the time and confusion by checking out our seven best to find the right pair for you.

Best Under $100
  • Italian leather is sustainably sourced
  • EVA foam insole and molded micro-suede lining are immediately comfortable
  • Wide range of sizes including as small as a men’s 4 up to a 15
Best Under $150
  • A system of impact-managing features make this shoe perfect for long periods of standing and walking
  • The Nappa leather is soft but strong
  • Comes in several expressive but neutral colorways
Best Under $200
  • High level of hand craftsmanship and tight-grained calfskin create for a truly premium product
  • Beckett Simonon partners with tanneries certified by the LWG, demonstrating eco-forward practices
  • Wide midsection and tall instep give effective support as well as comfort
Best Under $300
  • Full-grain leather construction and hand-painted finishing look flawless and clean
  • Ortholite insoles resist compression, offering consistent support and comfort
  • Moderate silhouette is both elegant and sporty
Best Vegan
  • Canvas build looks youthful and effortlessly cool
  • Upper is strong yet light, and conveniently flexible
  • 15 colorways range from neutral shades to bright hues, accommodating a gamut of personal styles
Best Designer
  • Made with full-grain leather, expertly crafted in Marche, Italy
  • Oliver Cabell breaks down its pricing, offering full cost transparency
  • Overall design is standard and classic, with subtle distinguishing details
Best Luxe
  • Full-grain Nappa leather is lush and has a slight shine
  • Gold-plated stamp makes this esteemed shoe instantly recognizable
  • Italian craftsmanship provides sturdy and reliable construction

You know the phrase, “jack of all trades, master of none”?

When it comes to footwear, the minimal sneaker is a master of all trades.

It’s like the loafer of the casual shoe world. Or perhaps the loafer is the minimal sneaker of the dress shoe world.

The range of dress codes a minimal sneaker can span is basically unmatched. Like a loafer, you can wear it with a suit on a casual Friday. Unlike a loafer, you can wear white leather sneakers with athleisure.

This is why the minimal sneaker is, without exaggeration, a necessity for all men. All that to say, check out my round-up to find the right pair, or pairs, for you.

How Did I Come Up With My List?

Beckett Simonon Reid Sneakers 7 1

To find the best minimal sneakers, I spent an inordinate amount of time running around in our picks (and several other models that didn’t make the cut), researching them, reading and watching reviews, and of course, consulting with colleagues and shoe experts on their experiences with these models. 

Like I always say, not every pair of feet is made alike.

I spent a good two weeks of immediate research for this round-up, but a few years on top of that having been in the footwear review space for quite some time now. In fact, I’ve been wearing a lot of these models since they came out.

To help you narrow them down better, every model in the round-up is organized by best in specific categories and price-points.

7 Best Minimalist Sneakers Every Man Must Know

Best Under $100: New Republic Kurt

I don’t mean to come out of the gate with superlatives, but the New Republic Kurt is the best sub-100 low-profile leather sneaker on the market. It has the same compact look as say, the Common Projects Achilles, with a slightly rounder toe—though this is splitting hairs.

Here’s why this shoe is so impressive. It’s cheap because it’s made in China, yes. However, it’s made out of Italian leather, which is sustainably sourced. It feels soft and is of much better quality than a lot of the legacy brand sneakers that have turned to Chinese manufacturing.

Basically, New Republic is incredibly savvy with their budget. No surprises there, since the founder, Mark McNairy had been in the footwear game for three decades before starting New Republic. Suffice to say, he knows his way around the industry.

When it comes to function, the Kurt gets most of its points for how comfortable it is. The lining is micro-suede and the insole is EVA foam with Tencel which adds airflow, creating a soft but supportive, and super pliant, wear right out of the box. 

The upper is a bit thin, but not flimsy, and definitely not offensive at this price point. You just have to make sure to take care of it by immediately buffing out scuffs and keeping it clean.

What I Like

  • This shoe is made out of sustainably-sourced Italian leather, really punching above its price point.
  • It’s comfortable right out of the box, and the EVA insole gets more and more comfortable as it conforms to your foot.
  • It comes in sizes as small as a 4 and as large as a 15, offering a wide range. .

What I Don’t Like

  • Initially, the color of the microsuede can sometimes bleed onto your socks, so don’t wear it in the rain and don’t wear it on particularly sweaty excursions for the first month.

What Do Other Reviewers Say?

This shoe has a pretty big fan club, with reviewers praising the immediate comfort and versatile style.

Men with extra big and extra small feet are grateful for the wide range of sizes. It’s rare that brands cater to guys smaller than a size 7 even, so New Republic comes out looking super thoughtful.

As I mentioned earlier, a few reviews also report that the leather is high-quality but a bit thin, so you have to nip scuffs and marks in the bud or the shoe might wear quickly. Still, it’s nothing a good leather conditioner can’t handle.

The Verdict

The New Republic Kurt hits all the marks for a basic sneaker, including the minimal branding cool factor. Go for this shoe if you need something you can wear immediately with little to no breaking in, or if affordability is a priority.

From personal experience, my Kurts didn’t need breaking in at all, and no pair of cheaper shoes that I’ve tried are worth the compromise. The Kurt is truly bang-for-buck.

Best Under $100
New Republic Kurt Triple White
With its Italian leather construction and out-of-the-box comfort, the New Republic Kurt offers a compelling value proposition. It’s a real essential, offering a simple, low-profile design, perfect for an everyday shoe.
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Best Under $150: Thursday Premiere

Thursday Sneakers Premiere low top in white

The Premier Low Top from Thursday Boots is unsurprisingly sturdy. After all, Thursday’s mission statement is to make boots that are better looking than clunky work footwear, but stronger than fashion boots. It’s good to see their foray into sneakers honors this philosophy.

First off, the rubber outsole has topnotch traction. It’s a dual-density rubber, which keeps your feet comfortable even when you’re moving from dirt to concrete to uneven terrain.

Inside the shoe is a shock-absorbent footbed, and over that is a Vachetta leather insole. It’s the same kind of leather used in designer handbags, meaning it’s soft and luxurious, but incredibly strong. Additionally, Vachetta naturally manages temperature and keeps odors at bay.

author william barton wearing Thursday premiere minimalist Sneakers

Speaking of, the uppers are made out of Nappa leather, the smooth surface of which makes the shoe look extra premium. Of course, this leather is also known for its resilience. 

Each of the several colorways offer a different style, with the all-whites showcasing a classically standard look, the different shades of brown leaning slightly into an American vibe, and the gum soles looking almost GAT-like.

What I Like

  • The impact-resistance system, soft but strong interior, and Nappa leather upper combine to form a performance-forward shoe that’s easy to walk and stand in for long periods of time.
  • There’s a wide range of colorways, including monochromes and those with contrast outsoles, providing a level of personal style factor.
  • The dual-density outsole gives extra traction, making this shoe great for the outdoors.

What I Don’t Like

  • Unfortunately, this shoe doesn’t come in a wide or extra wide option, so it’ll be extra uncomfortable during the break-in period for you broad-footed folks.

What Do Other Reviewers Say?

Often with sneakers, you have to choose between durability or comfort. Reviewers love how with these shoes, you get both, which is Thursday’s MO.

There are some complaints about how stiff the heel is before break-in, but as long as you have the right size, this shoe eventually serves up personalized comfort as it conforms to you.

The Verdict

The Thursday Boots Premier is strong enough to be put through the ringer, and comfortable enough so that you can take it from the office to the campsite.

Even more, the minimal design stays perfectly versatile, regardless of which of the many colorways you opt for.

Best Under $150
Thursday Premier

The Thursday Premier sneaker is my favorite minimalist sneaker under $150---the value-for-money is exceptional. They’re durable, comfortable, and the leather is fantastic for the price you pay.

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Best Under $200: Beckett Simonon Reid

Beckett Simonon Reid Sneakers with

It’s astounding how well-built the Reid sneaker is, but that’s the magic of Beckett Simonon’s made-to-order model. This quality assurance is clear to see, right down to the very minute details.

It’s made of full-grain leather, calfskin to be specific. Calfskin is extremely fine-grained, which allows it to be pliant and tough, while retaining a luxurious softness. 

Beckett Simonon Reid Sneakers 16

Going back to Beckett Simonon’s business model, they cut all of the middle-men. This is how they’re able to literally have artisans handcraft each shoe, each element hand-finished and hand-cut. They use a mix of carnauba wax to up the water damage resistance and shea butter to soften and condition the leather.

The brand was started in 2011 by long-time leather industry professionals, who, as you can see, took their leather know-how and connections to get creative on a budget.

What I Like

  • Truly artisanal, this shoe is handcrafted by artisans using tough but soft calfskin leather.
  • Beckett Simonon partners with leather tanneries that are gold-rated certified by the Leather Working Group, meaning they demonstrate the highest levels of eco-consciousness in their practices.
  • I love how comfortable and supportive the padded collar is. It’s just one of many examples of how every detail is considered.

What I Don’t Like

  • I’m a big fan of Beckett Simonon, and the made-to-order model allows them to price their premium shoes way below market, but as always, it also means long wait times.

What Do Other Reviewers Say?

Reviewers absolutely rave about the leather quality, especially for the price.
The Reid also gets a lot of love for how comfortable and supportive the tall instep and wide waist is.

The main complaint is the fact half sizes are only available between sizes 8 and 12. Basically, if you have bigger feet and are a half size, you’ll have to simply size up, then lace up tightly.

The Verdict

If you’d rather pay with time than money, then the Beckett Simonon Reid is the perfect minimal sneaker. With its full-grain calfskin leather, high level of hand craftsmanship, and labored-over details, this easy-to-pair shoe is easily the same quality as many models on the market that are double its price.

Best Under $200
Beckett Simonon Reid
Beckett Simonon’s Reid sneaker flaunts a hand-cut calfskin construction that’s also hand-finished and beautifully waxed. Despite its sub-200 price point, you get a high-end, eco-conscious shoe that you pay mainly via the wait time.
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Best Under $300: Koio Capri

KOIO capri sneakers white background

I know not everyone can afford a sneaker for just under $300. But, if your budget is just a little below the price of the Koio Capri, even a good $50 below, you might want to consider saving up just a little bit longer.

It comes at a premium, but that premium really goes a long way.

KOIO Capri with cuffed blue jeans

The Capri is handmade in Italy from sustainable full-grain Italian leather and lined with more Italian leather. Inside and out, there are no short-cuts when it comes to the materials. It’s even finished with hand-painted edges resulting in a flawless piece of footwear.

Plus, the stitching is tight and reinforced, with a special focus on high-pressure areas, like right below the tip of the eyelet stays. Even as you bend your feet, this shoe will see minimal wrinkling and surface stress, especially if you’re occasionally conditioning the surface.

What I Like

  • The full-grain leather construction and hand-painted finished edges make for an impeccably-designed and clean-looking shoe.
  • After the break-in period, the Ortholite insoles provide excellent cushion and fit that won’t compress much over time, ensuring consistent performance.
  • The silhouette isn’t too flat and shapeless, but not too bulbous, creating a moderate and versatile look that’s both elegant and sporty.

What I Don’t Like

  • During the break-in, the toe is especially stiff because of that reinforced stitching.

What Do Other Reviewers Say?

As Koio’s best seller, the Capris seem to have an in-the-know quality about them.

Reviewers mention that it’s just about as luxurious as their high-fashion designer counterparts, both in looks and build. Even the dust-bag it comes with is well-made.

There’s a substantial break-in period. Some reviewers mention it took them a few weeks, while others report that it took a good month before the shoe became perfectly comfortable.

The Verdict

With its strong and supple leather construction and hand-finishing, the KOIO Capri is built to last. Sure, the tight stitching makes breaking it in a bit of a pain, but once you get past it, this shoe will accommodate to the needs of your specific foot shape without the insoles compressing too deeply over time.

Best Under $300
KOIO Capri
The full-grain leather and 100% rubber outsole of the handmade Koio Capri are as strong as they’re exquisite-looking. Its silhouette, not too low and not too arched, perfectly balances both its refined and athletic qualities.
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Best Vegan: Cariuma OCA Low

You don’t have to go the leather route when it comes to the minimalist sneaker game. The canvas Cariuma OCA Low has that youthful but classy look of a Keds plimsoll, but is far more sophisticated.

It’s made out of organic cotton, zero pesticides and chemicals by the way, which makes the shoe incredibly lightweight and breathable. Between the easy-to-wear construction and breezy aesthetic, the OCA Low is a great summer shoe.

Even the sole is made out of cork, natural memory foam, and an organic plastic substitute. This team-up provides an incredibly flexible and crack-proof system. 

Cariuma, founded as a casual-focused boardsports brand, is known for their comfortable shoes. I’ve worn a few, and the OCA Low is definitely the most comfortable.

What I Like

  • The relaxed but handsome canvas style can be worn with any casual, smart casual, and warm-weather outfit.
  • The lightweight, organic cotton upper and lithe sole work together to provide comfort and flexible support.
  • The range of colorways can easily fit into any personal style. There are versatile neutrals like white and black, and bright shades like orange and yellow.

What I Don’t Like

  • The tip of the toe is covered by a piece of rubber attached to the gum sole. It’s reminiscent of a duck boot and, I think, would look cleaner without it.

What Do Other Reviewers Say?

Reviewers enjoy the breathability of this shoe, allowing you to wear it with or without socks.

Many also believe that, between its sub-$80 price point and several available colorways, that this shoe has a collectability factor. Want white versions for Monday and Wednesday, blue for Tuesday and Thursday, and pink for the weekend? All three pairs will still cost less than mid-tier leather models.

The Verdict

Built with organic and natural materials, the Cariuma Canvas OCA Low looks as natural as its construction. It’s light and flexible thanks to the cotton upper, gum outsole, and memory foam insole. On top of that, with its wide range of hues, you’re likely to find your favorite color in the mix.

Best Vegan
Cariuma OCA Low

Cariuma sneakers have a lot going for them. The quality is certainly better than Converse, plus they have an amazing sustainability mission. They offer a lot of bright and fun colors (I have a pair of the OCA Low in bright yellow, and they’re awesome), but you can opt for something more tame like white or black.

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Best Designer: Oliver Cabell Low 1

There are two reasons why the Oliver Cabell Low 1 is the chicer, slightly more fashion-forward model in the world of minimalist sneakers.

First off, it’s stitched and lasted right in Marche, Italy, giving it fashion street cred. Marche is known for its tradition of fine and luxury footwear. The upper is full-grain Italian leather, the lining is Italian calfskin, the outsole is durable Italian rubber, and even the laces are Italian cotton.

This is a comprehensively-made shoe.

Second, it features some stylish details that make it distinct without taking away from its on-template minimalism. The gold Oliver Cabell stamps on the lip and back add the subtlest pop, while the slight pebbling on the eyelet stays add a touch of dimensionality and luxuriousness. 

What I Like

  • With subtle detailing on the eyestays, lip, and back, this shoe is classic but also distinct.
  • It’s made in Marche, a region in Italy known for luxury footwear, and constructed with full-grain leather and durable but light Italian rubber.
  • You know exactly where your money is going with each Oliver Cabell purchase thanks to their open pricing policy.

What I Don’t Like

  • Half sizes aren’t available. If you’re a half size, just go a size up.

What Do Other Reviewers Say?

Beyond the build and look, reviewers praise the brand for their cost transparency.

For each model, the website features a full breakdown of how much it takes to make the shoe happen. For the Low 1, the bulk of the costs come from the leather and quality control. Transit costs are $12.43, shipping is $11.50—it’s incredibly specific.

The Verdict

The Oliver Cabell Low 1 is a classic low-profile leather, offering just a bit more visually without compromising the tried-and-true standard. This trusty brand, known for being candid about manufacturing and material costs, builds this shoe in Marche, Italy using high-end materials all throughout.

Best Designer
Oliver Cabell Low 1
The Oliver Cabell Low 1 is classically narrow and low-profile. However, this full-grain leather shoe is made in Marche, Italy, built with full-grain Italian leather and rubber, and has fun but subtle detailing that makes it stand out without being loud.
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Best Luxe: Common Projects Achilles

The Common Projects Achilles is more than just a brand name shoe to show off in. I mean, it’s certainly fun to do that considering they’re a more understated flex and you’ll get a lot of respect from sneakerheads and fashion fans.

Still, the reason they became so famous is because they’re genuinely well-built.

As so many of the best shoes are, the Achilles are hand-made in Marche, Italy. If you look closely at the immaculate stitching, you’ll notice that there’s a lot of double-stitched sections, providing an enduring construction. 

Common Projects uses a particularly premium Nappa leather, that’s not only soft and firm, but even shines a little. It’s part of the reason why this shoe looks undeniably high-end, even at first glance.

Famously, there’s no branding on this shoe, other than a gold foil stamp on the outside heel that states the shoe’s style, size, and color.

What I Like

  • The Achilles is a highly-reputed quintessential minimalist shoe, recognizable by its often imitated, never duplicated gold foil stamp.
  • The Nappa leather construction is strong and lush, with a slight polish to the surface.
  • This hand-crafted Italian shoe is solidly stitched together, providing it with both firmness and flexibility.

What I Don’t Like

The skinny silhouette is iconic and stylish, but pretty uncomfortable if you have extra wide feet.

What Do Other Reviewers Say?

If you can afford this shoe, a vast majority of reviewers report that there’s no competition. The Achilles holds up far better than even high-end shoes just a tier below it (those in the $300 mark, for example).
It’s tough, comfortably springy after break-in, and is an esteemed model in the footwear and fashion communities to boot.

The Verdict

The Common Projects Achilles has gained cult status because of its iconic design and undeniably strong construction. On several fronts, this shoe impresses.

The Achilles isn’t just for those who want to grandstand, though the gold stamp will certainly help with that. It’s also a categorically superior shoe, with a flattering silhouette and reinforced, long-lasting construction.

Best Luxe
Common Projects Original Achilles
The gold standard of minimalist sneakers, the Common Projects Achilles is known for its thin silhouette, its lustrous, premium leather, and its durable Italian craftsmanship. It famously features no branding, except for the tell-tale gold stamp, a subtle but luxurious visual accent.
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What to Look for in the Perfect White Minimalist Sneaker

Thursday Sneakers 12

As you now know, not all minimalist sneakers are made alike. However, there are a few qualities to consider that are, for the most part, universal.

  • The Leather. You might think that you’re saving money by settling for subpar leather. But, as this list proves, you don’t need to spend a fortune for full-grain leather sneakers. They look better and they’ll last longer.
  • Details. Despite being minimalist, some models have small distinguishing features that may or may not be deal-breakers. If you have sensitive ankles, make sure to get a pair with padded collars. If you want the cleanest look possible, go for a model made with as little sectioning and separate parts as possible.
  • Comfort and Fit. Some models don’t have half sizes and other models have a wider size range. If you need a lot of support, make sure that the option you’re going for has the right insoles or can be easily replaced.
  • Convenience. Need something you can wear right away? Then avoid shoes that have infamously long break-in periods. Another thing to consider is how easily the shoes will slip on and off.

One Sneaker, a Lot of Mileage

You really can wear a minimalist sneaker with almost anything. And, there really is a quality minimalist sneaker at every price point.

For under $100, the New Republic Kurt offers a sustainably sourced option made of Italian leather. Of course, for just a bit more, there’s the highly functional Thursday Premier.

Great Value
Thursday Premier

The Thursday Premier sneaker is my favorite minimalist sneaker under $150---the value-for-money is exceptional. They’re durable, comfortable, and the leather is fantastic for the price you pay.

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Both the Beckett Simonon Reid and the Koio Capri boast a high level of hand craftsmanship, as does the ever premium Common Projects Achilles.

If you want a vegan option, Cariuma’s OCA Low is a comfortable canvas shoe with a relaxed aesthetic. Meanwhile, the Oliver Cabell Low 1 features subtle, distinct details that make it extra fashionable.

Oliver Cabell Low 1

The iconic Low 1 is Oliver Cabell's most well known shoe, and for good reason. We think they're your best value-for-money dress sneaker choice if you want to go top-end on quality, provided they’re on sale.

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Again, all of these models look fairly similar, but once you take a closer look, you can easily pinpoint which pairs are more for you and which ones aren’t.


Are white shoes still in style 2023?

Yes, white shoes are timeless. They’re even more in style in 2023 since, with the casualization of fashion, white sneakers can even be worn with suits depending on the context.

Are white sneakers still trendy?

White sneakers are more classic than trendy these days. However, they’re so neutral and easy to style, that you can wear them with trendy fashion-forward outfits as well as more understated ones.

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