6 Best Common Projects Alternatives: High-end Sneaker Swaps

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by  Karlton Miko Tyack | Last Updated: 
Common Projects alternatives - Oliver Cabell Low 1, Cariuma Low Canvas Sneaker & Adidas Stan Smith

The Common Projects Achilles sports that forever-cool low-profile sneaker look. Unsurprisingly, there are a lot of Common Projects lookalikes on the market.

Unfortunately, they’re not all built as well as the Achilles. In fact, most aren’t.

Avoid the junkers and check out our five best alternatives instead.

Best Overall
  • All-white style and subtle gold branding embody the same upscale casualness as CP sneakers
  • Utilizes premium materials and a high level of hand craftsmanship
  • Oliver Cabell is transparent with their product costs
Best on a Budget
  • Italian leather is sustainably sourced
  • Micro-suede lining provides breathability
  • EVA foam insole is soft right out of the box
Great Value
  • Nappa leather upper is strong yet flexible
  • Boasts several performance-forward features,, including a dual-density outsole and shock-absorbent footbed
  • The leather lining is soft and comfortable
Best Vegan
  • Pesticide and chemical-free construction
  • Upper is made out of fully organic canvas
  • Lightweight and breathable wear
Best for Comfort
  • Several features work together to balance comfort and support, including a foot-conforming insole, and sweat-controlling lining
  • Upper is treated with carnauba wax to up its water resistance and shea butter to condition and soften
  • Beckett Simonon works with gold-rated tanneries certified by the LWG
Best for The Eco-Conscious
  • Upper and sole are built with recycled materials
  • Tried-and-true Stan Smith design is retro-cool and always relevant
  • Almost 100% of the polyester Adidas uses in production is recycled thanks to their End Plastic Waste program

Common Projects Achilles certainly wasn’t the first low-profile white sneaker ever.

Arguably, though, CP helped bring about a renaissance of minimalist white sneakers. Because of this, it’s become a sort of gold standard.

What if I were to tell you that you don’t have to go the Common Projects route to get similarly styled sneakers with the same vibe and versatility?

Even better, you could get a similar quality shoe for a fraction of the price.

Sit tight, and I’ll tell you how.

What Are Common Projects Sneakers, and Why Are They so Popular?

Common Projects are known for taking the classic low-profile white sneaker design and upgrading it with superior materials. This earned it immediate popularity, fashion street cred, and, with that, an incredibly high markup.

Their most famous model is the Achilles Sneaker, which is a versatile and minimalist design that you can wear with almost anything. The only detailing on it is a gold stamp on the back side of the shoe, which represents individual serial numbers.

The brand itself was launched in 2004. It’s based in New York City, though the Achilles is made in Marche, Italy, along with most of their models.

Again, the Achilles wasn’t the first minimal white sneaker, but it pioneered a comeback for that aesthetic, helping to cinch it as a menswear classic. 

How Did I Come Up With My List?

I combed the market, looking at almost 100 pairs of Common Projects lookalikes. While countless minimalist white sneakers are out there, I wanted models that also exude the same quiet, anonymous vibe as the Achilles. Ideally, they’d have a subtle but distinguishing detail the way the Achilles has its gold stamp.

I also considered quality and price since we know how highly marked-up CP shoes are.

And finally, I consulted colleagues and shoe industry folks regarding their experiences with these alternatives. This meant deliberating in person and scouring every review on the internet.

Common Projects Original Achilles

The Common Projects 'Original Achilles' sneakers have gained cult status thanks to their minimalist design and superior construction. This white version is perfect for creating crisp city-smart looks.

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My Recommendations

Best Overall:  Oliver Cabell Low 1 

Not only is the Oliver Cabell Low 1 the best visual alternative, but it is incredibly high value.

There’s a touch more stitching on the surface compared to the Achilles, but the monochrome palette renders that mostly inconsequential. This is still a truly minimalist shoe. 

Moreover, the gold stamp is reminiscent of the gold stamp on the CP but doesn’t come off as an imitation. It’s simply an Oliver Cabell logo, serving a completely different (and frankly, less vague) purpose. It’s also on the back instead of the side.

And despite being a stark white shoe, the supple full grain leather is plain to see. The Low 1 is handcrafted in Marche, Italy, out of tight, smooth, and durable calfskin. Even the lining is calfskin. At this price point, it’s common for many shoemakers to use lesser materials for the interior.

What I Like

  • It has the classic low-profile white look and carefully subtle detail that you go to Common Projects for without lifting any of CP’s brand-specific features.
  • This handcrafted shoe flaunts high-quality materials, including a full grain calfskin upper, premium Italian rubber soles, and Italian cotton laces.
  • Oliver Cabell is transparent with their costs so you know precisely what you’re paying for.

What I Don’t Like

  • Half sizes aren’t available. If you’re a half size, you’ll have to size up to get a close enough fit.

What Do Other Reviewers Say?

Reviewers laud Oliver Cabell for their quality for cost and how candid they are with pricing.

The Low 1, for example, costs $26.04 for its leather and $34.88 for quality control. Every penny is accounted for on the product page.

A few reviewers mention that the shoe rubs on your pinky toe during the break-in process. I experienced this too, but it didn’t last more than a week for me.

The Verdict

The Oliver Cabell Low 1 embodies similar qualities as the Common Projects Achilles without stealing specific details. Even the touch of gold is there via the OC logo on the back collar. It comes off as a true alternative, one that stands on its own, versus coming off as a knock-off.

Its calfskin leather and Italian hand craftsmanship are impressive for the price, which is broken down for all to see on Oliver Cabell’s website.

Best Overall
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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Best on a Budget: Kurt Triple White Leather Sneaker 

The Kurt Triple White from New Republic isn’t just the most affordable Common Projects alternative that’s actually good. It’s also the most minimalist, giving it that quiet, anonymous look.

There’s branding on the lip, but it’s completely monochrome, blending into the leather body of the sneaker. Plus, the stitching on the back collar fulfills the prerequisite of added detail, akin to the gold stamp, but in a far more minimalist way.

My favorite part about the Kurt is how immediately comfortable it is. The lining and insole are soft, and require no break-in whatsoever. 

What I Like

  • The upper is made out of sustainably sourced Italian leather.
  • With its molded micro-suede lining and EVA foam insole, this shoe is pliant and soft right out of the box.
  • The lack of obvious branding makes this shoe highly minimalist and versatile.

What I Don’t Like

  • The leather is pretty good, but it’s slightly thin. This doesn’t offend me at this price point, but you’ll need to properly clean and care for this shoe, or it may scuff and wrinkle prematurely.

What Do Other Reviewers Say?

Reviewers are impressed with how cheap this shoe is, considering how good it looks. Any cheaper, and you’ll be delving into fast fashion faux-leather territory.

Moreover, reviewers appreciate the wide range of sizes, going as small as a men’s 4, up to a 15, with half sizes included at every level.

The Verdict

The New Republic Kurt Triple White’s main strengths are its affordability, its immediate comfort, and its extra-minimalist look.

There aren’t many sneakers on the market that can give you the quality the Kurt has without jumping several price points beyond it.

Best on a Budget
New Republic Kurt Triple White

The Kurts from New Republic have a relaxed look that make them effective all-season shoes. Thank the almost non-existent details on the upper for this, which enable them to be great smart casual shoes too.

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Great Value: Thursday Boots Premier Low Top Sneaker 

Thursday Sneakers Premiere low top in white

Fulfilling Thursday Boots function-meets-style brand promise, the Premier Low Top is sturdily built and performance-forward. By the way, we go more in-depth on this shoe in our hands-on review here.

Qualities like the Nappa leather construction and the metal-finished eyelets hat-tip to the brand’s origins in bootmaking. Nappa isn’t just soft, strong, and resilient, though, it’s exceptionally smooth, providing a lush looking surface.

This is a good shoe for walking. The dual-density rubber outsole accommodates changing terrain, while the grippy tread accommodates fast changes in direction. Let’s just say if you end up in an impromptu flag football game, this is a pretty good shoe to get caught in.

What I Like

  • The leather lining is soft and comfortable.
  • Nappa leather is durable but softer than most full grain leathers, making the upper flexible and easy to move in.
  • Between its extra grippy dual-density outsole and its shock absorbent footbed, this shoe is highly performance forward.

What I Don’t Like

  • Wide sizes aren’t available, so the break in period is extra uncomfortable if you have broad feet.

What Do Other Reviewers Say?

Reviewers praise Thursday for creating a shoe that combines comfort and function as effectively as their boots do.

And while there is a break-in period, many report that the insole eventually conforms perfectly to your foot. I found that the heel area was a bit stiff at first, but not distractingly so.

The Verdict

The Thursday Boot Premier is a performance-oriented Achilles alternative. Its outsole provides agility, while the Nappa leather upper ensures a comfortable full range of motion.

You get a lot for your money with this sneaker. Arguably, you get a lot more than you would out of the CP since a big part of its premium comes from brand cache.

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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Best Vegan: Cariuma Low Canvas Sneaker 

Here’s a tip. If you want a vegan alternative to the Common Projects Achilles, don’t go for vegan leather. They’re often pretty weak and not always that much more environmentally friendly.

The Cariuma Low Sneaker, made of canvas, is a far more effective alternative that checks off all of the boxes that you turn to vegan footwear for.

Its organic cotton construction avoids chemicals and pesticides, and is breathable and lightweight. The overall look is like the CP merged with a Keds plimsoll, giving it a youthful yet sophisticated look.

Meanwhile, the sole comprises natural memory foam, cork, and an organic plastic substitute. Not only is it sustainably made, but flexible and resistant to cracking.

What I Like

  • The canvas style is relaxed but classy, allowing you to wear it in casual and smart casual dress codes.
  • This shoe is lightweight, comfortable, and breathable.
  • With a pesticide-free organic construction, this shoe is vegan and made without harmful chemicals.

What I Don’t Like

  • I’m splitting hairs, but this shoe would be a better CP alternative if it didn’t have the rubber overlay on the tip of the toe. I understand that this is more in line with Cariuma’s boardsports style, but it would look cleaner without it.

What Do Other Reviewers Say?

Many reviewers deem this sneaker a perfect summer shoe. With its breezy look and lightweight wear, I fully agree.

This shoe also gets a lot of love for how comfortable the memory foam and cork sole is.

The Verdict

Avoid vegan leather Achilles alternatives, and go for the Cariuma OCA Low instead. It has an eco-forward construction that utilizes organic cotton, natural plastic substitutes, and forgoes pesticides and chemicals.

Style-wise, it’s a more relaxed take on the low-profile sneaker, without compromising its adaptability.

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 for Comfort: Beckett Simonon Reid Sneaker

Beckett Simonon Reid Sneakers while walking

The Beckett Simonon Reid Sneaker actually has a much flatter silhouette than the Achilles. The toe has zero bulbousness, and the line from the top of the lip to the edge of the toe has almost no descent. 

This makes it even more understated than the average low-profile white, and a good choice when it comes to pairing with a suit. I’d call the look borderline sterile but in a stylishly deliberate way.

Beckett Simonon Reid Sneakers with

Despite its close-to-body fit, the Reid is surprisingly comfortable. It’s as if there’s a Narnia of extra room in there. This is achieved by building a wide waist and higher instep to make up for the refined toe box.

Moreover, the insoles are lined with soft and pliant leather, accommodating your foot’s exact contours. After you’ve worn this shoe a few times, the footbeds start to feel customized. Additionally, the Vachetta leather lining is naturally sweat absorbant, and tempers both heat and odor.

What I Like

  • Several features work together to provide lasting comfort, including the foot-conforming leather insole, the sweat-controlling lining, and the supportive padded collar.
  • This shoe boasts a high level of hand craftsmanship, from the stitching and cutting to the carnauba wax and shea butter treatment that ups its water resistance and softness.
  • Beckett Simonon works with tanneries that are gold-rated by the Leather Working Group, which means their practices are highly eco-conscious.

What I Don’t Like

  • The small-batch made-to-order model may be the reason for the great prices, but it also results in irregular wait times. You might be waiting over a month for your shoe to arrive upon ordering.

What Do Other Reviewers Say?

Beckett Simonon continues to impress reviewers with this handcrafted and adaptable shoe, that’s even made with full grain calfskin leather, no less.

Still, the reason they’re able to offer a shoe at such a below-market price is because of that small-batch model. One reviewer recommends ordering two pairs if you aren’t sure what size to go for. It’s easier to return the pair you don’t want than to deal with the irregular wait times a second time around.

The Verdict

The Beckett Simonon Reid is a more comfortable alternative to the Common Projects Achilles. This is thanks to a leather insole that accommodates your exact foot shape and the clever interior design that provides more room than can be seen from the shoe’s silhouette.

If you’re willing to pay with time instead of money, this sneaker offers hand craftsmanship and premium materials.

Best for Comfort
Beckett Simonon Reid

While it may take you around three months to get your feet into these bad boys, they're well worth the wait. Made-to-order, crafted from full-grain Italian leather with a Vachetta leather lining, the Reid packs a ton of value at this price point. We also love that the eyelets are hidden to make for a slightly sleeker look overall.

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Best for The Eco-Conscious: Adidas Stan Smith Forever

While the Cariuma OCA is incidentally eco-conscious, the Adidas Stan Smith Forever is built specifically for sustainability. It’s part of the brand’s End Plastic Waste initiative, which focuses on shifting to using more recycled materials in its production.

The upper is made from recycled performance synthetics, allowing you the mobility and support of a true athletic shoe. Naturally, it’s attached to outsoles made out of recycled rubber.

Thanks to Adidas’ End Plastic Waste program, 96% of all of the polyester they use is now recycled.

And, of course, the iconic Stan Smith design remains untouched, with its perforated sides and accented back collar.

What I Like

  • This shoe is built sustainably and eco-consciously using recycled materials.
  • It’s based on a classic design that’s stood the test of time for decades.
  • 96% of the polyester used in Adidas shoes today is recycled thanks to their End Plastic Waste initiative.

What I Don’t Like

  • The green accents aren’t a bad quality per se, but they make the shoe a less effective Common Projects alternative.

What Do Other Reviewers Say?

As popular as they were when they came out in the ‘60s, reviewers love the retro yet relevant style of the Stan Smiths.

Many who ordered their usual sneaker size find this shoe fits a tad loosely. It’s nothing tighter lacing can’t fix, but you might want to size down a half to get the perfect fit.

The Verdict

This Forever variation of the Stan Smith sports the classic ‘60s Adidas design but is built with recycled materials as part of the brand’s End Plastic Waste initiative.

It’s not a perfect alternative to the Common Projects because of its green accents, but it’s one of the most environmentally forward low-profile whites on the market. Plus, the Stan Smith was making this minimalist athletic aesthetic popular long before the Achilles.

Best for The Eco-Conscious
Adidas Stan Smith Forever

The Adidas Stan Smith Forever sports the iconic Stan Smith design but is made out of recycled materials. It’s part of the brand’s End Plastic Waste initiative, and is just as comfortable and versatile as the original.

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Which Is Best for You?

The Oliver Cabell Low 1 flaunts calfskin leather and Italian hand craftsmanship, just like CP sneakers. This makes it our best overall.

Our Top Pick
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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The New Republic Kurt is an excellent choice if you’re on a budget. The Thursday Boots Premier is the best value because of its strong leather performance-forward features.

If you don’t want to go the leather route, the Cariuma OCA is an eco-friendly vegan option. The most eco-friendly Achilles alternative, though, is the Adidas Stan Smith Forever, which is made of recycled materials.

Best for The Eco-Conscious
Adidas Stan Smith Forever

The Adidas Stan Smith Forever sports the iconic Stan Smith design but is made out of recycled materials. It’s part of the brand’s End Plastic Waste initiative, and is just as comfortable and versatile as the original.

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Meanwhile, the Beckett Simonon Reid balances comfort and support, making it perfect for standing and walking.

Boots and dress shoes can be resoled. And though I love good sneakers, at the end of the day, they’ll wear out. As such, I highly recommend going for something more high-value rather than high-cost when it comes to your low-profile whites.


Are Common Projects considered sneakers?

Yes, Common Projects Achilles are classic low-profile leather sneakers.

Why are Common Projects so pricey?

Common Projects uses high-quality materials and Italian craftsmanship. Of course, the brand factor also ups the price tag.

Are Common Projects still in style 2023?

Yes. The minimalist sneaker is a menswear classic. There are times when it’s more and less popular, but it’s always relevant and never looks out of style.

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