Each and every one of us has brands that we like to stay loyal to. Whether that’s ketchup, cola, beer, cars, burgers or sneakers, we all know instantly which brand we’ll reach for when faced with a choice. But as the age-old saying goes, “variety is the spice of life.” We may have our favored brands, but while on the quest of seeking out something a little more unique we’ve turned to a handful of sneaker brands making small but purposeful waves on the sneaker market. Here are the 7 best sneaker brands you’ve never heard of:



On our recent trip to Tokyo we got to experience the quality and craft—and not to forget the myriad of colors—of Buddy’s handsome range of sneakers. The brand itself have been quietly turning heads for some time, stocking up a host of well-known retailers, but they still seem totally content with doing their own thing, sticking to what they love. Buddy’s motto is “Make Happy,” and they do so by designing and making all of their products in Japan, with each sneaker being named after their beloved pets. Their current collection features 3-eyelet, slip-on, classic lace-up, chukka boot and hi-top styles. It’s just narrowing down which color to choose from is the tricky part. Link



One name which has started to weave its way on to many of our Instagram feeds, but still feels relatively unknown, is Novesta. Novesta has been producing simple court sneakers in Slovenia since the 1930s. Each model in their catalog has been made using the same environmentally-friendly techniques since production began—resulting in them being a popular choice within many circles across Europe. With a spate of recent collaborations with Oi Polloi, Universal Works, YMC, and their signature “Star Master” model coming in an endless amount of colors, it’s only a matter of time before Novesta rises above cult status. Link


Athletic Propulsion Labs

For a young label to make a dent in the sports performance market it must take a extra special product to captures peoples’ attention. With the likes of Nike, adidas and New Balance giving little room for any new competitors, many designers would stay well clear of that crowded area. But sometimes all you need is an interesting idea and enthusiasm for design to make people stop and notice. That’s exactly what Athletic Propulsion Labs has done. APL was founded in 2009 by two 23-year-old brothers, who had the concept of creating a basketball shoe which enabled the wearer to jump higher than the rest. A few years on and APL is producing some of the most innovative running, training and basketball shoes on the market. Link


People Footwear

The vision behind People Footwear is a simple one: to create an ultra light and extremely comfortable collection of sneakers suitable for everyday travel. The Vancouver-based brand sticks to classic silhouettes: hi-top, low, deck shoe, slip-on and sandals, each utilizing a mixture of their advanced comfort technologies. People Footwear love to give their construction techniques summery titles such as Skylite, Supercush, EZY-BRZY and Dreamknit—but they back up their marketing lingo with shock absorbing sock liners, 3D-printed mesh uppers, molded foam soles and count creating minimal waste as a top priority. Their Phillips Knit looks like the perfect summer shoe. Link


Number 288

First tapping into the luxury sneaker market back in 2014 is a brand which draws influence from their diverse background. Hailing from New York, Number 288 is a design studio headed up by the team of Jung Suh and Benyam Assefa. Respectively they count their past residencies as South Korea and Ethiopia. The brand fits nicely into the contemporary sneaker market, but adds a little extra flavor with small design details that could easily be missed. Flip a pair of their Calfskin leather, Portuguese-made sneakers around to the back and you’ll find 288 in Roman numerals stitched into the heal. Link



Famed for constantly dropping luxury sneakers at an affordable price, Greats has gained a bunch of mainstream press, but has still manage to keep relatively under the radar due to only selling through their own website. The idea behind Greats is to deliver high-quality modern sneakers direct to the consumer. With no middle-man and the founders’ direct links to the factories results for short lead times for new designs; making high-profile collaborations and keeping up-to-date with the fast-paced menswear market all the more possible. Currently, Greats offer 13 unique styles, each limited release available in a range of colours and fabrics. Link



Another brand which fits nicely into the modern-day luxury bracket is Amsterdam’s ETQ. Taking heavy influence from timeless design and early 20th century art movements, they are more than just another sneaker company cashing in on the Instagram generation. Throughout the process ETQ’s design team is constantly questioning if they’re creating footwear that is aesthetically pleasing, yet functional, and doesn’t fall into a particular season. Their current selection of monochrome and muted sneakers plays on a mixture of modern design and fresh silhouettes. Link

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Unzip your coat and have some mulled wine on the house—you’ve arrived at your final gifting destination: The Holiday Gift Guide. It’s like your friendly neighborhood one-stop holiday shop, except instead of balsa wood ornaments, ours is packed with thoughtful gifts for everyone on your list. Future heirlooms, small-but-significant stocking stuffers, and gear for getting out there (or staying in)—are all right here. There’s no music playing in the background though, so you’ll just have to hum Bing Crosby while you click around instead.

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