Fashion is having a casual moment (read: living in sweatpants 24/7 with no end in sight) and denim overalls are as sartorially luxurious as couture ballgowns. With this “pared down” moment in time comes less need for the fancy shoe – strappy sandals and dinner party-ready heels are tucked away safely, resting in the closet until they are needed once again.
While we navigate the rules of style, we need sturdy wardrobe staples we can trust, and there’s nothing more reliable than a white sneaker. There’s no age or budget limits with this shoe – mamas can pull off the same pair as toddlers. They can cost as little as $20 or they can cost a small fortune (your choice). They can be paired with fashion forward harem pants or super basic denim shorts. They are for nurses at work and moms on the go. Always in style and always easy to style, this is a worthy use of the “damn, I deserve a reward for this day” budget.
The unisex sneaker has existed in adidas’s line in the 1960s but was renamed for tennis star Stan Smith in the 1970s. After years of popularity it went out of production, then shot back to the forefront in 2014, instantly gaining a renewed following after becoming a street style favourite of models like Gigi Hadid. Suddenly, there was no escaping the 70s aesthetic, with its instantly-recognizable green back (though it does come in other colours like red, black and white-on-white) and signature perforated sides. These are very comfortable kicks (after all, they were created for a tennis player) and suitable for long-term wear. The rounded toe is a shape that is super versataile; it can be worn with jeans and sweatpants, but is also an easy answer when wearing a skirt. This sneaker has morphed from sports to lifestyle – Stan Smith, now in his 70s, is a veritable fashion influencer and his Instagram is filled with superglam shots of him hanging with everyone from Madonna to Anna Wintour.
Scandi style is defined by its clean-cut utilitarianism and this Swedish-based brand has been focusing on that for over 100 years. The Nylite style was everywhere 1980s (it was the go-to shoe choice of East Coat preppies) but faltered a bit in in the 90s, when fashion took a turn towards grunge and sport sneakers. Around 2017, it saw a revitalization and now is back in fashion. It’s a nice throwback for those who remember the Tretorn and want to slip back into their childhood favourites. It’s got the same wear-with-anything essence as the Stan Smith, but is a little more unique – not everyone at school drop-off will be wearing these. We also love the navy or green accent, even though the solid white are a solid choice.
Reebok launched in 1985 and the puffy white sneakers is as relevant as ever. The Classic Leather version has been spotted on highly influential and fashionable women like Meghan Markle (Reebok does make another style called the Princess, but maybe that was a little too on the nose for the Duchess). These kicks get high points for comfort and leather is great for durability and easy wipe-downs. Also, leather is pretty great material for damp weather, which canvas can’t handle.
This vintage looking shoe is your new classic and comes in great color choices. If you are looking for white, but love a spark of color, there is a rose gold that is truly unique. The light blue adds vintage vibes but the rose is very 2020.
These sneakers are a time machine right back to middle school, when earning babysitting money and passing a History test was the most stressful part of life. While times have definitely changed, KEDS haven’t. These lace-ups are as sweet and simple as ever with the iconic blue tab and the sleek canvas design that has been worn by everyone from Jackie O. to Taylor Swift. The classic white version adds a lightness to every look (whether it’s jeans or a dress) and aren’t meant to be fashion forward. Rather, they are a staple that can live in a closet season after season. With over 6,000 glowing reviews you can be sure you’ll love them as much as all the other mamas in the world.
Everlane’s ethos is all about transparency; each item includes details about the factory, production cost, retail price and environmental impact. Minimalism and simplicity is a hallmark of the brand, hence “The Trainer,” which combines elements of a fashion sneaker with athletic styling. These are off-white for a bit of new-ness and also come in a gorgeous pale blush. Everything on Everlane is meant to be mixed-and-matched which makes these sneakers super friendly to all different types of wardrobe pieces including jumpsuits, dresses, chinos, wide leg pants and denim. Everlane has a devoted fan base, so it’s no wonder that the reviews are almost unanimously enthusiastic, with words like “perfect,” “so comfy” and “high quality” are seen throughout the detailed reviews. Do check the fit notes for tips on how to choose a size.
Want to earn some fashion points with the TikTok teen in your life? Nike Air Force Ones are a go-to sneaker for men and women who want a more substantive shoe with an athletic bent (even if they are just for walking), and a unisex appeal loved by everyone from Kendall Jenner to Drake. Nike’s come with a price tag but they are also a perennial shoe that will never go out of style – it’s been around since 1982 and is a consistent bestseller (it’s been reported that Nike sells 10 million pairs a year). With the basketball documentary The Last Dance burning up our Netflix queue, expect these basketball-inspired streetwear shoes to get even more popular, if that’s even possible.
Sometimes laces are just too much work, which is when slip-ons come in handy. These checkboard Vans are always in style and durable AF. Originally developed as a skater shoe, Vans have permeated pop culture and are the kind of shoes that can worn by kids, teens, grownups and grandparents — without losing their California-cool appeal. They hold up really well to wear and tear and can be worn year-after-year; the more they break in, the more comfortable and hipper they look. So many colors and patterns to choose from, do you go with the classic checkerboard? Solid? Both? Matching with your kids Vans is easy, and oh so cute.
Since normcore was embraced by designers like Balenciaga and Prada, dressing like Seinfeld circa 1993 became a street style choice embraced by everyone from the Jenners to Jennifer Garner. New Balance trainers give you the essence of the “dad who clips his cellphone to his cargo shorts” lewk combined with actual comfort. This tried-and-true running sneaker boasts lots of support and grip, so if actual running is on the agenda, these do double duty. Women love them for standing on their feet all day, so if you’re a nurse, healthcare worker or really— any mom— you’ll appreciate the comfort here.
For those who love the look of a white sneaker but are worried about the inevitable grass and gunk stains, this Amazon option is a simple canvas style for a very friendly price. These are perfect for bumming around in the summer (don’t expect to run a marathon in them) and have nearly a perfect 5-star customer rating. Pro-tip for easy cleaning— try a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser, or go for the grey and not have to worry. Overall, they get high praise for being a rival to big-name brands in similar styles, but a fraction of the cost.
ChiMom20 says, “I’ve grown to expect awesome from Amazon Essentials and these are nothing less! THEY ARE AMAZING! The fit is absolutely perfect! There’s even a little extra room in the toe area. I’ve bought several things from this brand and I can honestly say I look for it first!”
More leisure than streetwear (and far removed from an athletic sneaker ) is Superga, an Italian walking shoe that was created for chic travelers to wear from the coast to the city. What sets them apart from the rest of the options is the thick rubber sole and also the color options – the subdued sand color is a little more refined than bright white leather sneakers. There is also a white ecru and pale grey that fit the neutral category. If “Amalfi Coast vibe” and “machine washable” is on the wish list, this is the only sneaker to fit the bill. They are cut a little lower than usual, which makes them a sleek option to wear with sun dresses.
Sneakers are a great place to splurge because the CPW (cost per wear) works out to be reasonable, considering sneakers can be worn every day of the week (as opposed to designer heels, which usually spend most of their time in the closet). Veja’s aren’t exactly a secret fashion find, but they are coveted in influencer circles (you may have spotted them on your favourite Instagram account). The French brand shoes are sleek and polished, with leather that is both sturdy and smooth, with a signature V on the side. They are noticeable but not loud, making them ideal for someone who is not quite sold on “sneakers with everything” style. There’s an ethical bent to the brand, which manufcatures its shoes in Brazil (shoppers can view the factory and read details on the workers, including their access to housing and transportation), which is reflected in the higher price point. They take a minute to break in (real leather is like that) but are built to last and will stand up to daily wear and tear quite well.
Check out more of our favorite fashion essentials for mama this summer.