For decades, the mesh-forward, metallic-accented silver sneaker has been an unmissable niche of the men’s footwear landscape. A big one was Nike’s Air Max 97 “Silver Bullet,” the late-1990s style inspired by Japan’s glossy bullet trains, a futuristic combination of shiny mesh and reflective overlays. (The cult-loved shoe is rumored to make a return later this year, for its 25th anniversary.) Since then, every major sneaker brand has snuck some shiny kicks into its product offerings to varying degrees of fanfare.
Recently, though, two other silver sneakers have risen above the fray. They come from wildly different places: Japanese sportswear label Asics and luxury fashion house Balenciaga. But as much as they differ, the two sneakers still have plenty in common.
Of the two brands, Asics is the one with the legacy here. The company has been producing silver running shoes for years, but its foray into the fashion world is newer. Two years ago, Bulgarian-British designer Kiko Kostadinov reworked the Gel Kiril 2 in silver and lavender; and last year, Seoul label Andersson Bell offered up a similarly shiny palette. Most recently, Asics has unveiled a revamped Gel-1090 silhouette, the 2000s running shoe that has been given a modern and style-forward makeover. The upper has been slightly simplified while retaining the flashy sweeping lines of silver, and the sole has been beefed up with new cushioning.
In the world of Balenciaga, designer and current Kanye West BFF Demna Gvasalia has been selling a mesh-and-nylon “Runner” sneaker since last year. (It, of course, comes with a very Balenciaga price: $1,150.) Now, Demna has introduced the “Phantom” sneaker, a pared-down style that forgoes some of the flashy tech details but still packs a similar fashionable punch. (It sells for $895.) In Balenciaga’s just-dropped campaign, the new shoe is front and center; models outfitted in booming track trousers and oversized hoodies pose with the shoe in hand like a trophy—the shinier runner is still worn on foot.
In 2022, wearing ugly-on-purpose sneakers (and paying exorbitant prices for them) is no longer as polarizing as it once was. In fashion’s circle, it’s almost expected. Supermodels wear New Balances, and luxury labels produce $900 shoes that could easily be mistaken for the ones suburban dads pick up from outlet malls. And within the extended universe of bad-but-good sneakers lies the shiny futuristic runner. Perhaps it was inevitable that metallic accents and shimmering mesh got their own makeover moment; Asics and Balenciaga were the right ones for the job. Each brand brings something unique to the table—Asics’ rich legacy and Demna’s avant-garde sensibility—but both reimagined the style for this very moment.