Why Just About Any Shoe Style Is Called ‘Athleisure’ Now

Athleisure is a relatively new term, but its definition is already changing, deviating from the casual styles that are appropriate for both the gym and for daily wear.

“It’s a lifestyle based on an athletic consciousness. People are gravitating toward comfort, fashion is gravitating toward a healthier lifestyle, and people want to look and feel fit and athletic,” Ankur Amin, co-owner of East Northport, N.Y.-based Renarts, told Footwear News. “They want to go from a gym to dinner and not have to change the way they look. It’s a seamless transition about their lifestyle.

“But it’s broadening at a quick pace.”

According to Isack Fadlon, owner of West Coast staple Sportie LA, athleisure is now becoming a home for shoes that are tough to place in any other category.

“What’s happening is if you remove performance, you remove brown shoes, and you remove anything technology-based. There’s a melting pot of athleisure,” he said. “It’s even beyond athletic now, or sporty. Some brands out there have never been sports-based or sports-related, yet they’re in the athleisure category.”

Adidas NMD R1 Core Black
Adidas NMD R1 “Core Black.”
CREDIT: Courtesy of Adidas.

Despite athleisure’s growing inclusion, sneakers with certain attributes outperform ones without those same features.

“The sleeker [the sneaker], the better. The athleisure thing is faster,” said Lester Wasserman, owner of West NYC. “It has to look fast, look performance-y — a la an [Adidas] NMD, a [Nike] Juvenate or something as simple as a Skechers GoWalk is good enough.”

The Adidas NMD that Wasserman identified as a working athleisure look is the style that Amin and Fadlon labeled as the best in the trend.

Amin went a step further to say Adidas owns athleisure today, delivering other must-have styles of the trend, including the many Yeezy looks and the EQT. He also identified the sneaker technology that’s currently defining all of athleisure.

“Knits are huge: Adidas with Primeknit, Nike’s Flyknit, Puma’s got this new EvoKnit, and Reebok is doing Ultraknit,” he said. “Everyone is doing this knitted stuff, which every gender and age group is gravitating toward.”

Nike Flyknit Racer Goddess
Nike Flyknit Racer “Goddess.”
CREDIT: Courtesy of Nike.
Reebok Zoku Runner
Reebok Zoku Runner.
CREDIT: Courtesy of Reebok.
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