For all the convenience of online shopping, you can’t beat going into a real brick-and-mortar trainer shop. Buying sneakers online can be like trawling the Raiders Of The Lost Ark warehouse, shapes and colourways blurring into forever. In the face of that endless choice, many shops feel like capsule collections, where a small selection of sneakers is brought together with care, respect and – well – love.
Because that’s the other thing the internet can’t offer: interaction with staff who know their trainers. Who are obsessed with suede uppers and gum soles. Who’ll debate the best ever reissues as you decide between Samba or Munich. You never have to wonder whether your pick goes with those trousers, or whether to believe those true-to-size claims. And, most importantly, you don’t have wait overnight to get your new kicks on your feet.
The Hip Store, Leeds
The Hip Store is not the spot to cop grail Jordans. You won’t find any of Rick Owens’ sculptural trainers. But this Vicar Lane space is a haven for the more discerning sneakerhead: 1,600 sq ft of the kind of shoes you want to own when you’re a grown-up.
New Balance fans are particularly well-served, as are those whose tastes tend classic; alongside a glut of Converse (that’s OG silhouettes, not the Nike era’s more progressive pieces) there’s a load of more characterful takes on the classic canvas low-top, from Slovakia’s Novesta and the 1970s basketball-slash-hip-hop staple Pro Keds. Swish.
5 Pointz, Bristol
Most people overlook Bristol’s importance to modern British streetwear. But it’s always been a critical barometer of cool – it was one of the first places to latch onto skate culture and hip-hop – and boasts some of the best independent menswear shops in the country.
One of the most revered is 5 Pointz, founded by Dave Perry in 2004. A sprawling haven dedicated to modern streetwear, with a focus on the kind of well-priced, hardwearing clothes you could beat up on a skatepark.
The trainer selection is equally sporty, big on Nikes of every denomination: a rainbow of Air Max 1 nestles alongside AF1s and new-old shapes like the Mayfly and Sock Dart. This being Bristol, the staff are more than happy to help you sort through it all.
In London, they say you’re never more than six feet from a trainer shop. But Sneakersnstuff, founded by Swede’s Erik Fagerland and Peter Jansson, is The One when it comes to very good footwear in the capital.
Just ask the legions of trainer fans that queue up on drop day. Often they’re in line for the pair’s own designs, penned in collaboration with one of the many brands that have Sneakersnstuff at the top of their hook-up list. But if you can’t face the camp-out, the rest of the store is still chock-full with exclusives, a result of the pair’s insatiable appetite for the lesser-spotted.
The duo launched the store in Stockholm in 1999, in the days before the internet made copping grail sneakers a one-click affair. Back then they travelled far and wide to track down rare finds, to sell back in Sweden, and that collector’s eye still informs the shelves at the brand’s two-storey Shoreditch flagship (as well as its spots in Mälmo and Paris).
It’s the kind of store where each visit reveals something you’ve never seen before – new colourways, variants, collaborations. Which makes it kind to your trainer rotation, but cruel to your wallet.
Hanon – or Hanon-Shop, for the pedants – has a simple MO: “Providing limited edition, vintage and hard to find sneakers and trainers.” Mission accomplished.
But it’s taken a while for the rest of the world to cotton on. Perhaps it’s because no one ever goes that far north, but the boutique spent a long time beneath the radar, quietly providing Aberdonians with pre-release grail trainers.
Then came the collabs. Recent team-ups with Puma, le coq sportif, Reebok and Asics brought Hanon some well deserved time in the spotlight. If you like to do your sneaker shopping in a beautiful port town, where the hypebeasts camp out amid cobbles and granite, then you’re in luck.