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Narrowing down all the kicks ever made into a top 25 sounds like the touchiest topic to tackle – but someone had to do it, right? And that someone was Neal Heard.

the 25 best trainers ever

Picture: ASOS

As author of Trainers and owner of a frighteningly encyclopaedic knowledge of footwear, Neal was more than qualified to take on the task. With a little help from his friends and the general public, the Greatest Sneakers of All Time exhibition launched in London last month. As well as displaying the top 25 in all their glory and collections from the most fervent sneakerheads around, the space chronicled some of the most obscure and entertaining stories about the brands we all know (or thought so, anyway) and love. Did you know Nike bought the Swoosh trademark for just $35? Talk about a snip.


We caught five minutes with Neal to hear about his selection process, his own favourite pairs, and raiding defunct American stockrooms for vintage kicks…

the 25 best trainers ever

Picture: ASOS

What was the selection process like for the 25 shoes? Did you have specific criteria or was it all based on gut feeling?

It's important that everybody is aware that the top 25 was not based on my own personal taste – that would’ve just been an ego trip! To get a fair and wide-ranging top 25, we agreed that we should canvas the opinions of the top 'heads' and industry insiders across the world. So a global spread was chosen, which included all the tribes: terrace lovers, hip-hop crews, sneakerheads, etc. I was honoured enough that a Champions League range of respondents came on board: from Transalpino and 80s Casuals in Liverpool, Gary Warnett and Paul Ruffles in the UK, to AirRev, ClassicKicks, DJ Clark Kent and Russ Bengtson of Complex in the States, Woody of Sneaker Freaker magazine in Australia, Ugly Mely from France and loads more.

the 25 best trainers ever

Picture: ASOS

How did you narrow down the selection?

From everyone's top 25, we literally totalled up the shoes that occurred the most. The only remit we gave was for people to think with an overarching history-defining sense – these had to be designs that meant something big. From these lists, we came up with 50 shoes and, from that list, we let the general public vote for the actual order of the top 25, and that’s what you see on the wall at the exhibition.

the 25 best trainers ever

Picture: ASOS

What’s your personal favourite shoe out of the 25 and why?

Boringly, I would agree with the poll result and go with the Stan Smith. You can't beat pared-back classics for me, and though my roots are with the 80s casuals, this shoe crosses all the boundaries and tribes – it’s universal.


Check out Neal and his team of experts' full top 25 below.

the 25 best trainers ever

Picture: ASOS

The greatest sneakers of all time (25-10)

25. Nike Air Max 1

24. adidas Forum

23. Vans Era

22. adidas ZX8000

21. adidas Spezial

20. Reebok Workout Lo

19. PUMA Suede/State

18. New Balance 998

17. Nike Dunk

16. ASICS GEL-Lyte 3

15. Nike Air Max 95

14. adidas Superstar

13. Nike Air Max 90

12. adidas Samba

11. Nike Air Jordan 3

the 25 best trainers ever

Picture: ASOS

The greatest sneakers of all time (10-1)

10. adidas Ultraboost

09. Nike Huarache

08. PUMA Clyde

07. Nike Air Trainer 1

06. adidas Gazelle

05. Diadora Borg Elite

04. Nike Air Jordan 1

03. Converse Chuck Taylor

02. Nike Air Force 1

01. adidas Stan Smith