A quick guide to different types of trainers

words Al Woods

If you still think that trainers are only for the gym or the football pitch, you might have been snoozing on current trends for a while.

Trainers are far from just activewear these days. Take a look at some online comments from fashion-savvy punters, such as these JD Sports reviews, and it’s clear that the humble trainer has crossed into the world of fashion in a big way.

Everything from understated to designer to funky versions like Yeezys goes now, and they are being worn as daily footwear, so it’s time you caught up. Let’s get started with a quick guide to all things trainers.


Lightweight, unfussy and great for summer, they usually come with a contrasting rubber sole and look quite young, if a little retro. Perfect to wear with jeans (if you can stand a turn-up, so much the better) and chinos. Coming from both tennis and basketball traditions, these shoes are usually offered in either low or high-top styles.

As an added bonus, canvas trainers are usually vegan-friendly, but check that the glues used have no animal derivatives, if you are looking specifically for vegan footwear. You should be able to find this information on the company’s website.


Casual, colourful and definitely not afraid of some bold logos, fashion trainers make up for what they lack in technical advancements with in-your-face aesthetics. Fashion collaborations are common and let you combine an appreciation for more than one brand in one purchase, but don’t just buy for the hype, make sure you really like the look.

These can run unto the realms of pricey, so you’ll want to invest in proper cleaning solutions and take good care of them. Fashion trainer collecting is a real thing, so don’t be surprised if, for certain releases, you find a quantity limit in place. It’s to prevent overbuying and reselling!


One of the broadest trainer genres, running shoes come in all shapes and sizes now. Gone are the days when a simple pair of Reebok Classics was the go-to trainer for budding athletes, as now there are hundreds, if not thousands of styles to choose from. The type of running you enjoy will have an impact in the styles you can choose from as well, with specific trail, long-distance and sprint shoes all available.

Comfort and technology are key elements here, with different soles and uppers being trialled regularly. Aesthetics play a secondary role, as performance is the main priority, which is why they are rarely worn as everyday shoes. Try to buy from an outlet that can help you with proper fitting and maximise the longevity by always airing after wear, especially after a longer run.


Despite being a fashion trainer, these deserve a category all of their own, because they aren’t for the faint-hearted. Expensive, aesthetically unique and intrinsically tied to a controversial celebrity figure (Kanye ‘running for President in 2020’ West, in case you’ve been living under a rock), Yeezys are most definitely not for everyone.

These trainers definitely make a statement, however, and demonstrate certain fashion credentials. The only problem seems to be getting hold of a pair. Despite the price tag, Yeezys always sell out quickly.


Reminiscent of the shoes worn by professional sportspeople in the 1970s, these are a very specific genre of trainer that gained a new cult following gin the 1990s, when indie band frontmen started wearing them, whilst also coining the term ‘shoegazing’. It’s no surprise that they liked admiring their footwear while dancing!

Basically, anything cute, low-profile, in a colourful suede and with a fun name, such as ‘Gazelle’ is included here. Shell-toes also fall into this category and again, enjoyed a serious renaissance in the 1990s, when the hip-hop world adopted them as a uniform staple. Wearers of a certain age will remember getting annoyed when beer got spilled on the suede at gigs, so don’t forget to buy some suede protector if you buy them this time round!


Wearing trainers for comfort is all well and good but if you’re not a fan of big logos or garish colour schemes, you need to look out for minimal designs. With little in the way of embellishments, these trainers can look smart and are acceptable within a smart-casual dress code, making them popular for work as well as play.

Plain leather trainers up the smart factor, as will suede, but canvas options will look naturally more laid-back. Leather options can work well with a suit for a unisex and modern take on business wear.


A curious combination of a platform and a creeper, flatform trainers are a fashion footwear option that offer height, comfort and a bold aesthetic. Not quite as daring as the platform trainers of old, championed by the likes of the Spice Girls, flatforms normally top out with a one to one-and-a-half inch thick sole and a lace-up front.

Popular with retro fans and younger trainer wearers, we’re not sure if these have a long future ahead of them but they are fun for now.


Skate shoes offer the perfect alternative to annoying laces, with slip-on styles in both plain and wacky colour schemes, all finished off with a super grippy waffle sole. No longer just worn by those on skateboards or BMXs, skate trainers are the go-to casual slip on for anyone living in long shorts or jeans, but they are just as practical for both kinds of wearer as they ever have been.

Frequent fun collaborations mean that there’s a skate shoe for almost everyone. From Marvel to Hello Kitty and pretty much everything in between, the upper options are endless.

Once upon a time, trainers just referred to a simple pair of shoes that you wore for PE, but now it covers a vast array of different styles that can be used for everything from popping to the pub or training for an Olympic triathlon.


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