Today, shopping for sneakers in brick-and-mortar stores is practically a thing of the past. Online raffles and digital drops have led slews of streetwear fans to get their kicks online, rather than going to your local sneaker outpost, and getting your foot measured with a Brannock device, like so many of us used to.
So what does it take to lure the millennial masses back to the streets to experience the real world of sneaker retail? A crazy big selection? Highly sought-after deadstock products? Or maybe, it’s a gigantic robotic arm picks sneakers off the shelf.
While going digital seems like the most simple and democratised option, don’t forget there are a whole load of pluses that come with copping your sneakers IRL. Whether you’re a loyal face-to-face shopper or are tempted by the idea of seeing what’s out there, there’s still a bunch of amazing footwear stores that are bound to leave you salivating.
So grab a map and a sharpie, and follow Highsnobiety’s list of the 10 best sneaker stores from around the world that are more than worth the trip.
Foot District, Madrid
Walking through the doors to this Spanish sneaker heaven feels like stumbling into a time machine – one that propels you headfirst into the future. Pairing friendly customer service with a sleek, granite-plated interior, most footwear obsessives flock to the Madrid-based Foot District for its burgeoning showcase of Jordans (so many they’ve dedicated a whole damn room to them), and the inclusion of an 3D printer, which they’ve used to create elements of the shop’s awe-inspiring structure. Stocking just about every drop worth knowing about and a bunch of exclusives to boot, you can’t deny that Foot District take their sneaker game seriously.
Foot District Calle de Valverde 35 28004 Madrid
Set within the history-steeped city of Florence and dressed with mirrors, marble and velvet golden carpets, SOTF – an acronym of Store of the Future – combines classical style elements with an innovative in-store experience. Stocking everything from adidas Originals to Common Projects, with every price point in between, the special thing about SOTF is that you could find yourself selecting a pair of sneakers without barely having to talk to a human being; iPads allow customers to check stock – and make a purchase – without ever having to shout on a store assistant. Impersonal? Sure, but it’s a fascinating look into the way the whole brick-and-mortar sneaker-selling industry might be in the years to come.
SOTF Via de' Tornabuoni 17/r 50100 Firenze FI
A hot, highly respected name in the fashion world, KM20 (basically the Russian Dover Street Market) is Russia's go-to destination for everybody who’s desperate to dress well. Not only is this Moscow concept store known for its finely curated selection of brands – Cotweiller to OFF-WHITE, with a bit of Gosha and Heron Preston in between – they’re probably the best place in Russia to do your sneaker shopping too. Stocking everything from adidas Originals’ finest collabs to the latest, limited edition silhouettes from Vetements x Reebok, their hand-picked selection and discerning eye for good style means picking a pair is no longer a nightmare. Match that with one of the most beautifully designed shop interiors we’ve seen, and KM20 becomes an unmissable stop on your sneaker world tour.
KM20 Pereulok Stoleshnikov 2 125009 Moskva
Chapter Harajuku, Tokyo
Small and unassuming, yet packed to the rafters with a brilliant array of silhouettes, fashion forward Tokyo's Chapter Harajuku is a must-visit location if you’re in Tokyo. Having initially starting out as a tiny spot within a disused junkyard, Chapter Harajuku has served the Japanese city’s local sneaker heads for over two decades, leaving them salivating over the store’s ever-changing selection. Sort of a little brother to the storied Tokyo streetwear and sneaker spot atmos, you can find anything from classic Chucks to limited edition styles from Nike and Adidas. But the real reason to stop by is for their occasional, hard to cop, exclusive collaborations.
Chapter Harajuku 3 Chome-22-7 Jingumae Shibuya Tokyo 150-0001
Slam Jam, Milan
A streetwear and sneaker store that often doubles up as an art gallery too, Slam Jam in Milan have been giving the people of Italy’s most stylish city beautiful footwear for over a decade. First opening its doors in 2005 – a year after the first Slam Jam flagship in Ferrera – the team that run it pride themselves on their brilliant, well-presented selection of sneaker brands from around the world. With adidas Consortium, OFF-WHITE c/o Virgil Abloh and Nike’s special styles all gracing their shelves, you would struggle to leave here feeling dissatisfied. After all, the store (which is immaculately presented and built with love for the building it’s set in) just happens to have some of the coolest and most knowledgeable members of staff you could find.
Slam Jam Via Giovanni Lanza 1 20121 Milano MI
We’ve never heard of a sneaker store being described as a “multi sensory experience” before, but that’s exactly how SVD’s Barcelona location bill theirs. Born from the ashes of Sivasdesvalso, the store that came before it, it’s a two-floor haven of Adidas, Nike, Yeezy, and everything in between. With its dystopian, part-marble-part-brickwork aesthetic, hardcore sneaker lovers could spend hours in here thanks to their ping-pong tables, museum level of beauty, and the never-ending walls of sneakers on show. Barca might not have a long running history of being stalwarts of trendy footwear, but SVD proves that the Catalan capital is more than capable of killing it in future.
SVD Bailén 18 08010 Barcelona
If you wandered into the bright white space of Solebox’s latest Berlin branch, you might think you’d come across a clinical experiment in action. After all, the store’s slightly sci-fi set up allows visitors to witness an automatic, robotic arm pick up and deliver sneakers right from the shelves. By cutting down the time we spend twiddling our thumbs waiting for an assistant to show up, Solebox say they’ve created “the store of the future,” and they back that up with their long line of exciting collabs; adidas Consortium and Reebok are just two of the brands this German footwear stalwart has joined forces with.
Solebox Nürnberger Str. 14 10789 Berlin
RSVP Gallery, Chicago
Originally opened by Virgil Abloh and Just Don Creative Director Don Crawley, RSVP Gallery is as much a treasure trove of art and pop culture relics as it is a go-to luxury sneaker destination. Since its launch in 2009, this Chicago-based boutique has become famous for more than just its owners, and it remains one of the few places in streetwear retail that forgoes the sleek, clinical look in favour of bowling alley neon lights and statues of anime characters. Behind the kitsch, though, you’ll find a few pricey brands on sale; expect to find the latest sneakers from YEEZY and, of course, OFF-WHITE to try on for size. RSVP has truly set itself apart through in-store installations and pop-ups alongside the likes of Fear of God and others.
RSVP Gallery 1753 N Damen Ave Chicago IL 60647
Stadium Goods, New York City
Kicks don’t come more pristine or coveted than the one’s stocked by New York City’s Stadium Goods: a store that curates a gigantic line of the planet’s hardest to find sneakers and streetwear. A baby of the consignment store industry, it was opened in 2015 by Jed Stiller, Yu-Ming Wu and John McPheters, a trio of industry insiders who turned their passion for sneakers into a crazy successful business. Although the brand’s digital presence is seriously next level (you can find Stadium Goods on everything from eBay to GOAT), it’s still worth checking out their never-ending walls of shrink-wrapped and glass protected footwear in store. There, under lurid neon lights, you’ll find the finest selection of vintage Jordans and hard-to-cop Yeezys on the East Coast.
What's more, Stadium Goods is set to expand their offerings into Europe via a new partnership with Zalando.
Stadium Goods 47 Howard St New York NY 10013
It might look like a convenience store from the outside, but this Clearway Street fashion boutique happens to be one of the most respected sneaker spots in Boston. Shrouded in secrecy, you definitely have to be "in-the-know" to figure out how you bypass the stacked shelf entrance and get into the boutique itself, but once you get in, there’s some seriously impressive stuff. Garment wise, the store stock everything from Stüssy to Midnight Studios, while their excellent selection of sneakers range includes Puma exclusives, Raf’s Ozweegos and the coveted COMME des GARÇONS Chucks to name just a few. Recently, the store’s gained such a storied reputation that it’s set to open a new location; this time, out in LA.
Bodega 6 Clearway St Boston MA 02115