The lines between luxury fashion houses and sportswear brands have somewhat blurred over the past few years, especially regarding footwear design. But make no mistake: this is a recent phenomenon. There was a time when it was easy to discern a luxury house's design from a lineup of sneakers due to the almost generic use of materials or shapes. Of course, there are exceptions to this rule — Prada sneakers being one of them.
Luxury labels such as Lanvin or Balenciaga have successfully closed the gap between high-end and their sportswear competitors. However, when it comes to footwear design, Prada sneaker history stretches back way further than the boom in luxury sneakers that started around five years ago.
While there was a big gap between the iconic Prada America's Cup sneakers and the house's more contemporary designs, the momentum is on Prada's side. The brand shows no signs of slowing down any time soon.
Read on for the most famous & iconic Prada sneakers.
Prada America’s Cup — 1997
Officially called Prada America’s Cup sneakers (as it’s known today) were created for Prada’s Luna Rossa sailing team. It was originally a performance shoe, designed ahead of the team’s first America’s Cup race in 1997, thus getting its modern-day name. In the late ’90s, the sneaker’s technical mesh fabric construction, leather overlays, and rubber sole were considered the pinnacle of sailing footwear.
Nearly 25 years on, Prada America’s Cup sneakers have become a style icon in their own right. Consistently sold out whenever it drops and available in many colorways and variations, these Prada sneakers truly kickstarted Prada’s sneaker lineage.
Prada Sneaker — 1998
Soon after the original Prada America’s Cup sneakers were released, the brand included a hybrid sneaker in its FW98 collection — long before hybrid sneakers were a thing. Again dubbed the Prada Sneaker, albeit the 1998 version, the black Prada sneakers pair combined the original America’s Cup rubber sole with a luxury calf leather upper.
This iconic black Prada Sneakers style is the juxtaposition between the performance-oriented sole and the more formal leather upper that looks as fresh and modern today as it must have been in 1998. If you think you’ve seen this aesthetic before, it’s because you have — over the past few seasons, most luxury labels have brought out their own version of the formal sneaker shoe, Matthew Williams’ 1017 ALYX 9SM Chelsea boot probably being the most recognizable.
Prada Crossection Sneakers — 2018
The release of Prada America's Cup sneakers carried the brand's footwear line for over 20 years before the SS18 collection brought with it Prada's next revolutionary sneaker. Anyone that was around fashion or sneakers in 2018 will know that that was Prada's year. Whereas 2017 had been Balenciaga's with the Triple S, in 2018, Prada's luxurious technical aesthetic was all anyone wanted to buy — extending on the Prada sneakers line.
The Prada Crossection sneakers debuted in 2018 and are made almost entirely of mesh. Taking the sneaker's technical aesthetic to the extreme, Prada added a slip-on design with hook and loop fasteners, as well as a lugged outsole. While the Crossection was overshadowed slightly by its successor, it was the first that channeled Prada's new design language and set the tone for the past three years.
Prada Cloudbust — 2018
The Prada Cloudbust sneakers are Prada’s most famous design of the current era and came shortly after the Crossection in SS18, unveiled during Prada Men’s Spring/Summer 2018 runway show. It ditches its predecessors’ aggressive lugs for a more rounded, almost bulbous tooling. The result is a friendlier, cartoony design that still leans heavily on the technical aesthetic that was so popular at the time.
Around the same time, Prada’s popularity in hip-hop began to rise; cosigns from the likes of A$AP Rocky, Pusha-T, and Kanye West cemented the luxury house’s status as the must-have brand at the tail end of the decade. That popularity was carried over to Prada’s Cloudbust sneakers and, by mid to late 2018, were anything anyone could talk about.
Prada Cloudbust Thunder — 2019
Not satisfied with the celebrity of its original Prada Cloudbust sneakers, Prada pushed on with the Cloudbust Thunder, a much more aggressive take on the previously cartoony and playful original. The Prada Cloudbust Thunder changed the tooling but, perhaps more notably, also injected rubber into the technical upper to create a unique 3D, almost armor-like effect.
Similarly to the Prada America's Cup sneakers, the brand's new line was leaning heavily on the house's performance know-how. This Prada sneakers pair channeled a distinctly sporty look and feel through a luxury lens, providing fans of the brand with the best of both worlds.
Prada Techno — 2020
One of Prada's latest sneakers, the Prada Techno from Prada 2020 collection, is also its most aggressive. Unashamedly technical, its three-part tooling features lugs that will make you think you'll be able to climb whatever terrain is in front of you. The stretch fabric upper of Prada Techno Sneakers pulls from archival models such as the Prada America's Cup, as well as more recent models such as the Prada Cloudbust sneakers.
Prada x adidas
Prada’s partnership with adidas represents the fashion house’s latest foray into the sneaker world. While the Prada X adidas collaboration kicked off with the adidas Superstar and now includes three different silhouettes, it’s the Prada Luna Rossa ’21 that most embodies Prada’s DNA. The Adidas and Prada Luna Rossa sneaker was initially designed for the Pirelli Luna Rossa sailing team as a contemporary, high-performance version of Prada America’s Cup sneakers. The similarities are instantly clear, but there are also enough differences for this shoe to warrant a place on this list. One might even say it’s the perfect marriage between both brands’ DNA.
Spanning nearly 25 years, Prada’s sneaker pedigree is unquestionable. Themes of technical performance materials and a design language that stays true to the original Prada America’s Cup sneakers without seeming stale recur throughout Prada’s sneaker lineage.
Spanning nearly 25 years, Prada’s sneaker pedigree is unquestionable. Themes of technical performance materials and a design language that stays true to the original America’s Cup sneaker without seeming stale, recur throughout Prada’s sneaker lineage.