Japanese brand SUNCORE is barely known internationally (heck, it's still under the radar domestically) but its funky, chunky sneakers deserve more eyeballs, if for no reason other than them taking familiar footwear shapes and plumping them up with Vibram soles.

Launched in late 2019, SUNCORE has some kind of lofty mission statement about the sun and sunlight and whatever but all you really need to know is that the brand specializes in beefy sneakers with clever uppers and trusty Vibram bottoms.

Available at SUNCORE's website and stockists like HIDE&SEEK, COLLECT, and Transistor, SUNCORE's shoes are at once familiar and distinct, recognizable and foreign.

For instance, this season, there's a backless slip-on model called the "grog," which boasts single-buckle closure with an adjustable strap that certainly resembles a famous mule made by a very old German footwear brand.

Hmmmm, something that sounds like "tirkenstock," maybe?

But that's part of the fun with SUNCORE: recognizing the cues that the label is incorporating into its own designs, but making distinct through those study outsoles.

Some designs, like the "night run" and "para traceur," are pretty standard running shoe fare but incorporate elements that borrow from landmark sneakers like Nike's Kukini without directly lifting elements from the designs that came before.

Other models are basically just SUNCORE's riff on fisherman sandals or hiking boots, set atop one of its usual outsoles.

Like loads of other indie footwear labels, SUNCORE gets a lot of mileage out of Vibram's RollinGait sole unit but its Spring/Summer 2022 collection also works in other shapes, like the smaller grippy outsole that informs the "grog" and "twist deck."

It's fun but it ain't flippant: SUNCORE's product is sturdy stuff and its shoes start at ¥27k JPY (about $230) and peak around ¥36k (about $300).

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