Picture this. A bridegroom wearing slippers at the altar.
Or Usain Bolt running in flippers. What do these two images have in common?
Neither happens in reality, obviously. Unless Bolt is reading this.
The real question is, why doesn’t either of the above happen? Simple, when we look at footwear we consider:
- Aesthetics – does it look good on you?
- Cultural context – has it been accepted by the group you’re with?
- Practicality – does it serve its purpose? (Granted, Bolt can outrun me, but he won’t be competing in flippers)
When it comes to breaking, we all choose sneakers (mostly) for the same reasons. In fact, sneakers have been a huge part of our fashion. Of course, non-bboys sport the fresh kicks we wear as well.
But, put a random John Doe next to a bboy…
And both guys will be looking at the same pair of shoes with really different lenses.
And one of the really annoying problems we’ve faced is,
“How do I choose the right pair of sneakers for breaking?”
There you are, a bboy/bgirl with little to no experience. You’re at a warehouse sneaker sale with a myriad of shoes laid out in front of you. They’re all waiting for your eager feet to caress against their insoles…
But just like selecting a boy/girlfriend, how do you know what’s gonna be a good fit for you?
Sure, you’ve got a rough idea of what your taste is like. But you don’t always know what’s great to wear when you’re dancing on concrete or parquet. When you’re doing sliding footwork. When you’re training power moves. When you want to protect your twice-stubbed toes…
The list of concerns goes on.
Having realized there’s no guide out there that I know of (apart from this),
And realizing I’ve worn a wide range of shoes in breaking…
I decided to write this little introductory sneaker guide for bboys and bgirls.
This guide is for those who aren’t sure what sneakers are decent to break in.
Just in case you’re wondering how I assess the shoes below, it’s primarily based on the reasons at the top. These are shoes that I’ve worn before, or are highly recommended by other breakers.
Also, If you come across a shoe term that you don’t understand, read this shoe anatomy guide in a new tab.
So here’s the list of shoes that I’ve put in the hot seat…
(Psst. I’ve kept the shoe display images to mostly black and white – gonna keep it visually neutral so you can make a fairer judgment.)
This is an iconic pair, the Apache of breaking shoes. Whenever you hear Apache at a jam (and you always do), you see the Suedes. Most bboys I know have tried the Suedes at least once.
Fun Fact: The Suede was endorsed by the basketball legend, Walter “Clyde” Frazier and Puma re-created a Suede for him, calling it the Clyde.
Who Wore It: Watch This
Aesthetics: Colourways are plenty – seriously, check out the full range here
Weighing scale: Relatively heavy (compared to Adidas Gazelles below)
Durability: Rubber soles last longer than most pairs here
- Sliding on the ground – the suede material is smoooooooth…
- Choice of aesthetics
- Decent protection of your toes and feet soles
- Rubber soles don’t wear out fast
- Cleaning (unless you have a set of Jason Markk sneaker cleaners)
- Maintenance (you know suede doesn’t go well with rain, right?)
Another classic among the bboys. You’ll probably see a lot of graffiti characters sporting the Superstar because it’s easily recognizable.
Fun Fact: With its signature thick shoe tongue, this pair of shoes was featured or seen in various media.
Who Wore It: Run-DMC + a heck load of bboys and bgirls
Aesthetics: The classic version has a minimalist design (typically two colours, one base and one for the signature three stripes). Recently, there’s the Pharrel Williams supercolour series that comes in 50 colours.
Yo mama Heavy as bricks
Durability: the Nokia of sneakers
- Protecting your toes and feet soles (seriously, this is Durex Extra Safe for bboys)
- Spinning on the tip of your toes (not just the ball of the feet)
- Trying out new technical transitions or power moves (especially if you predict you’ll stub your toes every now and then)
- Conditioning your foot/leg work, so you’ll be faster when you wear lighter shoes for competitions
- Sliding and sweeping on rough surfaces (especially leather; the PVC material doesn’t last as long and might create rips/cracks along the welt)
- Feeling solid on your feet
- Speed in power moves (or general movement)
- Making you feel heavier/sluggish
- Feeling chunky (more so than other shoes)
If you want to feel like you’re flying, wear the Superstar for a couple of hours… THEN wear the Gazelle. You could also just drink Red Bull.
Fun Fact: Famous designer Richard Nicoll sent all his models down the runway in Adidas Gazelles
Who Wore It: Jamiroquai, Noel Gallagher (Oasis), Madonna
Aesthetics: Variety of colourways and material (see here) + minimalistic design
Weighing scale: Light as a feather
Durability: Surprisingly hardy. Almost like a cockroach, if they weren’t disgusting (and made of suede and rubber).
- Fresh colourways (entire colour range can be found in their customizer here)
- Packing into luggages or your bag because it’s compact as fuck
- Footwork execution because it’s just that light!
- Fast footwork – especially if your footwork has rapid, jerky motions or if you’re breaking to high BPM/fast breakbeats
- Those who love minimalistic design
- Daily wear (if you wear it for practice AND work/walking/going on dates, you probably have to invest in a new pair soon)
- Training new powers (if you smack your feet on the ground – especially from a high dive – be prepared to feel pain)
- Maintenance (because suedes dirty easily, and y’know, rain)
- Soles don’t retain grip after a while because they wear out fast
(Enjoying the article but need to go off for practice? We’ve got you covered. Just download the ebook here)
Not many bboys rock this pair of shoes, which is surprising given that it’s a good balance of weight and protection.
Fun Fact: Reebok is Afrikaans for the grey rhebok, a type of antelope. The name was chosen because the founders wanted to depict speed, style and grace. (Oddly Gazelles are also a type of antelope. Wonder what’s with the love for African hoofed animals?)
Who Wore It: Not many bboys (so take advantage of this fact if you’re looking to stand out at a jam)
Aesthetics: Decent range of colourways (not as much as the Puma Suedes though). Multitude of material – so there’s a choice of how you want your shoes to feel like.
Weighing scale: Average/Mehhh
Durability: Handle with care
- Protecting your feet soles
- Protection-weight ratio
- Easy maintenance
- Displaying the ‘crocodile jaws’ – that’s when the front of the rubber soles split from the front of your shoes (i.e. the welt doesn’t hold well). This typically happens when you slide with the tip of your toes often.
- Sliding (see above point)
One of the newcomers in recent years, more bboys are wearing the Saucony Jazz as it has some really funky colours to choose from. Also, it offers a fresh look towards the typical-looking sneakers.
Fun Fact: The outsole of the Jazz has become the brand signature of most Saucony shoes.
Who Wore It: Rod Dixon, winner of 1983 New York Marathon and an Olympian.
Aesthetics: Decent colour range.
Weighing scale: Can’t feel a thing
Durability: Sturdy and offers good grip on the toe box
- Acceptable Protection
- Variety of material
- Good grip
- Slides easily
- Threading (good grip)
- Grip (AFTER wear and tear)
Nike Air Max
Imagine Tigger from Winnie the Pooh in shoe form. That’s the Air Max. Full of bounce, with its visible air capsule embedded in the soles.
Fun Fact: There was a period in Japan where the Japanese started to mug each other for Air Maxes.
Who Wore It: Orlando Bloom, Jared Leto, Rita Ora, Chris Evans, Macklemore, Zayn Malik… President Obama?!
Aesthetics: Looks different from other sneakers because of its visible air capsule cushioning.
Weighing scale: Barely weighs anything (but chunky)
- Protecting your feet especially around your heels
- Colour range (and combinations) usually look good
- You don’t feel like you’ll crash in this pair but you actually do. Probably because it takes time to get used to the chunky soles
- Won’t get away with the sloppiness of your power moves (it will be obvious, if anything)
A variant of the Gazelle that typically comes in suede/nylon material combinations. Also, it has a very distinct ridged sole.
Fun Fact: Although not as popular as the other Adidas sneakers, the Adidas Dragon has actually been around since the 1970s.
Who Wore It: Close Enough
Aesthetics: Similar to the Gazelle except the colour range is slightly more mundane (or duller if you don’t like darker shades). Signature soles are jagged and ridged.
Weighing scale: Light enough you barely feel a thing
Durability: The tougher cousin of the Gazelle
- People who like a rougher surface for stability in movement
- Grip on the floor
- People like me who dislike the rough feeling of the sole e.g. when doing bboy threads, you typically use your hand to grab the shoes (feels like the spine of a dragon you see in games and movies… Hmm.)
- Limited colours
Another one of the up and coming sneakers that bboys would wear to practice. You could say this is the bigger brother of the Saucony Jazz. Protects most of your feet except the toe box area – which is (ironically) its Achilles heel. There, I’ve said it.
Who Wore It: I have absolutely no idea.
Aesthetics: Like a less distinct Nike Air Max
Weighing scale: Close to the Air Max
- Low maintenance
- Overall protection, especially around the heel
- Lightweight feeling
- Low protection around the toe box (I’ve gotten more stubbed toes from wearing this pair than the others)
- ‘Crocodile jaws’ syndrome (once the rubber begins to wear off at the front!)
- Water resistance is below mediocre
Converse Chuck Taylors
Another definite sight at bboy jams. Also commonly seen at punk rock festivals and high schools.
Fun Fact: Converse sold its rights to Nike after filing for bankruptcy in 2003. Also the Chuck Taylors are named after the basketball player and shoe evangelist Chuck Taylor.
Who Wore It: Miley Cyrus, Emma Watson, Rihanna, Daniel Radcliffe, Dwayne Wade, Hugh Jackman, Gisele Bundchen, Will Smith, Bruno Mars, Usher, Drake, a whole long list of celebrities… AND almost every bboy in the world.
Aesthetics: Highly versatile – not just having one of the widest range of colourways, the Chuck Taylors is typically made of canvas material which allows you to… Well, paint on canvas. Feel free to go wild with your imagination and artistry here if you’re equipped with fabric paint.
Weighing scale: Probably the helium of sneakers
Durability: Good for the first 3 to 6 months… After that, you’re probably better off getting another pair.
- Throwing into your luggage (crumple it as you like)
- High cut version of the Chuck Taylors is still light as fuck
- Colour and visual versatility
- Nil protection (your heels will feel the wrath of floor for stepping so hard on it, your toes get smashed when diving into the ground… AND your sides just get to see the canvas material split thread by thread as you slide more)
- Metal rings (around the lace holes) will crumple and saw the material of your laces
- Splitting open on the sides (because the welt isn’t glued on strong enough to take all the footwork bboys do)
- Waterproofing sucks… But hey, it’s the kind of sneakers where the more rugged it is the better it looks.
- Rubber sides also chip away the more you break in this pair.
The Adidas Dragon of Nike. Comes in a couple of materials – pure leather, or nylon-suede combination.
Fun Fact: The Cortez is the first track shoe created by Nike, and was thought to be significant to the success of the Nike brand
Who Wore It: Kendrick Lamar, Forrest Gump (no way!?), Shia LaBeouf (he just did it), Fergie
Aesthetics: Colour combinations are decent – some complement well, most are decent looking basic colours (e.g. maroon and white tick)
Weighing scale: Nylon-suede version is so light you’d think you weren’t wearing shoes. Leather version is slightly heavy but feels solid when you footwork in it.
Durability: Fast to wear out, the sides can hold up though
- Speed (for nylon version)
- Versatile in colour matching with your full attire
- Sole cushioning – spongy material absorbs impact well especially at the heels
- Durability of the sole is really low (this shoe suffers the ‘crocodile jaw’ syndrome from the front and back ends of the feet area)
- Protection of the toes
Visually similar to Nike Air Max at the heel counter. It’s part of the whole running sneakers look that sports brands are creating nowadays.
Fun Fact: There’s a pair of ZX750 that comes in handcrafted mud. Distressed fashion they call it. (I am distressed about it too.)
Who Wore It: Nobody else that I know of (well, besides me)
Aesthetics: Complementary colours are well picked, combination of materials (suede, mesh, rubber) goes well together
Weighing scale: The equivalent of plus-sized models for sneakers
Durability: Sturdy and long-lasting
- Its resilience
- Breaks the visual plain-ness because of contrasting, complementary colours
- Lots of cushion around the whole foot, no worries about slamming too hard on your soles or stubbing your toes.
- Weight (but not as heavy as you think it is)
- Meshed area is easily torn
- Meshed area absorbs water easily
Lightweight and chunkier at the back. Observation: I know a handful of people (myself included) who seem reluctant to break in Huarache after buying it. 5 million Monopoly dollars to anyone who can tell me why.
Fun Fact: Huarache is actually a kind of Mexican sandal made of leather. I actually had to Wikipedia this to fact-check.
Who Wore It: Kobe! Kobe! Kobe! Wait, you mean the sandal?
Aesthetics: Sleek design with some fresh colourways. Looks kinda structurally fragile though.
Weighing scale: light as a feather, if the feather was made of helium somehow.
Durability: Overall it’s decent so far, but you might want to take note of the front. Because crocodile jaws.
- Heel protection
- Flying. I mean footwork.
- Sliding on the front
- Floor grip
- Sliding on the sides (rubbery texture)
- Toe box protection
New Balance NB1 574
Initially a tennis and running shoe, it doubled as a casual sneaker for many. Seems like this pair is making its presence again in recent years…
Fun Fact: It’s the only New Balance shoe you can customize it right to the detail. Also, did you know that New Balance shoes are numbered and never named?
Who Wore It: Rihanna, Adam Levine, Will Ferrell, Elijah Wood (Yep, Frodo wore sneakers)
Aesthetics: Colours come in great complementary combos – not a bad choice if you have a versatile wardrobe. Each pair is made of suede and mesh.
Weighing scale: Lighter than the average shoe in this list (based on what I wore)
Durability: Decent but it offers little to no protection on the topside of your feet
- Spinning (a lot)
- Unmatched comfort and cushion-y feeling (It’s really soft)
- Gripping (sole doesn’t stick that well to the floor)
- Toebox area protection (front of shoe is reaaally soft and material is thin)
Part of the Nike Skateboarding brand, the Blazers are high cut suede shoes. Looks heavy, but not as heavy as you would think. I think it looks great with long pants.
Fun Fact: Made popular by Iceman. (Kidding, the Iceman was a famous basketballer called George Gervin)
Aesthetics: Usually a single suede colour followed by a white Nike tick, the Blazer doesn’t offer much in terms of unique colour combinations. However, its high cut profile looks great and breaks the standard mold of other sneakers (even as compared to Chuck Taylors).
Weighing scale: Not Chuck Taylors light, but still surprisingly light for its look.
Durability: Great durability, lasted me for a pretty long while. However, the suede colour does wear off and looks duller.
- Looking fresh with long pants/jeans
- Protecting your soles of your feet
- Looking different from other dancers
- Fast footwork
SneakerNews says it’s one of the brand’s most recognizable shoes in their arsenal these days.
Fun Fact: It was originally released in the 80’s as a runner, but became more of a sneaker after sneakerheads started wearing it. It uses the Trinomic cushioning system, which helps compress and rebound load (that explains why runners love it.)
Who Wore It: Meek Mill
Aesthetics: I’d say it looks pretty similar to the Saucony Shadow in terms of design.
Weighing scale: Similar in weight to the Saucony Shadow.
Durability: Will update this part as I wear the R6987 more often to practice!
- Bouncy heels great for landing after flipping or doing some epic moves.
- Protecting your toes after throwing your powermoves.
- Threading. The high heel counter might chip your hand.
This is actually the slimline version of Reebok’s other iconic shoe, the Pump Fury. No wonder it’s called the Furylite.
Fun Fact: Reebok held a competition where they designed 4 Reebok Furylite specifically for Connor McGregor and fans could vote for which one he would walk in for UFC 194.
Who Wore It: Connor McGregor (duh)
Aesthetics: Looks pretty unique I would say. Doesn’t have the conventional laced-up look, and has a heel that juts out (however, not my preference.)
Weighing scale: Pretty light (I guess it’s furily light? Heh.)
Durability: Can’t say for sure. Will update if I destroy it/it lasts for a while :O
- There’s a toe cap which may protect your toes during your moves.
- It’s kind of slippery and not much grip on the sole.
- I don’t feel safe doing certain moves as it gives me the feeling I might slip and fall.
- It hurts like shit when I do power 🙁
- The heel juts out too much, but hey that’s a personal preference for me.
Nike Air Max Royal 1
This is a makeover of the original beloved AirMax, which also got released on Air Max day.
Fun Fact: Wait a moment… There’s an Air Max Day?! (It’s March 26 by the way.) And also, while researching this, I learnt that there’s Air Max Con too.
Who Wore It: Fabolous, Bella Hadid
Aesthetics: There is a lining of wood at the side of the shoes, which reminds me of Timbaland! (No, not the rapper/producer.)
Weighing scale: Not as light as a Converse (of course.)
Durability: Can’t say for sure. Will update if I destroy it/it lasts for a while :O
- Lots of protection for the heel.
- Buffers damage that you get from flips or high-risk moves.
- There’s even a heel counter which holds up your shoe!
- Not that light, which may make it less ideal for footwork.
- Gets dirty pretty easily 🙁
So there you have it. A rather elaborate answer to the question, which pair of sneakers should you buy?
(If you want the answer with you on your phone or tablet always… Download the ebook here)
By now you’re more confident in deciding what you’ll wear to future practices.
Also, I’d like you to share with me one of two things in the comments below:
- What you love about your favourite sneakers, OR
- Where you get your sneakers online
I’m sure as much as I love sneakers, I don’t know everything about it yet 🙂
P.S. If you’ve other shoes you’d like to review and feature, hit me up at firstname.lastname@example.org!