The best gifts for sneakerheads are nostalgia-drenched time machines that’ll help any recipient—no matter how old or jaded—relieve the glory days of their youth. (They also happen to come pre-wrapped in a box that looks way more impressive than whatever packaging AirPods arrive in.) But sneakers aren’t just a wise means of endearing yourself to your favorite kicks enthusiast—they’re also an easy way to circumvent the perennial sizing concerns involved in gifting your loved ones a jacket, say, or a pair of jeans.
9 Red-Hot Kicks for Everyone on Your List
You don’t need to know someone’s exact measurements to buy them a pair of sneakers that’ll slot neatly into their rotation (or, at the very least, garner prime of place in some shrine-like setup in their bedroom): all you need to know is their shoe size.
But before you go snapping up the first pair of high-tops that hit your explore page, know that true-blue sneakerheads have a rep for being some of the most particular consumers on the planet. Remember, these are folks who sweat minute differences between toe boxes and tongue lengths, and spend weeks lurking on forums, texting their plugs, and evaluating their StockX portfolios to hunt down the exact pair they’re looking for. And with a seemingly endless flow of new releases hitting the web every week, grabbing the right pair can come with its own set of stressors. So this year, we’re stepping in to lend a hand.
Below you’ll find the best gifts for sneakerheads of every type, from your snot-nosed, mildly-TikTok-famous cousin to your dad who, frankly, has worn his designated lawn-mowing shoes to Thanksgiving dinner for the last damn time. Happy holidays, you filthy animals.
For The Newly-Minted Enthusiast
If the fella on your list just got caught the sneaker bug, you’ll never go wrong with a pair of Jordans in a colorway His Airness actually rocked on the hardwood. A general rule: The ones Mike wore when he was suiting up for the Bulls (that’d be numbers 1-14) are considered the best options, with the 1s, 3s, and 4s often regarded as the truly can’t-miss of the bunch. But you don’t have to spend NBA contract money to get a pair of kicks that’ll prepare your wide-eyed sneakerhead for a lifetime of misery. You just have to gift them a shoe that’s been around for decades, looks great with everything, and isn’t going to lose an iota of its cool any time soon.
For The Cool Dad
Over the last few years, dad shoes have made the unlikely transition from faux pas to must-have. Which means getting your old man a pair of kicks packed with all the comfort he deserves (and plenty of the cool factor he might be missing) is easier than ever. Just tell him to keep a straight face when kids half his age start enviously ogling his feet; he’ll probably get a real—dad joke incoming—kick out of it.
For The Fella Who Actually Wears His Sneakers
Not everyone who’s obsessed with sneakers treats them like fine art—some people just want a pair of shoes they can throw on, beat up, and wear until the soles fall off. Those sensible-minded rebels probably need a pair of durable canvas kicks that’ll look good with everything they own, from baggy cargos to cutoff jorts.
For the Gorp Guy
Does the fella you’re shopping for spend more time in the woods than on the subway? Good news: These trail-ready sneakers are designed to help him get a grip in all sorts of off-path locales. And if he’s a slick city-dweller who likes to cosplay as anything but, these’ll remind him of what he’s missing, minus the campsite and bug bites.
For the Real Fashion Freak
Is there a guy in your life who spent Thanksgiving lamenting the end of Raf Simons’ namesake label and/or Alessandro Michele’s departure from Gucci? Get them a pair of capital-F Fashion sneakers to ease the pain, whether it’s Prada’s early aughts grail or an instant classic from Adidas and Grace Wales Bonner, one of the industry’s brightest new stars.
For the Subtle Flexer
A primo pair of sneakers can be a one-way ticket to all sorts of online clout and IRL bragging rights, but not everyone who loves shoes is in the game to stunt. If that type of low-key sensibility sounds like his MO, buy him some great-looking, goes-with-everything kicks that in-the-know heads will appreciate, but won’t invite a dramatic degree of attention—or derision.
For the Gym Rat
Shopping for a guy who takes the idea of flexing a little too literally? These workout shoes aren’t the fastest way to rack up IG likes, but they’ll help your favorite fitness aficionado come correct to their next set (and won’t look half bad in those mirror selfies, either).
For the OG Obsessive
Know a guy who’s been collecting Jordans since MJ was rocking with the Alan Parsons Projects, or bitterly remembers the days of buying the latest Js in, uh, actual stores? (What a concept!) Play into his nostalgia and get him a pair of sneakers that probably featured heavily in a ’90s-era Eastbay catalog—and then watch his childhood dreams come true.
For the Tireless Scroller
If you’ve got a youngster on your list who stays glued to the timeline like a fly on paper, gift ’em a pair of kicks they and their followers will appreciate. Each of the sneakers below have enjoyed their own moment this year, but all will look especially excellent with the baggy, Y2K-adjacent jeans their recipient swears by. Coaxing them off their phone and into the living room long enough to unwrap a present, though, is another job entirely.