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If we asked you to list a few sneaker brands, you’d likely start with names like Nike, Adidas, New Balance and even Converse. There are so many incredible shoe brands that sell sneakers, but none of the biggest names are Black-owned. The brands that the most popular athletes, celebrities and influencers wear aren’t owned by Black folks—even though these shoes have been marketed toward the Black community (and especially Black athletes) for years. In fact, Black-owned sneaker brands are hard to find even if you do search for them.
Of course, you might be wondering about Kanye West’s brand Yeezy. Isn’t that Black-owned? Well, kind of. According to Business Insider, Yeezy is actually in partnership with Adidas—which, as you might have guessed, isn’t a Black-owned company. So while Kanye West definitely makes plenty of cash from the streetwear brand, it’s not its own separate entity detached from any other company. West is in partnership with Adidas, and just signed a contract with Gap for a Yeezy collection with them. Obviously Yeezy is an extremely successful streetwear and sneaker brand; it’s just a little more complicated when it comes to ownership.
Frankly, it’s all a bit shocking. One would assume that there would be dozens of cool Black-owned sneaker brands out there. There are some incredible Black-owned clothing businesses, lifestyle brands and even general footwear brands—so why not very many sneaker brands? There are plenty of theories to discuss, but one might simply be the fact that the largest and most popular sneaker brands that exist right now already have the love of Black athletes, celebrities and influencers. Michael Jordan was always tied to Nike Air Jordans and Cardi B works with Adidas—so why would they start their own sneaker brands? With sponsorship deals, endorsements and the like, these big brands already have a leg up. It doesn’t seem to leave much room for newcomers.
Even Black-owned athletic and sneaker brands Enda and NinetyNine (about which you’ll read more below) get far less recognition in the sports industry than Nike and Adidas. The sneaker game is a difficult arena in which to break in—and even harder if you’re a Black-owned company. These are, of course, just theories, and others have developed different ones as to why Black-owned sneaker brands are so few, too. At the end of the day, though, it’s a good reminder that we still have a long way to go in achieving actual racial equity in the fashion industry.
That said, the black-owned sneaker brands that do exist are incredible and definitely deserve more hype. If you’re ready to shop some of the best Black-owned sneaker brands that do exist, keep reading for seven companies we’ve found. Whether you’re into fashion over function or need a new high-quality running sneaker, these brands likely have what you’re looking for. Hopefully in the near future, we’ll see this list grow exponentially. Until then, let’s support these Black-owned brands, shall we?
Made for runners at every level, NinetyNine sneakers are built on the best practices of the world’s best running shoe companies. With breathable mesh and extra support for the achilles tendon and ankle, these running sneakers are sure to step up your workout game.
2. ML Neik’s Design Studio
One of the best things about Etsy is all the amazing brands you can discover. One in particular is ML Neik’s Design Studio: a small Black-owned brand that carries all the aesthetically pleasing sportswear you could ever need. From cute and function sneakers to Insta-worthy leggings, do yourself a favor and check out this Etsy shop ASAP.
KEEXS is actually the first innovative and social footwear brand to come out of South Africa. With African-inspired casual footwear in sizes that range larger than your average sneaker brand, KEEXS is a brand anyone with unapologetic style looking to stand out in a crowd should shop.
4. Sole Rebels
If you’re looking for a Black-owned sneaker brand that features ethically made shoes, you’ll definitely want to check out Sole Rebels. These sneakers blend together the artisan talents of the Ethiopian community with the traditional Ethiopian recycled tire shoe (also called a “barabasso”).
5. Nagast Footwear
Tarik Edmonson is the owner of Nagast Footwear, who got into the shoe industry because he noticed a lack of African-Egyptian styles from other Black-owned brands. So, Edmonson decided to create his own brand of sneakers that embody his heritage—and look really cool, too.
Proudly made in Kenya, Enda sneakers are the first Kenyan running shoe. The brand started in 2016, and promise that their shoes can help make you a better runner (as long as you train!) and that they work to remain an environmentally friendly company—while also staying majority Black and Kenyan-owned.
7. Armando Cabral
Armando Cabral—the founder of the brand—set out to create a luxury footwear brand that celebrates personal style one bespoke pair of shoes at a time. While Armando Cabral offers far more than just sneakers, his high-tops are a luxurious dream and must-shop.
Our mission at STYLECASTER is to bring style to the people, and we only feature products we think you’ll love as much as we do. Please note that if you purchase something by clicking on a link within this story, we may receive a small commission of the sale and the retailer may receive certain auditable data for accounting purposes.