15 Highly Unconventional Sneaker Designs

Adidas / Adidas

From their modest beginnings as a rubberized alternative to hard-soled shoes at the turn of the century, sneakers have become big business: Companies are in a race for consumer dollars, and their increasingly elaborate designs have helped transform the category from a practical apparel business to a bonafide art form. As in any medium, some of it can be a little abstract. Check out 15 of the weirdest sneakers you’ll ever lace up.

1. Converse CT Thong Sandal


Who among us hasn’t been able to decide between a sporty sneaker and a beach-ready flip-flop? Converse introduced this hybrid circa 2011 for those who need some ankle support while lounging. A similar design, the Converse Gladiator, features a zipper for anyone who feels weird tying a pair of sandals.

2. Adidas Originals JS Bones


Adidas isn’t kidding when it comes to their line of Originals: You are not going to go unnoticed when sporting a pair of trainers that look like they came from the closet of Pebbles Flintstone. The bones are made of plastic, but that probably won’t stop your dog from destroying them.

3. Dada Code M


Possibly the only shoe to ever receive a review from CNET.com, Dada’s 2007 kicks were engineered with a built-in speaker system and MP3 player.  The power button is located on the right tongue; the shoes also offer a wireless headphone option. The tech world’s biggest complaint with this “loudsneaker”? Not enough storage space.

4. Reebok Insta Pump Fury


Produced in Japan as a tie-in product for the popular anime series Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, the Insta Pump Fury was designed to resemble the Tachikoma droid character from the show. The shoe company worked in collaboration with MegaHouse Toys for the release, which was successful enough to warrant a few follow-ups. Sadly, they’re only available in Asia.

5. Adidas SpringBlade


People on pogo sticks look silly. So why not take the benefits of spring-loaded locomotion and transfer it to a sneaker? The shoe debuted in 2013, promising to offer a bouncy heel and better cushioning; later models confined the springs to the rear. Runner’s World once took them out for a spin. Their verdict? Comfortable, but taxing: Each shoe weighs roughly 12 ounces.

6. Converse CT Clear


What’s the point of owning SpongeBob socks if no one sees them? Converse did novelty footwear a favor by introducing their Clear Chuck Taylors, which were made of plastic, in 2008.

7. Nike Dunk High Pro SB Papa Bear


Produced in conjunction with the Bearbrick toy line of Japan, the Papa Bears are part of Nike’s “three bears” line, each sporting distinctive colors and a furry exterior. Buyers who liked the layout but didn’t want their feet to look like the floor of a hunting lodge eventually got an “Un Papa” version, with the fur switched out for suede.

8. Saucony Shadow 5000 “Burger” Shoe


Inspired by fast food, Saucony’s burger shoe comes in a sparse, takeout-style box. The sneaker itself is designed to resemble a hamburger, with red (ketchup), tan (bun), yellow (mustard), and green (lettuce) colors, and the laces come in condiment packaging.

9. Nike Footscape Hideout


There’s a lot going on with this thing, so bear with us. Originally released with woven stitching that made it resemble a bit of a Frankenshoe, Nike and design firm Hideout then tweaked the edition so it took on the Livestrong color scheme while maintaining the horse hair exterior.

10. Onitsuka Tiger Okatabi


While the five-toed Vibrams caught most of the “What on God’s earth…” press upon release, Onitsuka was quietly cornering the lobster-claw market. The Tiger line is modeled after the Japanese tabi athletic shoes of the 1950s. Laugh if off if you like, but Shigeki Tanaka won the 1951 Boston Marathon in a pair.  

11. Adidas Originals Tassled Golf Sneaker


Feeling fancy? Or like one sneaker tongue isn’t enough for your next golf outing or job interview? These Adidas feature three tongues capped off by tassels. It’s like having a holiday party on your feet 365 days a year.

12. Nike Air Baked Mid

Mita Sneakers

Sneakers can be a poor choice for winter wear—unless you grabbed a box of Nike’s fur-lined offering back in 2009. They were part of the company’s Matagi imprint, named after Japanese winter hunters who capture prey like serows (a goat-antelope mammal) without modern weapons.

13. Adidas Wings

Kevin Wu, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

Too subtle? Consider the glow-in-the-dark version. Then consider going to a lot of raves.

14. Camper Himalayan


Designed by Bernard Willhelm, the Campers have become a fashion must for trendy urbanites. For the rest of us, it’s a bold choice, and one that makes the Adidas Wings look like a pair of Crocs.

15. Adidas Originals Teddy Bear


Getting beat in a pick-up game of basketball is bad enough, but imagine your opponent tears it up while two teddy bears are strapped to his feet and taunting you. Originally released in pink and brown back in 2010, the latter now goes for $1500 on the collector’s market.