The All-Time Greatest Pride-Inspired Sneakers
Over the last decade, sneaker brands have made Pride Month a key part of their release slate. From Nike's yearly BETRUE collection – born from the ideas of a small collective of LGBTQ+ employees in 2012 – to adidas' annual collection of themed releases, Pride kicks are created to commemorate a month of love and acceptance and are often accompanied by a charitable aspect that raises funds and awareness for LGBTQ+ causes.
Sometimes, Pride releases can seem lazy and pandering: more than one brand has been guilty of slapping a rainbow colour scheme on a shoe, making an empty statement and calling it a day. However, other releases are fierce, unique and proud, just like Pride month itself! We've compiled 10 of the very best Pride sneakers for your viewing pleasure below. Happy Pride Month!
Nike Sock Dart 'BETRUE'
Year of Release: 2015
Nike's inaugural BETRUE collection appeared in 2013, but after focusing mostly on Frees and one-off basketball shoes, BETRUE really came into its own in 2015 with the release of the Sock Dart 'BETRUE'. A cult favourite from the Nike Sportswear catalogue that eschews a traditional lacing system in favour of a plastic overlay, the Sock Dart 'BETRUE' was dressed in black and featured rainbow gradient details atop that famous plastic overlay, making for a tasteful, low-key lifestyle homage.
adidas Superstar 'Pride'
Year of Release: 2016
adidas Originals' 2016 Pride collection was all about the classics, as it was centred around splatter detail-equipped takes on both the Superstar and the Stan Smith. The standout style of the bunch, however, was the white/black/gold Superstar – a timeless design with abstract paint splatters that followed the colour scheme of the Pride flag, giving them an artistic-yet-respectful twist.
Converse Chuck 70 'Pride Pack'
Year of Release: 2017
Converse have created dozens (literally) of Pride-themed Chuck Taylors and Chuck 70s over the years. They've collaborated with Miley Cyrus, coated the classic hoops shoe in glitter and much more. However, their best effort was this high-top Chuck 70 from 2017. Instead of taking the well-worn rainbow colourway path, Converse instead opted to dress the Chuck 70 in a wealth of Pride-themed patches, leaning into its 1970s heritage and giving off inclusive hippie vibes. It looked like a custom-patched shoe you'd catch in the Castro District back in the day, not something released by a major footwear brand, and that's what makes it memorable.
Nike Air VaporMax 'BETRUE'
Year of Release: 2017
2017 saw the introduction of VaporMax, Nike's then-latest and greatest interpretation of Air Max technology. Alongside Comme des Garçons and CLOT colabs, one of the pairs that made the most noise was the Air VaporMax 'BETRUE'. Inarguably the standout from 2017's BETRUE collection – which also included appealing takes on the Cortez, Pegasus 34 and Flyknit Racer, the last of which barely missed inclusion on this list – the Air VaporMax 'BETRUE' was a masterclass in contrast, mixing its ultra-dark navy upper with a rainbow gradient VaporMax cushioning unit for maximum Pride effect.
Burberry Vintage Check Sneaker 'LGBTQ+'
Year of Release: 2018
High fashion brands are no strangers to creating special collections that raise funds or awareness for causes that are close to them. The caveat is that the product is usually garish, created with plenty of heart but little thought for its wearability and usability. Burberry, however, did it perfectly with a special take on their Vintage Check sneaker in 2018. Unlike the overloaded rainbow leather high-top sneaker it was accompanied by, this low-top design kept things subtle, clean and crisp by adding a tasteful dash of rainbow detailing to its checkerboard canvas upper, showing that sometimes a little twist can be all it takes to make a strong statement. Even though they retailed for $420, making them the most expensive shoe on this list by far, they still sold out instantly.
Todd Snyder x New Balance 997 'Love'
Year of Release: 2019
The partnership between Todd Snyder and New Balance has produced some of NB's most notable colabs over the past decade. Snyder's inspirations range from duck camo to his favourite drinks, but one of his most heartfelt colabs was 2019's 997 'Love', an ultra-premium silhouette that opted to tell the Pride flag's colour story in pastel instead of its signature high-saturation tones, and also added undeniably prideful detailing on the tongue. You've gotta love 'em!
Nike Air Max 90 'BETRUE'
Year of Release: 2019
Nike's BETRUE collection for 2019 was centred around the famous eight-colour Pride flag created by artist and activist Gilbert Baker, and the shoe that communicated Baker's iconic design in the most compelling fashion was an Air Max 90. An embroidered eight-layer Swoosh sat atop its white and black base, while the signature rubberised eyestays and select accents got in on the action as well. Though we're also fond of the gradient-coated Air Max 720 'BETRUE' from that year's collection, you really can't beat eight embroidered Swooshes.
Nike LeBron 16 'BETRUE'
Year of Release: 2019 (Sample)
Kinda-sorta-not-really included in Nike's 2019 BETRUE collection was a special iteration of LeBron James' high-performance LeBron 16. With rainbow detailing on its midsole and large embroidered hits on its heels that spelled out 'Until We All Win', it cut a striking figure – but, for reasons unknown, never saw a retail release. There's no telling if it simply got axed from the pack or was just supposed to be a PE, though King James himself never took to an NBA court in it. However, Minnesota Lynx centre Sylvia Fowles did, and she gave us a look at what could have been a great release when she rocked it during the Lynx's 2019 campaign.
Under Armour HOVR Phantom 1 Slip 'Pride'
Year of Release: 2020
As you can see from the sneakers on this list so far, the Pride flag has been reinterpreted in dozens of different ways. However, one that seems underutilized is tie dye. Sure, tie dye is on the abstract end of the spectrum – but it has roots in the counter-cultural movements of the 1960s and 1970s that helped bring the battle for gay rights to the forefront of mainstream culture. For their 2020 Pride release slate, Under Armour applied Pride-coloured tie-dye to the upper of the laceless HOVR Phantom 1, making for a Pride shoe that may have been overt in its colour scheme but subtle and tasteful in its inspiration and interpretation of that inspiration.
Nike SB Dunk Low 'BETRUE'
Year of Release: 2022
At the time of writing, Nike SB's forthcoming SB Dunk Low 'BETRUE' has yet to receive a date of arrival, but that won't stop it from taking its rightful place on this list! It starts out low-key, with a crisp white upper that's embellished with clever wavy stitching on the heel, embroidered graphics, stash pockets and more. However, there's even more to it than originally meets the eye thanks to wear-away detailing that shows the colours of the Pride flag after use – a stylish reminder that there's often more to products (and to people) than first meets the eye. Remember: it's what's on the inside that counts!