Sliding Scale: Minimalist Sneakers

Welcome to Sliding Scale, a series in which we bring you a single product for every budget. This month, we’re rounding-up responsibly-made minimalist sneakers. Check out our thirteen favorites after the jump.


First up are the Leather Sneakers from Batius. According to the brand’s website, they’re “100% made in Italy” and have genuine leather uppers, linings, and insoles. And yet, shockingly, they’re only €59.99 / $72.00 a pair. Too good to be true? Probably. Possibly. But at that price, they could still be worth the gamble…


The Esplar Sneakers from French brand, Veja, are hands-down the most socially responsible on the list. The leather uppers are vegetable-tanned, meaning no environmentally damaging metals are used. The soles are made from sustainably harvested Amazonian rubber. And the manufacturing is done in a Fair Trade factory in Brazil. Prices start at €99.00 / $118.00.


Gustin’s Low Top Sneakers are a hard deal to beat. All Italian everything – from the leather uppers to the Margom rubber soles to the construction – and they’re only $149.00 a pop. The one downside is you have to pre-order, so no instant gratification. But at that price, and that quality, they’re definitely worth the wait.

Beckett Simonon

The $149 Alba Sneakers from Beckett Simonon are responsibly made in a family owned factory in South America using the Strobel side-stitch method – a process typically used to make dress shoes, in which the sole is stitched rather than cemented. They’re also eco-friendly: the full grain leather uppers are chrome-free, as is the vechetta leather lining, and the solvents are all water-based and non-toxic.


Lisbon based footwear label, JAK, offers an array of minimalist styles, all of which are designed and handcrafted in Portugal and boast full grain leather uppers, calfskin leather linings, “shock proof” innersoles, and stitched plain rubber cup outsoles. In addition to looking great, they’re also very well priced, ranging from €129.00 / $155.00 to €140.00 / $168.00 a pair.


Coming in at a very reasonable $160.00 per are the Sneakers from direct-to-consumer footwear brand, Taft. Handcrafted in Spain, they’ve got Italian leather uppers, Italian rubber soles, and, like the Alba Sneakers from Beckett Simonon, are also made using the Strobel side-stitch method.

A Day’s March

The $190.00 Marching Sneakers from Swedish consumer direct label, A Day’s March, are made in Portugal and have Italian calfskin uppers and Italian-made Margom rubber soles, similar to some other shoes on this list. However, the soles on these are vulcanized as well as stitched, which dramatically increases the shoes’ overall durability.

Cinque Milano

The Court Sneakers from Cinque Milano offer a lot of luxury for not a lot of money. Handmade in Italy, they’ve got a Nappa leather upper, full calfskin leather lining, and a foam footbed and removable leather insole, all on top of an Italian-made Margom rubber sole. Not too shabby for €159.00 / $190.00 a pair.


Epaulet was one of the first brands to offer a more affordable minimalist sneaker, and theirs are still some of the best. Made in Portugal. All Italian materials, including a full-grain Gruppo Mastrotto leather upper, kidskin glove leather lining, and Margom rubber sole that’s both internally cemented and externally reinforced with 360° stitching. And all for $195.


The Bull Terrier Sneakers from Japanese brand, Buddy, are painstakingly handcrafted in Japan and have eco-friendly cow leather uppers and natural rubber soles (which are vulcanized as well as stitched). Prices start at $225.00, however a handful of colors are currently on sale for $145 at END.

Rancourt & Co.

The only American-made option on the list, the Court Classics from Rancourt & Co. are crafted in Maine and have a full grain cowhide upper (the leather comes from Maine’s own Weston tannery), Horween Casco horsehide lining, a Vibram Strighton outsole, and a molded latex rubber footbed that’s made in Germany exclusively for the brand. Prices start at $260.


For a Parisian take on the minimalist sneaker trend, check out the ZSP4 Sneakers from Zespa. Expertly crafted in France, they have premium Nappa leather uppers, a full calfskin lining, padded ankle, and suede-lined heel (so you can skip the socks). They also come in a huge array of colors. Prices start at $275.

Common Projects

Let’s be honest, this round-up could just as easily be called Sliding Scale: Sneakers that look like Common Projects. The brand’s Achilles Low has become one of the most iconic sneakers of the last decade, and with good reason. Unfortunately, at upwards of $410 a pop, they’re unobtainable for most (which is why we went through the effort of putting together this round-up of alternatives). That said, if you’ve got it to spend, END. has a huge assortment of colors and styles (and the all-whites are only $359).

  • BortLicensePlatez

    Thanks for this! Are Jaks quality? There seems to be a paucity of reviews on the web.

    • A friend of mine just picked up a pair and really likes them. Haven’t had a chance to go hands on myself, though.

    • Ze Maria Reffoios

      Thank you @WellSpent:disqus for the feature and for the backup! @BortLicensePlatez:disqus We do our best to ensure a top quality product. One thing is for sure, we never cut corners on the materials we source and we haven’t had any complaints on the fitting / comfort so far. We’ve only launched online last April (thus the lack of reviews on the web). Any quality issues you have, will also grant you a free return and a full refund. Thank you. Jose from JAK.

      • BortLicensePlatez

        Thank you Ze! How do we get free return in the united states? If we order through the main Jak’s site?

        • Ze Maria Reffoios

          You are welcome! Unfortunately we still don’t have a very big presence in the US, so we don’t offer free returns there yet. We did get featured on, and maybe they still have some stock left. Thank you.

  • camp6ell

    Sliding a little further up the scale, and nicer than all listed are these:


    Need Epaulet to do another run on their Portuguese leather trainers.

  • John Langan

    Did anyone try the Batius yet?