Japanese brand SUNCORE is barely known internationally (it’s still under the radar domestically), but its funky, chunky sneakers deserve more looks, if for no other reason they’re taking familiar shoe shapes and plump them up with Vibram soles.
Launched in late 2019, SUNCORE has kind of a lofty mission statement about sun and sunlight and whatever, but all you really need to know is that the brand specializes in rugged sneakers with smart tops and faithful Vibram bottoms.
Available on the SUNCORE website and from retailers like HIDE&SEEK, COLLECT and Transistor, SUNCORE shoes are both familiar and distinct, recognizable and alien.
For example, this season there is a backless slip-on called the “grog”, which has a single buckle closure with an adjustable strap that certainly looks like a famous mule made by a very old German shoe brand.
Hmmmm, something like “tirkenstock”, maybe?
But that’s part of the fun with SUNCORE: recognizing the cues the brand incorporates into its own designs, but distinguishing them with these study insoles.
Some models, like the “night run” and “para traceur”, are fairly standard running shoes, but incorporate elements that borrow from iconic sneakers like Nike’s Kukini without directly removing elements from previous models.
Other models are basically just SUNCORE’s riff on fisherman sandals or hiking boots, sitting on one of its usual outsoles.
Like many other independent footwear brands, SUNCORE gets a lot of benefit from Vibram’s RollinGait sole, but its Spring/Summer 2022 collection also works in other forms, like the smaller grippy outsole that informs the “toddy” and the “twisted bridge”.
It’s fun but it’s not flippant: SUNCORE’s product is solid, and its shoes start at ¥27,000 (about $230) and top out at about ¥36,000 (about $300).