We’ve Loved This Summer’s Hottest Sneaker for Years. Here’s Why.
Updated July 5, 2023
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A sneaker that’s just as stylish as it is comfortable—and versatile enough to go with practically anything in your closet—is a wardrobe holy grail. We’ve heard plenty of folks swear that the Onitsuka Tiger Mexico 66, a popular pick in our guide to the best white sneakers since 2021, is that very shoe. But can one silhouette truly do it all?
I wore Mexico 66s every day for a week, logging nearly 20 miles walking around New York City. My verdict: The hype is real. These sneakers are instantly comfy, ultra-flattering, and the kind of trend-proof workhorses that will earn a spot in my steady rotation for years to come. Here are three reasons why I’ve joined their legions of fans.
These flattering shoes have a sleek profile that makes them easy to pair with lots of silhouettes. And with pliant leather uppers and flexible soles, they’re super-comfortable straight out of the box.
Unlike most of the other shoes in my closet, my Mexico 66s didn’t require a break-in period. With their pliable leather uppers and thin, flexible soles, they were comfortable right out of the box. (I ordered them in my usual size, and they fit perfectly. They come in standard men’s and women’s sizes, but if you’re unsure about what size to order, the Onitsuka website has a size guide with measuring guidelines.)
In fact, Mexico 66s have such a lightweight build that you can bend the entire shoe without much effort, and they easily flex with the foot’s natural movements. Yet they’re remarkably sturdy: A Wirecutter senior editor confirmed that she’s continued to regularly wear a pair she got in 2020, and they’re still going strong.
To test Mexico 66s for this story, I wore them every day for a week, walking about 20 miles as I bounced between school pick-ups, dog walks, and dinner dates. All the while, my feet remained cool, supported, and blister-free. My experience wasn’t unique: The testers for our guide to white sneakers also gave the Mexico 66s high marks, praising their instant comfort and softness, and noting the absence of any pinching or digging into the skin. One panelist even said she forgot she had them on.
These sneakers have an unusual, perforated insole, which makes them more breathable. So they can be worn with or without socks. I prefer to slip my feet into the Mexico 66s—that’s right, no daily lacing required, thanks to the large, pull-on back tabs. And I use an ultra-light, no-show sock, like the pair from Stance we recommend in our guide to the best no-show socks. But in hotter weather, I’m thankful for the option of going sockless. (If you do go sans socks, the sneakers’ back tabs, as well as their lightly padded tongues, will help prevent rubbing or chafing and keep blisters at bay.)
Mexico 66s have lightly cushioned, contoured footbeds and molded arches. I was surprised that such thin, lightweight shoes could feel so stable and supportive—I found them comfy to wear even for active eight-hour stretches.
Beloved by fashionable folks of varying ages and aesthetics, Mexico 66s are true style chameleons. They’re capable of crossing that (typically untraversed) space between athletic shoes and ballet flats, so they feel at home in many different contexts.
The sneakers’ tapered shape creates a flattering, slim profile. “They’re perfect for my narrow feet,” noted one Wirecutter senior editor. They can also be a particularly appealing option for people with larger feet, since they don’t add any excess bulk. And they have the seemingly magical ability to play nice with just about any clothing silhouette.
To put this to the test, I wore my Mexico 66s with every kind of ensemble imaginable. They looked great with all of the pants I tried: cuffed straight jeans and cropped flares (casual and cool), cigarette pants (Audrey Hepburn with a gym membership), pooling palazzos (intimidatingly chic), and, of course, leggings (a no-brainer). Paired with shorts or a miniskirt, they were fun and sporty, but still gamine. With flowy dresses and skirts, they added a relaxed ease.
If you want maximum versatility, you can’t go wrong with the classic white-on-white version of the Mexico 66s. But they’re available in dozens of other color options to suit a range of tastes and seasons.
The most recognizable combo, of course, is the Bruce Lee– and Beatrix Kiddo–approved yellow and black version (matching jumpsuit and sword are optional). I chose a white pair with red and blue stripes, leaning into the shoe’s sporty heritage—I’m not very athletic, but I do enjoy dressing like it’s the Fourth of July. And I’ve got my eye on a slew of spring-, summer-, and fall-appropriate colorways, for nearly year-round wear; unfortunately, I don’t think these sneakers are cut out for a New York City winter.
With their sporty styling and lithe shape, Mexico 66s feel both winningly retro and perpetually current; when you invest in them, you can feel confident in their staying power. The slender leather sneakers were originally created in Japan as running shoes for athletes, debuting at the 1966 Olympic pre-trials in Mexico City (hence, the “Mexico 66” moniker).
They were the first shoes to feature the signature tiger-stripe design: two elegant horizontal swells running along both sides of the body, crossed by a pair of vertical stripes that integrate into the lacing, improving fit and stability. (To this day, those stripes appear on almost every shoe from Onitsuka and its parent company, ASICS.)
The distinctive design was elevated to icon status in 1978, when a pair of yellow-and-black tiger-striped Onitsukas (in a similar style to Mexico 66s) were worn by martial arts star Bruce Lee in his final, posthumously released film Game of Death. In 2003, the brand kung-fu-kicked its way into a new generation’s pop-culture awareness, appearing on Uma Thurman’s Beatrix Kiddo character in the movie Kill Bill: Volume 1. (The ones she wears are often mistaken for Mexico 66s because they’re so similar-looking, but they were actually Onitsuka Tai Chis, a sleeker, pricier model.)
In more-recent years, Onitsukas continue to feel fresh and relevant. Mexico 66s have been spotted on the feet of scores of celebrities and influencers, including model Bella Hadid and actor Emma Watson—not to mention on the (decidedly less-famous) feet of numerous enthusiastic Wirecutter staffers.
This article was edited by Ingela Ratledge Amundson and Jennifer Hunter.
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