The American term sneakers is a synonym for athletic shoes. More specifically, sneakers refer to footwear made of flexible material, typically featuring a sole made of rubber and an upper part made of leather or canvas. Sneakers were originally sporting apparel, but are today worn much more widely as casual footwear. They are now widely popular. Many children choose to wear sneakers to school because of their comfort and versatility.

Sneaker can also refer to an athletic shoe such as basketball shoes, tennis shoes or cross trainers. These shoes are sport specific shoes worn for various sports.

The British English equivalent of “sneaker” is a “trainer” in its modern meaning, while the traditional “sneaker” (pictured) is closer to the British “plimsoll”. In some urban areas in the United States, the slang for sneakers is kicks. In Hiberno-English, Canadian English and Australian English the term is runners or sneakers. In South African English the term used is tekkies.

Sneakers take their name from the sound that they make, or rather, lack thereof. The name came to be on account of how quiet the rubber soles are on the ground when walked in as opposed to the standard hard-soled dress shoes of the time when sneakers were first invented, or the notoriously squeaky leather shoes, also popular at the time. Someone wearing sneakers could “sneak up” on you.