Did Converse’s Chuck Taylors really need an upgrade?
We compared the OGs to the Chuck 70s, a throwback shoe made of more premium materials.
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The classic Converse Chuck Taylor All Star has been a fashion mainstay for more than half a century. A foundational shoe for punks, skaters, queer folks, and even weightlifters, the iconic canvas upper and rubber toe are often imitated but never surpassed. Minimalist in construction, Chucks offer flat insoles and have a tendency to shred with heavy wear, yet look fantastic doing so.
Today, the kids who grew up wearing Chuck Taylors in their rebellious youth are well entrenched in middle-ish age, and Converse has added some concessions for those of us with sore arches, tired knees, and a general request that our shoes be more comfy over a long day. Enter the Chuck 70, introduced in 2013 as the premium version of the originals with slightly improved touches.
But what are the practical and functional differences between the Chuck Taylor All Star, which retails for $55, and the Chuck 70, which goes for $80, aside from a $25 price difference? And which pair is right for you?
The most striking visual difference between the two styles comes through in the rubber side walls and toecap that are so iconic with the Chuck Taylor. With the Chuck 70s, Converse has tweaked them to be slightly off-white, a color they call “egret,” but appears more cream. It’s also slightly shiny, compared to the original’s matte-white. That’s not such a big deal, unless you’re looking at the Chuck Taylors and Chuck 70s next to each other—or if you’re trying to buy a pair of white Chuck 70s, in which case, the color difference is stark.
In addition, the keen eye will also pick up a number of small visual differences between the Chuck Taylors and Chuck 70s. On the 70, you’ll see additional stitching on the sides and tongue of the shoe, as well as a different heel logo. The two side panel grommets are located slightly higher up, so you’re less likely to get flooded if you quickly step in a puddle. The rubber sidewalls of the Chuck 70s also run higher than those of the original Chucks, giving them a look of having slightly thicker outsoles.
Converse has said that the Chuck 70s are based on “the original 1970s design,” so they give off a more retro vibe. However, regular Chucks are plenty great for that, and no one is going point at your pair and say “a-ha, these shoes aren’t the same as the Ramones wore, you poser”—both pairs look just as nostalgia-tinged.
Our pick: It's a tie
Quality and Feel
The real difference between the OG Chuck and Chuck 70 comes with their fabric quality—when you touch them, it immediately becomes clear where those extra $25 go. While we'd be hesitant to call anything about these shoes “lux,” there’s a notable improvement in quality with the Chuck 70s that’s easy to recognize. The canvas and laces are both thicker, giving the shoe more structure and heft, and slightly more weight (the 70s weigh about 75 grams, or about 2.5 ounces, more than the original). Converse also claims that the 70s have “high gloss eyelets,” meaning the metal on the 70s is ever so slightly shinier than on the All Stars, but it’s truly splitting hairs.
The other huge improvement with the Chuck 70s are the soles. The original Chucks are well known for having super thin, minimalist outsoles—which is part of the appeal for many people. It’s what makes them attractive to minimal runners and power-lifters—who both want to be able to feel the ground, with as little between them and the world as possible. It’s what also makes your feet ache after a day walking around the city wearing a pair. The Chuck 70s drop in a pair of OrthoLite insoles, and it’s game-changing. Suddenly, the Chucks are on par with most modern shoes in terms of comfort and support.
The Chuck 70 insoles prove their worth over the course of a day of heavy walking. They’re noticeably more comfortable for the repetitive thump of foot on pavement. The new insoles are also easily replaceable, where the original Chucks have insoles that are bonded to the base of the shoe.
Our pick: Chuck 70
Fit and sizing
The base models of both the All Star and the Chuck 70s are fundamentally ungendered shoes. While certain colors and variations may be marketed more towards one end of the gender spectrum than the other, the basic models will fit on almost any sized foot.
In standard D width, the Chuck Taylor All Stars are available in unisex sizing that fits a men’s 3/women’s 5 through a men’s 18/women’s 20. If you’re looking for a wide-width Chuck All Star, that unisex sizing fits a men’s 3/women’s 5 to men’s 13/women’s 15. The 70s only come in standard width, fitting a unisex men’s 3/women’s 5 through men’s 16/women’s 18. Across both styles, it can be hard to find sizes above a unisex men’s 14/women’s 16.
All of that said, you need to size down with Chuck Taylors, regardless of which version you’re leaning towards. Both the old and the new run large, and chances are, you’ll have to go down by ½ to a full size from your usual. The extra padding of the Chuck 70s’ sole makes them fit more snuggly, but that’s across the top of your foot, not the length. If you’re used to the originals, the 70s can feel slightly restrictive, but by that same token, they’re more stable on your feet.
If you’re someone who has trouble with laces, maybe because you have difficulty with your grip strength or fine fiddly tasks, or you just don’t want to be bothered with them, the All Stars also have a number of slip-on variants. In particular, the Chuck Taylor All Star Slip runs across a decent number of sizes and looks like a laceless version of the basic model.
Our pick: Chuck Taylor All Star
OG Chuck Taylors are not at all a long-lasting shoe. Most people who have them in regular rotation generally find they last around a year before the heels wear through and the canvas starts to fall apart. By all reports, the 70s last longer than the originals, which, if they’re doing well for an extra six months, already makes up for the price difference. That durability found in the 70s comes from its sturdier fabric and better materials.
Our pick: Chuck 70
And the winner is...
As with all things, follow your heart. For most people, the Chuck 70s make sense. They’re more comfortable, durable, and at $80 to $85 a basic pair, they’re also reasonably priced for a shoe that will likely become a go-to. For those of us who can’t abuse our bodies the way we once did, having an option with more foot and ankle support is a huge benefit.
That said, a solid use case exists for the original Chucks for a number of people. They come in way more colors and patterns compared to the Chuck 70s, which makes expressing yourself easier in them. The originals are also available in wide widths and come more sizes, so more folks are able to fit in them. The thinner soles are advantageous in some cases (the aforementioned weightlifters in particular), and because they’re lighter and less structured, it’s easier to—ahem—chuck a pair into a bag for a weekend getaway.
The price difference, while not enormous, is also worth keeping in mind. If you have (or are) a teen with rapidly growing feet, or you need some beaters for painting in the garage, getting a cheaper pair to kick around in probably makes more sense.
Exceptions aside, the Chuck 70s are more than worth the extra cost. If you want a shoe that has a classic streetwear look and will stay comfortable over the course of a long day, and still last through hard wear, you really can’t do better than the Chuck 70s.
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.