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These popular Nike sneakers are the worst shoes I've ever worn

I don't understand why everyone loves Nike Cortez.

Nike Cortez sneakers review Credit: Reviewed/Amanda Tarlton & Nike

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As someone whose top hobbies include weight lifting, shooting, and doing basically anything outside, my closet consists of a lot more sneakers, boots, and Crocs than it does sandals or heels. That said, I like my shoes to look as good as they function—I am Reviewed’s style editor, after all. So while I won’t settle for hideous yet highly practical tennis shoes, I also won’t settle for a pair that’s super trendy but falls apart after a month or (worse) destroys my feet.

I’m always open to trying out new shoes, especially sneakers, which are my current obsession. And while my collection of athletic kicks is new, the Nike Cortez are not. Celebs Kourtney Kardashian, Kristen Stewart, and Jessica Alba wear the iconic shoes, which have been one of Nike’s core sneaker styles since the 1970s and were famously featured in Forrest Gump on his cross-country run. I’m a sucker for an all-white shoe, so I ordered a pair for myself. Unfortunately, what I thought had the chance of becoming my favorite sneaker turned out to be a dud.

What I like about Nike Cortez sneakers

In case you hadn’t guessed, not much. But they have a few redeeming structural characteristics, as footwear goes.

The first thing I noticed when trying on my new sneaks was how easy they were to put on and take off. I didn’t have to pull at the laces to loosen them up—I was able to slip my foot right in. Once tied, the laces stayed secure while I wore them and I didn’t experience any chafing on my heels when walking around, an all-too-common occurrence during a break-in period for casual sneakers.

The thick soles provide a lot of cushioning—it’s like walking around on a foam cloud. The rubber outsole also has significant traction. While I didn’t wear these in the rain during my test period, I donned them around the gym locker room and never once did I slip on the wet tile.

What I don’t like about Nike Cortez sneakers

Nike Cortez sneakers
Credit: Reviewed/Amanda Tarlton

I don't like the way the Nike Cortez look from the top or side.

I’ll just come out and say it: I think the Nike Cortez sneakers are ugly. I like chunkier sneakers—there’s something about the contrast of the bulky shoe against my ankle that makes my legs appear leaner and longer (at least in my opinion). But because of the weirdly sleek and tapered fit of the Cortez, it makes my feet look almost too small for my body and out of proportion with my legs. Plus, the white leather, while chic when pristine out of the box, is easily scuffed and creased from casual use. This makes the shoes look dingy and worn—not in a good way—after just a few wears.

I also don’t like the appearance of the exaggerated tread that comes up around the edges of the sole. I get that this is a “thing” but it’s not a “thing” I like. To make matters worse, because the tread is narrower than the top of the shoe, it makes the sneakers look like they have a bizarrely shaped platform and it makes them feel less stable to walk in.

And that brings me to the fit and comfort. Both were less than stellar in my experience. I ordered my usual size 8.5, but the shoes were very small and narrow. I don’t have wide feet, yet my toes were squished and squashed up against the front of the toe box. This left my feet sore and blistered after just a few hours of walking around and running errands. I’m not the only one to experience this problem—many reviewers on Nike’s website suggest sizing at least a half or even whole size up because of the narrow cut.

Between the leather upper and the thick padding, the sneakers aren’t breathable, either. I wore them for a 15-minute walk on the treadmill (nothing strenuous) and by the time I was finished, my feet were a sweaty, swampy mess. My socks were completely soaked because of the lack of air circulation in the shoes.

Are Nike Cortez sneakers worth buying?

Nike Cortez sneakers
Credit: Reviewed/Amanda Tarlton & Forrest Gump

Forrest may be a fan of these shoes, but I am not.

Sorry, but no. I hate the way they look, I hate the way they feel, and I hate the way the white leather is almost impossible to keep mark- and crease-free. After wearing the shoes around, I found there to be almost zero redeeming qualities about them.

If you’re looking for an iconic sneaker like Vans or Adidas Stan Smiths that you can show off to your friends and that puts you in the same circle as supermodels and celebs, go for it. But you’ve been warned—your feet are likely going to turn into a soggy ball of blisters and aches.

Get the Nike Cortez Basic from Nike for $75

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Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.

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