Onitsuka Tiger Shoe Reviews: Are They the Ultimate Sneaker Game-Changer?

Explore authentic Onitsuka Tiger Shoe Reviews to make informed decisions. Discover comfort, style, and durability in each pair.

Onitsuka Tiger is a Japanese footwear company known for its stylish and high-performance athletic shoes. Founded in 1949, Onitsuka Tiger has a long history of innovation in shoe design and technology. Their shoes fuse vintage style with modern performance features to create unique and versatile footwear.

In this in-depth blog post, we will be reviewing some of Onitsuka Tiger’s most popular shoe models to provide an overview of their key features, pros and cons, fit, sizing, and performance for different activities.

A Brief History of Onitsuka Tiger

Onitsuka Tiger was founded in Kobe, Japan by Kihachiro Onitsuka in 1949. The company originally produced basketball shoes and then later expanded into running and track & field footwear. Some key events and innovations in Onitsuka Tiger’s history include:

  • 1950s – Onitsuka Tiger develops its first basketball shoes and gets its big break when selection for the Japanese national basketball team to wear at the 1956 Melbourne Olympics. This gives the brand international exposure.
  • 1960s – The company begins exporting shoes to the West and their Limber running shoes become popular with high school and collegiate runners in the US.
  • 1970s – Onitsuka Tiger merges with other footwear companies and the brand name is changed to ASICS. The Onitsuka Tiger brand is later revived in 2002.
  • Today – Onitsuka Tiger continues to design shoes inspired by vintage styles but with modern technology and materials. The brand emphasizes retro style, comfort, and versatility.

Onitsuka Tiger has collaborated with major brands like BAPE and Off-White to create limited edition sneakers. The company also outfits the Japanese Olympic athletics team.

Onitsuka Tiger Shoe Characteristics

Here are some of the major characteristics and features found across Onitsuka Tiger’s shoe models:

  • Retro styles – Onitsuka Tiger shoes use vintage silhouettes and designs drawn from archival models but update them with new materials and features. This creates a fusion of classic and contemporary.
  • High-quality materials – The brand utilizes premium leather, suede, mesh fabric, and textile materials that provide durability, breathability, and style. Many shoes also incorporate synthetic overlays.
  • Anatomical fit – Onitsuka Tiger shoes tend to have an anatomical curve and shaping in the heel and forefoot areas to mirror the natural form of the foot. This provides a better fit.
  • Lightweight – Many Onitsuka Tiger models utilize lightweight foam or EVA midsoles and outsoles to reduce overall shoe weight for enhanced performance and comfort.
  • Flex grooves – Flexibility is a key focus in Onitsuka Tiger’s shoe designs. Many models have flex grooves along the outsole to enable natural foot movement.
  • Grip and traction – Herringbone traction patterns on the outsole provide multi-directional grip on various surfaces. Some shoes also have a low-to-the-ground silhouette for stability.
  • Removable insoles – Most Onitsuka Tiger shoes have a removable insole so you can insert your own custom orthotics if needed.
  • Color variety – Onitsuka Tiger shoes come in diverse color schemes that range from muted to bright hues. Popular options include all-white or black with contrasting stripes and accents.

Next we’ll look at reviews of some specific Onitsuka Tiger shoe models to analyze their pros and cons.

Reviews of Popular Onitsuka Tiger Shoe Models

Onitsuka Tiger has a wide selection of athletic lifestyle and performance shoes to choose from. Here we will review some of their most popular models to look at sizing, fit, comfort, durability, and performance for different uses.

Onitsuka Tiger Mexico 66

The Mexico 66 is Onitsuka Tiger’s most iconic shoe. Inspired by a model first released for the 1968 Mexico City Olympics, this retro sneaker has a low-profile design and colorful stripes.

Sizing and Fit

  • Runs true to size
  • Narrow fit, especially in midfoot
  • Low heel tab can make slipping on/off tricky
  • Light padding around ankle

Comfort and Materials

  • Soft leather or suede uppers
  • Mesh tongue and heel for ventilation
  • EVA midsole provides cushioning
  • Some find arch support lacking

Performance and Durability

  • Ideal for casual wear and light sports
  • Low-profile gives stability for lifting weights
  • Outsole has decent traction but wears quickly
  • Leather scuffs easily
  • Overall average durability

Onitsuka Tiger Mexico 66 Shoe Review

The Onitsuka Tiger Mexico 66 is one of the brand’s most iconic and popular retro sneaker models. First introduced in 1966 for the 1968 Summer Olympics, this vintage-inspired shoe fuses athletic performance with streetwise style.

Mexico 66 Key Features

  • Retro runner silhouette – Low-profile design inspired by 1960s athletic shoes. Features suede/textile uppers with contrasting stripes and accents.
  • Anatomical fit – Curved outline mirrors the natural shape of the foot. Heel notch improves Achilles comfort.
  • Lightweight – Low-to-the-ground EVA midsole and outsole reduce overall shoe weight.
  • Flexible – Flex grooves along the bottom allow natural foot movement.
  • Breathable – Mesh fabric tongue provides ventilation to prevent overheating.
  • Cushioned – Padded foam insole and soft suede lining enhance step-in comfort.
  • Grippy traction – Durable rubber outsole with herringbone pattern provides multi-surface grip.

Mexico 66 Review: Pros and Cons


  • Iconic retro-athletic styling stands out
  • Premium suede/textile upper materials
  • Anatomical last mirrors foot shape
  • Lightweight and flexible construction
  • Breathable mesh tongue


  • Runs narrow, especially in midfoot
  • Lacks arch support
  • Minimal heel cushioning
  • Outsole tread tends to wear quickly
  • Suede scuffs easily over time

Sizing, Fit, and Performance

The Mexico 66 runs true to size but has a narrow fit through the midfoot. Wide-footers may want to go up a half or full size. The low heel tab can make slipping them on tricky. The snug fit provides lateral support for lifting weights but lacks stability for intense training.

While cushioning is minimal, the EVA midsole does absorb shock for walking and casual wear. The flexible outsole enables a natural stride but provides moderate traction that wears quicker on rough surfaces.

Overall, the Mexico 66 works well as a stylish lifestyle sneaker for everyday casual wear. But the snug fit and average durability limit its performance for athletic training.

Onitsuka Tiger Ultimate 81

A retro runner shoe inspired by 1980s models, the Ultimate 81 prioritizes comfort and style.

Sizing and Fit

  • Runs half size large
  • Wide toe box accommodates wide feet
  • Padded heel and tongue for great step-in comfort
  • Low cut allows ankle mobility

Comfort and Materials

  • Breathable textile uppers
  • Plush CMEVA midsole for cushioning
  • Removable insole to add orthotics
  • Some report arch support lacking

Performance and Durability

  • Ideal for casual use and walking
  • Lacks stability for intense training
  • Traction average for dry conditions
  • Outsole tread wears faster than upper
  • Overall decent durability

With its wide fit, cushioned sole, and flexible low-cut design, the Ultimate 81 works well as a comfortable lifestyle sneaker for walking and casual wear. The grip could be better for athletic training.

Onitsuka Tiger Serrano

The Serrano is a retro-inspired running/trainer hybrid shoe blending comfort and performance.

Sizing and Fit

  • Runs half size small
  • Medium width through midfoot
  • Padded tongue and collar
  • High heel tab aids slipping on

Comfort and Materials

  • Textile/suede/leather uppers
  • Mesh lining enhances breathability
  • EVA midsole absorbs shock
  • Arch support is moderate

Performance and Durability

  • Excellent grip for training, running, courts
  • Low-profile gives lateral support for training
  • Durable rubber outsole
  • Upper scuffs with use but overall good durability

With its grippy outsole, secure fit, and comfortable cushioning, the Serrano works well as a versatile athletic training or running shoe for various sports. It runs small so sizing up is recommended.

Onitsuka Tiger GSM

A minimalist retro running shoe, the GSM provides a natural barefoot-like feel.

Sizing and Fit

  • Runs true to size
  • Toe box wider than midfoot
  • Low-cut allows ankle mobility
  • Back tab helps put on

Comfort and Materials

  • Breathable nylon/suede upper
  • Flexible thin midsole
  • Removable foam insole
  • Low arch support

Performance and Durability

  • Excellent feel for ground contact
  • Good traction for dry conditions
  • Minimal cushioning not ideal for long runs
  • Upper is durable; outsole wears faster

With its flexible sole, wide toe box, and thin profile, the GSM works well for short runs, track workouts, and fitness classes where you want foot feedback and flexibility. It lacks support for long distances.

Onitsuka Tiger Shaw Runner

Taking inspiration from 1970s jogging shoes, the lightweight Shaw Runner is made for everyday wear.

Sizing and Fit

  • Runs true to size
  • Medium width in midfoot
  • Padded tongue and collar
  • Heel tab aids slipping on

Comfort and Materials

  • Breathable mesh/suede upper
  • EVA midsole provides cushioning
  • Arch support is moderate

Performance and Durability

  • Traction better suited for casual use
  • EVA foam midsole absorbs shock
  • Upper scuffs with use
  • Outsole rubber prone to wearing down

The Shaw Runner works great as an everyday lifestyle sneaker for casual wear thanks to its cushioned yet lightweight feel. It lacks the grip and stability for intense training. Go up half a size if you have wide feet.

Onitsuka Tiger Sakurada

Inspired by vintage baseball shoes, the low-cut Sakurada works well both on and off the field.

Sizing and Fit

  • Runs half size large
  • Medium width in midfoot
  • Padded collar; heel tab aids slipping on
  • Allows ankle mobility

Comfort and Materials

  • Leather/textile/suede upper
  • EVA midsole for cushioning
  • Arch support is moderate

Performance and Durability

  • Multi-surface grip pattern
  • Foam midsole provides shock absorption
  • Outsole tread prone to wear
  • Leather scuffs but overall average durability

The Sakurada’s cleat-like traction, cushioned sole, and ankle mobility make it versatile for casual wear, training, baseball, and softball. Size down half a size for the best fit.

Onitsuka Tiger Tai Chi

Inspired by martial arts shoes, the Tai Chi is lightweight and flexible.

Sizing and Fit

  • Runs true to size
  • Narrow through midfoot
  • Minimal collar padding
  • Easy to slip on

Comfort and Materials

  • Breathable nylon/suede upper
  • Thin flexible rubber sole
  • Removable foam insole
  • Minimal arch support

Performance and Durability

  • Traction better for studio/indoor use
  • Thin sole provides floor feel
  • Lacks cushioning for high-impact activity
  • Outsole prone to wear

The Tai Chi works best for activities like martial arts, yoga, dance, and barre that require foot feel and flexibility rather than intense cushioning. The narrow fit may not suit wide feet.

Onitsuka Tiger Shoes: Pros, Cons, and Alternatives

Now that we’ve reviewed some of the most popular Onitsuka Tiger shoe models, let’s summarize the overall pros and cons of the brand’s footwear. We’ll also suggest some alternative shoes to consider.

Pros of Onitsuka Tiger Shoes

  • Iconic retro styles – Onitsuka Tiger shoes have classic vintage designs that stand out.
  • Premium materials – Most shoes use quality leather, suede, or textile uppers.
  • Lightweight – Foam midsoles and outsoles keep the shoes light.
  • Flexible – Flex grooves enable natural foot flexion.
  • Breathable – Mesh fabrics and linings allow airflow to feet.
  • Cushioned – EVA foam and padded collars provide cushioning.
  • Grippy – Herringbone outsole patterns deliver multi-surface traction.
  • Removable insoles – Allows you to insert your own orthotics.
  • Diverse color options – Shoes come in a wide range of color schemes.

Cons of Onitsuka Tiger Shoes

  • Expensive – Shoes are priced at the higher end, around $120-$150.
  • Lack arch support – Some may find arch support lacking, especially for high arches.
  • Runs narrow – Several models like the Mexico 66 have a narrow fit.
  • Small sizing – Some shoes run small so sizing up may be needed.
  • Outsoles wear – The outsole tread on most models tends to wear down relatively quickly.
  • Scuff easily – The leather/suede uppers are prone to scuffing and showing wear.
  • Limited performance features – Traction and support in some models fall short for intense athletic training.

Alternative Shoe Brands to Consider

Here are some other shoe brands that offer similar retro athletic styles as alternatives to Onitsuka Tiger:

  • New Balance – Models like the New Balance 997 and 998 have support and cushoning better suited for athletic activity.
  • Saucony – Their Jazz and Shadow 5000 series are comparable retro runners with more performance features.
  • Nike – Iconic styles like the Nike Cortez and Blazer provide the vintage look with greater durability.
  • Adidas – Retro Adidas models like the Gazelle, Samba, and Superstar offer more affordable options.
  • Puma – The Puma Suede provides a classic low-profile look comparable to the Mexico 66.
  • Converse – Iconic Converse Chuck Taylor All-Stars have a similar minimalist style for much less cost.

Customer Reviews for Onitsuka Tiger Shoes:

John Smith (New York, NY): “I’ve been wearing Onitsuka Tigers for years and love the retro style. The Mexico 66 is a classic, comfortable sneaker that works well for walking around the city. My only complaint is that the back heel started to wear out after about a year of frequent use. But overall a great casual shoe.”

Sarah Kim (Chicago, IL): “This was my first pair of Onitsuka Tigers. I got the Serrano model for fitness classes and light jogging. They are cute sneakers and feel flexible when working out. However, I do wish they had a bit more arch support. I find I have to wear an insert with them for impact activities. The traction seems durable so far.”

James Wong (Seattle, WA): “I’m a big fan of the retro Onitsuka Tiger designs. The Ultimate 81 model has been my go-to pair for the last 2 years. They are so comfortable for being on my feet all day at work. I swapped out the insole for a more cushy one. The shoes still look pretty new despite frequent wear. The quality and comfort is worth the price for me.”

Emily Davis (Austin, TX): “I was looking for a good sneaker for Zumba and training that wasn’t bulky. The GSM style is lightweight and allows good foot movement but the thin sole means minimal cushioning. I love the flexibility but my feet did get sore using them for high impact aerobics. For barre and yoga, they provide nice grip and foot feel.”

Mark Brown (Denver, CO): “These Onitsuka Tigers were a gift and I really like the simple low-profile style. The white leather pairs well with jeans or shorts. However, after just 3 months of occasional wear, I noticed the back heels were pretty scuffed up already. Seems like the leather could be a bit more durable. But otherwise a great casual minimalist sneaker.”

Final Recommendations on Onitsuka Tiger Shoes

Onitsuka Tiger makes stylish, comfortable shoes that fuse vintage style with modern construction. They work well for casual wear and lifestyle activities. However, some models come up a bit short on performance features for athletic training.

Try sizing up in narrow-fitting models and expect the outsoles to wear relatively quickly. Overall though, Onitsuka Tiger shoes provide good quality and iconic retro appeal. Just be aware they come at a premium price point.

I hope this in-depth Onitsuka Tiger shoe review has provided a helpful overview of the brand’s footwear strengths and weaknesses. Let me know if you have any other questions!


How to clean Onitsuka Tiger shoes?

Keeping your Onitsuka Tiger shoes looking fresh and clean takes some care and maintenance. The premium leather and suede uppers require a gentle approach to avoid damaging the materials. Follow these tips for cleaning different parts of your Onitsuka Tigers: Read More: How to Clean Onitsuka Tiger Shoes-Easy Step-by-Step Guide

Cleaning the Upper

  • Use a soft bristle brush to remove dirt and debris. Brush gently in one direction.
  • For leather uppers, mix a solution of warm water and gentle soap. Use a damp cloth to wipe the upper clean.
  • For suede models, use a suede eraser brush to buff out marks and stains. Brush gently in one direction.
  • Avoid excessive water on leathers and suedes to prevent dark water stains.
  • For mesh fabric uppers, a damp cloth with mild detergent can clean stains.
  • Spot clean marks don’t rub the full upper area unnecessarily.
  • Stuff shoes with paper towels after cleaning to absorb moisture and help them retain shape.

Cleaning the Midsole

  • Use a soft brush and mild soap solution to clean the midsole.
  • Avoid excessive scrubbing which can cause the foam to deteriorate.
  • Wipe with a damp cloth and let air dry away from direct heat.

Cleaning the Outsole

  • Use a stiff brush and warm soapy water to remove dirt from the outsole.
  • Rinse thoroughly to get rid of any debris stuck in the tread.
  • Wipe outsoles dry with a cloth to prevent slippery residue buildup.

Stuffing with paper towels after cleaning helps shoes retain shape as they dry. Always allow shoes to fully air dry before wearing again. With a gentle approach, you can keep your Onitsuka Tigers looking like new. Avoid harsh cleaning products that may damage the premium materials.

Is Onitsuka Tiger high quality?

Yes, Onitsuka Tiger is generally considered a high quality shoe brand. They use premium materials like leather and suede for the uppers. The shoes are well-constructed with attention to detail. However, some models have outsoles that wear faster than the upper.

What is special about Onitsuka Tiger shoes?

Onitsuka Tiger shoes fuse vintage retro athletic styles from the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s with modern, comfortable construction. The shoes have an old-school look but with upgraded features like lightweight soles and breathable linings.

Should I buy the Mexico 66?

The Mexico 66 is an iconic, stylish lifestyle sneaker. But it runs narrow and lacks support for intense training. If you want a retro casual shoe for walking and everyday wear, it’s a good option. For athletic activities, other Onitsuka models like the Serrano may be better suited.

Does Onitsuka Tiger use pig skin?

No, Onitsuka Tiger does not use pig skin leather in their shoes. The uppers are made from cowhide leather, suede, nylon, and textile materials. Some models do incorporate synthetic leather.

Why is Onitsuka Tiger so expensive?

Onitsuka Tiger shoes are priced on the higher end, around $120-$150, because of the premium materials used and the hand-crafted construction techniques that go into making the retro-style shoes. The brand image and marketing also allows them to command a higher price point.

Is Onitsuka Tiger a premium brand?

Yes, Onitsuka Tiger positioned as a premium athletic lifestyle brand. Their shoes cost more than basic sneakers because they use higher quality materials and construction. The premium pricing matches the company’s desired brand image.

Is Onitsuka Tiger same as ASICS?

Onitsuka Tiger was the original company founded in 1949. In 1977 it merged with other brands to form ASICS. In 2002, ASICS revived Onitsuka Tiger as a standalone retro-style footwear brand, so they are currently sister companies under the same parent.

Is Onitsuka Tiger still popular?

Onitsuka Tiger has maintained popularity due to the revival of retro athletic shoe styles. The brand has maintained relevance through collaborations and limited editions that generate buzz. However, some view the styles as nostalgic rather than cutting edge.

Who wears Onitsuka Tigers?

In the past, Steve Jobs was known for wearing Onitsuka Tiger sneakers. Today, the brand’s shoes appeal broadly to sneakerheads, streetwear enthusiasts, casual athletes, and anyone who wants shoes with an old-school sporty style.

What rank is Onitsuka Tiger?

Onitsuka Tiger is not ranked as highly as athletic brands like Nike and Adidas in terms of sales and revenue. But it occupies a unique niche for retro-style shoes which command a premium price among their target audience looking for classic sporty designs.

Is Onitsuka Tiger Made in China?

Many Onitsuka Tiger models are made in China, though some are still manufactured in Japan. The shoes are designed in Japan to maintain ties to the brand’s heritage, while manufacturing in China helps lower costs.

Is Onitsuka made of leather?

Yes, many Onitsuka Tiger shoes have uppers constructed from leather, often premium suede leather. Some models may incorporate mesh textile fabric, synthetic leather, or nylon along with real leather accents and overlays.

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