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Robb Recommends: The Low-Top Leather Sneakers That Deliver Big Style With a Small Carbon Footprint

Koio's sleek Capri kicks blend detail-centered craftsmanship with an eco-conscious ethos.

KOIO Capri sneakers in Onyx. Koio

Welcome to Robb Recommends, a regular series in which our editors and contributors endorse something they’ve tried and loved—and think will change your life for the better. If you purchase a product or service through a link in this story, we may receive a small commission.

When it comes to MVPs of the closet, few shoes compare to the low-top leather sneaker for me. The classic minimalist silhouette is the definition of versatility, pairing perfectly with everything from tailoring to chinos. I’ve had myriad variations of these kicks over the years. And, for last decade or so, I’ve been loyal to one brand. But Koio, a sneaker upstart founded in 2015, may have just changed that.

Over the last two months, I put my favorite low-tops on the shelf and instead laced up a pair of the Koio Capris in Onyx. The shoes are handmade in Tuscany with a full-grain black leather that sits atop a clean white rubber sole. Both elements are constructed with the environment in mind, a point of focus for the brand. The leather is sourced from an Italian tannery that’s known for its sustainable practices, including using only natural vegetable dyes and minimizing water usage. The sole, meanwhile, is made with 40 percent recycled rubber while another 50 percent is sourced from a forest that’s responsibly managed to prevent deforestation.

Those kinds of eco-conscious details are not uncommon these days, but at Koio they are part of an overarching ethos that stresses handmade craftsmanship and high-quality materials. The Onyx leather is a deep and rich black, and it’s girded beautifully by the sturdy white sole. It’s all held together by tight hand-stitching. (The brand claims each pair passes through the hands of 42 artisans, and given the construction, it’s not hard to believe.)

I wore my black-and-white Capris far and wide—to the office and on business trips. They came with me to Austin for South by Southwest and then to the Watches & Wonders tradeshow in Geneva, Switzerland. In both cases, I paired the sneakers with everything from corduroy suits to jeans (to whatever you call that over-casual plane-ride home outfit). They worked seamlessly in every context. 

Koio Capri Sneakers

Koio’s Capri sneakers in Onyx.

Buy Now: $295

Like any pair of leather sneakers worth their salt, Koios take some time to break in. The leather doesn’t give right away, and your feet will feel it. But after wearing them for a week or so, the Capris began to form comfortably around my size 12s. The waxed-cotton laces are a nice touch, but at the beginning, you’ll be retying them more than you like (the wax makes the laces slippery). All of it this, however, is worth it once you’ve worn the shoes in.

What impressed me most about the Capris was their integrity—not just the eco-conscious kind, but how well they maintained that pristine silhouette. The leather is supple, but it’s not prone to unwanted creases that compromise the profile, even after walking thousands of steps a day around a tradeshow space or through a grubby airport. The rubber sole doesn’t scuff—or wear down—easily, keeping the shoes looking clean. After two months and a couple continents, mine still look crisp.

Of course, black-on-white low-tops aren’t for everyone. Smartly, Koio offers its core sneaker line in myriad styles. The Capri, for instance, comes in a whopping 25 colorways, ranging from Triple White to Pink Quartz to all manner of suede variations. And if you crave even more sustainability, you can opt for one of the three “Regenerative” pairs, made with leather sourced from Swiss Alps farms where the livestock grazes the mountains freely.

Sure, Koios don’t have the same brand recognition of a certain Common sneaker we know. But for those who are more compelled by the triumvirate of craftsmanship, style, and sustainability, Koio kicks may well have no peer.

Buy Now: $295

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