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adidas Samba, Gazelle and Campus - Whats the difference?

All adidas trainers are basically the same, right? Our resident trainer expert Chris Semple is here to set the record straight...

adidas trainers

When it comes to footwear, nothing is more instantly recognisable than the famous three-stripes. It is an iconic symbol of the fashion industry and helps cement adidas’ place as a colossus of the game. What are not as easily discernible however, are the individual trainers themselves - especially the array of adidas Originals which employ the use of the three stripes.

As the second largest trainer manufacturer in the world, adidas are known for their constant strive for innovation, creating cutting-edge trainers that revolutionise both the sports world and the fashion world; the latter of which you can read all about in this guide. Two of their most popular offerings in recent years have been the Superstars and the Stan Smiths, but three designs that are often confused for each other are the football-inspired Sambas, the timeless Gazelles, and the tough and durable Campus’, born on the streets.

The Gazelles, Sambas and Campus’ - A brief introduction

adidas Gazelle

Image by adidas.

The Gazelle has a long and influential history, especially in the UK. This is in part due to its initial popularity in Northern English towns before being adopted by many a British subculture. Thanks to it’s simplistic yet stylish design, paired with a constant marketing revival, this shoe has been firmly in the limelight for over 40 years.

Today it is available in a wide variety of colourways and comes in slightly differing iterations, the most popular of which are the OG, the Vintage and the simple ‘Gazelle’, which is modelled after the 1991 version. They feature a suede upper, a unique rubber midsole with a distinctive rough texture, and a contrasting heel patch and tongue, all which make for a sleek yet casual look. They start from £70.

adidas Samba

Image by adidas.

The adidas Samba is one of adidas’ oldest ever shoes, being initially introduced in 1949 for indoor football players - this is why they feature the large gum-rubber ‘pivot point’ on the sole of the shoe, to aid with grip and stability on the slippery, hardwood floors of sports halls.

Similarly to the Gazelle, many different versions have been released over the past 70 years, leading up to the ‘Super Suede’ and ‘OG’ versions that are widely available today. Worn by a truly countless number of celebrities and fictional characters, they also start from £70.

adidas Campus

Image by adidas.

Whereas the Samba and the Gazelle often found fame and inspiration on this side of the pond, the Campus (alongside the legendary Superstar) helped pave adidas’ way into North America, a market previously wholly dominated by Nike.

Created for the court, these were hugely popular amongst Basketball players, and after being religiously worn by the Beastie Boys, they became an icon of both New York City and US Hip Hop culture. Production stopped in 1987 but was revived in the mid 90s, staying just under the radar for 20 years following that; only in the past 5 years have they seen a boom in popularity. The solid rubber sole provides great durability and gives the shoe a very rigid feel, contributing to the street-ready vibe. They start from £65.

What are the similarities between the three?

Image by adidas.

For starters, all three shoes employ the aforementioned three stripes on their upper, placed in the middle of the shoe on both the inside and the outside. In the classic colourways, the stripes are usually white, but more contemporary versions feature them in an array of colours. These stripes help form the core design of each overall shoe, and ensure that anyone can instantly tell that each pair is from the German giant’s vast catalogue. The stripes are also perforated on all these trainers too, to really drive home that heritage feel - on more modern creations, the stripes are just blocks without the spiked edges.

Another similarity between the three pairs that distinctly identifies them as being of adidas pedigree is the heel patch - this is the portion to the rear of the shoe that is typically white with a black ‘Trefoil’ logo inside it. All iterations of the Campus and Gazelle feature this, as well as the ‘Super Suede’ version of the Samba. This portion usually contrasts the rest of the shoe in terms of colour, and is a mainstay of most of adidas Originals designs.

Furthermore, all three shoes also have their names embossed above the stripe closest to the collar (the portion where your foot enters the shoe), which is a trademark adidas design point and is visible on a plethora of their trainers. These are often added in metallic-like material, which can unfortunately peel after sustained wear, but are sometimes stitched into the fabric of the shoe.

What is different about the shoes?

Image by adidas.

The Samba’s feature a gum-sole as standard, a retro material that gives serious heritage aesthetic to every trainer it is ever installed on, whereas the Gazelle and Campus simply feature a standard rubber sole. The gum-sole is easily discernible by its striking tan colour, which often contrasts the rest of the shoe, and are softer than their regular rubber counterparts, providing better grip too.

Another difference is the tongue of the Gazelle, the colour of which is usually white, contrasting the rest of the shoe. This is unlike the Campus and the Samba, where the tongue is usually the same colour as the main upper. The tongue of the Gazelle on the ‘normal’ version is also elongated, rising above the shoe, and on all versions is made of a unique synthetic material, that features ribbing on either side - this material is known however to cause the tongue to slip to the side of your foot when you walk.

The toe-cap is another feature that is rightly worth a mention, as on both the Gazelle and the Samba the T-shaped toe cap is used, which brings the upper together in one smooth material and looks somewhat like a mushroom. However on the Campus it is different, where the more traditional trainer style is adopted, in that the medial and lateral uppers (the inside and outside mid-sections) are held together using lacing, and the tongue simply runs the length of the shoe, eventually becoming the toe-cap.

What other adidas trainers are popular right now?

7. Ultraboost

Image by adidas.

Providing unrivalled comfort and versatility, and now available in models made using recycled ocean plastic, the Ultraboost changed the game when they were introduced back in 2015. Making use of the Boost technology in the sole, they are lauded for their cushioning and responsiveness. Perfect for both casual days and working out, they also now come in a vast array of colourways, and in a variety of materials and fit-styles too. They are a little on the expensive side at £140, but are definitely a great investment.

6. Nite Jogger

Image by adidas.

Recently re-released as an updated version of the 1980s classic, these trainers also employ the use of a Boost sole for maximum cushion when running. They also feature 3M reflective strips for maximum visibility at night. They have the functionality of a sports shoe, with the upper-design and feel of an adidas Originals, these truly are the best of both worlds. They start from £110 but seeing as they are not a staple of the Originals line, many are already popping up on sale.

5. NMD_R1

Image by adidas.

These sock-like trainers have been hovering around the mainstream for a few years now, and thanks to their supreme levels of comfort, they aren't due to go away anytime soon. Boasted by adidas as being perfect for urban environments, their responsive Boost sole and foot-hugging nature make them the perfect casual footwear. Numerous updates have provided pairs with rain-resistant material, or even with trail-inspired gum soles. They start from £110.

4. Sobakov

Image by adidas.

Also released in 2019, these understated casual trainers divide opinion. Inspired by modern football culture, they offer a unique take on the famous three stripes,but the contrasting gum sole can be enough to put some people off. They are decidedly laid back in appearance and as such look great with a pair of tracksuit bottoms. They now come in a range of reserved colourways and start at £100 but again, don’t be surprised if you can grab a bargain on these. Oh, and a pair featuring a Boost sole have been released now too.


Image by adidas.

Taking it slightly back with a 90s remaster now, it’s the Ozweegos. These feature a large sole for maximum absorption and cushioning, yet are surprisingly lightweight. Dedicated forefoot support further enhances their comfort which, along with their overall durability, ensures they are perfect for any busy days. Channeling serious rave vibes of yesteryear, they are available in a vast array of neon and reflective colourways too, and start at £90.


Image by adidas.

Every year, Matt Powell of market research company NPD releases an annual list of the USA’s best selling trainers. As you can imagine, Nike heavily dominates these lists but in 2016 the adidas Superstar came in at number 1 (which was apparently the first time in a decade that Nike did not have the best selling shoe), and in 2017 it reached number 4. Not bad for a shoe that was first released in 1969. Whilst this list can obviously not be taken as gospel, it just proves what a truly great trainer the adidas Superstar is. Still going strong on both sides of the Atlantic, they can be picked up for £80.

1.adidas Continental 80

Image by adidas.

They sometimes say that less is more, and that definitely applies here; the design of these trainers is surprisingly basic, yet just works in every way. Aside from the serious retro vibes that these give off (which of course is always great), what’s really great about the Continental 80 is the variety of colourways they come in. Many versions feature tones that are seemingly faded, making the shoe look as if it’s been dropped in dye then left in the sun for a few years; it really adds to the heritage aesthetic. An overall classy trainer, and a more reasonably priced one too, starting at £75.

How can I find cheap adidas trainers?

You’ll find adidas footwear of all kinds across every corner of the internet, but luckily right here at we've got you covered when it comes to finding a bargain. If you click here you'll be able to instantly compare prices on literally hundreds of adidas trainers, to ensure you can get the very best deal possible on each pair - there are some serious savings available.

Chris Semple

Manchester City season ticket holder and FC Schalke armchair. Wannabe trainer collector and travelling enthusiast.