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Nike Cortez vs. adidas Superstar

Nike Cortez versus adidas Superstar. Two of the most recognisable trainers in the world, what’s the difference? Why do you need both? We’re here to tell you.
Author Image of Kevan Thorpe


3 years ago


Nike Cortez vs. adidas Superstar being worn on grey background with Nike Cortez versus adidas Superstar title

There are two constants in the trainer world, they are Nike’s Swoosh and adidas’ three stripes. We’re not here to say “choose one!” and cause another thorny Oasis vs. Blur situation. We’re only here to give you the lowdown on why you should own both.

The Cortez and the Superstar are two of the finest examples of complete overhaul in the sneaker scene, whilst also showing incredible staying power in a rapidly changing market since their respective releases.

With only 3 years in between their dates of birth, the adidas Superstar (1969) and the Nike Cortez (1972) were revolutionary in design, for very different reasons. Let’s dig in and find out more.

Introducing the original Nike Cortez

Image from Nike.

Design began back in 1968 with the shoe finally launching in 1972, along with what we know as Nike, Inc. today. This sneaker was initially made to support track and field athletes, and Nike co-founder Bill Bowerman was the man behind the creation. An Olympic-class coach himself, he knew that athletes in the modern world demanded more from their footwear.

There’s no doubt that the Cortez galloped on to become a pop culture icon following those early days on the track; Eazy-E of West Coast hip-hop supergroup N.W.A was notably committed to the silhouette. Of course, who could forget the trainer appearing on the feet of Tom Hanks’ Oscar-winning character Forrest Gump in 1994? Cementing the Cortez firmly in the spotlight. US rapper Kendrick Lamar is the latest to sprinkle his own stardust on the design.

Above all though, this was an incredible trainer. You don’t receive accolades like the Cortez has enjoyed without being a quality product, that’s a fact. Longevity is one of the toughest tests in the footwear world, meaning it wouldn’t be a risk to exclaim that Nike absolutely nailed it with this one.

Nike Cortez original 1972 laid out in blue and white with white background
Image from Nike.

Introducing the original adidas Superstar

Image from adidas.

Launched in 1969, this shoe was well ahead of its time. Initially designed as the first ever low-top basketball sneaker, the model found (super)stardom quickly in the United States’ NBA league. At its peak, over 75% of players were squeaking hardwood in these three stripes, including the highest scoring player of all time, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

Like the Nike Cortez, adidas Superstars have had their fair share of media coverage. Becoming affectionately known to its fans as ‘shell toes’. The musical parallels stay close too, with early hip-hop pioneers Run-DMC adopting this sneaker as their shoe of choice in the 1980s. They even wrote a song about it, My adidas. A bit too obvious we feel.

The Superstar has been through many adaptations and collaborations in its long life, proving the style to be the perfect blank canvas for creativity to flourish. Let’s leave that (very long) list for another day.

What are the similarities between the Nike Cortez and adidas Superstar?

Black and white Nike Cortez face black and white adidas Superstar on half grey and half white background
Images from Nike and adidas.

Upon seeing these sneakers side by side, we wouldn’t judge you for thinking they are worlds apart. It turns out though: *whispering* they are closer than Nike and adidas probably wanted them to be.

Both shoes contain a strong, durable leather upper which was required for their respective sports. Athletics and basketball. They also came in fresh colourways on release, with the Cortez opting for the dash of red and blue over the Superstar’s monochrome outfit. Each are perfectly balanced which results in them being held in equally high regard by both male and female owners.

Everyone knows the Swoosh and the stripes

The similarities are clear when it comes to strong branding. adidas had already experienced huge popularity with their three stripes, before Nike released its (now instantly recognisable) Swoosh on this shoe. With it, Bowerman and Nike created a brand which would eventually romp past adidas in the race to dominate the global sportswear market.

The logos almost mirror one another, with tongue, heel tab, outsole and lateral upper markings. The only difference: the model name sits in gold lettering on the outer of the adidas silhouette.

Built for their audiences with precision

The two trainers opt for slightly different toe detailing, but still highlight the specific needs of their original target audiences. The famous shell-toe of the Superstar was to lend durability for NBA players, pushing their considerable weight through their toes mid-game. Nike saw the need to also reinforce that area, adding a second layer of leather to the toe and increasing support for athletes during training and competition.

From the side view of the Cortez, you can make out the jagged outsole pattern. The Superstar has more rounded edges, but does also have a similar chevron-laden sole. It turns out, like people on the wet streets, neither athletes nor basketball players wanted to find themselves in crumpled heaps.

The final point to make here is: if there was a trainer hall of fame, each of these iconic models would sit proudly on their own plinths.

Black and white adidas Superstar collection fanned out on grey background
Image from adidas.

What are the differences between Nike Cortez and adidas Superstar?

Limited edition adidas Superstar in black facing white and grey Kendrick Lamar Nike Cortez on half grey and half white background
Images from Nike and adidas.

We have to address the shape as the first clear difference. After all, they served two completely separate types of athlete. They weren’t just to make you look top dollar. They performed too. A bulkier, thick-soled adidas Superstar with added rubber toe cap suited the NBA, and a sleeker, running-style Nike Cortez with its gradually sloped midsole was made for the track.

When it came to the streets, people simply opt for the silhouette that best reflects their personal style. Due to its durability, the Superstar often found itself on skateboards during a mid-80s popularity boom for the sport. Something you’ll still see at skateparks today.

Look closer and you'll see subtle differences

There are visible differences between the midsoles on these classic models. The Cortez running with a coloured stripe and glued outer sole and the Superstar opting for exposed stitching and block colour. The technology within the midsole has barely any difference: majority foam for lightweight and cushioning in each.

The attention to detail on each shoe is not to be ignored, intricate stitching and nuanced detailing accrue into two complete, special examples of trainerwear. With clear differences in these two amazing sneakers, you’d still be hard pressed to choose a favourite. I know we are.

How to find cheap Nike Cortez and adidas Superstars

Here at FOOTY.COM we have a vast selection of both adidas Superstars and Nike Cortez. You know what’s the best news though? We’re 100% impartial and we simply serve you with the best deal that’s out there. The only job you have, is to grab those sneakers and dominate the pavements.

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Author Image of Kevan Thorpe
Quintessential grassroots journeyman. I've had more "you look like Gareth Barry" comments than I have career goals.
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