About three years ago, I started seeing dudes wearing sweet minimalist white sneakers everywhere.
On the streets.
I guess that’s everywhere for me.
I was committed to finding the best pair for myself. And of course, if you’ve spent any time searching for the most popular white sneaker, you’ve no doubt come across Common Projects—the $400+ plain white sneaker.
Well, when I first saw the price tag, I crawled under my desk and started sucking my thumb. Maybe I’m not as committed to white sneakers as I thought.
Truth is: I am committed, but I just needed to find a brand with similar quality that would leave a little wiggle room in the budget.
And that search led me to KOIO.
I picked up their popular Capri sneaker, and I couldn’t resist snagging the Chelsea Boot while I was at it, too.
After wearing both for several weeks now, my verdict on KOIO is in. Keep reading to get the full story.
What Is KOIO?
KOIO is an American brand with a dedication to European craftsmanship and style sensibility.
All of KOIO’s sneakers, boots, and shoes are made in Le Marche, Italy, and use locally sourced materials. That means the calf-skin leather is from Le Marche. The laces are from Le Marche. The sole is from…you get it.
KOIO doesn’t just assemble their shoes in Italy. Their sneakers represent hundreds of years of Italian footwear craftsmanship. (Oh, and those popular $400 sneakers we talked about earlier? Rumor has it they’re made in the same factory. It begs the question: why the added cost?)
Things to Consider Before Buying Shoes from KOIO
The KOIO Capri is a luxury level sneaker, and the price reflects that. Rather than genuine leather with a plastic film over it, you’re getting top of the line materials all the way through, from full grain Italian calf-skin leather, a full grain lining and footbed, organic cotton laces, and a legendary Italian Margom sole.
If you’ve ever bought a pair of sneakers only to find cracks along the creases and edges a year later, you won’t have the same experience here.
The leather is among the best you can find in footwear, so it should crease nicely, break in, and last for many years.
KOIO Shoes Review
Checking out KOIO, I knew I had to pick up their most popular Capri sneaker. But where’s the fun in only trying one shoe? The Chelsea Boot caught my eye for the unique sole, so I decided to give that a shot as well.
KOIO Capri Sneakers Review
A pair of minimalist white sneakers is a footwear must in every guy’s wardrobe. I basically switch to white sneakers all spring and summer long—it’s hard to see the simple, classic lines and pass them up.
The upper is made with Italian calfskin leather, which is buttery-smooth and soft. What I like most about this leather is how it’s been creasing over the past month or two.
Because the grain is so tight, the creases are more gentle (rather than the deep creases you’d get with a rougher leather). This helps the sneaker age better, which is always the tricky part with plain white sneakers.
KOIO uses a custom Margom sole for the Capri, which is 3mm thick and has more of a contour at the tip of the toe. To be honest, I probably wouldn’t have noticed the contoured toe, but the contrast was noticeable when comparing the KOIO Capri to the Oliver Cabell Low 1.
The Margom sole on the KOIO Capri is a half centimeter thicker than the sole on the Low 1 (a big bonus for comfort and durability), and I think that contour helps a lot to make the Capri a better proportioned sneaker.
The Capri is also a full centimeter more narrow at the toe, when compared to the Low 1, and I love the sleek look.
Of the white sneakers I own (I also have the GREATS Royale), the KOIO Capri has my favorite shape. The differences are subtle, yes, but a centimeter here and there has a big impact on the final proportions of the sneaker.
As for construction and material quality, KOIO takes the cake. As I said, the leather grain is quite tight, so it makes the creases subtle and distinguished, rather than looking like gashes through the toe-box.
But the brand also goes the extra mile to attach several pieces of leather around the heel to keep that delicate seam secure. It’s another subtle detail, but it can make the difference between having a split open sneaker three years from now or having a well-loved pair of everyday city-walkers.
The Capri is quite comfortable, though there is a bit of a break in period for the first five miles or so. It’s not harsh or anything, but it took a bit for my foot to sink into the leather footbed and to crease the leather upper and lining. Still, I’ve come to expect that from high quality leather sneakers, so it’s not an issue for me.
The KOIO Capri Triple White is as loud as a white dress sneaker can get without leaving the minimalist realm. Go for these if you want a pair with a lot of details that aesthetically sits in between the dress and athletic sneaker worlds.
KOIO Chelsea Boot Review
KOIO is known for their sneakers, but their Chelsea Boot is so distinctive, I couldn’t pass it up.
Made with a thick lug sole reminiscent of combat boots, and a creamy Italian suede upper, this boot blends rugged with sleek.
These boots remind me a bit of what a really sophisticated high quality Doc Marten boot would be, and I love it.
But I’m shocked at how light these are.
A single KOIO Chelsea Boot weighs 450g. Compare that to the Red Wing Iron Ranger at 825g per boot, and that makes a pretty massive difference when you’re walking a few miles through town.
And that lightness is mainly due to the Extralight Sole, which is made from a durable foam rather than rubber.
The sole is completely waterproof and it’s super flexible and shock absorbent. I worry a bit about the heel wearing down, which is usually the first thing to go in all my shoes, but in the first month of use, I haven’t noticed any damage.
At the time of writing, KOIO offers a Charcoal and a Mocha suede option for their Chelsea Boots. I went with the Mocha suede because I love the black sole/brown leather combo.
The suede is really nice—it’s soft to the touch and the knap is raised enough to give the leather a dynamic and rich color.
I was a bit worried about slipping these on because the ankle is so narrow, I thought there was no way. But the six-inch elastic gore panels at the side actually make it pretty easy. I really like that the pull-tab is leather and not nylon. I’ve owned Chelsea boots with pull-tabs that tear off within the first 10 wears, and that’s always a huge disappointment. I doubt that will ever happen here.
Not everyone is going to like a style this distinctive, as it does blend in a combat aesthetic. This boot is quite weather resistant (but not waterproof), so it makes for an excellent fall/winter choice.
Overall, I think if you enjoy the style of the KOIO Chelsea Boot, there’s a good case to be made for it as an everyday boot. It has so much shock absorption and it’s so light that it feels more comfortable than their sneakers (which are already plenty comfortable).
What do Other Reviewers Say About KOIO?
KOIO has a near-perfect rating with well over 3,000 reviews on their site at the time of writing. For many folks leaving reviews, they’re on their second or third pair, which is always promising to see.
A lot of reviewers appreciate KOIO’s “Try Before You Buy” program, which allows you to pick up two pairs in different sizes and ship the wrong size back. For instance, if you’re not sure whether you should get a size 9 or 10, KOIO will ship you both and you just send whichever doesn’t fit well back.
I’m usually a size 10.5 in sneakers, and I opted for the 10. It fits perfectly (for the boots, too), and that’s what many reviewers say, as well.
My Thoughts Overall On KOIO
What I Like
The KOIO Capri has all the same material and construction quality you’ll find in $400+ sneakers, but the price is much more affordable.
The Extralight sole on the Chelsea Boot is pretty mind-blowing—it has a ton of shock absorption and it’s remarkably lightweight, which makes this boot a perfect choice for walking several miles through the city.
Both models have a slim modern aesthetic that works well in any curated wardrobe.
Free shipping on any order over $100, free returns, and instant exchanges make shopping with KOIO pretty risk-free.
What I Don’t Like
KOIO doesn’t have a lot of sizing variety—only full sizes and nothing for the wide-footed guy.
Who is KOIO for?
KOIO is an excellent choice if you’re willing to invest in high quality footwear that will last several years, but you still want to rock a slim, modern aesthetic.
I’m really impressed with KOIO. The Capri sneaker is on the high end of what I’m willing to pay for a minimalist sneaker, but the value is absolutely there.
Compared to other options on the market, the Capri is my favorite sneaker. It’s about 40% less expensive than Common Projects, and I’d wager the quality and construction is the same. The other contender is the Oliver Cabell Low 1, though I think the proportions of the Capri are more stylish and the Capri is significantly more comfortable.
The Chelsea Boot is weird and awesome. I’ve been enjoying how lightweight it is, and combined with the shock absorbing sole, it’s easy to put in five or more miles at a time with these boots.
You’re either a fan of the combat-sleek aesthetic or you’re not. But if you think the boot looks as cool as I do, you’ll be pleased with the quality and comfort.
Overall, I’m a big fan of KOIO and I’ll be shopping with them again.
Are KOIO shoes worth it?
KOIO’s Capri sneakers are on the high end of what I’d pay for dressy sneakers, and of all the brand’s I’ve tried, KOIO is my favorite. If you’re able to spend $250+ on sneakers, KOIO is the best option in my opinion.
Where are KOIO shoes made?
KOIO shoes are made in Le Marche, Italy, from locally sourced materials.
Why are Common Projects sneakers so expensive?
Common Projects sneakers use top-of-the-line materials and are made by Italian craftsmen with decades of experience. In my opinion, KOIO sneakers have a similar quality in materials and construction, though are significantly less expensive.