Oliver Cabell vs KOIO vs GREATS: Battle for the Minimalist Sneaker Throne

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by  William Barton | Last Updated: 

Pure Italian value

Oliver Cabell Low 1

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Max quality

KOIO Capri

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Seen better days

GREATS Royale

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The Oliver Cabell Low 1 is almost a complete winner---all the materials and construction are top-notch, including the beautiful Italian full grain leather. But it’s a very narrow shoe that can cramp your toes if your foot is even slightly wider than average. Plus, the Low 1 isn’t available in half-sizes, which is a bummer.

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If you want the best quality and most comfort and you’re willing to spend a bit extra, the KOIO Capri is my sneaker of choice. Of the three, I reach for my KOIO’s the most often because they have a similar slim style as the Oliver Cabells, but they leave more room in the toe so it’s easier to wear for longer.

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The GREATS Royale is a decent shoe, but its quality just doesn’t match the Oliver Cabell Low 1 or the KOIO Capri. If your budget can make the jump, I recommend the KOIO Capri---it’s definitely the best quality and most comfortable sneaker here. But if you’re looking to stay at the same price, then Oliver Cabell is the way to go. But if you have wide feet, all of that is out the window---get a KOIO wide size or stick with the GREATS.

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Pros:

  • Excellent leather and construction
  • Margom soles balance comfort and durability well
  • Several minimalist styles and some really interesting distressed options
  • Leather quality is near the peak of what you can find on sneakers
  • They’re the most comfortable, partly due to the last, but also small details like the suede heel grip help a lot
  • KOIO offers wide sizes, too
  • The more spacious design is nice for guys with wider feet
  • GREATS has half sizes available between 8 and 12

Cons:

  • Very narrow, especially at the toe
  • No half sizes available
  • There are no half-sizes available (though the wide sizes definitely help alleviate that problem)
  • The leather is stiff and because it’s so highly corrected, it has a plastic feeling to it (but is still 100% full grain leather to be clear)
  • The more spacious and bulbous design makes this decidedly less dressy and more casual
  • The break in for my Ash Grey pair was one of the most difficult shoe break-ins I’ve ever had (but not with my white pair)

Every brand seems to have their own minimalist sneaker. 

It’s almost annoying to see that “new release” email, just to find out it’s another white sneaker that looks like all the other white sneakers. 

With so many options, it’s hard to know which you should get. 

Well, I struggled with this exact problem a few years ago, and I ended up getting a pair of Oliver Cabell Low 1, KOIO Capri, and GREATS Royale sneakers.

I’ve been wearing them for at least a year (I’ve had the GREATS the longest), and if you’re just looking for the best pair, then I’ve got you covered. 

Oliver Cabell Low 1 vs KOIO Capri vs GREATS Royale Overview

Oliver Cabell Low 1 Black Product Shot 1 KOIO White Low top Sneakers Mens Capri Triple White Product Shot Greats The Royale Blanco Product Shot
Oliver Cabell Low 1 KOIO Capri GREATS Royale
Upper Vicenza Italian Full Grain LWG-Gold Certified Italian Full Grain Full Grain
Sizes 5-15 (no half sizes) 7-16 (with wide sizes) 7-15 (with half sizes)
Outsole Margom Custom Custom
Warranty 30-day returns + $15 restock fee (in US) 14-day free 30-day free
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Usually when people are comparing these brands, they’re comparing the most popular shoe from each: their minimalist sneaker

I’m going to do the same. While I’ve tried other boots and shoes from Oliver Cabell and KOIO, I’ll stick strictly to sneaker-talk.

Oliver Cabell Low 1

model sitting on steps wearing olivers pants

The Oliver Cabell Low 1 is the most narrow and slim of these sneakers. While Oliver Cabell has the minimalist leather options you’d expect, like white, black, brown, and grey, they’ve also expanded into distressed styles, which are completely unique.

I can’t say I’m a fan of the distressed styles, but I did see someone wearing them in an airport once and he looked pretty cool. But the style isn’t for me. I like to keep things more classic. 

Oliver Cabell minimalist sneaker margom sole

The Low 1 is made in El Marche, Italy with Italian full grain leather and a Margom sole. So it’s Italian all the way through. 

The price hovers around the $200 range, which might seem expensive at first glance, but when you consider that the $400+ Common Projects Achilles is made in the same place with many of the same materials, it makes sense why Oliver Cabell was able to make such an impact with the Low 1. 

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Oliver Cabell Low 1
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The Low 1 is Oliver Cabell's most popular shoe. It boasts a classic low-profile silhouette, with color options that are expressive, but not overly trendy or unprofessional.

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KOIO Capri

KOIO capri sneakers white background

Like Oliver Cabell, KOIO made their name in the “Common Projects but cheaper” space, and their most popular sneaker is the Capri

The Capri has a low, sleek profile with an almond-shaped toe. They’re surprisingly comfortable given how narrow they are. 

KOIO offers wide sizes for a few of their Capri leather options, which should be music to the ears of those who’ve had to forego the minimalist sneaker craze because their feet are too wide. 

The brand also offers the greatest variety of leather options, with a whopping 22 different colors at the time of writing (and they’re always adding more). 

One thing that KOIO boasts that the other two brands can’t: their sustainability practices. Their leather comes from tanneries that manage their water according to strict environmental protocols, and their soles are made with up to 50% recycled material. 

KOIO Capri Triple White

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're all about quality in your footwear. They're super comfortable with outstanding build quality and an aesthetic that sits in between the dress and athletic sneaker worlds.

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GREATS Royale

Greats royale blanco on steps

GREATS most popular sneaker, the Royale, is a blend between an old school basketball sneaker and a minimalist sneaker. 

While the Oliver Cabell and KOIOs have a lot of overlap in style, the GREATS has a few significant differences. Probably the biggest of those differences is the wider, more bulbous shape and the perforations at the back of the toe-box. 

The GREATS Royale also has some overlapping leather patterns at the “waist” of the foot which makes it a bit more complicated than some of its more minimalist counterparts. 

You can find the Royale available in seven year-round colorways, and they often have a rotating selection of seven seasonal leather options, too. 

Greats royale grey profile view
Greats Royale in Ash Grey

The GREATS Royale isn’t the same as it’s always been though. In 2019, the company was bought by Steven Madden and some major changes were made, including the leather, laces, sole, and country of manufacturing. 

In my full GREATS Royale review, I found that they just don’t match up with other minimalist sneaker brands like they once did. The leather quality isn’t nearly as good as it once was, and other brands (like Oliver Cabell and KOIO) offer better value for your money. 

GREATS The Royale

The GREATS Royale is a decent sneaker, but I believe the quality has dropped since the brand was acquired by Steven Madden. I find myself reaching for my KOIO and Oliver Cabell sneakers more often because of their slimmer design and better quality leather. Guys with wide feet will like the roomier, more bulbous toe of the GREATS. The perforations and larger style are a bit reminiscent of Jordan basketball sneakers, which is a bit more casual than I prefer when slipping on a sneaker.

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Features Face to Face

Style

model wearing KOIO sneakers
The KOIO Capri

The Oliver Cabell Low 1 and KOIO Capri are quite similar in style—the big outlier is the GREATS Royale

All three fit into the category of minimalist sneaker, but there are some important differences to note between them.

The Low 1 and Capri have a low profile instep and are narrow throughout the entire upper. Interestingly, the KOIO Capri has an extra bit of taper in the toe box which you can see here:

Greats vs Oliver Cabell vs KOIO Capri Minimalist sneaker toes compared

There are some other minor differences between the Low 1 and Capri, like the fact that the Capri has extra pieces of leather in the back, but from a distance, the styles are largely the same. 

Greats royale blanco profile view
The GREATS Royale

The GREATS Royale, however, is a noticeably larger sneaker. It’s more rounded and has more room at the “waist” of the foot. Overall, I’d call it more “bulbous,” though it’s certainly not a chunky sneaker by any means. 

Also, the GREATS has perforations in the toe box, which are reminiscent of Air Jordan sneakers—not that anyone would ever confuse the two, but they do give the GREATS an “old-school” kind of feeling. 

Of the styles, it’s a tie between the Oliver Cabell Low 1 and the KOIO Capri for me. I can’t honestly say there’s such a big difference between the looks that I choose one over the other more often on a pure style-basis. 

top down image of model wearing oliver cabell low 1 sneaker
The Oliver Cabell Low 1

I also like how the GREATS Royale looks, but it doesn’t draw me in as much as the other two sneakers. 

Leather Quality 

If I were to rank these sneaker in terms of leather quality, it would look like this:

  1. KOIO Capri
  2. Oliver Cabell Low 1
  3. GREATS Royale
KOIO sneakers on model with sunglasses
The KOIO Capri

And while the KOIO and Oliver Cabell are pretty close for leather quality, the GREATS lags far behind. 

When Steven Madden took over GREATS, the company plugged in their extensive network of leather tanneries, and the full grain Italian leather went by the wayside. 

Now, while the leather is still full grain for the Royale, it’s so heavily corrected (sanded of all defects) that it feels stiff and a little like plastic. 

model wearing Greats royale sneaker
The GREATS Royale

This not only caused some issues for me with the break in period, but I also don’t think the GREATS crease and age as well as the other brands.

Comparing the KOIO and Oliver Cabell leather, the differences are much more minor. I give KOIO the edge because their leather seems more supple, a little softer, and the creases are more gentle. 

Model wearing olivers passage pant and oliver cabll low 1 minimalist sneakers

It may not seem that way from the images because the KOIO looks older, but that’s because I wear my KOIO far more often than my GREATS or Oliver Cabells (it’s largely an issue of comfort for me, which I’ll talk more about in the Fit and Sizing section). 

Sole Quality

Greats royale sole
The GREATS Royale

I haven’t really noticed a difference in the soles. They’re all comfortable and seem reasonably durable. 

Oliver Cabell uses the Italian Margom sole, which is renowned for its quality. But when I compare it to the GREATS custom sole and the KOIO custom recycled sole, the brand-name sole doesn’t make a noticeable difference. 

However, I wear boots much more often, so I’m used to heavy lugs and tons of grip, so to me, a sneaker sole is light-duty and I basically see them all as weak-sauce comparatively. 

All three sneakers have synthetic foam footbeds, which helps add a lot of comfort to the sneaker. 

KOIO capri

To me, while there are some minor differences in the soles, this isn’t a make-or-break feature because it’s not like you’re going to be stomping around in a rainstorm with your bleach-white minimalist sneakers anytime soon.

Fit and Sizing

Up to this point, I think KOIO and Oliver Cabell are pretty equal, which would give the advantage to Oliver Cabell because they’re significantly less expensive. 

But the Oliver Cabell Low 1 just isn’t nearly as comfortable as the KOIO. 

KOIO capri triple white sneakers on stairs
The KOIO Capri

And while the GREATS Royale has more room in the instep and toe box, the stiff leather makes them less comfortable than the KOIO Capri, too. 

Despite how narrow and slim the KOIO Capri is, it has a surprising amount of room and is a really comfortable shoe. 

Model Adjusting Oliver Cabell Low 1 sneaker

The Oliver Cabell, while it looks similar to the Capri from the outside, feels a bit tight and cramped on my feet. 

This is partially made worse because Oliver Cabell doesn’t offer any half-sizes, while KOIO has some wide sizes available. 

Though I have a size 10 for all three brands and the KOIO’s are still the most comfortable. 

KOIO capri triple white walking down stairs
The KOIO Capri

It’s also important to note that the GREATS Royale was one of the most difficult break ins I’ve ever had, and that includes many of the heavy-duty boots I’ve broken in in the past. It’s not something I expected from a sneaker. 

model walking in Greats royale

While GREATS has the most variety in sizes, I think anyone who’s a half-size would be best served getting a KOIO in wide, the next size smaller. For example, I’m a size 10.5 in sneakers, and the 10 Wide would be the perfect size for me. As it is, the 10 regular is still a comfortable fit. 

Oliver Cabell vs KOIO vs GREATS: Which is Best for You?

Greats vs Oliver Cabell vs KOIO Capri Minimalist sneaker toes compared

If I were to get another pair of one of these three sneakers, I would get the KOIO Capri

Our Top Pick
KOIO Capri Triple White

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're all about quality in your footwear. They're super comfortable with outstanding build quality and an aesthetic that sits in between the dress and athletic sneaker worlds.

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While I really like the style, material, and construction quality of the Oliver Cabell Low 1, I found the fit to be too narrow for me. Normally going up a half-size would solve that problem, but Oliver Cabell doesn’t offer half-sizes (I’m a 10.5 and the 10 was too narrow in Oliver Cabell, but not for KOIO). 

I think the GREATS Royale is out of the question, unless you like the more bulbous, relaxed style. 

The leather quality on the GREATS just doesn’t match Oliver Cabell or KOIO.

Runner Up
Oliver Cabell Low 1
(New Year Sale: Get 25-50% off with code OC25)

The Low 1 is Oliver Cabell's most popular shoe. It boasts a classic low-profile silhouette, with color options that are expressive, but not overly trendy or unprofessional.

Check Best Price Read Our Review
If you click this link and make a purchase, we earn a commission at no additional cost to you.

While KOIO is the most expensive of the bunch, you’re truly getting a superb sneaker. It’s one of the most comfortable sneaks I own, plus the leather is phenomenal. KOIO adds the subtle things, like a suede heel guard and waxed cotton laces. 

Overall, the KOIO Capri is worth the extra cost, especially if you’re a half-size or have a slightly wider than average foot. 

FAQs

Is Oliver Cabell a luxury brand?

Oliver Cabell isn’t a luxury brand in the same way Gucci or Hermes is. Oliver Cabell is more of a direct-to-consumer brand that makes extremely high quality shoes at a much lower cost. Luxury brands can upcharge based on their brand—Oliver Cabell isn’t at that level, so must make exceptional quality goods instead. 

Where are KOIO shoes made?

KOIO shoes are made in Tuscany, Italy.

Can you resole minimalist sneakers?

No, you can’t practically resole minimalist sneakers. While it might technically be possible, the cost of resoling a pair of sneakers would likely be more than what you bought the sneaker for.

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