Adidas Samba Vs Onitsuka Tiger [Clash of Classic Icons]

Written By Sunny

Both Adidas Samba and Onitsuka Tiger sneakers have graced our feet for decades. Over the last few years, you might’ve noticed a few bold claims like “Tigers are the new Sambas”.

After using a few pairs from both lineups, things aren’t as simple as those statements, especially when you have particular needs.adidas-samba-vs-onitsuka-tiger

On that note, let’s dive into this article and determine which sneaker brand resonates the most with you.

An Overview of Adidas Samba and Onitsuka Tiger Footwear

Adidas Samba and Onitsuka Tiger are two legendary sneaker brands with a rich history and dedicated fans. Despite having different origins, they both target the same market and aim for mass appeal.

And the similarity doesn’t end there.

In post-war Japan, Kihachiro Onitsuka founded Onitsuka Tiger with a mission to create running shoes.

Later on, it merged with two other companies. But the Onitsuka Tiger brand lived on, now offering a wider range of lifestyle sneakers.

Adidas Samba also follows a somewhat similar timeline.

Born on icy football pitches, Samba’s comfort and sleek design quickly managed to catch people’s attention.

Throughout the 70s, it gained popularity as an iconic fashion staple and urban style.

Currently, both sneaker lineups have their unique spin on the market to one-up each other.

Technical Comparison Between Adidas Samba and Onitsuka Tiger

Since the Samba and Tiger sneakers are made by different brands, they are bound to have distinct technical aspects. Such differences can give an idea of what to expect from these kicks and pick out the better one.

So, let’s do a side-by-side technical comparison between Adidas Samba and Onitsuka Tiger:

AttributesAdidas SambaOnitsuka Tiger
DesignClassic low-profile, T-toe overlayStreamlined look, retro vibe
PurposeCasual wear, light activitiesCasual wear, moderate activities
Weight~12oz for men’s 9 size~10oz for men’s 9 size
FitStandardSlightly narrow, but the toe box is roomier
SizingTrue-to-sizeMostly true-to-size
Commonly used upper materialLeather/SyntheticSuede
ComfortPadded insole and collarPadded insole and tongue
Commonly used outsoleGum rubberRubber
Price range$60-150$70-250
Brand imageWell-established, iconicGaining popularity

These technical differences between the two pairs have particular implications, which affect the overall user experience when you pit them against each other.

To learn more about it, let’s move on to the main topic.

Key Differences Between Adidas Samba and Onitsuka Tiger

The main reason why Samba is still widely appealing is that Adidas has maintained its vintage charm. The same goes for the Tigers, well, almost.

However, some of the underlying differences between these footwear series set them apart in a way that can sway your purchase decision.

The following differences between Adidas Samba and Onitsuka Tiger should put things into perspective:

1. Aesthetics and Design

If you put the Adidas Samba and Onitsuka Tiger sneakers side by side, the most prominent difference that anyone would notice is the design. And that’s a very good thing per se.

More and more people are buying these shoes as fashion accessories to stand out from the crowd. So don’t be shy if you are wondering whether Samba or Tiger would give you a more stylistic option.

Both Adidas and Onitsuka Tiger have delivered a sleek design that is sure to please sneakerheads and fashion freaks alike.

But each of them has their unique flavors and charm to it.

The quintessential Adidas stripes and the timeless, minimalistic look of the Samba shoes have a different appeal on their own. Not to mention, the retro canvas or leather material (whatever you fancy) brings an understated elegance to your overall look.look-of-the-samba-shoes

Think James Dean in a white tee and blue jeans rocking Sambas – classic, laid-back, and always relevant.

Samba’s less focus on poppy colors and more focus on neutrality makes it a versatile choice for dressing up or dressing down. You also get the option to pick a full-grain genuine or synthetic leather version.

I went with the Samba OG shoes. And my, oh my, I love the sophisticated feel of the leather upper!

But such a focus on neutrality comes at a cost.

Although there are some pops of colors on Samba shoes, the color options are very limited.

That’s where the Onitsuka Tiger footwear managed to shine!

While these shoes have embraced the bold, retro vibes, they didn’t shy away from mixing the materials with various flashy colors.

The chunky silhouettes, vibrant color palettes, and playful textures rock these sneakers thick and proud.

The prominent stripes of the Onitsuka Tigers add a bit of contrast and graphic punch to the overall design.

Nonetheless, some might not prefer such bold aesthetics as it takes away the versatility of wearing these shoes with any outfit.

But, since most people yearn for a statement piece, the Onitsuka Tiger should satisfy the inner fashion rebel.aesthetics-and-design-of-onitsuka-tiger

2. Material Comparison

Both Adidas Samba and Onitsuka Tiger use a wide range of materials in their various models. As a result, these shoes have a distinct feel to them.

Let me explain.

Upper Material

The Samba Classic and Samba OG feature a premium, full-grain leather upper with synthetic lining. Such a material is known to age gracefully with patina. It’s also durable yet comfortable for casual wear.

Certain Samba models have gritty suede for the upper, providing a softer feel and a wide range of colors.

While Onitsuka Tiger does have some leather options, the majority of its popular models, such as Mexico 66, prioritize the use of suede over leather.

It may not be as durable and premium as leather, but it’s definitely a better choice for daily wear.

That’s because suede is more flexible, breathable, and comfortable.

It also contributes to the lighter weight of these shoes, but more on that later.


Adidas Samba offers a standard EVA foam midsole for basic cushioning and support. It’s nothing fancy, but it gets the job done regardless.

Additionally, some models, like Adiprene, have more advanced cushioning technologies.

On the other side of the road, the minimal cushioning found in most Tiger sneakers(like Mexico 66) provides a lightweight feel.

Some versions even boast Gel technology in their midsole for added support.


The gum rubber sole is an iconic design of the Samba shoes.outsole-of-adidas-samba-and-onitsuka-tiger

My Samba OG had an adequate grip on dry surfaces but felt a bit slippery on wet ones. The same is true for my Mexico 66.

Frankly speaking, most Onitsuka Tiger sneakers share the same trait.

However, some performance-oriented models have advanced rubber compound soles for enhanced grip.

It’s hard to pick which one has a better material choice, as both Adidas Samba and Onitsuka Tigers have strong cases for their distinct focus.

3. Fit and Comfort

The fit and comfort of a shoe greatly depend on the characteristics of its toe box, insole, tongue, and lacing. Hence, you need to take a closer look at these aspects if you want a snug and comfortable fit.

So, let’s see how Adidas Samba and Onitsuka Tiger shoes fare in this segment:

Toe Box

The toe box area on Samba sneakers felt a bit narrower compared to the Tigers. And the leather build doesn’t help it either.

However, the rounder shape offers a decent toe wiggle room.

Besides a wider toe cap, the nylon or suede material of most Tiger sneakers can flex and adapt to the shape of your feet.

Since these materials are quite comfortable, you don’t have to worry much about bunions or blistering, even if you don’t wear socks.


Adidas Samba footwear offers a removable insole with minimal arch support. It’s made from basic EVA foam, so don’t expect an otherworldly comfort from it.

On the other hand, most Onitsuka Tiger shoes have fixed insoles but provide consistent support and comfort throughout the years.

Tongue and Collar

Both sneaker lineups provide similar types of tongue and collar for the majority of the models.tongue-and-collar-of-adidas-samba-and-onitsuka-tiger

That being said, the collar on the Mexico 66 has more padding than my Samba OG. However, the slightly higher profile tongue on the latter felt more noticeable in my day-to-day use.

And that’s not all.

Some Samba classic sneakers have extended tongues with decent padding. Such a trait is sorely missing in Tigers.

Lacing & Eyelets

The eyelets are placed on both sneaker types at similar distances for a snug fit. Also, both Samba and Tigers have reinforced eyestay for maximum durability.

Although the Tigers have options for an asymmetrical lacing system with their 4-6 eyelets, you can also diversify your lace-up style on Samba’s classic 6 eyelet pattern as well.

Overall, both Adidas Samba and Onitsuka Tiger sneakers ensure proper fit and comfort for the majority of foot shapes. But I’d go with the Tigers as they have better support for wider forefoot like mine.

4. Weight and Sizing

As I have previously mentioned, the diverse upper and engineered midsole of the Tiger sneakers provides a lighter build than the Samba shoes.

For example, my size 9 Samba OG weighs around 12 oz.

The same size offering from Mexico 66 comes in at around 10 oz. While this difference in weight may not seem much at a glance, it helped in minimizing fatigue, which is an important trait for all-day wear.

Speaking of sizes, both of these brands offer a true-to-size fit with some exceptions.

It is recommended to go over half a size for Samba shoes if you have a wider forefoot. You won’t need to do that for Tiger sneakers.

Furthermore, the sizing charts from these two brands are quite different, which needs to be noted before purchasing.

Adidas Samba sizing chart:

Men's US SizeMen's UK SizeMen's EU SizeWomen's US SizeWomen's UK SizeWomen's EU Size
43.53653.536 2/3
4.5437 1/35.5437
55386538 2/3
5.55.5396.55.539 1/3
66407640 2/3
6.56.5417.56.541 1/3
77428742 2/3
7.57.5438.57.543 1/3
88449844 2/3
8.58.5459.58.545 1/3
994610946 2/3
9.59.54710.59.547 1/3
101048111048 2/3
10.510.54911.510.549 1/3
111150121150 2/3

Onitsuka Tiger sizing chart:

Men's US SizeMen's UK SizeMen's EU SizeWomen's US SizeWomen's UK SizeWomen's EU Size
53.5365.53.536 2/3
5.5437 1/36437
65386.5538 2/3
6.55.53975.539 1/3
76407.5640 2/3
7.56.54186.541 1/3
87428.5742 2/3
8.57.54397.543 1/3
98449.5844 2/3
9.58.545108.545 1/3
1094610.5946 2/3
10.59.547119.547 1/3
11104811.51048 2/3
1210.5491210.549 1/3

At the end of the day, the Onitsuka Tigers come out on top due to the lightweight and roomier feel of the shoes.

5. Performance and Durability

The basic cushioning of Adidas Samba shoes is primarily designed for indoor purposes.

With these kicks, you can do some running and extended walking, but I wouldn’t put them through high-performance activities.

Meanwhile, the performance of Onitsuka Tigers can vary dramatically depending on the models.

For example, the Mexico 66’s performance is very much comparable to the Adidas Samba shoes. But the Gel-Kayano sneakers are built for high-intensity sports and outdoor training.

The grip/traction on wet surfaces is also noticeably better in Tiger sneakers than the competitor.

If we switch the spotlight to durability, the leather and suede construction of the Samba takes the lead in Ramba.

To be honest, Onitsuka Tiger has some performance models that focus more on wear resistance. But the nylon and suede upper of most Tigers is a tad bit less durable than Samba’s premium leather.

While they both offer somewhat similar performance overall, the Samba sneakers gain some points for added durability, but by a small margin.

6. Price to Value Proposition

If you pick the Samba OG or Classic, you’ll get the confidence of a renowned brand image at an affordable price point compared to the Tiger sneakers.

But that’s not the ultimate winning trait, is it?

What about the value proposition that each brings to the table?

Although the Tiger sneakers ask for more dough from your pocket, they offer more versatile styling and material choices as well.

Personally, the Onitsuka Tiger Mexico 66 felt more comfortable after wearing it throughout the day, which is more important for me than bragging about a popular brand. However, Samba footwear comes really close in this regard.value-proposition-of-onitsuka-tiger

Pros and Cons of Adidas Samba and Onitsuka Tiger

Apart from discussing the major differences, it’s also important for potential buyers to know the strengths and weaknesses of each sneaker brand. That is the only way to make a sound purchase decision.

With that said, here are the pros and cons of Adidas Samba and Onitsuka Tiger:

Adidas Samba Sneakers

  • »Classic design fit for versatile wear.
  • »Durable and long-lasting construction.
  • »Removable insole.
  • »The cushioned collar provides decent support and comfort.
  • »Reasonably priced.
  • »A bit more slippery.
  • »Less suitable for wide feet.

Onitsuka Tiger

  • »Wider range of retro designs and vibrant colors.
  • »Slightly lighter.
  • »Some models, like Gel-Kayano, support athletic activities.
  • »Comfortable enough for all-day wear.
  • »Offers various materials, such as canvas, suede, and nylon.
  • »More pricey.
  • »Less durable.

Furthermore, it’s hard to get a good idea of the sizing as each of us is built differently. It is the only thing you might not benefit from the listed advantages/disadvantages.

That’s why I always recommend checking the fit of these shoes by physically trialing them instead of relying on the online descriptions.

Adidas Samba Vs. Onitsuka Tiger: Which Sneaker Series is Better?

There is no reigning champion when you pit one legend against another. Both Adidas Samba and Onitsuka Tiger offer high-quality daily wear. But the platform slightly tilts toward Onitsuka Tiger sneakers as they offer a more versatile style and material.

But you can’t go wrong with either of them.

If you want the reliability of a long-time popular brand and are looking for an affordable yet fashionable all-day sneaker, the Adidas Samba is your jam.

That being said, the Onitsuka Tiger shoes are a more easy-to-recommend option due to their stunning design and uncompromised comfort.

Not to mention, these shoes are also becoming more popular among celebrities as well as young bloods.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are Tigers the new Sambas?

Not really. While Onitsuka Tiger sneakers are gaining popularity, especially among the younger generation, Adidas Sambas still has a strong following. It is also cheaper yet offers a better brand value.

Why is Adidas Samba so popular?

Social media and celebrity choice have made Adidas Samba a big deal in the modern sneaker market. It is a good fashion accessory from a well-known brand that is priced reasonably.

Is Onitsuka Tiger Mexico 66 good for wide feet?

Yes. Although the Maxicon 66 from Onitsuka Tiger isn’t designed for wide feet, the wider forefoot area will feel comfortable. But that can be an issue if you tend to wear socks.

About The Author
Sunny is all about action and activities. He finds it difficult to contain himself. Be it motorcycling, playing football, or exploring the great outdoors, he loves to keep his legs busy.Sunny quickly realized the importance of footwear to keep himself going healthily. This was when he decided to share all his knowledge and expertise regarding different footwear and their significance.Now, he’s on a mission with this humble platform by his side. With time he plans on doing bigger and better things.Apart from his writing and other hobbies, he loves spending time with his cat Sophie. He loves to cook for his friends and family too.

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