adidas Gripper Hi

  • ART.NO: 079831

Basically unknown to today’s modern sneaker circuit, and certainly unobtainable online, the adidas Gripper Hi is one of those relics that slipped between the cracks in the ice and sunk deep underwater.

When I bought this shoe I was entirely curious, and when it arrived I was completely ecstatic, but when I finally went to put it on my feet I was utterly defeated. Once again – as my UK brethren would say – I was gutted; they were simply too large. And ever since I’ve had ‘em hangin’ about, as I’m on the fence about fencin’ ‘em, but mostly because (as a winter shoe) they might do with some thick wool socks.

As for purpose these go far beyond the call of a sneaker and calling them as such – a trainer – is a bit ridiculous. I’m not sure what exactly you would ‘train’ in these. Their name obviously comes from the massive, hard rubber grips that protrude from their out soles, giving the shoe some serious traction and stick even upon slippery environments. So, ice sprinting?

Sturdy leather uppers with some layered (yet still simple enough) architecture keeps the build genuine and durable, and the ankle collar is quite comfortably padded. The little lip hanging above it on the upper heel is quite weird and unique, and one could say the same about the various eyelets (four types, if you count ‘em all) that run up the sides of the thick, large tongue.

This is the point of their only flaw I can see: massive deterioration of the tongue’s skin, flaking off and crumbling to expose a soft (but surprisingly not sticky) underbelly. Despite this bit of practically unnoticeable cosmetic ‘damage’ the shoes are basically indestructible, as (too large or not) I gave ‘em a quick spin and felt the power in this pair. I love the colorway too as it’s got a really nice snowy, winter-time feel to it.

Anatomy and emotions aside, I must admit that I have seen signs of the Gripper hereditary tree online, but only glimpses. Photos of a more white version, as well as a possible all black retro, and even an upgrade on the model that looks completely different entitled the adidas Gripper Pro Hi. However none of them (especially the latter) look identical to these and in my opinion none can match. So on I trudge through the blizzards of boot auctions and vintage hiking ‘sneaker’ booths in hopes of discovering a pair that fits a little more close to home. Until then, maybe you’ll spot me wearing three pairs of socks next season.

written by Dylan Cromwell

photography by errol

  • Don Holt

    Love these. Picked up 2 pair on ebay few years ago. Used these originaly, way back in late 80s/ early 90s. Great turf shoe for lineman and linebackers. Tough on ice due to rubber compound hardening in the cold. A special treasure for those in their 50s. Similar designs offered by Converse, Nike, Puma and Roos (Walter Payton).