In British English they’re trainers. In US English they’re Sneakers, or Tennis Shoes. Or gym shoes. Ask an American what a ‘trainer’ is and they’ll tell you it’s someone who trains them in the gym. They don’t use the word for the rubber soled shoes we think as either trainers or sneakers.
It couldn’t be more confusing as most of the stores here use both ‘sneakers’ and ‘trainers’ to describe either casual rubber soled lace-up shoes AND shoes you would go running and to the gym in. I like to think of trainers as what I would wear for sport, and sneakers as their ‘athleisure’ counterparts.
But what is really important is what you’re going to be using your trainers or sneakers for. If it’s for running, or working out, then you need a shoe that is specifically designed for that purpose, that will have a drop from heel to toe, arch support and extra cushioning.
Most sneakers, at least in UK parlance, are pretty much flat and if you want extra arch support you can put a pair of insoles in, particularly helpful if you want to walk miles in them and have back or heel issues. But they don’t work in the gym, or for running.
Bear in mind if you’re thinking of packing a pair of trainers/sneakers to take away with you that you’re going to want them to be as light as possible. Some brands are much heavier than others. Platform sneakers will weigh more than those without platforms. Leather or suede sneakers will be easier on your feet in warm weather, canvas sneakers are more likely to rub.
My favourite sneakers are Geox Jaysen, which are wonderfully comfortable and lightweight, and trainers Nike Pegasus 35, again very lightweight and very comfortable.
For travel you need to have worn your sneakers for a few days to make sure there are no points where they do rub. Therein lies disaster. The joy of laces is that you can always ‘let them out’. But my advice if you’re going somewhere really warm is to take some blister plasters with you just in case.
I freely admit that I travel with both trainers and sneakers – both lightweight, one much more chic then the other, both incredibly comfortable.