It was an amazing year for sneakers.
With runners becoming ever more prevalent, brands other than Nike got some of the respect they deserve and the swoosh started to step up its game. Musicians are pushing brands forward with the same influence as athletes in a dynamic we’ve never seen before. And Jordan has finally listened to the people and released stuff from the ’90s.
Here are the best sneakers of 2015.
15. Concepts x New Balance “Luxury Goods”
Boston-based boutique Concepts had a ton of fun with luxury-inspired New Balance sneakers this year. And the stand-out release was the New Balance 997 in a rich orange suede and matching leather detailing. The exact fashion house that inspired this pair of sneakers was never revealed, but the signature orange hue and mosaic tiling on the shoe’s insole is a bit of a giveaway.
14. Stampd x Puma R698
Simple is good, and so is Stampd’s collaboration with Puma. The R698 got a menswear makeover in a sandstone colorway with plush suede and quality leather. The perforations along the side and toe add just enough detail to not make these boring. There’s a reason Stampd was named one of the best new designers in America by GQ.
13. Ronnie Fieg x Puma “Tokyo Sakura”
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Much of Ronnie Fieg’s design inspirations come from the places he loves, whether it be the Brooklyn Bridge or Tokyo. During a trip to Japan, Ronnie appreciated the Sakura blossom so much, he incorporated its beauty into his next Puma sneaker. The low top sneakers represent the flower blossoming, with a robust burgundy toe and off-white heel. The hi-top sneakers offer a burgundy heel and a navy toe, signifying the death of the plant and the end of its season. And as with any other KITH-associated release, the materials are top-notch.
12. Nike Air Foamposite “Sharpie”
Everyone loves a sneaker with a story behind it. Back in the day, Penny Hardaway was allegedly getting fined because his sneakers had too much blue and not enough black to match his Orlando Magic uniform. His response was to take a black Sharpie and bring them up to code. And nearly two decades later, Nike paid homage to the ordeal by releasing the Foamposites with Sharpie-like markings already included.
11. Nike Air Max Zero
Nike has always been ahead of the curve – some 30 years ahead of the curve. Back in the late ’80s, Tinker Hatfield sketched a sneaker that was too ahead of its time, so in 2015, he dusted the dirt off the design, modernized it a bit, and voila. The Air Max Zero fits in perfectly with Nike’s current offerings and was an instant hit when it was released on March 22 – Air Max Day.
10. Kendrick Lamar x Reebok Ventilator
Another rapper, another footwear brand. But like everything else Kendrick Lamar does, he doesn’t see the competition and creates his own authentic and promising lane. So when he hooked up with Reebok, it’s no surprise that his first collaboration was so much bigger than sneakers. In an effort to recognize and unite the gang culture in L.A., one sneaker reads “RED” on the back and “BLUE” on the other. The tongue reads “NEUTRAL,” making for a clean design and an even more important message.
9. Ronnie Fieg x Diamond Supply Co. x ASICS
Ronnie Fieg had a hand in making Asics cool again. The mesh of amazing materials and discreet design helped the founder of KITH forge his own legacy. As the wave of menswear and fitted clothing washed over us all, matching simplistic sneakers were a must. This time around, Ronnie hooked up with Diamond to release the Tiffany-colored Asics Gel Saga and Gel Lyte V. The colorway dropped in mid-June, making this a summer staple. The KITH frontman never disappoints.
8. Air Jordan 10 “OVO”
Can Drake do any wrong? The correct answer is no. After boasting about texting Michael Jordan, it’s clear Drizzy has the juice now. When Jordan Brand announced the partnership, it was met with more curiosity than anything else. But just like everything else OVO, Drake kept it simple, quiet, and let the product sell itself. Despite the hefty $225 price tag, these need a general release. And it’s only a matter of time before the 6 God designs the Air Jordan 6.
7. Pharrell x adidas
Pharrell Williams’ job is to think out of the box. Including the sneaker box. Upon hooking up with adidas, many wondered if Pharrell’s creative genius would be accepted by the sneaker world. And to no one’s real surprise, it was. For his first collection, P decided to release a rainbow of monochromatic adidas Superstars. Over 30 different colors were unveiled, making sure everyone had something to love. His response to naysayers was simple: “What’s wrong with a little color?!”
6. Air Jordan 11 “72-10”
Ask anyone what their favorite Jordan of all time is, and the 11 is sure to be mentioned. For the past five years, Jordan Brand has been releasing an 11 around Christmas. And instead of dropping a retro colorway, the team went back into the lab and whipped up something amazing. The traditional nylon upper has been replaced with luxe leather and the minimal red detailing and clear sole make these an automatic purchase. The name 72-10 refers to the amazing record the Bulls had during the ’95-’96 season. These sneakers make that 72-win season even sweeter.
5. adidas Ultra Boost
Boost is king. The technology that adidas introduced this year is unparalleled in terms of comfort, design, and style. While adidas’ claims it’s the best running shoe ever are a bit overzealous, they may have a point. The shoe is loved by runners, sneaker heads, and casual wearers alike, which is a rare feat in today’s market. Kanye’s name being attached to anything makes it instant gold, but adidas’ power moves after the past two years are paying off. The adidas Ultra Boost should just be the tip of the iceberg of what the three stripes has in its arsenal.
4. adidas Yeezy Boost 350
Do the Yeezy Boost 350s resemble the Nike Roshe Run? Yup, but who cares? Good artists copy, greats artists steal. It was Kanye’s most wearable sneaker, with his previous offerings from adidas and Nike being hi-tops with straps. But with an added flair, simple patterns and Yeezy’s name behind them, how could they go wrong?
3. Nike Sock Dart “Be True”
The sneaker industry is run on nostalgia – whether it be your memory of a pair of sneakers you had in middle school, or the player who dropped 50 points while wearing them. But what makes the Nike Sock Dart so endearing is that it was hated upon initial release in 2004. But with a more runner-friendly consumer base, they flourished in 2015. With a clean black base, crisp white midsole and a multicolored mid-foot strap, they make the perfect summer kicks or a great pop of color to your winter rotation. Plus, the “Be True” branding and rainbow strap offers support for the LGBT Sports Coalition.
2. Air Jordan 8 Aqua
For years, it’s been about me and my adidas as a very light sneakerhead. But at the end of 2015, I’ve been up to something with the jumpman crew.
On Black Friday, I logged online with the goal of copping Jordans the new school way. Prior to then, I bought sneakers at Foot Locker, with no line and no fanfare. I learned early that being able to wear a kid’s size makes the Jordan game easier, and secured my kicks in the checkout line with relative ease.
And it’s been a time rocking them this winter. A couple of Instagram shots of my J’s, and a few days of rocking my prized kicks at work, I’ve felt the love from my sneaker head friends, and even scored the ultimate co-sign from Jordan collector co-workers at the office holiday party: “I have to step my game up.”
That’s enough to have me ready to cop my second pair, when the Air Jordan 12 Retro’s drop in February 2016.
1. Air Jordan 4 Oreo
The Return. The Jordan IV was made iconic because of “The Shot” back in 1989. But ten years later, the classic reemerged with a fresh new colorway. One of the best being deemed “Oreos.” People couldn’t wait until these dropped again. The remastered program, high quality leather, and simple colorway make these one of the most wearable Jordans in recent memory.
PHOTO CREDIT: Instagram