As the year draws to a close, this is the perfect time to take stock of it. Or more accurately, the time spent obsessing over the latest drops from our favourite brands. There are some truly great sneakers that when you look back, it makes you go 'Holy crap, that actually exists? How can I get my hands on them?'
It's hard condensing this list down to 10, and not going to lie, there were many debates within the office but we came through. So without further ado, in no particular order, here is a look at the top 10 sneakers released this year.
Travis Scott x Air Jordan 1 'Cactus Jack'
There are many things that you can dislike about Travis Scott x Air Jordan 1 'Cactus Jack' (the brown colourway is tough to pull off), but if there was ever a contender for sneaker of the year, this would be it. The hype comes from Scott's and the Air Jordan 1 cultural pull. And with added touches like a reverse swoosh, and hidden compartments to stash cash, the colourway echoes Scott's aesthetic and gives us a sneaker that is equal parts a Jordan Brand and the rap superstar.
Tom Sachs x Nike Mars Yard Overshoe
When Tom Sachs conceptualised the Mars Yard 1.0, it took inspiration from his interactions with NASA scientists for this project, SPACE PROGRAM 2.0: Mars exhibition. The concept: to create a performance sneaker that would hold up in Mars' harsh environment. Since then, Sachs has created two other versions of the Mars Yard, the 2.0 and the one that we are highlighting today, the Mars Yard Overshoe. Each iteration was created with the intention of improving upon the previous one—giving it more durability and hardiness. The 2.0 saw the addition of an ultra-strong mesh, but even that wasn't enough for Sachs' notoriously high standards.
The Overshoe comes with a more durable rubber sole, multiple straps and buckles, the uppers are covered with Dyneema, one of the strongest fabrics in the world, and will thrive where most sneakers would not. It possesses all the features of an all-terrain sneaker and then some.
Pyer Moss x Reebok Experiment 4 Fury Trail
There was a moment, a few years back, when Vetements launch their take on the Insta-Pump Fury and helped push Reebok back in the collective consciousness of the sneaker world. After that, for the most part, they have been quiet, but no longer. With the introduction of Kerby Jean-Raymond, designer of the rising fashion brand, Pyer Moss, as the artistic director of the company's newest division, Reebok Studies___, the brand is making a comeback.
Jean-Raymond has quietly dropped collabs with Reebok, putting his twist on silhouettes like the DMX Daytona and the Mobius, and, in this latest effort, sees his take on the Insta-Pump Fury. Named the Pyer Moss x Reebok Experiment 4 Fury Trail, the sneakers take on a geometric approach to the design, with additions like trail sneaker-inspired outsoles, with mesh uppers and panelling. Designed in three different layers, where each tier represents the overcoming of adversity, which is a perfect metaphor of the work done by Jean-Raymond—nuanced, poetic and ultimately beautiful.
Gucci Ultrapace sneaker
It's like spotting a rare Pokémon in the wild. Sneakers from the luxury fashion houses that are not the Triple S by Balenciaga, do not often crack the top 10 list of sneaker releases in the year and for good reason. Luxury fashion sneakers reps all the elements of the rare hyped grail sneakers: recognition, prestige, great design and storytelling… except for its lofty price tag coming out of the gate and scarcity.
The price of this particular Gucci sneaker can snag you a couple of the other listed sneakers on the secondary market. The Gucci Ultrapace has it all: the right balance of colours and textures; a vibe that says it's retro, but does not feel out of place. It has a lot going on, yet subtle. The whole sneaker is an oxymoron—it's luxury but doesn't try too hard, and the best rendition of a dad sneaker that does not feel forced. Say it wasn't a Gucci produced sneaker, but an Alessandro Michele collaboration with Adidas/Nike/or any other major player in the sneaker game, and you have a sure-fire winner as sneaker of the year.
Vivienne Westwood x Vans Checkerboard Slips On
The team-up with Vivienne Westwood and Vans may seem out of left field, seeing that Westwood just launched a capsule sneaker line with ASICS earlier this year. But it makes sense; no shade towards ASICS, but the pairing between Vans and Westwood made more sense—a mutual celebration of punk and care for the people. The sneaker is a perfect balance—it displaces the punk ethos of Westwood whilst not altering the aesthetic of the Checkerboard slip-on too much. And given its lack of scarcity, low retail price and palatability, means that it will get in the hands of more people, and if we may be so bold to venture a guess—that's the way Westwood intended it to be.
Fear of God x Nike Fear of God 1 Frosted Spruce
Before Jerry Lorenzo was a fashion designer, he was a basketball player. While he did not turn pro, that part of his life left an indelible mark on his design process when creating his first signature sneaker for Nike. This isn't a run of the mill collaboration between Nike x 'insert big name' colourway change, but rather it harkens back to a completely new silhouette birthed from the brilliant minds from both sides. The challenge was straightforward: can a modern performance sneaker that holds up on the court, be worn off it, like the Air Jordan series when Michael Jordan used to rule the NBA? The result was the Air Fear of God 1, a high-performance basketball sneaker, that perfectly blends the two together. The Frozen Spruce colourway might have the leanings of a lifestyle sneaker, but do not let that neon exterior fool you—these bad boys pack some serious air.
New Balance Made in US 990V5
When New Balance launched the fifth iteration of the 990s, it came with one of the most brilliant taglines we have ever come across—'worn by supermodels in London to dads in Ohio'. The latter part of the statement is a succinct summary of the effect dad sneakers has on the world right now—they are huge at the moment, and the ultimate OG is the New Balance 990s.
We were sceptical when New Balance announced the launch of 990V5s, but that model sits firmly on the list because while dad sneakers are usually exaggerated in form of colourways, materials and chunkiness, New Balance made its latest literation sleeker. It's not an overhaul of the silhouette that we know and love, but rather a refinement of it. More than just an aesthetic change, the V5s also comes with new technology like two TPU Power straps for more stability, Ortholite Antimicrobial memory foam insoles, as well as a two-layer cushioning system for better shock absorption.
Sacai x Nike LDWaffle
The most talked-about sneaker of the year is definitely the Sacai x Nike LDWaffle. It doesn't need any more introduction. With so much ink spilt on the sneaker, we thought it might be nice to hear a different way of describing the genius of Chitose Abe, one brought to you by our Features Editor, Wayne Cheong—"this sneaker is like a glitch; almost like if you teleported the Nike's Waffle and the Daybreak silhouette into one location, and it merges into this".
Trust Abe to take two obscure models from Nike's archives and bring it into the future. With the news of the all-white model releasing next year, there is no stopping this tour de force that is the Sacai x Nike LDWaffle.
Chinatown Market x Converse Chuck Taylor UV 70s
Chinatown Market might be known for bootlegging T-shirts but it's more than that. It's about the idea behind the spirit of DIY; melding creativity and fun and pushing boundaries. That ethos is summed up in the collab the brand had with Converse. The classic Chuck Taylors were fitted with uppers that change colour when exposed to UV light.
Parley x Adidas AlphaEDGE 4D
Last but not least, we have the Parley x Adidas AlphaEDGE 4D. For the uninitiated, the Adidas's 4D range series refers to a line of sneaker featuring the lattice-structured soles, that are 3D-printed with light and oxygen using a process called ‘Digital Light Synthesis’. The result: sneakers that are lighter, more stable, and reduces the shock adsorbed by joints and heels of athletes. Coupled with a Parley designed AlphaEDGE, which upcycles ocean plastic debris into the very thread that weaves the uppers, this union of innovation and sustainability isn't the reason why this sneaker made the cut—it was the genius blending of the soles and upper into a cohesive tonal shoe.