The Best Sneakers of 2016

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by Matt Heinen, Contributing Writer

As the warmer months come to an end and the season of high-tops and boots arrives, it’s time to look back on the best sneaker releases of this year. Narrowing it down to a classic top ten seemed unfair, so we’ve kicked it up a notch, bringing you the eleven best shoes of 2016 (in no particular order.) The year saw adidas continue their impressive run of successful sneakers, with the Ultraboost, NMD, and Yeezy lines, among other high-profile collaborations catapulting their brand to even more huge growth. Other highlights included Nike linking up with Acronym and Supreme for respective drops, and a Gosha Reebok. Let’s check them out.



As the poster-child brand of hyped up streetwear, any Supreme collab will be an instant sellout. This year’s Supreme x Nike Air Max ‘98 was no different, generating lines around the block and exorbitant resell prices. Though not the most iconic silhouette of Nike’s Air Max line, the chunky, full-length Air Max midsoles and 3M details exemplifies the 90’s aesthetic that is so popular today. With offerings in glossy red, black, and grey as well as a standout snake-skin colorway, the Supreme x Nike collab went down as a hit.



Berlin based label Acronym has recently garnered quite a following in the streetwear community for their high-tech, ultra-functional yet chic garments. Last year they joined forces with Nike for one of the sneakers of the year: a deconstructed Lunar Force 1 with a massive zipper on the upper. This year’s follow up collaboration was another home-run. The military-esque Olive/Black and Black/Bamboo colorways were nods to Acronyms typical aesthetic, while a head-turning multicolored neon version was more in line with traditional Nike colorways.


Ronnie Fieg’s luxury, handmade, renditions of A Bathing Ape’s iconic Bapesta silhouette were plastered across sneaker blogs and social media alike when they first set foot on the runway at Fieg-owned brand Kith’s first-ever NYFW show. In a clean triple-white colorway crafted from tumbled leather, and a beautiful sand colored suede (pictured above), the Fiegsta’s are some of the best offerings yet from one of the sneaker game’s most active designers and collaborators.



Rick Owens’ ability to cross a grungy, brutalist aesthetic with haute-couture levels of product construction and creative direction have gained him a cult like following in the fashion community since the early 2000’s. His latest collaboration with adidas once again demonstrates why. In line with pricing typical of Owens’ personal line, the Mastodon’s carried a hefty price tag of $1,000. You get what you pay for, however, as each pair is constructed from a luxurious calf leather, and the chunky, bold outsole make these a sure statement sneaker.



In 1996, Scottie Pippen rocked one of the most iconic and recognizable signature shoes ever to grace the court: the Nike Air More Uptempo. As the Bull’s recorded a record-breaking 72 win regular season, Pippen’s shoes garnered lots of attention. The high top basketball shoe had Air Max cushioning and a massive “AIR” that looked seamlessly built into the support on either side of the shoe. Though the silhouette fell out of popularity for a handful of years, Nike brought it back this year with updated materials and colorways, giving sneakerheads a refreshing, modern iteration of an iconic sneaker.



Throughout his long and storied career, producer turned rapper turned fashion designer Kanye West has always been a perfectionist. Last year when he released The Life of Pablo, West spent the following weeks tweaking and rearranging the album, creating, in turn, the world’s first “living album”: a piece that was not finished once released, but that could be tinkered with and perfected over time by its creator. Much in the same vein, West and adidas finally rolled out the much awaited follow-up to the Yeezy Boost 350 this September. Though there were no major changes, a slightly different cut to the shoe, a new, almost psychedelic pattern on the Primeknit upper, and a contrasting bright orange stripe bearing the words “SPLY 350” were subtle yet marked improvements to the first generation of 350s. West signed a new adidas contract this year, which hands him the creative resources as well as funds to continue to produce some of the sneaker world’s most innovative and trendsetting products.



For the past few seasons Gosha Rubchinskiy, the Commes des Garçons owned label, has produced some of the hottest looks on both the runways and the streets. Rubchinskiy’s fondness for the skate and grunge cultures of Russia’s youth has inspired collections full of reworked logos, Soviet Russian symbols, avant-garde cut and sew pieces, and more recently high-profile collaborations. This year he came together with Reebok for a capsule of sneakers offered exclusively at London and New York based retailer Dover Street Market. The low top white editions were the best of the group; the silhouette reminiscent of a slimmed down Air Force One, while Gosha Rubchinskiy branding graced the tongue and “PACCBET” (Russian for sunrise, but often used metaphorically to suggest hope for better days) is emblazoned on a panel on the left shoe.



Though Jordan brand has undeniably been on the decline in recent years, this September’s release of the Air Jordan “Banned” One was one of the brand’s most popular releases in recent history. Legend has it that in Michael Jordan’s 1984-85 rookie season, he set foot on the court in a pair of red and black Air Jordan 1’s, something rarely seen at the time (as black-and-white sneakers dominated the paint.) The NBA banned the shoes and fined him $5,000, stating they apparently violated some league rule that every player must have uniform sneakers. So naturally, Jordan continued to wear the shoes while Nike paid the fines, cementing them in the history books as one of the most iconic sneakers Jordan ever wore. Though the legitimacy of the story is the matter of debate, the boldness and appeal of these gorgeous red and black sneakers definitely isn’t.



adidas’ NMD has given us a dual-purpose sneaker that is not only undeniably sexy, but pushes the boundary of what a running shoe can do, and that’s not to mention the Ultra Boost, Yeezy Boost, and Tubular Boost. Between those and the aforementioned NMD, adidas has cornered and mastered a niche of the sneaker market: ultra comfortable, high-tech running  shoes that serve equally well as lifestyle sneakers. With a plethora of NMD colorways to choose from, it was hard to choose the standouts, but let’s start with the classic French Beige, pictured above. This sleek, luxe, primeknit upper in a neutral beige contrasts perfectly with pops of white in the boost midsole for a perfect early fall sneaker. 


Pharrell Williams, with an ever-expanding list of sneaker and fashion collaborations from his work with Billionaire Boys Club to his current ventures with adidas Originals, has long been one of streetwear’s most recognizable designers. His eye for bright, colorful, patterns translated beautifully into footwear through his adidas NMD XR1 collaboration this year. The vibrant yellow one-piece uppers are mostly consumed by the words “HUMAN RACE” printed boldly down the center of the shoe, making these some of the most recognizable and sought after sneakers on this list.adidas-nmd-city-sock-01

With the City Sock, adidas created an even further evolution of the running/lifestyle shoe. Featuring their trademark boost midsole and a primeknit upper flaunting dizzying black and white geometric piping, the City Sock managed to blend a chukka with a running shoe to great success. These kicks are yet another testament to the brainpower and creativity present at adidas, who’s ever-expanding NMD line has helped them to massive sales growth and a constant presence on the front page of sneaker blogs all year-long.


Photos: Highsnobiety, Hypebeast, Sneaker News, End Clothing, Sneaker Bar Detroit, Nice Kicks, Dazed and Confused

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