Sneakers
From the ground up

To wrap up a year full of sneaker releases each and every weekend, we’ve reached out to some of our friends in the industry to share their top picks of 2017.

Picking just a single favorite is an especially difficult task given the plethora of high-profile sneaker collaborations that rolled out this year. Major celebrities signed new deals with sportswear brands, like The Weeknd for PUMA and Gucci Mane for Reebok, while tastemakers like Virgil Abloh and Tom Sachs brought a renewed interest toward Nike, and at the same time adidas was pushing prominent campaigns for the NMD and EQT ranges.

If you weren’t paying close attention, it was all-too-easy to miss a beat.

Below, see what some of the industry’s biggest sneakerheads chose as their top release of 2017.

Emily Oberg, Sporty & Rich

Flyknit Trainer
Bobby Anwar / Highsnobiety.com

“My favorite drop of 2017 was the Nike Flyknit Trainer. This has been a favorite of mine since it first came out a few years back. I initially got the white pair and regretted not getting the others, so I was stoked when Nike brought them back.

I had been on the hunt for them since I first got them, but they were always going for over $700 on eBay and the resell sites. It’s nice when brands listen to consumers and bring back the shoes we love. I’m not a fan of too many new styles, so seeing these pop up again was awesome. Though, I wish they had kept the original laces. Can’t win em all I guess.”

Aljoscha Kondratiew, General Manager, Solebox

NikeCraft x Tom Sachs Mars Yard Shoe 2.0
Kane Holz / Highsnobiety

“First of all, this year was heat-packed. I can’t remember a time when so much relevant product dropped in one year. From my point of view, it was also a little bit too much. Back in the day, there were a few drops per month, now every weekend is packed with collaborations and special releases.

It’s tough to pick just one, and I probably bought way too many shoes this year. But one that stood out for me was the NikeCraft x Tom Sachs Mars Yard Shoe 2.0. I still remember when the first ones came out in 2012, I was in Paris and I walked into colette, and they had them. They also had a sick installation, and the whole concept was really impressive. But unfortunately, the price then was way higher than the 2017 re-release. I wasn’t able to afford them at that time, so when Nike announced the 2.0, I was super stoked to finally own a pair.”

Vivian Frank, Co-Founder, Yeezy Talk Worldwide

KAWS x Nike Air Jordan IV
George Ocampo / Highsnobiety.com

“I think my favorite release this year has to be the KAWS x Nike Air Jordan IV, simply because of the great details on every inch of the shoe, even down to the box and packaging. Taking a recent interest in art and collectibles also makes me appreciate the shoe more, plus I’m a crazy Jordan head, so it’s sick to see this dope collaboration on one of my favorite Jordan models. KAWS is an amazing artist, so these were a must for the collection, and definitely the best shoe this year, even one of the best Jordans to release in recent years. They look sick on feet with any fit; they look cozy with joggers or some nice light denim.”

Chris Gibbs, Founder, Union LA

Virgil Abloh x Nike Air Jordan 1
Keith Hui / Highsnobiety.com

“My favorite sneaker of the year isn’t going to be a surprise or an out-of-the-box pick because this year I think we can all agree on a unanimous selection. My favorite joint is the Virgil Abloh x Air Jordan 1.

Why? Let me count the ways. He started with one of the best all-time silhouettes. The AJ1 is the classic shoe; I love the fact that unlike 90 percent of the collaborations out there, Virgil was able to actually change the shoe around in some pretty creative ways. It wasn’t just another re-color/re-fabric job. Much more went into it.

I love the build/destroy/build, construct/deconstruct vibe of the shoe. I love the way it looks and feels. I am a huge fan of color and neon in particular, so I love the little splashes of neon here and there, that otherwise would seem out of place. The fabric selections are great as well. The shoe looks vintage and futuristic all at the same time.”

Selma Kaci Sebbagh, Brand Consultant

Nike's Zoom Fly SP
Stanley Chen / Highsnobiety .com

“Nike’s Zoom Fly SP was one of the most important innovation concepts of this year. The comfort and the balance are unique. The sole of the Zoom Fly is different from anything I’ve tried before. It’s super comfortable on-foot and gives you the feeling that each step is being propelled forward.

The overall design is strong, but I love the details most: the clock on the heel, the midsole text, and all the references to Breaking 2. The different fabrics like transparent mesh also make the shoe very light and soft.

It’s definitely the most beautiful, solid and innovative Nike sneaker of 2017.”

Dan Natola, Co-Owner, Bodega

Skepta x Nike Air Max 97
Asia Typek / Highsnobiety.com

“There were a lot of legendary drops in 2017, which made it hard to pick one. I loved the Skepta x Nike Air Max 97 release. The design was brilliant, it had the right balance of details, flash and wearability. This shoe is destined to become a future classic like the Opium 180s or Nom De Guerre 180s.”

Eugene Kan, Co-Founder, Maekan

HAVEN x adidas Consortium Ultra Boost Uncaged
Solebox

“I’m going to make up some figure that’s probably fairly accurate: I’ve worn the HAVEN x adidas Consortium Ultra Boost Uncaged for probably 60-70% of 2017, despite the fact the shoe came out April 1. It goes with my boring-ass all-black wardrobe, and it’s guaranteed comfort. The fact it’s mostly a knitted/textile upper with an all-black Boost midsole means it still looks as good as the first day. My reasons for liking this shoe couldn’t be more boring, but when you travel and want to fit everything in a carry-on, it fits the bill.”

I couldn’t honestly give two shits about what else dropped this year, but “The Ten” – for once in a long-time – finally represented something beyond just “can you do something on this shoe?” There was an intent behind tying in the purpose and direction through activations that refreshingly revolved around learning. I never had any intention of copping so all the issues buying are inconsequential to me, but I hope to see fewer collaborations with more intent to create something meaningful beyond a product. Sneakers can play such a powerful role in grabbing the attention of the youth, so why not use that as a transition into more profound narratives?”

Francky B, Sneakerness France

Nike Air VaporMax
Hance Taplin / Highsnobiety.com

“I first discovered the Nike VaporMax silhouette in person during the 2017 Air Max Day dinner at the Center Georges-Pompidou in Paris, and it was love at first sight. The feeling of walking on clouds is incomparable, and since then, I’ve been trying to get every color of the model. Nike got me!”

Greg Babcock, Editor-in-Chief, Grailed

Virgil Abloh x Nike Air Force 1
Nike

“Anyone who lives in New York will tell you that Nike’s Air Force 1 is the city’s unofficial sneaker (walk into any sneaker shop in NYC and simply ask for a pair of “Uptowns” and they’ll know exactly what you’re looking for). With 2017 ringing in the sneaker’s 35th anniversary, it’s never been a been a better time to be a New Yorker with an affinity for a pair of all-white lows. While there’s plenty of interesting Air Force 1 collaborations that have surfaced during this year-long celebration (looking at you “Cactus Jacks”) it’s hard to beat the buzz surrounding Virgil Abloh’s rework of the sidewalk staple in “The Ten.” With the deconstructed tongue, suede accents and translucent sole, “The Ten”‘s take on the classic is different from the original, without straying too far into “overdesigning” around what makes the OG so incredible. While hundreds were battling it out for the collaboration collection’s take on the Presto and Jordan 1 (which, to be fair, are great reworks in their own right), this was a clear top choice from the start—not to mention one of the best Air Force 1s in a year of Air Force 1s.”

Marcello Cutrona, Buyer and Store Manager, Slam Jam Milan

Xhibition x adidas Consortium Terrex
Kith

“I’ll go for the Xhibition x adidas Consortium Terrex. This hyper-technical and performance-oriented boot was sold through mountaineering specialist shops only. It boasts top materials and both a performance and functional winter-ready shoe.”

Kane Holz, Photographer

Kith

“I buy a lot of shoes then wear them once or twice, and after that, they usually end up in their box and never get worn again, mostly because I don’t find the right occasion to wear them. The Neighboorhood x Converse One Star was different. I can wear them riding my fixed gear bike, cruising around on a skateboard, and at the end of the day they are still edgy enough to wear to parties.”

Vsevolod “Sever” Cherepanov, Founder & Designer, Sever

ACRONYM x Nike Lunar Force 1
Nike

“This model’s design is the most attractive for me, it’s a very nice mix of both the Air Force 1 and ACRONYM’s aesthetics. I’m glad to see one of my favorite sneakers shown in a monochrome colorway.”

Drew Hammell, @Nikestories

Nike

“For me, it was the 20th Anniversary Nike Air Foamposite One “Royal Blue” release. There’s so much history behind that model and colorway – between Mike Bibby and some of his Arizona teammates rocking them on their way to the ’97 NCAA championship, to Penny breaking them out a few weeks later against the Heat in the playoffs. I was surprised Nike didn’t do more of a marketing campaign around the release. That was fine with me though, as it was an easy pickup since they kind of went under the radar.”

Rick Williams, Co-Founder, Burn Rubber

Virgil Abloh x Nike Blazer Mid
Asia Typek / Highsnobiety.com

“The release of the year, in my opinion, is the Virgil Abloh x Nike Blazer Mid. The Blazer Mid is already a classic model, and the subtle changes that were made to it for this projects were genius. The whole collection was a breath of fresh air, in my opinion. I wonder what would happen if companies put the same type of energy around product with a wider distribution plan?”

Peter Jansson, Co-Owner, Sneakersnstuff

adidas Futurecraft AM4LDN
Thomas Lindie / Highsnobiety.com

“For me, the adidas SPEEDFACTORY series led by the AM4LDN was the best performance shoe to hit the market so far this year. It shows the direction the sneaker world is going.”

Erik Fagerlind, Co-Owner, Sneakersnstuff

Tyler, The Creator x Converse Golf le FLEUR*
Converse

“The Tyler, The Creator x Converse Golf le FLEUR* drop was great because it marked a shift in the market, where a previously kind-of-sleepy Converse woke up and challenged Vans as the number one vulcanized sneaker brand.”

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  • Main & Featured Image: Ahmed Chrediy / Highsnobiety.com

Vancouver-born, Berlin-based writer with a steady hand on the keyboard.

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