During the last decade, the NFL has earned the distinction of being called the, "No Fun League," for it's hardline stance on endzone celebrations and any other forms of individuality which could potentially harm the reputation of the league and its sponsors.
Despite the threat of fines and suspensions, players continue to push the boundaries on what is deemed acceptable. More specifically, their footwear remains one of the very few forms of self expression a player can use - as the very nature of sports dictates a certain amount of uniformity amongst its participants.
This was a year for epic NFL cleats. Thanks to a loophole in the dress code, players could wear anything they wanted during pregame warmups without any punishment as long as they switched into footwear that met the directive that all players on the same team must wear shoes with the same dominant base color of their respective franchises.
In turn, we got everything from homages to sports icons to shoes that looked like they came straight out of the wild kingdom.
These were the ten best and most outrageous of 2016.
DeAndre Hopkins' YEEZY 350 “Turtle Dove” cleats
When Houston Texans wide receiver, DeAndre Hopkins, squared off against the Chicago Bears in the first game of the NFL season, he certainly made waves with the fanbase more concerned with sartorial points on the board rather than quality of play.
Donning a pair of custom, YEEZY 350 “Turtle Dove” cleats, Hopkins notched five catches for 54 yards and one TD en route to a 23-14 victory.
Despite adhering to his endorsement deal with adidas, the league wasn't pleased with his cleat choice and fined him $6,000 USD.
In the aftermath, Hopkins said he didn't plan on wearing them again, “unless Kanye plans to pay his fine,” according to the Houston Chronicle.
Although the cleats remain on the banned list, adidas keeps pumping out new silhouettes - including the recently released YEEZY 750 in black suede.
Von Miller's furry cleats
The NFL's own headline probably said it best, noting of Von Miller's pregame cleats against the New England Patriots, "The Broncos linebacker has the most ridiculous cleats, in this, The Year Of The Ridiculous Cleats."
Having already established an outrageous precedent with the YEEZY Boost 750 on opening night, a rooster-inspired pair and a chrome pair, this particular pair of furry cleats was apparently inspired by his “hat buddies” sketch with Conan O’Brien and Josh Norman before the Super Bowl last year.
Antonio Brown's Muhammad Ali tribute
Unlike Von Miller who often used pregame warmups to show off his latest and greatest cleats, Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver, Antonio Brown, actually entered game action while wearing footwear honoring the memory of Muhammad Ali.
This wasn't the first time this season that Brown had donned visual tributes to those "that inspired" him - including the likenesses of his children and golf great, Arnold Palmer, who also passed away.
But in the case of the Ali cleats, a league official demanded that Brown remove the shoes after playing two drives in them or face sitting out the rest of the game as a result. Not surprisingly, Brown switched into something that the league deemed more appropriate.
Odell Beckham's OVO cleats
In a July 2016 GQ profile about Giants wide receiver, Odell Beckham Jr., he described house-sitting for Drake at his Calabasas, CA property which the Canadian Crooner had dubbed, "The YOLO Estate," saying, "His house can’t be messed with. Right now, we’re on two different levels."
Beckham expanded upon he and Drake's relationship during a conversation with UFC star Ronda Rousey on DraftKings TV, stating, "That's my guy right there. Somebody whose mindset is the same as yours, and they want nothing but success, they want to be the best. We just click on a level like that."
Thus, it should have come as little surprise that Beckham decided to honor Drake's OVO imprint by wearing a pair of cleats.
Created by the Los Angeles-based custom sneaker company, Kickasso Kustoms, Beckham wore them while he warmed up for a Monday Night Football matchup against the Minnesota Vikings.
Cam Newton's tail cleats
Reigning NFL MVP, Cam Newton, is no stranger to shoe customization - having appeared in customized Under Armour Curry Two’s which revealed a Superman logo, cleats that featured an image of him dabbing, and gold MVP cleats.
Yet, the Under Armour cleats he appeared in during warmups for a matchup against the New Orleans Saints proved to be the most bold and featured what appeared to be something akin to a fox's tail hanging from the back.
Odell Beckham's Nike MAG cleats
The Pro Bowl has seen a steady decline in interest during the last decade after many All Pros eschewed playing in the game for fear that they could impact their livelihood by being injured in a meaningless all-star game.
Despite the inherent risk, Odell Beckham Jr. used the event to unveil a pair of custom Nike Air MAG cleats complete with Back to the Future-themed Hoverboard gloves.
DeSean Jackson's caution cleats
Washington Redskins wide receiver, DeSean Jackson, took the field for a week four matchup against the Cleveland Browns wearing cleats depicting police caution tape as a means of voicing his dissatisfaction with police violence this year.
"Today is the start of my attempts to be part of a solution and start dialogue about the senseless killings of both citizens and police," Jackson said in a statement. "I have chosen to wear these cleats in pregame today to use my platform as a pro athlete to add to this discussion. This isn't meant to be any kind of protest against the good men and women in law enforcement in this country. I just to express my concern in a peaceful and productive way about the issues that are currently impacting our country."
Jackson was ultimately fined by the NFL for wearing the protest-themed cleats.
"It's cool, man," Jackson said of the fine. "My message and what I wanted to get across was more of the case for that, so I wasn't worried about that [fine]."
Odell Beckham's Craig Sager tribute cleats
Sports journalist, Craig Sager, turned heads wherever he went thanks to his custom suits made from retailers like Rex in Miami or A. Taghi in Houston and footwear in outrageous tones from Friedman’s Shoes in Atlanta.
Having succumbed to cancer in December, sports icons reacted and remembered Sager not only for his flare, but his grace and humility.
In particular, Odell Beckham Jr. decided to don a pair of cleats that honored Sager by matching prints and colors the broadcaster had favored during his time manning the sidelines in various sports.
The goodwill gesture resulted in Beckham being fined by the league. He would later write on Instagram, "I got fined 18k for Craig Sager cleats that were auction off the cleats to the highest bidder and donating the proceeds to his cancer research."
Cam Newton's Prince tribute cleats
Following the death of Prince - a Minnesota native and worldwide icon - Cam Newton transformed his UA C1N cleat into a "“Purple Rain” tribute while taking on the singer's hometown Vikings.
Deion Jones' Hurricane Katrina tribute
Falcons linebacker Deion Jones, a native of New Orleans, honored the 10th anniversary of the devastating effects of Hurricane Katrina by wearing some special commemorative cleats on Monday Night Football versus the New Orleans Saints at a venue - the Super Dome - which played a prominent role in the narrative.
Jones chose to put the same thing on his cleats as was painted on his home during Hurricane Katrina. "Top": Denotes the day. "Bottom": Gives the number of victims found dead. "Left": identifies the rescue team.