We’re just past the midyear point of 2016, and it’s time to highlight some of our favorite Nike releases of the year so far.
For the Beaverton-based brand, footwear partnerships with Supreme, Kim Jones and Olivier Rousteing made headlines in a big way, showing that NikeLab continues to constitute a strong banner for creative partnerships to fall under.
Nike is also maintaining key collaborations alongside athletes to bring us performance offerings, not limited to the Lunar Epic Flyknit created with input from long-distance runners, the Koston Hyperfeel 3 created with Eric Koston to broaden the horizons of skateboarding footwear, and the gym-oriented Free Trainer 1.0. In short, this year Nike has been re-affirming its commitment to creating footwear that puts function first.
Check out our 15 favorites below, and then check out our 15 favorite adidas sneakers of 2016 so far.
Lunarlon and Flyknit tech have been paired together for far more than just one Nike silhouette, but this particular instance could top the list in terms of synergy. The Nike Lunar Epic Flyknit boasts a fitted ankle collar and contoured Lunarlon midsole with precise laser cuts, providing an on-foot experience that leaves little to be desired. A few strong colorways including a Boston Marathon-edition and more from the Gyakusou range have added further appeal to the silhouette.
It’s tough to think of an existing skate shoe that rivals the progressive design of Nike SB’s Hyperfeel Koston 3. While the shoe’s ribbed ankle collar and Hyperfeel upper may hearken toward the future of skateboarding footwear, the upper still retains the use of suede, a textile that is key for board feel, as any skater will be able to attest. Koston himself noted to Highsnobiety: “As far as the innovation side, I can’t think of a shoe that has taken this long to design, that involved the same challenges.”
This tech-leaning ACG drop sees Nike fuse several rugged features like aggressive treading and a prominent mudguard with the brand’s well-liked Flyknit and Flywire applications. The Lupinek might not appeal to sneakerheads across the board, but more stands as an example of where Nike designers could be looking in the future.
It goes without saying, you’ve got to have a sense of humor to pull off these pizza-themed Janoskis from Nike SB and Skate Mental. While many sneakers these days are praised for their technical merit, or coveted due to rarity, these Janoskis are appealing for a much more basic reason – they’re covered in pizza and that’s both hilarious and awesome. Let’s be real, you probably have enough all-black kicks anyway.
Kim Jones’ sneaker with NikeLab is a near-perfect blend of new and old, re-imagining the 1995 Nike Air Zoom LWP to create a poignantly modern result. Tying in to the collection’s overarching travel theme, each sneaker comes with its own individual shoe bag, allowing for easy packing and storage. Additionally, this latest partnership carries over sensibly where previous collections with Riccardo Tisci and Olivier Rousteing left off.
Nike and atmos have worked together on more than just one collaboration, albeit one of the most celebrated partnerships between the two brought us the Air Max 1 “Safari” in 2002. The collaboration was reprised in 2016 with a new “Safari” version that made several tweaks to the original design, most notably a textured faux-fur fabric on the toe box, and an ice-blue outsole.
Before you go running to the comments, we know, it’s not exactly a sneaker, but the NikeLab Air Rift Wrap still deserves mention alongside the best Swoosh drops of the year so far. Part sandal, part sneaker, the Air Rift Wrap turns the tables on the Air Rift silhouette, ignoring most preconceptions of how an article of footwear should look or be defined.
The brand with the Swoosh wasn’t about to sleep on the naturally tanned leather craze, and made sure to throw their hat in the ring with this NikeLab Air Force 1 Mid “Vachetta Tan.” Not the only Vachetta execution we’ve seen from Nike, but certainly one of the best. The soft palette combined with a classic silhouette definitely hit home for many sneakerheads, especially the female demographic.
When images of this project first leaked, many were doubting their legitimacy, but Supreme officially released four versions of this obscure Air Max family member in late April. The quartet included a blacked-out version, a navy blue version, a red version as a nod to Supreme’s famous box logo, and the highlight of the release – a snake pattern edition that you’ve probably spotted in more than one street style gallery on Highsnobiety.
For Air Max Day 2016, Nike and Hiroshi Fujiwara unveiled the Air Max LD-Zero H. Expanding on the always-popular HTM series, for the fist time Fujiwara was allowed to create his own Air Max variation for the annual sneaker holiday, which re-imagines the upper from Nike’s vintage Boston silhouette, paired with the Air Max 2014 bubble platform. Returning to navy blue (often his colorway of choice), Fujiwara noted “I wanted to create something that would resonate with people who are interested in classic styles.”
What Nike describes as a “T-shirt for the foot,” the Air Presto was originally released back in 2000, and this year, the Beaverton camp presented a new spin on the silhouette, bringing us the Air Presto Ultra Flyknit. The update includes an adaptable Flyknit upper and mid-top cut, rounding out this timely, summer-ready release.
This Scottie Pippen favorite – 1996’s Nike Air More Uptempo – made a reappearance this year in its original colorway, as well as several new color schemes for the modern sneakerhead. Despite the retro basketball shoe’s chunky, aging look, many embraced the 2016 reissue. The shoe’s overstated “AIR” branding is a reference to the aesthetics of ’90s graffiti and pop art.
In January, Concepts collaborated with Nike on the Free Trainer 1.0, a newly developed training shoe honed on providing the feeling of barefoot running. The shoe’s tongue was constructed from a thermal reactive material that changes color to match the shoe’s upper when heated up, while a clean white midsole acted to nicely juxtapose the multicolor design. Definitely one of Concepts’ most original collaborations in recent memory.
The originator of the Air Max franchise has been treated to a fair share of remixes in its day. But while past revisions have been hit or miss, the Air Max 1 Royal was a sight for sore eyes. Nike again adopts a luxe, minimal-tilt for the release, which coincided with Air Max day 2016, and although Nike is still testing the waters in this department, we like what we see so far.
Of the 13 different styles included in Nike’s ” Black Mamba” pack, which honored the legendary Kobe Bryant, it’s hard to justify highlighting just one. Hard stats show us that the most sought after sneaker in the pack, as well as the fourth most valuable sneaker of 2016 Q1 was the Kobe 1. But Bryant laced up a pair of “Black Mamba” XIs for his last time donning Lakers colors, and the nostalgia factor here is too hard to overlook.
Looking for more mid-year sneaker content? Here’s our list of the 15 best adidas of 2016 (so far).
- Main & Featured Image: Asia Typek
- NikeLab Air Force 1 Mid "Vachetta Tan": Girl On Kicks
- Supreme x NikeLab Air Max 98: Asia Typek
- Nike Air Max LD-Zero H: Nigra Mercato
- Nike Air Presto Ultra Flyknit: Foot District
- Nike Air More Uptempo: Nuno Andrade
- Concepts x Nike Free Trainer 1.0 "Thermal": Concepts
- Nike Kobe XI "Black Mamba": Nike
- NikeLab Air Max 1 Royal: KITH
- Nike Lunar Epic Flyknit: Overkill
- Nike SB Koston Hyperfeel 3: Flatspot
- Skate Mental x Nike SB Janoski "Pepperoni Pizza": Zupport
- Nikelab Air Rift Wrap: Nike
- atmos x Nike Air Max 1 Safari: 43einhalb
- NikeLab Air Zoom LWP x Kim Jones: Eva al Desnudo/Highsnobiety.com
- Lupinek Flyknit Low NikeLab ACG: EU Kicks