As this year winds down, we’ve recapped its highlights to bring you the best of 2018 in fashion, sneakers, music, movies, and more.
Every year, brands sift through their archives to bring back nostalgic kicks, either as updated designs or as outright retro revivals. Today, we examine the latter. Retros can range from the return of a much-loved shoe worn at a pinnacle sporting moment to a shoe that recalls something seen on the silver screen. Or it could simply be a model previously lost in obscurity that fits the trends of the time.
Our definition of a retro release here is a largely unaltered model — OG colorway, same design. Our list includes 2018 highlights from Nike, adidas, New Balance, Reebok, Mizuno, PUMA, and ASICS. Some of the kicks here haven’t seen the light of day for more than a decade, so it's time to show them some love.
Below is our list of the 10 best retro sneakers of 2018. Check them out and then let us know your favorite 2018 retros in the comments at the bottom.
Nike Air Max 1 Premium “Dark Curry”
This year saw the return of an oft-overlooked grail of yesteryear, the "Curry" Air Max 1.
Originally released in 2003, the "Curry" has always been well-loved by collectors. Offering a wearable colorway and the holy trifecta of nubuck, suede, and that all-important mesh toebox, this year's version (part of the Air Max 1 "Curry" pack which released in May) had a bigger production run and oh-so-slightly different color shades. Given most pairs from back in the day require a sole-swap to wear, this was a welcome return.
Nike Air Max 98 “Gundam”
One of the biggest returns this year was the "Gundam" Air Max 98, so named for its color scheme similar to one of the mecha suits in Japan’s popular Mobile Suit Gundam sci-fi franchise. Following the Air Max 98's return through a Supreme collaboration, many held their breath in hope for the red, white, and blue OG beauty. And after 20 years of waiting, Nike blessed us.
The detail-oriented will have noticed differences between the men's version and grade-school sizes, with the outsole of the women's featuring segmented white sections that are closer to the OG and now fetch a higher price for the larger sizes.
ASICS GEL-Kayano 5
While it’s been a fairly quiet year on the ASICS front, the Japanese giant pulled off one of 2018's strongest retros. The GEL-Kayano 5 appeared on the catwalk at GmbH's Paris Fashion Week Spring 2019 show, causing a minor buzz. But with a lack of imagery and information available, it was quickly forgotten. Finally, a surprise event in Berlin caught our attention again with a bang.
The shoe featured an intricate combination of leather, mesh, and embroidered stripes, along with some nice branding callouts such as the Duomax sole unit. Importantly, it’s easily the most comfortable shoe on this list.
Nike Air Jordan 3 “Black Cement”
It's a shoe that's as important as can be in the history of all this. The Air Jordan 3 marked the first use of elephant print, visible Air, and the Jumpman logo.
While retros of this sneaker are more common than other Jordan models, its 2018 return in this OG colorway was a little different, keeping the original Nike Air branding on the heel in place of the Jumpman used on later versions. In the past, some heads would even resort to sole-swapping to keep the OG branding intact, but this year, Jordan Brand gave us the goods, letting us put down the glue and get back to rocking these out of the box.
New Balance M1500GB
Regarded among collectors as a leading brand in terms of quality, New Balance has served beautifully crafted shoes for years, with its factories in the US and UK focusing on a more slow-but-steady approach to making shoes.
While Flimby-made New Balance quality has always been a talking point, the loss of the 1500’s original shape due to changes in the manufacturing process irked fans, with a collective led by Thomas Lindie and Rob Stewart petitioning New Balance to revert to its original technique.
As of last year, the issue has been resolved, so there’s no better time to grab some of the brand's flagship models. The pair we’ve chosen is the M1500GB, one of the last retros fans had been fighting for.
adidas ZX 4000
At times last year, it felt like adidas was moving away from its retro catalog. Of course, Gary Aspden has been doing bits with his Spezial line, a project that hybridizes past models, but otherwise, the Brand With the Three Stripes had been lacking somewhat with its retro bring-backs, instead focusing on new silhouettes such as the POD, Deerupt, and Prophere.
This is set to change in 2019 with the return of some heavy hitters from the Three Stripes' fabled ZX line. The retro program kicked off this month with the ZX 4000 in all its Torsion glory, and we wouldn't be surprised to see more ZX retros early next year.
Arguably, Reebok’s biggest story of 2018 was the return of the beloved Aztrek, which was designed by Christian Tresser, whose work — Nike Air Max 97, Reebok DMX (more on the latter below) — has experienced quite the renaissance of late.
The Aztrek was backed by an appropriately retro marketing campaign, much to the delight of collectors. Looking back now and taking off the rose-tinted glasses, the new Aztrek wasn’t as close to the original as some would have liked, but the punchy ’90s runner still turns heads.
Mizuno Wave Rider 1 OG
Unless you grew up in Japan or were big into football in the ’90s, Mizuno isn't a brand many will have had contact with. But thanks to the recent surge of interest in ’90s runners, the market has opened up for brands with a decent archive from that era.
Starting with the Wave Rider 1 OG, Mizuno partnered with a crew of heavy hitters to bring about some powerful collaborations. The shoe is named for its Wave plate cushioning (easy to spot on the shoe’s heel), which stretches out upon impact and propels the runner forward before rebounding back to its regular waved shape.
Honorable mention goes to the retro Sky Medal OG, a simpler runner with a more aggressive stance and sweet holographic Runbird branding.
Reebok DMX Daytona
The Aztrek wasn’t the only Reebok shoe to return this year. We also got our hands on another Tresser classic, the DMX Daytona.
The ’90s kick's flowing design was based around the anatomy of the foot, with simple colors that let the tech to do the talking. Said tech is Reebok's Dynamic Motion X (DMX) cushioning system, which pushes air through channels into pods depending where you need it most. Not convinced? Even Kanye West has been spotted rocking the DMX Daytona.
PUMA CELL Endura
PUMA dived into its own ’90s archive in 2018 to bring back shoes under its CELL banner, starting with 1998's CELL Endura.
The Endura has a lot going on: a complex lacing system, a paneled leather and mesh upper, and a chunky sole featuring CELL cushioning technology. Rounding things out, PUMA's launch colorway featured a vivid green that really knocked this shoe out of the park.
For more shopping inspiration, check out these 10 classic sneakers.
To stay updated on everything happening in the sneaker world, follow @Highsnobietysneakers on Instagram, check our sneaker release date calendar, and subscribe to our sneaker chatbot on Facebook to receive lightning quick updates to your inbox.