Sneakers
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As this year winds down, we’ve recapped its highlights to bring you the best of 2018 in fashion, sneakers, music, movies and more.

It’s been a big year for sneakers, and with 2018 drawing to a close, it’s time to assess the best kicks the year had to offer.

Although the year might still have one or two big drops to come from the footwear brands we cover here at Highsnobiety, we’ve included the sneakers that we felt were in the running for the title of Sneaker of the Year in our recently announced Highsnobiety Crowns 2018, with the title going to the Nike React Element 87.

Be sure to check out all of our Crowns 2018 coverage, and in the meantime, check out our selection of the best sneaker drops of the year below, including general releases and collaborations involving brands such as Nike, adidas, Jordan Brand, ASICS, Dior, New Balance, Salomon, PUMA, and Converse.

And, of course, feel free to tell us about your favorite releases of 2018 in the comments at the bottom.

COMME des GARÇONS x Nike Air Max 180

Highsnobiety / Asia Typek

Many collaborations don’t survive a single season, but COMME des GARÇONS and Nike have been going hard for two decades. Shown on the runway during the fashion brand’s SS18 show at Paris Fashion Week, the popping Air Max 180 eventually came out in a trio of colorways with pink as the foundation of each sneaker.

The kicks were initially exclusive to Dover Street Market, followed by a subsequent drop at select retail partners. Even for those sneakerheads who aren’t fans of bright kicks, this pack was a strong reason to put some pink in your rotation.

Nike Air Max 98 “Gundam”

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After the return of the somewhat obscure Air Max 98, the partially neglected sibling of the Air Max 97, via a Supreme collaboration in 2016, new colorways started to land in early 2018, offering a welcome alternative to more eminent models such as the Air Max 1 or Air Max TN.

The “Gundam” colorway was a nod to the RX-78-2 suit from the popular Japanese Gundam sci-fi series and featured a blue and white upper with red details plus a red full-length Air unit — a colorway that melded nicely with the vintage ’90s silhouette.

adidas Originals Yung-1

Press / Solebox

Originally mistaken by some for a new YEEZY design, the Yung-1 was a remixed version of the ’90s Falcon Dorf, whose name was taken from the German village Falkendorf, which adidas designers used to pass through on their morning run.

Arguably adidas’ best new sneaker of the year, the Yung-1 came out in June in a handful of strong general release colorways and was later the subject of collaborations with SneakersnstuffEND. Clothingsize? (pictured above), and Solebox, plus another colorway inspired by Dragon Ball Z character Frieza.

BVG x adidas Originals EQT 93/17

Press / Overkill

German transit company Berliner Verkehrsbetriebe (BVG) teamed up with adidas for a special EQT 93/17 that doubles as a train ticket. Decorated with the Flecktarn-inspired camouflage pattern found on Berlin subway carriages, the EQT also featured a Jahreskarte (yearly transport ticket) on the tongue.

While the sneaker retailed for around $205, a yearly ticket in Berlin costs about $865. The shoe’s launch at Berlin sneaker institution Overkill even brought out German media to interview the sneakerheads who camped overnight to buy a train ticket you can wear on your foot.

Dior B22

Highsnobiety / Asia Typek

Ever since the chunky sneaker trend started to pick up steam, a number of luxury brands have weighed in with their own versions, including Gucci, Louis Vuitton, and others.

Created by former Dior Homme artistic director Kris Van Assche, the B22 is perhaps the most balanced example of the trend, even if it didn’t necessarily get the love given to some of its competitors. The silhouette featured exaggerated proportions that find harmony with the shoe’s sporty aesthetic, as well as rope laces, well-appointed color-blocking, and a subtle Dior Homme badge.

Nike Air Jordan 3 “Black Cement”

Press / Livestock

Other than the original Air Jordan 1, the “Black Cement” Air Jordan 3 is surely the second most impactful silhouette in the Jordan franchise. The first basketball sneaker to feature a visible Air bubble, the now iconic Jumpman logo, and the classic cement print, Tinker Hatfield’s Air Jordan 3 design essentially saved the range, convincing Michael Jordan to stay with Nike instead of departing for adidas.

While this colorway first came out in 1988, the iconic kick was treated to a retro release in February, featuring the OG Nike Air logo on the heel rather than the Jumpman logo as with some previous retros.

Kiko Kostadinov x ASICS GEL-Burz 2

Highsnobiety

Kiko Kostadinov’s second pack of ASICS GEL-Burz 2 sneakers was built on elements of the GEL-Venture 6 and GEL-Nimbus 20 silhouettes, and featured ASICS’ FlyteFoam and GEL tech. The three colorways, “Seafoam,” “Forrest,” and “Terracotta,” were inspired by traditional pottery from Kostadinov’s home country Bulgaria.

A real “if you know, you know” shoe among tastemakers, the GEL-Burz 2 and the ongoing ASICS x Kostadinov collaboration itself were embraced within fashion circles and by sneakerheads alike. The retail price of $280 didn’t make the GEL-Burz 2 the most attainable ASICS shoe out there, but for those who did splash out on this collab, these were a prized pair you’d be unlikely to spot often on the feet of others.

New Balance MADE 990v4 “1982”

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When the first 990 was released in 1982, it came with an advertising campaign that noted, “Out of 1000, this shoe is a 990.” In April 2018, New Balance brought back the 990 in its signature gray colorway, complete with original $100 retail price.

While the shoe is now priced closer to $200 (justifiable given the quality and comfort of the shoe), New Balance initially dropped it for the OG MSRP the price to celebrate the limited reissue in 15 cities. In addition to the original colorway, this re-release also had a subtle “1982” hit on the heel.

OFF-WHITE x Converse Chuck Taylor All Star

Highsnobiety / Asia Typek

While nine of Virgil Abloh’s deconstructed “The Ten” sneaker designs came out last year, delays pushed the Converse Chuck Taylor All Star back until May 12 this year.

One of Abloh’s most compelling and Instagrammable designs, the reworked Chucks featured a translucent upper, inverted Converse heel badge, “VULCANIZED” text on the midsole, and asymmetrical toe details showing “LEFT” on the right foot and vice versa. It wasn’t the first shoe to use a see-through upper to stoke hype, but Abloh and Converse fans couldn’t pass up the chance to flex in these standout kicks.

The Broken Arm x Salomon XT-4

Highsnobiety / Asia Typek

Parisian boutique The Broken Arm and performance outerwear brand Salomon’s reworking of the trail-ready XT-4 kept all of the shoe’s performance utility via a quick-lace closure and aggressive outerwear tread, but added a fashion-friendly gradient colorway that you couldn’t find in just any sporting goods store.

The two labels’ hitherto unlikely collaboration started in 2015 and has now cemented itself as one of the most progressive in the industry. The shoe offers more functionality than you’ll ever need in your everyday, but you’ll still look dope and your feet will stay dry even when you’re caught in a sudden downpour.

Nike React Element 87

Press / BSTN

The React Element 87 is named after francium, which is the 87th and most reactive (i.e. explosive) element on the periodic table. The sleek shoe features Nike’s React cushioning foam, which is the base for a transparent upper and thoughtful details such as an asymmetrical tongue. The shoe’s overall aesthetic borrows from Nike’s Internationalist (the tongue, toe, and heel clip), with some features also borrowing from the more modern Zoom Fly SP.

The sneakerhead community went into a frenzy on social media when the first images of a collaborative UNDERCOVER React Element 87 appeared. The shoe’s sleek, futuristic design was universally appealing, and the translucent panels on the upper provided a fun way to get your socks street styled.

Under Armour x AWGE SRLo

Highsnobiety / Thomas Welch

Skater Dave Mayhew was tapped by Under Armour and A$AP Rocky’s multi-hyphenate creative agency AWGE for this year’s SRLo skate shoe. Its bulbous, Osiris D3-indebted design and hugely puffy tongue definitely fit the zeitgeist for chunky sneakers, and the release set off a controversy when former Osiris designer Brian Reid claimed Mayhew had been falsely credited as the man behind the late-’90s D3.

While the design was divisive in numerous ways, the link-up between Rocky and Under Armour (a brand more often associated with MMA league UFC and NBA superstar Stephen Curry) was a big story. The shoe was launched at a “skate rave” in Harlem, where only 500 pairs were made available.

PUMA Thunder Spectra

Highsnobiety / Dominik Shulte

PUMA channeled the design ethos of its Alexander McQueen collab McQ on the Thunder Spectra. Images of the sneaker first leaked in February and it went on to become one of 2018’s most popular new designs.

Spanning different colorway releases, the sneaker offered an on-trend chunky, retro design paired with strong color-blocking. Later, as more colorways dropped, the Thunder Spectra became a common sight on the streets of shopping districts in major cities, marking a major success for the German sports brand.

GOLF le FLEUR* x Converse One Star

Highsnobiety / Eva Al Desnudo

Tyler, the Creator departed from former partner Vans to work with Nike subsidiary Converse, launching the GOLF le FLEUR* sneaker range. Using the low-top Converse One Star as a foundation, Tyler replaced the shoe’s star cutout with a flower panel in fuzzy suede, adding eye-catching two-tone color-blocking.

Simple yet effective, the rapper’s sneaker collaboration sold out its first drops, which were limited enough to sustain demand but still comparatively accessible. Building on these early successes, new installments of the collab are sure to arrive throughout 2019.

Balenciaga Track

Highsnobiety / Asia Typek

Following up the ubiquitous Triple S, Balenciaga’s new athletic sneaker, the Track, first appeared at the fashion house’s FW18 runway show. Another attention-grabbing design from the mind of artistic director Demna Gvasalia, the Track features hiking and running performance elements, with a heavily treaded outsole.

The super-technical design was offset by a series of popping colorways that mixed bright greens and oranges, with a trusty all-black look thrown into the mix. Not a design for everyone, the shoe was possibly the best representation of a current footwear climate in which high-fashion brands have found themselves making $900 hiking shoes.

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.

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

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