Sneakers
From the ground up
Press / BSTN

We’re still quite fresh into the year, but it’s never too early to take a closer look at the best sneakers of 2018 so far, so you can remain updated 365 days of the year.

Although this year still has a number of big drops in-store from all of the footwear brands we cover here on Highsnobiety, we have included a handful of sneakers below that could take the title of “Sneaker of the Year” in our end-of-year Highsnobiety Crowns, which will be rolled out later in December.

While we will keep this list updated with the best sneakers of 2018, here is a selection of the best drops of the year (so far), including highlights from Air Jordan, adidas, Nike and more.

COMME des GARÇONS Homme Plus x Nike Air Max 180

Highsnobiety / Asia Typek

Many collaborations can’t survive a single season, but COMME des GARÇONS and Nike have been going hard for literally decades, and it’s a worth taking note any time the two brands come together. Shown on the runway during the SS18 shows at Paris Fashion Week, the popping Air Max 180 eventually released in a trio of colorways with pink used as the foundation of each sneaker. The kicks were released exclusively at Dover Street Market, followed by a subsequent drop at select retail partners. Even for sneakerheads that aren’t specifically fans of pink, this pack was a strong reason to reconsider.

Nike Air Max 98 “Gundam”

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After the return of the somewhat obscure Air Max 98 (the older, partially neglected brother of the Air Max 97) via a Supreme collaboration in 2016, new colorways started to land in early 2018. The “Gundam” colorawy is a nod to the RX-78-2 suit from the popular Gundam sci-fi series, featuring 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 adidas Originals Yung 1 is a remixed version of the vintage adidas Falkendorf sneaker, which took its name from a German village that adidas designers used to pass through on their morning run.

It’s been a big year for the Yung 1, which first released in June in a handful of strong general release colorways, and was later treated to special make-up versions with SneakersnstuffEND. Clothing, Size? and Solebox (pictured above), plus another colorway inspired by the character Frieza from Dragon Ball Z. Arguably adidas’ best new sneaker design of the year, the Yung 1 harnesses the essence of the mid-90s, but shrewdly repositioned as a retro model.

BVG x adidas Originals EQT 93/17

Press / Overkill

German transit company Berliner Verkehrsbetriebe (BVG) teamed up with adidas for a very special EQT 93/17 that doubles as a train ticket. Decorated with the Flecktarn-inspired camouflage pattern found throughout Berlin’s U-Bahn train network, the EQT also featured a Jahreskarte (yearly train ticket) on the tongue, which is quite a clever design detail, if you ask us. While the sneaker’s price-tag was around $215 USD, the cost of a yearly ticket in Berlin is substantially more, at around $950 USD. Launched at Berlin institution Overkill, the release brought out mainstream media outlets who were eager to interview those that camped overnight to buy a train ticket you can wear on your foot.

Dior Homme B22

Highsnobiety / Asia Typek

Since the chunky sneaker trend has 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 Dior Homme’s Kris Van Assche, the B22 silhouette is perhaps the most balanced example of the trend, featuring exaggerated proportions that find harmony with the shoe’s sporty aesthetic. Rope laces, well-appointed color blocking and a subtle Dior Homme badge round out the look.

Nike Air Jordan III “Black Cement”

Press / Livestock

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

While this colorway first released in 1988, the iconic kick was treated to a retro release in February.

Kiko Kostadinov x ASICS GEL-BURZ 2

Highsnobiety

Kiko’s second pack of GEL-BURZ 2 sneakers was built on elements of the GEL-Venture 6 and GEL-Nimbus 20 silhouettes, also featuring ASICS’ FlyteFoam and GEL technology. Each of the three “seafoam,” “forest,” and “terracotta” colorways were inspired by traditional pottery from Kostadinov’s home of Bulgaria. A real “if you know, you know” shoe among tastemakers, the shoe and the ongoing collaboration itself were embraced by fashion circles and sneakerheads alike. The retail price of $280 didn’t make it the most attainable pair of ASICS out there, but for those that did choose to splash out on this collaboration, these were undoubtedly a prized pair which you were unlikely to frequently spot 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 grey colorway, complete with the original retail price of $100. While the shoe is now priced closer to $200 (a justifiable price given the quality and comfort of the shoe), New Balance slashed the price in half, celebrating the limited re-issue in 15 select cities, a feat which will not be duplicated soon, if ever.

Virgil Abloh x Converse Chuck Taylor All-Star

Highsnobiety / Asia Typek

While nine of Virgil Abloh’s deconstructed sneaker designs from “The Ten” released last year in 2017, delays with the Converse Chuck Taylor All-Star pushed the shoe’s release back until May 12. One of the most compelling and Instagrammable designs from Abloh and Nike, the re-worked Chucks featured a translucent upper, inverted Converse heel badge, “VULCANIZED” branding on the midsole, and asymmetrical toe details showing “LEFT” on the right foot, and vice versa. While it was far from the first shoe to use a see-through upper to stoke hype, fans of Virgil and Converse couldn’t deny themselves the chance to flex in these unique kicks.

The Broken Arm x Salomon XT-4

Highsnobiety / Asia Typek

Perhaps not a collaboration for the hype crowd, Parisian boutique The Broken Arm and performance outerwear brand Salomon re-worked the trail-ready XT-4 in a fashion-friendly gradient colorway. The XT-4 keeps all its performance utility via a quick-lace closure and agressive outerwear tread, plus the addition of a special colorway that you wouldn’t find in just any sporting goods store. The duo started their collaboration in 2015, when the crossover between a curated boutique and a performance mountaineering brand was yet unheard of. Now the collaboration has cemented itself as one of the most progressive in the industry.

Nike React Element 87

Press / BSTN

Nike’s React Element 87 sneaker is named after the periodic element Francium, which is the 87th (and most explosive) element on the table. The sleek shoe features Nike’s React cushioning foam, saddled with a lightweight, transparent upper, and thoughtful details like an asymmetrical tongue. The shoe’s overall aesthetic borrows from Nike’s Internationalist (the tongue, toe, and heel clip) and select features from the more modern Zoom Fly SP.

Sneakerheads went into a frenzy when leaked images of a collaborative UNDERCOVER React Element 87 surfaced, however general release versions hit shelves first, as a strong consolation prize. The initial “Sail” and “Anthracite Black” colorways were released in June and July, both of which sold out almost immediately.

Under Armour x AWGE SRLo

Highsnobiety / Thomas Welch

Osiris D3 designer and legendary skater Dave Mayhew was tapped by Under Armour and A$AP Rocky’s multi-hyphenate creative agency AWGE to birth the SRLo sneaker. The bulbous design and hugely puffy tongue definitely fits within the current zeitgeist of chunky sneakers, but also is clearly reminiscent of early-2000s skate shoes. While the design itself may be divisive, the team-up between Rocky and Under Armour (a brand that is associated with MMA league UFC, and endorses NBA superstar Stephen Curry) is in many ways unprecedented. The shoe was launched at a “skate rave” in Harlem, where only 500 pairs were initially made available.

PUMA Thunder Spectra

Highsnobiety / Dominik Shulte

PUMA channeled the design ethos of its legendary Alexander McQueen collaboration McQ from 2005, resulting in the PUMA Thunder Spectra. First surfacing around February, the Thunder silhouette’s early successes established it as one of 2018’s most popular new sneaker designs from any brand. Following the Spectra colorway, additional makeups arrived, including the Electric and Desert variations, each offering their own color stories referencing natural phenomena. Spanning the different colorway releases, the sneaker offered an on-trend chunky, retro design, paired with strong color blocking, for a compelling on-foot culmination that found a place in the closet of early adapters. Later, when more colorways followed, the Thunder wasn’t an uncommon silhouette to spot in the streets of shopping districts in major cities.

Tyler, The Creator x Converse GOLF le FLEUR*

Highsnobiety / Eva Al Desnudo

Tyler, The Creator departed from former partner Vans to join Nike subsidiary Converse, launching the GOLF le FLEUR* range. Using the low-top Converse One Star sneaker as a foundation for the new design, Tyler replaced the shoe’s star cutout detail with a flower panel in fuzzy suede, then added eye-catching two-tone color blocking. Simple, yet effective, the new sneaker collaboration successfully sold out of its first several drops, which were limited enough to sustain demand but still comparatively accessible. Building on these early successes, later instalments in the collaboration between Tyler and Converse are sure to arrive throughout 2019.

Balenciaga Track

Highsnobiety / Asia Typek

As a follow up to Balenciaga’s now-ubiquitous (and extremely bulbous) Triple S sneaker, the brand introduced its new athletic sneaker, the Track, during the fashion house’s Fall/Winter 2018 runway show. Another 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, while a trusty all-black colorway was also included in the mix.

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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